Modding Rome: What are we trying to achieve?

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Modding Rome: What are we trying to achieve?

Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Mon Mar 21, 2005 12:50

I'd like to lay out what I think a RTW mod shall aim for.

Before getting started, it's important to make sure that everyone agrees on why RTW 1.2 needs to be modded and what for.
I am firm believer in minimal modding; there is no need to change a file if that does not serve any clear purpose.

I'd like to mod RTW to:
Allow more tactical play

Make 4v4 playable for "standard" computer with reasonable graphic options while preserving the physics of the game: that means modding unit size down so that we can increase the number of players while trying to keep decent physics that would not upset the balance too greatly.
I firmly believe that normal size gives cavalry too big an advantage because of lack of rank and mass for infantry, and I like the way large unit size play. Unfortunately large unit size is too large to be playable in 4v4 for most computers. We need to keep the "large size" feeling while reducing the number of soldiers to increase the number of players.

Preserve and increase diversity: one of the strenght of RTW compared to MTW is the feeling that more units got the potential to be usefull. A few units are a little too good for their cost and lower the potential for diversity as they become dominant choice.

Increase the need for Combined Arms: to make sure that all Arms got a purpose... and a weakness... This is RPS in the traditional sense.

Improve faction balance: to make sure all factions are somewhat balanced. In vanilla RTW 1.2, it is sad to see some factions unused... and other practically banned because they are too powerfull.
That does not mean to make all factions identical ! (remember, "to preserve and increase diversity")

Fix some unit bugs: there a few discripancies in the unit file, the most famous being Horse Archer. A mod is a good opportunity to fix that.

Those are the main targets I'd like a mod to pursue. What would YOU like to achieve with a mod?

Louis,

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Mon Mar 21, 2005 13:39

I'd like to comment further on "allow more tactical gameplay" as a target for modding.

Tactic is the use of manoeuvring to achieve victory, that include flanking, ambushing, engaging reserve, prepositionning troops, getting correct match up, etc, etc....

Overall, I feel ok with RTW as a tactical engine. Still, there are a few things that are bothersome and can be done to improve the game.

- results of fight sometimes feel very random. When playing with similar units, sometimes they would fight a very long time, and sometimes the fight would be over in a matter of seconds. I find it difficult how fast a "close fight" would last.
Foregone conclusion are foregone conclusion: Sacred band Cavalry charing archer wins in 5 second, and that is fine for me. I would not like to change that at all.
But when I test principes versus triarii or versus barbarian swordmen, which are somehow close units, the fight might be very long... or very short... With different side winning. Units might rout prematurely; my guess is, it is because of a "round of massive death" causing massive kill morale penalty.
Given those tests are made on flat, with no flanking, in identical conditions (as much as I can get them), this is surprising.
I don't like it much because it makes some infantry lines quite unreliable and unpredictable; you can't assume your line is going to hold for 2 minutes while you flank... Part of your line may have routed before you had time to flank. Even though, your line and your opponent line are identical, and noone got a tactical advantage whatsoever.

When two identical units fight each other, it might go either way, and such are the chances in war. what i find damaging is that once in a while, the fight will be over in 30sec, with one unit routing after massive kills (or so it seems), and other times it will last longer.
The problem is; you only need one unit to break to end the game; statistically, it will happen....

- the use of reserve is not completly satisfactory. RTW made it very important to have the right units pre positionned at the right place; there is little time to move a reserve to the right spot, either the reserve is in the right spot to start with, or it is not.
Prepositionning unit correctly is part of tactics. But so is engaging reserve and moving them around. I'd like to balance those two factors better.
As it is today, given the speed of the game, it's very unforgiving. If you don't have the right unit at the right place, there is very little chance you can correct that in time.


Although this topic ought to be about mod purpose, I think I got to make it clearer; for me to improve tactical feeling mean to make killrate a little bit lower.
To be honest, I think to solve the first issue I got with the game, a change in the morale penalty for massive kills would be enough.
Given that is not moddable, what can be done is to change the amount of kills.

I am fully aware that to change killrate will change RPS balance, and many, many other things in the game that I like. I have seen mod trying before and fail, going to far in slowing the game down, and, for example, making cavalry ineffective while charging skirmisher.
I do NOT want to change the game physics, I like they way cavalry run throught skirmishers or troops with no formation, but I hope we can get the best of both worlds!

