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Suggestion: Consequences of wasting your soldiers' lives

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Level 10 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on June 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm

-------[ My thumbs up - scroll down if you're only curious about the suggestion]-------

Before I get on topic, let me briefly express my appreciation of this awesome game you've made. I'm the kind of gamer who tends to grow bored of today's games before the demo is over. Having been around the scene for 15 years, it feels like most games today are made to last you only a few days at best to make you go out and buy the next title without too much delay (for the same price, of course).
Not so with Hegemony, which is why I bought it. I could tell there was a lot of love and attention put into the making here. There's a polished sense of harmony in the way the game looks, plays and feels, much more so than in many high-budget titles.
Your communication also puts big companies to shame! I've seen more dev posts here in the past few days than many big title forums get in months (and even then it tends to be just a community rep who hardly has any bearing on the development itself). All in all, the quality and the attitude you present here deserves great success, I'm rooting for you guys, don't lose this spirit!

-------[Suggestion - Consequences of wasting your soldiers' lives]-------

Summed up in short:

- The food cost of recruitment could be made more explicit (to point out there actually is such a cost to it too)
- Increasing the initial food cost of recruitment would make units less expendable, and thus battles more meaningful (factions couldn't afford losing units so easily, as heavy, repeated losses would be harder to recover from, eventually putting the loser at risk of running out of food)
- Deny recruitment if the city doesn't have enough food to cover this cost (so factions can't field armies without regard to food reserves)
- Imposing a food cost on retraining lost units would be nice to consider (as a consequence of being a bad general, if you lose too many units, your food reserves will suffer and eventually, you may not get to recruit more until your economy/food reserves recover)

Explained in detail:

So on to my suggestion. I know this could be a matter of mindset, but when I play strategy games, I like it when the outcome of my battles has real consequences, giving me a sense of progression. Progression as in knowing that every army I defeat drains on the resources of my foes, bringing me that bit closer to victory, or at least sets my foes that much back in their progress - but either way, the outcome had a consequence, and the battle did matter because the losing side weakened as a result.
I know the infinite, non-accumulating nature of the gold and population supply in Hegemony doesn't lend itself well to that, as this concept works best with finite resources, or at least in a system where resources accumulate and as such, can become (even if just temporarily) depleted too.
So without upsetting the current game mechanics, I think this could be best handled by the food supply system as that's the only resource in the game which accumulates and also has serious consequences if you run out of it.

I noticed the game already imposes an implicit "food cost" on recruitment, so my idea is not really new - I'd just like that food cost to be more explicit and also the initial cost be somewhat higher so factions can't churn out infinite numbers of new units indefinitely, with little to no downtime. Because this makes even a major battle along my borders feel like a vain treadmilling, unless I invade them back right away before their clone tanks hatch with the next wave of expendable stormtroopers.

I said it should be more explicit because this food cost is not really obvious. For those who don't know what cost I'm talking about - when you create a new unit, the maximum amount of food it can carry is deducted from the city's food reserves as soon as the unit steps out of the city. But this isn't listed on the recruitment tooltip, so as one suggestion, I think it should be there next to the population and gold cost. Perhaps you could add a reference to it in the manual too.
Also, as part of making this cost more explicit, I think it'd be nice if the amount of food got deducted immediately upon beginning the recruitment, while denying the recruitment if you don't have enough food in the city - it wouldn't make sense to be able to recruit armies from cities which can hardly support themselves.

Of course I can see why this food cost is never mentioned anywhere - because it's so small it's really of no consequence, a peltast company "costs" 44 food, a hoplite brigade 80, even a phalangite squad (of which one is usually enough) is only 180, not to mention they can march away or fight with just a fraction of that if the full cost doesn't need to be paid first. So a city will always have enough food to recruit new units unless it's starved to death with zero food and no supply, but that's quite unnatural as the enemy is likely going through a lot of trouble cutting off supplies to keep it that way. And that should work too, but I'd like to see an additional way of starving someone out by simply killing many of their armies.

