Lack of control and depth

Everything Hinterland that doesn't fit elsewhere
hotcod
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Joined: Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:30 pm

Lack of control and depth

Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:14 am

There dose not seem to be a general feedback thread and so i thought i'd at lest leave my views here given the devs impressive history of listening to there community.

I've been posting and talking a lot about the game on a number of forums and there seems to be a general thread of dissatisfaction with some aspects of the game which i think really need to be addressed. Before i get in to them i would just like to say that i enjoy the game and while it's not the more accessible rpg sided drawf fortress i had in mind when i first heard the ideas behind the game it is a fun enough pick up and play literpg. For the price point you can't go wrong with it if you like the idea. The only major disappointment for me was how flat and grid like the environment is, there is no real exploring and the world dose not feel like a world at all. I had hoped for a more 3d environment in which the resources where found in places that made sense and so on and while i understand the limitation on a small budget indy game means that was never going to happen... well... it could still have been a lot better.

Now on to the big issues that act as my title for this post. Lack of depth and control. The two somewhat go hand in hand, as you need control to explore depth but each have there own very independent problems in the game which i think honestly need addressing. It's hard to know where to start due to the cross over but i think i'll start with control beacuse it deals with things that exist in the game and is my main problem.

The lack of control and the utter underpinning of random elements make the game frustrating. It feels like i may as well sit rolling dice and win or lose points based on which number i get. The first and most dramatic aspect of this is the people that come to your town. When there are clearly things that you need to be able to progress though the game it is some what insane that those things are so random. It just seems odd to me that i'm not allowed to put an ad out for a kind of worker that ups the chance i have of getting one. I understand that the idea is to make every game different and that you are meant to get a different build order and such each time but there simply isn't enough variation in what you need and when in the build pattens to make this work. In other words if you get the right things at the right time you are far far far more likely to win the game than if you don't. That means i may lose the game not due to something i did or a mistake i made but beacuse some random number hasn't popped up in the code.

That whole problem is even more compounded by the fact that the resources are randomly spread though out the game world as are finding the items you may need. In my last game the herb filed was the last thing i got. Which would have made my game so much harder if raiders where turned on as health pots are very important in making sure the raids don't force you in to a loss of fame spiral. In other words even with all the settings you can pick at the start of the game how hard that game is is vastly impacted by the lay out of resources and how quickly you get the people items you need for rather strict build order. I understand that the random side of things is aimed to give replayablity but given that there are 3 major random elements you need to get the things you want for your town it's just far to much on the side of random given the lack of choice you have all round.

The lack of control is also felt in your party members and town foke. In terms of the town foke... why in gods name am i not allowed to ask them to make something? like a lot of people i've ended up resorting to the trick of switching them between building and research until they are making/researching the item i want. I honestly can not understand why i'm not given that control, a drop down menu to pick an item would not have killed the game. As for my party members... i have even less control. I have no control over there AI set up or what they choice to attack which can be rather frustrating at times and has gotten me killed a few times. Thankfully, if i can use the term, the only saving grace of this lack of control is that the combat lacks so much depth that most of the time you don't need it.

Which brings us nicely on to the next topic. Depth. The town building is boring. The lay out, other than guard towers, dose not matter and you have very little in the way of customising your town. There have been simple self made flash games i've played that have had deeper more interesting "town building" in one way or another than this game has. Which is highly disappointing in some ways as it means the town is not something you care about. While the combat is rpg lite the town building is not even close to being a simlite... there is simply no depth to it.

Given the random elements, lack of different buildings, and utter lack of having different 'equally' good build orders... it is just lacking in almost every single way i can think of. As it is it's not bad as such it's just not a very fun aspect. It is, as i said, nothing more than rolling a dice until you get a 6 before you can move on.

Lastly i come to the combat. RPGlite... very heavy on the lite... no ablites or actions out side of hitting health pots and so on. Combined with the fact the levelling up is so very shallow... it's just again not very interesting for no good reason. Again i've played one man flash games that have much much deeper more interesting combat and leveling up systems. Heck even if you'd had to do it turn based no one would have complained. As it is it is hack and slash... but very very little else. Which is amazingly dull.

Now i know this post seems to be nothing more than me trashing the game but that is not my intention at all. Steam is telling me i have 7.4 hours in the game so far and most of that was very enjoyable. It's addictive and fun enough but the point of this post is that it could so easily be so very much better and so very much more. Even with out radically overhauling the game there is so much more control and depth that could be added that would only make it more fun and more addictive and hopefully more attractive to go back and play. As it is i don't really feel like starting another game just yet beacuse i don't want to deal with frustration of just how random it all is.

