Updated in response to the tremendous volume of feedback across the 4 forums this article was posted in (DoWsanc, RN, GR.Org, DoW2 Official Forums). Numerous updates throughout the article to clarify, expand and update many different sections.
There are several suggestions I’d like to make for anyone attempting to extrapolate on my meaning or thinking and also state a few basic assumptions that I’m operating under:
1. Note that I haven’t played DoW1 official in a very long time – so any comparison relating to DoW1 you must assume I’m relating it to DoWpro....and by that DoWpro:SS. DoWpro:SS is different to previous versions in both concept and implementation so if you’re trying to draw from comparisons I’m making regarding DoWpro vs DoW2 you’ll need to familiarise yourself with a relatively recent (ie. less thant 3mth old) version of DoWpro.....or just take my word on it :P
2. I have played CoH online. I just never got into it nearly as much as I did DoW1/DoWpro
3. I have NO desire to make DoW2 into DoW 1.5. I’ve already made my ideal version of DoW, its called DoWpro and I’m very happy to accept that DoW2 is its own game and own style. I’m NOT interested in making DoW2 a rehash of DoW1 or CoH.
4. All my suggestions are based on taking DoW2 as it is now + Relic’s suggested balance changelog and making it a deeper strategically, richer tactically, more polished in general and overall more fun. I’m not looking to redo DoW2 into a new game – simply improve what’s already there so everyone enjoys it more, casual and pro gamers alike.
5. My underpinning philosophy is that there shouldn’t be “no brainer” decisions. Every decision, no matter how small, ideally should have some degree of “cost/benefit” to it. When combing through the various mechanics and principles that DoW2 is based on I can see many decisions that don’t require that kind of thought and I believe if the player is faced with a continuous string of such decisions from the start to finish of a game that ultimately they’ll have more fun and be more rewarded for their decisions at its conclusion. If a mechanic doesn’t have clear cost/benefits – an effort should be made to sufficiently revise or add to it such that it does. Every mechanic should be interesting – DoW2 has fewer mechanics than previous Relic games which makes the remaining mechanics MORE important.
I can be reached @ irc.quakenet.org #DoWpro and am online most days
I've played a lot of RTS in my time. I'm an accomplished DoW1 player and the creator of the DoWpro mod which is currently available for SS. I'd like to think I know a fair bit about how to get the gameplay mechanics of an RTS working together and would offer the current release of DoWpro as an example of my work. However, in compiling this article I have sought the learned opinions of many players and taken onboard the ideas of individuals such as Vaul (the illustrious VoD caster), UltraSimon, KoMMoRRaGH, Yaoquique and many others.
DoWII is an interesting intellectual challenge. My current thoughts on it are mixed - there's both positive and negative elements to the game. It has potential, particularly as a team game but it needs some revisions to reach it. I'm inherently an elitist when it comes to RTS (and make no apology for this - I did make dowPRO) - I love deep strategy with multi-dimensional units but also really enjoy the tactical elements that exist in the faster paced games like DoW1. DoW2 thus far has been particularly enjoyable in team games for me rather than the 1v1 game – the quality of the 1v1 play remains an ongoing concern and I am eager to re-evaluate my opinion once the large list of balance changes proposed by Relic are implemented.
My assessment of things at present is that DoWII is lacking in depth and in general needs more polish - a conclusion I believe many have also reached. My first iteration of the Comprehensive Article led to a LOT of confusion as to what I exactly meant about shallow and led to all sorts of allegations that I wanted DoW2 to be shiny DoW1 and that I was patently wrong – DoW2 is plenty deep. I stand by my initial statement however, I now realise I should’ve defined my opinion more clearly such that no one could misunderstand my position.
When I say DoW2 is lacking in DEPTH or is SHALLOW I mean strategic depth. Strategic choices are those that determine the entire style of your play – they are often long lasting and are typically goal orientated eg. I’m going to get unit X with upgrade Y now with the intention of later getting unit A with upgrade B and develop a pincer combo attack with the two units. Strategy can be most simply defined as your gameplan in a given match. DoW2 permits you to choose units (as all RTS's do) and your hero but that's about it. Saying that "my unit choice hugely affects the game in DoW2" is applicable to most RTS – it’s the OTHER choices that other RTS features that affect your overarching strategies that DoW2 simply doesn't feature.
Lets be clear about which elements DoW2 doesn’t feature which typically factor into your strategies in other RTS’ (specifically prior Relic games):
- Fewer unit types in total that previous Relic games per race
- Fewer units on the field at any one time
- Fewer upgrades for standard units in general. Heroes are obviously the exception to this and it must be said that not all hero upgrades are made equal and with the current stats the player has only a few effective options with heroes (and variation is usually MU specific)
- No base building (hence no macro associated with bases and branching tech trees)
- No researches
- Fast, cheap tiers (hence no "tough decisions" as to when to tech)
- A more simple economic implementation - thus decisions relating to eco are easier to make
Quite clearly there’s overall LESS variables at play here which affect the STRATEGIC decisions the player must make. The net result is that the player is faced with fewer and easier decisions when playing DoW2. This is what I mean by SHALLOW. There are FEWER and EASIER decisions regarding overarching gameplans than in previous games.
A valid counterargument to this is “DoW2 is more tactically orientated – less strategic thought is inevitable and should be accepted”. This is fine however, I think DoW2 does itself a disservice by having such a weak strategic element when there is potential to increase the complexity and number of strategic choices facing the player WITHOUT significantly redoing the game. I agree it is inevitable that DoW2 is less strategically orientated than say DoWpro – there’s simply too few variables that affect strategic choice to make that possible. There’s nothing wrong with that except that DoW2 does not fully maximise its remaining strategic choices and THAT is the sin that I am criticising it for. DoW2 is not maximising its strategic choice possibilities nearly enough and for that reason it feels unduly shallow.
