Master of Magic Sequel/Remake Wishlist

KittyGlitter
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Re: Master of Magic Sequel/Remake Wishlist

Post by KittyGlitter » Wed Apr 22, 2020 8:55 pm

Hi all, thanks for the suggestions thus far! It is good to see the love being poured out on this wonderful old game.


I have been a keen MoM player since its launch, and have been following Seravy's project with enthusiasm. I am a hobbyist board games designer, and I have some experience when it comes to updating mechanics in games.


I would like to add some suggestions that I think would make for an appropriate successor to this wonderful game, concerning the mechanics, primarily. As for aesthetics, I can hardly fault the spirit of the original game, and would not even mind a retro-looking 8/16-Bit inspired fantasy setup. My only suggestion here would be to steer clear of too-realistic or gritty aesthetics; the original's look and feel was almost campy at times, and didn't always take itself too seriously.


In the last few years, there have been some innovation in both traditional tabletop and electronic media in this genre, and I will try to highlight what I think would be a good fit for MoM; both to update it for a new audience, and to keep its original charm.


Looking at the game through the lens of the fantastic Caster of Magic mod in 2020, this is my takeaway impression:

Pros:
- Undiminished charm! This game just has a sense of fun about it. The colour scheme and music emphasize the whimsical nature beautifully. And, above all else, the use of magic that set it apart initially from its predecessors.
- Exploration of the ruins and nodes is exciting - varied enemies, varied treasure and varied approaches to solving problems.
- Dual worlds - Myrror and Arcanus. A great story line element, but also interesting how they link up mechanically and strategically, and the differences between them that can be exploited (e.g. moving troops towards an unsuspecting foe).
- Customizability of your wizard - one of the most rewarding elements of the game is trying out different starting strategies and seeing how they pan out over the game.
- Different races : each with its own flavour, but also unique abilities, units, and building trees.
- The five schools of magic (directly ported form MTG, including the concept of increasing rarity), and the different spells that add form and function to these different magical philosophies.
- The hero and equipment mini-game, which could be a central strategy feature of your game, or could just as easily be played as incidental.

Neutral:
- Square maps vs hexagons. The modern tendency seems to be heading towards employing hexagons, or even region-based control.
- Military Doom Stacks : somewhat curtailed with a maximum of nine figures. Modern tendencies in the Civ series of games have arguably lead to more dynamic tactical and strategic play vs the clash of titanic death stacks until one survives.

Cons:
- Cities offering no reasonable internal resistance aside from your garrison, and are way too easy to conquer or lose.
- No discernible territorial borders to speak of, aside from the limit of city proximity, and AI's flagrantly ignore pacts and alliances to push army stacks anywhere without repercussions.
- The unavoidable end game micromanagement seems especially bloated, and seems a feature of a bygone era.
- An under utilization of the oceans (and ignoring the skies above) as supplementary strategic arenas.


I would highly recommend considering the following game mechanics from Civilization 5, and especially from it's Vox Populi community mod:

Pros:
- Multiple Victory conditions. Essentially MoM gave us a Domination or Technology victory; it would be interesting to see other Victory conditions added akin to a Diplomatic/Economic/Culture/Religious victory, or even an optional Story line - based time condition that awards Victory on points at end game.
- Cities that have cultural boundaries, and cities that have inherent defensive fire and hit points to chew through before successfully subjugating them. The borders can be negotiated via marks of passage or the like, especially for Hero-led adventuring parties (more on this later during a board games discussion).
- The inclusion of neutral factions or city states that do not vie directly for victory, but can be interacted with in various ways, either by military subjugation, or trade, or mini quests to complete for various bonuses that cannot be otherwise obtained.
- The ability to play Tall vs Wide Empires, i.e. ways to make smaller number of cities viable vs sprawl fests. Civ V even made it feasible (with the right choices) to make a single city empire competitive. And of course all the shades of gray in between these extremes.
- Casting votes at an assembly - beyond a component of a Diplomatic victory condition, special projects or rules could be implemented. There could also be independent world-wide factions to kowtow to for related bonuses; e.g. a Hero's guild, an Artificer's Alliance or Assembly of Diviners and Seers - small bonuses for Diplomatic outmaneuvering.


