The Protectors: Why we did what we did
The Protectors is an ambitious project. Over many years of development, more and more changes and additions have been made to the original Warlords Battlecry 3 formula, sometimes including changes of changes or additions themselves. From minor tweaks to massive overhauls, The Protectors is viewed by some as a new addition to the franchise while others dislike it for straying from the original formula. Whether a fan or not, we can assure players that there is method behind the modifications, the most significant and controversial of which will be addressed in this article!
Main Menu and Interface
The very first thing that players will notice is the new menu graphics and ingame interface. Instead of the rough, bloody look of Warlords Battlecry 3, The Protectors has a cleaner, stoney appearance. It also features a video in the main menu which plays the intro from Warlords Battlecry 1 and various snippets from The Protectors’ gameplay. However, the tan selection options are still the same as they are in the original game. The idea of the menu graphics is not yet finished, but over time we hope to make it sleek, modern and reminiscent of dark, metal and gothic themes from Warlords 3: Darklords Rising and Warlords Battlecry 1. The selection options will be updated too, and will be actual buttons in future. For now, the current menu graphics and interface is a placeholder and identifies that the game is different from the original.
The new ingame interface is very different from the original. For a start, the info panel has been moved from the top of the screen and has been integrated into the UI. There is also a new hero spell bar and a unit group spell bar, so units can fire off spells while a group is selected, saving the player from having to select each unit individually. The hero spell bar was created so that players could have more interactivity with hero spells and abilities. This makes it easier to know what spell is bound to each F key and also makes it easier to cast them for those who find UI buttons easier or for those with imbedded F buttons. However, these modifications have made the UI both large and clunky. This was not intended, and is indeed because the UI is a prototype. It will become much smaller and sleeker in future and the infobox will at some point float above (rather than requiring a black background due to display issues). At this point in time, if players find the new UI to be too tall, there is an option to revert it to the original one in Warlords Battlecry 3. In addition, the spell icons are also prototypes and vary in consistency and quality. They will be reviewed again in a future update to make sure they are all as good as they can be.
The Protectors Official Soundtrack
An addition to the game, the new soundtrack may or may not be one of the first things players will discover depending on their settings. The Protectors not only includes all official Infinite Interactive tracks, but its very own official soundtrack as well. This was all created and imported specifically to increase the variety in each race’s soundtrack, to amplify their unique qualities and reflect them in ways never even conceived before in the Warlords series. Each race’s soundtrack was developed with all this in mind and based on the lore for each civilization. Within the Sound options, each Warlords games’ soundtracks can be played, including The Protectors’ own. In addition, an extended playlist was created with the intent of not only including much of the Warlords franchise’s music but also improving the racial soundtrack further, using a mixture of the most fitting music available respective of each race. This means players can listen to whichever soundtrack they like the best, and even create one with a mixture of their own tracks, just like in Warlords Battlecry 3.
However, there are some complications with The Protectors’ soundtrack. The software used to make it was restricted by the midi format, and no other software could be used at the time. This means that the soundtrack has some issues with certain parts of some songs where other formats and software would not. Multiple revisions have been made for many of the tracks, and have shown massive improvement yet some tracks are still notably problematic. There are no plans to update parts of the official Protectors soundtrack using new, unrestricted software. Whether this will remain as such is not yet known, though updates are always welcome given further support and assistance.
The Protectors Campaign, Custom Campaigns and Chapters
One of the first things players will notice are the addition of new campaigns and chapters in the Singleplayer menu. The Protectors is designed so that it can support a multitude of custom-made campaigns and chapters, a feature new to the series. Campaigns work in much the same way they do in Warlords Battlecry 3, but Chapters use particular heroes instead of the players’ own, so that the player may play through one of the game’s stories as that character. The feature isn’t yet complete, as only one custom campaign can be installed at a time, but in future it will be easy to add or remove any number of custom campaigns or chapters.
The Protectors Campaign Beta
The first option on the menu is The Protectors’ main campaign. This campaign is designed based on the story progression of Warlords Battlecry 1, mixed with the journey mechanics of Warlords Battlecry 3, updated with modern features. Player starting locations and characters depend on their race and progression uses multi-choice options which reflect the hero in every way - their race, class, stats, psychology (such as their alignment) and even equipment may be considered when conversing or performing actions on the world map or in battle maps. In addition, completing chapters has effects on the characters in the campaign, and may provide them with several bonuses. Hero actions change the way the game is played and can also change the hero’s psychological profile. For example, they may choose a quicker and darker path, and their alignment will change based on this. At present, the campaign is unfinished and has yet to be revised with some new mechanics and lore discoveries. It is included in the release solely for the purpose of feedback.
