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[Mechanic] Moral, Squads, Couriers and alcohol

What do you think ?

  • Too complicated

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Feb 23, 2012

Some time ago I've read one of zuriki's excellent thread about creature control. Since as far as I know, WFTO is a brand new game and not a DK clone, I've been looking for information on forums. Here is a sample of what devs said :

Simburgur said:
Simply put: We aren't going for a traditional RTS control system. We are, however, going to improve on your interaction with creatures using some new combat-focused spells which affect creature AI and can be used anywhere on the map. Also, the hand of infinite holding is a thing of the past.
V0id said:
The "free-will" of the minions is actually one of the most important gameplay characteristc of a dungeon keeper. In fact in wfto the creatures have to decide much more things "self-responsible" as in standard RTS games and this is one big challenge for the developers to make them satisfy their own needs in an authentic and individual manner. So in my opinion any command oriented movement would have an great negative impact on this feel of creatures as individuals. And in my opinion the warp-ports don't fit good in the dungeon esthetic with all above mentioned problems. […] Just one rush thought proposal: Why not making the hand of evil more and more "heavy" with each creature in it? A "heavy hand" can only move slow. Means the weight would effect the scroll and mouse movement velocity on the screen in a linear way. So you can not drop a mass of creatures to a far away location that fast but it would preserve the habitual and loved gameplay. This idea could also be combined with such upgrates like mentioned more above. What do you think?

Simburgur said:
We're sticking with an 10~ (still tbd) unit limit when it comes to holding units to prevent the 'drop/pick up an entire army' problem. As Kyle said though, there is something being worked on to speed up your use of the hand and the pick up/drop system. Not saying anything else right now. As for the actual control of units: As previously said, we aren't implementing a traditional RTS control system. We are instead designing a set of spells specifically catered to controlling and influencing your units in combat, as well as providing more ways for you to affect the map outside of your dungeon. Overall, one of our aims is to make exploring the map (and by extension, combat outside your dungeon) easier and more rewarding. As we start highlighting certain features of the game you'll see it pieced together an understand how we're hoping to achieve this goal.
Kyle said:
There will be ways of controlling your units using a special set of spells, but we aren't going to give you direct control like you get in Starcraft or C&C.
This so as far as I understand what devs have in mind :

  1. creatures have free will (no direct control)
  2. There is an issue with the “hand” As I understand the general feeling, it should be a tool do do thing in your dungeon, like grabing creatures and droping them in the training room to order them to train, but spamming creatures into battle is some kind of “exploit” of this system
  3. The aim of the game is exploring the map, roming in dark tunnels and fighting around
  4. There will be spells to control creatures. But you have a limited blood (mana) pool to use spells so you cannot use them at will.
  5. Devs intend to make an easy to learn but hard to master competitive game
Nowaday RTS e-sport is all about micro-managment and who have the biggest d... APM :p . I'm not sure WFTO is going to be about APM. Actually, I hope this will be about using you brain better than your opponent (I consider that R.U.S.E was the smartest RTS I've play past decade :rolleyes:). So I've been thinking about this. How to make competitive a game with brutal, rough battle as DK and free will creatures ?

I think the previously exposed set of “rules” is totally awesome. So I've been thinking and eventually came with an idea I'd like to submit to the community. I'll first summarize in few lines, and go in detail later.


We know each creature will have some kind of individual happiness gauge. This gauge can increase or decrease depending of the creature ability to perform tasks it enjoys (eating, working, training). I propose to turn it into a Morale jauge. The size and the rate at which it increase/decrease would depend off the creature.

I propose that creature joins the dungeon with a rather low level of Morale. At some point, if the gauge reach a defined level, a creature would becomes willing for battle (and later thirsting for blood) and go into a (new !) room called tavern.

The player can set up squads (we could find another name) with creatures available in the tavern through a specific interface. A squads is a group of 1-5 creatures and is the core mechanic to “control” creatures.

The player can give basic orders to squads, for instance : Explore, Patrol, Raid, Guard, Retreat etc. No spell involved. Once a squad leaves the dungeon, if the player changes a squad order, a courier (a new role !) will have to travel from the War Room (another new room !) to the squad. Then the new order becomes effective.


