Ask Anything about Feudums .... Part 1

Ask anything about FEUDUMS Part 1: Enter the Void

Lead Developer of an AAA game developer company and legendary, former Tribal Wars player and World Winner, void420 has asked Feudums Designer Matyas Suranyi - aka .MM. / Mat - a few questions about FEUDUMS. Enjoy!


void420: I guess my vision of it is heavily tainted by Tribal Wars. I'm having trouble grasping the scope of a full game on various "speed" settings, and how many players would participate per game

The game is conceptually tick based. There can be multiple game sessions (game worlds) that are running simultaneously, each having its own state and evaluator logic. The tick speed, giving a conversion rate for real-life seconds to a tick, can be defined for each game session. A game session starts at tick 1, and lasts a selected amount of ticks - that can also be defined per game sessions. This means that we can run sessions that are not evaluating commands in real-time (which is the typical scenario) During a game session players queue up orders in real-time via the Client, and having them sent to the server they are evaluated and processed when a tick elapses (the turn is over).

void420: So, what would be the "default" turn speed?

Since this is a strategy game, we didn't want to make it a click or timing contest and wanted to give players time to think about their next steps. For MMO mode, it would be at most times somewhere between 5 and 30 mins, but that could be easily tuned up or down based on the beta testing experiences. For Single and Multiplayer, it can be whatever the game owner chooses. We also know for sure that there will be speed runs, where 1 tick equals 1 second, making it practically real-time. But that will be more of an exception than the general case.

void420: yeah, I am curious because it will have very different effects early and late game. i.e. early on you quickly hit the maximum number of things you can do in 30 minutes, and late game it's not nearly enough time.

I partially agree - the earliest period is a danger zone as it may be too slow, so it's easier to lose a player, and that's something we must take care of, either by giving them other "tasks" to do (ie socializing with neighbours), or by very carefully picking the speed rate. I disagree that you won't have enough time. First, you'll have just as much time as others - so even if it isn't enough or it's way too much - the rest of players will have the same period to do their thing. Second, we have a fundamental part that may heavily affect your workload in the end-game: feudalism.

Battles take several ticks, so they aren't calculated in an instant. It's important as this allows both you and your enemy to call for help, an ally can rush and join in. In each tick there are damages calculated for the battle and you see an estimation of the battle length - it is corrected after each tick, so that is really just an estimation based on the current state of the battle. I think this is where our war aspect is much more than it is in a TW-like wargame. You have battles that lasts several ticks, and you have marching plans that are "programmed" routes / list of orders for units. These together, and the fact that you can't have an unrealistically big army and that levies aren't standing armies means you'll need your vassals for bigger campaigns which makes war a highly cooperative (for allies) and competitive (against hostiles) event and it, again, rewards careful planning.

void420: Well, no matter, I like the idea of a "heartbeat" when all commands are processed.

In FEUDUMS, it's more beneficial for you to give your lands away to smaller lords in exchange for a steady income and military service (knight service), so you won't end up managing 1818 villages (like you did back in Tribal Wars) for each tick. Furthermore, the game starts to penalize lords who are amassing lands and aren't delegating them - they will get less and less income as there is a limit that a lord can effectively control (there are in-game traits that can increase that a bit, but it’s still limited), etc. So they'll end up searching for people they can trust and giving them lands - mimicking real world feudalism. So you won't grow to the point your life is full of micromanagement - this game highly rewards delegation. So you get lands, you retain a de jure ownership, but are leasing them to lesser lords (smaller players). They tend to it and give you part of their income and armies. Its a working ecosystem. Under certain conditions, you can take the lands back, or the vassal can revolt, so it's also about a healthy relationship. It’s also a fundamental part that a heartbeat should be processed quickly, so you won’t wait for minutes even on a crowded world to get the news after a heartbeat.

void420: And everyone will want to be a lord :)

Sure, it's good to be king too. :) But the system is dynamic. You can start as a vassal and grow to be a king. Feudal relations aren't final. There are Proper Reasons for everything - even turning on your liege lord, ie. declaring independence. Its just as much a political game as a war or economy game.

void420: Yeah.