CW Magee’s Conquest Campaign
This inclusion is a somewhat controversial one. The Custom Campaign that is included by default is CW Magee’s Conquest Campaign, which is liked by some and disliked by others. It is fully updated with all of The Protectors’ new balancing, but it is notorious among some for its issues, making some parts of it less playable. With every patch, we’re updating several locations and missions and fixing a multitude of infamous bugs, but there are always one or two which escape our grasp. We will always be trying to update and ultimately fix this content, but there is no date for this milestone. The reason why is because new updates to The Protectors sometimes create new bugs in the campaign, meaning that fixing it may be a never-ending cycle until version 1.0.0. In the meantime, please be aware that there may be some issues, and please help us out by reporting them to us so we may hopefully fix them entirely - and any others that crop up, by next patch.
Bugs aside, there is another reason why the inclusion of CW Magee’s Conquest Campaign may be considered controversial as well. Many Warlords Battlecry 3 players are put off by the inclusion of this over the original game’s campaign. CW Magee’s campaign was included over the original to present new game content which most players will never have seen before. However, the semi-Warlords Battlecry 2 campaign style is not as well liked by some as the story-progression one in Warlords Battlecry 3. At present, it is our intent to provide access to both CW Magee’s Campaign and the original one as downloadable content, but due to changes in 0.8.8 the old version of the original campaign is no longer compatible. Soon, a new version of the original Warlords Battlecry 3 campaign will become available for download until it can simply be included by default.
The Duernothian Cult
The Duernothian Cult is the first custom chapter official to The Protectors and comes with it by default. It was made with love using the latest features and functionality available to the game. The complex dialogue options, events, interaction and high quality text is an example of what to expect in The Protectors when it has been fully finished and revised. Players may notice a difference between dialogue and text styles when they reach Duernoth (as of 0.8.8b). Like many other parts of the game, The Duernothian Cult is steadily evolving every patch.
New World Map
As soon as one enters a campaign or chapter, they will notice the massive change to the world map. It is twice as large as the original and features details never seen before. The details of the original have not only been retained, but updated to this new resolution (for example, the grass is now textured at a high resolution). The changes in the world map are largely based on official lore discovered throughout the Warlords franchise, particularly in Warlords 3. We have increased the map size to help accommodate some of the new features, details and locations, almost all of which are official. Unfortunately, there are some areas which are not displayed in detail elsewhere in the Warlords series, and so they had to be created by us. All new areas or interpretations of old prototype Warlords maps were done with a love for the game. Each new location features an intense level of detail. An enormous amount of effort went into naming and positioning each and every completely new location or map detail - and all were done based on interpretation of the official lore. To learn more about these unofficial areas, locations and details, see this link: Etheria.wikia.com
Heroes have received some of the most substantial changes over the years. Many race and class options have different skills and there are many new classes and skills altogether. Immediately, players will see all skills laid out in the hero creation panel, alongside the usual Name, Race and Class options. Amongst those is a new option - Proficiency, which improves with the hero’s level. Different Proficiencies give different bonuses from increasing the side’s combat, speed, HP regeneration, SP regeneration, XP bonuses, building HP and conversion speed. Each option also gives a perk to the hero. Perks are a new addition, similar to the type of perks seen in Warlords Battlecry 2 except that they are levellable and most have mutually exclusive branches. In such a perk, only one direction may be invested into, so the player must choose wisely. Both proficiencies and perks are in the prototype stages of development. We are aware that there are issues with them, such as speed and combat proficiencies currently dominating the metagame. All these issues will be rectified with a new update, which will replace proficiencies with factions, which in part will change how the old proficiency mechanics work. In addition, there will be many more perks for each race and class, which will help them feel more unique.
Hero portraits and avatars haven’t been neglected either, with many races receiving new or altered additions. Even more options will always be added with every patch, helping to round out the selection as much as possible (given the lack of materials). Recoloured avatars are a common addition to each race, designed to replace any original ones which are shared between multiple races, helping to make each side feel a little more unique. Both male and female options are being developed down the line for every race, ensuring that either option is available no matter which race is chosen. These will be developed and released in a future patch.
