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Heroes Community > Heroes 5 - Modders Workshop > Thread: Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence - Design
Thread: Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence - Design [ This thread is 9 pages long: (1) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ]
Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted February 22, 2011 11:16 AM
Edited by Quantomas at 21:24, 25 Apr 2011.

Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence - Design

We have now set our sights higher, to create a fresh new game based on Heroes 5 with improved AI, gameplay, advanced high level mods, and new content!

The project website is located at Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence. This thread is mainly intended to discuss improvements to the design, AI, gameplay and modding capabilities of the game.

There are additional bits of information available in the thread New (unofficial) patch where this project originated from.

Please don't post bugs in this thread. These go here: Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence - Known issues

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Warmonger
Warmonger


Promising
Legendary Hero
fallen artist
posted February 22, 2011 03:50 PM

It's well-thought and organized well. Wish you luck!
____________

The future of Heroes 3 is here!

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Fauch
Fauch


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted February 22, 2011 04:32 PM

defending a castle is an advantage big enough without having massive native terrain bonus.

but specific bonus for each faction could be good

haven : +1 morale
sylvan : +1 luck
academy : +2 knowledge
dungeon : +2 spellpower
inferno : +2 spellpower
necro : -1 morale
fortress : +2 defense
stronghold : +2 attack

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PyroStock
PyroStock


Adventuring Hero
posted February 23, 2011 06:30 AM

Options

I'm looking forward to your better AI & later 5.5!  The original H5v3.1 combat AI would sometimes flee far too early (like round1 or 2) including battles where I thought I was the underdog. The AI should never overestimate any human player.  Even fighting a losing battle means potentially weakening that army enough to save a town or other heroes.  In short, I would rather have the AI err on staying too long rather than fleeing too early.  H3 AI did well despite being unable to use key spells like forgetfulness & beserk.  

I found many things in Heroes3:WoG to be frankly ridiculous (silly or overpowered etc).  Yet, what made WoG so great was everyone's small additions and even most default settings were optional.  WoG's multi-page checklist, which you could access after starting the game, allowed even the least tech-savy Joe to adjust their game.  The H5Tournament Edition settings & magnomagus' treasure buildings are probably great with fans and I wouldn't mind these as defaults with the option to easily turn them off/on.
____________

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 09, 2011 07:38 PM
Edited by Quantomas at 19:42, 09 Apr 2011.

With the groundwork now nearly done (once the bugs are fixed and the eight skills enhancement is in we have a proper 3.2), it's time to look forward again.

Let's start with a vision. H6 will most likely simplify a couple of things to make the gameplay more slick, and with the focus on story and content it should be quite an interesting ride. In the long run I would like to see H6 and H5 evolve like brothers who grow up together. What we can do with H5 is to be true to its strategy game roots and excel in this area.

Eternal Essence has at its core magic seeping from the land and driving the life of its inhabitants. Everything depends on this magic life force, the earth itself, the mountains and trees, creatures and heroes. Buildings and towns are made of it. Don't think of this magic as something ethereal only, it has a physical quality as well to take the shape of stone and water and wood and everything is made out of it.

Now, if we are going to create a game on this premise, what we truly need is a universal building block from which to create every object in the game world. Don't think that we would need to recreate the animations from scratch for this. What this really is about is to define everything in the game from a coherent base, so that we can express any relation between objects in the game world and define how things work.

As the most evolved turn-based game of its type Heroes does already contain a sheer insane lot of definitions of how things work. Beginning with terrain movement costs over hero classes and skills that affect movement speed, to resources, costs, buildings and creatures. The thing is, currently all these rules are sort of isolated and only brought together by evaluating actions on the strategic and combat map.

What I am doing for the AI is an algebraic factorization of all game rules, sort of a logical digital unification on the basis of digital building blocks. It is only logical to carry over this concept into the game world much more broadly.

That is we will have everything in the game from terrain to hero skills definable, so that we can express anything we like. New skills, creatures, buildings, towns and more created as we see fit. There will be no hard coded limit in the game, only the underlying fundamental defining structure shapes what is possible.

What this means for the game is that modders will be able to add any object with unique magic properties, as far ranging as a powerful overland spell or terrain movement modifications or combat effects, and it will work out of the box.