It also offers a logical solution for joining a game late, without causing balance issues, as you can always ask a friend to offer you a feudum in exchange of an Oath of Fealty. So a new player appears on an already inhabited land, on the same side. No balance issues. And so there won't be servers which starts with 400k players and ends with 2000 with an average distance of 100-150 hexes between them… like most games do. Its easier to maintain a constant flow of players during the whole game session, making late game more interesting and less repetitive.

void420: Speaking of map, is travel / attack time based?

A military company can take x hexes per tick, based on their speed and hostile armies on the route.

void420: So it's a bit like Civ in that regard.

There is a level of autonomy for units, as you can give them basic orders (and they have their default tactics set for lazy gamers) for decision making, such as whether to evade or pursue hostiles in sight. It’s like Civ or Endless Legend or anything in that aspect where units have an area of control effect. If a hostile gets into yours, you'll have a chance to react. If two or more hostile armies meet, there will be a battle. Battles take several ticks, so they aren't calculated in an instant. It's important as this allows both you and your enemy to call for help, an ally can rush and join in. In each tick there are damages calculated for the battle and you see an estimation of the battle length - it is corrected after each tick, so that is really just an estimation based on the current state of the battle. I think this is where our war aspect is much more than it is in a TW-like wargame. You have battles that lasts several ticks, and you have marching plans that are "programmed" routes / list of orders for units. These together, and the fact that you can't have an unrealistically big army and that levies aren't standing armies means you'll need your vassals for bigger campaigns which makes war a highly cooperative (for allies) and competitive (against hostiles) event and it, again, rewards careful planning. So you can, say, put a marching plan to your map, set a few rally points on the marching route, and add targets. Then you share your plan. Any allied forces that are joining on a rally point will automatically follow the plan (even if that's changed over the course of your military campaign). So it's an easy yet effective way to lend your armies to your ally or liege, and also a great way to collaborate and plan several waves in advance. You can plan, for example, that troops should rally on a rally point for X tick, or until they'll raise an army that has more than Y units - and set the rally point accordingly. Then they proceed together.

In FEUDUMS, it's more beneficial for you to give your lands away to smaller lords in exchange for a steady income and military service (knight service), so you won't end up managing 1818 villages (like you did back in Tribal Wars) for each tick. Furthermore, the game starts to penalize lords who are amassing lands and aren't delegating them - they will get less and less income as there is a limit that a lord can effectively control

void420: You will need a very good chat/messaging/notification system for all this cooperation :)

Absolutely. We have parts already implemented of those systems but this is something I'm sure will be tweaked a couple of times during beta. If you check our screenshots, there are quickslots filled with CoAs on the bottom left part of the screen. There you can add any lord, your allies or vassals preferably. Then you'll see notifications there whenever they call to arms, sight hostiles, or send you a message. Also, shared plans are automatically updated between those who shared them (ie. liege and his vassals) right on their maps. So it's pretty visual. Likewise, if you tap on a notification that is linked to a physical event, the map will scroll to that point. So if you tap on a "call to action", or a "battle" notification, your map shows the exact location and it's details for you, so you don't have to search for anything. 

void420: I see.

What do you think about it, by the way? You were the most feared wargamer of World 17. :)

void420: I like but am a bit unsure on how vassals will actually play out with random strangers.

It's like building a tribe or clan in that respect. “Complete strangers” won’t help each other. If you give them a reason to fight for you, they will. So you have to build your small community if you want to be a successful lord. The main difference from a typical tribal/clan/kingdom relation that this isn't a flat thing with a leader and 99 servants, it's a tree. Here it's pretty likely that you, as a lord will have vassals who also have vassals, and maybe even their vassals have a few. Likewise, your liege may be a vassal of someone else. We can have kingdoms, as the top level, with a king or queen, but below that, there are multiple levels of lieges/vassals, so it's pretty likely you'll be in both roles at the same time for different players. It’s once again about delegation. You don't have to lead hundreds of people. Unless you're in special circumstances (ie. you’re the king), you have to care about your 5-10 direct vassals and a single liege. They have to care with theirs, and so on. Things are delegated, responsibilities are shared. Also, vassals can be random strangers. I actually have very positive experiences with searching for strangers with a good attitude from my MMO times :), but anyone can send a request via social networks or email to their friends to join in and take a feudum under their rule (sending out a Knight Service Request). That way you can actually specify where your friend will arrive and whose side he will be on (unless he chose to betray you, of course). No hassles around joining a game late.

void420: What do you anticipate the endgame to look like?