New classes involve the Blightlord, a master of physical afflictions, the Chronomancer, a wizard of time magic, the Monk, a martial artist (which will at some point have its own spell tree), the Rogue, a thief/warrior hybrid class based on looting and the Warlock with its unique ability to cast spells using HP. There are now 33 classes in total but there are still combinations which some players desire. Because adding new classes is becoming problematic in many ways, a new ‘flexy’ hero system may be implemented, giving players much more ability to play however they want. Research into this system is likely going to proceed far in the future to ensure that the decision is a correct one and that it is designed and balanced as it should be.
Leveling heroes is also different to Warlords Battlecry 3. Instead of receiving 1 Stat point and 1 Skill point, players receive a number of Skill points depending on their current level. At a low level, heroes receive 5 Skill points whereas at a high level heroes receive 2 Skill points. Firstly, the player’s 5 Skill points can be invested anyway they wish. They may place these points into Stats, Skills, Perks or Spells if they have access to them. This was done both to help heroes develop faster and also to help create many new hero options. Stats cost 2 Skill points whereas Skills cost 1, so Stats can be used to compensate for lack of certain Skills depending on the build. This means that spellcasters without access to Ritual can still invest all their points into Intelligence to help obtain as much spellcasting chance as is desired. Secondly, Spell development has returned to Warlords Battlecry 2, as a Spell tree rather than a Skill. This also helps make different hero builds shine as they can choose to invest only in certain parts of the tree. This system may also be improved further in a future patch. Thirdly, heroes can no longer level up during a game. This is because certain Skills and abilities only apply before or after a match has been completed, so some heroes couldn’t become stronger during gameplay. Fourthly, Skill points deteriorate at higher hero levels to help lower level heroes in their fight against higher level ones. It also prevents a tremendous build-up of power which makes high level heroes near unstoppable and we did not wish games to be determined solely by hero level.
Lastly, heroes receive 75% of their mana at game start instead of Warlords Battlecry 3’s 25%. This was done to help spellcasters defend more adequately against rush-builds, such as warriors and monks.
In The Protectors, every race’s skill lists have been modified to help them support a multitude of different roles. Races are not as biased towards one archetype or another (such as warrior/wizard etc), as they are in Warlords Battlecry 3. We will continue revising each race’s skillset and improving this idea further.
During these changes, all races lost their native skill sphere, a decision which to many was a controversial one. Racial spell spheres were removed for a multitude of different reasons. Firstly, they had an adverse impact on balancing. When for example, Warrior classes gained access to Healing magic, there was less reason to play as a Paladin. Likewise, many wizards abused different spell sphere combinations and classes could become full wizards without any adherence for their actual design. This leads onto the second reason, which was that they were creating hero creation bias, where players would be drawn to pick very specific combos with certain races or classes, due in part also to the synergy bonus. All in all, racial spell spheres proved to be very unhealthy for the game and so were removed.
The biggest changes to hero classes has been the removal of Arcane Magic (and Time if playing the unofficial patches), racial slayer skills, alignment slayer skills (Smite Good/Evil), racial skills (such as Guardian Oak), the nerfing of melee heroes (via Assassin, Ferocity and Mighty Blow), the design style change to Monks and Alchemists.
Back in Warlords Battlecry 3, many of the wizard classes got access to Arcane Magic as their fourth skill. If playing the unofficial patches, some of these wizards received Time Magic instead. Depending on the hero builds, access to a ‘super spell sphere’ was either completely pointless or entirely broken. Time Magic was originally going to arrive in an expansion pack for Warlords Battlecry 3, but was developed by the unofficial patch team alongside the Monk class. However, Time Magic was notorious for being high-costed and situational. The developers for the unofficial patches designed Time Magic to be a type of ‘combat magic’, but its powers were well-known to be very limited, even for the few wizard classes which comboed with it. Arcane Magic was another matter entirely, and was completely opposite. Its spells could be combined to create infinite loops - including with other spells from different spell spheres (such as Destruction + Life Ward), and as such the high level metagame was dominated by it. In an earlier patch of The Protectors, Time Magic was redesigned and given to its own wizard class - the Chronomancer. Arcane Magic however was removed, to the dismay of many players. Do not despair, for Arcane Magic will return in a future patch, redesigned with both new and old spells! (and some of it remains in items and other bonuses)
Racial slayer skills and alignment slayer skills were removed in older versions of The Protectors. All such skills have been removed from races and classes and can only be accessed via items. This was because they were all extremely detrimental to gameplay. They provided enormous bonuses but only against a certain race or alignment, meaning that they were either completely useless or utterly broken due to how powerful they were. It was as if players were playing a game of rock-paper-scissors, but some players were missing the scissors. Regarding these skills, there was no way to reach some sort of middle-ground, so they were taken out for the benefit of all other aspects of gameplay.
