Why current Live Multiplayer balance mods are missing the point

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    Why current Live Multiplayer balance mods missing the point

    I am playing this game for almost 2 years and have spend 1275h into the game. Soon after playing some mp games i realized that certain combos are strongest early/mid/late game. I noticed that some units and tactics are not used at all, but I decided to spend more time on learning this game to be able to make some solid statements about balance later on.
    Almost a year later i came into a situation where i had the rough knowledge and time to take on the balancing problem we had in our community. This was few months ago. The actual problems we faced over and over again were the following:
    1. Mono culture stacks of high tier units
    2. The unbalance between the classes and races.
    3. Cityspam
    And a very important point to me
    4. Fixed map settings.

    Explanation of these points. Why are they a problem?:
    1. Every combo has around 6 T1, 5 T2, 3 T3 and 1 T4 unit/s at its disposal, focusing on T4 in lategame means to focus on only 6 Class T4. Dwelling units are build only now and then so lets ignore them. Out of this 6 units the most commons in order of appearance ingame are : Manticores; Horrors; Gods.
    There is little diversity in the T4 sector.
    In the T3 sector it looks only slightly better, here we have to pick from a total of 23 T3 units, but in almost every case it will be like this:
    Necro builds racial T3 (mostly Knights, Flyers but sometimes Sphnix, Gryphons, Eagles, Firstborn.)
    Druid builds shamans
    Dreadnought builds flametanks or Racial T3
    Rogue builds stalkers
    Sorcerer casts serpents or builds Frost Queens
    Theo builds mostly exalted
    Warlord build mostly racial T3 (Flyers, Eagle Riders, Gryphon Riders; Knights)
    Out of 23 T3 units 12 T3 units are used. About the same rate as with T4 units.

    Out of all T3 we use the ones that have good mobility and survivability that makes the other 50% obsolete.
    Decide for your self if this is a problem or not. I think it cuts the diversity of the game and make it monotonously.

    Why is unbalance between classes and races a problem ?
    2. – Necro and Theo are strong in early/midgame and fall off strongly lategame. Both have lategame spells but they are rarely used because both classes simply cant get to lategame. Necro for example cant keep up an army like the living classes because cities dont grow as fast and dont get cheerful state. And it dont have any city enchantments to buff gold/mana income.
    – Horrors lose vs Gods always. Total imbalance here.
    – Warlord has by far best eco in game → means manticore mass spam lategame. Only another warlord can fight this spam with his own.
    – Goblins are weakest race nothing they are particulary good at.
    – Dreadnought is not mobile enough lategame. Everything that can fly/float/swim can outmaneuver and more importantly outfarm a dreadnought.
    – Theo has a T4 that requires devoted units to do best damage, those units practically T3 at best.
    – Tigrans are almost best in everything. Fast, best eco of all races, strong T3

    Why is cityspam bad?
    3. Its cityspam if you build your cites at any free spot in your territory just to build the resource buildings and get empire upgrades, race governance, enchantments.
    This is bad because this is exponential grow with no penalty and will make spam tactics more viable. And spam tactics are lame tactics, its more like abuse than tactic.

    Why are fixed map settings bad ?
    4. This game provides more than land , it also has underground, continents and islands. Focusing balance on land only is like taking part in a triathlon but only practicing swimming. If you are only interested in swimming, go to a swimming course and don’t take part in a triathlon. Focusing balance only on land is like ignoring 75% of the game experience.
    Taking all races onto land and compare them to each other is like taking all triathlon participants to a swimming competition and compare them to each others. Some of those participants main discipline is swimming while others main discipline is running.
    Taking all races onto land and compare them to discover any imbalance is stupid in the first place.
    If water and/or underground are unbalanced than start you balance here and not for land settings.
    The problem of fixed map settings is the wrong impression of total/actual imbalance!

