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  • 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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?

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    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!


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    THQN Brad


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    Hello there, Brad, Alex, Georgi and the rest,

    I wanted to wish you good luck and pleasant work! You’re doing great! I must say that everything in this devdiary looks awesome and I'm sure that Multiplayer will make this game a trailblazer among the rest. I'm sure that balancing has been indeed a burden that will continue to develop even after launch. After all, multiplayer is what it is and needs its attention to detail. We'll be happy to give you regular feedback and balance suggestions.

    My question is quick – should we expect delays for 2022?

    I’m asking this earlier on, to avoid any unnecessary disappointment among the community. (in case there is any)

    Thank you in advance!

     

    Kind Regards!

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    Hi guys, exciting to see the options for multiplayer.

    I see you ignored discussing in-depth on the multiplayer diplomacy and espionage, can you elaborate into these topics, what differences do they have compared to single player are they completely different or do they share very similar mechanics? 

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    1) So the game takes one player as a host and the others are clients. No dedicated servers to host games? If a player is a host, what prevents host cheating with the game state?

    2) 6 human players on a full map? So absolute majority of the kingdoms are AI. In fact it is potentially very hard to even get to another player for a long time depending on starting locations. Or do you have smaller size maps for multiplayer?

    3) Way too many options and game modes, way to many. People most of the time will setup a game in way most other people won't like, this option that option. It would be hard to search for a game setup you like. For new players it will be hard to understand what rules and goals are in a particular game because few games you might have played before are too different. Most likely most of these modes and options are not going to be used.

    4) It says "saving multiplayer games", are you implying that a multiplayer game with given players can be stopped, saved and continued later at some other time? If so, how do you even see this happening in real life where most of the people will never be able to go to a saved game at the same time? Can you continue a saved game if 1 out of 6 players are not present? How about 3 out of 6 missing? If I was in the first game, it was saved, and then loaded and continued to another hour can I join to this game again in a middle? Who controls a saved game? I guess Host player? What if host is no longer present, 5 of other players cannot continue the game we have saved anymore?

    5) I find it very questionable to offer a multiplayer game called "knights of honor" with so little direct war conflict between human players. Most of the stuff described in this blog sounds like "merchants of honor" with gold, or resources or economy winning conditions. Even "most provinces" is obviously way more pve competition rather than a pvp conflict considering amount of AI kingdoms. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Edited by William Blake
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    A nice read as always. I can't really add much to the conversation but I can at least say how I will play the game 99% of the time. No time limit, full sandbox mode without any intermediate targets, always free for all and I will never play with randoms but with family members and friends.

    I'm also really happy to read how much time went into finetuning and technically improving the multiplayer-expierience. As a fellow programmer who worked on some network code for my company some years ago I can only imagine how complex it can get to have 6 players smoothly connected and synced all the time. I actually expected you to support 4 players maximum but thats a nice surprise. And I'd like to double-down on Sh0ppo's question, since you did not mention, how you will resolve waiting times.

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    It may be just me, but I don't like victory conditions. I would imagine to be more like relaxing play with another people together for fun, than a race to achieve something first, before the other players. 

    1 hour ago, William Blake said:

    2) 6 human players on a full map? So absolute majority of the kingdoms are AI. In fact it is potentially very hard to even get to another player for a long time depending on starting locations. Or do you have smaller size maps for multiplayer?

    This can be very easily solved with a mod, designed with multiplayer in mind, or just smaller map where players are closer to each other like England, Balkans etc. I think the smaller the map is the better experience will have for multi. I don't think it will be much fun to play with two people on the entire euro map - there will be no much difference than single player. On the other hand it will be hard to organize 6 people to play together considering that is a more or less a commitment and will require all participants to synchronize their schedules. 

     

    I added more thoughts here a few months ago if someone wants to read

     

     

    PS. Very excited for next dev diaries.

    Cheers!

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    Just now, BC Knight said:

    This can be very easily solved with a mod, designed with multiplayer in mind, or just smaller map where players are closer to each other like England, Balkans etc. I think the smaller the map is the better experience will have for multi. I don't think it will be much fun to play with two people on the entire euro map - there will be no much difference than single player.

    If mods are allowed in multiplayer it would be a huge problem. Imagine host player with a mod which changes stats and all other people without.

    So far we heard nothing about any other maps, but full Europe. The blog never mentioned a map selection of variable map sizes to be an option.

     

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    2 minutes ago, William Blake said:

    Imagine host player with a mod which changes stats and all other people without

    well, there should be some trust in people that you play with, I wouldn't play with someone who is cheating lol

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    13 minutes ago, William Blake said:

    f mods are allowed in multiplayer it would be a huge problem. Imagine host player with a mod which changes stats and all other people without.

    There are technical solutions to that, like hashes for every differnet mod of the game. (Crusader Kings does it and its industry staandard to differentiate modified games)

    13 minutes ago, William Blake said:

    So far we heard nothing about any other maps, but full Europe. The blog never mentioned a map selection of variable map sizes to be an option.

    Game will most certainly will only have 1 map, europe, as did the first game. Id expect to be able to see in multiplayer lobbys if someone has a game open with a different mod.

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    To be honest, I will play this game only as singleplayer. I like multiplayer games, but multiplayer in strategy games is not my cup of tea.

    I like interacting with the game world and shaping it according to my wishes.

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    9 hours ago, BC Knight said:

    This can be very easily solved with a mod, designed with multiplayer in mind, or just smaller map where players are closer to each other like England, Balkans etc. I think the smaller the map is the better experience will have for multi.

    This is what i would like to be part of the game not a mod, free for all no time limit or victory conditions on a smaller map, like England. Balkans, Iberian Peninsula, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany and so on.

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    I am super excited for multiplayer!!!! I am buying 3 copies for myself and friends already to play when released.

    I would love for availability of smaller maps that way games can be played regular and still be shorter. I hope for more player available in future like up to 16? Maybe custom maps allowed?  I like the idea of having saved games as apossibility. Hmm I'll think of some good questions as this is the whole reason I'm looking forward to the game.

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    Would love to see the option for players to join partway through the game and take over an AI. Whether it's a random AI or a vote or something, and also option to toggle on and off of people joining midway through

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