How I'd Design Majesty 3

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Galle

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I've been on a bit of a Majesty kick lately, and I'm getting frustrated again with how there's no game that has the good features of Majesty 2 without the bad ones. So I've been thinking a bit about how I would go about designing a Majesty 3, and am arrogant enough to believe that people might care what I think.

First and foremost, I think Paradox's problem making Majesty 2 was that they mistook Majesty for an RTS, when it's really a city-builder. Most of the fun of Majesty comes from the fact that you're building up an intricate society and watching your heroes go about their own business. Majesty 2 did make a few strong contributions to this - the varied terrain, and the idea of trade post locations. But unfortunately, the heroes wound up a lot less autonomous than they should have been.

To that end, if I were designing Majesty 3, I'd start with Majesty 1 as my base, and make the following changes:

  • Bring in the following mechanics straight from Majesty 2: varied terrain; Trading Post locations; mana and mana potions; fear and protect flags; Peasants being based out of Houses rather than just the Palace; one Marketplace limit.
  • Continue to allow Trading Posts to research the ability to sell healing potions. Let them research the ability to sell mana potions as well. Finally, allow the Trading Post to spawn a henchman called a Sheriff, who acts as a sort of remote Tax Collector - the Sheriff gathers money from the surrounding buildings and takes it to the Trading Post, which then adds that money to the value of the next caravan it sends. This means that you can use each Trading Post as the nexus of a small village, where heroes can rest and resupply without having to go all the way back to town.
  • Make henchmen more autonomous, especially Peasants. Peasants should be seen doing things even when not actively engaged in repairs or construction. For example, they could build small farms next to their houses and tend them, generating some gold. The point is to make it feel like your kingdom is not populated exclusively by its heroes.
  • The first big change to hero AI: make it possible for heroes to divide a task (especially a response to a reward flag) into individual subtasks. For example, a hero interested in pursuing an Attack Flag might break that quest up into three steps: Prepare for the journey (by rallying friends to join a party, buying potions, etc.); Travel to the target (engaging any monsters that threaten them along the way); Attack the target (pausing to defend themselves, but not losing sight of the main goal).
  • The second big change to hero AI: Give heroes some form of relationship modifier with each other, which can change depending on interactions. Heroes who are friendly to each other will more readily form parties together and will come to each others' aid, while heroes who dislike each other will avoid each other and may attack each other. Inter-racial and inter-religious rivalries are both modeled using this system: you may hire both Elves and Dwarves, but they will begin as enemies, and unless something is done to prevent it, will attack each other on sight. A kingdom with both Elves and Dwarves might wind up disintegrating into inter-racial gang fights.
Those are the ideas I'm relatively sure of. Besides those, other ideas that crossed my mind include:
  • Apprenticeship for heroes. Your first guild comes with a free Level 5 or so hero of the appropriate class. When training a new hero, an existing one will grab a random peasant and take them back to the guild to be trained. Paladins and Warriors of Discord form a second order to this system for Warriors. Demihumans, Adepts, and Solarii are the only friendly units that are trained conventionally.
  • The ability to give orders to "the Royal Army", as a sort of sop to people who want a more RTS experience. This would cause some Guards to form up into a regiment and then go attack or protect the thing you told them to attack or protect. They'd probably get slaughtered without hero support, of course, but it would at least feel like you're doing something. Perhaps Warriors could also be inclined to support the Royal Army whenever they see them, given their knightly aesthetic.
  • The ability to give specific quests to specific heroes or groups of heroes. Not in an RTS "handing out orders" sense, but more in the "You are an RPG quest-giver" vein that is critical to Majesty. For example, perhaps you could put out summons to your Palace, and then assemble heroes in your Palace into a specific adventuring party, and offer them a high reward to go out and destroy a specific target.
And some "really out there" ideas:
  • Build on the idea of apprenticeship by changing over to a race/class system - Peasants and Houses have racial affiliations, and theoretically any race can become any class. Villages would tend to be made up of one race or another, so you might have an Elven village and then a separate Gnomish village.
  • Mounts! Add a "Stables" building where heroes can buy horses. Warriors past a certain level could fight from horseback, while other heroes would simply use them to get around faster, dismounting for actual combat. Perhaps it might be possible to train certain monsters as mounts.
  • More artifacts scattered around the map by default. Artifacts found by sufficiently loyal heroes would be brought back to the Palace, where they could then be used as a currency for giving specific quests to specific heroes.
What do the two of you who occasionally look at this forum think?
 
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Alfryd

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I'd love to explore these ideas in more depth, and it's great to see that one of the more prominent modders in the Paradox community is taking an interest in the subject.

I do agree that Majesty had more in common with citybuilders or Sims than it does with most RTS titles, in terms of it's root emotional appeal (even though the combat mechanics were arguably more elaborate than the economy simulation, the main 'pull' was creating a self-consistent bubble universe and watching the inhabitants engage in teacup dramas.) I might quibble over some of the strong/weak points of the original and sequel, but I think a Majesty 3 would have to start off on that footing.
 

Alfryd

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Anyway, to elaborate a little more on your points:


Generally speaking, I'm in favour of anything that gives the heroes a richer personal background and internal life, so varied race/class combinations, apprenticeships, relationships, planning algorithms, and less of a hard division between hero and henchmen careers or behaviour sounds good to me.

UI/Input/Control changes: Recruiting specific heroes for specific missions is a suggestion I made way way back, and there was much debate on the subject of having a 'royal army' in some of the older threads. I like the former (obviously), but I think the latter would need to be handled very carefully. Merging with Call to Arms might be one solution.

Physical/Tactical stuff like the role of mana potions, mounted heroes or finding extra artifacts I don't really mind either way (though I do like the notion of using the latter as bargaining chips, and I've love to see animal companions for rangers, etc.)


As for the quibbles I mentioned: I was never fond of Fear flags, mainly because it seemed like a stopgap excuse for deeply deeply stupid Hero AI. Guardhouses arguably played the same role that you're alloting to trading posts, but obviously the details could be tweaked. Maj1 actually had procedurally generated maps while Maj2 did not, so I'm not sure what you mean by 'varied terrain'?


Out of interest, have you ever heard of Majesty: Legends? It was a prototype sequel to Maj1 from Cyberlore that they they never got around to releasing. (I mention this because I want the game they were talking about so badly.)
 