    So whats wrong with the actual balance mods besides that they are focused on land what already make them fail at there job?
    As Satonir stated “best balance is when as much combos as possible are viable” or something like that. This can be right, but I dont agree
    My opinion is that some combos should not be viable because they are not immersive. Like Orc/Goblin Sorcerer; Frostling Druid; Tigran/Elf/Goblin Dreadnought; Goblin WL; Tigran/Halfling WL. And at the moment most immersion breaking combos , besides the WL, are rarely played. So I think only WL needs to be fixed at this point of view.
    Sure, one can argue this is my personal opinion but fantasy has mostly a common ground about immersion. So in my opinion most viable combos is not the best balance. I think best balance is when all immersive combos have strong option to win early/mid/late game. For example when Necro can win vs Dreadnought lategame. When Sorcerer can win vs Druid lategame.
    My main point of criticism is the approach taken by the modders to balance the game. If I look at the changes made by Dread/Griff I ask myself, will this make Necro win Dread or Warlord lategame ? Will this fight cityspam ? Will this fight mono culture stacks ? And underground, continents or island are not even addressed . So what are those changes doing , the same what old mp mod did or what vanilla version of the game is doing , just turning and twisting the game a little bit, a slight change in gameplay but still not balanced because the source of imbalance has not been right identified because of the triathlon example.
    Dont misunderstand me, Dread and Griff included some important changes that are needed for this game to be fun but beyond that they adding changes that missing the point.
    Im very curious what their masterplan/guideline is for all their changes.

    So what is the “Point” then ?
    I can introduce you to my thought process then and how all balance changes will follow this path to be consistent.
    1. Take this game as a whole and start asking why is it not be played with random maps, there must be reason, right ? Well, if you look at Sorcerer vs Dreadnought. The reason is obvious. Sorcerer units can float and clear on water and on other island as well as underground. Dreadnought on the other hand can only clear on land and has to research seafaring to reach other island its also slower than a Sorcerer. The actual advantage here is the access to flying/floating/swimming units because you need units that can clear on land and on water. Only few races and few classes have access to flying/floating/swimming units, all others are not viable on such maps, that’s why Sea Creatures are not viable, ships are not viable , that’s the unbalance for continents and islands. Good, now we know what is causing the unbalance. If we check the races we see that 3 out of 9 races have flying T3 and only Frostlings have swimming T2 support. If we check classes we see
    – Druid has Hunter,Shaman,God (all swimming)
    – Dread has Spydrone (floating)
    – Necro has Lost Soul and Banshee, Reaper (all floating)
    – Rogue has Stalker, Lesser Stalker (both floating); Succubus, Crow (both flying)
    – Sorcerer all Floating , some flying
    – Theocrat has Cherub and Exalted (both flying), Shrine (floating)
    – Warlord has Scout, Mosterhunter, Human Warbreed (all swimming) , Manticore (flying)
    We have 5 T3, 3 racial T3, 5 T4 that we can use to farm on land and over water.
    Out of 23 T3 units only 8 are viable. And those are: Serpent, Stalker, Exalted, Flyer, Gryphon, Eagle, Shamans and Succubus. If you compare that to the very first point where I talked about mono culture stacks, you will see that all units that are viable on water/land are also part of the “mono culture” stack problem. You could count Knight with seafaring also as viable on water/land.
    So we know now that the continents/island maps unbalance and the “mono culture” stack problem have something in common. Its the fact that the strongest units are also the most versatile once. I have not done the research for T2 or T4 but I would claim that those units with flying/swimming/floating traits will be build in the first place.
    First and foremost, because we use to play land only we do not recognize this as a problem but if we look at the whole game it gets clear that all units that have flying/floating/swimming have a big mobility/versatility advantage over units of their respective tier.
    At this point I want everybody to pay attention to all the ships and sea creatures which are obsolete because of this. Why build boats if you can spend money on Monster Hunters to clear sea and land structures? Anyway, why do Human Knights get devastating charge if they are embarked? How does that make sense?
    To fight this imbalance something has to be done to all flying/floating/flying/swimming units.
    I would suggest the following ideas:
    Introduce a new trait for all non Sea Creatures that will replace swimming, as an example: Now swimming will cost 12 mp to traverse water hex and a penalty to defense/melee/range. Sea Creatures will keep the old swimming trait without penalties.
    Human lose Mariner and get maybe a boat buff in return.
    Triple upkeep for T3/T4 to 48g/96g
    Why triple upkeep? Well, this is a simple and effective solution to mono culture stacks and will help balance continents/island maps.
    Why so ? Because this will reduce the usage of T3/T4 in general. A stack of T3 would equal 6 stacks of T2. Building mono culture T3 stacks will now be inefficient but integrating some T3 or even a T4 into your T2 armies will make the difference. Some few T3 will not be able to clear sea structures efficiently so more room for boats and Sea Creatures.
    Another benefit would be the variety by switching the focus more to the T2/T1 units. Every Race has its own pike man/swordsman/archer/cavalry/support. Countering enemies army will be easier and this way even T1 will become useful again. On the T3 side you dont have much abilities to counter mono culture stacks. One can easily see that the upkeep change will fight mono culture stacks.
    I will even fix Sorcerer vs Druid in endgame because Horror vs God is not a big deal anymore, stacks of them make no sense and are very hard to achieve. Not much balance is needed to balance races/classes , even Necro will get an easier time lategame with this simple change. Theo will now be happy to build a Shrine with its T2 devoted army.
    Most of the Race Governance will make sense now and be actually powerful.
    Sure, some adjustments will be needed but by far less then right now and this game will increase more in variety then with any other balance mod out there.