Neutral:

- Hexagonal map and one unit per map hex: these could be functional, but would probably detract from the various interesting combined arms that people can muster in MoM.
- Leveling up of units give new upgrade paths vs flat stat bonuses: this might be worthwhile to consider, but the multiple enchantments already give a lot of depth to unit customization.
- Different units can have specialized functions, such as 'ranged' vs 'melee;' vs 'artillery' vs 'great people' vs 'trader' etc/ This could include mundane and summoned units; for instance, invisible units could have new scouting functionality, while Heroes on the field could still lead armies (like Great General or Admirals in Civ), or be put into governing posts in cities.
- Natural Wonders: points of interest on the map already exist in the form of the magical nodes and towers of sorcery; this might allow for more variety. Perhaps nodes or towers with different characteristics.
- World Wonders - thematically this would not make much sense in a game that is supposed to span years, not millennia. But perhaps some secret projects could be undertaken if the stars align, and perhaps tied to a story line driven victory condition that changes and has to be discovered in each play through.
- Espionage: again, I am not sure that this mechanic could be directly translated into a MoM setting, aside from economic/military sabotage or manipulating smaller factions outside of conventional diplomatic means.


Another excellent game that can be instructional is FFG's board game, RuneWars (2010), especially with regards to Heroes and how they interact with military deployments. Essentially, the phases of the board game turn was different for Heroes and Military deployments. While heroes were seen as representing small adventuring parties, suitable to completing quests which large deployments could not, they could also function as military leaders, giving a small bonus to the troops they lead. I would advocate for incorporating a similar design schema in MoM's successor. Not every quest objective would be completed with the storming of an old tower or ruin with tonnes of military forces; sometimes small bands of heroes would be suitable to retrieve artifacts, rescue a prisoner, spy on an opponent, or govern a local city. Additionally, they can act as the leader in a military deployment, granting unique tactical bonuses, whether force, positioning, privileged information gathering etc. The other aspect that might make them the interesting agents of fantasy is that it would be much easier for a band of adventurers to cross borders or get marks of passage from local authorities, making for an exciting mini-game beyond, and in addition to, the grand army strategizing.


Besides the heroes, there was some politicking in the game that could translate into something more applicable for our game-to-be than Civ V's involved political arena : at certain points in the game, there was a bidding war over influence of three main factions, and whoever retained temporary control over these factions had access to some delicious bonuses, from benefiting the most from random events to having adventurers and mercenaries flock to your banner.


I hope this has given you some new ideas or perspectives - the world of modern board games is a veritable gold mine of sophisticated mechanics that can be used in the 4X setting. I would love to hear if anyone else has come across mechanics in traditional table top games that would help make the transition of MoM successful to both a new and dedicated audience.

cicciopastic
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Re: Master of Magic Sequel/Remake Wishlist

Post by cicciopastic » Fri May 29, 2020 3:12 pm

Any news about a remake? Are u guys working on it or no hope?

Alnakar
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Re: Master of Magic Sequel/Remake Wishlist

Post by Alnakar » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:15 pm

tl;dr: Don't ruin the feel of the game, allow players enough customization options to be able to play the way we want, make big cities feel important, make large-scale battles feel different from dungeon battles, retired heroes should do stuff, and add some fail-forward mechanics to discourage save-load spamming.


More important than anything on my wish-list for a Master of Magic sequel is this: don't ruin the feel of the game. Even if it means ignoring everything else that I say, and most of what other people are saying, please don't ruin the feel of this game. The original game holds up shockingly well against modern games. It didn't worry about being perfectly balanced. It threw things at you, and gave you tons of options, and it was up to you to try to use the tools at your disposal to find a way of overcoming each obstacle. I still remember the first time I realized I could use web & crack's call to deal with flying units that I didn't stand a chance of bringing down otherwise. It was unbalanced as hell, but that's why so many of us loved it.

I've had a bunch of ideas for things that I would do if I were making a sequel over the years. Some of them are already in this thread, but I figure I'll just lay them all out anyway, to add my voice to the ones that have already been mentioned. Some of my ideas probably won't mesh well with the game Slitherine is building, even if they weren't bad to start with. That's fine. The most important thing is that they get the feel of the game right, and keep the game-play fun. Some of these ideas probably work better in my head than they would in play-testing, too. I'm not going to try to argue that what I'm laying out is the only way (or even the best way) to make a good sequel.


The most important real wish-list item for me is probably customization. I want to be able to customize different aspects of the difficulty, game rules, and victory conditions, so that we can play the game a bunch of different ways.