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Alfryd

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Oh, on the subject of the Economy: The complaint that I think a one-marketplace limit was intended to address is actually one that's common to a lot of 4X games, in that the game is won long before opponents are beaten: you use cash-income to win battles, winning battles nets you territory, and territory gives you more cash-income. I'm not sure to what extent this is a problem, or precisely how you'd solve it if it were. (I do know that Maj2 didn't really solve it, since extra trading posts have much the same effect as extra marketplaces.)

Few thoughts though-
  • In single-player, balance is less crucial and adversaries tend to follow a pre-scripted challenge-curve. So it doesn't matter.
  • Are we talking about one-off skirmish MP or epic campaign-level MP? Co-op or deathmatch?
  • Broken dodge/parry mechanics and cheap/infinite healing were primarily responsible for stalemates in Maj1, not cash flow. Those need fixing anyway.
  • If you wanted to limit the use of sovereign spells, I'd consider adding mana mechanics or sorc's abode-style cooldowns there. i.e, base their use off something other than gold consumption.
  • If you wanted to limit the number of guilds placed, I'd consider having some kind of admin/logistics limit, similar to what you see in CK to limit your personal holdings. (That's a pretty far-out idea, though.)
  • Nothing to do with balance per se, but I'd love to see some kind of fine-grained resource trading between and within settlements (ale, grain, iron, stone, books, silks, etc. Also pretty out-there.)

Final point: I would murder infant children for a CK2 mod based on Maj1-era Ardania (preferably based on the Old Gods expansion.) No pressure. *drums fingers*
 
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Alfryd

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Hmm. I seem to have inadvertantly crushed the discussion. Well, any and all feedback continues to be welcome.

Seriously though, Galle- no thoughts?!
 

Galle

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Hmm. I seem to have inadvertantly crushed the discussion. Well, any and all feedback continues to be welcome.

Seriously though, Galle- no thoughts?!

Heh, my bad! I didn't even realize someone had replied! I just sort of made that original post on a whim. Time for a gigantic response post!

Generally speaking, I'm in favour of anything that gives the heroes a richer personal background and internal life, so varied race/class combinations, apprenticeships, relationships, planning algorithms, and less of a hard division between hero and henchmen careers or behaviour sounds good to me.

I'm glad to see some support for this, as it's really the core of the changes I think needs to be made. The first big change to hero AI is necessary to address the most common sources of player frustration (finally, someone's going to that attack flag! Oh, no, wait, he got attacked by an enemy, and even though he managed to kill it, he's now forgotten about the attack flag completely). The second is simply what I think is a more interesting way to handle the class and race rivalries.

The apprenticeship and race/class things are definitely more out there than the AI changes, I just really like the feeling of diversity and character they add.

UI/Input/Control changes: Recruiting specific heroes for specific missions is a suggestion I made way way back, and there was much debate on the subject of having a 'royal army' in some of the older threads. I like the former (obviously), but I think the latter would need to be handled very carefully. Merging with Call to Arms might be one solution.

It's definitely a thing that has to be handled carefully, yes. The usefulness of guards is something that needs to be carefully balanced, because if they become too powerful than heroes become redundant and the entire point of the game is lost. This is true on the defensive, and even more true in the case of allowing you to order your guards to take aggressive actions.

I think the key distinction needs to be one of power - guards simply aren't strong enough to handle anything bigger than low-intensity threats, of the kind your kingdom faces at all times: things like rats, skeletons, and the occasional troll (which should require the entire garrison to tackle). If you tell the Royal Army to attack something, there should be zero chance of them actually doing it on their own - but it can be useful for two reasons:

  • From a tactical standpoint, you can use them to provide some basic security for wherever your heroes are operating out of, or to lure more civic-minded heroes into attacking the target with them. There might also be some value in be able to assign guards to things that require some protection, but do not necessarily need a full band of heroes (such as a caravan moving through an area with wolves or somesuch)
  • From a purely emotional standpoint, it lets you ease up on the frustration of not being able to control anything directly. Sure, you won't actually accomplish anything, but it's a helpful source of catharsis. It also makes you feel a lot less powerless. Surely somebody in Ardania is willing to take orders from the king, right?
I think the core distinction here is that guards are ordinary people, who can handle ordinary threats. Heroes are exceptional people, and they are required to handle exceptional threats.

As for the quibbles I mentioned: I was never fond of Fear flags, mainly because it seemed like a stopgap excuse for deeply deeply stupid Hero AI. Guardhouses arguably played the same role that you're alloting to trading posts, but obviously the details could be tweaked. Maj1 actually had procedurally generated maps while Maj2 did not, so I'm not sure what you mean by 'varied terrain'?

Fear flags could reasonably be lost, yeah. Defense flags, on the other hand, were a brilliant idea that absolutely must stay.

Guardhouses CAN serve a sort of "remote town center" role. The problem is more a lack of tax collectors: you only really have enough tax collectors to gather from your own city efficiently, so anything you build far away is going to be a massive efficiency killer that you're better off taking off the tax route. The idea of the Sheriff henchman was to find a way that those villages could still be economically productive without letting the player mass-produce tax collectors.

By "varied terrain", I mean things like mountains and rivers. Majesty had "procedurally generated" terrain, but what it actually procedurally generated was just textures and the placement of objects. The actual terrain was fundamentally identical: a flat plain. Majesty 2 introduced impassible areas, which allows for maps to be more tactically and strategically interesting.

Out of interest, have you ever heard of Majesty: Legends? It was a prototype sequel to Maj1 from Cyberlore that they they never got around to releasing. (I mention this because I want the game they were talking about so badly.)

I've heard of it, but not a lot about it.

Oh, on the subject of the Economy: The complaint that I think a one-marketplace limit was intended to address is actually one that's common to a lot of 4X games, in that the game is won long before opponents are beaten: you use cash-income to win battles, winning battles nets you territory, and territory gives you more cash-income. I'm not sure to what extent this is a problem, or precisely how you'd solve it if it were. (I do know that Maj2 didn't really solve it, since extra trading posts have much the same effect as extra marketplaces.)