People have in responses to the original article said that “DoW2 is more deep than DoW1/CoH”. I can only assume they’re talking about tactical depth. Indeed DoW2’s concrete and well developed tactical metagame which it has inherited from CoH is a very strong portion of DoW2’s appeal. Whether or not its deeper than CoH – I don’t really care. I fully recognise DoW2 containing an already strong tactical metagame however, I strongly believe that this could be further improved and developed via a combination of balance and gameplay tweaks. I’m going to largely ignore balance tweaks – Relic has already posted a substantial list and I’ll trust them to do a good job with those, there’s no point me going on and making my own list when theirs is going to be implemented. What I will comment on is how to improve the depth of tactical gameplay. Building on DoW2’s existing strength in this area to be even more dynamic and thought provoking.
In summary: Beta 1.0 is decent but could be a lot better by focusing on improving the strategic options and deepening the tactical metagame by making some of the weaker mechanics more interesting and powerful and also providing more options in dealing with the stronger ones. In my mind every decision the player makes must have a cost-benefit associated with it. Each mechanic should be reviewed to make that mechanic as interesting and fun as possible - currently many are fairly simple and lacking clear globally applicable rules for how they work in the strategic and tactical metagames.
With this in mind a question must be posed. How can DoW2’s limited strategic depth be increased, existing strong tactical metagame further improved and more polish be applied in general?
I posed a similar question with DoWpro and it led to a diversion from some of the elements of the key game. What I'd like to do this time is to stay AS CLOSE TO THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF DOW2 AS POSSIBLE, making changes in areas that need reworking but doing so in a manner that it is not terribly difficult to implement. Ideally I'd like the recommendations discussed here to be considered for implementation in an official patch from Relic. I'm not convinced I'm really interested in going off and making DoWpro 2.
I guess the final point to raise is why does DoW2 NEED more polish/strategic depth/extra tactical depth? For starters, many of the issues raised in this article will annoy even the most casual player. Now the prevailing attitude is that games should be simple to get into so as to appeal to casual players. However, even the most casual player will rapidly determine after only a few games that certain units are far better (compare your ASM to tacs) and that capturing Req points etc doesn’t really matter at all.
The premise of DoW2 is a sound one – make a game that anyone can jump into and enjoy. The reality is that everyone will. However, many will lose interest in the shallowness of the strategic gameplay – many of the talented RTS gamers here immediately saw the profound issues with DoW2 within hours. They’re plain to see for anyone who knows how to look – we can quibble over minor points and subtleties but key issues do not take long to become evident.
DoW2 has promise, however SC2 is coming and if DoW2 wants any kind of long term community in the face of that kind of competition it needs to reach that potential FAST. Additionally, I don’t think Relic can afford for DoW2 not to be a hit. If DoW2 isn’t a great game that sells by the truckload – I wonder whether Relic can really survive the worsening economic climate.
There’s high stakes here. There’s reputation of a franchise and a company. The faith of fans – casual and pro alike. The looming shadow of mighty competition and the worrisome problem that DoW2 probably isn’t good enough yet to really excite the entire spectrum of its fanbase.
Ultimately I’d like to see DoW2 as good as it possibly can be. Some have criticised me saying that it’s already good – and I agree. However, I’d argue that there can be no disadvantage in seeking to climb the highest peak and really make DoW2 as good as it possibly can be. Not everyone will appreciate the changes I’ve discussed, but someone will and ultimately DoW2 is about reaching the broadest possible audience and get the most sales. If DoW2 can continue to be a game that is easy to get into and excite casual gamers whilst also having enough depth to keep more serious gamers interested – I’d say that’s worth working towards.
So the question is this: How does one broaden DoWII’s appeal with a richer strategic and tactical elements, add more polish across a wide array of areas and do so without a complete redo of the game that could be readily implemented in a small number of patches by Relic?
Note that there is an official buglist here: http://community.dawnofwar2.com/view...hp?f=42&t=3500
And a technical issue list: http://community.dawnofwar2.com/viewtopic....t+list+#p129658
This article goes beyond these lists in scope and assumes Relic is already aware of the aforementioned list.
Exploring the Problem
DoWII's problems are multifactorial but the key summative effect is that ultimately it’s not particularly strategically deep as a RTS and that 3v3 play totally outshines 1v1.
The gameplay elements inherited from CoH are all implemented with varied degrees of success and I believe the only real way of truly exploring the problem is by going through EACH gameplay element one by one and highlighting individual difficulties.
In addition to gameplay elements I will be discussing UI, online lobby, visuals, maps and DLC implementation.
So without further ado.....lets start by breaking down the problems into manageable pieces.
Problems with the Lobby
Interface/lobby - Generally needs a lot of work.
The online lobby is woeful and very "console". The lack of a chat lobby is stunningly poor. The join casual game lobby text is LARGE and the lobby auto-refreshes ..... making it difficult to scroll through the huge list (since the text is SO big) before it freezes and resets to the top of the list.
The NAT overall offered me better connectivity than previous Relic games (first Relic game that didn’t need router port tweaks) - which is great. However, this may not be applicable to all users.
The Beta did not come with a small connectivity/net testing tool - honestly there's been 3rd party community small apps written for previous Relic games to test net connectivity. The failure to not include similar simple tool that helps less savvy users is an unfortunate oversight. If users could readily test their system, be given tips by the app on what to change or where to look for info that’d be a big step forward in connectivity troubleshooting.
I have noticed MANY drops/lag issues whilst playing online. There clearly needs more work to be done on netcode to improve this. EDIT: The more I’ve played online the more this has become a critical issue in my mind.
