Mount and Blade General:

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[up]I haven't noticed, but I might just not have put two and two together. I do see Cav dismounting, but that's mostly when I set them behind the infantry or archers, and they have trouble getting to their spot. Unless you're watching them do it, I'd say they're hitting trees, getting stuck, and dismounting to walk around.

[up][up]Haven't heard about that one yet, but it does bode well for small scale companies, if their work is being followed.
Swadian knights are pure evil. They are effectively walking trucks on the battlefield.
Trucks? Maybe tanks, but trucks?

The big thing with M&B is that you really can't look at Native (the game you get when you install it) and say, "This is it!" The mods are integral to the whole thing. Just off my head, looking at the expansion, I can firmly say that the wedding came from the Wedding Dance mod, the upgraded organization came from several mods, especially the WW2 China one, and the physics changes surely had inspiration from others tinkering with the original's base game.

Really, if you want a total sum of the game, you have to play the mods and see what the engine can be made to do. That's been the point all along, it's why the opening menu has a dropdown box with the word Native in it. All that other space is for fanwork. Taleworlds itself wouldn't have made it this far without fans being wiling to take up the work too. They released the game as a Beta and "finished" it with the money they got from people buying the beta.
I have been having too much damn fun just running around and building my own army in the native version to get mods. I may consider getting some of the smaller enhancements mods in the future. Ones that improve tactical capabilities.
Pre-battle Orders is a good one. Forgot the name for it, if that's not it. There's also Diplomacy Mod, which adds truces and trade agreements and the like to the factions.

There's also Freelancer, which allows the player to enlist in another Lord's army and fight as one of his soldiers instead of having to lead armies of your own.
56 MadassAlex8th May 2012 09:13:17 AM from the Middle Ages.
I am vexed!
I sorta kinda agree with the mods things, but I also think everyone's first foray into M&B should be unmodded. As someone with an interest in game design, vanilla has taught me one hell of a lot.

I mean, look at it this way:

There's no plot. No large quest arcs. No guidance. The dialogue is nothing to write home about. The graphics were long out of date when the game was released and are ancient at this point. We get a tutorial that teaches us basic combat. There's no guidance when levelling up. No guidance when it comes to picking gear, either, unless you know enough about medieval history make a call on what you should arm yourself with. Battles are punishing if you don't know what you're doing, and a player who doesn't get some additional hands first thing is liable to be mobbed by half a dozen marauding loonies.

By all accounts, M&B vanilla should be an awful game — in theory. Tale Worlds really hit on something fundamental in terms of game design when they made M&B, because the whole game is based on two pillars:

  • The theme;
  • The system.

It's a game based on medieval battlefields of roughly the 12th-13th centuries with a lot of options, versatility and finely-tuned core gameplay. It has no bells, no whistles, nothing that would theoretically make a game stand out in the current market. Where the game shines is in the quality of its fundamentals, and what the game proves is that players will get a lot of enjoyment out of a game that is narratively unfocused and technologically outdated if the core system is engaging enough in terms of manipulation. M&B has what game designers call "emergent complexity", which is essentially when a simple system meets great versatility — think chess. Emergent complexity is one of those Holy Grail design elements, because games that have it and achieve reasonable success are likely to be played year after year. It's the difference between The Force Unleashed and Jedi Academy; the former is highly-polished and impressive in its Force-fuelled violence, but it doesn't even begin to touch the combined versatility and ease of use of the latter's core gameplay.

This is why I play M&B without mods — it just has so much more to teach in its rawest form.
57 ch00beh8th May 2012 09:57:13 AM from Who Knows Where
I'm playing modless for now since this is effectively my first time. I will probably start injecting tons of stuff into it once I reach late-mid game and need more complex shenanigans, but for now, everything that's currently there is far more than what I'm taking advantage of still.

Also, there's one other thing to think about with M&B's popularity in that it satisfies an untapped niche (that is, RPG/RTS hybrid—I really wanted to make one of these a couple years ago, but I may end up just looking at what my options are for modding if I ever decide to take up that project again), and as you explained Alex, it satisfies it extremely well.

