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Leveling system for generals?

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Level 9 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on September 27, 2010 at 5:34 am

As I was playing around with the alpha, I started wondering if it would be within the game's limits to implement a leveling system for generals. In strategy games, players are rewarded for their good decisions with a gain in power, and that's why I think such RPG elements work so well for these games, because they follow the same principle, only adding another layer of depth to this reward system. As a result, they also tend to make the experience more engaging and unique.

So I was thinking about a system where they gain experience like regular units, based on the feats of the unit they're assigned to, and when they level, you could choose between a couple of traits/bonuses for them to get.

I haven't given this a whole lot of thought yet, so I don't have any details worked out, just presenting this as a raw idea here. Details like what the traits should give, how many traits there should be, etc. are open for suggestions.

To give a really plain and unoriginal example off the top of my head, they could give a small bonus to melee damage or ranged damage or siege defense or speed or any stat in the game. And maybe that small bonus could eventually become a bigger bonus as they gain more experience and level further, if someone chooses to specialize down that trait for instance.
Optionally, you could base the traits they get off the unit they were leading, getting bonuses which only apply to that unit type (e.g. the general becomes good at leading hoplites, but not cavalry - might require tracking of too many variables though).

Bottom line is, I feel something like this could be a powerful tool for rewarding players, creating more depth and enhancing the feeling of progression. It could even add more realism, as the generals probably did learn new things over the course of a war, developing new tactics/formations (= bonuses) as they fought. This would also give them a somewhat more interesting and important role.
Not 'too' important of course, I'm not suggesting they should give overpowered bonuses that'd turn units into invincible killing machines. The bonuses would need balancing so they're noticable, but not overpowering. And of course, it should be a slow process so you can't max out a general in all traits and for all unit types over the course of an average game.

What do you think?

Level 8 Human .
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

For me this depends on the specifics. For the main campaign of Hegemony I think keeping each character distinct to history is the right choice, with the same for the scenarios.

However, for the sandbox mode, which is already seriously branching away from historical events, having our own generals to evolve might be a nice touch.

With that said, I won't cry myself to sleep if this doesn't make it into the game.

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 28, 2010 at 6:14 pm

The idea of levelling of generals did come up when we were originally designing the game but we came to the same conclusion as GaGrin that we preferred to keep them historical in the campaign (i.e. Philip was always your best general).

Now that we've added the sandbox it probably would add some interesting depth to the game and I like many of the ideas you mentioned - although explaining a lot of special abilities can complicate the interface. Unfortunately, we're somewhat limited in what we can add in time for this gold release so generals will remaining relatively fixed. However, there are a few events in the new campaigns where completing objectives does alter a general's skills as well as replacing old generals with better ones.

Level 8 Human .
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm

...there are a few events in the new campaigns where completing objectives does alter a general's skills as well as replacing old generals with better ones.

This actually sounds like a more appropriate way to do it than a more standard experience system.

As a sort of aside to this, is there any penalty to experience for units being wiped out? One of my favourite parts of Cossacks 2 was the regimental experience system that allowed experienced units to have dramatically higher morale than others - but they could be destroyed, and if the regiment was routed the associated experience was lost.

Men were relatively cheap, but experienced regiments were worth much, much more than the sum of their individual members.

Level 9 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on September 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thank you for the feedback guys, great to hear your thoughts on this!

Indeed I forgot to add that I too was thinking about this with the sandbox mode in mind, not really for the campaign.

I'm very glad to hear there's going to be such event-based "leveling" of generals, as right now, I feel they're a little too static pieces of the game. For objective-based scenarios I can see that being appropriate.

For the sandbox mode however, I ultimately wouldn't favour that over a more dynamic combat-based system. Scripted rewards always feel a little fake to me, because they don't reflect your strategic ingenuity. With a scripted event you can lose 20 troops or 200,000, it doesn't matter - you reach the checkpoint, you get the reward. This doesn't give you an incentive to apply cunning strategy.
Now this may be just my experience with too many dull and simple scripted events talking, you might have something really clever in mind that accomplishes the above despite being scripted, so apologies if I'm underestimating the plans here.

This is just about giving the player control over yet another segment of the game and a combat-based system, in my experience, tends to do that in a more accurate, more direct (and thus more entertaining) fashion with less effort.

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Persistent unit experience (even after defeat) was part of our original goal to not overly penalize the player when they lost. We justified it that rarely did units fight to the death and so we assumed that the surviving (and now more experienced troops) were better able to train their comrades.

Obviously, in gold we're increasing the stakes and therefore the consequences of losing but at present we weren't thinking of adding experience penalties as well.

Regarding scripted events, you've got a point that having checkpoints can potentially make victory an all or nothing experience but I think the fact that Hegemony continues on seamlessly after each objective means how well you completed the objective factors in significantly on how easy the next one will be.

Well I don't want to brag that we've done something earth shattering, but I'm quite excited about the new scenarios we've got in place for gold. There are fewer objectives (35-40 in total) than in Philip but there is a lot more variation, flexibility and you'll find they're spread out a lot more giving you many options on how to approach them. For those interested in the historical details, there's also a lot more background about each of the events and how they really played out.

Level 9 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on September 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Sounds really promising Rob, anxiously looking forward to them!

I didn't mean to sound like I'm saying scripted objective based rewards are worth squat by the way, they deserve credit for being extremely good at keeping the player motivated to go forward on the grand scale by cleverly portioning out the enormous conquest and giving each step as well as the whole journey a sense of purpose - as successfully demonstrated by Hegemony's compelling original campaign.

After giving it a little more thought now, I don't think we need to treat these two concepts as mutually exclusive. Objective (or result) based rewards give you set goals to reach while experience (or process) based rewards make the road to those goals more enjoyable. Looking at it this way, they complement eachother pretty well.

Now you already did a wonderful job adding great process based rewards in the alpha changes (recruitment pool, diplomacy influenced by wartime feats etc.), a field Hegemony was originally lacking in. So it's not like I'm complaining, I'm very excited and anxious to try every new release, just wanted to make a case for an idea I thought could work really well with a game like this, maybe in a future Hegemony expansion or your next game based on its concept if nothing else.