Few thoughts though-
  • In single-player, balance is less crucial and adversaries tend to follow a pre-scripted challenge-curve. So it doesn't matter.
  • Are we talking about one-off skirmish MP or epic campaign-level MP? Co-op or deathmatch?
  • Broken dodge/parry mechanics and cheap/infinite healing were primarily responsible for stalemates in Maj1, not cash flow. Those need fixing anyway.
  • If you wanted to limit the use of sovereign spells, I'd consider adding mana mechanics or sorc's abode-style cooldowns there. i.e, base their use off something other than gold consumption.
  • If you wanted to limit the number of guilds placed, I'd consider having some kind of admin/logistics limit, similar to what you see in CK to limit your personal holdings. (That's a pretty far-out idea, though.)
  • Nothing to do with balance per se, but I'd love to see some kind of fine-grained resource trading between and within settlements (ale, grain, iron, stone, books, silks, etc. Also pretty out-there.)
Steamrolling is a tricky issue to solve in strategy games, for sure. The main advantage to the trade post model over the multi-marketplace model is that your income becomes more vulnerable - the caravans have to make it to the marketplace to have an effect, which means that you can sabotage someone's income by attacking their caravans.

Interestingly, Majesty is in a rare situation where you could arguably do some things that take away from steamrolling in multiplayer, specifically, that happen to be very in-genre. After all, all fantasy kingdoms seem to suddenly fill up with heroes and magical artifacts in their darkest hour - perhaps a player who is losing badly could get some free bonuses along those lines, to provide the player who's winning with an appropriate "final boss" and give the player who's losing a chance for either a comeback or a dramatic last stand?

In terms of limiting the number of guilds you can place, I actually think that would be a logical extension of the apprenticeship system - your first Warrior's Guild, and its accompanying master warrior, is always something you can do. Past that, however, you need to train new skilled warriors before you can start another guild, at which time one of the existing skilled warriors will become the new guild's master.

I don't think having too many fine-grained resources is a good idea - it takes away from the importance of heroes. I think resource collection is currently abstracted in a sensible way. The one additional resource I can think there might be room for would be "goods", which simply represent economic production that hasn't been converted into taxable money yet. Goods would be the things taken by caravans to market. Perhaps those farms I mentioned in the OP might also generate goods, which would then be transported to market to be converted into cash. That sort of thing.

Final point: I would murder infant children for a CK2 mod based on Maj1-era Ardania (preferably based on the Old Gods expansion.) No pressure. *drums fingers*

I'm busy, damn it! Outer space isn't enough for you people, now? :p
 
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Alfryd

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I'm glad to see some support for this, as it's really the core of the changes I think needs to be made. The first big change to hero AI is necessary to address the most common sources of player frustration (finally, someone's going to that attack flag! Oh, no, wait, he got attacked by an enemy, and even though he managed to kill it, he's now forgotten about the attack flag completely). The second is simply what I think is a more interesting way to handle the class and race rivalries.

The apprenticeship and race/class things are definitely more out there than the AI changes, I just really like the feeling of diversity and character they add.
Oh, I'd love to see it myself. I'm 100% agreed that some kind of relationship-simulation would be of great value to the gameplay, and yes, using that to model racial/religious rivalries could be a fascinating mechanic.

One supplementary idea I'd pitch in is having a 'Dialogue' or 'Diplomacy' flag, which you could (somehow) use to help mediate disagreements between rival factions. Or you could try hiring two rivals for a mission, like a priestess and a paladin, and see if they can bond while fighting a common enemy.

It's definitely a thing that has to be handled carefully, yes. The usefulness of guards is something that needs to be carefully balanced, because if they become too powerful than heroes become redundant and the entire point of the game is lost. This is true on the defensive, and even more true in the case of allowing you to order your guards to take aggressive actions.

I think the key distinction needs to be one of power - guards simply aren't strong enough to handle anything bigger than low-intensity threats, of the kind your kingdom faces at all times: things like rats, skeletons, and the occasional troll (which should require the entire garrison to tackle). If you tell the Royal Army to attack something, there should be zero chance of them actually doing it on their own - but it can be useful for two reasons:

  • From a tactical standpoint, you can use them to provide some basic security for wherever your heroes are operating out of, or to lure more civic-minded heroes into attacking the target with them. There might also be some value in be able to assign guards to things that require some protection, but do not necessarily need a full band of heroes (such as a caravan moving through an area with wolves or somesuch)
  • From a purely emotional standpoint, it lets you ease up on the frustration of not being able to control anything directly. Sure, you won't actually accomplish anything, but it's a helpful source of catharsis. It also makes you feel a lot less powerless. Surely somebody in Ardania is willing to take orders from the king, right?
I think the core distinction here is that guards are ordinary people, who can handle ordinary threats. Heroes are exceptional people, and they are required to handle exceptional threats.
I don't disagree with any of the above, and we've spent some time agonising over the subject before. A possible solution I like would be that you could issue direct orders to heroes, but you'll need to have some kind of leverage (like a relative in jail) or be willing to lead them in person on the field. That's a whole other ball-game, though.

When it comes specifically to armies of loyal henchmen... while I can see the tactical arguments and added realism-factor, I guess I'm just a little queasy about people you pay less being more willing to face certain doom. Maybe the drawback is paying a constant salary?

Fear flags could reasonably be lost, yeah. Defense flags, on the other hand, were a brilliant idea that absolutely must stay.

Guardhouses CAN serve a sort of "remote town center" role. The problem is more a lack of tax collectors: you only really have enough tax collectors to gather from your own city efficiently, so anything you build far away is going to be a massive efficiency killer that you're better off taking off the tax route. The idea of the Sheriff henchman was to find a way that those villages could still be economically productive without letting the player mass-produce tax collectors.
Agreed on the tax collectors and sherrif role, but it would be simple enough to imagine that each guardhouse could have a miniature complement of henchmen (similar to the Outpost in NE.) *shrugs* I'm easy.

Defend flags were a nice addition alright. Maj2 had a number of interesting extra features (like hero-persistence from mission to mission, party-formation & prestige-classes) that I felt were rather let down by poor implementation. I would like to see them kept in some form, though.

By "varied terrain", I mean things like mountains and rivers. Majesty had "procedurally generated" terrain, but what it actually procedurally generated was just textures and the placement of objects. The actual terrain was fundamentally identical: a flat plain. Majesty 2 introduced impassible areas, which allows for maps to be more tactically and strategically interesting.
Ah, I see what you mean. It would be nice to see more in the way of large-scale terrain features alright, but I also think there's a certain charm to the textural uniqueness of procedural maps (even if, as in Maj1's case, it's largely a cosmetic thing.) Combining the two would be pretty sweet.

I've heard of it, but not a lot about it.
The developers at the time were talking about expanded Sim-like behaviours, walls and roads, diplomacy, extra flags for live-capture (and I'm guessing defence), and hireable henchmen at the barracks, plus significant changes to overall pacing. You can get the full skinny here, for what it's worth.