I hope this is a help to some one somewhere. Thanks for reading if you still are. Game design is something that interests me deeply and something i hope to use my time at uni to explore and maybe even some how end up working in... so i have a passion for these kind of games and ideas and i can't help but try and give constructive criticism at times.

hotcod
Posts: 18
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Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:06 am

Forgot to add my quick wishlist.

Firstly up the RPG. Fuller character creation and combat. Pick race, gender, class, traits and stats with true leveling and combat/town abilities based on class and traits. Let me control my party more fully and expand the combat to maybe included dungeon crawls.

Secondly much more indepth town building. Overhaul the way the town building works. Separate settlers from buildings. With the deeper rpg stats system have the settlers have 'random' stats which make them better for one type of job over another but they can do any job. This way you build the building you want (and can do based on requirements and so on) and then you pick a settler to live there. So you may have to trade off how well some one will do a job againts needing that job to be done. It would cost money to get rid of people. In some cases it might be that you do need people for certain things, like a necromancer or high priest but it could be that they are attracted to your town when you have the right buildings and other things in place.

As for the town it's self it would be nicer to have a wider range of buildings with placement mattering, so say you need wearhouse or such where the food is kept and the farmers have to bring it there. Have more resource for more complex interaction with building. A farmer provides you with grain, this grain can be used by a baker to make bread or by a herder to feed there stock. Bread and meat each provide the town with different benefits say so you want to keep a balance with them... or it could just be that other things need them... an inn is better with both say and so on. There is a lot that can be done... If you can build a type of building depends on what you have accesses to and what building you already have... you need to have accesses to wood so you need a forester, or stone so you need a quarry and a quarry man... a blacksmith needs iorn, so you need a mine, miner and smelter. You can build up a web of interaction with out to much trouble, that dose not even have to be that complex but it would just make it more interesting.... what springs to mind is the settlers games oddly, beacuse there are simple interactions between buildings but the web is complex and wide enough to make thing interesting and make placement in town meaningful.

I'm not really getting my point across about the town very well but i think if there's one thing that i really would love would be the separation of settlers from jobs. It would need the stats system but it would be awesome to be able to build what i want and have to make decisions on who to put in it... if the randomness of stats is weighted in the right way and the effect of those stats on the job meaningful enough it would leave you with interesting choices... do i wait to find the perfect guy for the job? or do i really really need it now and put some rubbish in place and have to spend time and money later getting some one better in place if i find them ext ext
Last edited by hotcod on Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:14 am, edited 2 times in total.

LordFu
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Postby LordFu » Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:02 am

Stronghold has a system for town building and recruiting similar to what you're describing, minus the rpg-style stats.

Dungeon crawling would be awesome.

Roland
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Postby Roland » Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:43 am

What about the Settler's games?

http://thesettlers.us.ubi.com/game-infos.php

Might be a bit more like what you're looking for ;)

Bolgo The Madd
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Location: HinterLand

Postby Bolgo The Madd » Fri Oct 03, 2008 3:01 am

I like the randomness.
It has a magic card ( Magic The Gathering ) element to it.
Dealing with the bad deals, surviving, and pulling crazy stunts
is what HinterLand is all about for me.

If I was guaranteed to get certain things
I'd have Hinterland Meta-Gamed to death.

Arming all of my farmers with battle axes and holding off trolls is awesome.
Yes, it would be GREAT if a guard ever wandered into my town...
but that's not what happened.

I even took a raiding party
of level 3 level 3-4 Herders, Farmers, and myself
to take out the Troll base...
( I hate trolls )
They all died... but we knocked out most of the trolls.
And hey, I've got plenty of peasants!

Look, sometimes you have to hire 4 fortune tellers to get some cash flow...
because you can't wait around for a merchant to show up.
Know what I mean?

lukaszg
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Postby lukaszg » Fri Oct 03, 2008 6:12 am

I agree that the town building decisions don't really matter that much so the town builder part of the game is a bit disappointing. At the same time it's pretty clear that the game doesn't want to be the next dwarf fortress, a surprising exercise in in-depth mechanics at the cost of other things, and I don't just mean graphics. I'm no Hinterland apologist but I enjoy the game for what it is - a simple and well priced fun game.