Let start with Morale

Each creature joins the dungeon with its gauge at 30%. Depending of the gauge level, creatures have different behavior :

0: Anger Reaction
0-25%: Pissed. The moral will keep decreasing if you don’t make a specifi action (like giving gold, food, torturing prisoners etc.)
25-50%: Low morale. If the creature can do what it likes (eat, work, sleep, train) then the moral will slowly increase. (The rate may depend of the creature)
50-75%: Willing for combat. The creature will stop training/working etc. and go in tavern where the moral will keep increasing. The creature is also disposable for fighting.
75-95%: Thirsting for blood. When the moral is high enough, creatures will also get a specific bonus, like damage/health/speed ...
95-100%: Drunk. The creature spent so much time in tavern. At 100, it will start to roam randomly and completely out of control inside or ouside of the dungeon, looking for a fight. Even with your own creatures. Drunken lasts couple of minutes

The wage mechanism may also get a little change :

Creatures are not paid to stay in the dungeon (but still required gold for working/training). However, they start to get wage when you assign them to a squad. You can call a payday, which increase all creature morale.

Now let speak about Squads :

Creatures willing to fight would go in tavern.
The squad management interface would provide the list of such available creatures and a list of squads with slots to fill. The player would just clic-and-drag a creature to a slot. Roughly, it could be like :

Here, lvl and morale (blue bar) of creatures are displayed. Available slots are in green. It may be interesting to somehow limit players possibilities early game and give them incitation to extend the tavern. Many options are possible :
- limit the number of squads
- limit the number of creatures in the tavern
- limit the number of unit per squad
On the picture above, I chose the first option.

Note that squad could be effectively selected through hotkeys, for instance F1-F8. The following picture give an example of squads set up. The higher level creatures are in squad 1, lower level creatures in squad 2 and a fast mistress is in squad 3. Low moral creatures stay in the tavern.

Just as there is no direct control over creatures, there shouldn't be direct control over squads. Hence, orders one can give to squads must be basic and limited. For example, the following set of order would give real freedom to your units while providing some interesting strategic choices :

Explore : the squad will move toward unexplored tiles. You dont choose where.
Patrol : The squad will roam in neutral tunnels. You dont chose where. Creatures also slowly gain experience.
Raid [player]: The squad will try to go in target player dungeon and kill workers/damage rooms. You dont chose where exactly.
Guard : The squad will move toward a selected tile under your control. May be limited to specifics tiles.
Rob [player]: The squad will try to go in target player treasure room to steal money
Strike [player]: The squad will try to kill target player creatures
Support [Creature]: The squad will follow target creature and protect/help it in priority
Execute : The squad will try to find and kill creatures with bounty over their head (see Wanted Dead spell).
Retreat : The squad come back to the tavern.

Creating squads should be a matter of thinking. For instance, I propose that buffers traget in priority or exclusively squad members. Then a player will have to make trade-offs like “Should I assign my bard to a squad of low level cretures so they will Patrol longer, or should I assign it to my squishy, glass cannon squad to optimize my dps output ?”

Morale of squad creatures would also depend of who is in the squad. Hence mixing spiders and flys may not work very well. Of course, when a squad leave the player area of influence (tiles it control), and sustain loss or damage, the morale would decrease . The squad may eventually disband if average moral get below a certain level. Hence adding High Morale creatures to a squad would allow it to stay longer out of the dungeon.

Finally let speak about couriers

Courier is an additionnal mechanic which may deepend this system. The idea is quite simple : a Keeper cant give orders himself to squads when they are away, so he send courier to perform this task. The point is to limit even more the control of units, and increase the free will aspect. It also imply advances tactics, for instance sending stealth creatures to assassinate opponent's courier and disrupt his orders. This job would be basically performed by worker, but creatures also could be assigned to this job through a new room, the War room (sort of ex DK1 headquarter). This additionnal job may allow weak early creatures to reamin usefull late game. See my proposition of Dark Whisper

Proposition Shameless Marketing

Easy to learn

Click on the squad management button, slide creatures pictures in small boxes to create a squad, select a squad and click on “Patrol” button. Want the creatures back into the dungeon? Click on “retreat” button: a courier will run to the squad and creatures will fall back to your walls.