Racial skills such as Guardian Oak and Undead Legion were once part of Druids and Necromancers respectively. These skills are racial skills, because they give bonuses only to units of one or more specific races. With these racial skills, hero classes were incredibly biased because they were only useful with that race and no other. For example, few players wouldn’t use a Druid with Wood Elves or a Necromancer with Undead. As a result, racial skills have been moved to where they should be - with the races and not the classes. This means there is now a lot more variance in player hero choices and more viable builds to play too.
Warlords Battlecry 3 is a game dominated by the choicest hero combinations and races. Alongside some of the most gimmicky hero builds, merchants and high level Arcane wizard builds, the most infamous heroes tended to be melee-oriented. In fact, Warlords Battlecry 3 was so melee-heavy that rushing at the start of the game just with the hero was standard play. Many different steps have since been taken to prevent this in The Protectors, but ultimately Ferocity, Mighty Blow and particularly Assassination still caused problems. Ferocity and Mighty Blow were most common with Warriors, Chieftains and Monks which used the high stat gains to destroy any army that faced them. Assassination was the biggest offender, as it could instantly kill anything in the game and combined with a high attack speed and movement speed, was almost impossible for anything to contend with. In the latest Protectors, Ferocity and Mighty Blow are decreased in power while Assassination has received diminishing returns and an activation threshold, calculated to be as strong as vanilla Mighty Blow was. These changes are ‘the melee nerf’ of The Protectors, and were largely positive with the multiplayer community. However, this change lead to fewer melee plays and its balance may yet leave more to be desired. In particular, the greatest threat to melee heroes is currently their low HP regeneration curve, which in future will become considerably faster than it currently is. Ferocity and Mighty Blow may also receive slight improvements by 0.8.9.
Most heroes in The Protectors function similarly to those in Warlords Battlecry 3. They still contribute the same way. There are a few exceptions, the greatest of which are Assassins, Alchemists and Monks.
Assassins, as has been mentioned before, can only assassinate targets within the threshold of their skill. With more skill in Assassination, the threshold increases. This means Assassins can no longer kill heroes or dragons in a single shot and proceed to decimate an army. They must first weaken their targets, meaning that any form of damage is now beneficial to them - whether provided by themselves or by their army.
Monks are steadily getting geared up to be martial casters. Rather than relying on Swiftness & Mighty Blow to deliver hits in the same way as other melee classes, Monks have received Shattering Palms - the only skill to increase the chance for Deathblows and in future will have their own martial spell sphere, making them a truly unique melee class.
Lastly, Alchemists were standard wizard heroes and cast their spells in the same way as any other class. This seemed somewhat inadequate, unoriginal and uncharacteristic of an Alchemist, which usually works with materials to perform their magic. They are famous for their contraptions and potions, and as such in The Protectors they now use resources instead of mana. Despite this, they still have good use for their magical energy, which helps to discount their resource-based spells.
From minor alterations and one or two new spells to a complete overhaul, The Protectors makes many changes to hero spell spheres. Most spells from Warlords Battlecry 3 have remained the same in function, and many spell slots and spheres have remained similar to how they were in the original game. There are some spells which have been removed and replaced with others, and that’s where most of the changes lie. Others, like Rune Magic, Ice Magic, Chaos Magic and Time Magic have been largely redesigned.
Firstly though, let's address the minor changes:
- Phantom Steed replaced with Summon Nightmare - A very minor change. Summoning had no relation to the enchantment of cavalry units, rather it prefers to summon whatever it needs.