Finally, Relic are still relying on users to upload replays manually. Other RTS's such as supcom manage to employ an integrated upload tool. Surely DoW2 could've gone for a more progressive approach here.
Problems with GFWL
A lot of ppl are reporting being dropped from GFWL. Whether this is DoW2 crashing or GFWL is difficult to determine. There are reports of packet loss by GFWL – if this is true the code needs tightening up.
GFWL has pro’s and con’s. One difficulty I've found is getting a 3rd player for a 3v3 ranked game when none of your friends are online...I'd love to know a better way of doing it than randomly looking for someone who's online in the player tab and sending pm's. EDIT: and there is – you can just start a game and you’ll be matched up with a 3rd player. Perhaps a tooltip would make this more obvious.
The trueskill matching system is nice in concept.....but we still have lvl20 guys being matched vs lvl1 guys. I’d argue a bit more tweaking is required.
The whole “if a teammate drops.....the game no longer counts for points” issue is a concern. One that needs fixing for release otherwise it’ll just result in drop abuse and annoy anyone even vaguely interesting in levelling. EDIT: Over time it appears points are attributed some times but not others. Overall more robustness to net code and crashes will mitigate this problem but some additional thought is evidently required.
Problems with the In-game Interface:
A lot of polish work required here......
The lack of grid keys is poor - when will Relic learn that naming a hotkey based on an ability's name is a bad idea. Grid keys means that you only need to get used to one set of keys and it works on all races.
EDIT: There are now grids available: http://dowcodex.com/User:Sturm/Grid_Key
No delete function – I agree that a delete function alone is problematic which is why I think the second option is more appropriate.
There isn’t an ability to retire your units ie. return them to the HQ for a % cost back. At the moment the only way to get rid of units to free pop cap is to sacrifice them and give the enemy XP. I believe this is the most appropriate solution.
There doesn't seem to be an overwatch function with regards to reinforcing units - I miss it already
There’s no way to view the console aside from dev mod.....I miss the console! Probably not a big deal except that its difficult to see what’s happening with regards to networking – DoW1’s console allowed you to view a fair bit of info.
The minimap is lacking in detail and audiotriggers. It could be enlarged to take more screen space in order to be more visible - something many players complain about currently. Pinging is fairly discreet....failing to actually draw you to the pinged area. Moreover, CoH had a more developed array of pings (Attack Here, Defend Here, Capture Here).....surely a boon in a team based game like dow2. Better audio cues are needed as well – for example at present I’m not convinced that there’s a “unit under attack” audio cue + visual minimap ping, something that DoW1 had and alerted the player to new combat.
Finally, the resolution of the minimap combined with the size of the VP/power/req points makes it often difficult to see your units. Revised icons/large minimap is needed to improve utility.
The UI itself has a reasonable layout (some will disagree)....that's made very clunky by the fact that there's no grid keys. However, even with grids stuff like ordering a unit to melee a squad is tedious....made even more so if you misclick the enemy since the delineation between different squads is not as clear as dow1 was. Thus if you misclick you must again Z+Click on the squad you originally meant to attack. The toggle stance system of DoW1 was superior. EDIT: I still prefer DoW1’s toggle but due to the low unit count DoW2 can probably get away with the new system ALTHOUGH I’d like more accuracy in selecting the hitboxes of units – generators in particular are quite difficult to accurately mouse over and there may be an issue with the selection priorities.
It could be argued that the UI is a tad “busy” – Relic have packed a LOT of info into the bottom right corner. Perhaps eco could be shifted to be on top of the minimap to reduce clutter. This is not a critical issue as overall, the UI does its job of displaying the info properly. My recommendation here is to keep considering it for possible tweaks to maximise its visibility.
Not being able to see individual hp bars for squad members is problematic and there should be a hotkey etc way to display it. Alternatively there could be a small dot representing each team member underneath the squad HP bar in the portrait pictures – green/yellow/red for each member representing how “well” each guy is.
I liked the hero wargear system etc which works well once u know what happens. Again lack of grids makes this fiddly however, I believe it'd work quite nicely with a better hotkey array.
A case could be made for a slight enlargement of the icons - at 1920x1600 they're really quite tiny. However, this isn't essential unlike prior points.
Unit control is a step back in DoW2 over CoH. In Company of Heroes you could assign multiple squads of Riflemen to one hotkey, and then micro them through the UI to use their abilities at different times.
In CoH, if you had multiple units selected, you could order all of them to do the same thing with one click. Alternatively, if you highlighted one squad in your Selection List then issued an order; only that unit would perform the specified action. You could go back to having all units in your selection perform the same order by clicking on the little shield icon (basically highlighting everything). EDIT: I believe Relic have mentioned there will be some improvement with patches to this system – wait and see
In DoW2, if you have multiple units selected, giving an order will result in all the selected units to perform the task regardless of which one is highlighted. There's no way to switch between having all units do the order, and having just the highlighted unit.
This should be changed and in addition there should be a visual notification on the unit as to which is the selected squad within the group on the field to further improve the intuitiveness of selection.
In-game chat communication:
In-game chat is really poor.
The networking lag issues clutters the chat which makes it difficult to see messages from team members.
Moreover, the actual amount of chat you’re allowed to write is tiny – a small sentence at best. Not everyone has mics and this should be rectified with more chars allowed and the networking stats moved to a better location.
Finally....there is no audio cues for when a team member chats to you or an enemy -> there should be one.
In-game voice communication:
Whilst mics are a great feature. Not having push-to-talk isn’t. Add it! EDIT: I’m really not having a tremendous amount of luck getting particularly coherent voice chats happening – nor am I alone. As a result I’m not seeing many ppl using the voice chat – it may be due to low quality codecs being used or that PC users have poor microphones/setting selection.