One of the reasons that I've been able to keep coming back to this game for nearly two decades now is that I can still start up a game and get a new experience every time. Sometimes I feel like playing a game where I don't have to worry so much about the standard 4X game-play, and I just want to run around with a band of heroes clearing dungeons and collecting loot. MoM let me do that, even though it wasn't entirely designed for it. Sometimes I wanted to march my armies across the map, and try to overpower the enemy wizards with brute force alone. MoM let me do that, too. Sometimes I wanted to turn up the difficulty and force myself to try to react to the things the game was throwing at me, knowing that I'd be forced to adapt on the fly. MoM mostly did that, and now CoM does that incredibly well.

I think it's possible to allow for all of these things in a sequel, if you allow for thorough customization of the rules and victory conditions. You only really need to worry about getting a few combinations more-or-less balanced. Beyond that, there's no real harm if a player wants to tailor the game rules to one winning play-style and get an easy victory. It's not that interesting, but it also doesn't hurt anybody to let people make the game unbalanced if they want to.

Victory modes should all be optional (minimum of 1 selected, or at least a stern warning message before you start a never-ending game):
  • Conquest - Conquer all other wizards (you may be thinking that making this optional is silly, but trust me, it's not the only way to play)
  • Diplomacy - Ally with all remaining wizards (conquest must be an option, for this to be enabled)
  • Spell of Mastery - Research and cast spell of mastery (the "tech" victory)
  • Dungeon Delving - This could be getting a McGuffin from a dungeon, or several McGuffins, or getting a McGuffin from one dungeon and bringing it to another one to destroy, or gathering several and then defeating a big bad monster. The exact details aren't critical here. It could be random, or there could be options, the important part is that it's a way for your band of heroes to save the world, and win the game.
Optional rules & settings (at least a few examples... the more customization, the better, in my opinion):
  • Node power - Set how powerful nodes will be, and allow a "random" option that will mean that you won't be sure how effective nodes are until you've melded with some.
  • Mineral density - How common special minerals are, and again, allow a "random" option that will mean that you don't know what to expect when you start exploring. You can do the same thing with other aspects of the map creation, as well.
  • Other Wizards can win Spell of Mastery victory - toggle to make the spell of mastery player-only
  • Other Wizards can raid dungeons - toggle to prevent AI from clearing dungeons
  • Other Wizards can win Dungeon Delving victory - toggle to make dungeon delving player-only
  • Monsters can turn cities into ruins & towers - toggle to allow wandering monsters to grow their territory through expansion.
  • Starting hero - Start the game with a customizable hero. Heroes are a large part of the game, so there should be an option to start with one. The customization is optional, of course. You could get to pick from 2-3 to start, or just get one randomly assigned. Regardless, there should be a way to start with a hero, in some game modes.
  • Max. Hero level - In a conquest game, it might not make sense to let your heroes get to the point where they're unstoppable.
  • Wandering monster frequency - Set how often you'll be attacked by marauding monsters.
  • Wandering monster difficulty - This should also adjust based on how far into the game you are, but overall you should be able to set how much of a challenge they'll pose. It should range all the way from basically a non-issue, to fully replacing the enemy wizards as the primary challenge in the game.
  • Dungeon monster difficulty - You should be able to set the difficulty of monsters in dungeons / nodes etc. separate from wandering monsters, or from the game difficulty slider in general. You could even separate nodes / ruins / caves / towers into their own options, if you really wanted to.
  • Other Wizards' AI aggression - How likely opponents are to declare war, and how aggressively they'll try to conquer your cities once they do.
  • Other Wizards' AI difficulty - Generally how effective the other wizards will be, whether it's achieved purely through AI, or by giving them other bonuses.
  • Max. city defenses - I'll get into city defenses in more detail down below, but I think a setting for the maximum effectiveness allowed would be warranted. Needing to put a bunch of effort into sieging a city may be great for some game modes, but for others it would just slow things down.
  • One combat per tile, per wizard's turn - A toggle to prevent ten waves of units from assaulting a tile on a single turn. This would put more emphasis on mounting one effective assault on an army / city, and give defenders time to react in between attacks. In some ways it's more realistic, but it also slows down conquest.
  • Lastly, there should be options to limit the effectiveness of some frustrating spells & abilities - Maybe an option for Crack's call to disable units for 5 turns instead of instantly killing them. Maybe an option for things like corruption / volcanoes reduce the effectiveness of the square to 1/2, instead of completely useless. Obviously these are dependent on exactly what spells and abilities end up in the final game.
Examples of game types:
  • Standard - You're playing the full game, and the game can throw anything at you. All victory modes are enabled. Heroes should have a relatively high level cap, but not so high that they're unstoppable in the end-game. The game-play should focus on utilizing everything at your disposal in order to fight off your opponents. Wandering monsters should be moderate to low, and dungeon monsters should match the overall difficulty of the opponents.
  • Castle Siege - The game-play should focus on building armies to siege cities. The AI should be more aggressive, with lower level cap on heroes, and the most defensible cities. The focus here is on conquest victory. Diplomacy / Spell of Mastery would probably be enabled, but be extremely difficult to achieve with the aggressive AI. The tougher city defenses and weaker hero caps will mean that you need to rely primarily on top-tier military units to siege large cities, with support from heroes and magic. The one combat per tile, per turn rule would be turned on, in this mode, to simulate drawn-out sieges of cities.
  • Onslaught - You're playing against the monsters in this mode, not the other wizards. You need to fight off hordes of wandering monsters and try to gather a group of heroes that can find & defeat the big bad in a dungeon (or whatever your McGuffin is), and save the world. Dungeon Delving victory only, low AI aggression (but not zero) because invading your neighbors isn't that useful when you're trying to fight off a common threat, but they'll still retaliate if they're provoked. AI can't raid dungeons (although they can still take towers / ruins / nodes etc.). Your heroes are the only hope of saving the world!
  • Race for the Relic - Similar to onslaught, but you're racing against the other wizards. Whoever gets the McGuffin first (or defeats the big bad, or whatever) wins. You may need to banish a rival wizard to keep them from the prize, but in order to win you'll need to get to the bottom of those dungeons.
You can add an overall difficulty slider that will adjust different things based on the game type. For most game types, this will mostly mean making the enemy wizards more aggressive and more difficult. For onslaught, it might reduce the maximum city defenses at higher levels, and reduce the other wizards' AI difficulty, so that you have fewer allies helping to combat the enemy towers. At lower difficulties the monsters may not be able to turn cities into towers / ruins, so they're less effective at sweeping across the map.

