FilthyRobot interviews lead designer Soren Johnson

KayAU

Emperor
Joined
Sep 1, 2014
Messages
1,043
Excellent interview, kudos to Soren and the team for taking the time to listen to feedback and communicating with players so directly. Also, kudos to FilthyRobot for asking good questions and not being afraid to disagree when he disagrees.

Comments on four topics which I personally found particularly interesting:
  • City sites. FR suggested that he might have liked greater spacing and more flexible positioning. Being me, this made me think of Fallen Enchantress again. Yes, I know it's not the first time I mention that game. But I really like it, I think it is underrated, and I wish more people knew that it is actually pretty good. Anyway, in FE, you can only build in certain areas which have sufficient fertility to support a city, and the minimum distance between cities is a bit bigger than in civ. In practice, this made it similar to what FR was suggesting here, and as far as I am concerned, it worked very well.
  • Units not taking return damage in Old World. To be honest, I'm not sure I like this. I understand the desire of the devs to encourage active play and avoid stagnant positions, but for me, as someone who usually prefers a peaceful builder approach, I like being able to play more defensively. I also think it doesn't make that much *sense* that melee units should be able to attack heavily fortified positions without taking any damage, nor that units which are almost completely destroyed should be able to fight as well as units at full strength.
  • Adding more stuff to the map. I would personally like to see something like natural wonders make an appearance at some point. For me, it adds spice to both the gameplay and to the map visuals. I also find that it is a way to make the game richer without necessarily increasing the complexity.
  • The discussion on theme vs mechanics was very interesting. As he says himself, FiltyRobot is mostly focused on mechanics, and so choosing Slavery over Freedom makes perfect sense to him. Soren is a game designer, so he had an idea about people maybe starting out with Slavery, and then have an emancipation at some point to gain late game benefits. The statistics show that most people have more of a role-playing focus, though, and tend to pick Freedom right away, as that is the kind of leader they want to be. I think this is good, and as Soren points out, it shows that people engage with the theme. I'd like to go back to another game I really like: Alpha Centauri. It had a really strong theme (and really well designed mechanics as well), and one of the things I remember, is that my policy decisions really felt substantial. It gave the appearance that I was not just choosing gameplay benefits, I was shaping this future society on an alien planet. Of course, the gameplay reinforced the theme very well, as your choices were very impactful for your relationships, both with the other factions, and with Planet itself.
 

King Jason

Fleece-bearer
Joined
Oct 21, 2005
Messages
2,040
Oof I disagree with So many of Filthy Robots concerns.

Of course feedback is always great, and there are definitely improvements to be made - but there is far far too much importance being placed over the city placement here and the supposed way that makes defensive terrain not matter.

So you have a highly defensible mountain pass or a valley along the coast that serves as a great route into your empire... The complaints always seem to be "oh man but I can't build a city there to capitalize on the position"

No. You can't. That's an annoying option when you can. BUT! That doesn't, however, prevent you from positioning your *army* there, using forts, clearing (or keeping, depending on where they fall) forests, and building key roads. That route can still be where you decide you'll fight the primary battles to defend your holdings.


I think the greatest achievement of Old World is taking the fight AWAY from cities. Sieges are fun and have merit as well but a highly defended city in the players mind shouldn't equate to "look at this city I jammed into a 1tile wide mountain pass lol good luck dislodging it with literally anything".

There's fair criticism to be levied at the stateleness of a tech tree progression in MP settings or whatever but honestly SO many of his concerns just seem to have root in the fact that Old World just isn't "that" game.

That isnt a direct dig either; it's not civ, it's not an RTS, it's not league of legends... It's really and cleverly it's own unique thing and I think city sites are a huge part of that.

I feel similarly about the no defender DMG as well - I think it's brilliant and simply forces people who have literal decades of experience playing strategy games one way, to rethink the genre into an entire different way of playing.

These are amazing accomplishments in game design. Don't water them down because some players, effectively, just want the same old thing. I'm not trying to sound rude either - but you can explain the merits of being able to have flexible city placement or defender damage all day - and you'd have so many valid points because there ARE so many valid points.

But it's been done before - it's tired - it's... Old... LOVE playing around the in game restrictions - orders, city sites, offensive skew.