Hard to master

Do the previous task very fast with hotkeys. Do the right task at the right time. Think about the purpose of your squads: stealth creatures to raid enemy treasures? Group same creatures to get specialized squad or try to set up balanced ones with tanks, dps and supports? Invest in a bigger tavern to deploy more squads, or in bigger war room to have more couriers? Manage your creature morale. Mix low moral with high morale creatures? Certain combo of creature may work well or terrible (speeder and fly in DKI used to fight together). Set up traps / send creatures to kill enemy courier.

Dungeons are not for Mickey

Prevent early cheese/rush since you have to wait few minutes before some creatures become willing to battle. Early game, few squads and couriers are available. Those numbers increase as the game runs. Also prevent from turtling, since creatures willing for combat will stop training/working.

In the spirit of developers “rules”

Creatures have free will. No direct control over creatures. No need to use the hand to spam creatures around. Tons of skirmishs on the map since the system encourage players to use his units. This system offer complementary with contol spells : Squad orders is about the strategy, spells about tactics.

There is a Brain behind the Hand

With this system, you don’t need to grab dozens of creatures with the hand and spam them on opponents. Hence, the limit to creatures you can pick at the same time could be very low, and would not be an issue. The hand main function would be to force a creature to perform certain task (working, sacrifice, torturing), to build rooms and trap, and to cast spells.

Epic assaults are epic

Set your favorite creature leader of squad #1. Ask all other squads to support squad #1. Use possession on your favorite creature. Lead the whole horde of creatures yourself straight to your opponent dungeon while screaming “charge” or “Grrbblllrlrllrllll” on teamspeak!

Implementation of a Hero gameplay
- Heroes gameplay could be entirely base on the squad/order/moral system. In DK I found lot of fun (and stress) in missions where heroes squads displayed as white trails on the minmap were converging toward my dungeon.
- This would also allow to implement a playable hero faction with a different gameplay based on sending squads on heroes fighting the invading keeper to get gold/fame or whatever ressource required to get more heroes and train (equip ?) them.

Final word : /discuss ;)

Edit : add images, corrections ...
Feb 23, 2012

Name : Dark Whisper
Preface I was looking for a creature which primary roles would be scoot/courier. I thought about something which could replace the giant fly in DK1.
Appearance image:

Health: medium
Armor: none
Movement Speed: fast
Attack strength: very low
Attack speed: fast
Intelligence: stupid
Construction: unskilled
Training Rate: average
Training Cost: low
Wage: low
Gender: well ...

1 : Scratch and Sting [Ranged, slashing]
3 : Malaria [Passive. Scratch and Sting also apply a small stackable poison dot]
5 : Dispersion [Passive. The Dark Whisper scatters, totally avoiding damage. Do not work against AoE spell. Trigger only if the damage would be greater than a fraction of its current HP. Few second cooldown. The purpose of this skill is to increase Dark Whispers mid game survivability]
6 : Hive mind [Passive. When a Dark Whisper dies in battle, a fraction of its total experience is transfered (equally divided between) all other Dark Whispers]
7 : Pester [Ranged, Channeling. While channeling, target creature cannot cast spell and apply Malaria each second. Lasts couple of second. 10 sec CD]
8 : Dark Wind [Active. Increase the Dark Whisper movement speed and grant it invisibility. This effect lasts until the Dark Whisper attack or sustain damage]
Special : Flight [Passive]
Special : Swarm [Passive. Dark Whisper are swarms of hundreds of biting bugs and beetles. Dark Whispers are therefore immune to most control abilities but are more sensitive to AoE (incresed damage). Also, Dark Whisper attack speed decreases as it sustains damage. Dark Whispers leave no corpse upon death.

