DevDiary 19 - Multiplayer Part 1
Hello friends and welcome to the 19th DevDiary for “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign”! The time has finally come for us to talk about the multiplayer features in our game, and we can say that we’ve been waiting for this moment with a mounting anticipation ever since DevDiary 1. There we mentioned that “multiplayer” is one of the pillars of KoH2:S and indeed, it nearly doubled the game design and programming efforts, but we still think it is worth it.
Maybe you wonder why is it so much more difficult for such a game to support multiplayer. Well, the technical reasons are more straightforward – every simple logic must be well synchronized between the host and clients and split to request and responses. Permission levels and cheating protection are also important and there is really a lot of work on lobbies, connections and reconnections between players, chats, saving multiplayer games and so on. What is a bit less obvious is that many mechanics are way more difficult to be balanced and fun simultaneously in multiplayer and singleplayer modes – especially diplomacy, battles, espionage, but many others as well. Let us focus on the major questions first, though.
KoH2:S will be playable with up to 6 players in a game. That number might be increased later on, but for now, we find it suitable. All of the 3 popular variants of team formations are available – cooperative play, team games and free-for-all. When playing in teams, the players’ efforts and results towards a common goal are united and there are some additional benefits and rules, e.g. no force in the game can drive teammates into war, including espionage, pacts and others.
The second major setting is the game mode, which defines the victory condition. As these are very different between each other, they require vastly different strategies from the players in order to win.
For example, in “Peasants’ rush” the players (teams) are tasked with expanding their kingdoms to a selected size, so they have to find a way to make a rapid expansion and usually overtake their weakest neighbors, but also to defend their starting and newly taken lands. In “Greedy kings” the goal is collecting a large amount of gold as fast as possible, so here trading and economy are crucial, but waging war for that purpose is also a viable strategy. In “War for goods”, players have to find an efficient way to produce many different resources and thus they would be wise to carefully choose which territories provide the province features which they need to unlock and develop production chains. This mode requires especially good planning in team games, as long-term expansion, trading and development strategies for the kingdoms in a team must be well synchronized to avoid producing the same resources.
There are already a few other modes implemented, but we are still iterating and have yet to decide how many and which will be included. This is one of those things we can continue to work on even after the release of the game, too.
Beside modes, there are many other game settings available that are useful in shaping up the experience the way players like it, but also provide more variety. Some non-default settings can result in substantial differences in the gameplay rules, which players must take into consideration and adapt their strategies accordingly if they want to maximize their chances of success. As there are many such settings, we shall talk about them in part 2 of the Multiplayer DevDiaries. For now, let’s take a look just on those, which tie especially well with game modes.
Time limit is an option, that can be set in several ways – it can be strictly specified, it can be specified with some random (and hidden to the players) extended time, and it can be set to “generations”. One “generation” is counted when the last of the players’ kings dies and is replaced by a new one. So, this limit can vary greatly depending on how protective the players are towards their kings, as well as some other settings like aging speed and espionage restrictions.
The combination between game modes and time limit allows the players to setup their sessions the way they want – it is easy to configure a blitz game by defining low targets for the modes, e.g. only 10 resources produced for “War for goods” and a 1-hour limit to do it. Of course, if players want a long game, they can increase the target resources to 60 and not set any time limit at all. The balance between the goal and time limit defines how challenging the game shall be, of course.
Finally, for players that dislike games resulting in draws, there is an option to set one or two tiebreakers for when early end (usually time limit) triggers. Tiebreakers are set separately from victory condition, so they can be configured to “complement” it, or to be completely different. For example, in “War for goods” setting the first tiebreaker to be “number of unique goods” will make the players race towards that goal no matter what, but setting it as “most gold” or “most provinces” will allow some players to focus on completely different strategies if and when they assume no one would reach the main goal in time.
It is important for us to hear about the preferences of our most devoted audience – the people, that follow us here and in our other social channels throughout the development process – you. Do you prefer playing such games alone, or do you love the concept of playing them together with friends or allies and enemies unknown from all around the world? Are you more eager to join forces with other players and rule over the evil AI kingdoms, or are you looking forward to some merciless campaigns where you will face the unmatched cunningness and creativity that only real players can offer? Do you find the pressure of time as a fun element, or do you prefer to take your time and calmly make your way towards the final goal you’ve chosen?
If you have some cool ideas for game modes and victory conditions, or for some special settings that you think that would be important, it is now a great time to share them with us!
We’ll talk more about Multiplayer in our DevStream on Thursday, June 24th, @ 3:00 PM GMT / 11:00 AM EST and we’ll be happy if you can join in our conversation – we will surely mention more game modes, settings and details about them. The Twitch stream will be hosted on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic and we’ll be grabbing responses from this post as well as answering questions live during the stream.
Next time we will talk about Clerics and Christianity – since the religion topic is vast and Christianity, Islam and Paganism are very different in KoH2:S, we decided that it is simply impossible to talk about all of them in a single entry. Until then, we bid thee farewell. Go forth and conquer!