The goal should be to provide players with the option of playing the game as many different ways as possible, and some randomization options that we can use to replay the game in a way that will force us to adapt as we go.


The second big one for me is making big cities feel important.

Big cities should be take effort to conquer (more or less depending on game mode, obviously), they should feel unique, and they should each be important. Overall, I feel like you should almost treat them like heroes. You only have six hero slots, so you have to decide how many casters you want, and how many fighters. You care deeply about the gear you're giving them, and you feel invested in their growth. I think it should be the same for the big cities, and in order to do that I think you need to limit the number of huge cities on the map. Obviously, unlike heroes, cities can change hands, so you can't limit yourself to six big cities on the map. You can probably make your first few cities the most important, though. You can still have a bunch of little towns, but ideally I don't think you should have more than half a dozen really big interesting cities, at least going into the end-game.

I think you could accomplish some of this by adding in a relatively clean mechanic for making a smaller villages feed into big cities. Maybe in addition to the "housing" and "trade goods" options, there could be a "supply food to largest city within x tiles" or something. Then, you could have a number of smaller farming villages around a large city. You're still expanding your territory, but you don't have to micro-manage the production of every little town. It's less dire if a small village or two gets sacked, but if you're not careful you could run out of food in the big city, and have mass unrest and eventually starvation. In order for it to make sense to do this, you need to balance things so that one big city with five or six farming villages around it has some advantages over a half-dozen mid-sized towns that are self-sufficient. Just don't make it better in every way, since making decisions on meaningful trade-offs is a staple of good game-play.

I think it's still worth making sure that even surrounded by farming villages, not every city can do everything. You should have to make a decision about whether your city is going to do a little bit of everything, or specialize in doing one thing really well. I don't know the best game mechanic, here. It could be as simple as high building maintenance meaning that a city with every building is going to lose a ton of money, or some sort of workforce mechanic where you can't keep every building fully staffed (it could be neat, but I don't know that it feels like MoM). The important thing is to make your cities feel unique, and get the player to make a smaller number of decisions that actually matter, rather than copy+pasting the same building queue into every new city.

I'd also love to see city leaders, with different bonuses that they could apply to their cities.