That brings me to the second point, lack of control. I think in this case the randomness is a huge plus for me. It gets me out of my comfort zone and forces me to work with what I have available. Without it all games of Hinterland would look pretty much the same and would become boring very quickly. I can understand if you don't like it, but it seems to me that randomness and lack of control are the cornerstones of the game. In my opinion the game actually could use some more randomness - it doesn't matter whether the food is produced by a farmer, herder or a trapper so ultimately it doesn't matter much which ones you choose. Same with earning gold. Same with choosing people to go with you. Although the terrain is random, it feels very much same-ish regardless of the type of the site.

Yes the game has flaws. But in suggesting improvements I understand that the game has limits on what it can do - let's not expect Civ4 level quality from an experimental download-only title. While I can easily nitpick the game to death (which is why I think people are saying it wouldn't do well in reviews) I think my money was well spent. I sure appreciate the effort to create something new.

Gerblyn
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Postby Gerblyn » Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:55 am

In terms of lack of combat control, the only thing that really annoys me is the lack of control you have over your party members. I'm supposed to be their lord, yet I cant issue simple commands to change their tactics. For a one stop fix, just having a "RUN AWAY" button would be an enormous improvement, there's nothing like realizing you've engaged some mobs that are too strong and then realizing that you have no way of pulling out, so your whole party wipes.

I'd suggest having 5 buttons:

1. Be aggressive - Use the behavior they have now, where they attack anything in range
2. Be passive - Use behavior where they will not attack
3. Wait here - Orders the party to stop and wait so you can scout ahead
4. Follow me - Cancels "Wait Here", will also order units to disengage from combat and run back to the player.
5. Panic - Orders everyone in the party to disengage and run back to town

Kiya
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Postby Kiya » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:04 am

"Gerblyn" wrote: I'm supposed to be their lord, yet I cant issue simple commands to change their tactics. For a one stop fix, just having a "RUN AWAY" button would be an enormous improvement, there's nothing like realizing you've engaged some mobs that are too strong and then realizing that you have no way of pulling out, so your whole party wipes.


Not quite so. This is what I'll do if the situation gets desperate, but before anybody dies. Pause, click each member card one at the time and choose 'go back to town to do our job' (don't remember the exact words). And they run away once you unpause. Before that I also decide what my lord will do.

Gerblyn
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Location: The Netherlands

Postby Gerblyn » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:11 am

Kiya to the rescue again I see :) Thanks, I'll give that a try.

hotcod
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Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:37 am

"Roland" wrote:What about the Settler's games?

http://thesettlers.us.ubi.com/game-infos.php

Might be a bit more like what you're looking for ;)


you'll note that i reference the settlers game in my 2nd post :) i'm not asking hinterlands to be something its not and i enjoy the game as it is it just could be some much more than the simple rather shallow thing it is right now with out to much work.

Don't get me wrong about the games random elements, i still want them to be there but in terms of gameplay design there is not enough paths you can take either with the combat or town building that really allows for the level of randomness in the game. Some one brought up MtG to say why they like random things but that a perfect example of my point, that game is built around very complex interactions of all the cards so with any random hand you are dealt there are not only a number of strategies you can take but a number of ways for you to react to the other side... you also are drawing from a deck you have set up with chances of getting cards you want increased by having more of them and so on. In other words the complexity of the game lets the games random elements have room to move. The lack of depth so far in hinterlands makes the random elements be as if not more important than my input... which is why i've been calling for a much deeper system in combat and town building... the more control and choices i have the more random elements i can deal with

I just think the game is to random to the point that if you can win or not... for an average player at lest... is all but decided before hand so to speak. As i said in my post in some cases in the game you may as well sit at your desk rolling a dice until you get the number you want. that is simply not good game design.

Again i'm not saying the game is bad as it is, i've really enjoyed the time i've spent with it so far... i just think the lack of depth, even with the random elements, is no where near enough to keep me going back to the game.

Miut
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Postby Miut » Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:10 am

Another point on the idea "it doesn't matter what food producers you choose.." Well, Farmers you can Upgrade as soon as you upgrade your Outpost to a Manor - cost 20 gold - and cost per farmer is only 12 gold. You get far more food. Same if you Upgrade your home again, for 30 gold per farm you get even bigger farms.

The Trappers can't upgrade without certain outside needs - you have to Upgrade your Home, then Upgrade your Craftman to a Fletcher first. That adds an extra level of cost.

