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View Full Version : The War of Attrition, Balance, and Replay Value



ZFerian
10-19-2011, 10:39 AM
This is going to be a long post, so let me preface this by saying that I am really enjoying the game, much more so than Heroes 5, but I also feel that a few minor balance changes could go a long way to making the game even more enjoyable and increasing replay value. I also realize it may be too late to make many balance changes, but there is always the possibility to do so for expansions.

TLDR version:
-Creature growth rates incentivize the overuse of healing abilities and the conversion of every town to your starting faction while disincentivizing mixing units from different factions. This hurts replay value.
-Nerfing healing abilities, placing diminishing returns on the production of subsequently acquired towns and correspondingly reducing computer creature growth would reduce reliance on the "war of attrition" model that currently characterizes the game.
-These balance changes along with an option (at least in skirmish maps) to turn off town conversions, would result in a game with much higher replay value.


Success (at least in the campaign) requires minimizing losses to an excessive degree. If a player consistently loses one or two units in a typical encounter or if a player loses a mere handful of units in all but a couple of the most difficult encounters of the campaign, players will find that creature growth has effectively denied them victory (despite the player not having any significant losses throughout the campaign).

The result is what players have been describing as the "war of attrition." Every faction and both might and magic heroes, regardless of different play style, need to focus on losing as few units as possible and emphasizing (and to an extent abusing) healing abilities. The point is: even though the factions are different, to guarantee success my playstyle with each faction becomes very similar (get multiple healing abilities and minimize losses to an extreme degree).

Why is this "war of attrition" a problem? I can try and illustrate by pointing to previous Heroes installments. In previous Heroes games, I could fight a game changing battle with the enemy's main hero or assault one of their main towns. I could win this fight with significant losses, but I would have hurt my opponent more than I hurt me and thus the battle could have been a turning point on my way to victory. I could have killed their main hero so I wont see it again, or took away their most important town with their most important creature building structures. In Heroes 6, this will not (or rarely would) happen. Instead, because I had significant losses, I am in serious trouble. In fact, I may have won that battle, but in just a few days the same hero, with the same size or even larger army is simply going to respawn. Thus, a battle like the one I described, even if I win, will instead of a major victory likely be the first stage in my defeat.

The resulting implication (besides simply having battles like the one above being a lot of fun) is reduced replayability and the possibility of monotonous gameplay. There are, however, possible balance tweaks that I think could significantly change the reliance on the war of attrition model. The obvious change that is needed is to reduce enemy growth rates; however, if nothing is modified on the player's side, the game will become too easy. To balance these changes, I suggest reducing the effectiveness of healing abilities (in previous games, heals would not revive dead creatures, I am not saying this is the necessary change to heals, but it should be a consideration). I also suggest placing diminishing returns on the growth from capturing subsequent towns. For example, each new town of the same faction acquired by a player would produce one or two fewer units than the previous one (without completely eliminating growth, for example, you would still get at least one new champion creature per town).

Finally, I think these changes will not only reduce the reliance on the "war of attrition" gamestyle that permeates the game currently, it will also help with replay value. Right now, it is rarely a viable strategy to mix units from different factions. However, allowing for mixed faction armies will greatly strengthen replay value. Reduced enemy growth rates would allow the player to actually use units from a newly captured different faction town. Additionally, with reduced healing abilities players would not have the huge stacks of core creatures they run around with now. Thus, players would actually benefit from being able to recruit elite units from a newly captured town to replace their weakened core stacks.

Anyway, I hope that made sense. To quickly reiterate, I think the gameplay is currently too focused on reducing losses in battles to an excessive degree. This encourages monotonous playstyles and makes it much more difficult for a player to incorporate unites from more than one faction into their army. By reducing the effectiveness of healing abilities and placing diminishing returns on subsequently captured towns, the game could maintain balance while reducing creature growth rates. The corresponding result of this is that players can now incorporate units from more than one faction into their army, which would be a boon for replayability.

ZFerian
10-19-2011, 10:39 AM
This is going to be a long post, so let me preface this by saying that I am really enjoying the game, much more so than Heroes 5, but I also feel that a few minor balance changes could go a long way to making the game even more enjoyable and increasing replay value. I also realize it may be too late to make many balance changes, but there is always the possibility to do so for expansions.

