Bad news on my infernal campaign turns out having a communal place to buy equipment means that someone can buy something you want. One of the relics that I was eying, which would increase my order limit was snatched up in the previous turn. I think my minions secretly hate me for some reason as my tribute rolls each turn are not giving me the darkness or hell fire I need. I would like to say that the game is cheating but I asked Vic Davis (creator of the game) about this on the Quarter To Three forums and it turns out that my dice rolls just suck. First off here is a partial look at hell on turn 5:
My plan is still on, get my borders up and then start consolidating my power. As you can see the tree PoP is mine from the previous entry. The Ai above and below me both have two legions to my one, but I’m not worried. As I mentioned with my higher rank my one guy can handle them for now. I’m also shopping around for a praetor or two, one to buff my legion and two to have someone for single combat. The point of this entry is to talk about turn order and being #1 for a turn.
At the start of every turn one of the players is made regent which gives them several advantages. First if the regent and another player make the same bid on something at the bazaar the regent will win regardless of the rank between the two. Next the regent receives an event card which is a powerful card that can be played with too many to list here. On this turn is my first time being regent and here is the event card I got and the reason for my interest in praetors:
The other and more subtle advantage of being regent is that it affects the turn order. In SI after everyone picks the orders they want to make in a turn the game will go in clockwise order from the regent carrying those orders out. One important detail, the lower the # of the order slot you put an order in the quicker it will be carried out. After the order in slot 1 is carried out for everyone the next highest order is done from the regent and so on until every order is complete for that turn. Here is the diplomacy screen which also doubles as a way of viewing the turn order:
As you can see I’m at the top of the screen, the little icon on my picture is the regent icon. The # above my picture is my prestige, to the left is the adjust threat selector. What this does is I rank the other AI in terms of who I see as the biggest threat, whomever I have on the top of my list, performing actions against that player will cost fewer resources. To put the whole turn order system in perspective, let’s say I’m currently waging war against Mammon who is to my right. Since I’m the regent if I use my first order to attack one of his legions there is nothing he can do to stop me, now if I made it order 2 then there is a chance that he would move his legion during the round of orders effectively avoiding my fight.
Up next with my borders secure it’s time to talk diplomacy.
PS: There was a small problem with uploading the first pic but that should not happen again.
I’ve been playing a lot of Demon’s Souls for the PS3 lately and I’ve been thinking about progression in games. No matter what the game, platform or genre there seems to be two different ways of defining progression in my opinion. Skill and time, I’m going to define time as game systems that progression is defined as time spent for example: Leveling, stat points or loot. For this entry I’m going to define the 2 schools of thought and talk about their advantages and disadvantages, also consider this a sort of prequel to my look at Demon’s Souls.
Skill: These games it’s all about the player’s abilities, no sword of uberness will save you. From the moment the game begins the difficultly of the game is measured by the player’s own skill level. Playing the game for 10 minutes or 10 hours is not going to mean a thing unless the player actually improves. Stats have no importance in the world, if your giant axe cuts the enemy in 2 there are no dice rolls that determine if he resists it.
Skill games have the most compelling gameplay as they are challenges to the player. Titles like these grab the player with the proverbial mountain to climb. Players should expect defeat often as they are learning the ropes. This all sounds good so far, but there are weaknesses of going a full skill game.
First is that while these games are usually compelling, they don’t provide a player with rewards or carrots on a stick to keep going. These games for the most part cannot be sustained for long periods of time; it’s why we haven’t seen an 80 hour version of God of War. Defining difficulty for these games is also a challenge as since it is player defined it’s hard to create challenge. How do you know on stage 3 if your player base is still learning the game or have completely mastered it?
Another issue is that games based on skill always reach one of two endings. The player masters the game mechanics, they are effectively “the One” and the entire game becomes a cake walk. At this point if the game is done the player will not be coming back as there is nothing more from the game. However if the player reaches this point with 10 hours left in the game chances are they are going to walk away. Why should they keep on playing if there is nothing more for them to learn?
The other way it will end is if the player reaches their plateau, they can’t possibly get any better at the game and are effectively at a brick wall. At this point the game is done, unless they have a friend who is better, come over and finish the game for them. Most of the time when a gamer reaches this point they are going to leave the game with a bad taste in their mouth, like the last page of the book you’ve been reading has been glued completely to the previous page preventing it from being read. I’ve also noticed that skill games seem to rely more on cheap poorly designed sections then time based games, due to the attempt at challenging the player. Now let’s move on to time based progression.
Time: From the moment the game begins you are a scrub, barely able to do anything but fight rats. As your level grows you’ll find bigger and badder enemies to fight and better rewards. There is always a chance of finding something better for your character. Skill rarely has an effect in combat; it doesn’t matter if you have the faster fingers in the world or a keyboard full of macros, if my guy is 6 levels above yours its game over. The same goes for loot, if I’m at the level cap and still using the dagger I got at level 1 I’ll be worthless in a fight.
Time based games are definitely the popular vote these days and attract a huge following. The reason is that these aren’t games that require “gamer skill” in the same way that Mario or Ninja Gaiden and many other require. These are games that you can play for 30 minutes or an hour and have some sense of progression. Difficulty is also easy to measure, if you know the player’s stats are at X at area 3 then you can make the enemies have X +3 for a challenge or X-3 if you want to tone it back They also have the best hooks to keep players playing, there is always something more. Some new enemy or quest out in the world, or the chance to finally get that badass piece of armor you’ve been looking for. Throw in randomize sets of equipment like Diablo 2 or just have so many pieces of equipment like World of Warcraft and you’ll have gamers begging to play. But (and there always is a but) there are drawbacks to an entirely time based progression.