Weaknesses: Fire, Ice, Electric
Resistances: Poison
Information: A swarm of bugs. Primary Courier unit. Excel at exploring. Provides some support in battle.
Appearance: Get Bigger/Darker as it gets level. Leaves some kind of trail behind him while moving. Extend/deforms when attacking.
Behavior in Dungeon: Explore around. Eat, Sleep.
Battle Style: Stay away from Melee. Spam Scratch and Sting on random target. Use Pester on casters.
Jobs: Courrier. Dark Whispers is the voice and eyes of the keeper
Loves: Water area
Hates: Lava, Fire, electricity and bug-eater things
Anger reaction: It leaves the dungeon
Lair: Some kind of disgusting nest
Obtainable By: Creature. Come from the portal
Attracted by: Lair
How Introduced: One of the first creature a keeper can attact. Or in courier Tutorial if you implement this mechanic
Advisor Quotes: Use them, or Crush Them !


Keeper spell : Wanted Dead
Blood Cost: low blood cost. Also required some gold.
Cooldown: short cooldown (like 10 sec)
Information: Place a bounty over targeted creature's head
Function: The spell add a permanent "Bounty" effect on a creature. your own creatures will tend to target creatures with Higher bounty. Your squads with Execute order will exclusively focus on hunting down such creatures.
Icon: A pouch of gold or some sort of poster
Appearance: Creatures affected by this spell have a small copper/silver/gold coin floating above them. This effect is only visible to the caster. The size/colour of coin is related to the power of the spell

Keeper spell : Retreat !
Blood Cost: Low blood cost.
Cooldown: Long cooldown (several minutes)
Information: Order a creature to retreat
Function: The spell order the targeted creature to stop fighting and back to the dungeonright now. If a squad leader is targeted, his squad behaviour is set to "retreat" (no courier involved). The purpose of this spell is to give players a "panic button". The long CD prevent abuses.
Icon: A goblin runing
Appearance: none


Jan 11, 2012
I'll add more detail as to why later, as I find myself peckish and eyeing my wallet, but... I like the squads idea, but I don't care at all for the courier idea. Let me eat and rest and I'll write a thorough, detailed explanation as to why.

EDIT: Actually, Zuriki sums up why I don't like the creature you chose for a Courier very much due to a thread with a similarly described creature type - swarms.

I'm not a fan for several reasons, firstly the very fact that the creature is designed to go against the 'ethos' of the other creatures, the fact that it is an exception to so many of the rules makes it non-ideal as an introductory creature (like learning bad-habits, the creature teaches you something that applies only to it, potentially confusing the player).

Swarms are generally uninteresting from a design point. They have no personality, they have seemingly no wants or desires and they can't do anything but harass the enemy a little bit. I would prefer giant insects if we were to create a throw-away creature, but that seems unlikely given that we're avoiding throw away units.
The only difference here is that you want Dark Whispers to have something to do with assigning orders and all. It doesn't seem like a good idea to me to force players to use couriers, anyway. It sounds more like something out of an MoBA styled game (LoL, HoN, DotA). I'd rather my orders be instantaneous, not delayed, because this is a strategy game.

EDIT: Okay. Done eating. Back to this topic.

First, on squads: Squads are a strange little beast to bring up, but ripe with potential for better or worse. Something like them actually already existed in the games from which War for the Overworld is inspired by; the mechanics simply weren't always immediately realized by players. The way it worked in those games is as such: Units would be placed in a Barracks (a "war room" as you called it), and then one could possess a creature and lead the minions from the barracks to go and wreak havoc in the underworld.

In this case, we're simply removing the possession requirement to command a squad of creatures. Your suggestion, in that respect, seems like a good idea to me. However, it does have a few faults I dislike.

You want to make it so that Squad command is the core mechanic to control creatures. This means that all creatures must be assigned to squads if you want to use them in a battle. I don't like this. It pretty much means changing one of the most basic concepts of this game entirely and forcing the developers to potentially rework some of the things they've already decided on. It means changing concepts. It means making it so that early-game assaults may not be as viable, given some of your other squad mechanics, which seems like a real pain in the arse to me. In short, having it be the only real way to command your creatures makes it a very, very limiting mechanic.