There's two dichotomy's in play when it comes to the strategy game - what is "strategy" all about? Effectively, there is two answers to that question;

Player agency - the ability to have choice and those choices impact the game state.

Player adaptiveness - the ability for the player to make the best of what they get. To react to the game state as it changes.

The latter is so so so so often discarded in favor of the former when it comes to criticisms from fans in strategy games; "why can't I do x? I should be able to x!"

But at the end of the day we are all bound by gamestates and have to just deal with what we get; a good start or a crappy start - a player killed 2 of our units (yay!) Or a player killed 10 of our units (oh no...)

From script to opponent actions the game is filled with things we can't control and only react to or prepare for.

I think the bones of the game around things like city sites and no-defender damage are fine, and the players just need to play around those constraints rather than trying to bend the dynamics to suit a more comfortable playstyle.
 
Last edited:

alcaras

Warlord
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
211
Greatly enjoyed the interview and the insights into Soren's design process and approach to balancing and iterating the game.
 

KayAU

Emperor
Joined
Sep 1, 2014
Messages
1,043
As someone who has criticised Civ6 a lot, the district placement system is one thing I feel they actually did very well. There are certainly other problems with cities there, including how nothing scales with population, anemic specialists, and how weak big cities are overall. But the district placement mechanics themselves are very enjoyable for me. I like how I can look at the map and immediately identify good placements and city layouts. I like how different civs have abilities and special districts which interact interact with district placement. I like how districts sometimes compete for the same adjacencies.
 

steveg700

Deity
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
3,805
I'm glad FR didn't didn't just gush and fawn on Soren, as so often has been the case.

(FWIW tho, he is wrong regarding "ambivalent"; the notion that it means the same as "indifferent" is simply a common conflation)

O
No. You can't. That's an annoying option when you can. BUT! That doesn't, however, prevent you from positioning your *army* there, using forts, clearing (or keeping, depending on where they fall) forests, and building key roads. That route can still be where you decide you'll fight the primary battles to defend your holdings.
Except, as already noted, there's no defense. Having a a bunch of fortified units at the mountain pass doesn't do anything when there's no retal damage to wreck a unit that smashes into the bulwark. Want to charge into a wall of pikes? Go for it! That's playing ACTIVE, so why should it be a bad idea?

I feel similarly about the no defender DMG as well - I think it's brilliant and simply forces people who have literal decades of experience playing strategy games one way, to rethink the genre into an entire different way of playing..

Okay, let me rethink...No retal damage and wounded units do full damage, so combat devolves into a series of alpha strike smashes....Nah, nothing brilliant there. Nothing "complacent" or "boomerish" about balancing attack against defense. Nothing especially nuanced in how to adapt to endless horde smashes that take all the negative away from this (basic) war strategy. It's bad, broken, lopsided, simplistic, ham-fisted, deficient. :p

Different isn't inherently better, and criticism does not inherently reflect a lack of adaptability. That's reductive. Sometimes the road most-traveled is most-traveled for sensible reasons. Filthy Robot stated the case well. Soren's responses are often disappointing IMO, simply preaching activity over passivity.

There's room for middle ground. There can be retaliation in select situations, like when troops are fortified or in fortifications. Or maybe in the form of promotions, so some troops can be groomed for the role.
 
Last edited:

King Jason

Fleece-bearer
Joined
Oct 21, 2005
Messages
2,040
Except, as already noted, there's no defense. Having a a bunch of fortified units at the mountain pass doesn't do anything when there's no retal damage to wreck a unit that smashes into the bulwark. Want to charge into a wall of pikes? Go for it! That's playing ACTIVE, so why should it be a bad idea?.


If this were actually true then the Thermopylae scenario would yield the same results every time. Instead, players can actually make decisions about positioning, promotions, and unit rotations that can change the difference of units killed from only 10 to over 30. The same is certainly true in multiplayer barring the issue that late game matches generally devolve into mangonel creep.

You're right, though, tried and true methods persist for a reason; often - they're good design. But what is the -literal- point of playing the same thing forever? I have been playing civilization and the subsequent games like it for decades.

There are other games that do the thing that you want and there going to be a billion more other games that continue to do the thing you want.

