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Differentiating civs - Spartans


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The ones of you who have a close eye on the recent commits and patches in the queue will have noticed that there are efforts being made to further differentiate the current civs either by unique bonuses and/or buildings. I am assuming that I am not the only one seeing great potential for Spartans in that direction, especially since the removal of their pop penality leaves room for new things. I think it is time to share my ideas from a mod draft made several years ago, but never finished/published. See the following description and proposals as an inspiration for new/alternative/enhanced Spartan gameplay.

The core idea is to really push the Spartan trademarks: the absolute crème de la crème regarding quality, especially in the defensive part, at the cost of reduced quantity and a lot of time and resources spent to bring their warriors to perfection. In lategame they should be near unstoppable - only the infamous man spam train should do the job - being among the strongest civs, preferably the strongest alone. A Spartiate phalanx (even more so with Leonidas) should feel like an immovable object similar to Carthaginian walls. Their offensive should be very slow, but deadly (cf. Teutonic knights in AoE II). They will fight like a beast to defend their home territory and shine the most in team games where they can occupy and block strategic positions. However, they should be especially vulnerable in early game / village phase and below average in mid game / town phase (careful, detailed and well-targeted balancing may be needed) in order to compensate for their incredible late game potential. They are characterized by the following unique features:

  • tech "The Agoge": waaay more impactful than now
    - Spartiates cost around 2 times the resources of regular champions (including 2 population), optionally only one of them can be trained per house
    - they should be able to 1v2 regular champions, and with all other bonuses described below even 1v3 should be possible (at least under some circumstances)
    -> reduced quantity, better overall quality, slightly more cost efficient than other champions
  • tech "Hippagretae": these were the guys electing the ~300 best Spartiates called Hippeis
    - Spartiates can upgrade to stronger Hippeis after collecting some XP (killing 2-3 enemies) (like citizen soldiers from basic -> advanced rank)
    - optionally Hippeis can further upgrade to some kind of semi-hero after collecting a huge amount of XP (killing 7 or 10 enemies), but that may be over the top (like citizen soldiers from advanced -> elite rank)
    -> better overall quality
  • CC aura "Wall of Men": some Greek author used this term to explain why Sparta didn't need walls
    - +2 resistance for Spartiates in a 80 range around CCs
    - alternatively more concentrated: +4 resistance in a 30 range around CCs
    -> better defensive quality
  • Leonidas hero aura "Thermopylae": replacing current offensive aura by a purely defensive one
    - +2 resistance and -10% speed for spearmen in his formation
    - alternatively +3 resistance and -15% speed for Spartiates in his formation
    -> better defensive quality
  • better represent the role of Spartan women and Helote slaves
    - Helote slaves as most efficient gatherers (use slave actor from Athenians)
    - Spartan women have less than mediocre gather rates themselves, but a gather boost aura for Helotes (being their mistress)
    - Spartan women have a basic combat ability, suitable for creating an emergency home defence against citizen soldiers (but not against champions) and they are able to build all buildings including military ones
    -> more complex economy, slow development, but higher potential (for the huge amount of resources needed for unique techs and champions)
    -> slightly better defensive quality

I hope you find at least some of these ideas inspiring and suitable as a basis for more patches to come! Feedback and further ideas welcome :)

Best regards, Palaxin

Edited by Palaxin
the "infamous" man spam train of course :D
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A while ago I wrote a similar thing to that but with a lot more detail; it didn't get much buzz probably because it was long, a fair critique, but here it is:

A few things I think would be good takeaways: Sparta should have access to Spartan hoplites at the beginning of the game, with a Spartan hoplite being a starting unit.  Another thing was that cavalry would not be available until the town phase.  Scouting instead could be done by building a barracks and training a Skiritae unit.  For the Spartan hoplite in general, my focus was more around the fact that they could have auras that could buff friendly units and debuff enemies at the cost of an almost crippling training time that could be shortened through a variety of technologies.  

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Thank you for the link, an interesting comparison :)

I have also been thinking that it would be nice to have Spartan hoplites right from the start, however, that will make balancing much more difficult (at least if you want them to be these uber champs I have been describing...) On the other hand, one could argue that they are so expensive that you would completely cripple your economy if you trained more than a handful of them before reaching city phase.

Regarding cavalry and Skiritae I have no strong opinion at this point. I would tinker with the other units once I have the feeling that the Spartiates has found its place and is more or less balanced.

I actually remember that I also thought of a fear aura for the advanced ranks of the champion. Completely forgot about it! I also experimented with a very short ranged aura that would basically allow them to provide their direct neighbors in a phalanx formation with additional resistances, essentially making them in phalanx much tougher than in loose combat.

5 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

it didn't get much buzz probably because it was long, a fair critique

My impression is that on the forums we are talking a lot and that is fine as long as we do not expect others to realize our ideas. I'm not saying that you won't inspire any action, but I think in general it's more productive to create a working patch or mod, so others can test your ideas with a relatively small amount of effort. I have to remind myself of that when I write, otherwise I tend to get frustrated.