From how vassalage and feudalism is working here, I expect that game sessions won't be widely abandoned - thats a key goal - as players can join in effortlessly and without causing balance issues. Also, people are harder to burn out as micromanagement is kept low due to delegating tasks and maintaining only a few feudums by yourself. You have time to play, spend your time on getting quality experiences, instead of merely logging in day-to-day and running the very same commands to keep your empire intact, fearing it would collapse otherwise. Also, MMO sessions aren't open-ended, there are various victory conditions (more like in a classic single- or multiplayer game) and a game length specified right at the start. Whether you dominated everyone else or not, the game ends after X ticks for sure and winners will be declared based on the victory conditions. If nobody reached a condition, there will be a score winner (based on their Virtue score).

void420: How long do you think a game would last?

A typical game lasts less than a year. About 12000 ticks, which is 250 days with 30 minutes ticks. But again, this is completely configurable, so these are just plans, beta may overwrite the exact values.

void420: Ok.

Please let me know if I'm speaking too much about something. Or missing the point.

It's good to be king too. :) But the system is dynamic. You can start as a vassal and grow to be a king. Feudal relations aren't final. There are Proper Reasons for everything - even turning on your liege lord, ie. declaring independence. Its just as much a political game as a war or economy game.

void420: No it's fine. I was just thinking that it's hard to fine tune a 250 day long game. :)

With 5 mins ticks it’s just a bit more than a month. For a speed run, a few days total. People play differently and so a few things cannot be discovered with altered speed. But there are speed-indifferent issues that can be identified.

void420: I know but longer ticks can dramatically alter some parts of the game, don’t they? You will not experience all side-effects and exploits until the first actual game ;)

Yes, I agree on that. But how could you solve that actually? It isn't just speed. In beta, it’s also unlikely we can test how a game looks like with 100,000 players as we might simply not have that many testers at all. So a few thing will remain in the closet until we actually start playing for real.

void420: It's not an easy task. You can come try to close with a few simulated games with players starting with lots of stuff; and you can benchmark your infrastructure with several tools. However this is no trivial task. You can just as easily end up testing your testing tool and not your game.

We can test our infrastructure and game integrity, sure we'll do that. That's functional and stress-testing QA. But that won't show flaws in game design. Miscalculations, balancing issues. Quick-starting players with a preset scenario to emulate end-game (or specific situations) is a good idea, but life will show us a hundred scenarios we never thought about. So I agree that we should test as much as we can, but I don't think we can actually believe we'll be able to cover everything.

void420: Of course not. The safest route is to play test for many months with an open alpha or beta tag. But even for that you need to have fairly solid mechanics or people will lose interest quickly.

We plan to release a beta, first for backers, later to the public. That would last a few months at least. The beta would have all or nearly all things implemented and passing on internal QA first, so it should be solid enough for people to enjoy testing/playing. Apart from that slightly chaotic and ad-hoc testing (functionality-wise), we'll also have planned manual testing based on test plans. But we hope our beta players will have a great feast on bugs and we’ll have them eliminated by the time our beta is over.

void420: The thing that is harder to predict is balancing work. You might end up having to rework or test many combinations of settings; and that is time consuming especially if each test must last a few days at least. For this backer only test, what do you consider a backer?

If we stick to our current plans, beta would start along with the Kickstarter campaign (or maybe start a few weeks prior to the KS). All the Patreon backers and everyone from the KS backers would qualify for closed beta.

 

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