- Eye of Oros merged into Call of Oros in Contagion Magic, empty slot filled with Corruption - Although eyes of Oros are considered daemonic units, they are more affiliated with plague and disease. In terms of flavour, they fit much better in the new Contagion Magic spell sphere in a spell which can summon any of the eyes of Oros. Summoning Magic is a spell sphere which delights in the control over entities from other planes, so Corruption makes sense here.
- Shillelagh replaced with Summon Animal - Druids are frail heroes which no longer specialise in melee combat like all heroes used to in Warlords Battlecry 3. Rangers too, now specialise in a different attack type, so Shillelagh became completely pointless. Summon Animal not only summons one or more neutral critters of the player’s choice, it also allows them to see through the eyes of all critters on the map. This new spell is useful in multiple ways - and even gains more effect the more the hero uses it, as there would be more critters on the map to provide more vision. It’s on-point both thematically and functionally, blending Nature Magic’s style with useful utility, and makes an excellent replacement to Shillelagh.
- Elementalism replaced with Call of the Wild - As a spell, Elementalism represented the four elements which construct the mythical universe - Fire, Earth, Water and Air. Nature does represent a balance to a certain degree, so the spell works on a theoretical level. However, in practice Elementalism felt odd to us, because Druids don’t normally dabble in the elemental planes. They represent a balance of nature, but the elementals the spell summons are not natural themselves. In fact, they are extraplanar beings, unnatural to the world of Etheria. This spell didn’t sit right with us for this reason, and so it was replaced with Call of the Wild, a high tier spell which summons lairs. At the moment, it summons neutral lairs which include Harpies and Gnolls, but in a future patch these lairs will not only summon on the side of the caster, they will also include Wolves and Treants instead of Gnolls or Harpies. Call of the Wild will fit Nature magic better than Elementalism did (since it directly requests the aid of nature itself), but the intended effects of the spell will have to wait for a future patch due to code issues and lair restrictions.
- Mutate and Transform moved to Chaos Magic, replaced with Doppelganger and Fools Gold respectively - Both Mutate and Transform have been removed from Illusion magic for two reasons. Firstly, they aren’t illusions, rather they permanently alter physical matter. Mutate was the same as an instant-kill spell and Transform was a permanent buff spell, both of which are misplaced in a spell sphere designed for deception and mind games. Secondly, their effects were random and involved no choice. This represents Chaos Magic considerably more than Illusion, so they were both moved there. The Doppelganger concept is very fitting for Illusion Magic, creating a false copy of the hero which still retains conversion abilities. With this spell, Illusionists can deceive opponents into thinking the hero is in other locations, which fits well with the sphere’s style. Fools Gold is a temporary replacement only which gives Gold. This spell is already being retired for 0.8.9 and will be replaced with something which fits better and has a more interesting effect.
- Ring of Ice replaced with Raise Wraith - Although Necromancy does need some offensive capability, we are not fond of spell spheres sharing spells. We want each to be as unique as possible. In addition, Wraiths are useful for Necromancy because they are cheap, floating units which can hit air, which Necromancy doesn’t have a lot of short of Raise Champion. We are still addressing the lack of an offensive spell, and are looking into tweaking Strip Flesh into something more adequate to fill this niche.
- Soul Flame replaced with Rites of Dawn - Other than the name, Soul Flame did not represent Pyromancy. Fire is destructive by nature and Pyromancy should be no different. Because it increases XP, Soul Flame has more affiliation with Fey than with fire magic. As such, it was replaced with Rites of Dawn which fills the hole incredibly well. In The Protectors, many units and races love sunlight, and love denying any other form of weather for their opponents. Rites of Dawn not only represented the warmth and heat of Pyromancy, but acted to fill this niche without conflicting too heavily with other weather spells like Day/Night and Change Weather.