Herders only Upgrade to Dragon Farm and you need a Dragon Egg for that.

So to maximize food, choose Farmers.

There is another way to maximize all sorts of traits too. When you Level up, you can Mouse over the 2 choices - Town or Attack/Defense/Health. Some choices increase Fame, others Gold production in town, or Loot when adventuring. Some allow you to Heal anywhere, another gives you a random gift of weapon or armor in your Town inventory. :)
As well as all that you get the straight choice of being more agile or tougher etc.

So do look deeper into the game, there's a lot to discover, honestly.
Last edited by Miut on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

hotcod
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Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:59 am

all of which i've found out and part of which is the problem. I know i need one traper to get extra town quailty and one herder for a dragon if i'm lucky enough to find the egg... the rest is farms... it's amazingly prescriptive in that sense. The only real choice you have in building is if you go good or evil, the rest is get things as soon as you can based on random luck of resorce lay out, loot, and who choices to vist... to me that's just not fun... i'm not making choices i'm being forced to wait until i roll a 6 to get something i need.

Kiya
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Postby Kiya » Fri Oct 03, 2008 11:21 am

There are other choices than just having a priest of evil or good.

Take a craftsman, they can be upgraded to a fletcher or armourer according to your wishes, depending if you have iron or not. They can make different weapons or research for better ones. Or you can get a hostel/inn and a merchant, then start selling their stuff for a nice price if you don't need any more the kind of weapons they are producing.

hotcod
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Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:27 pm

yes you can pick not to have them but it would be stupid to do so. You need a merchent to able to sell loot and to set makers to sell there items to give you gold income when you can't attack... to get a merchent you need an inn, you need an inn to get more visters to up the chance of getting some one you want.

It simple to get the 3 craft people and upgrade them as and when you can... it's not choice and its not depth... the choice in the good and evil is that having one means you can't get the others... the choice in what smiths you have is based on the luck of where the ore is placed.

The simple fact is there is very very little choice in the town building. There is a simple list of needs that you have to get if you want to get anywhere and it's simply frustating having to deal with random luck... if there was a much wider range of choice and you had to make meaningful choices of build orders depending on the random luck then it would be better but it's not

In other words there is no point in not having 3 craft people so you can have all 3 upgrades... it's just down to luck how quickly you get them...

edit: not my best explanation ever but the point i'm trying to get across is that there is very choice in HOW you build your town... when you get a road block in the building patten beacuse of random luck it's frustrating beacuse instead of being able to dsoemthing else you are just being "punished" by the game for no good reason. That is not fun gameplay for most people... i understand that it is something 'hardcore' players might like but i don't like being screwed over on a dice roll that i have no effect what so ever on
Last edited by hotcod on Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Kiya
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Postby Kiya » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:42 pm

"hotcod" wrote:In other words there is no point in not having 3 craft people so you can have all 3 upgrades... it's just down to luck how quickly you get them

I don't quite understand your point of view, but that is me being a bit simple minded I guess. :o Why not have them craftsmen, even several of them not just three. If you upgrade one as a fletcher you can't change him to make armour later when you find iron. You can take them looting with you (while waiting for an iron site to come clear or just for some other reason.)

Of course almost everything is down to luck in this game, but then that IS what is part of the charm of Hinterland. You simply cannot do your maths like 1+1 =2, because there is always the aspect of randomness somewhere there. How well CAN you do although you don't find/get this or that recourse as quickly as you'd like to have it? I'll try something else instead, and feel happy of surviving nevertheless.

Just my thoughts after playing quite a while. :)

hotcod
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Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:51 pm

what i mean is that it's simple to bring 3 or 4 craft people in to your town and upgrade them as you can. It's not a choice other than the fact you can not do it and as such make things much harder for your self. There is no reason at all what so ever not to have at lest 3 craft people in your town at some point. That in mind it's not about making choices between a fletcher and an armour, you get a fletcher and when you find iron you upgrade the other 2 and then upgrade each of them in to weapons and armour. If you find iron quickly you may get a choice of what you upgrade to first... if you have no need for the fletcher (beacuse you have no game) then your first upgrade might be best being a smith... but that is only when all other things are equal and is hardly an important choice given that it is again dictated by another random elelment.

Randomness is all well and good but the game dose not give me enough choice or control to mean its anything more at points than sitting at my desk rolling a dice until i get a 6... for randomness to work (like to dose in trading card games) you need deeper more complex interaction and choices in what hand your are dealt... that balance simply is not there in hitnerlands...