Now, as some posters have pointed out, we have already a game and maintaining what we have should be our first priority. True. We will start out with the game we have, and add improvements step by step.

Everything we modify will be optional, for the player to choose whether to play an original H5 game or to enable extensions. Ideally this should be possible directly from within the game.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first steps:

Modifiable terrain effects will be an essential part of Eternal Essence. A magic that seeps from the terrain and can affect everything, not only movement cost. How buildings work, creatures, heroes and magic itself.

The game includes already everything that is needed to add additional floors (currently we have a top and underground floor). Access to these floors can be provided by special gates that appear based on progress in the game, and these lead to different planes similar to the concept in the great Planescape Torment. This can be our first experimental battleground, planes of fire or air, or deserts, swamps and others with special magic properties and alterations to the gameplay.

The same thing is true for the Hall of Decision victory condition mentioned earlier, a limited small duel map once the player reaches a certain progress in the game and elects to challenge his remaining adversaries directly. In general this allows for many more victory conditions and scenario goals.

Having now played H5 (and also H3) countless times I somehow find that we have quite the selection of adventure map objects but often tend to visit them in a collector mentality only, hardly thinking of them anymore. What I would like to see is to make the overall progress on the map a bit slower paced, a bit like Age of Wonders, so that the events on the map gain more weight again.

We have a land full of magic. Everything is possible. Who says that opening a treasure chest shouldn't open a magic portal that leads to another plane? This can be a plane where the main hero has to fight for his survival and to return to the main map. Game time on the main map for example can be stopped here or expire twice as fast, which makes every step doubly important.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Answers to previous posts:

An improved duel map should be part of this process. An AI tuned to a specific map is a possibility but I doubt that this will be necessary.

The balancing issues will be handled by the AI itself. Once it reaches the stage at which we have algebraic factorization the AI will serve as a service to measure the power of each skill, perk, creature, town etc. It will then be straightforward to offer the player options to balance overpowered elements or the overall strategic balance on an adventure map.

The difficulty settings will have more detail and will be mainained for each player on a map. Each player will have an individually adjustable resource handicap, an AI difficulty and AI type (e. g. conqueror, defender).

I am currently looking into how to port the existing mods best into the game. Most likely this will be a step by step approach. The current plan is to start with the RPE mod and then see how this process works and in which way it needs adapting to enable fast porting of existing mods.

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Cepheus
Cepheus


Honorable
Legendary Hero
Far-flung Keeper
posted April 09, 2011 08:19 PM
Edited by Cepheus at 20:21, 09 Apr 2011.

That is one hell of a design philosophy.

I don't have anything to add, aside from any practical help I'm able to offer with creating content.

If I have one comment it is this: WoG worked well, but the official scripts and mini-mods got disjointed beyond belief, and some were literally incompatible with others. I think a focus on at least some form of consistency between any "official" EE mods should be important - especially as far as graphics and lore are concerned.
____________
"Those who forget their history are inevitably doomed to repeat it." —Proverb, Might and Magic VIII

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Markkur
Markkur


Responsible
Supreme Hero
Onward through the fog!
posted April 10, 2011 01:33 PM

I'll echo Cepheus' comments. An outstanding world-view you have Q.

I want to add something about H5, that you've mentioned before. Since I have been really begun working on a lot of maps in the last few months, the beauty of the gameplay has really grown a great deal on me.

You mentioned breaking routine playing modes where a player is running around and not really looking at objects and I know that is exactly what I've done. But now I am learning to craft a map with a lot of land detail and when I am testing...what I see is worth the effort. Also I am finding what I call the "epic" or a.k.a. "distant-factions" map much more fun than the rush-stuff.

I am very excited to think that you are going to take H5 where it should have been and...then some. I now think this game is a "diamond in the rough" and you sure seem to have a clear-vision on how to shine it up.

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 10, 2011 03:03 PM
Edited by Quantomas at 15:06, 10 Apr 2011.

Regarding the consistency of mods, as a C++ programmer and going to integrate them into the game proper, I have to make sure that everything works consistently. There is no other way. Actually making the step from scripts to C++ code in the .exe proper, should forestall most of the issues. Every modification will go in cleanly via xml (aka .xdb files).

Still, as a community we will need to approve what goes in, sort of giving the "official" mods some form of HC seal of approval that will be displayed in the proper place within the game where the player chooses the active extensions. This is doubly important if the modders will have the power as the indicated framework implies (every rule being modifiable).

