Wednesday, September 18, 2013

GDS: Warhammer and Total War

It's hammer time!

One of the most exciting game concepts that I've been looking forward to is the thought of Warhammer being played on the Total War engine.  Personally, I think these two work perfectly with one another because of all the similarities they share.  From a game design standpoint and from a systems/engine standpoint, both games are intrinsically the same.

Let me throw out a few examples.
  • First, WHFB and Total War share the same design philosophies and game engine.  Both game systems are based around large-scale combat via troop formations, charging, arrows, and applying swords to face.  Once combat happens, what makes or breaks the army is combat resolution through morale mechanics.  How these morale mechanics are applied depends on how well you maneuver your forces and employ your strategies to the fullest.  This is just how both games were designed on a surface level.
  • What do I mean by this?  I mean that armies fight and break depending on morale.  This is active in the Warhammer system via combat resolution and leadership, and this is active in Total War through different morale modifiers.   Being charged in the flank is not as bad as being charged in the rear, outnumbering your enemies (think 7th Ed. WHFB), being surprised via ambush, being on higher ground, are all examples of different modifiers that exist in the Total War system.  Being able to translate Warhammer's combat resolution system would be like a walk in the park because the system is already in place.
  • If we look even deeper into the combat system itself, all the necessary components to make a full transition is already there.  Look at Rome2's combat engine for example:  The Melee Attack stat is comparable to Weapon Skill, Melee Defense to Toughness, Weapon Damage to Strength, Armor to Armor, and Health to Wounds.  The concept of Initiative and Attack is lost in the mix, but I wouldn't think it would be too hard to hard-code one unit attacking more frequently than another.  How this would play out with High Elves' having ASF or a Dwarf Lord sporting multiple, slow-attacks because he has a Great Weapon is up to the designers' imagination.
  • Both games work off of points calculation in terms of army design.  I would say a 2500 point game of Warhammer is similar to a medium funds army in Shogun2 or Rome2.  It's a fairly medium sized game, but the point is that I have a certain amount of "points" or "funds" to work with to buy all the units for my upcoming battle.  Right now in 8th Ed. Warhammer, we're using a percentage model:  If we're playing 2500 points, 25% of that has to go into Core, or 625 points, 50% is the max allowed in Special, so on and so forth.  This checks and balance system allows us to build more balanced armies than we could in 7th Ed.  Unfortunately, something like this does not currently exist in Rome2 because I can take an army of nothing but Praetorian Guard.  If this was translated into WHFB terms, it would be like taking nothing but Black Guard in my army.  My point here is that if WHFB meets Total War, there would be a checks and balance system already in place, thus simplifying balance design on top of the fact that both games already use the same army purchasing system.
  • To expand upon the above point a bit, one of the interesting things that Warhammer can add to the Total War series is variable unit sizes.  Say you have a unit of 160 Royal Spartans for 970 points.  In Warhammer, that would be like taking a unit of 40 White Lions no matter where you go.  Since Warhammer has a unique system where you can take however amount of guys you want to pay the points for, maybe we'll see W:TW adopt something similar.  Instead of 160 Spartans for 970, how about I take 80 for half the points?  That would be an interesting idea as it would appeal more to the casual hobbyist.
  • Speaking of causal, let's add customizable colors back into the game.  True to Games Workshop hobbyists everywhere, the army painter system was one of the best things about Dawn of War.  Having this in Total War would not only help tell one person's army from another ingame, but it will help add individuality and uniqueness.

Now, let's talk about some more interesting WHFB concepts that I think will be a challenge for the TW design team:
  • How will they address the question of magic items and weapons?
  • Or the concept of a mighty melee hero such as a Vampire Lord vs. a magic lord like Teclis?
  • How will magic work in general?
  • How will monsters work in the game?  Or flying monsters particularly?

These are some of the things that came to mind when I was thinking about how WHFB will translate to the Total War engine.  I can share with you some of my ideas.

The concept of Magic Items and Weapons is a little more straight forward since you were able to customize your units pretty extensively in Shogun2's Avatar system.  Since most of the magic items in Warhammer can only be held by powerful heroes and lords, it wouldn't be too hard to translate some of these items as upgrades to your general.  For example, if you choose a Vampire Lord as your general, he will have access to say 10 different magic items.  He can take a max of 4, and depending on what he takes, his price will go up in price.  The same could be done with heroes and such.  Since you can only take one of the same magic item per army, if the Vampire Lord grabs something like a Blood Drinker, the next hero Vampire won't be able to take it.  To make things even more uniform, we can put in magic items that only the most powerful lords can take.  In Warhammer terms, these are 55+ point items that's only available for Lords because they can take 100 points worth of magic items.

Speaking of Lords and Heroes, how will they play out ingame?  Well, I thought about this long and hard, mainly during the days when I wished there was a Total War: Three Kingdoms.  As you guys might have guessed, Shu is my favorite faction and Dynasty Warriors was a huge game for me in the past.  However, the concept of bringing one hero singling himself out in a fight vs. thousands of warriors seems cumbersome in a game where there's tons of fighting going on already.  So how do we fix this?  I think the current General and Bodyguard system works perfectly.  If I want to select a High Elf Prince as my General and I want him on a horse, I would customize him as a Dragon Prince general.  Right now in Rome2, I can have a Hellenic Royal Guard (elite pike unit) as my general, so why not apply the same principles to Warhammer?  If I want my Prince to hail from Chrace, I would simply elect White Lions to be the general.  Hero units would also have a bodyguard to go with them, and we all know how we love to have that BSB hanging around in the army.

