Sunday, 7 February 2010

There's a circle of hell for game designers like me

How long before I could redesign an already well-designed game? Less than 24 hours I hear you say...

I don't think Solium Infernum needs a redesign - it feels robust, every turn has significant choices and Vic will patch out most high level exploits (Puzzle Cube + excommunication for instance).

But everyone complains about the fact you have to have Charisma in order to play the game. So I've played one 0 Charisma game to see what a low Charisma player feels like. It's not impossible, but you need to get extremely lucky, both with keeping your initial legion alive, and events. Events are important because you want to spend as long as possible restricting other people from gaining or spending their tribute.

There are a number of possible approaches that I can see to starting this way. All of them include taking the Obscure perk and starting out as a Lord, as you're already getting too few tribute for this to really matter:

Martial Prowess 4, Master of the Sword: You'll be spending what little tribute you generate on combat cards. What is important with this build is the Prestige Bonus for Victories (1.5). Capture your first place of power, and at the same time start picking on a nearby player. Don't stop until you've killed them.
Intelligence 4, Unnatural Prescience: This approach involves manipulating the events available as much as possible to your advantage. The downside with this, is you are entirely dependent on this and most useful events cost tribute. I don't see this being a viable build at all. You're much better going Prophecy 3 and using Charisma to boost yourself up to Prophecy 4 early.
Wickedness 4, Sorcery: A similar approach to Martial Prowess. The advantage is you get an extra turn. The disadvantage is you already have too many turns with the Martial Prowess to use them all to maximum effect, and this build doesn't let you create dummy event cards to waste time with.

In all of these instances,you'll be extremely vulnerable to a Destruction build, or any event that lowers your attributes by one. If you lose your starting legion or 4 points stat, you may as well rage quit straight away.

The biggest problem with all of the above strategies though is that you can just take the Lust or Gluttony public objectives, and instantly give yourself 1 Charisma. Which is why so many people take either Lust or Gluttony. Gluttony is far easier to achieve in the end game, but you're deliberately running a low tribute game, so Lust may be more appropriate here.

A number of people have complained about public objectives affecting your starting build. I don't necessarily agree, but the fact that Lust + 1 Charisma is a no brainer choice which supersedes the above does suggest we may need to redesign it.

So howabout the following descent into hell of redesigning public objectives:

Your public objective gives you one random tribute card at the start of the following turn any time you qualify for the bonus, as stated below. The random tribute cards you gain are just a base tribute roll, unmodified by your Charisma, perks or any Artifact, Relic or other bonus or Event. Each of the objectives does not modify the number of points available to the Avatar.

Gluttony: You demand tribute on all your available orders for the turn.
Greed: You consolidate four or more cards as tribute in a single turn and do not spend any tribute.
Lust: You control The Garden of Infernal Delights or The Temple of Lust the whole turn.
Sloth: You have an order slot which is not filled at the end of the turn.
Wrath: You destroy at least one Legion or banish or vanquish in single combat one Praetor during your turn.
Envy: You initiate two or more Diplomatic actions in a single turn.
Pride: You have the most prestige at the start and end of the turn.

Comments, thoughts, suggesting while I burn?


roBurky said...

It seems to me the issue with charisma is that everything requires tribute, and charisma is the only way to get it. Therefore choosing whether to put points into charisma isn't a choice at all.

If the charisma stat is going to stay, I think there needs to be:
- Methods for gaining tribute that are not dependent on charisma.
- Some orders that are not dependent on tribute.

Andrew Doull said...

roBurky: There are at least two methods that are not dependent on Charisma for gaining tribute - making demands and pilfering the vaults, and moving your units doesn't require tribute - with which you can dominate nearby Charisma based players if you've gone for a non-Charisma build in 1.05a.

And you'll ultimately get to 2-3 charisma pretty quickly even if you start low.

I think there is an argument to be made for allowing demands for specific flavours of tribute (including manuscripts) before allowing demands for cantons, artifacts and relics. Or maybe just 'high-quality' tribute which would be manuscripts and tribute worth 3+ points.

Brog said...

I've been busy redesigning Solium Infernum and trying out low-charisma builds as well. Basically they can make a very strong start, but lack flexibility thereafter. Sometimes a good start is enough, but you tend to become a Target.

My current crazy build: Duke, Lust, Obscure, Martial 3, Cunning 2, Intellect 2, Wickedness 2, Charisma 0. It abuses the new system for starting legions (strength is based on sum of non-charisma stats instead of on rank), and starts with a REALLY REALLY buff legion that can take anything, but is screwed if that legion dies (which it did, twice, dammit).

In your builds, starting as a Lord is BAD if you're planning on getting tribute from picking on people. Higher rank allows you to make bigger demands more often.

I like your concept for objectives.
Sloth's is strictly worse than filling that spare order slot with a tribute demand. Pride is very cool; having some advantage to high prestige early on, other than just becoming a target for everyone. Greed, Wrath and Envy are less repeatable than Lust and Pride; but easier to occasionally achieve.

Andrew Doull said...

Brog: My Sloth public objective suggestion is better if you have closed the hellmouth or got the reduced tribute quality events; or if you're Obscure or demanding tribute twice a turn with Charisma 0 only.

I tend to use the demands to initiate vengeance and rush prestige either by fulfilling the vendetta requirements or capturing your target's PoPs. Works against the AI but in a game with real people you'll be screwed.

I think the Sloth perk needs to be one point worse than Obscure e.g. -9. You can tell pretty much straight away if someone has Sloth, whereas Obscure is harder to notice.

roBurky said...

Looting the vaults requires specific tribute to initiate, and you're unlikely to get the specific cards you need to cast it again even if the ritual works. It isn't a sustainable replacement for demand tribute.

Making demands is dependent on you being powerful, and being powerful is dependent on having lots of tribute. It's also not going to get you much even if they accept - you're going to get their worst card(s).
I did try a charisma 0 build, intending to try to get all my tribute from demands of other players, and it really didn't work.

An unupgradeable strong starting legion isn't going to allow you to dominate other players. The AI doesn't effectively improve their units or build them to take out specific threats - players do.

wererogue said...

I find the single-player game much different to the multiplayer - easier generally. The computers aren't passive as such, but they're much less vindictive than human players - they play to benefit themselves, rather than to cripple you.

That said, I haven't tried a low-cha character yet ;) Maybe for my next game, if I don't win this one (we're playing a winner-stays-on series, where whoever wins hell must keep their demon for the next game, to reaffirm their claim on the throne.)

vasiln said...

I don't see why people think there's a problem with charisma in the first place. Yeah, you can gimp your build if you try. Charisma's not the only avenue for that.

Really, slight interface changes would change how people thought about it. A default avatar or two would give people a good template to build on. Treating Charisma as a different kind of stat, like the way it treats rank, would make it more clear that it was an essential part of an avatar, not just another statistic you could play with or without as you wanted.

That said, I think that your changes are mostly sound (they'd need a little bit of testing), but are maybe a little inelegant. Yes, there are too many people playing with lust right now, but I think the solution to that is tweaking the numbers. If lust granted only 2 points, and, say, pride granted 20 prestige, you'd see people making different choices.

Andrew Doull said...

Ok. Who's up for a game of Solium Infernum?