Cepheus, your help is very welcome and your work on the eight skills interface enhancement is valuable. Because if we have managed to overcome this hurdle, we have made an important step.

Markkur, yes the game is beautiful. My favourite one is watching the blue light on the obelisks wandering down in the time between turns. It's also cool that the animations you have added on the new maps show in all its beauty. With the AI process now running in the background, the game world with its animations becomes completely unfettered so that the view can be changed freely without delay, stats can be reviewed and so on. There are currently still a couple of hiccups from time to time but that comes from the debug features in the beta.

Nival did a stellar job on the H5 graphics. Interestingly, H5 appeared just around the time when graphics in computer games had sort of matured. Judging from the screenshots, H6 will still add a bit to that with its clean and beautiful designs, but not as much as the step from H3 to H4 or from H4 to H5. Given that the machines get faster all the time, what we have with H5 already will serve us well. The animations and visuals Nival created are outstanding, and can be expected to run fluidly on most PCs that are build today or later. In the end this makes the gameplay all the more important.

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magnomagus
magnomagus


Promising
Famous Hero
modding wizard
posted April 11, 2011 08:20 AM

Hi I'm back , I would like to add a few things to consider.

Mostly when you ask people why they stopped playing H5 and returned to H3 they will answer H5 is not suitable enough for playing XL maps. The game is too slow and after a month or two there are no challenging monster stacks left on the adventure map. I think enhancing H5 to improve Xl map playability should be a top priority.
Here is an idea that might improve this:

- The adventure map should play like Katauri's King Bounty game, the player should constantly be challenged with large stacks with varieties of monsters. here is an idea how this can be done:

1. The growth rate of monster stacks should not be constant but grow every week, for example:

week 1 -> 1.5x
week 2 -> 1.8x
week 3 -> 2.1x
week 4 -> 2.4x etc.

Depending on difficulty level the numbers should be different.

2. Over time monsters should get some extra attack & defense skill + some magic protection. For example: every two weeks +1 A, +1 D and +2% magic protection (maximum magic protection = 30%)

3. When a mapmaker places random monsters on the adventure map there should be a chance a mixed neutral stack is generated. Here are some ideas how:

lvl 1 random stack => will never be mixed

lvl 2 random stack => 50% chance for lvl 1 + lvl 2 same faction

lvl 3 random stack =>

40% chance the stack isn't mixed
20% chance for lvl 1 + lvl 2 + lvl 3 same faction
20% chance for lvl 1 + lvl 3 same faction
20% chance for lvl 2 + lvl 3 same faction

lvl 4 random stack =>

40% chance the stack isn't mixed
15% chance for lvl 1 + lvl 2 + lvl 3 + lvl 4 same faction
15% chance for lvl 1 + lvl 2 + lvl 4 same faction
15% chance for lvl 1 + lvl 3 + lvl 4 same faction
15% chacne for lvl 2 + lvl 3 + lvl 4 same faction

I think from here you get the idea and it is quite clear how this pyramid can develop.

____________
Might and Magic Classes for HOMM5

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 11, 2011 05:43 PM

@Magnomagus
It's good that you think about these things, because this is the line of thought required to improve the gameplay. It's also good to rationalize it, because many people can feel whether the experience is good or not, but often can't phantom what's the real cause.

My experience with H3 was that the AI was truly competent, and if I did see that with regular means there was hardly any chance, I went out into the fields and dungeons for treasure hunting, particularly the tomes of earth and air magic for the town portal and dimension door spells. These maps were huge, because they contained tons of stuff in quite a compact area. In contrast much space is consumed in H5 by the 3D landscape itself, and the impossible sized maps are probably not as big as the largest H3 maps. And there was true treasure to be gained in H3, I remember the helm of heavenly enlightenment (+6 for all stats) and nothing beats a message like a group of 20 gold dragons offers to join you. It might indeed seem overpowered, but that is where the fun lies.

But we can do more in H5 now, unpredictable and magic stuff of a random nature. Creatures can have additional magic capabilities that affect the land if they stand there long enough, sort of giving them big boni and maybe even additional objects/guards in the combat arena.