Also there should be an easier way to mute a player once you’re in game rather than having to go through gfwl >.< EDIT: I'm silly there is...just click the mic button from the player list
Vote-kicking needs to be a consistent option throughout the game. I have now played a good 10 games of team games where an opponent or team-mate has lagged or dropped, a kick menu has arisen, people have said no the first time, but no other opportunities to kick have raised. A more robust solution is needed that provides more information and a more transparent kicking system. The lag issues we’re experiencing may be due to beta code – however, as I mentioned previously there should be a way to test your connection and tweak it with a small application to avoid user net problems whilst Relic fixes and code issues in the game. Finally, the in game system should be more robust. EDIT: This issue has become more and more frustrating over time. Many ppl crash during games and it causes loooong waits that no doubt annoy EVERYONE.
*Credit to Ultra Simon for some of these points*
Unit Stats in the UI....MIA:
Unit statistics are missing. I know the difficulties in generating unit statistics – manually doing it is a nightmare and needs revision with every patch. In DoWpro we had an EXCELLENT tool called the AutoWiki that generated an entire wiki’s worth of information automatically – a similar tool could generate data files that could be imported into a revised UI. Alternatively Relic could choose to omit in-game unit data and just go with an AutoWiki or something similar themselves. Unit data needs to be accessible somewhere however. Relic should contact the DoWpro team if they’re interested in developing their own tool – we’re happy to give tips etc.
Loading screen enemy list:
In DoW1 your opponents were displayed on the loading screen. Either this is an omission or intentional. Given that you can readily find out who you’re facing once the game starts it seems there isn’t any real good reason not to put it on the loading screen. EITHER remove the icons showing player race for opponents in the player list OR add in loading screen races.
There is currently no observer mode - there should be an observer mode. Additionally there is no 2v2 play....this is a decision to streamline finding games. In DoW1 you had 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, Automatch, team auto and QS -> I believe the reasoning to cull some of these options was that was hard to get games with so many modes flying about. The question is whether removing observers and 2v2 is a good decision. I'm not sure if I can answer that yet.
Problems with the Replays
EDIT: I was criticised as being petty for picking on replays in this article. At the end of the day replays are a critical feature for the MP community and I thought it was odd it wasn’t already fully implemented. As such here’s a list of stuff that needs work such that the day0 patch can be sure to have all these issues ticked off and working great.
- When you swap viewing players, the acceleration speed of the view rate reverts to x1 irrespective of the speed.
- When viewing a player, any player in red's HQ/building will flicker unusually
- When viewing a player, control groups show in top corner, but not heroes.
- Occasionally, if a unit is selected on the team side viewing before/whilst an upgrade, research, or production is made, then when it is executed, it will appear in a panel in between the units/buildings portrait and the minimap, rather than where the research/unit in-production bar is. All production bars should be visible at all times.
- If you switch which player you are watching all unit icons are removed.
- Invisible units are just that, invisible. No matter what side you're watching in the replay.
- Speeds of x4 x8 should be possible
- Watching as observer is missing
- You don’t see the timer of nades
- You don’t see wargear or upgrades
- You don’t see what the players are building in hq
*Credit to Ultra Simon, Santiago4ever, IKnowShade for some of these points*
Overall models are great. Textures sexy. UI shiny.
One thing that IS fail is the lack of unit randomisation. DoWpro/Fok/DoWxp etc etc in DoW1 had it. It DOES look great and really helps make your army feel more individual. The fact that its lacking in DoW2 is something I can only urge Relic to change asap. There are already players who are complaining about units looking too similar/lacking in recognition, especially in team games. This will mitigate this to a certain degree.
Fx's whilst nice don't appear to have the "Impact" of CoH. There appears to be less camera shake. Sounds are more muted. Death screams softer. Finally booms just don't appear as HUEG.
For whatever the reason this contributes to the combat feeling more generic. Bring in more terrain deformation. More auditory cues. Bigger visual effects.
The lack of persistent bodies we all loved so much in dow1 means that dow2 lacks the “horrors of war” feel that dow1 had. Without fields of slain warriors to march over I’m just not sure I’m playing 40k
Visual Performance issues
Seems a fair few issues revolving around performance here. Code should be improved. Perhaps some others can comment more specifically towards certain issues here, though I think Relic is aware of the issues of current through the technical hardware forums.
*Credit to Ultra Simon for some of these points*
Ranked Matches Rules/settings
Once a game is starting its count down, the count down cannot be cancelled for any reason. This needs to be changed. Sometimes games will freeze just as count down ends. Sometimes a player will leave but the count down will continue.
There seems to be a bug where it says count down cancelled, when in fact it hasn't at all. Rather confusing.
When a player drops for some random reason during the count down, the game will replace with a different person looking for a ranked game - this REALLY needs to be fixed.
*Credit to Ultra Simon for these points*
Gameplay as ever is the most difficult area to critique - its analogous to a living creature and thus biological terms can be used to describe and analyse it. There's more factors having interplay here than any other area of the game and the only way to really work out the “phenotype” of the gameplay is to break it down and look at the “genetics” and environmental factors behind it.
I’ve already spoken about some of the issues regarding the game overall (ie. its phenotype) but to summarise:
DoWII currently plays much better as a 3v3 game than 1v1. Its overall strategic depth is lacking. Whilst there is a rich tactical metagame, more depth could be achieved with tweaks to specific mechanics. Maps are generally small and despite the implementation of deformable terrain/cover etc the current maps don’t really provide many opportunities to really interact regularly with the map environment. Whilst there are balance issues present the real issues with dow2 are the gameplay mechanics that underpin the gameplay – fixing balance issues alone will not make dow2 as good as revision of its mechanics.
