Artificial intelligence and more

Maps, maps, maps

For a strategy game like Heroes V content is king. Heroes V offers you campaigns to play through that provide you with a continuing story. But there are also a large number of outstanding scenarios that come with a single map to play. Sometimes these tell their own stories, sometimes these offer unique strategic challenges.

But sometimes you simply want to dive in and play a typical game of Heroes of Might & Magic, collect treasures, fight interesting battles and conquer the opposition. This is where the random map generator comes in.

The random map generator that shipped with the original game is servicable, but the maps it generates are kind of uninspired, in the sense that they lack a clear structure.

With build v3138 comes a revamped random map generator that uses HotA style map templates. HotA has an introduction to their map templates here. You find a description of the map layout of popular templates like Jebus or Diamond there. If you miss a specific template from HotA because it hasn't been converted yet, you can also create new templates. These are located in the EE_options.pak in the RMG folder and follow simple patterns.

If you don't select a custom template in the random map generator, the game will choose one for you randomly. You will still get a high-quality map now.

You may notice that HotA's templates have more detailed, refined extra parameters. I would like to enhance the random map generator further so that it can import and use HotA templates directly.

But time is always scarce. To give you an idea, there are roughly 1,000 tasks on my desk, of which usually only the top 20 compete for being implemented next. Heroes V is truly a vast game. So I have to go strategically about what tasks to tackle next.

I recently switched to using my time spent on testing the latest build to explore, test, and ensure that most single scenario maps that you can find on play without error. This is a vast undertaking as there is a huge amount of high-quality maps.

I am going over the maps and check whether these have script functions that are not yet integrated into the new AI. This is an incremental process, but over time most maps should become playable. The one exception are maps that use scripts like an embedded application continuously polling the game state.

Beyond that I am checking whether there are maps which produce other errors. You can help with this by reporting maps with a savegame from which I can reproduce an error on the latest build. Again the idea here is to get the game bug-free over time. Please note, because of the workload mentioned above, I will tackle game-breaking bugs first. After we have resolved these, the time for tackling the remaining bugs will come.

Difficulty and challenge

Recently someone mentioned that he hates the fights against the neutral heroes in the treasure vaults.

I understand where he is coming from. An important part of playing HoMM is traditionally to go on the adventure map from site to site and fight the winnable battles, or more specifically those battles that cause you little or no casualties. It is a grand way of playing HoMM, to go serenely over the map, battle, collect treasures and ultimately top the game off with a few great battles against your opponents' main heroes. This is one of the core strengths of HoMM's gameplay.

So finding tough opposition in the treasure vaults, which you usually only entered with superior forces, is kind of a game-stopper.

But consider this: it is your expection that makes you think these battles are too hard. There are many sites on the adventure map guarded by creeps that you avoid because you know they are strong. You will come back later with more powerful forces. The same goes for the reworked treasure vaults. Simply accept that the treasures they hoard are difficult to obtain. Come back later when you are better equipped.

The game will be harder to play, yes. However, know that the better players push themselves all the time. They tackle the creeps that average players don't mess with, to capture a mine more early, or to make faster progress into a guarded treasure zone. That is where the fun is for them, to prove themselves how hard they can push and how fast they can cover and gain ground.

The best strategy games force you to get out of your comfort zone and face up to tough opponents, to prevail, and ultimately gain satisfaction from it. You learn and grow through trials like this, to emerge as a more skilled player from it.

The same is true for Heroes V. If you learn to leave your comfort zone and take the more difficult battles, you will gain something from it in exchange.

The treasure vaults with the neutral hero guardians require you to think a bit differently about the challenge they pose. Your advantage isn't in the raw force of your army, but rather how well you can use it. Synergies matter, the spells you have and your hero's skills. On top of that you have real advantages, like the artifacts you have equipped. The neutral heroes don't have these, or at least only very rarely, like those they guard in a dragon utopia. But in general you have a real advantage here. Ultimately it matters how good the synergies are that you have between the creatures in your army, your hero skills and the artifacts you equipped. You may also discover what difference it makes to visit a well of fortune before the battle.

With v3138 comes also a battle replay button, if you are not satisfied with the outcome of a battle. I don't want to encourage save scumming, but in the case of fighting neutral heroes this is a valuable tool. I had a battle against an Academy neutral hero, and after he mirrored back my chain lightning twice to my own creatures I was devasted and acknowledged I have to use a different approach. There often is, like casting area effect spells, or boosting your own creatures. The replay button allows you to learn about your opponent and adapt your tactics accordingly.

I acknowledge that the battles against neutral heroes are tough. But you gain something that you hadn't before. It isn't a cakewalk anymore. But after playing a good session of Heroes V and then doing my kitchen work or reviewing my day before I fall asleep, my mind is filled with pictures of chain lighting being mirrored and zapped back to my creatures and many other impressions like rare powerful hero skills in action that I get too rarely from a docile Heroes game. Even the few battles that you get against the main heroes of your opponents on a map are often underwhelming, because you usually prepare yourself to have the advantage if you can. In the treasure vaults you face an equally powerful army with an equally powerful hero now.

Legends of the Ancients

Last but not least v3138 comes with mission 5 of book 1. In comparison to the original mission, stage two has been enhanced to be more challenging. Enjoy!

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