Another possibility is to have the AI track the player's performance, and remember against which creatures he had to struggle to maintain the upper hand. These creatures can easily pop up somewhere unexpected, or as additional guards for neutral stacks (in the combat arena only) with a vengeance. Or as ghosts.

We could also introduce new adventure map buildings, or alter how they work, to have monsters spawn not only in a regular fashion at the beginning of a week.

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magnomagus
magnomagus


Promising
Famous Hero
modding wizard
posted April 11, 2011 08:08 PM

I understand we can add a lot of new things, but I foresee one problem.
After SOD released his lvl 4-7 dwellings I have hardly seen any custom maps that actually use them. H5 mapmaking is close to dead and maps are mostly not made for mods. that's why I try to focus my ideas on improving existing maps. If we can create gamemechanics reacting to random objects on maps that already exist huge improvements can be made fast.
____________
Might and Magic Classes for HOMM5

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PvP
PvP

Tavern Dweller
posted April 11, 2011 10:17 PM
Edited by PvP at 22:26, 11 Apr 2011.

I think the magno is right.
As i've seen, today most of remaining players play on random maps created by say IRMG, default nival maps or random tactical arena.

But again i think that before adding some new cool gameplay mechaincs it's a good idea to make the game we already have as friendly for a player as possible. Create some polished basic version of EE mod which than would be improved by some cool gameplay features.

By that i mean at least the following:

1. Fix all these annoying freezes
- when hero pick or flag something or player open hero or town screen.
- when some animation is played for the first time in combat
Generally making playing process as smooth as possible.

2. Improve interface usability:
-fix bugs with info screens dissapearing if opened near the borders of the screen in combat
- integrate skillwheel mod in a more convinient and interactive way than it's done now
- show exact atb position of creature, show some prediction of what will happen when using atb position changing action
- fix stupidness of combat AI, like killing itself attacking the blade barrier and such
- add buttons to split troops, quickly exchange armies and artifacts, plit 1 unit stacks from selected

3. Repair (or cut) broken mechanics that are already there, like not working or totally useless skills

If participants think that these issues have to be adressed i can provide you with a more detailed specification on them. Also if you don't mind i would like to start threads of the project on some russian community forums, there are many strong players who may be intersted in sharing their game experience and ideas there.

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Proxeeus
Proxeeus


Hired Hero
posted April 12, 2011 07:36 AM

Even though I'm pretty new to Heroes V in general and that I don't have much experience with it, I'd tend to agree with magnomagus & PvP: now that we have the possibility to alter pretty much anything we'd like, the best course of action, for now at least, would be to not get too carried away and to polish the base game/AI to the max (see PvP's great list) in order to have a rock-solid foundation to build upon and then go from here

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 12, 2011 03:52 PM
Edited by Quantomas at 16:01, 12 Apr 2011.

Quote:
1. Fix all these annoying freezes
- when hero pick or flag something or player open hero or town screen.
- when some animation is played for the first time in combat
Generally making playing process as smooth as possible.

2. Improve interface usability:
-fix bugs with info screens dissapearing if opened near the borders of the screen in combat
- integrate skillwheel mod in a more convinient and interactive way than it's done now
- show exact atb position of creature, show some prediction of what will happen when using atb position changing action
- fix stupidness of combat AI, like killing itself attacking the blade barrier and such
- add buttons to split troops, quickly exchange armies and artifacts, plit 1 unit stacks from selected

3. Repair (or cut) broken mechanics that are already there, like not working or totally useless skills

The hero skills system will be completely modifiable, that includes all existing heroes and skills as well. What more do you want?

I added a description how this can be done to the project website. Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence - Gameplay

On the topic of the combat AI, this will be fully reworked after the adventure map AI is in all respects at least as fit as H3. This includes the town portal and dimension door spells, proper support for border guards and of course bug fixes. It doesn't make much sense to apply quick fixes to the ATB or stupidness of the combat AI prior to that.

With that out of the way, that reduces your remaining request to:

- improving the interface usability,
- reducing the animation start-up time.

The town animation start-up time is caused by the huge and gorgeous visuals Nival has added. I think there is a switch somewhere that you can actually turn off the animation. Otherwise, looking ahead the road, with PCs always getting faster in two years hardly anybody will note the animation load times anymore.

The interface issues you mention are nice to have but hardly broken. Technically, you ask me to spend weeks of work to fix things, that will save players a couple of seconds every now and then.