I'd also say that the lack of hand-holding is a plus. Chris DeLeon did an analysis of why Minecraft works, and one of the things that I totally agree with is the fact that the lack of tutorial basically means a tighter knit community.

Reading his article again, really, a lot of the stuff he says about Minecraft also applies here. Shitty graphics, at some point, become retro and charming, and we stop caring about looks because that's not what we're here for (I'd even go so far as to say the shitty graphics are part of the charm). There's a very heavy gambling addiction what with all the random mobs and calls to arms. If you lose your army in a bad throw of the dice, then your play time is suddenly extended because you feel the need to retrain your army.

Anyway, if there's one thing that I've theorized that's been pretty much true about game design in like all cases I've looked at, is that gameplay is number one, graphics are number two, and everything else is tertiary. Good gameplay keeps people coming back for more because they are having fun. Good graphics are only number two because they're used for grabbing attention, kind of like the cover of a book, but after a while, unless the game has nothing but ridiculous vistas (like Skyrim), fancy graphics mean nothing. More important than pushing pixels, though, is having aesthetic harmony—and I think Warband hits that perfectly despite having outdated graphics. Writing/sound/etc are all very important, but only in the sense that if they're flat out terrible, they'll break the experience. If they're amazing, they'll help boost the experience, but only if the gameplay keeps the player enticed and therefore willing to experience the writing/sound/etc.
"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

The gameplay IS fun. It's what's held me playing M&B for the past two years. It's also fine to ignore the mods and wait for updates and new games to fill in the problem areas. You just gain a lot from the mods, which is why I harp on about them so much. Reading the forums on development gives you insight into how to work with the system, and its limitations.
59 MadassAlex8th May 2012 11:36:43 AM from the Middle Ages.
I am vexed!
Anyway, if there's one thing that I've theorized that's been pretty much true about game design in like all cases I've looked at, is that gameplay is number one, graphics are number two, and everything else is tertiary.

It's interesting you mention Skyrim as an exception, because the core gameplay is very shallow. Whereas the much hated/loved Call of Duty games are extremely solid in terms of core design and are looked down upon by certain sects of gamers because some negative impacts on the industry, Skyrim has very little going for it in terms of core gameplay. In fact, I was disappointed that Oblivion's mechanics weren't really expanded in any meaningful way given how easy it would be for a huge studio like Bethesda to put the resources into a more sophisticated (but not necessarily more complex) system.

I also agree with your point about aesthetics; a game like Wind Waker doesn't really age graphically because of its abstract style and how well it all comes together. A lot of old 2D games, especially on the SNES, still look really pretty today because of the emphasis on aesthetics over graphics due to the limitations. This is a part of the reason I believe really large, expansive games can be made by indie studios as long as they're not going to AAA graphical quality — but just a handful of good guys on concept art, modelling, skinning and animation can have AAA quality aesthetics. It's skill over production value.

That said, something like M&B works better with more realism, and realistic depictions will always require high-quality graphics to get the most out of a game. I think that's the one flaw with the approach, despite the fact that an indie context allowed the developers to make such a game in the first place. Something like a fairy tale-esque fantasy works so brilliantly in an indie context because the abstraction allows for a massive focus on aesthetics over pure graphical quality, but M&B is stuck in trying to depict things that are real in a grimy, bloody context.
60 ch00beh8th May 2012 11:37:47 AM from Who Knows Where
^^Oh don't get me wrong; I love mods. It's why I love Bethesda games, and a long long time ago, I used to be huge in the Escape Velocity modding community. The thing is, I still haven't scratched the surface of the vanilla game, so it'd be kind of a waste to start modding when I don't even know what my needs are.

^I'd actually argue that in terms of gameplay, added realism would be bad because you'd be wasting cycles on pushing pixels on each unit instead of pushing more units onto the field. But yeah, since the game is so grounded, it would benefit from having a more realistic look given an infinitely powerful computer.

Also, I'd say that Co D is very successful due to enticing gameplay, but the main reason it's looked down upon is because it's stagnated. Not very much envelope pushing beyond graphics.