You know, the RTS genre doesn't have defense in the same way you and others are driving at either. In fact, in a lot of ways, I think OW combat sort of plays like an RTS fused into a turn based format.

So, the thing is, a player who's been playing civ their whole life or has an obsessive love of paradox games wouldn't sit down for a game of warcraft or StarCraft and say "wow, what a mess. Lazy boring awful design. Where's the strategy? Where's the meat on the bones? ". --- seriously; StarCraft is one of the most well designed games that has ever been made.

The thing is, the average player who probably only ever plays civ or paradox games? Might absolutely hate StarCraft. That's not a problem with StarCraft. Not a "problem" with the player either. Different games offer different things, as they should, and players gravitate toward what they like.

So I reiterate --- in my opinion, the complaints about the combat in OW primarily boil down to a subsection of people who came to play a strategy game the way they're always used to playing a strategy game.

Well, this isn't that game

All of the wonderful reasons to have combat like a civ franchise don't actually make the case that the combat in OW needs to be changed - it makes the case that some people don't like how it was done.

I, frankly, find the take on combat refreshing. The age of empires series, particular the first two, are some of my favorite games. Playing OW feels like someone took AoE and forged it into a turn-based game and I find that phenomenal.
 
  • Like
Reactions: PiR

steveg700

Deity
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
3,805
Units not taking return damage in Old World. To be honest, I'm not sure I like this. I understand the desire of the devs to encourage active play and avoid stagnant positions, but for me, as someone who usually prefers a peaceful builder approach, I like being able to play more defensively. I also think it doesn't make that much *sense* that melee units should be able to attack heavily fortified positions without taking any damage, nor that units which are almost completely destroyed should be able to fight as well as units at full strength.
Right. It's not simply a matter of being a hidebound boomer. No retal damage and and units dealing full damage and 1HP are both affronts to how theis type of old-world combat actually functioned. Do not charge dug -n shied walls or pike squares with wild abandon. Soren's desire to innovate and disrupt what he calls "stalemate" tactics is nothing new. Stellaris, for example, tried to get rid of star lanes to eliminate all the fortified bottlenecks. They eventually conceded that their game was better off with turtling man without it.

Adding more stuff to the map. I would personally like to see something like natural wonders make an appearance at some point. For me, it adds spice to both the gameplay and to the map visuals. I also find that it is a way to make the game richer without necessarily increasing the complexity.
It's an area where Civilization excels IMO. In OW, my concern with natural wonders is this'd be another area that is decremented by having fixed city-sites that translates into having the decision of how to leverage terrain taken out of the players hands. I'd like the idea of having mystery areas of the map with hidden elements. Players have to take control of the tile and "survey" certain tiles to discover what's there. That can take advantage of the fixed sites, as their can be some intelligent design to a discovering a hidden village, abandoned temple, or a library lost to time, for instance.

The discussion on theme vs mechanics was very interesting. As he says himself, FiltyRobot is mostly focused on mechanics, and so choosing Slavery over Freedom makes perfect sense to him. Soren is a game designer, so he had an idea about people maybe starting out with Slavery, and then have an emancipation at some point to gain late game benefits. The statistics show that most people have more of a role-playing focus, though, and tend to pick Freedom right away, as that is the kind of leader they want to be. I think this is good, and as Soren points out, it shows that people engage with the theme.
Maybe some civ's start with certain laws in place. Slavery'd be a ubiquitous one. Maybe it wanna be -1 discontent for every culture level (so no discontent at weak). Over time it becomes a bone of contention. Tho with it revised to being what seems to me to be something less essential than extra orders (+20% mines and quarries), it may be moot.[/QUOTE]
 

steveg700

Deity
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
3,805
You know, the RTS genre doesn't have defense in the same way you and others are driving at either. In fact, in a lot of ways, I think OW combat sort of plays like an RTS fused into a turn based format.[
It is turn based combat in every way. The most important way is that when it is one player's turn, all other players are statues that can't react. An alpha strike can obliterate the target before it can react. OW doesn't "solve" that problem, so removing retaliation damage isn't novel that leads to new decisions. It's simply a gaping, exploitable hole that lopsides combat.

So I reiterate --- in my opinion, the complaints about the combat in OW primarily boil down to a subsection of people who came to play a strategy game the way they're always used to playing a strategy game.