I think you shouldn't be able to throw away heaps upon heaps of soldiers, suffering defeat after defeat and still keep 'em coming, with your bad strategic choices costing so many lives, but having virtually no consequence on your military potential.
I loved how in the manual you point out certain game mechanics being in line with the historic ways, I thought striving for that was a really nice touch. And while I'm no historian, I doubt Philip or Alexander have made it as far as they did by throwing their armies to the slaughter, pulling out a new one every few weeks, hoping to wear down their enemies with sheer infinite manpower tipped with a slight advantage in the quality of their best. As far as I know, Alexander for instance, toured through Asia Minor with pretty much the same 40,000-50,000 guys. And when he did battle it out with the Persians, like at Guagamela, the consequences for the defeated Persians were pretty dire - they lost half of their empire. I mean, that's a pretty serious setback from one battle.

Now I don't ask for such landslide-scale battle consequences, but by increasing the initial food cost of recruitment, and potentially adding a food cost to refilling casualties, things could feel a lot more real, there would be a greater importance to good strategy. Tiny greek factions couldn't field endless armies of hoplites against you every other week (as that's not really realistic), or if they do, they'd run out of food, forcing them to stop their raids to recuperate and rebuild their supplies, which also opens up an opportunity to invade them if you keep them scouted to see how their food reserves are - reconnaissance would gain a new, meaningful purpose. Plus there'd be a real incentive to catch routing enemies, as building a whole new squad will cost them (and more than just refilling a damaged brigade).

Also, if food is the limiting factor, there's no need to artificially tone down AI aggressiveness, you'd only have to adjust the AI to take into account the new costs and use its military potential accordingly. I don't know how difficult it'd be to make the AI aware of such a new limits, but I realize this probably wouldn't be an overnight sort of change, so I'm not expecting anything, I just wanted to share these ideas as food for thought, see how you and others like it, or if anyone has a better solution to the same issue.

Oh and where I'm occasionally poking fun at things, don't take it negatively, was merely aiming for an entertaining read. ;)

Level 10 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Location: New Jersey
Posted on June 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I might agree with you about making it more clear that units take their food supply out of a city after being recruited, but the consequences are already there. If an enemy city is constantly raiding you and keeps losing (meaning the units route and drop their food) it's a good bet the city itself is low on supplies, particularly during the winter. The Athenians on the Chalcidean coast area did that for me - they would mob me with peltasts, lose, then send them right back out. Those cities are already food poor (few farms around there) and in the winter months they don't get supplied by sea. So their waves of (mostly useless) attackers all died and the cities ran out of food. Easy sieging, no catapults necessary.

The same will happen to you if you aren't careful in managing supplies.

Level 10 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on June 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I know there are some slight consequences, technically they are there, but they are too minor to have any effect.
The area you mention is just so badly off by default, as you described yourself, that even the current, really minor defeat-related food expenses show on their food budgets.

Now if you look at better supplied regions, like Thessaly for instance, they can keep fielding brigade after brigade of hoplites, cavalry and whatnot with almost zero downtime between their raids, while keeping their food reserves around 1000 in all of their cities even in spring and winter.
What I'm saying is that the consequences don't appear harsh enough to affect normally/decently supplied regions. And no region should be able to replace such massive war-losses this quickly and easily. Looking at their economy, recruitment time seems to be the only thing holding them back, otherwise they are fully capable of sending a steady, endless stream of units my way *if* they want to.
Once they do stop attacking, it's never because I beat them up so badly they need to go back to lick their wounds and rebuild their resources, but merely because the AI decides to go easy on me for a while. After such a beating though, this shouldn't be a matter of choice on the AI's part, it should be a peremptory result of economic constraints which arose from the huge losses they suffered, *forcing* them to take a break.

Level 10 Human Student
Alignment: Chaotic
Posted on June 2, 2010 at 7:50 am

I found a way to get around the problem of the AI's constantly respawning troops, which make taking some towns very difficult indeed.

If you capture a fleeing unit then not only do you capture their food but you also (I think) prevent it from reforming. I'm pretty sure that after capturing and executing a few units a town has been easier to take for me. My favourite tactic is to bait their troops into coming out with my infantry, then swinging the cavalry around to hit them in the rear and block their flight. Obviously you need to lure them a little way away from their town to ensure success.

This way I was able to take Diabolis, Methone and other towns with massive garrisons.

Level 10 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on June 2, 2010 at 10:15 am

There is an easy way to capture cities. Just shoot there defences with 2-3 catapults to zero.
Then you must only touch the City with one of your units.