It is part of the fuel that stokes my neverending burning rage at the fate of this franchise.*

Steamrolling is a tricky issue to solve in strategy games, for sure. The main advantage to the trade post model over the multi-marketplace model is that your income becomes more vulnerable - the caravans have to make it to the marketplace to have an effect, which means that you can sabotage someone's income by attacking their caravans.

Interestingly, Majesty is in a rare situation where you could arguably do some things that take away from steamrolling in multiplayer, specifically, that happen to be very in-genre. After all, all fantasy kingdoms seem to suddenly fill up with heroes and magical artifacts in their darkest hour - perhaps a player who is losing badly could get some free bonuses along those lines, to provide the player who's winning with an appropriate "final boss" and give the player who's losing a chance for either a comeback or a dramatic last stand?
That's a rather interesting idea. I've mostly been thinking about how you might integrate some kind of grand-strategy campaign on the single-player level, but some dedicated 'sword in the stone' scenarios for MP could be an absolute hoot. Me like.

In terms of limiting the number of guilds you can place, I actually think that would be a logical extension of the apprenticeship system - your first Warrior's Guild, and its accompanying master warrior, is always something you can do. Past that, however, you need to train new skilled warriors before you can start another guild, at which time one of the existing skilled warriors will become the new guild's master.
That gets me thinking, actually. In principle, there's nothing to stop wandering heroes from arriving on the map from time to time, so maybe an aspect of the game would be finding ways to entice them to stay. (e.g, "we have a new chapel opening in the south quarter, would you consider taking up a position as deacon?")

(Thing is, while that slows growth, it doesn't actually limit the number of guilds you can ultimately build. Which might or might not be a problem. Just saying.)

I don't think having too many fine-grained resources is a good idea - it takes away from the importance of heroes. I think resource collection is currently abstracted in a sensible way. The one additional resource I can think there might be room for would be "goods", which simply represent economic production that hasn't been converted into taxable money yet. Goods would be the things taken by caravans to market. Perhaps those farms I mentioned in the OP might also generate goods, which would then be transported to market to be converted into cash. That sort of thing.
I've kind of been struggling with this myself. It'd be a totally defensible decision to run the whole economy on gold and leave it at that, and it's entirely possible that a full-scale supply-and-demand economy simulation couldn't justify it's cost in terms of development complexity. But I do get the nagging sense there would be some potential benefits.

* Heroes themselves could be significant contributors to the economy this way- e.g, daurosian masons, elvish vintners, kryptan embalmers, etc. during their downtime. There's technically a smidgeon of this in Maj1, with healers/cultists planting herbs/fungi that rangers/rogues brew up into potions/poisons. It wasn't very developed or essential, but it was quite atmospheric.

* There are some theoretically interesting dramatic/strategic side-effects to modelling specific commodities that you can't get from generic goods- such as competition over scarce resources or alliances based on comparative advantage. (Given the profusion of crafting-skills in MMOs, it's not exactly without precedent.)

I'm busy, damn it! Outer space isn't enough for you people, now? :p
I want everything at once, regardless of cohesion or aesthetic merit. :p

* I kid! But not really.
 
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Galle

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Oh, I'd love to see it myself. I'm 100% agreed that some kind of relationship-simulation would be of great value to the gameplay, and yes, using that to model racial/religious rivalries could be a fascinating mechanic.

One supplementary idea I'd pitch in is having a 'Dialogue' or 'Diplomacy' flag, which you could (somehow) use to help mediate disagreements between rival factions. Or you could try hiring two rivals for a mission, like a priestess and a paladin, and see if they can bond while fighting a common enemy.

I don't think a flag would be appropriate for this, it seems like the sort of thing that should happen naturally. Hiring two rivals for a mission to see if they go Enemy Mine, however, seems like a great idea.

I don't disagree with any of the above, and we've spent some time agonising over the subject before. A possible solution I like would be that you could issue direct orders to heroes, but you'll need to have some kind of leverage (like a relative in jail) or be willing to lead them in person on the field. That's a whole other ball-game, though.

When it comes specifically to armies of loyal henchmen... while I can see the tactical arguments and added realism-factor, I guess I'm just a little queasy about people you pay less being more willing to face certain doom. Maybe the drawback is paying a constant salary?

Well, I always assumed that you had more control over your henchmen than you did over your heroes - the henchmen actually work for you in some respect, while the heroes are mercenaries. It may be a feudal contract deal, or perhaps you really are paying them? I dunno.

I strongly dislike the idea of ever issuing direct orders to heroes except in some very strict costs. This is why I brainstormed the artifact thing: it's flavorful (RPG quest givers are always offering cool magical items as quest rewards), it plays to the economy gameplay of Majesty (because you're empowering the hero while also getting some use out of them) and it sets a hard limit on how much direct control the player has, which is absolutely vital.

Agreed on the tax collectors and sherrif role, but it would be simple enough to imagine that each guardhouse could have a miniature complement of henchmen (similar to the Outpost in NE.) *shrugs* I'm easy.

I guess it's possible - but on the other hand, for balance reasons, I like the idea that the money has to be shipped back to the capital to do you any good.

Defend flags were a nice addition alright. Maj2 had a number of interesting extra features (like hero-persistence from mission to mission, party-formation & prestige-classes) that I felt were rather let down by poor implementation. I would like to see them kept in some form, though.

Ah, I see what you mean. It would be nice to see more in the way of large-scale terrain features alright, but I also think there's a certain charm to the textural uniqueness of procedural maps (even if, as in Maj1's case, it's largely a cosmetic thing.) Combining the two would be pretty sweet.

I think we're mostly agreed on these things, then.


The developers at the time were talking about expanded Sim-like behaviours, walls and roads, diplomacy, extra flags for live-capture (and I'm guessing defence), and hireable henchmen at the barracks, plus significant changes to overall pacing. You can get the full skinny here, for what it's worth.

It is part of the fuel that stokes my neverending burning rage at the fate of this franchise.*

Man, that does sound amazing.

That gets me thinking, actually. In principle, there's nothing to stop wandering heroes from arriving on the map from time to time, so maybe an aspect of the game would be finding ways to entice them to stay. (e.g, "we have a new chapel opening in the south quarter, would you consider taking up a position as deacon?")

(Thing is, while that slows growth, it doesn't actually limit the number of guilds you can ultimately build. Which might or might not be a problem. Just saying.)