Well, this isn't that game

All of the wonderful reasons to have combat like a civ franchise don't actually make the case that the combat in OW needs to be changed - it makes the case that some people don't like how it was done.

This is doubling-down on a reduction. Trying to marginalize criticism as a matter of personal taste is sloppy in the face of what has been articulated.

FilthyRobot lays an objective case that these difference aren't brilliant or innovative. They simply make one strat dominant, and make that Thermopylae scenario more likely to play out the same way every time when defense is stripped away and hordemongering alpha strikes are the essence of combat. Leo doesn't even get to be the speed bump he intended to be.

So that " subsection" of players don't make a case for changing OW. They simply make a valid case for why it's lopsided, simplistic, ham-fisted, deficient.

Then you get to rebut that not liking something that lopsided, simplistic, ham-fisted, deficient is simply "not to their taste". They want a game with balanced, nuanced, tactical combat.

"Well, this isn't that game."

Of course if Soren wants those qualities is in his game's combat, then he might consider make a change. There's more to be said on the matter than there is about not liking onions or green being one's favorite color.
 
Last edited:

KayAU

Emperor
Joined
Sep 1, 2014
Messages
1,043
So I reiterate --- in my opinion, the complaints about the combat in OW primarily boil down to a subsection of people who came to play a strategy game the way they're always used to playing a strategy game.

Well, this isn't that game
I respectfully disagree with this notion. You seem to be suggesting that the only reason people might complain about something is general resistance to change, that their complaints are somehow invalid and that they should just play a different game. As someone who tends to "complain" a lot about games I play, I don't think this is true at all. The reason I point out things I don't like, is generally to discuss with other players and also to provide useful feedback to the developers. It is not a general resistance to change. I often like change. Civ 5 brought hexes, better resource management, more tactical combat (still imperfect), and more situational elements. Civ 6 brought districts and more varied civ design. Old World brings orders and a different way of developing cities. All of these are changes I appreciate.

Criticising aspects of a game should not be seen as a negative at all, in my opinion. It means people care about your game, and finds it worth their time to talk about. There's no game featured on these forums which I have complained about more than Civ 6, and yet, I have played it for more than 2,4k hours. Clearly, it has to have something going for it. Likewise, I think Old World has a lot going for it, and I am curious to see how it is improved in the future.
 

steveg700

Deity
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
3,805
I want to add that maybe some of the disdain for slavery isn't simply disdain for the premise. I think many players have disdain for discontent that they bring in from other games.
 
  • Like
Reactions: PiR

steveg700

Deity
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
3,805
So, Old World patch #93 is live (tho there's no post for it here yet)

Lots of changes. One notable one for this thread is that the Tactician's General ability is now 1extra damage on counterattack. It's not scaling damage based on relative strength, which I think many might find more balanced. It's something different tho. Let's see how it goes.

That former crit immunity was kind of a tepid ability. I might suggest rolling it into the zealot's not-so-great "won't die at 1 HP" ability. They are basically the same "diehard" concept, after all.
 
Last edited:

Pfeffersack

Deity
Joined
May 10, 2003
Messages
3,147
Location
Germany
So, Old World patch #93 is live (tho there's no post for it here yet)

Lots of changes. One notable one for this thread is that the Tactician's General ability is now 1extra damage on counterattack (...)

...and now in the freshly released update on the test branch they do full damage on counter attack :eek: Beside that this should make them really powerful (because even when down to 1 HP, full counterattack damage stays), this might open the gates for a quick mod changing the overall rule here (as the I imagine that an ability present doing this means that its easy to make it a general rule). If that should show up, I would for sure give it at try, as I'm curious how it would affect the game and how the AI copes with it.
 

steveg700

Deity
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
3,805
...and now in the freshly released update on the test branch they do full damage on counter attack :eek: Beside that this should make them really powerful (because even when down to 1 HP, full counterattack damage stays), this might open the gates for a quick mod changing the overall rule here (as the I imagine that an ability present doing this means that its easy to make it a general rule). If that should show up, I would for sure give it at try, as I'm curious how it would affect the game and how the AI copes with it.
Really? Interesting. Be interesting see this come down in the promotion chain, maybe after Guard II.

Definitely think boosting the Zealot general is in order them.