If I would have a team of twenty, I would set five people to work on that. Bear in mind that I do this work voluntarily. I am not that wealthy that I can spend all the time I would like on this project. I set aside a fair amount of my time to get this project jump-started by refactoring the prototype code and getting us to a more production level version. Once the bug fixes are out, we will have a proper 3.2 patch. Still, sooner or later I have to do some work to earn my living, and depending on the type of engagement, I might not be available to do much for the project for months. In the meantime I wish to get done as much as possible.

And it's also time to look forward. We don't look for the remaining players. What I am looking for is to create a fresh game that is in no way inferior to H6.

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PvP
PvP

Tavern Dweller
posted April 12, 2011 11:23 PM
Edited by PvP at 23:49, 12 Apr 2011.

At first i want to clarify, that I and i think all other members greatly appreciate your effort and passion to improve the game we all love. You actually gave many people hope that the game most thought would soon be forgoten may shine in the new glory.
Also I myself spent a lot of my spare time developing Tournament edition mod for a few years voluntarily (not that i compare a scope of work), so i understand your position on this topic competely. Of course you do what you think is the most crucial and spend as much time as you want (or can).

------------
Quote:

If I would have a team of twenty


The question is why don't you? I mean the project is really tempting, you seem to be capable lead and you probably may with little difficulties form a team of fans skilled in C++ to assist you in the development process and building design. Are there any limitations from Ubi on this?

Quote:

The hero skills system will be completely modifiable, that includes all existing heroes and skills as well. What more do you want?


That would be more than enought).

Quote:

It doesn't make much sense to apply quick fixes to the ATB or stupidness of the combat AI prior to that.


Adding some info about precise ATB position is just a way to make battles more predictable, nothing more.
The combat AI issue also arise in the battles with neutral armies (and nowadays it mostly arises there considering the fact that today most people play multiplayer), so i think it's somewhat independent of adventure AI.
But sure probably they would be designed in a similar way with some search of optimum movement with some lookahead depth and factorisation based heuristics to estimate the goodness of situation. There is a person named Nargott, who made some improvements to Nival factorisation formulas of creature strength computation, based on thousands of tests, maybe his results can be used as some basis. He seems ready to help with the work if needed.


Quote:

The town animation start-up time is caused by the huge and gorgeous visuals Nival has added.


Maybe i didn't formulate may idea clear enough, actually i though of some preloading of this sreens. Would it be too exensive to put all necessary town and hero screens in RAM when the map is loading (or do it at the background when new hero is bought or town discovered)? As i've seen it's already being done after you opened them for the first time, cause then they start to open much more quickly.

And long loading is not an only issue with the freezes: when on the Huge map hero picks resource or flags mine the game also freezes for almost a second. Can't imagine why this happening. (similar issue arise when you add creatures to hero using scripts, it leads to serious freeze, proportional in time to the number of the objects on map i think)

Quote:

You ask me to spend weeks of work to fix things, that will save players a couple of seconds every now and then.


Well it's not about saving of a few second we are talking about. It's more of a convenience vs irritation thing. Generally you tend to like sleek, smooth and polished products much more than more functional but clumsy and buggy (if you are not a professional or a geek of course). It's espessially important if you want to bring new players to the game. As i recall lots of gamers stoped playing because of clumsy interface and laggy game process, because using unergonomic buggy interface and continous lags and freezes gradually lead to frustration and greatly reduce joy you could get from the same game without them.

I agree that with your expertise you probably should focus on more complex tasks, so why don't you outsource solving these issues to someone?
------------

I've read your idea about initial magic elements and i think it's a brilliant concept.

Don't have an opinion on changing territories types or terrain influence yet, but creatuers based on magic elements and spell as a constructuctor looks really tempting to me.

For instance any spell can be defined as some base: Target, Area, Global, Point and a number of elements.

Specifically (using your set of elements and spells that are already there):
Point + Life + Matter + (Air, Water,Fire,Earth) - summon elemental of selected type
Area + Air + Death - Mass decay spell
Global + Air + Earth + Fire - Armageddon
Area + Earth + Fire - Fireball
Target + Air + Water - Deep freeze
Global + (Death, Life) - Unholy, holy word
Target + Life + Matter - Ressurect

Also it's possible to define rules that describe how elements of spells interact with element of creatures, for instance that spells with life component benefit living creatures (with life element), harm death creatures and have no effect on constructs (no life or death element). Though i'm not sure that it's a good idea to link all stats  and abilities solely on elements (need more thought though, anyway to recreate a variaty we have at H5 you have to introduce LOTS of such basic blocks).