DoW2 is a game with promise. With some key tweaks and adjustments it could succeed in being a game that new/casual players can readily get into (as they can now) whilst offering more serious players the depth and challenge they need to keep them interested long-term.
Gameplay Genetic Factors:
Currently Eco is one of the KEY issues with DoW2. Many players have realised that req points are fairly useless compared to VP’s (particularly in 3v3, in 1v1’s they have a larger impact....although its still fairly small) – its almost always better to cap a VP and worry about killing the enemy and THEN going for the REQ points. The HQ, with its huge req rate allows you to focus on VP’s and ignore reqs. Due to the cheapness of tiering in some situations this means that the static, stay-at-home player can successfully tech to higher power t2 units and slaughter their opponent who has gone and contested the map and invested in t1 units. Whilst fast techs are always nice – DoW2 offers one of the most lenient eco systems I’ve ever seen and due to turrets makes it near impossible to rush.
Moreover, without any real way of securing points DoW2 has been criticised as an online game of tag – particularly 1v1. DoW1 avoided this by allowing LP’s to be placed on points. CoH similarly employed this mechanic to a lesser degree as they were not weaponised and also with its integration of the territory system that does not feature in DoW2.
The Eco situation is further complicated by the small maps and sheer number of points on a given map. There’s loads. There’s no real way of securing them without camping and ultimately req points don’t really matter – its more cost effective to wipe out your opponent’s troops.
This section of the article was one of the key areas of controversy in the feedback on the forums. DoW2 employs an anti-slippery slope mechanic whereby players who are pushed off their points have a strong chance of regrouping and pushing back. Many players have voiced their concerns about any changes reducing this mechanic’s importance. When considering this mechanic it must be considered whether its too great or not. At this stage I don’t have a concrete opinion – I’d like to talk to one of the devs about it (I’m merely posing a question to the community here). For argument’s sake lets assume that the degree of slop protection is adequate – my real goal is how to make economy factor more into a player’s thinking ie. demand more strategic thinking by the player without affecting to a great degree the current slippery slope mechanic.
To be clear: I want the choices regarding the economy to be more difficult and also present more options in the style of play a player can choose to engage in.
I’d say that overall the power mechanic is fairly fun and reasonably well implemented. Although – I still think powerscaling as applied in DoWpro should be considered to encourage more serious and fastidious eco management and reward players for gen harass. In DoWpro power gens became progressively more expensive after the first, costing req AND power. This worked extremely well and I’d urge you to see its implementation in DoWpro to help illustrate my point.
In Dow2 I’d envisage that scaling be applied on a “per node” basis. Thus building 2 gens on one node would incur a scaling fee on the second generator. In contrast building 2 gens on two separate nodes would incur no scaling fee. Thus spreading gens across several nodes would be a cheaper way of getting power – but opens you up to harass risk as it’s more difficult to defend 2 nodes than one.
I fully agree power harass is a viable strategy in DoW2. The suggested changes would raise the stakes higher and create additional excitement as players are forced to make difficult decisions about their power economy which will have effects on both how they defend against harass and also how much spare resources they will have after they’ve purchased generators.
2. Req points:
As mentioned. They’re superfluous. The HQ generates LOADS of income and doesn’t really reward contesting the req points in any real way due to their meagre reward. Req nodes are particularly useless in 3v3 – there is some argument that in 1v1 req points have a minor influence on gameplay. Ultimately req points do not have a huge impact on play when compared to VP’s and power gens. The decisions facing the player with regards to req points are simple and I object to this.
If it is determined that the slippery slope protection mechanic is too strong in DoW2 then one solution could be to reduce HQ income. Starting req could then be increased to compensate for the lower income over the first 1-2 minutes. Finally, req points income could be increased making req points a far more critical element in play and increasing the amount of variables that player must be aware of during a game.
By far the most important capturable in the game. Power coming in second. As a mechanic I have no problem with it – my issue is mainly that they’re SO important in the game that the team/individual that secures them early invariably wins. Victory is typically decided early in the game in DoW2 even if games drag on for a bit. VaulSC has made numerous posts and discussions in his vods regarding this and I agree completely.
Until there’s a way of offsetting VP dominance – I’d postulate here increasing the impact of req points – games will continue to be decided by who takes the VP’s early.
4. Race zeal/waaagh/psy/biomass eco’s:
Another underdeveloped economic mechanic. The 3rd resources are generated by kills. Unfortunately most of the abilities are t3....and horrifically expensive such that they’re almost never seen in a 1v1 game.
There’s no way of increasing your income here either beyond killing – there’s no relic points or the like that could serve as a supplemental point.
One option could be to make req points give a tiny amount of zeal etc although this is probably diversifying the mix here. A better implementation would be to make req points MODIFY the amount of zeal etc generated per kill eg. Zeal per kill = 1+(1xnumber of captured req points).
More robust ideas are needed for the 3rd reasource – it remains a novelty at present and must be expanded to permit more utility and increase the decision load placed on the player.
As it stands the player who actually manages to keep their squads alive is penalised for doing so. Its often better to simply shed weaker, lower tier units in favour of higher tier units.
A revision to the upkeep rates is probably required OR perhaps tying upkeep into veterancy – where veteran squads require LESS upkeep. This would be a more interesting use of the mechanic and also reward the savvy player.
Currently a weak feature in DoW2. They’re small. They’re loaded with points and cover....but have few structures and afaik NO other interaction with environments. Eg. There’s no destroyable bridges or rock formations.
The small maps, hundreds of points and inability to secure the points without camping VP’s help contribute to DoW2’s “game of tag” feel (that’s particularly bad in 1v1). The lack of map interaction is also disappointing.
