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Issues with Royal Court design

William Blake

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Based on the blog and your twitch stream discussion, it is quite clear to me that the design for the Royal Court (RC for short) took a wrong turn, much like the original game. Here is why:


Given Mechanics:


1) RC is 8 slots plus a king

2) 5 classes: Marshal, Merchants, Diplomats, Spies, Clerics

3) “Usual” mechanics from the first game – capture by enemy, enemy spy in your RC, Pope/Patriarch, dying of old age and so on.




1) You will have to have at least 2 marshals in RC (very hard to have just marshal and the king for any sizable kingdom)


2) 8 minus 2 or 3 marshals = 6 or 5 slots left for Merchants, Diplomats, Spies, Clerics


3) If you take at least one of each it means that you can’t have more than 2 of these together at the same RC. So you choices to apply effects of merchants, diplomats, spies and clerics are in fact “where to put my ONE or TWO”, which is piratically like no choices at all mid to end game (there will be obvious one best trade choice, one best enemy to spy against or one most appropriate province to convert religion). There is in fact NO CHOICE because there are so few at hand and so obviously different outcomes of their actions while the world around you so huge.


4) With enemy capturing your marshals and infiltrating you RC with spies you will have even few active slots in RC so you won’t even have all the classes at hand at all.


5) This means at once a situation arises requiring a specific action of a specific class you most likely won’t have that class available in RC unless they are sitting idle waiting for an opportunity. If situation requires multiple RC members of the same class to deal with it you most likely won’t be able to even have slots available in RC to fit them all.


Result: this mechanics of RC is very limiting mid to end game, very limiting at application non marshals classes and will create dull repetitive gameplay when you assign you one merchant, one cleric one spy and a diplomat and there is nothing else for you to do with them.



Suggested changes:

If you want to keep RC as 8 slots on same level with most of the mechanics of each class unchanged, I suggest the following:


1) Remove classes. Every member of the RC gains access to BASIC action of EACH class by default. There is no reason a noble man can’t lead a prayer, can’t be send to a foreign land to negotiate, can’t lead an army action or spy at the same time. These are the best most noble and capable men of the country.


2) Everything should come from a skill tree such that you can level your RC members either into dedicated or in a broad specialization.


3) Any advanced actions like “become a Pope” and so on should just require a skill at a certain level. Why should it matter if you started as a marshal, then went to negotiate to another kingdom and then became a great man of faith.


Implications of these changes:


1) At any given point any interesting opportunity can be address with whoever you have available at the RC


2) Least used or boring classes (and there will be 2 out of 5 which are least useful no matter what) will not just disappear, but still be available for a player even if are not attractive enough to take a dedicated slot in RC


3) Any dramatic event – capture, revealed as a spy, death of old age which you can’t really control will not suddenly remove actions of this specific class from a player. Loosing your only cleric during conversion is basically instant “reload saved game” because you don’t have anyone possibly to replace him. Loosing 1 of 8 potentially available members of RC to fix an issue right away is way more interesting proposition.


4) Amount of skills needed to make ONE unified skill tree for RC members is way less than trying to create separate skill trees for 5 different classes. Trying to stretch skills for a merchant to even potentially match skills of a marshal is a pointless waste of effort. Yet even if you do invent a lot of skills for spies and merchants and clerics they mostly will not be used just because a player will have just a single of any characters of this class at hand.


5) No classes, single skill tree has very good replaying value. You don’t just level your marshals in a certain way and your clerics in a certain way every time you replay the game, because you don’t really know if this will be a dedicated marshal or a dedicated cleric or a merchant even if you need one now. With fixed classes if you take any of the least used classes (not marshals basically) you already set your mind on what they will do, so no real choices in the character progression over and over again.



There are a lot of other possibilities to advance and tweak this approach, but I’d rather keep it short, or well... shorter for now.




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I have to disagree with what you said. While being part of the community in the last 15 years there were always two major complains about the first installment. First, the game is way to easy, make it harder. And second, the court is way to small make it bigger.

I always thought it is strange because one thing tried to fix the other. Also, gameplay-wise it is way more fun to control a small group of armys on the battlefield. Where would the limit end? If we would be able to create, say 20 armys, it would be one big mess. The game wouldn't be fun anymore but just tedious to manage.