Each race may have affinity to certain elements, meaning that it would be cheaper and easier to start for heroes using certain elements. Like academics can easily work with all elements, haven can use light and nature elements, but say knight can add death element to spells only if it has taken a fallen knight perk. Magic skills would now say benefit spells with certain elements, like: Destruction - nature elements, Light - life, Dark - death, Summoning - matter, Sorcery - refined (of course introducing such concept would require a serious rework of skills and spells, but now for the sake of convenience i use the ones that are already implemented).

So summarizing i think that this concept can really make this mod interesting and is worth developing (it would be complete different game though...).

PS: sory for this WoT, just felt a little inspiration)...

PS2: and one more thing considering modding. In King's Bounty modding capabilities were greatly improved ba allowing modders to link certain lua scripts to skills, spells, artifacts and most of game parameters were accessable and modifiable by these scripts. This allowed fans to create such advanced mods as artifact that create additional creature  in your army that can level up and learn new abilities (pretty much similar to the commanders in WoG). Are you planning to introduce similar functionlaity in your project to push moddiing capabilities even further?

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sir_moz_hl
sir_moz_hl


posted April 14, 2011 11:24 AM
Edited by sir_moz_hl at 11:28, 14 Apr 2011.

argh, as i understand, quantomas, u do not play much to judge about it.
but let me show the things going : each time u need to fight on 1st 3 weeks ( or even more) u need to splice singles to avoid casulties ,to get strategic advantage , to steal retaliates , to block creeps etc. For each splicing u waste 1-5 seconds of time ( if u use last man standing it can be even more ) EACH fight!!. on rmg maps your hero can fight up to 5-10 fights each turn. simple math (1-5)*(1-10) =1 to 50 seconds. So u will spend ~30 seconds EACH turn for that annoying splicing and adding it back. 30 seconds each turn . 210 seconds in a week . 840 in a month. it's 14 minuts !!!!!  it's just about splicing.
2nd thing: changing armies between heroes . Every good player uses hero chains to move armies , to send artifacts bought in markets etc. THIS changing will not obligate appear each turn . But for example : changing 7 stacks from one hero to another will cost you ~20-30 seconds. If you use 5-6 heroes chain it's about 2-2.5 minuts. So sometimes this simple action ( OBLIGATE action in game between good players) will waste about 20 minuts or in month
So let's add : 14 minuts from splicing + 20 minuts from changing = ~35 minuts wasted. Mostly 1 month of playin MP game ( on 8 minuts per turn , irmg maps , hero ) will cost you 3-4 hours or real time. AND!!!!!!!!35 minuts wasted on ...ing splicing and changing . ~10%
unbelievable.

yes, man, just economing few seconds. huh. I understand that you pay your own liftime to improve that GAMe( nothing more), but i can stand and hear about "ecomoning few seconds" without pain in my head.
i would do it myself if i would be able to. As one of the best player on heroesleague, playing many games in tournaments, i cry in my soul each time when i play. ~40 minuts of each game wasted for nothing.

PS. if you could know there is some WOG ( and after it TE) project in H3 , they got source code and one of the 1st thing they've done was THAT splicing and changing. And that interface feature got many ppl involved to love playing WOG and TE.

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Markkur
Markkur


Responsible
Supreme Hero
Onward through the fog!
posted April 14, 2011 01:54 PM

I've been making quite a few maps recently and have been doing some testing in an effort to make a vanilla 3.1 map play better, so I want to post some observations/questions. I'm no programmer so where in the scheme of the game, any or all would fit I've not a clue. This is directed at Q of course but if anyone has other experiences or findings please comment.

1. Map-Editor Multiplayer maps made with teams cannot be won as a team. Also, I believe I read that Ubi/Nival made it so scripting only works on single-mission maps? True? If it is, that along with these issues of mine explains alot to me about the status of old H5.

Using the RMG, I discovered that opting for the "Tear of Asha" placement made that quest for it, override any "team" settings, ofc. since there is only "one". However even opting-out of having the "tear" still leaves a multiplayer map not winable as a team.