TLDR version:
-Creature growth rates incentivize the overuse of healing abilities and the conversion of every town to your starting faction while disincentivizing mixing units from different factions. This hurts replay value.
-Nerfing healing abilities, placing diminishing returns on the production of subsequently acquired towns and correspondingly reducing computer creature growth would reduce reliance on the "war of attrition" model that currently characterizes the game.
-These balance changes along with an option (at least in skirmish maps) to turn off town conversions, would result in a game with much higher replay value.


Success (at least in the campaign) requires minimizing losses to an excessive degree. If a player consistently loses one or two units in a typical encounter or if a player loses a mere handful of units in all but a couple of the most difficult encounters of the campaign, players will find that creature growth has effectively denied them victory (despite the player not having any significant losses throughout the campaign).

The result is what players have been describing as the "war of attrition." Every faction and both might and magic heroes, regardless of different play style, need to focus on losing as few units as possible and emphasizing (and to an extent abusing) healing abilities. The point is: even though the factions are different, to guarantee success my playstyle with each faction becomes very similar (get multiple healing abilities and minimize losses to an extreme degree).

Why is this "war of attrition" a problem? I can try and illustrate by pointing to previous Heroes installments. In previous Heroes games, I could fight a game changing battle with the enemy's main hero or assault one of their main towns. I could win this fight with significant losses, but I would have hurt my opponent more than I hurt me and thus the battle could have been a turning point on my way to victory. I could have killed their main hero so I wont see it again, or took away their most important town with their most important creature building structures. In Heroes 6, this will not (or rarely would) happen. Instead, because I had significant losses, I am in serious trouble. In fact, I may have won that battle, but in just a few days the same hero, with the same size or even larger army is simply going to respawn. Thus, a battle like the one I described, even if I win, will instead of a major victory likely be the first stage in my defeat.

The resulting implication (besides simply having battles like the one above being a lot of fun) is reduced replayability and the possibility of monotonous gameplay. There are, however, possible balance tweaks that I think could significantly change the reliance on the war of attrition model. The obvious change that is needed is to reduce enemy growth rates; however, if nothing is modified on the player's side, the game will become too easy. To balance these changes, I suggest reducing the effectiveness of healing abilities (in previous games, heals would not revive dead creatures, I am not saying this is the necessary change to heals, but it should be a consideration). I also suggest placing diminishing returns on the growth from capturing subsequent towns. For example, each new town of the same faction acquired by a player would produce one or two fewer units than the previous one (without completely eliminating growth, for example, you would still get at least one new champion creature per town).

Finally, I think these changes will not only reduce the reliance on the "war of attrition" gamestyle that permeates the game currently, it will also help with replay value. Right now, it is rarely a viable strategy to mix units from different factions. However, allowing for mixed faction armies will greatly strengthen replay value. Reduced enemy growth rates would allow the player to actually use units from a newly captured different faction town. Additionally, with reduced healing abilities players would not have the huge stacks of core creatures they run around with now. Thus, players would actually benefit from being able to recruit elite units from a newly captured town to replace their weakened core stacks.

Anyway, I hope that made sense. To quickly reiterate, I think the gameplay is currently too focused on reducing losses in battles to an excessive degree. This encourages monotonous playstyles and makes it much more difficult for a player to incorporate unites from more than one faction into their army. By reducing the effectiveness of healing abilities and placing diminishing returns on subsequently captured towns, the game could maintain balance while reducing creature growth rates. The corresponding result of this is that players can now incorporate units from more than one faction into their army, which would be a boon for replayability.

NYOGTHA-PL
10-19-2011, 02:09 PM
Great summary. I hope someone over UBI listenes to it.

I like creeping early in the game, it reminds mi WoG/H5 styles.. but i creep and creep.. until bloody endgame. It's too monotonous and gets me boring.

I agree with everything You wrote. Cheers.

Arcane_Weapon
10-19-2011, 02:21 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">while disincentivizing mixing units from different factions. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

You take a pretty massive hit to Morale for mixing factions, not really sure why you'd ever want to do this. This is even the case for Neutral units (which in previous games I thought worked with any army). I had a stack of Fire Elementals in my Inferno army (seems like a logical idea) but my morale was a disaster and several troops were negative. Disbanded the elementals and everything was fine.

You're also complaining about worrying about not loosing troops when that's pretty much all combat revolves around in this series. I think you're referring more to the fact that if you lose too much in a Campaign the map becomes almost impossible, but if you play a Multiplayer game not caring as much about troop loss vs a person who isn't losing troops you're going to get destroyed.

Compared to previous HoMM games it is -ridiculously- easy now to not lose troops in a battle.