Majesty has always been about soft caps rather than hard ones, so I'm honestly fine with that. I don't see a need to place a hard cap on the number of guilds you can build - time is a vital resource in Majesty, and if you waste it you will lose the game.

The wandering heroes thing is a great idea. It provides another possible use for inns (attracting wandering heroes) and loyalty-increasing buildings (giving them reasons to stay).

I've kind of been struggling with this myself. It'd be a totally defensible decision to run the whole economy on gold and leave it at that, and it's entirely possible that a full-scale supply-and-demand economy simulation couldn't justify it's cost in terms of development complexity. But I do get the nagging sense there would be some potential benefits.

* Heroes themselves could be significant contributors to the economy this way- e.g, daurosian masons, elvish vintners, kryptan embalmers, etc. during their downtime. There's technically a smidgeon of this in Maj1, with healers/cultists planting herbs/fungi that rangers/rogues brew up into potions/poisons. It wasn't very developed or essential, but it was quite atmospheric.

* There are some theoretically interesting dramatic/strategic side-effects to modelling specific commodities that you can't get from generic goods- such as competition over scarce resources or alliances based on comparative advantage. (Given the profusion of crafting-skills in MMOs, it's not exactly without precedent.)

The bit about the herbs and fungi, and the mention of crafting, makes me rethink the potential value of such a system. I wouldn't want it to be very fine-grained, but now I think I can start to see some of the potential. I'm still not entirely convinced, though, as I'm having trouble thinking of a situation which would be fine-grained enough to get the interesting parts, but not so fine grained that the game turns into Vicky.
 

Alfryd

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I don't think a flag would be appropriate for this, it seems like the sort of thing that should happen naturally. Hiring two rivals for a mission to see if they go Enemy Mine, however, seems like a great idea.
Oh, it absolutely should happen naturally- in the same sense that heroes can and will spontaneously explore or hunt monsters by themselves, but you can still use explore/attack flags to encourage that behaviour when they might be inclined to do otherwise. A dialogue flag could serve a similar role, for inducing two parties to talk that might not otherwise be eagerly inclined to a friendly chat, or conveying a specific message to a rival sovereign, or things of that sort.

I absolutely agree that issuing direct orders to heroes should entail a stiff price, but there are lots of potential ways to implement that cost. (e.g, the risk of being killed directly while giving commands in the field, or becoming feared and hated if you use threats & blackmail, such that defections, double-agents or outright mutiny in your ranks become more common. These are just examples.)

I guess what I'm looking for here is more a case of "one on one, sovereign-hero dialogue" rather than actual mind-control. I think that lines up with your idea of bribery using magic artifacts and recruiting specific heroes for a given mission, or more generally, widening the range of 'incentives' you can offer. (Ascetics like healers and monks might be totally uninterested in gold or shiny trinkets, for example, but might be swayed if you promised to lighten the peasants' tax burden or somesuch.)

I could say a bit more on the subject of henchmen, but largely for consistency I feel there also needs to be some kind of basic quid-pro-quo at work there. I feel handling them as dispensible automata (or more obviously so than with heroes) was self-undermining when it came to overall 'theme' in Maj1. (I would say the same for Maj2, but frankly the heroes there weren't much better.)

I guess it's possible - but on the other hand, for balance reasons, I like the idea that the money has to be shipped back to the capital to do you any good.
That is an interesting idea, and I have no problem with it. There's just nothing to stop tax collectors at a guardhouse from making periodic trips back to the palace to report earnings. (Which is essentially what you've described trading posts as doing- we're not disagreeing, we're just calling the same structure different things!)

Majesty has always been about soft caps rather than hard ones, so I'm honestly fine with that. I don't see a need to place a hard cap on the number of guilds you can build - time is a vital resource in Majesty, and if you waste it you will lose the game.

The wandering heroes thing is a great idea. It provides another possible use for inns (attracting wandering heroes) and loyalty-increasing buildings (giving them reasons to stay).
Now that I think about it, most quests in Maj1 did have time-pressure as a significant factor, but I'm not sure that was the game's most attractive feature, and Cyberlore were specifically talking about 'playing the game at your own pace' in Legends. I like the idea of apprenticeships on the grounds of verismilitude and story-generation, and it is a more organic way of curbing growth than exponential building-costs. I'd just be wary of designing the game specifically with time-pressure constraints in mind.

With that said, I don't personally have a big problem with the player taking their time to build up a massive overwhelming army and striking out when they're ready, or even with the steam-roller effect. But some people seem to, so... I don't know. I think we might need to articulate the specific downsides to unlimited growth (if any) more clearly, and in what context, before going further.

The bit about the herbs and fungi, and the mention of crafting, makes me rethink the potential value of such a system. I wouldn't want it to be very fine-grained, but now I think I can start to see some of the potential. I'm still not entirely convinced, though, as I'm having trouble thinking of a situation which would be fine-grained enough to get the interesting parts, but not so fine grained that the game turns into Vicky.
If I were to start developing a Maj3, I'd probably focus on getting the hero behaviours up and running first, and worry about this much later. It is nonessential, and as you say, fine-grained economy-design can be a bit of a bottomless pit.

If you pared it down to absolute minimum, though, I'm guessing 4-8(?) resources would do the trick, with everything else modeled using efficiency bonuses at certain structures or for certain tasks. e.g-

"I want to hire dwarves, to help deal with the vampires down in the crypts. Dwarves want access to a blacksmith and enjoy mining. Blacksmiths are also more efficient if you have access to a mine and it's goods get back to town from a nearby trading post. There's a suitable mining site in the hills, but it's occupied by a tribe of neutral barbarians. Perhaps if I send an envoy, I can bribe them to relocate with food & furs. Or just kill them all."


Anyway, I don't want to distract you too much from your current projects, so I'll just say thanks for listening to an old fanboy's indignant mutterings. :)
 
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Vincent Oostelbos

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Hello to the both of you! It's good to see & read such a recent discussion on ideas for a (highly putative) future episode of this beautiful franchise :)

Since I believe this is my first post here, let me briefly introduce myself: I'm Vincent, I'm from the Netherlands and I'm 26 years old; I played Maj1 as a child and Maj2 much more recently, as well as the browser fan game Majesty: Heroes of Ardania. My main love in Majesty is the heroes' autonomy and the simulation, which naturally means I enjoyed the first game much more than the second, though I've played both a lot. Very nice to meet you both.

You've had a very interesting discussion already between the both of you, but I had some of my own thoughts to add to what has already been said.