Also, many of the improvements in the 3rd dev-diary did act upon the implications you mentioned. All member of the royal court can now have armys, so you can at all times have up to 9 armys on the map (which in my opinion is too much, especially for smaller realms). Only if the member is a marshall, his army can be bigger. So you can have your diplomats and spies and merchants with small armys defend the realm from lower threats (e.g. rebels) while the marshalls gos into battle with the best army.

So, i think we will see games having 1 king, 2-4 marshalls (big army) and 3-5 others. Since they can have armies aswell, the can protect the realm behind the big city walls while the marshall will meet the enemies on the field. That should do great for the diversity of games.


For my part, I just hope that there is no spy-action that instantly lets your whole court revolt. But as far as I can read between the lines, they fixed that aswell by implementing a loyality-system so that only some of your men will turn into rebels, but we'll have to see.



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This is not an issue of many marshals. Or many armies for that matter.

It is an issue of too many classes apart from marshals. There is no point in creating Merchants and Diplomats and Spies as separate classes. They would be either way less useful than others and you will never take them or they would be too few to actually use them in any interesting way.

If you have just one merchant there is nothing to think about - select max profit trade and that's it. If you have just one cleric there is nothing to think about - there is just one job for him. If you have just one spy - there is very little for you to put him into. And if you have more than 2 merchants or 2 spies or 2 diplomats then you don't have others at all. What good a diplomat mechanics are if you can't fit them into you RC cause you like your 4 merchants better.

And no matter what you do, there will be LESS useful out of 5 classes, just like builders and farmers were in the original game.

If you want to limit number of armies, leave only marshals to lead armies, join Merchants, Diplomats and Spies into a single class and have Clerics as a 3rd class. But 8 slots with 5 different classes is very limiting idea. 5 skill trees is a very hard to make into an equal value for a player, so the least valuable and popular will be just waste of effort and game mechanics.

Edited by William Blake
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But having an answer to every problem/opportunity would be very boring, wouldn't it? Strategy games specificially are always about managing opportunities and risks. In Age of Empires, Civilization, Total War, whatever game, you name it, you always have to decide if you want to focus on building your economy or your army, you can't have everything.

I just think in KoH the Royal Court should be the thing that forces you to focus on a particular thing. If you have a lot of trading potential, like the kingdoms in the mediterrian had, you should probably have 2 merchants and a diplomat to get some trading agreements. Of course we can't tell exactly what options we will have since the skilltrees and actions aren't revealed yet, but I doubt the developers will repeat the mistake with the builders and farmers.



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Why I can't have marshal-monk like most historic knight orders were in Europe or in fact any Muslim hero like to be a warrior cleric instead of just a warlord?

Why cleric can't negotiate as a diplomat? Most appropriate in fact from a real life perspective. If I don't have a slot for a diplomat I don't have any diplomacy? If there is nothing to negotiate about as slot is wasted on an idle diplomat?

Why merchant can't spy? He is going to that foreign land anyway and its a perfect cover up too. If there is no trade worth a merchant price plus cost of a slot does that mean that I drop merchants all together from my gameplay?


Your choice would come from selection of the skills for a knight every time you level up. You can take a very focused path through skills or be more generic. Mix and match things differently every time. We already had this with builders and farmers - some classes just less useful no matter what you do. If they are less useful no one takes them and all their functionality vanishes from the game. Five slots for four "support" classes is way to little to have any variety mid to end game.

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I don't think that there is a historical person who did, in an honest way, land 2 different council spots on the same council, since the people giving advice to the king were pretty much always the best in their respective area. But I still think your idea is neat. Having the possibility of a skill tree branch out into a different field of skill but with a higher cost could be a lot of fun.

The developers already announced somewhere that modability is a big goal of theirs, so I'm convinced that modding of the existing skilltrees will be possible and we can implement such hybrid classes ourselves. This would certainly increase the flexibility without making everything overcomplicated and if the costs of diversifications are high enough, the game won't be too easy aswell.

I still firmly believe that increasing the size of the royal court would be a mistake since it would be hell to manage. I always preferred KoH over Crusader Kings 2 or Total War games because it was just a light, entertaining expierience with a very special flair.



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