In terms of making cities more defensible, I think there's a lot of room to expand on things:
  • Add more defensive buildings than just walls. We should have a building-tree for defensive structures, with a limit set in the optional rules so that you don't have to deal with sieging castles if it's not your thing.
  • Add small defensive abilities to existing buildings. Some rough examples:
    • Forester's guild could set traps outside town to cause a small amount of damage to a few incoming units.
    • Religious buildings could add a bonus to the resistance of all defending units.
    • Magic buildings could extra power for spells cast during the combat.
    • Military buildings could each have one unit in reserve, or be able to produce an untrained unit in an emergency (deploying the in-training units)
  • The idea isn't to replace the units stationed in the city for defense, but to make city battles unique and memorable. Seeing the benefits of all the buildings in your city while you're defending it will help tie the battle back to the city you're defending, rather than just having it be a battle on a city map. Sieging a military fortress should feel different than sieging a religious hub, too. If your city's defenses are all different, that can also influence your decision of what units to defend with.
I think if you add things like this into the game, it could help make each big city really feel like a unique part of your empire, rather than just another city.


My third wish-list item would be to differentiate more between small-scale (but still important) battles with your heroes, and large-scale battles with armies clashing over control of major cities.

Personally, I think heroes should each lead a unit of an appropriate type, in large battles, to help reinforce that difference, and to make the larger battles feel that much more epic. Some people may disagree with this, of course, but I think having a small group of elite soldiers with your hero makes more sense than saying that one person with a sword is going to be able to defeat entire armies single-handedly. It also allows for more forgiving fail-forward type game-play (more on that later).

You could also use this as a way to differentiate better between caves / dungeons / ruins / towers.

Dungeons & Caves could be inaccessible to full units. When entering, you'd be able to select the squad you wanted to bring, up to a max of around 6, with the option fill out empty ranks with individual soldiers from whichever hero's squad that you want, and probably other non-fantastic units in the army (although they'll be weak by comparison). Brax might be able take a cave with some spiders with just a small squad of his dwarven fighters, or Brax & Serena could do it with a few dwarves & healers, for example. Marching your full army into a cave doesn't make much sense, though. Caves would be single-battle challenges, whereas dungeons could be larger endeavours (as someone else had mentioned earlier), where clearing it might occupy your heroes for a number of turns.

Towers and ruins could be more like sieging a city, but with monsters. You'd march in with your full army to take them down, and they'd also be more likely to send groups of monsters out to attack your cities until you'd dealt with them.

As a bit of a side note, I always though towers should be useful to you in some way after you've conquered it. Maybe a unit stationed there can see enemies up to 5 squares away, and a unit in the tower gets a defense & ranged attack bonus when defending it?


A couple of other notes:

Heroes should be important even after they've stopped fighting for you. Brax might get replaced later on, but he shouldn't just disappear from your game. If a hero is dismissed, they could still provide some flavour and some bonuses. A bard might open a tavern in a city to raise fame & reduce unrest, or a barbarian might retire to the woods outside town and do some damage to incoming troops through minor skirmishes. Overall, I think the late game should show the history of some of the victories and failures that got you there.


Fail-forward mechanics can do a lot to discourage the save & load spamming. What I mean by that is, when you suffer a loss, it's useful if there's some tangential benefit that you can get from it. Losing a large battle or a city can be galvanizing. Maybe it allows you to build a memorial, for a boost to units produced in one city. Maybe a survivor of the battle now has a score to settle, and rises up to be a hero in your service. Maybe statues to fallen heroes could provide an inspiration bonus to troops defending the city.

To take it a step further, if a hero's unit is defeated in a large-scale battle, maybe there's a chance that the hero didn't die. Maybe they're wounded, and once they eventually recover they get a "cautious" trait added to them that decreases damage but boosts defense. Maybe the hero does die, but one of the soldiers in their unit survived, and rises to the occasion to try to carry on in their place, starting from lower level and with slightly different stats. You could even have two or three soldiers competing for the position, and get to choose the one you prefer for the role. If you lose a battle, maybe a defeated hero gets taken prisoner, and you get extorted for ransom. If it's a low-level hero, maybe it's just gold. For a high-level hero, maybe you have to decide whether it's worth paying out the nose to get them back (territory / powerful magic items / multiple spells), or if you want to hope that they can escape on their own? Maybe if you have a thief type hero, they can try to sneak in and break them out, but there'll be a chance that they'll get caught and then you've got two captured heroes to try to deal with. A rescued hero might become more loyal, gaining a "determined" trait, or a maybe getting captured leads them to want to retire and open up that tavern. The more interesting consequences there are for failures, the more you can reward players for playing through and seeing where things lead, rather than just loading and trying to get the best possible outcome from every battle.

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