- Berserker moved to Chaos Magic, replaced with Conflagration - This change is more controversial. Berserker was something players were very used to in their Pyromancy arsenal, and given its destructive power it can be argued that it fits it as well. The removal of Berserker from Pyromancy was one done for several small reasons, which we thought would help round out the spell sphere and the game in general. The first qualm we had was with Pyromancy getting so much access to enhancement and enchantment type spells. We felt that alongside Firebreath, Berserker was just too much for a sphere more known for its high spell damage. Secondly, the effects of Berserker were self-destructive. No other Pyromancy spell required some form of cost or payment of the caster besides mana, and we questioned the nature of the spell. Something self destructive like Berserker is more attuned for a spell sphere which is known for additional costs, whether random or otherwise - Chaos Magic. With that spell sphere, any random outcome is possible, whether it would be beneficial for the caster or not. Both the spell effects and the berserk state of mind is something which one can compare more with chaos rather than with fire, and so it was moved there. In its stead, Conflagration is a new damage-over-time spell which uses the Burn affliction and can even set buildings alight. Despite it being another damage spell, Conflagration is something that is useful for the Pyromancer’s arsenal for whenever they don’t need to kill enemies quickly or whenever they want to see a player’s base burn. These effects are new and unique to the Pyromancy spell sphere, and fit the spell damage and destruction vibe which it portrays. Conflagration’s balancing is definitely very tricky (because Burn damage is now affected by the resistance stat, both on units and buildings in 0.8.8), going from overpowered to underpowered from 0.8.7 to 0.8.8b, but we will be tweaking it come the next patch.
- Antidote moved to Contagion Magic, replaced with Intoxication - With both Immunity and Antidote, Poison Magic had too much resistance to physical afflictions. More often than not, if the player cast one the had no need of the other, so Antidote was moved to Contagion Magic to make each sphere a little more unique in the way it deals with afflictions. Intoxication is a spell which has a chance to poison new units, helping to spread the affliction over the map. Prior to this, Warlords Battlecry 3 Defilers had to rely on racial combinations and hit & run tactics with Poison Cloud.
- Poison Gate replaced with Hand of Lorbriss - Because vanilla Defilers desired to spread their affliction as much as possible, Poison Gate was of limited use. In The Protectors, Poison Gate is upgraded to Intoxication and replaced with Hand of Lorbriss, a way to upgrade and inflict even greater poison effects, comboing with any method of inflicting poison, such as Intoxication.
- Rot renamed Proliferation - Rot is something more attributed to disease rather than poison. As The Protectors has a new Contagion Magic spell sphere, this spell was renamed Proliferation and the old Chaos Plague was renamed Rot, which is much more fitting for its effects.
- Mind Leech remade into a low cost, low tier spell which no longer affects heroes - Prior to The Protectors, Mind Leech was near the mana cost of a Daemon at 50 mana. For just 5 more, a Daemon could be summoned or for the same price an Undead champion can be raised. Both these summons are very powerful effects with the ability to change the outcome of battles. Mind Leech however, was most certainly not even near the same power as those spells, and never was even when it affected heroes. For a start, it only affects enemies if they have XP, and for the cost of Mind Leech you’d hope that they have a lot of it. If they don’t have much, Mind Leech is almost the same as an empty slot. If they do have a lot of XP, Mind Leech isn’t even that powerful because it assumes that the casters army can defeat the high XP army, which is not a high likelihood most of the time. The only real times Mind Leech ever came into play in vanilla was against lair bosses and heroes, but most opponents won’t ever be foolish enough to let their hero be killed by a Mind-Leeched army. This made Mind Leech one of the most overcosted, situational spells in the game and has since been changed into a low tier spell to reflect its use.
- See Invisible replaced with Calm - There are two reasons why See Invisible has been replaced with Calm. Firstly, See Invisible was an empty slot 99% of the time because Warlords Battlecry 3’s meta almost never sees Invisibility. Secondly, Calm fits the Divination sphere very well, giving the psychic Sage class a way to mentally calm all of their units and protect them from the effects of Fear, Terror or Awe.
- Call Sage renamed Call Firstborn - This change is one almost no player will understand. Following a deep discussion delving into the depths of the franchise’s lore, we created a new concept. The main questions revolving around these units were: ‘1) why are they more powerful than liches, Undead creatures which have been studying magic for centuries or elves, whose lives are immortal and have no lifespan?’ and ‘2) why does the White Mage say that he is part of the White Council, when the White Council was founded by High Elves millennia ago?’. There is no canonical answer to these questions, and considering that the White Mage’s text has been updated,, it would appear that his post on the White Council is no mistake. This was the point where we delved into theory and answered these questions with unofficial lore. In The Protectors, the Firstborn were the first of a race to be created by the pantheon. They are all immortal, and reside on the floating island, a place where Etheria is connected to the plane of the gods. There, the White Council’s main base of operations is built, made up of Elves, Humans, Dwarves and other Firstborn. This ties in the creation lore - that Sirian, the first god, made humans in his image, that Mages are special (not mortal wizards) and that the White Mage is a part of the White Council.