So what about magic and wizards?  We all know how important magic is in WHFB so I'll try to translate it to the current TW system.  Right now, we have no idea what they're planning to do with the system.  The easiest way to make a direct transition would be simply allow you to take Lord-level and Hero-level Wizards and just pick the spells you want.  More destructive spells can only be taken on more powerful lords, and that's the end of it.  There is a way to increase ranks and experience in this game, so you might be able to level your Wizard up to different levels, but I think this just adds unneeded complexity.  Warhammer is already a complicated game and I don't think it needs anymore when constructing a game purely based off maneuvering and application of tactics.  Remember:  Where magic is vitally important on the table-top, this does not mean it is so in REAL-TIME strategy.  You don't have 10 minutes to think about what spells you're going to dispel because the battle was over 5 minutes ago.

Alright cool, so how does it work?  Well, I think it would be similar to casting special abilities.  Let's pretend we're playing with High Elves and we have a lord-level Prince.  He would have something standard like Inspire and Rally as default abilities.  If we want to play more about Rome2, let's pretend he has the Commander abilities.  Say we decide to go with an Archmage instead:  Because he's our lord-level spellcaster, he has access to all the cool spells that High Elves will have.  Even though HE have access to all the spells in the game, let's say they only use High Magic because that's an easy example.  Where a normal Mage-level caster will not have access to Fiery Convocation, the Archmage does.  He simply elects to take up this spell out of the FOUR that he can take.  Let's say there's 10 spells that he can choose from because High Elves know all BRB spells anyway.  Moving on, he takes 4 spells from the list whereas a Hero-level mage can only take 2.  Once we load up the game, he's sitting there in his unit of Sword Masters and he casts Fiery Convocation on a unit of Skaven Slaves.  The entire unit starts burning for massive damage and you're very happy with the results.  Due to its devastating power, the cooldown is 120 or 180 seconds.  Realistically, you'll probably get one shot with this so you want to choose carefully.  To make things even more interesting, he puts an Internal Cooldown on the rest of your spells because it shows he just spent so much imaginary power dice on this all-powerful spell.

I haven't really thought of a good way to implement a well-designed Dispel, IF and Miscast system just yet.  Where these are pivitol in how a player plays out his magic phase, there's simply no "phases" in a real-time battle.  I mean sure, it sucks if your best unit is going to be set on fire by Fiery Convocation, but what's stopping the opponent from lighting you up with Flaming Arrows?  Nothing.  As long as cooldown, range and power is appropriate, I don't really see a problem with not having dispels, IFs or Miscasts.  If anything, it's just adding more chaos to the chaos that is a live battle.  You'll see that we'll constantly go back to that saying:  Just because it works on the table-top does not mean it'll work in an RTS.

Lastly, we'll talk about the prospect of having monsters, Steam Tanks and Star Dragons in a game like Total War.  Don't get me wrong, but I don't think it'll be too hard to implement a creature with crazy high stats, be neigh invulnerable to simple melee attacks, and will be incredibly tough to take down (either by armor or wounds).  I can perfectly see a Prince on Star Dragon flying across the battlefield, breathing fire and wrecking face in close combat.  Do I think this will be balanced?  Sure.  Why?  Because the idea of factions with artillery pieces, overwhelming combat res (morale modifiers), and magic spells will exist in the game. We can go as far as making Spear units more effective vs. the like of monsters such as this.  The mightiest Star Dragon might rout 1-2 units, but if you get a good surround and isolate him away from the rest of your opponent's army, you might be able to rout him due to morale.  After all, you just need to balance the stats on the Star Dragon so he doesn't destroy everything he touches.  I'm more concerned about engine limitations and whether or not it's possible to add a flying, fire-breathing dragon, who can transition from air to ground and vice versa.

That's it for now.


charlie said...

CA did get the rights to make a total war warhammer game, if i remember right it was around the time THQ went under so it might have gone under the radar

Michael said...

Have you ever played Warhammer: Battle March? I think it would answer a lot of your questions. The heroes, monsters, and magic were handled very well in the game. It suffered from bugs, poor animation, and the fact that they spent $0 advertising it.

HERO said...

Yep, I'm pretty excited about this. I wrote this article with that in mind :)

Swimpackus said...

Just saying as you most likely know this but there is warhammer fantasy mod for Medieval 2: Total war

Loris said...

Nice Article!
I would really love Total War: Warhammer.
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Meeee said...

I'm also interested in what factions will be included. Rome II has 9 factions with 3 more as preorder exclusives and 1 more soon to be released; for a total of 13. There are 14 armies in Warhammer (16 if you include Chaos Dwarfs and Border Princes).

However all the factions in Rome II are fairly similar (guy with armour and spear, guy with slightly different armour and spear) which cuts down on modelling and texturing time whereas every unit in Warhammer is distinct.

I'm pretty sure that Empire, Chaos Warriors/Daemons, High Elves, Orcs & Goblins and maybe Dwarfs will make the cut; but who else?

Personally being a Lizardmen fan I'm hoping for Lizards riding dinosaurs to be in the game, but I know it's unlikely. Lizardmen have never been in any GW game aside from bloodbowl.

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