Perhaps this is too easy and there should be a limit to catapults only damaging Cities down to 400 for example and not to 0.

And till now I never saw the ai using catapults. It would be nice to see this!

Level 10 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on June 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Those are effective tactics indeed, I do employ them myself. But this isn't about the difficulty, I can handle the endless flows, there just shouldn't be any endless flows. Even the Persian empire with its vast manpower and resources couldn't afford maintaining an endless flow of armies into Greece. Their army got busted in 490 BC, took them ten years to come back for another go. An economy that can support an endless flow is not so much fun to fight against, not to mention unrealistic.

This is about a sense of progress through battles, a sense of achievement from victory. If you're fighting a foe that's not the least bit weakened by whatever casualties you inflict, there's no progress, your victories mean next to nothing, their defeat means even less. Now don't get me wrong, I'm having a lot of fun with the game, but I could enjoy it that much more if the non-siege-related battles had real consequences too. ;)

Level 15 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on June 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

It's a good idea, actually. We don't really want to change the gameplay for Hegemony too much, but this is one of the things we want to improve for the next game.

Or best idea so far involves adding an extra stat to represent a city's recruiting power, but your idea handily gets around that without adding an additional stat. It's definitely worth some serious consideration.

Level 10 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on June 12, 2010 at 6:33 am

I agree with the original post to an extent, but I think the battle system in this game reflects the fact that warfare in this period, and pretty much every period, was more about sieges and strongholds than meeting in the field. But when the massive battles do happen, it does sometimes feel like the effects on the loser are somewhat ephemeral. Holding the field and taking the food and slaves gives the victor an advantage that they can translate into strategic gains, but the quick and fairly painless regeneration of troops sometimes convinced me to do things I might not do in other games. Or at least would not be able to sleep so easily if I did them in other games. At one time I had thought maybe the population of the city could represent the maximum amount of unit population that city would support throughout the whole game, since it does in theory only cover a single generation, approximately. A big city could field more units because it would simply have a larger suitable population for military service, even if it was the same proportion as a smaller one. Wouldn't necessarily require another stat in that case. I already divide my phalangite recruitment across my Macedonian cities just because I like to see the different names in my message box; this way I wouldn't be the only one.

Level 10 Human Strategos
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Mt Olympos
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 1:36 am

I agree, the game would feel more real if field battles have more meaning. Lack of decisive battles is the biggest thing that takes away from the otherwise awesome historical feel of the game. I think I'd rather have a population pool than trying to fake it with food though.

It'd hurt the ai factions more than the player, but otoh where you have overwhelming force the constant streams of troops coming to attack you are more of an annoyance than a real hindrance, and where your forces are less overwhelming, you'd have to be rather more cautious.

Question for the devs When you defeat a unit, does this mean that it regenerates faster, as it doesn't have to run all the way back to its base. Is the best tactic to try to make enemy units flee in the opposite direction to that they want to go in.

Level 22 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Location: Toronto
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm

A defeated unit regenerates faster whenever its routed units reach a safe haven. Taking them as slaves slows regeneration.

We were experimenting what I think would be a better system that restricted the recruitment capacity of cities, but as we were running out of development "time", stayed with the more tested system with the current release.

The improvements will definitely be in the next game.


Level 10 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on June 14, 2010 at 3:14 am

Thank you very much for the appreciation, Rick! And thank you everyone else for the feedback too! Glad we all seem to agree on the principle - that it'd be nice if field battles had an impact as well.

I also thought the most convenient, realistic and straightforward solution would be to add a new stat that recruitment could draw upon and eventually deplete (whether temporarily or not could be another topic for discussion). I only suggested tweaking the food system as a substitute because I didn't want to go as far as asking for an entirely new stat. I don't like asking too much. ;)

Though I still think some tweaks to the food usage could have their merits. Especially if there's going to be a new stat to limit recruitment - food is already in abundance with enormous surplus building up in cities behind the front and if recruitment related consumption drops, the surplus will grow even larger.
Even now, food supply is nearing the point of irrelevance on the grand scale. Of course, refilling your newly acquired city can be challenging at times, and as such, a lot of fun too, but it's not an issue of supply, it's an issue of transportation (which could also be improved as suggested by Escipio's great post earlier). As supply is infinite already. Which also puts a small dent into my sense of napoleonic glory - to zoom out and see many of my cities just a few nodes away from the front sitting on food reserves of over 10,000 (some at even 20-30,000) makes me feel like my conquest of the known world is pretty much inevitable, it's just a matter of time, because there's no way I can screw it up, no way to run dry by overextending myself, no amount of defeats can stop me, for I am Maceborg, all resistance is futile! So yes, I think there's room for increasing the warmachine's drain on ye olde bread and butter here. ;)