From what I’ve seen in games that focus on time based progression, the gameplay takes a huge hit; in fact a lot of these games the gameplay is nonexistent. In a game where dozens of dice rolls and behind the scenes calculations determine if you live or die it doesn’t make the gameplay too compelling. Watching an arrow hit you while you are hiding behind a wall because the calculations were done while you were in plain sight always makes me grimace. Granted there is a lot to find in the world, like items and such but you won’t exactly be doing a lot. With stats and gear defining the experience it can become disheartening to find out that people who just grind for hours on end will always be better then you. Even the quintessential raids in MMOGs are nothing more then spreadsheet analyzing work. To put it bluntly games that are completely focused on time based progression have gameplay that amount to “press X and watch shiny lights.” Also when you are dealing with stat based progression there is always the issue of “builds”, just put every stat to X and you’ll win.
Hopefully you have gleamed from this entry that both sides at their extremes do not make a truly great game. One of the reasons why I enjoy action RPGS like Diablo 2 or Demon’s Soul compared to strictly RPGS is that the former uses a balance of the two, while the latter only uses time. Chances you have figured out by now that you are looking at one of the few gamers not tangled up in World of Warcraft. When I look at the games that I’ve enjoyed over the years, the ones I remember are both challenging and give me a sense of growth with new equipment. Even though the new equipment makes life easier or gives me new toys to play with, without having the skill I would never be able to get them in the first place. A quick look at Demon’s Souls, the game manages to straddle the line between the two well for the most part and I’ll hopefully have a piece up looking at the game more.
It is time to talk about legion combat, something that everyone is going to have to do eventually. In my third turn I was not only lucky enough to use my combat cards but I also have a perfect screenshot to talk about how combat works.
Every legion and PoP has 3 attributes for combat: Ranged, Melee, and Infernal. In combat each round plays normally in order of Ranged, Melee and Infernal. Meaning that having a high infernal stat is moot if you have 0 ranged and 0 melee. Both combatants stats are put next to each other and the one with the higher stat will do damage to the other. After all 3 stages of combat are done if no one is dead a 2nd round will play out. These stats can be boosted by having another legion in an adjacent hex or by attaching artifacts, praetors and combat cards, for my example I’m using the latter:
Let’s start looking at the left and right side of the screen, on the left is my forces and their respective stats and on the far right is the enemy. At the top middle of the screen is the battlefield advantage which was given to the enemy as an increase in their ranged stat. Going to the middle, the # closest to the round name is the base stat of that unit, to the right is the final value of that stat once all bonuses and minuses are added to the equation. Starting out I was worried that my low infernal stat was going to hurt my chances of winning which is why I created the combat card you see in the box near the top. With my war master perk I was able to create a 2 attribute card, one giving me an increase in range and the other affecting the infernal stat of the enemy. As you can see by my crudely drawn circle that D6 roll gave the enemy a -5 infernal stat lowering that powerful 7 rating to a 2.
Because of my combat card I was able to win with relative ease, I created that card as my first order for the turn and then sent my troops into battle. Combat cards stay on the legion they’re attached to until they finish a fight and then they are gone until you create more. The best part about them is that the enemy cannot see their effects on the field like artifacts and praetors unless they have a specific ritual in place meaning you’ll never know if that card is a simple +1 melee bonus or one of the rule changing effects.
With that said my next course of action is to start setting up borders, by then I should be able to push around some of the AI to show off vendettas, diplomacy and praetor single combat.
Originally for this part I was going to show every game screen that you would interact with, but as I thought about it if you are going to play this game then you’ll see everything in the manual. So instead I’m going to post screens that I can use to explain the game systems.
After divvying up my tribute it’s time to look at hell:
The red piece in the middle is my starting legion, due to my rank he is pretty badass for the start and also has infinite loyalty making it very hard for cunning rituals to work on him. The building directly south is my stronghold, if I lose it it’s game over, directly to the bottom left is the Pandemonium where the conclave rule which I’ll be talking about later. Near my bottom right is one of the AI players, whose starting legion is pathetic next to mine, meaning I’m going to “ask politely” for free stuff from him soon.
There are places of power or PoPs scattered around as you can see, these buildings once captured give the controlling player prestige. Of the 5 near me only 2 of them do I stand a shot at taking over. In the early turns of SI it is about taking real estate and setting up borders. If a hex or canton hasn’t been taken yet it is anyone’s game. For the first few turns I’m going to attempt to create a nicely sized kingdom for myself before I hunker down and start building my forces. I only have 2 orders I can give out for now so I’m going to try and take that PoP near the enemy.
As I mentioned I only have 2 orders I can give each turn for now, this screen shows everything I can do in a turn. Demand Tribute which I have selected now will order my demons to bring my tribute cards that I can select from next turn, the higher my charisma stat is the more they give me. I want to save up my resources for what I saw in the Bazaar, a lovely item that will increase my order limit by one. This is a great segway to talk about the Bazaar.
The Bazaar or as I call it the Hell Shopping Network is where you’ll find everything you need to rule hell. Any player can bid on anything they want as long as they have the resources, from the Bazaar you can buy the following:
Legions: Your troops in hell, each comes with their own abilities and stats.
Praetors: Hero Units that can either be attached to legions to provide bonuses or used in single combat vendettas (more on that later).
Artifacts and Relics: Artifacts are magical objects that can be given to legions to provide all kinds of benefits. While Relics will provide a benefit to your abilities, some require to be put in a PoP to get their full use.
Manuscripts: These tombs of ancient power can provide one of three benefits once you have assembled a complete set. A manual that can provide a praetor with a unique skill used in single combat, next the ability to increase the stats of a legion and lastly a machine that when it is assembled can increase your stats or decrease the stats of the other archfiends.
Now I’ve already played a few turns, up next I’ll talk about legion combat as it deserves an entire entry.