Also also, I'd say the main allure of Skyrim is still gameplay—not in terms of combat, but just in terms of free roaming and exploration. Remember, there are more ways to play a game than just killing things!

edited 8th May '12 11:43:19 AM by ch00beh

"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

61 MadassAlex8th May 2012 12:20:44 PM from the Middle Ages.
I am vexed!
There certainly are, but Skyrim's gameplay is focused mostly on three factors:

  • Direct combat.
  • Stealth — mostly so you can enter a form of combat where you are attacking an adversary but they are not attacking you.
  • Magic — usually to support stealth, summon an ally, prevent or repair damage to yourself, buff your damage or just outright immolate your adversaries.

There's stuff like smithing, enchanting and allegedly diplomatics, but most of the time not spent exploring is spent hacking, sneaking and blasting your way into, past or through nasty gribbly things. None of these core aspects are explored in much depth, though. For instance, the combat doesn't have the sense of placement or timing of something like Dark Souls, plus there's no evasion key and the game slows your movement speed while attacking or blocking, actively funnelling the player into style of combat that's entire static. Dungeon designs don't really support the kind of stealth that isn't used for hitting people with nasty objects. Magic is point-and-click, with the standard MP draining effect on the player for unleashing a spell.

There's a lot to see and experience in Skyrim, but not necessarily a lot to do — once you've fought one Draugr, you've fought 'em all, you know? Same with dragons and other enemies. And the game punishes you for switching up your gameplay style, since the most challenging enemies scale with you and an unfocused set of skills will ensure that they're much more powerful.

Bethesda went all-out with content but didn't seem to pay much attention to any particular aspect of it. For instance, the civil war battles are pretty boring because they're all very similar and don't really seem to have any significance attached to them. Well, the Whiterun one was pretty cool, admittedly, but that's just about the only one I found particularly gripping — the rest were just going through the motions. And that's my biggest issue with Skyrim. It's full of great adventures, both in terms of those provided by the developers, and the ones that self-generate by a combination of player agency and circumstance, but the core gameplay doesn't support them as it potentially could. What if combat was more fine-tuned and encouraged more mobility? What if dungeons were designed so that stealthy characters could trick their way through trouble? What if magic was based on some other system than the pure MP-cost-for-given-spell thing?

Much like Oblivion, one dungeon is essentially like another, but this time it has less to do with map designs. It's just down to the fact that every engagement is the same for a given character build. There's no other game that provides the spectacle of Skyrim, nor the complete sense of agency or variety — but there are a lot that provide better core mechanics and gameplay. The Witcher 2, Dark Souls, M&B — all examples of fantasy/historical games based on many of the same core concepts with much superior execution.
Anyways quick random question: What character builds are good in general and what backgrounds are useful?
I haven't tried a lot, but I do know that if you choose a female character and pick "Lady in waiting" as an option, you'll start with a really fast horse.
I couldn't think of anything to put here, so have this.
The urge to put points into INT every level is just too high. Getting extra skill points to spend? Heck yes.
Indeed, for me it's pretty hard not to do that.
I couldn't think of anything to put here, so have this.
66 MadassAlex8th May 2012 12:35:54 PM from the Middle Ages.
I am vexed!
What character builds are good in general and what backgrounds are useful?

When it comes to character builds, it up to you what you want the character to be good at. There is no catch-all build, so the first thing is to decide on a focus. That said, a balanced character can still be very successful, but you'll have to milk every aspect of that.

For instance, a good combat character doesn't necessarily have a whole lot of strength — more than 12 is pretty much unnecessary, and you would only go that high if you felt it were really important to have that damage dealing/resistance ability. Instead, you'll want high dexterity for Weapons Master, Horsemanship and Athletics. High charisma is good if you want to boost your army size at a faster rate, take more prisoners, be good at trade and all that kind of stuff, but I find the real meat is in intelligence; this allows you good access to Tracking, Engineering and medical skills.

Whatever your build, though, ensure that you progress your sidekick characters in a way that covers your weaknesses (within reason). For instance, if you're combat-based, then having another one or two combat-based sidekicks is acceptable, but you'll also want someone who covers your weaknesses in other areas.