Steamrolling
Economic
You mentioned the problem of steamrolling, and how (and whether) to implement any way to limit the number of guilds/heroes/buildings the player can assemble. Maj1 and Maj2 of course used the exponential costs to the buildings, which I think was a fairly effective limit if the player didn't want to spend hours and hours at a game where the map was already wholly safe (and of course even then, in Maj1, many of the hero types had enough autonomy that by that time they would just win already), but it is a bit lacking in both realism and satisfaction for the player.

One possible solution to limit at least the number of heroes is to have there be diminishing returns; this is already present to some extent in the present games, in that heroes have a certain amount of sources of gold on the map (monsters to kill etc.) per unit time, which is a kind of soft cap, and at a certain point the net effectivity of your collective hero force also kind of levels off... but since you only pay the hero price once, you don't really feel this aspect of diminishing returns very significantly (except occasionally when building the guilds, but since you have little else to spend your money on at some point, who cares about that?).

Therefore, (and since lore-wise you as the sovereign are already said to be 'hiring' heroes, more or less as mercenaries), perhaps actual wages for your heroes would be a partial solution to this steamrolling/exploding hero force problem (if you do indeed consider it such, as Alfryd said). Since the amount of money you get in from heroes levels off, a growing hero count will represent an upkeep that does not level off, such that you would need to strike the right kind of balance (also taking into account your fighting power, of course; this balance could therefore make the difference between an easy and a hard map).

Early on of course, your heroes would represent a net gain in money because you get taxes from the money they gain from the monsters on the map (and perhaps certain other sources), but as it satiates, your costs will become prohibitive. This would be a soft cap, which I think is indeed nicer than just, say, having a set maximum to the number of guilds or temples, as you could set in the freestyle games in Maj1 NE.

Combat
Another problem of the steamrolling is militaristic in nature; as you get more and more heroes, and the heroes level up more and more, the difficulty of the map can drop very sharply, very suddenly. You find yourself struggling through the early game, then making it over some metaphoric 'hump', and then it is more or less smooth sailing from there. It's perhaps not the most interesting progression of a map, or at least it would be nice if it wasn't repeated that way in every single map you played.

An I think interesting way to work through this that is very much in keeping with the simulationy nature of the franchise (or at least its first installment) is to have more simulation on the side of the wild, the monsters, the baddies, whatever you want to call them. (You already have this to some extent if you face a rival/enemy kingdom, but not so much when it's just monsters in lairs in the field.) Perhaps rather than just spawning periodically from their lairs, monsters can take a more active approach (not necessarily deliberate or sentient (depending on the type of monster?); could also just be biological/instinctive/whatever in nature). They might expand their lairs, or found new ones, or make alliances among each other, or lure creatures from other lands to settle, etc.

You had some aspects of this in Maj1 NE already in, for example, The Valley of the Serpents, where you get the gorgons and medusae creating more and more lairs. (Incidentally, that is the main reason why I always had such a hard time with that map, but I think in this case there were some problems with it, such as a weird balance where it starts off rather quickly (probably to intensify and perhaps extend the period before the aforementioned 'hump', which it otherwise didn't quite fix), a small map size, etc.) Another thing that expansion did was have much more events in its levels, to have kind of a scripted approximation of the kind of simulation I'm talking about; but being a simulation-geek, I would much rather it be done dynamically, procedurally, etc.

Economy
Taxing

I like the notion of bringing taxes back to the capital before having them be usable; however, I also think it'd be neat if the tax collectors would store the gold in the guardhouses first, if those are much nearer to whence they're collecting the taxes. The gold could then, as has been suggested above, be brought periodically (or once a certain cut-off is reached, or whenever it's brought in, whatever; perhaps that could be a setting for the player to manipulate) back to the palace, so that it can actually be spent upon its arrival. Perhaps this second step could be done with a caravan rather than a tax collector, which can then be guarded by guards from the guardhouse (perhaps the player can set how much protection each caravan should get, which might be limited by a respawn rate of guards or some such). That way, you would get less of that problem where tax collectors walk the perilous long trips between outpost and main town with a skeleton nipping at their heels.

This would allow the guardhouses to remain the center of a hub like they are now. Another interesting thing is if the money could be stolen from ordinary buildings by greedy monsters like the ratmen in Maj1, but not from guardhouses (since it's obviously more securely stored/hidden in there), such that it can only be lost thence if the entire guardhouse were to be destroyed.

Goods and resources
Well, I can see how too much of a good thing might be too much, but honestly I would be rather interested to see a kind of cross-over between, say, Knights & Merchants and Majesty. (Throw in a bit of Dwarf Fortress and I would never stop playing.)

But yes, the idea described above, at the very end of the previous post, sounds wonderful to me. And I agree, it could be a way to give heroes back some of that personality that they lost in the second game by not having much of any jobs specific to their class/race (Adepts patrolling the city, Solarii garrisoning guardhouses, Warriors/Paladins/WoDs hunting, the cultist/rogue and healer/ranger interactions mentioned above, etc. etc.). If some of these jobs were to interact a bit more with the overarching economy of your kingdom, I think that would be a very interesting thing to see, and if done right might even be enough of a factor to influence choice of hero type to begin with. (Perhaps you're more likely to go for dwarves if there are lots of ore veins in the nearby mountains, or cultists if the land is overgrown with various rare plants/herbs that they can bring into the production chain.)

Simulation and autonomy
Hero control

Like Galle, I am very sceptical on any form of direct control over your heroes. The heroes' autonomy is of course one of the main charms of the franchise (which is why its lack in Maj2 was such a huge problem). However, if I understand Alfryd correctly, it might not really be mind-controlley RTS-style point and click ordering that he (assumed gender from name, sorry if wrong) was suggesting anyway. I do agree that it would be nice to be able to influence your heroes in other ways than just by placing flags that offer a monetary reward, and, yes, other kinds of rewards would indeed be more interesting to the less avaricious hero types like healers/clerics.

The idea of offering artifacts that you may have procured (the question of how you, rather than your heroes, would have gotten a hold of those remains to be considered) might be one such alternative way. Alfryd mentioned the possibility of negotiations with heroes about kingdom policies (such as taxation) and the like, which would also be interesting, but it might be tricky to work out how heroes would evaluate these, and how trust might come in; would you be completely tied to this promise once you make it, or could you pull out of the agreement if you feel so (evilly) inclined? In the latter case, could heroes revolt? How would that work? I think the easiest solution would be to just have you be tied to your agreement, and perhaps have the agreement always entail some duration (e.g., lower peasant taxes by 25% for 10 game days). (These numbers could then influence how the heroes evaluate the agreement.)