It means that instead of the random elements making me want to go back and play it... they are keeping me and a few people i've talked from going back to the game beacuse it is so frustrating at points
Last edited by hotcod on Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Kiya
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Postby Kiya » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:21 pm

I think I'm getting finally what you mean. You need more different paths to go: if you choose pathA, then going along pathB is no more possible. Well, we don't know what the devs have in mind, but perhaps there is an expansion coming if the game is successful enough. Anyway for me there are many details I didn't notice until I had played a bit more the game, and its mechanics became more familiar.

"hotcod" wrote:..... if you have no need for the fletcher (beacuse you have no game) then your first upgrade might be best being a smith......

A fletcher is not just needed for a hunter upgrade. He's a good fighter too, give him a bow and he can shoot from safety thus helping you clearing sites. Later if you don't want him or his products kick him out of your town and invited somebody else. :D

Bolgo The Madd
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Postby Bolgo The Madd » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:25 pm

It seems like your priority is to build a the biggest most complete town.
This is where you may be frustrating yourself.
The priority is to clear all the monsters.
That's it, and it doesn't change.

HinterLand is fundamentally different then your expectations,
because philosophically it is opposed to the Meta-Game.
It is designed around chance, and is actually very forgiving.
Anyone, even a fortune teller, can get good at killing monsters.

You may have a situation where your best fighter is a farmer
Simply because it was the first unit (card) to show up in your town,
and you've been killing monsters with him since the beginning.

The game is chance, but it's obviously well designed around it.
Because you can still achieve victory, regardless of any conditions.
( You can win without Iron on the map )
( You can win without ever starting a Hostel )
( You can win with only farmer NPCs )

HinterLand makes you think, because you can't plan it out.
And while you need short term goals; city planning, NPC leveling
If you make your longterm goal anything other then clearing the board,
you've started playing another game, and putting yourself in a corner.
It is absolutely liberating and refreshing.

Kiya
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Postby Kiya » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:40 pm

Bolgo The Madd, very well said! *curtsy and kiss*

Yes you can win even if the luck of randomness is against you. And that is part of the charm of Hinterland.
You do what ever is needed with the resources you were given.

hotcod
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Postby hotcod » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:50 pm

"Kiya" wrote:A fletcher is not just needed for a hunter upgrade. He's a good fighter too, give him a bow and he can shoot from safety thus helping you clearing sites. Later if you don't want him or his products kick him out of your town and invited somebody else. :D


But given that there's no need to ever kick some one out you can just set him to selling stuff or use him as a disposable party member...

"Bolgo The Madd" wrote:It seems like your priority is to build a the biggest most complete town.
This is where you may be frustrating yourself.
The priority is to clear all the monsters.
That's it, and it doesn't change.


Don't presume to put words in my mouth thank you. We have been talking a lot about the town building the last few post beacuse people have brought up point i wanted to reply to about it... and while you think it might just be about clearing monsters the tag line is 'loot level build' and the killing of monsters is only the end goal.

Neither one part of the game is deep or complex enough on its own, there is some saving grace the whole being grater than the sum of the parts but it dose not change the fact that the game could be so much better. In terms o building if we could build the building our selfs and then had to pick out of settlers who to put it in... based on what they like or dislike and other 'stats' they would do better or worse... it leaves you with randomness and meaningful choice with out becoming frustrating and pointless.

You can talk about the game being about chance but if you are happy to sit rolling a dice until you hit a 6... then fine... but excuse me if i expect something a little more than snakes and ladders from a game that billed it's self to be a mix between rpg and town building. The aim of the game as the dev have said was advancement and giving you that proud feeling both in your character and in your town as you archive goals and upgrade them. At the moment there goal could be so much better archived then it is currently being.

now don't get me wrong, if you enjoy the game as it is... grate... good for you but based on everything i read about the goals the devs have and what understanding i have of game design the simple facts as i seem them is that the game dose not do what it set out to do and what it dose do it dose not do amazingly well.

It's an enjoyable, throw away, game as it is but how any one can go back and play it time and time again i don't understand. The idea of the randomness was to get replayability out of a storyless game and yet with a good number of people who i know its acted to do exactly the opposite... when people are being turn off playing the game again by the features put in place meant to make them want to... well you have to ask what is wrong and i think i've made a fair easement of why that is.


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