And I could go on about these things, but the bottom line is, I think you created along with an awesome game, an awesome potential for tweaking in its food system and it could be an excellent canditate for the next game's primary resource to simulate the economic limits of the pace and extent of one's expansion, in a way that feels more alive and dynamic than a simple recruitment cap alone would be. Which isn't saying there's no need for the latter, but rather that it could be enhanced even further by such tweaks.

PS: Once more, great job on Hegemony guys, I'm still at it while most games don't last me half this much, heck, not one fifth this much... just great. Really looking forward to your next title!

Level 15 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on June 18, 2010 at 4:28 am

Thanks for your very kind words! We're already brimming with ideas for the next game, so I'm glad to hear you're looking forward to it.

Some of the stuff we've been discussing in this thread are things I would have really liked to get into Hegemony, but we had to release some time. Deciding when to release was a hard decision to make, because we could have kept improving Hegemony until the end of time, but as an indie developer cash is always tight and we don't have the luxury of tweaking things until the end of time. So thanks for supporting us, because every bit of support we get will make the next game that much better.

Level 10 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on June 18, 2010 at 5:40 am

That's great to hear, Rick! And you're most welcome, I think most players are very happy and excited to give their contribution through feedback and support if the developer appears to be listening. Even if they don't implement the ideas, the simple act of communicating with the community about them goes such a long way.
I have no idea why most big developers seem to forgo this great chance to build a loyal, excited playerbase. An appreciated community is much more likely to spread the news and do tons of highly effective (and free!) advertising for the game than one that isn't spoken to. And you're doing an outstanding job in this respect, it goes to show you don't need a big budget to talk to your players.

Oh and just to clear up one thing, as my long-winded posts detailing what I think could be improved might give the wrong idea to newcomers - the game isn't flawed, it's not frustrating or anything, it's tons of fun all around and very immersive, the beautiful, polished atmosphere sucks you in and keeps you playing.
And one thing that Hegemony managed to pull off extremely well is that it innovates, yet it feels like a consistent whole. Most games that try to innovate end up feeling very unfinished. But not Hegemony, so I can fully understand why you don't want to change much about it now Rick, it feels complete the way it is, even with the bits I'm criticizing above, in a way, they give the game a certain arcade charm.
I'm honestly impressed, having played all the big budget titles of the past 15 years, I can count on two hands the number of strategy games I felt motivated to finish to the very end - Hegemony is one of them.

Level 9 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 30, 2010 at 5:17 am

How will execution of defeated units affect regeneration? In contrast to taking them as slaves?

What are the advantages of execution vs. slave taking?

Level 18 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm

In Hegemony Gold, units who rout and escape will be added back to their home city's available recruits in proportion to how far they are from home. Executing prisoners in the field will prevent this. Capturing them as slaves will also prevent them from returning home and rejoining their units but slaves are slow and you need to keep them within sight to prevent them from rebelling.

Level 9 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on October 4, 2010 at 2:51 pm

And in original Hegemony: What are the advantages and disadvantages of execution vs. slave taking when it comes to troop regeneration?

Level 10 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on October 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I doubt there was any. To be honest, in both Gold and original, it appears to be just this: If you need the workforce -> capture. If you don't have time/can't be arsed to bother securing and babysitting them -> execute.
In regeneration or anything else, it makes no difference.

PS: I think these questions should be posted in a different thread, this one is ancient and I wouldn't like people to mistake it for something new. ;)

Level 15 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on October 4, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Well, the thread's already been resurrected, so there's nothing we can do about it now :)

Anyway, Avernus is right. In both versions, if a unit escapes and returns to a city, the brigade will start re-recruiting at partial power, instead of re-recruiting from scratch. The effect is more important in Gold, where the lost recruits can make a big difference.

Both capturing or executing will hamper the enemy in the same way, but if you're far away from a city, it's better to execute troops than to let them escape, especially in Gold.