I'm undecided on the dialog/diplomacy flag for use between kingdoms and between hero classes/races that don't like each other. I guess it would be a flag that is not placed on any location, but just globally, such that a hero gets a reward for behaving a certain way toward other heroes/kingdoms/etc.? (An interesting alternative would be to be able to punish heroes for doing the opposite, with the desired policy being seen as the default that normally, heroes would follow.) I'm just not sure how it would work exactly, and whether I like its implications (which of course depends on the former question).

*~*~*~*~*

Alright, I suppose that's enough for now; I desperately need to go shopping anyway (I'm already late for dinner). Hopefully some of this will have been of interest to you. I'll check back for possible replies.
 
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Alfryd

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Thanks Vincent- I'm a little up the walls at the moment myself, and I'll try to get back to your other points, but the for the moment I'll just just touch on one- the question of hero control.

I agree that the charm of Majesty is based around heroes' sense of independence and initiative- which is to say, the personalities they reveal through their response to various stressors. Are they curious? Show them something unfamiliar, and see if they Investigate or Withdraw. Are they brave? Put them in danger, and see if they Fight or Flee. Are they compassionate? Show them someone hurt, and see if they Help or Ignore.

However, even if you had a sovereign exercising oppressive power, that wouldn't exactly eliminate choice from the equation- instead, the use of that coercion becomes another stressor that the heroes must respond to: Submit or Rebel.


By way of background, a lot of my thoughts on this point stem from waaaay old discussions on the board about creating an 'evil majesty', and how exactly you might go about implementing that. Despite a good deal of enthusiasm for the idea (and a number of what I considered bluntly daft suggestions on the topic) the basic problem as I saw it was this: an Evil kingdom is going to be based around violence and coercion, which amounts to exercising direct control over other people. As such, nothing resembling Majesty's laissez-faire control system was going to operate under those conditions. An Evil sovereign wouldn't be offering tasty treats and giving his minions free reign to wander off for R&R- he'd be cracking the whip and threatening them with grim punishments if they didn't do precisely as desired.

It seems to be a simpler arrangement for the guy at the top. So, why aren't all sovereigns Evil? What were the drawbacks to this arrangement?

It wouldn't be a bad decision to just remove the possibility of that coercion entirely. Like the idea of resource-management, the complexity of implementation might outweigh the richer thematic benefits. But it would be interesting to see a game that actually took a stab at answering that question.
 

Vincent Oostelbos

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even if you had a sovereign exercising oppressive power, that wouldn't exactly eliminate choice from the equation- instead, the use of that coercion becomes another stressor that the heroes must respond to: Submit or Rebel.

Very true. When you put it like that, I'm a bit less against it, but I'm still not very sure if I would like it in actual gameplay. In truth, I'd be unlikely to use it, in the same way that I have a hard time being evil. Even so, I do like that idea you had as well. I would prefer if it was not in the form of any explicit binary choices, as it is implemented in some games, but rather a more dynamic (I seem to like that word... I just don't know many better ways of describing it) form, where heroes weigh and respond to any of various choices that you make.

Even though in reality, an evil sovereign would be likely to give direct orders and expect them to be obeyed, perhaps in order to avoid the difficulty of matching this with Majesty's trademark hero autonomy, in this game it could take other forms. Perhaps just in terms of the taxes you set, the wages you pay, whether or not you respond to requests for specific recreational buildings (inns, royal gardens, etc.). There might be a kind of 'justice system', where you can incarcerate heroes unwilling to take up quests, rather than reward those who do. (Or throw rogues caught stealing from the marketplace.)

These are just some ideas, and I'm really not so sure if I like them, myself. Again, I'm unlikely to make much use of them; I might try them out once if they were in the game, but usually I'd just be good. Still, interesting stuff to speculate on.
 

Alfryd

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Very true. When you put it like that, I'm a bit less against it, but I'm still not very sure if I would like it in actual gameplay. In truth, I'd be unlikely to use it, in the same way that I have a hard time being evil. Even so, I do like that idea you had as well. I would prefer if it was not in the form of any explicit binary choices, as it is implemented in some games, but rather a more dynamic (I seem to like that word... I just don't know many better ways of describing it) form, where heroes weigh and respond to any of various choices that you make.
I like the idea of going down the law-enforcement route myself (which I think is kind of overdue in any case, given how conspicuously indifferent your city watch are to theft by rogues/elves cultists.) It would also be a natural mechanism for clamping down on religious/racial violence (by throwing the instigators in the clink for assault.)

Once you have that in place, there are a number of mechanisms for using the stick instead of the carrot- e.g, "I'll commute your BFF's sentence if you'll undertake this mission for me." Or "play nice, or I'll prosecute you for all that tax evasion we overlooked before." Or maybe you can capture an enemy prince on the battlefield as a 'war criminal' and keep him hostage to guarantee your rival's good behaviour...

And of course, there's a sliding scale of reasonableness when it comes to sentencing. It's one thing if some rowdy heroes get drunk, start a barfight and have to sleep it off in the cells- it's another when you start staking heretics for blasphemy against Dauros...

So yeah, the possibilities are there, even if one could (quite justifiably) feel uncomfortable with carrying the idea too far, but I think it's the slippery-slope quality that makes it so intriguing. (It might also work better with a relatively small number of powerful and loosely-aligned heroes, since you'd be tugging at individual relations and histories, rather than broad motivators like avarice.)

Anyway, sorry for the delay- I'll probably break off bits and pieces of your post and discuss those more gradually?
 

Alfryd

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But yes, the idea described above, at the very end of the previous post, sounds wonderful to me. And I agree, it could be a way to give heroes back some of that personality that they lost in the second game by not having much of any jobs specific to their class/race (Adepts patrolling the city, Solarii garrisoning guardhouses, Warriors/Paladins/WoDs hunting, the cultist/rogue and healer/ranger interactions mentioned above, etc. etc.). If some of these jobs were to interact a bit more with the overarching economy of your kingdom, I think that would be a very interesting thing to see, and if done right might even be enough of a factor to influence choice of hero type to begin with. (Perhaps you're more likely to go for dwarves if there are lots of ore veins in the nearby mountains, or cultists if the land is overgrown with various rare plants/herbs that they can bring into the production chain.)
I think what's attractive about the idea of rangers brewing up healing potions from healers' herbs is that it gives you some kind of concrete basis for a relationship between the two classes- healers and rangers get along because the former helps the latter. If you mention 'economics', people automatically get the impression of a cold, dry, abstract subject, but in principle it's just the study of formalised reciprocity.