    Regarding City spam I had the idea that producing a settler will have a direct impact to the race happiness by -50 for the rest of the game. So with rising numbers of cities your empire becomes more and more unhappy and so will your units. Placing cities will be an important part and forts will become more useful. Dont know if thats possible to mod, have not looked into it yet. Necro will not be affected by this penalty but on the other hand it is not affected by moral buffs either and living cities will still be able to get cheerful state with some terraforming. Well, just an idea.

    If you want to balance this game than do it right from the start. I do see the reason for all the changes Griff and Dread did in their mods but they trying to balance only the expression of a much bigger imbalance. This big imbalance is the mobility/versatility of some T3 and T4 units that make most units obsolete after some turns so we end up in stacks of always the same couple of units Manticores/Horrors/Gods/Stalkers and some few others. And This mobility/versatility issue is also a reason for the imbalance between races.
    Take this example: Draconian Flyer is flying infantry, it fights in melee equally strong as the Goblin Beetle Rider, but on top of that it can traverse mountains and water to clear structures or reinforce with ease. If the Beetle Rider would be a Tank, a Flyer would be combination of a Helicopter and a Tank, a flying Tank. Thank you! And no one had the idea of fixing this “slight issue”.
    I am convinced that if the few changes I suggested would be implemented , it would make many current changes obsolete , of course some few changes will be needed but all in all way less then the current mods have.
    The actual question is, do Dread and/or Griff consider the very first 4 points as an issue that need to be balanced?
    If not, why not and then what are they are actually balancing?
    If yes, then what exact changes fix what problem?

    Note: I do respect Dread and Griff for their experience, for the time and the effort they put in their mods, but I strongly feel that current balance changes go in the total wrong direction, I feel the need to draw some attention to this situation and I hope to convince with arguments to take the right turn.



    Hei Nemesis,
    I agree with quite some points of your analysis (mainly what the problems are). Your suggestions – Though Making T3 and T4 much more expensive, giving a -50 malus on each city of a specific race and replace swimming generate some problems.

    1.) The happiness malus prevents you to have more than maybe 7 cities of your starting race and your armies would basically always have bad morale then. It’s fine on small and maybe medium maps, but if you want to play a large epic map it would be very annoying.

    2.) Making T3 and T4s have more upkeep would reduce their number for sure, but it would make T3s that are even now rarely built (e.g. Firstborn) vanish completely from the game, thats not good.

    3.) You, imho correctly, named mobility as a key issue (dreads are too slow lategame etc.) and only change that in regards to your new swimming rule. But I don’t think that solves the problem, I fear with your new changes we would get monostacks of the best T2 cavalry/fast units beefed up with some fast T3/T4. And WL will still dominate with Monster hunters and mounted archers.

    In the end I think I agree more with Griffith and Dreads more subtle changes as i think the vanilla game is pretty good already.
    Better ways to address your points would could be to increase settler cost with each settler built (against city spam) and reduce MP of Knights and manticores (WL is too fast anyway!). Maybe cardinal culling could become an avatar spell. It’s the only definite monostack counter and I agree that the currently dominating monostacks are annoying and imho everyone regardless of specialization should be able to get a counter against monostacks.

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  Fluks.
    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  Fluks.


    Jo Fluks,

    Point 1) Can be adjusted to -25 or something, and im sure that the living races have some options to raise their armies moral. If you can get cheerful on your units you can also build 8 additional cities and still have Very High Moral if you use -25 penalty. With -50 you could build 8 cities and have only High Moral, in best case scenarios ofc. Cities should not be a problem because you can get 1000+ happiness with terraforming and buildings. So I dont see much of a problem here.

    Point 2) Why should they vanish? Its not like one can choose between firstborn and flyer, either you picked Dwarfs and build Firstborn or Draconians and build Flyers. And because its not about T3 spam anymore, other T3 become powerful because of their traits like Bonecollector, Deathbringer, noone use them right now. Even if some T3 are still stronger then others, because they are in a lower quantity in the game its impact is negligible.