Kind of tangential, but it'd be nice to have more general abilities that aid ranged troops.
 

kaspergm

Deity
Joined
Aug 19, 2012
Messages
5,493
Sorry, maybe I’m coming across as stupid here - in my defence, I am extremely new to OW - but are you guys saying that a unit by default takes no damage from melee attacking into another unit? I seemed to experience that my units took some damage, but is that a General bonus?

If an attacker receives zero damage, that is imo. horrible game design. I mean, I simply cannot find any argument to justify this as good design. I agree that we want to avoid one-man walls as is often the case in Civ5/6, but there has to be some middle ground, and zero return damage just skews the game super heavily towards attacker advantage.

I also feel ranged units are way too powerful in this game, like slingers are super annoying for half of the game’s duration, which imo. is not at all realistic, and this also makes it difficult to make a defensive stance. But maybe that’s just because I’m a noob.
 

Pfeffersack

Deity
Joined
May 10, 2003
Messages
3,147
Location
Germany
Sorry, maybe I’m coming across as stupid here - in my defence, I am extremely new to OW - but are you guys saying that a unit by default takes no damage from melee attacking into another unit? I seemed to experience that my units took some damage, but is that a General bonus?

If an attacker receives zero damage, that is imo. horrible game design. I mean, I simply cannot find any argument to justify this as good design. I agree that we want to avoid one-man walls as is often the case in Civ5/6, but there has to be some middle ground, and zero return damage just skews the game super heavily towards attacker advantage.

I also feel ranged units are way too powerful in this game, like slingers are super annoying for half of the game’s duration, which imo. is not at all realistic, and this also makes it difficult to make a defensive stance. But maybe that’s just because I’m a noob.
No worries, I'm now steadily heading towards 100h of playtime with OW - and I still feel like a rookie with it, when sturggling over and over with the campaign missions ;)

For the quesion - almost no damage. Melee units suffer a -1hp counterhit when attacking, but that can be neglected in most cases. I guess it was added to put at least a tiny price tag on an attack, as otherwise there would be (aside from spending an order) no cost at all, making going on the offense always a no-brainer. If you see more counter-damage, it is because the defending unit is lead by a tactican (in the current official version increased by 2hp to 3 and in the new test built full damage base on modifiers etc.) Of course the questions stands - is (practically) no counter damage a good thing? It for sure makes turtling harder - and it puts a lot emphasize on orders, as defending is only possible with both having a sufficient number of units plus the orders to opertae with them. That's why I'm so worried about the late game law allowing to store orders - I haven't tried it or found myself on the short side of the stick yet...but I doubt that defending in this case is really possible (unless you run it as well)

How nasty units are depends in my experience a lot on the promotions they have - the most dangerous are those with eagle eye as that means full damage independent of distance to target. If then the +1 range promotion comes on top, they are deadly snipers (even more as, unlike in Civ6, hills and trees inbetween the units don't prevent such shoots - you only get a reduction of damage when standing in trees/bushland)
 

kaspergm

Deity
Joined
Aug 19, 2012
Messages
5,493
For the quesion - almost no damage. Melee units suffer a -1hp counterhit when attacking, but that can be neglected in most cases. I guess it was added to put at least a tiny price tag on an attack, as otherwise there would be (aside from spending an order) no cost at all, making going on the offense always a no-brainer. If you see more counter-damage, it is because the defending unit is lead by a tactican (in the current official version increased by 2hp to 3 and in the new test built full damage base on modifiers etc.) Of course the questions stands - is (practically) no counter damage a good thing? It for sure makes turtling harder - and it puts a lot emphasize on orders, as defending is only possible with both having a sufficient number of units plus the orders to opertae with them. That's why I'm so worried about the late game law allowing to store orders - I haven't tried it or found myself on the short side of the stick yet...but I doubt that defending in this case is really possible (unless you run it as well)
Alright, thanx for explaining. I'm not against the "fixed counterdamage" solution they have gone for, although 1/20 HP is, like you say, practically negligible. I guess it makes it possible and probably easy to increase it to 2 or more HP through a mod, however, if one wants to play around with that. I do think attacking into fortifications - either fortified units, units in a Fort, or town buildings that adds defense like Fortress or Citadel, should increase counter damage.
 
Top Bottom