Not that the strategic considerations of various production-chains syncing with terrain and race/religion aren't interesting, but it's possible that the best way to look at trade skills would be from the perspective of 'hero hobbies' and gifting or barter arrangements- i.e, such that money wasn't necessarily the bottom line.

I'm undecided on the dialog/diplomacy flag for use between kingdoms and between hero classes/races that don't like each other. I guess it would be a flag that is not placed on any location, but just globally, such that a hero gets a reward for behaving a certain way toward other heroes/kingdoms/etc.?
Well, my personal conception of the mechanic would be that dialogue/diplomacy flags would be used in any situation where you want to initiate a one-to-one conversation with a specific hero. I guess the question would be to what extent that's a suitable management scheme- i.e, are we talking about a kingdom that has maybe a dozen heavy-hitting champions, or are we governing a city of thousands? Is there something like a chain of command or political representation, or is it every merc for himself?

Perhaps a more concrete example would be, e.g, the various unaligned cottages and other structures that 'agree to join your kingdom' in various quests, or even the elven/rogue structures in Urban Renewal. In principle, you could use a Diplomacy flag to hire envoys and convince their inhabitants to swear fealty to you, in exchange for guarantees of protection (i.e, a Defend-flag?) or some token contribution of needed goods. (Bearing in mind that the envoy would be as important as the message, you could even use tricks like converting the inhabitants of one structure, then using them as envoys to persuade others. You could even get spies or defectors if you're partially successful.)
 

Alfryd

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Well, it's possible I'm diving into too much detail on these fronts- these are still fairly theoretical features and no doubt a lot of kinks would have to worked out in practice either way.

I was thinking it might be helpful if we put together a short 'summary document' on what the core priorities for a sequel would need to be, and then it would be easier to devote discussion to the essentials vs. potential add-ons. Vincent, could you put together something similar to what Galle did, with a point-by-point wishlist for what your core priorities would be, and what might be nonessential but strikes you as cool?

I think the easiest solution [for non-standard rewards] would be to just have you be tied to your agreement, and perhaps have the agreement always entail some duration (e.g., lower peasant taxes by 25% for 10 game days). (These numbers could then influence how the heroes evaluate the agreement.)
Ooh, I like this idea. I may have to steal it. *nyoink*
 

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Very, very interesting.

(yes, I'm still alive)

I also may have something interesting to show at some point in the future. Very, very interesting. Keep that idea ball rolling.
 

Alfryd

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Very well then...

Early on of course, your heroes would represent a net gain in money because you get taxes from the money they gain from the monsters on the map (and perhaps certain other sources), but as it satiates, your costs will become prohibitive. This would be a soft cap, which I think is indeed nicer than just, say, having a set maximum to the number of guilds or temples, as you could set in the freestyle games in Maj1 NE.
I like the idea of paying salaries in principle (at least for henchmen or other citizens that provide a reliable service), but as far as financial balancing is concerned I'm not convinced that approach would help. Are you talking about salaries as a supplement to bounties & hiring costs, or as a complete replacement?

At least in Maj1, I'd contend that heroes don't really earn back their hiring cost financially until much later in the game, if ever- the lion's share of their tax and sales receipts ultimately comes from the rewards you pay them, and that's without touching the cost of sovereign spells (for babysitting.) You never hire heroes primarily as cash-cows, but because they're needed for defence and razing lairs.

Once the dangerous part of the mission is past, I'd see the bulk of hero-income evaporating, but so would all the associated costs of getting them to do X, Y or Z. Regardless of whether you pay salaries, that nets you more money, not less.

Unless... unless... the salary you have to pay varies based on hero-level. In that case fixed-costs would rise in line with the increasing competence of your troops.


EDIT: I think I just had a minor revelation on this point, so I'm not sure this is all that important any more.
 
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Alfryd

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I think a key perspective to bear in mind here is that Majesty's difficulty curve per se isn't really important. The game isn't primarily about solving overarching tactical puzzles or battling waves of cannon-fodder (or at least shouldn't be, although Maj2's crew certainly took it that way.)

Challenge and adversity is important in Majesty for one reason: because conflict and uncertainty require decisions from the heroes. Combat-situations are one of the most visceral examples of this, since at any given moment a Warrior might have to decide between fleeing the field, bandaging a wounded comrade, pursuing an enemy captain or defending innocent civilians. There's an awful lot of thematic texture there.

But it's not the only way you can present these openings for character-definition. In peacetime, that same Warrior might have to choose between getting drunk in a bar with friends, entering a tournament, courting the miller's daughter or learning how to smith a better shield. These are less intense decisions, but they have their own stakes and over time say just as much about a hero's priorities.

And equally, this applies to the sovereign: The spells you cast before you run out of gold/mana, the laws you pass, the alliances you forge and the tactics you employ are the same kind of decisions writ large.

The key factor to maintain here is choice and tradeoffs. Limited time, limited resources, inherent risks and more than one thing to care about.



So... with that in mind... I think a discussion about whether Majesty is hard or easy at any point needs to come back to whether this creates choices. The amount of adversity doesn't matter nearly as much as how well any introduced difficulty brings competing priorities to light.

I think that both the 'steamrolling' problem and the 'economy balance' problem are both concerned with adversity regulation in the quantitative sense- with how much of it there is, and the idea being to prevent the player having overwhelming strength. But if war creates choices, and peace creates choices, there are also choices that come with overwhelming strength: when, whether and how to allow surrender, how to deal with the conquered, and where you draw the line of your demesne. (The same, naturally, might apply to a player on the losing end of a rival's campaign, with the possibility of civil schism or usurpation among a victor's vassals. Dauros might not approve, but Fervus/Krypta might be thrilled to help with a little skullduggery.)

I think, in the end, those kinds of mechanics might be more in-tune with the game's underlying themes and root appeal. So rather than have the developers tie themselves in knots trying to figure out how to maintain fair opposition, they might allow the player to be magnanimous in victory and vindictive in defeat.


Anyway, I think I've hogged the stage enough at this point, so unless someone else wants to follow up, I'll just leave it there.
 
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Nerdfish

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I think OP's suggestions are good.
However Majesty III will need to be a different kind of game with a different engine.
Stronghold with heroes and monster would be perfect.