Relic should release a map editor now and offer free copies of DoW2 for top notch maps made in the beta period OR some other kind of shiny incentive. A willing fan base should be put to work for The Greater Good. Something must be done because the current crop are uninspired and serve to further the more tedious aspects of gameplay such as suppression spam and the exciting “lets play capture point tag”.
Finally, we’ve been told not to expect more than 9 maps in total on the PATCHED release (correct me if I’m wrong).
On the possibility of larger maps:
I do not think larger maps would play particularly well in DoW2 – largely because the basic movement speed is so varied between races and some races have access to structures etc that allows rapid movement across the battlefield.
On a large map, retreating back to base would inevitably disadvantage certain races more than others. I’ve been criticised for even suggesting the possibility that DoW2 could have larger maps “omg DoW2 is for small maps! Stop making DoW2 something its not!!!”. I argue that There's nothing wrong with having small and big maps - it promotes a wider gameplay spectrum which can only serve to increase interest. Currently I just think DoW2 lacks a few elements to make larger maps viable – there isn’t actually a lot that needs doing to get the maps viable (aside from making bigger maps :P).
To address this 2 things are needed:
1. A way for all races to have a forward reinforce point eg. Like the tyrant hive node. Such that the max distance to retreat is reduced. Alternatively a new kind of capturable point could be available on larger maps that functions like a forward HQ.
2. Transports need to function better as transports to facilitate faster troop movement. See the transport section for further explanation
Game modes (take and hold, annihilate):
Annihilate is currently a joke. Turrets are dominant. HQ’s have incredible HP. I could go on but this problem is obvious to even the most casual gamer. Something needs to be done. Remove the game mode or do something even vaguely meaningful.
We’ve been teased with DLC promises. I hope we’re not going to be asked to pay for maps etc when the initial release will contain <10. DLC should value add DoW2. Not add to DoW2 what it should’ve had on release and ask for extra cash.
Currently Ranks offer visual tweaks. Pretty limited change but better than nothing. I’d be interested in a more exciting implementation. We’ll see on release.
Combat mechanics: (1-16)
An interesting mechanic that allows a single HW team to have an impact unlike DoW1 where you needed a critical mass of HW’s to overcome melee units (before they could disrupt your ranged squads).
The current difficulties with suppression is that its excellent. The units not only slow down units A LOT but they also do SUPER damage for a relatively inexpensive squad. There’s not a very developed mechanic in getting out of suppression short of retreating.
A lot more brainstorming needs to flesh out the tactical counter to suppression short of pure flanking and retreating. As it currently stands you cannot typically fall back unless you use the retreat function even if you’re in cover. I’d be interested to see how higher cover bonuses vs suppression speed nerf would function (ie. you could get units into cover when suppressed, to disable or reduce it).
Alternatively, the degree of suppression could be ranged based (or more obviously ranged based). Even at the extremes of HW range suppression causes a huge speed nerf. Perhaps a less severe nerf could be applied at longer ranges.
Finally, all the suppression causing units have excellent line of sight which makes it difficult to scout against them because as soon as you come into range you’re near instantly suppressed. Perhaps a slight LoS nerf once setup relative to regular units to permit some degree of scouting vs HW suppression dealing units.
EDIT: This section caused significant controversy. Aside from the thoughtful lectures on how I was unable to grasp the concept and with time I’d get used to it, I remain close to my original impressions.
Units that cause suppression:
6. Typically have excellent LoS. Thus if you happen to walk into their line of fire you will be suppressed. Now it’s all well and good to suggest that you should be flanking said unit – however, since they have just as good LoS as you do and their range typically extends to their LoS – you get hit with suppression AS you see the unit. Flanking is a viable option ONLY if you already know the unit is there. I’m a little disturbed that people so blatantly missed my point here which is why I’m spelling it out more clearly now. Yes you can flank but you need to know the unit is there FIRST – difficult due to great LoS
7. Moreover, if you get caught at those extremes of LoS and suffer suppression just about the only thing you can do is hit the retreat button (or if you’re lucky jumper unit....jump). Particularly slow units will take a lot of damage before they reach cover and the CLEAR solution when suppressed is to retreat.
8. The upcoming patch will address the relationship between cover and suppression (ie. cover reduces suppression) however, I don’t think it will really relate to the situation I’ve explained here (units being hit at the extremes of range/LoS and being fully suppressed). I still maintain that a reduction to the suppression effect at the long range zone of ranged fire may well be needed even after the changes to allow players to more readily pull back without the need to hit the retreat button.
2. Deployable weapons
I’ve removed this section – It was largely based on feedback from UltraSimon and I’m not sure it really needs its own point. My issues related to suppression.
Currently this mechanic works well except that it is very vulnerable to knockdown. Indeed this makes the use of knockdown weapons one of the best options to employ in dow2. No other ability/weapon has the ability to so thoroughly deny the opponent’s ability to retreat and slaughter squads wholesale.
Whilst debate will rage as to what % conceal is appropriate for the retreating function – ultimately balance testing will dictate this.
EDIT: Knockdown is THE most effective way to prevent units from surviving when the conceal bonus is applied as they retreat. I hope the upcoming balance patch will improve this issue.
There’s not a whole lot of units that can infiltrate and the effectiveness of infiltration is largely determined by the effectiveness of the unit which employs it. Eg. Scouts are excellent with shotguns + infil since shotguns are excellent.
There’s no real added benefit to infiltration and it’d be more interesting if an extra mechanic were added eg. A first hit “backstab” melee bonus (rangers knifing Tac HB teams).