Edited by Palaxin
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3 hours ago, Palaxin said:

I have also been thinking that it would be nice to have Spartan hoplites right from the start, however, that will make balancing much more difficult (at least if you want them to be these uber champs I have been describing...) On the other hand, one could argue that they are so expensive that you would completely cripple your economy if you trained more than a handful of them before reaching city phase.

I think that there could be a middle ground.  Units can improve through technologies and the like, and what might have served as a powerful village phase unit could be fairly average by comparison in the city phase.  The one thing that I'd say should be key to design of this sort is to remember that 'the rule of cool'>'balance.'  There should be an aim to always make things feel overpowered compared to vice-versa.  My vision would be more that Spartans would be maybe having at most 5 by the end of the village phase and maybe 10 in the town phase at most.  The point would be to consider what kind of role they would serve based on how the player chooses.  To me there should be a choice as to whether it would be a super-soldier like officer or a powerful mainline infantry unit.

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@Nescio provides the Spartans with a champion hoplite as a starting unit in D3412. A good first step!

18 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

I think that there could be a middle ground.  Units can improve through technologies and the like, and what might have served as a powerful village phase unit could be fairly average by comparison in the city phase.

I think a good middle ground could be:

  • 1 free champion in village phase (see patch above)
  • champion training in town phase with regular champion stats
  • heavy upgrade technologies and auras in city phase

If that would make them too strong, they should be tweaked at other places, e.g. economy, Skiritai, ...

18 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

The one thing that I'd say should be key to design of this sort is to remember that 'the rule of cool'>'balance.'  There should be an aim to always make things feel overpowered compared to vice-versa.

Exactly what I had in mind. Spartan hoplites feel good but not overpowered really. E.g. Macedonians have a similar strong infantry unit. If they could 1v2 other champions, they would feel so, even if they actually were not from an overall perspetive (keeping costs, train time, unit restrictions, late availability, low speed, ... in mind).

18 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

The point would be to consider what kind of role they would serve based on how the player chooses.  To me there should be a choice as to whether it would be a super-soldier like officer or a powerful mainline infantry unit.

These kind of choices were cool if they were a much more integral part of the game (cf. Age of Mythology God choices), so not restricted to Spartans, but available to any civ in some way.

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7 hours ago, Palaxin said:

These kind of choices were cool if they were a much more integral part of the game (cf. Age of Mythology God choices), so not restricted to Spartans, but available to any civ in some way.

If we look at the way that the game was originally designed, most techs were meant to be paired, having the player choose between the two with different benefits.  Earlier alphas incorporated that, but the results were a bit mixed, leaving the current gamestate without that mechanic.  My take is that there should be choices provided that they are meaningful ones and play to different possibilities during the timeframe in which they were represented.  With Rome it might be a matter of trying to consider the demands of the plebeians over the senatorial elite.  Carthage might be a matter of relying on foreign mercenaries or locals for its military.  

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In DE* the Spartan Hoplite gets an "Olympic Champion" upgrade, max of 2, as body guards to the king. Supposedly 2 Olympic champions would flank the king at the front right of the Spartan Phalanx. The Olympic Champions get laurel wreaths on their helmets and the Dodona pattern on their shield. They get extra health and attack, making them an Uber champion, but not quite heroes, similar to the "Silver Shields" upgrade for Macedonian Hypaspists in DE*.

 

 

*I say this a lot because most things I would suggest I would have already put into my mod, so the mod becomes an easy example in discussions like these. If inclined, folks can go straight to the mod and test out exactly what I am suggesting. 

Edited by wowgetoffyourcellphone
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11 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

*I say this a lot because most things I would suggest I would have already put into my mod, so the mod becomes an easy example in discussions like these. If inclined, folks can go straight to the mod and test out exactly what I am suggesting. 

Your mod is the first thing I want to try out when testing 0 A.D. in practice again. Unfortunately if I try something new, I do it thoroughly, and right now I see too many conflicts with my time allocation. I think if you can upgrade only 2 champs, they should receive a special bonus besides plain stats and visuals. E.g. inspiration or fear auras etc. Otherwise they will just survive with the hero and fight a bit longer than the rest in case of a lost battle (similar to Agis who is quite useless). These Olympic champions / bodyguards would be tier III champions in my systems, tier I being Spartiate and tier II being Hippeis.

11 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

My take is that there should be choices provided that they are meaningful ones and play to different possibilities during the timeframe in which they were represented.  With Rome it might be a matter of trying to consider the demands of the plebeians over the senatorial elite.  Carthage might be a matter of relying on foreign mercenaries or locals for its military.  

I agree with impactful choices. Probably have one choice for every phase advance (and a bonus choice when finishing a wonder) which potentially affects multiple units and/or technologies.

Edited by Palaxin
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