Louis,

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Post by ladyAn » Tue Mar 22, 2005 0:14

1. comment on "achieving 4x4"
I would move the "achieving 4x4" up the priority. I am assuming this to mean "create an intermediate size between Normal and Large" (let's call it Medium for now), because it is already possible to play 4x4 at "normal" while 4x4 at "large" currently is too laggy, and I don't see any other way to make it better.

Although it is possible to tweak the unit stats to make it balance for both "normal", "large" and "medium", I believe that all balancing shall be made with "medium" as the primary target. It is already observed that unit relative strength is different when size of unit change.

2. Propose to add an objective
To keep changes to the current engine at minimum
What I meant by that:
- that things like trippling morale and doubling defense, etc. would depart too much from current game dynamics. That would be undesireable because vanilla v1.2 is still the most play-tested version, people know what are the effects. This allows better acceptance.
- there are a lot of things we don't know from the game engine. Small and simple changes would localize the effects and simplify beta testings.

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:50

Annie, for me all those target are of nearly equal value, there is no specific order :)

Yes, you are right I shall have been clearer: I meant playing 4v4 while keeping the "physics" we got with large unit size. We can play with normal size... But that is not satisfactory.
That does mean playing with a "medium" unit size in between normal and large.

I also agree that modding shall be kept at a minimum... for exactly the same reason you outline :P

Louis,

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Post by Spectre » Tue Mar 22, 2005 12:41

Please do remember that small changes are just that, small changes. It doesn't make the game fundamentally different to tweak anything by a smallish amount (10% maybe), be it unit size, speed, killrate, prices, missile ranges, stats etc.

Overcautiousness is almost as bad as overzealousness: being too reluctant to change anything defeats the purpose of modding in the first place. Unless we _want_ only the size change & bare minimum price adjustments, of course.

Of course the changes should be done in an orderly manner... but experimentation is a crucial phase of the process, right?

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Tue Mar 22, 2005 13:19

Not sure we need more than small changes :)

I pretty much like the game as it is and I am not looking at a complete revamping. If we just mod unit size to play 4v4, keep everything the same but for a few "problem" units, and fix bugs like Horse Archer, I'll be mostly happy :)

If we can do a bit better, fine. But the game is not so far off it needs to be fundamentally changed. It needs some tweaking.

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Post by ladyAn » Tue Mar 22, 2005 16:09

The most successful mod was the V1.03 of STW/MI. I know, it is years ago. But it remains the most successful one because it is the only one adoptted by almost everyone toward the end. Why was it successful? It was an attempt to balance V1.2 of STW/MI with minimal changes. In MTW/VI there are several mod attempted. It was popular for some moments, but they all suffer similar problems: people had hardtime to mentally switch back and forth between the the modded version and the vanilla version. However, that was because MTW/VI didn't need much balancing (although looking back, it wasn't that good either).

Our objective should be to keep changes at minimal: you know how things go, a small change here and there compound up, and also, when you renovate a house, there is always tendency to go over the budget anyways.

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Post by Spectre » Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:07

I'm actually very much in the same camp with you... I don't mind the speed in RTW. Actually, I'd be fine with just the size adjustment, elite unit cost adjustment and bug fixes.

But, I'd also like to play with old friends from MTW. Quite a few of them (if not all of those who are absent) have stated that they don't like the fast speeds of RTW; not just killing speeds / battle randomness, but also running speeds. Who cares if their reasoning is somehow "false" or results from lack of understanding; it may be that a "minimal" mod simply would not be enough to bring those old friends onto these new fields of battle.

It's great if it is possible to "sell" the mod with only minimal modifications, but I for one am willing to sacrifice a bit of personal preferences (I like speed :P) to see the old faces again. Bringing back some of the familiar, semi-mature players would IMO be well worth a 10% of movement speed. :)

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Post by ladyAn » Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:52

Maybe reduce speed isn't such a big deal? I mean, who said reduce speed is a major major change? It may not be.

What I want to insist on is that we have a roadmap and we achieve that points on the roadmap one by one. And we are not going to jump into modding without knowing as much as possible about the consequences. Testing out each parameter is fine. What I meant was to incorporate the actual solution into the mod.