Finally....using tooltips only to represent detectors is a fairly poor system. DoWpro used small icons on the unit icon to represent units which could detect. Far more intuitive that trawling through tooltips. DoW2 aims to be casual player friendly – something that’s immediately obvious as a detector is needed.
EDIT: It may be that with revisions to the effectiveness of various units in the upcoming balance patch and hopefully some tweaks in LoS that we get to see more use of infiltration. I’d still like to see some interplay with the unit’s melee functions for units like rangers and scouts – if only to add some more depth and interest.
Cover is much more interesting in dow2 than dow1. However, there are issues. As I’ve described later in this article, the “auto-seek” for cover is often problematic with unit pathing and behaviour. I’ve described this more fully later.
The key issues with cover is that it becomes almost redundant once vehicles come out as they can destroy it at whim. Give that so little new cover is generated during the course of a game from environmental damage, this is a key issue for later game infantry combat as HW + mass spam becomes more important with more units fighting in the open.
There needs to be a revision either on how cover is destroyed OR have it such that much more cover is generated during a game – thus preserving later game infantry combat.
EDIT: cover generation remains an important issue in my mind – there’s not enough of it. Also some consideration should be made in making some cover non-destructible.
6. Line of Sight (LoS)
A relatively poorly developed mechanic. Most units have HUGE line of sights which makes scouting units fairly redundant unless the individual scout unit is great (ie. shotty scouts). Combine this with decent LoS from captured points and tiny maps and you really don’t have much of a need to have a dedicated and ongoing scouting effort. Given that you’re always better off capping rather than scouting, that HW’s see just as far (or near enough such that it doesn’t matter) and that your pop for certain races should be spent elsewhere on your scouting units – scouting as a mechanic really doesn’t get much love.
I have noted that scouts do seem to have larger LoS than HB’s – but this is purely anecdotal since there’s no readily available stats at this stage. At any rate the mechanic is fairly undeveloped overall (eg. There’s no LoS modifiers for being in cover, or whilst moving, or garrisoned etc).
7. Garrison buildings
When you actually FIND one of the few buildings and garrison it you can make an impact. Unfortunately there’s not many buildings around and invariably its always better to just mass units to attack a garrisoned structure rather than use the dedicated anti-garrison HW upgrades because they’re fairly useless.
Units in structures die reasonably easily and only HW teams like tac HB’s are going to have much dmg output. An interesting scenario to watch is how a HB team in a building loses to a HB team in green cover behind a tree log....why bother getting tac flamers/nade hard counters when you can spam a unit that’s already generally effective against most unit types. Whilst the changes needed here are balance changes – ultimately the thinking behind it should come from looking at garrison buildings as a whole and determining more coherent global rules that can be applied to all races.
There’s not enough buildings on the maps. The maps are small anyway which would probably make adding more a bit campy. Counters aren’t really that effective and don’t have much utility against other units in other situations and invariably you’re always better off either massing + overwhelming now OR teching to t2 and getting your walker unit to dominate the structure and those inside.
Neat idea. Let down by implementation of counters and maps.
8. Wargear and Unit upgrades
A great mechanic. Hero wargear works well. Offers a possibility for strategic depth (.....which dow2 is sorely short on).
Unfortunately.....for heroes the upgrades are NOT created equal. This effectively means that there’s only a few viable combo’s and as such the depth of the system actually falls short of its potential. Hopefully ongoing balance patches will address this.
More concerning is that only heroes have this system. ALL units that have upgradeable heavy weapons should be able to refit with other ones rather than being relegated to a single role. Timers could balance this out for problematic units such as WL’s but the fact remains that until all units with upgrades use hero style wargear we’re going to have a fairly shallow and uninspired relationship with basic units. Your uber-tacs are only ever going to be used for AV if they’ve got a rocket – it boxes them into a single role, decreases the interest for the player in the unit and also may force a player to sacrifice said unit to free up pop.
One of the most important changes needed and it applies to many units:
Scouts, Tacs, Nid warriors etc etc
Furthermore, units such as platforms and Devastator squads should be MERGED into a single unit and given the option of upgrading their weapons. A timer modifier applied in the base could allow this to be done rapidly to avoid issues of deploying a counter – whilst keeping field refits balanced with a long timer cost.
EDIT: I continue to firmly believe all units should be able to refit (even if it is in a limited fashion ie. near hq/transports/reinforce nodes) and that certain units should be merged (tac devastator teams, elder plats etc).
The abilities should be reviewed for initial timer values to ensure they all occur in a timely fashion.
Moreover, there’s obviously many issues regarding balance and power levels of various abilities – I think this is best discussed in balance issues.
Until grid hotkeys arrive – abilities will remain fiddly and frustrating to use. EDIT: Yay grids are great
10. Unit Levelling
A fun mechanic. Everyone likes being rewarded for using their units well. Unfortunately this becomes fairly superfluous since ultimately you will need to deploy certain counters eg. Tac rockets and this suddenly relegates your elite veteran squad to a fixed role and reduces the potential flexibility and interest you’d have with a more flexible unit that can refit AND have veterancy. Unit levelling will be a more important and interesting mechanic once hero wargear is applied to all units.
However, Relic’s implementation is woefully simple. From what I can tell levelling is a simple multiplier effect. Essentially units with high HP get MUCH more benefit from levelling than low HP units. Eg. Compare a 420HP SM scout to a 4500hp terminator squad. Fully levelled the scout is ~630HP vs ~7K HP for terminators. Clearly there’s a MUCH better bonus for the terminator despite having the same % bonus. This means that late game there’s no reason to keep low tier units and you should aim to get high tier units and get them levelled.