A mechanic like this should be used to provide options to the player, not to limit the player. With that in mind, consider how small you wanted squads to be: 1-5 units. Given that there is no unit cap in this game, as far as I know, I find that number to be... disappointingly small. As a player, I would hate to be trying to order eight different squads around when all I really want is an "All squads go here" command. After all, there WILL be times when that's all you need to do: Smash the enemy with as much force as possible.

All this said, I DID say that squads have potential. I DID say I like the idea. I do. I simply don't like it the way you've worded it.

Squads should be a mechanic to arrange creatures into groups of, say, 1-10 creatures that can be given orders as you said. They should NOT be the sole or primary method of commanding units unless the player wants to only use squads. It should be entirely optional. Squads could be used to order creatures to patrol around your base, react to alarms, do raids, as you said... Squads could also be assigned to follow possessed creatures so that you can personally lead them where you want them. Things like this add to gameplay, but, again, it should NOT be the only viable method of commanding your units. And let's just say "No" to couriers. Delayed actions equate to certain death... or just a lot of frustration. Gameplay > Realism in this situation.

About the spells: I think the "Wanted Dead" spell should be accompanied by a spell that puts a priority on killing a specific type of creature. This way, if you know that, say, Bloodlings always destroy your soft, squishy spellcasters, then you can have your creatures kill Bloodlings first. Both of these spells would be good ways of directing your units without being a simple "point and click" mechanic. "Retreat!" probably won't be a spell, but a mode, and wouldn't cost any blood... I'd assume.

I hope I haven't sounded harsh in this. Please realize: Making squads the only viable way to command your troops would, effectively, be... Well, it would require a large overhaul of certain things and would, as said, be limiting to the player. Still, the basic concept is good. I just feel it needs a bit of reworking.
Feb 23, 2012
Hi ! First, thx for the feedback :D

I've read suriki post about swarm and must say I understand her point about lack of swarm personality. However, this could be fixed by changing the Dark whisper into a giant flying bug (possibly surrounded by a swarm of small ones). It was just about graphics, because I liked the concept of buggy dark things flyings in corridors, murmuring the vooooiiice of the underlord...

Note that the Courier Mechanic is absolutely not required to the squad system. I suggested it because .. well I got this idea, and I thought delaying order may add some interesting mechanics. Also, workers (imps) would be primary couriers, the War Room would allow player to use better couriers (faster creatures, flying creatures, stealth creatures etc.). Purchasing it would be an investment.

Have a good meal ;)
Feb 23, 2012
Of course it need a bit of reworking :D That what forums are for ^^

A mechanic like this should be used to provide options to the player, not to limit the player. With that in mind, consider how small you wanted squads to be: 1-5 units. Given that there is no unit cap in this game, as far as I know, I find that number to be... disappointingly small. As a player, I would hate to be trying to order eight different squads around when all I really want is an "All squads go here" command. After all, there WILL be times when that's all you need to do: Smash the enemy with as much force as possible.
Well, when I said this would be the core mechanic, I didn't mean it should be the only mechanic. It's supposed to work with "control spell" the devs have been working on. (for instance a focus fire, "go there" etc. I dont know what devs have already done)

1-5 was just to put a number fitting with my figure. I could have been 1-20. All numbers/features are open to discussion :D

I worked the system to limit the control over squads, be cause a direct control over squad would be like direct control over creatures, which is not in the spirit of DK. Especially a "all squads go there" with a click on a tile would be too "C&C"-like. However, is possible with the present set of order I suggested to order squads 2-7 to support squad 1 and ask this squad to raid. All your creatures would raid enemy dungeon, but with no control over the path they would follow ;)


Jan 11, 2012
I see where that bit of confusion arose -- See what you wrote, here.

is the core mechanic
That was in your original post. "The" implies it is the only one. I think you meant "a core mechanic." That's why I was confused, and partly why my post sounded like it did. My apologies.

And it would actually be fairly simple to control the path. How? Well, I'm willing to bet that the "Rally" spell will be in this game, or an equivalent. Your squads would be drawn to that. Thus, they would strike at wherever you send them. That would be used -with- Squad commands, combining spells and orders to make a fluid system, if Squads are implemented.
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