I am not against changing things here and there. What I am against is jumping into changing all parameters all at once and then scratch our heads and wonder what really was changed and what was a side effect.

If you want to advocate for change in speed, well, convince the audience. Your argument that you want to bring back those who complain about fast RTW speed. That's a very valid argument. So, what I want to see is such argument be presented BEFORE we actually adopt it as part of the objectives.

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:24

For the why to mod speed, my opinion is in the 2nd post of this topic.

To sum it up, I got no issue with running speed, I got some issue with some tactical move (reserve?) and with melee randomness, so I'd like to lower kill speed a bit, because I think it can help for both.
For more about kill rate and movement overall, may I point to that topic?
viewtopic.php?t=6892

That's where that discussion ought to take place.

I am all for MINIMUM modding; the more we change, the more likely we screw up.
I also suscribe to incremental step change. However, I would not test everything after each step: some of the tests are interedependant; so I'd test all the physics change together, all the cost and stat change (if any) together, etc, etc...

For me, it makes sense to test unit size AND kill rate together. But changing unit cost before we're happy with the physics is, in my opinion, not advisable.

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Post by CeltiberoMordred » Wed Mar 23, 2005 14:31

For me, movement speed adjustment is as important as kill rate. I think that reducing kill rate it's not a goal itself, the main purpose is to decrease the "pace" of battles. That's because I think that kill rate and speed movement adjustments must be attached in order to get a better gameplay.

While a reduction of kill rate gives you enough time to manouver after the melee starts, the speed movement reduction gives you time to react not only after, but also before the melee. Anyway, at the moment the speed reduction is minimal, so don't bother about that. IMO, this small reduction will allow more tactical games and most veteran players will be pleased with this change.

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Wed Mar 23, 2005 15:12

Well Mordred, decreasing the pace of battle is not a purpose in itself.

What matters is; how would that improve tactical play?

Time to react is a double edge sword.
The more I play RTW, the more I care about prepositioning troops correctly, AND THAT IS ALSO A TACTICAL SKILL.
In RTW, way more than in MTW, you need to plan your attack or adapt your defense before it actually takes place.
You want to flank the ennemy from your left wing? Then you better have your strongest unit there, and put your cavalry there, while keeping some defense reserve on right wing (that's an example). You need to think about that ahead of time.
In SPQR, it does not really matter where you set your reserve unit, or offensive unit... They can be anywhere, it does not matter, they will have all the time they need to come and rescue the assaulted wing.
You put your reserve on left wing, and you're attacked on right? Not a big deal, you can move them, and you'll be fine. Is that tactic? Or would tactic be to move reserve on right when you see the assault coming, way before melee start?

Reaction is not a skill per se; it's the lack of prepositionning skill.

I am caricaturing and playing devil advocate... :P
But I'd be VERY disappointed if we end up with reaction taking over good planning as a tactical skill as a result of lowering movement speed.

As posted in the other topic, lowering movement speed leads to plenty of problems. A hell lot of them. I'd recommand we give a try at lower kill rate, and then see if it is enough or not.

Louis,

PS: I don't believe old faces will come back anyway...

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Post by ladyAn » Wed Mar 23, 2005 15:57

We made the change in unit size. It seems everyone is happy about it: noone complaint?

I'll give it some time before I'll call the vote for the build 1.

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Post by Spectre » Wed Mar 23, 2005 16:28

BTW, about voting... as I understand it, everyone who has access to this forum is eligible to vote. However, how about a "testing policy" (or whatever it be called); wouldn't it be fair to ask that anyone who wishes to vote on a build (or other matter) should have at least _some_ testing of the build in question (preferably online testing) under his/her belt?

The reasoning being that if one hasn't tested a build, one may not have the necessary understanding to vote on the build.

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Post by ladyAn » Wed Mar 23, 2005 17:36

Good point, Spectre. Only people who has tested the feature could vote on it.

We could go with only voting a "solid draft". Intermediate votes are non-binding. This allows us to move forward while still have a consensus of what is being done. Let me think about it a bit. We don't want to overburden our efforts with forum activities.

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Wed Mar 23, 2005 17:41

I got little issues trying to move along with 2 mods at the same time, although it would split effort and test I guess...