2. I have found that on single-player maps, the A.I. plays much better by my omitting the "ToA" and all neutral creature-dwellings. What I observed was that the obelisks, confluxes, refugee camps etc. became the goal of the A.I.-controlled factions, to the extent that their own mines were often not flagged and their own like creature dwellings bypassed.

On a current test, I just watched an ally A.I. hero trek over a long distance to my region to try and flag my upper level (4-7) dwelling. It is a new map and I discovered that I had not placed (intended) faction-dwellings for that A.I. player. So, an Academy hero was going a very long distance to turn my (his ally) Haven dwelling. This can be solved of course by blocking access between factions since even in H3 your allies could take your mines at times but can this be addressed in code? It would be nice to have allied heroes able to go to 1st level spell-shrines and dolmans without this stuff and having to block access to level-up objects.

3. One other issue that I have found in testing is that it appears to me that just adding "more players" seems to affect game speed. here is what I mean;

I've made an impossible-sized map of Middle-Earth. To give me some chance of it being "playable" the underground is only a very narrow hall representing Moria. Anyway, my testing has all been towards releasing the map eventually for human-players only (Hotseat/Lan) with 2 and 4 player versions. (I also have an 8). Anyway, with me "playing all factions - No A.I. controlled" in hotseat mode there was quite a difference in how the game executed as I added more playable factions. Roughly twice the time spent on each action. The odd thing is that it matters "what action". "Go-to" a Dolman or Rally-flag not much change but "pick-up" and then the "slow-down" happens. As I said, from 2 to 4 players the time to pick-up the chest, resource or artifact and have displayed what you found is doubled, and then again from 4-8.
So it seems the core-game sets aside some computing power for each added player? Like I said, I've no clue but thought this guts of the game observation may have some importance.

Q, I hesistated to add this post because I know you're swamped but thought this core-stuff could be important to your work. Well, and also that someone else might be able to help etc.

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Promising
Known Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 14, 2011 04:35 PM
Edited by Quantomas at 16:41, 14 Apr 2011.

Quote:
The question is why don't you? I mean the project is really tempting, you seem to be capable lead ...

You might have noted that I never confirmed that I have access to the original sources. We have to respect that it is Ubisoft's property, and that they make the rules. Seeing the effort that Ubisoft has put into H5 and now H6 and what we can do with H5 in the time ahead, it's probably a good thing that the Heroes franchise made it into Ubisoft's hands. That they approved of the H5 AI mod release is a huge step that makes them one of the more proactive community oriented publishers in the industry. I have to make every effort that all benefit from this project, that means Ubisoft as the owner of the intellectual property and the fans, if we wish that this project goes on.

Regarding the AI source things are different and that is were the benefit for me is. Of course I have full access to the AI source code because I developed it. My stakeholders tolerate that I do work for the Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence project because I can reason that it is a very good reference. That's at least what I hope, as a fan you have sometimes to take a sanity check on your assumptions. For me that is, if a project takes more time of your life than your free time, you need valid reasons to do it. This could be the greater good (raising the level of awareness for the AI quality and what it truly can do for games) or good professional or personal reasons. When I was at university, the professor who taught algebra said that you cannot afford a TV if you want to do your (university) work proper. I learned something for life there (I still do not have a TV). If things take more time than you watching less TV or appearing later to parties, think twice.

This puts a lot of constraints on the AI source. If I were going to give it freely away in some open source fashion, my stakeholders would probably start to sue me for damages rightfully. This leaves hiring staff to do more work as the only commercially viable option. The regular programmer will take a long time and will not be very good at improving the AI. It's not that the code is not well written or difficult to maintain. Just the opposite is true; I realized that while doing the refactoring of the prototype that was developed 2 1/2 years ago, coming back to that code after this time that it is actually fairly easily readable and maintainable. But the AI for an intricate rule base such as the one H5 has is truly complex and I'd say that this is at the fringe what can be handled with current technology in terms of complexity. You need very bright people to work on code like this and top talent is costly to come by.

There is of course the hope that one day Heroes 5.5 - Eternal Essence can stand on its own in terms of quality and ingenuity and its own original gameplay and can attract top talent. But before that a lot needs to be done. The central theme is to develop an AI that can provide an incredible service for all aspects of the game and transform the game to something never witnessed before.

