DevDiary 4 - Invasion
Hello friends, and welcome to the fourth DevDiary of the “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign” DevDiaries! Today we start talking about the military aspect of the game, covering the invasion process, which includes battles, occupations, and assimilation. Though there are different strategies that players can explore to defend and broaden their empires, wars are almost inevitable, and they are undoubtedly the most straightforward expansion method as well. However, victory is not always easy to accomplish, as you will soon see.
Let’s first sidetrack a bit and take a quick look at the territorial structure of the world in KoH2:S. As in the first game, the world is divided into roughly 300 provinces, which vary greatly in size, settlement types and count, natural resources, geographical features and more. Each province is centralized around a single town, representing the province’s seat of power. Ownership over the town equals ownership over the entire province, including all their settlements, so, regarding control, it is all or nothing. There is one interesting exception of this rule in KoH2:S – Keeps can be controlled separately from the provinces, which reduces the overall defensive capabilities of the province and provides some attrition damage against the enemies of a keeps’ occupier (including armies of the province’s owner).
In a future DevDiary, we will take a closer look at the provinces, settlements and towns from an economy perspective, but for now, let’s leave it there.
Back on overtaking an enemy town and thus – a province. Conquering a town requires good preparation and a strong army. It always starts with a siege. Sieges are long, with different ways in which the defenses can crack. One primary factor is based on the defender’s resilience. Another major factor is how strong and experienced the enemy troops and marshal are at siege warfare. You also take into account many elements of the town itself: is the town well-guarded? Are their strong walls? How long will the food supplies last? Starving and hopeless, the defending armies can be driven into a desperate attempt to break the siege or forced into surrendering. Once the defenders are lured in a break siege battle or the attackers start a full-fledged assault (costly action while the defenses stay strong), things develop quickly.
If the attackers win, the province is now occupied. They now have control, but not yet ownership. In this specific state, they cannot substantially benefit from the province, but neither can the owner – all constructions, production, trade, army training and otherwise are put on hold. The occupier controls the military facilities, though, and benefits from the fortifications. They can visit the town with an army and deploy garrison troops. These are often dark times for the population – there is no civil government, the stability drops, there is a high chance of migration, rebellions and such.
Note the stripes in the image above. The world view in KoH2:S is a beautiful miniature and we want it to stay that way, but it's easy to lose perspective over the political situation. As in the old game, we’re adding advanced political view UIs with different modes, filters, etc., which provide plenty of information to the player. However, we are also working on quick, easy, and clear ways for players to see what’s most important in the world at a glance, without needing to switch views. So, we’re adding additional layers of information in the world view itself, which players can toggle on/off with the press of a button or see while a hotkey is held – whichever they prefer. In the example above, we can see that the town of Barcelona is owned by Aragon but controlled by enemies of the player: the province of Catalonia is occupied.
Once occupied, the original owner and their allies can attempt to drive back the invaders and restore control of the province. If the population hasn’t lost its loyalty, inevitably some of the people will rise up and help in the battles for liberation, forming militia squads. Loyal rebel armies can also arise. If a kingdom friendly to the owner faction performs a successful counter-attack, the owner regains control and everything starts returning to normal. Restoration of stability does take some time, since the population is usually quite agitated at this point, to say the least.
The occupier, on the other side, has several different methods to take full control of the province and become the new owner. If all the initial owner’s territories are occupied, the occupier can forcefully annex the lands they control. This is easier if they solely control the defeated kingdom, and more complicated if there are multiple kingdoms involved in the occupation – it is a bit unpredictable how the separation of the kingdom’s territories will go if the spoils are divided among multiple parties. Even if the owner kingdom is not completely occupied, a peace treaty can lead to exchange of some lands as well.
While a war is going on, an individual province can be annexed in several different ways as well. Some of these options are more forceful than others, but all require the time and attention of a trusted Royal Court knight. These methods shouldn’t be used haphazardly, however, as they all have their cost and some may have various severe repercussions, not the least of which is being “frowned upon” by other kingdoms. There is risk, as being too ruthless could have the world start viewing you as “The mad king who must to be stopped”.
Even gaining full control and ownership of a province is not the end. Yes, at this point order is restored and with it economy, development and army training, but culture, religion and loyalty of the population are key factors for the stability of the province. If a kingdom cares too little for these factors and expands quickly and recklessly, tension within the kingdom’s borders can rise and chaos may follow. It takes time and proper measures to reduce the tension, possibly converting the local religion and culture and in the end – gain the loyalty of the population to assimilate them properly. Only then can the province be fully considered as a stable, fully functional part of the kingdom.
In the end, it takes a good strategist to build an empire. Poor decisions can cause kingdoms to crumble from the inside, so wise actions are needed when problems arise. Whether players choose to tackle problems by gaining the sympathy of their subjects or by crushing any disobedience with an iron fist, it is completely up to them to forge their people’s future.
In comparison to KoH:1, we are working hard to enable even more playstyles to bring out additional strategies when players start Invasions. However, we want to preserve the aggressive conquest playstyle too – yes, there will be different obstacles to overcome compared to expanding slowly – but it will still be a valid strategy for those who prefer it. If you want to organize a military force that makes the Old World tremble, and disregard what the other kingdoms like and find “civilized,” you certainly can!
We will talk more on this topic in our DevStream on Thursday, March 12th, @ 3:00 PM GMT / 11:00 AM EST. 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.
We really want to hear your thoughts, as Invasions are a defining element of the core gameplay loop and we are still iterating here. Jump right into the discussion and share your thoughts in this thread, or join our Facebook and Discord channels and talk there too. Would you rather try to make a rapid expansion, overwhelming your enemies and dealing with the population uproar later on, or slowly and steadily acquire new territories, ensuring the stability of your lands before taking new ones? Would you rely on cultural and religious influence to convert your new subjects, or show that any resistance against the crown will not be tolerated? Would you like more depth in the process of conquering territories, or do you find everything besides maintaining a strong army and crushing your enemies in battle more of a boring and tedious activity? Your feedback is critically important. You never know what comments may help us build the best KoH2:S Invasion feature set we can!
Next time we will take a deeper look on the pawns of war – Marshals and Armies. Until then, we bid thee farewell. Go forth and conquer!
By THQN Brad
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