A more complex system is needed. Its not necessarily appropriate that scouts become HP monsters once they’re levelled. However, their utility could be improved via other means such as: faster capping, faster re-equips (assuming my re-equip suggestion is implemented), lower upkeep costs. The point is that the current system lacks depth and can cause problems. A more detailed and interesting system is needed to smooth out issues and to actually promote the use of elite level t1 squads in later game rather than recycling to free cap.
EDIT: Note I’ve only made some suggestions here – the actual changes to levelling will inevitably need to be determined when considering other key changes such as eco. Ie. if no global mechanic is arranged for generation of the 3rd resource then perhaps higher level units could get more 3rd resource per kill.
Currently tiering is FAST and CHEAP. The only one I really have issue with is its cheapness and its value. T3 is currently fairly useless for most races. Most of the great abilities come at t2. Most of the great units come at t2. T2 is the best upgrade you can buy in DoW2. With some pieces of wargear costing similar to a tier....but clearly not possessing as much value – you have to question why are the costs so skewed.
The following rule served me very well in DoWpro:
“Everything should be costed according to its worth/You get what you pay for...and you should get it fast when you’re paying cash”
I’ve no problem with fast tiering. I think it works well. Cheap tiering is a different issue especially compared to the more useless HW/Wargear items that cost comparable amounts.
The aforementioned rule should be applied to EVERY FACET of dow2. It does work and it works well.
13. Unit AI
Auto-AI cover is frequently frustrating. Often it overrides player commands. Ideally a stance should be added to allow units to cease auto-cover seeking and let players seek cover manually. This would mean casual players can still enjoy the auto-cover whilst more advanced players can micro more and have greater unit control.
Irrespective of what worked in Company of Heroes, units moving by themselves to take cover rather than shooting a retreating enemy or utilising a powerful ability/weapon whilst they can is NOT REALISM! Let players micro to cover directly themselves OR add stances that permit the auto-ai to be disabled. The system for moving behind cover and using direction is rather good and intelligent - no need for AI to intervene.
Additionally, you can’t cancel orders by moving a unit, this should be changed (e.g. if a squad is about to throw a grenade but are given the order to move, the action interrupts and they move)
*BUG* Commanders in particular occasionally freeze and ignore all commands including retreat.....potentially game-losing bug
The lack of stances in general is something of an issue. Units will often chase into the enemy’s base and die to turrets. A hold position stance would also be beneficial and stop your units from auto-seeking cover.
DoW2 has removed the Stand Ground, Hold Ground etc stances from the original game. In Company of Heroes there were also no stances, but units would simply hold their designated position, save for moving to better cover during the course of a firefight. In DoW2, ranged units act similarly to CoH, essentially defaulting to DoW1's "Hold Ground" stance. Melee units, however, (which CoH never had to deal with) seem permanently set to DoW1's "Attack" stance, and will willingly follow a retreating enemy the entire length of the map, dealing little to no damage on the way until at last they come face to face with the enemy's HQ turrets and are turned into a fine red paste.
However, while these units blindly follow enemies the entire width of the map, their melee-activation radius (how close they have to be to the enemy to charge in) is tiny: unless the enemy comes within around 4-5 units' width of them, my sluggas are content to stand where they are and occasionally take pot-shots with their pistols at the scouts standing 1 second worth of movement away.
Also, the removal of the Ranged/Assault stance leads to unncessary awkwardness. For example, sluggas upgraded with burnas default to the "Ranged" stance, requiring a specific "Melee Attack" command to be issued to make them engage in close combat -- where, it must be noted, they do far superior damage than they ever would at range, burnas or no. Which means the stance is simply changed upon upgrading, and not dictated by choosing the stance which deals the greatest damage.
Perhaps a related note, sending a unit after a specific unit only works until they disappear into the fog of war. This is most noticable and frustrating when sending a unit to attack an enemy that's in the process of decapping a point: the second the point is decapped, and the visibility around the point disappears, the unit you sent can no longer "see" the enemy and so stops dead in its tracks, instead of carrying on to defend the point. Which results in both losing map control and having units standing around in the open scratching themselves. Annoying.
*Credit to Bandolaf for his views on stances*
Destruction of transports causing insta-death to all inside is a bit of a concern given the cost of certain units and the inherent weakness of transports. This is a particularly harsh mechanic and given the woes in pathing with vehicles at time.....this can be very frustrating for a player struck with pathing glitches.
I’d advocate a HP hit to transported units rather than instadeath.
Transports are currently far more useful for their HW’s than anything else. They’re too risky to transport troops in due to low hp + pathing issues + instadeath for transported squads. They’re not actually THAT much faster than the infantry on the small dow2 maps – given the risks its better to just footslog.
EDIT: I’m aware that transports let you reinforce troops etc. The fact remains that they’re still fairly average as TRANSPORTS and that’s what I objected to. If price hikes are needed to reflect their new improved utility – so be it.
One of the most effective unit abilities at present, ranking right up there with suppression. The difference is that knockdown will even affect retreating units and let you trap and kill with enough mass of knockdown units. A concern since no other mechanic beyond overwhelming superiority of numbers will let u wipe out retreating squads.
Known Current imbalances (balance is not the prime focus of this article....but a comprehensive list of units will be provided regardless):
WIP – there’s LOADS and they will affect gameplay. Will update this section asap.
I’ve been pretty frank in my assessment of DoW2. I make no apology for this – as I said DoW2 has potential but needs work to reach it.
I hope that in providing a single coherent article to outline the numerous concerns I have with the game to help illustrate the areas that need work and development to increase the depth and fun for all players of DoW2.
I look forward to receiving your thoughts and feedback and will continue to update and amend this article with the intention of providing a single, definitive resource which outlines the key areas in which DoW2 could be improved upon.
I'm readily reached via irc @ #dowpro on irc.quakenet.org