- True Sight replaced with Scry - True Sight was a tool which had limited use. It was the kind of spell which was cast only if the caster had excessive amounts of mana. For the cost and tier level, True Sight was something of an enigma. Because the View stat has diminishing returns, more View has less and less effect. That means for units and buildings which already had a lot of View, True Sight would do nothing at all and hence was upgraded to Scry. The new spell now grants the sight of an enemy player, which is a huge update over True Sight, makes Divination more desirable and is more apt for the cost and tier level of the spell.
- Banish replaced with Divine Peace - Divination was a sphere lacking an ultimate spell. Since the Stun critical effect has been rightfully nerfed since the unofficial patches, Psychic Blast is no longer the powerhouse it once was and had to step down and become a high tier spell. The idea of blocking a unit production was something never done before, and so we implemented it as Divine Peace. The unique spell offers the caster the ability to stop opponents from producing a unit. The four options are generated based on the units opponents can produce. It is a powerful spell, though whether worthy of being called ‘ultimate’ is debatable. Unfortunately, Divine Peace has come with some balancing issues as it can target Builder units, which will be fixed in a future patch. At some point in Divination’s history, there may also be a new spell more worthy of being called ‘ultimate’, which may be developed in a future patch.
And now, the major changes to spell spheres:
The infamous Rune Magic spell sphere. A spell sphere that controls the earth, all buildings upon it and wards against damage - or at least, that was what it was supposed to be. Rune Magic is well known for its vastly overcosted and useless spells, and was in such poor condition much of it had to be redesigned based on what we thought Rune Magic should be.
- Gem of Wisdom replaced with Major Earthpower and becomes a high tier spell - Gem of Wisdom was a spell bonus which in itself, used a spell slot. It provided a bonus to spellcasting chance but only to the next spell cast. Spell manipulation like this was never something Rune Magic should ever have had. Its design is reminiscent of Arcane Magic, not the spell sphere which manipulates earth. The removal of this spell was not only because it didn’t fit the spell sphere however, but also because of how mundane it was. Its effect was basically another spell, and it provided no actual effect of its own - not something which manipulates the game in any way. Spells like this don’t belong in spell spheres designed with a specific style, at least not in any which don’t manipulate magic. Even then, Gem of Wisdom is more appropriate as a hero ability rather than a spell, because a spell manipulation sphere could potentially abuse it.
- Dig replaced with Shatter - Dig was a spell which increased construction speed. It had extremely limited use and diminished in usefulness over time, eventually becoming an empty spell slot. Many races already build quickly enough that the production time gained from casting Dig is usually meaningless, making it useful only for a select few races. To even exist as an independent spell means Rune Magic is losing out on other effects and powers which it sorely needed. Because buildings were so expensive, only a small number of buildings could ever be built during the duration of the spell. Later on in a battle, players have no need to build more buildings and waste more resources which could’ve been spent on powerful units, so Dig ultimately became pointless. Dig was just too niche in its effect, so it was removed and replaced with Shatter, a spell which damages buildings and machines, representing the Runemaster’s power over stones, metal and earth. There are some discussions about changing Shatter’s effect however, as it conflicts with Earthquake.
- Resist Magic replaced with Homeguard - A spell which gave Magic Resistance and only to the caster, Resist Magic was one of the worst spells in Warlords Battlecry 3. Not only was it situational, but it could only be cast by wizards, which never normally venture out into open combat in order to take the magic damage in the first place. It may see a return in the future, but not as a Rune Magic spell. Magic damage has nothing to do with the manipulation of the earth, and other slots are needed for effects like Homeguard, which gives the caster’s buildings the ability to attack.
- Resist Missile replaced with Reconstruction - Resist Missile was another overcosted, caster-only spell which lasted a single minute. Just like Resist Magic, it isn’t particularly useful most of the time, but unlike it is nowhere near as situational. However, since The Protectors, missile units don’t have as much range and rangewalls aren’t the powerhouse they used to be. With a change in the metagame, Resist Magic became less relevant. It will return in some form in The Protectors, but again, not for Rune Magic. The resurrection of the machine world, Reconstruction currently resurrects normally non-resurrectable targets such as Undead and machines. In future, it will also be able to ‘resurrect’ buildings as well, something completely new to Warlords Battlecry.