We can have a "slow mod" with .8 move speed, -50% lethality, and a "fast mod" with normal speed and -15% lethality...

The main issue would be that balance in both would be different, so it might trigger different "balance adjustement" if we change cost, or stuff like that.
I'd actually be curious to see how different those two options would be...

Then it would be a matter of taste.

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Post by ladyAn » Wed Mar 23, 2005 18:53

I would enquire about how to change speed for individual units (or class of units) first. It seems Duke John may have the knowledge.

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Post by Spectre » Wed Apr 06, 2005 19:47

We found out a way to change the unit size easily, and it looks like at least some folks at .net are seeing the light. But, it's a slim hope; there's no real reason to believe that it would become a standard.

So, what do we do now? Do we keep the 60-man size in the mod, or revert back to default size? Our killrate and phalanx balance modifications in builds 3&4 were mostly made for achieving better "physics" with the 60-man unit size. IMO we should still attempt to get a good "feel" and "balance" at this 60-man size, because it's the largest size that's possible for all games, even though we'd move back to the default size.

And, a question about the installer program that Mord has used to create the packages: it has a "shareware" nag message and a disclaimer that any program package created by the installer should not be distributed in any form. Should we be concerned about that?

I downloaded and installed the Astrum Installwizard program, and couldn't find a license agreement or other piece of text forbidding the distribution of packages created by the shareware version. The forbiddance only appears when you install a package already created by the program, and as such shouldn't be sufficient in the eyes of law. (But then again, what do I know... :P) It probably means only commercial distribution, but I'd like to clarify this anyway.

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Post by ladyAn » Wed Apr 06, 2005 21:37

Since it is now possible to change size by simply change the host'd preference file, I am not sure we should build the size into the stat file. This only makes it more confusing.

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Post by Louis Ste Colombe » Tue Apr 12, 2005 11:41

I just posted at .org my current thought on mod.

Since we found out that unit size could be modded very easily, we slowed down the mod effort. no need to mod size anymore, since it's already done, right?


Part of my post at .org.
Yuuki, given the large gap in people's experience about this game, I got a hard time thinking a mod could do it all for everyone. Even for players who think that the mechanics of 1.2 are ok, and whose experience with phalanx is that they do beat cavalry, there are still some very bothersome problem and modding would help a lot solving them.

I'd suggest moving along with two mods

One for those happy with RTW 1.2 and moving along the lines of;
- readjusting unit cost to rebalance units/ faction
- solve a few bugs (horse archer not shooting, discripancy in units stats)
That would not really change the way RTW 1.2 plays. A 1200 denarii cataphract is still a cataphract and would behave just like a vanilla 1.2 cataphract. A ruban cohort would be more expensive, but still a urban cohort.

And one for those who wants to change the gameplay;
- slowing down kill speed
- slowing down movement speed
- readjusting cost/ combat stat to rebalance units/ faction
- solve the bugs

I know for sure that I am interested in the 1st mod, and I posted a long time ago to get there.

I also got some interest in the second mod, and that is why I worked along mainly with Crandaeolon and Mordred (and other fellow players).
The main reason for looking at a "deeper" mod is mainly related to what was mentionned at start: many different results, and many different feedback. Combat results look very inconsistent, random and chaotic. I am not interested by reducing the speed in and for itself, but I think it's a good way to get more consistent combat results. And that would be a good thing.

A "1.2 friendly" mod can probably be done quickly, and fix a few things that 1.2 lovers are bothered with, but not essentially changing the gameplay.
The other mod, of which Mordred mod is a first step will probably take a much longer time and need lot of brainstorming, testing and feedback.
I think we can make the 1st mod quite fast: we need to agree on cost, tweaks a few things here and there, and fix some well known unit bugs.

The second mod would use 1.3 or 1.4 as a basis. The choice between 1.3 and 1.4 is mainly a cavalry versus hoplite question for me: 1.4 works better... But devil is in the detail (like horse archer are definitly nerfed by that).
But I am going off topic...

My point is; what do you think of moving along two mods?

If you like the idea, I'll open some "1.2MOD" topic to gather ideas on cost adjustement and unit bug fixes (which would be; what do we think of .org list basically.... :p). The gameplay mod will keep incremental number like 1.3, 1.4, 1.5... Or be called GAMEPLAY...

Louis,

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