This explanation is a bit lengthy, hopefully it adds perspective for folks to understand what type of effort we have here.

And as said before, I cannot do this effort alone. While there are limitations with the source, for a truly original game we need content, yes map making and campaigns, work on the interfaces and lots of testing.

If you have not noted it yet, I am not going to implement small fixes to enable existing mods but instead build into the game native support for the functionality required by the mods.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

@PvP
Good to see that you have understood the magic elements concept. We can indeed express everything that is already in the game by the magic elements, and on top of it have infinite possibilites to move on.

It's a bit more difficult to see what magic terrain properties offer as it is often with time related things. But a subtle control of pacing is what has so far eluded most strategy games. Civ has different research speeds and such but this is a rather crude thing.

Imagine that the buildings in your castle somehow affect movement and combat on its surrounding lands. With the magic elements and research required for spells, we can easily tie specific resources and access to their mines to the progress of a player.

For example, if research into constructs requires lots of mercury, research into ranged spells lots of gems, and so on, the presence of resources in the castle's vicinity can have a profound impact on the players development. For example, Academy with ample supplies of mercury will be a stronghold that produces golems and other constructs, whereas a castle with access to lots of gems can be masters of wind and air spells. Giving them additional research options for overland spells that alter the terrain, can give each region dynamically evolving characteristic features.

The other thing is that the building resource costs are a bit illogical as they are right now. They are sort of balanced that the player is required to collect different types of resources, but otherwise it makes little sense. With a system of magic elements and more stress on resource types, we can make this much more logical. For example all types of garrison buildings (basic dwellings, walls, town halls etc) can require wood and ore, on the other hand all things related to magic can require gems, all things related to forging and refinement might need crystals. This can strengthen the gameplay a lot, with resources getting true value.

I believe that the designers of H6 set out to tackle the same issues (with illogical building costs) with their choice to reduce the number of resources in the game, and give the remaining ones more differentiation and value. While Ubisoft tends to have good and competent producers and designers, they are not technically minded. So it will be interesting to see in which direction they are taking the game, while we on the other hand can build a magical undercurrent into the game that offers technically infinite possibilities. It's particularly challenging to build an AI for it, but this is where our strength is.

@sir_moz_hl
What I am doing to split stacks is to drag the creature to the desired slot, than set the slider to minimum and increment by one. Half a second if you are used to it. For example I do it with Sprites in the early game for every empty slot before battling living creatures. It's not necessary to do it for every battle, because the game remembers the stacks on the tactical arena.

But more seriously, do you really think that an improvement to this interface is more important than to fix multiplayer, which is currently broken, or to integrate support for town portal spells and dimension door or the strategic end stage which will really make the game interesting for strong players, or improving the speed of the AI turns further? There is room to improve the AI turns to last only 50% of what they are now, you can do the maths of how much time this will save you.

@Markkur
Do you still run tests with the old AI?

The new AI's performance doesn't degrade on open areas, i.e. you can make the stone halls as wide as you like even on impossible sized maps with underground and eight players. Performance on impossible sized maps is fair and will be further improved. The design is already here, it just needs implementing.

The AI has been written from scratch, that is testing with the old AI has no value for the project.

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sir_moz_hl
sir_moz_hl


posted April 14, 2011 07:12 PM

i do not play versus AI. I play only versus human players. SO i do not care about AI turns timing.  halfing ai turns won't make me any second.

I can give you any bet that MPlayers will love your mod after u will release splicing and changing. And thereafter some of them will join you and will help you.Now it's nothing to lead them into. Since they do not play versus AI either.

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Markkur
Markkur


Responsible
Supreme Hero
Onward through the fog!
posted April 15, 2011 02:57 PM

Quote:
Do you still run tests with the old AI?

The AI has been written from scratch, that is testing with the old AI has no value for the project.


I am ill my friend. I am not "avoiding" testing, Honestly, I am not equipped to handle that work these days. Mapmaking is a safehaven for me.

Thanks for replying to my post, sorry that it WAS a waste of time. I did not know if the old stuff mattered "at all". Now I know it does not.

Again, thank you Q for this major "Work". The only way that I can assist you is with maps. I know that's not much but I am ready any time you need something done in that "realm"  

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