    Point 3) Swimming was the one part, the other is the upkeep change. As i stated, the mobile/versatile units are mostly T3 and T4, the upkeep change will reduce its number and with that its impact to the game. Sure, mono stacks can happen but in the T2 section they are easier to counter then in T3 or T4 because of a greater pool of different units, you will sure agree and on top of that, you still have strong/epic/legendary sites that give strong boni to T1 and T2 units, those sites will become important again.
    Regarding WL , yes WL needs to be nerfed on multiple ends.
    I cant explain and argue for all unbalanced point in the game at once. But after fixing this big imbalance others will not be a problem.



    As Satonir stated “best balance is when as much combos as possible are viable” or something like that. This can be right, but I dont agree
    My opinion is that some combos should not be viable because they are not immersive.

    I disagree with you. I don’t care that much about immersivity and it’s very subjective. In the list you gave, I find Frostling AD very immersive for instance.
    I highly recommend reading this http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancing-multiplayer-games-part-1-definitions it really helps to challenge and order your thoughts on balance, it was really useful for me (and I should finish reading it!!).

    Regarding City spam I had the idea that producing a settler will have a direct impact to the race happiness by -50 for the rest of the game.

    This does not make sense, basically what you are saying is that settling a city gives +50-50=0 race happiness. Why talk about a malus when you are actually about removing the current race happiness gain from settling? It just means you will never reach high race happiness, except by doing exploits with vassals.

    Otherwise, I find your thoughts interesting on fixed settings (in PBEM, we play with more diverse settings than live: UG on, continent with reduced water so we DO have lakes, ocean, deltas, etc. and there is more room for Swimming and Fast Embark) and on the issue with Boats & co.
    I don’t think you would really address the monostack issue just by raising upkeep but raising upkeep is interesting, and I think a better solution is one used by JollyJoker: add mana upkeep to T3 and T4.

    Your point about high mobility units also being the best even without mobility is interesting too. It probably means high mobility units should be nerfed, to be worse than low mobility ones.

    Check out the Wiki for a lot of very good data about AoW3!
    What you really need to improve your AoW3 experience: the balance mod and its presentation video
    Last but not least, check out the Battlefield.com/AoW3 the community website for AoW3



    Yea, big thanks for the guide, i was looking for something similar but could not find one. I will check it out.

    Regarding cities, I meant Base Happiness not Race Happiness. I’m sure Fluks meant the same. I would edit my post but this forum is to cool to let me edit it.

    I like the idea of additional mana upkeep and yes, i wanted to imply to make high mobility units weaker then low mobility ones in combat.



    Hey folks, sorry for the late reply. Bit long post here looks like, I’ll try reply briefly.

    1. Mono culture stacks of high tier units
    2. The unbalance between the classes and races.
    3. Cityspam
    And a very important point to me
    4. Fixed map settings.

    Those are good points. Regarding point 1, I also find it unfortunate that the game encourages making stacks with a single unit type, particularly at late game. In my opinion this is because there isn’t really many high tier options for the classes / races, so naturally you run with what you got. We could consider adding more units to the game, it should help with this (like racial t4 🙂 ). Other option would be to redesign the existing high tier units, but dunno if I want to go that road. Few alterations can be made if they’re reasonable. Also there isn’t that many synergies between the units at high tier, so there’s not much incentive to make varied armies (save for few exceptions).

    Regarding point 2, there certainly are unbalances between the classes and races, and it’s important focus on balance mods to try address this. It’s bit easier said than done however, since the are so many variables to consider. But I think we have tuned down some of the most op stuff by now at least. In my mind, it isn’t a big problem if some class has a bit advantage against some others in some stages of the match. Overpowered combos should be nerfed of course, and that’s what were trying to do.

    I agree with you on the cityspam issue, it can get out of hand in large maps, where you don’t often have opportunity to rush your opponent early enough. Being forced to spam cities to compete isn’t everyones cup of tea, and its bit overpowered atm seems to me. But I’m not sure what would be the best way to address this. Perhaps could try reducing the race morale bonus from settling cities like you guys talked about. Increasing settler cost cumulatively after each settler would be better, but I’m not sure if that can be done with the mod editor.

    As for fixed map settings, people are free to play the settings they want of course. But players have preferences, and there are reasons why we play the settings we do usually. Like the land type setting is usually set to land, because its the most balanced setting for competitive playing imho. Islands is especially unfair setting, if some players are using class / race with flying / swimming units, while the other player has none. I’m ok with using underground maps, and continent maps can be ok too occasionally. As for other settings, its too big topic to go into right now, but there are reasons for those too. Some settings are just matter of preference though, which is why we usually discuss about the settings before the game.

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