Personally, my favourite build has high dexterity and intelligent with moderate strength and charisma. This kind of character fights and supports their own army well.

edited 8th May '12 12:36:55 PM by MadassAlex

67 ch00beh8th May 2012 12:39:49 PM from Who Knows Where
I pretty much agree with that assessment.

Also, regarding character builds, just a warning that female characters get gimped on land ownership if they go the vassal route. Apparently you need an exorbitantly high renown for a king to consider you worthy of land or something. Beyond that, I don't know much about how the character creator works. The character system in general is just ridiculously bloated and obtuse, so I end up just putting points in things and hoping for the best, then end up just pumping charisma so I can make up for all my poor decisions with a gigantic army.

In other news, instead of working, I'm thinking of how best to take over the world. I've been working for the Rhodoks as a mercenary in their campaigns against the Swadians and the Sarranids. It's been push and pull with them as they lost a couple castles to the Sarranids, but they did manage to take Suno, so that's pretty cool. Otherwise I've been a pretty bad merc because the marshalls are all like "yo, we respect you, so you don't have to follow the party like dog" and I end up doing my own thing for too long and fail that.

Anyway, it looks like the Swadians are losing a ton of ground since they're at war with everyone. They've also lost Dhirim to the Kerghits, but they did take Tihr, so I guess there's that. So what I'm thinking is that once I'm done with my next month of mercenary-ness, I take up arms for Lady what's her face and take out the weakened kingdom for her. Then possibly merc over to another kingdom or claimant and destroy Swadia completely, after which I can start carving out my own kingdom from the northern peninsula.

I suppose I should probably start shmoozing over the norther lords.
"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

68 CorrTerek8th May 2012 03:09:38 PM from The Bland Line
The Permanently Confused
I'm still trying to get into the combat of the demo. The original Mount and Blade demo didn't appeal to me, but Warbound was much more interesting. I have yet to have an evenly matched engagement that ended in my favor.

[up]The number of troops you have matters little past a certain point. The Level of the troops and your skills as a commander matter greatly.
70 ch00beh8th May 2012 03:15:25 PM from Who Knows Where
Shield wall of huskarls. Game over.
"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

71 CorrTerek8th May 2012 03:43:09 PM from The Bland Line
The Permanently Confused
[up][up]Well yes, that's what I was saying. Winning with a numerical advantage is easy.

When building a character, keep this in mind: The only party skills that Companions can't apply to the group are Leadership, Prisoner Management, and Inventory Management. Every other party skill can be outsourced without losing anything. So it really does pay to have your leader build up charisma, if for nothing more than army size and prisoner-taking.

Leadership's also good for one other point: wage reduction. For a leader with full points in Leadership, an army costs half as much as a leader with none would be paying in upkeep. Add in the half-off effect of garrisoning and suddenly you can cut costs down to a quarter, if you have a castle or town to store troops in.

Sure, you could go intelligence for all the nifty support skills, but you could also go for army size, morale boosts, and wage reduction, and let your general staff do what a general staff is supposed to do. The most intelligence a player should need is 12 to 15, for the 4 to 5 points into Inventory Management so you can carry more food with you while still being able to loot the battlefield for some extra coin.

I generally go 9 Strength, for the 50 hitpoints you can get from 9 Strength and 3 Iron Flesh. I'll get my agility and intelligence to the nearest multiple of three, and top up those related skills, then I'll pump Charisma until I top out my leadership points, and invest anything extra into intelligence for the trainer boost.

Don't be shy about trainer, that skill stacks for every character who has it. So if your Companions are netting extra skill points they don't need for their specialization, bump them into trainer. You can always roleplay it as them training the soldiers in their specialization, giving lessons on Pathfinding to cavalry scouts, medical skill to the odd infantryman who has an interest. Anything like that.
73 ch00beh9th May 2012 03:48:18 PM from Who Knows Where
Anyone have any tips for fighting against two or more opponents?

Or I guess just fighting in general when you don't have the horse advantage. The farthest I've figured out is that a right-to-left attack comes out extremely quick and can be followed up by a thrust that will usually take out the target.
"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Two to one advantage? Back pedal and parry.
75 CorrTerek9th May 2012 06:17:00 PM from The Bland Line
The Permanently Confused
How does one parry again?

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