- Rune Item replaced with Earthquake - Since all Rune Items have been condensed into a single set in The Protectors (because we don’t like making strictly superior items, superior perhaps, but never directly superior), the Rune Item spell became defunct. In addition, it conflicted with the Create Item spell, which was vastly superior because it had access to the entire item database (bar rune items in Warlords Battlecry 3). Stonecall was Rune Magic’s ‘ultimate’ spell, whereas other spell spheres like Pyromancy had Firecall in slot 9 and Armageddon as an ultimate, leaving many feeling that Rune Magic had no true ‘ultimate’ spell. That’s where Earthquake fits in, and what better an ‘ultimate’ earth spell other than demolishing an entire landscape?
One of the inferior spheres of magic in Warlords Battlecry 3, Ice Magic was almost a copy of Pyromancy but with higher mana costs or lower damage totals. As buildings were only vulnerable to the Fire type, this made Ice Magic seem a lot worse by comparison. Only with Freeze and Ice Floe could an Ice Mage truly shine, but the latter only because of an abusable bug, very specific race/class combinations - one of which is only in the unofficial patches. This usually relegated Ice Mages to the marksman role rather than playing as a true wizard.
- Storm replaced with Snowfall - Ice Magic is a spell sphere which controls the cold. Since snowfall weather didn’t exist in Warlords Battlecry 3, they were given Storm instead. Now with its own unique weather effect, Ice Mages finally have the spell they always wanted.
- Ice Armor replaced with Resist Ice - We want Ice Magic to be a more defensive version of Pyromancy, and Ice Armor fits with this. However, Ice Armor conflicted too much with Stoneskin, which was almost exactly the same. To fit in more with the other elemental spheres (currently only Pyromancy), Ice Armor has been replaced with Resist Ice, an Ice Magic version of Resist Fire with similar effects (but since it affects a different element, it functions as a different spell).
- Calm replaced with Frostblade and moved to high tier - When Ice Armor became Resist Ice, Ice Magic lacked an enchantment. Frostblade is something that combines the old Ice Armor spell and upgrades it with unique effects - the ability to change damage types to Cold, even of ranged units. These effects are more comparable to Firebreath, a unique enhancement which modifies unit attacks. Since Ice Magic is in general, a more defence/offence mixed spell sphere, it was ideal for Frostblade to yield both effects, but in limited potency. Calm is a an antidote spell for psychological afflictions, and since it was more fitting in Divination, it was moved there, opening a slot for Frostblade after everything was moved around.
- Ice Floe replaced with Ice Incarnate - Once Frostblade and of course, ranged weapons for heroes existed, the meaning Ice Floe once had was lost. Heroes can specialise in ranged attacks by default, not even requiring a spell and likewise Frostblade already enhances and converts damage types of units to cold. The niche that Ice Floe retained diminished and became meaningless. Yet, the idea of a caster-enhancing spell was carried on in a new form - Ice Incarnate. This spell changes the body of the caster into an ice golem with the power of a lower level warrior. As the spell becomes more powerful, so does the caster’s new form. They can still cast spells, but items no longer have an effect for them, as the caster is entirely cased in ice armor. The massive lack of caster-only enhancements makes Ice Incarnate almost unique, but the fact that the spell switches the body of the caster - including the portrait - is something never before seen in Warlords Battlecry. The defensive/offensive Ice Magic design shines through with this spell, which not only toughens frail Ice Mages but also empowers their attacks.
- Freeze Magic replaced with Watercall - Freeze Magic, although with the word ‘freeze’ in the title, is something not affiliated with the cold. It is related only in a metaphorical sense and not in a physical sense. Manipulating magic itself is something that Arcane Magic is likened to, not Ice Magic. As such, Freeze Magic was shifted there and replaced with the much needed Watercall spell - a Water Elemental summoning spell. Finally, Ice Magic obtained a good ‘mana-dump’ spell, somewhere to invest excess mana and even a spell powerful enough to build around, much like Stonecall or Firecall. Watercall is an absolute requirement which helps Ice Magic contend with other spell spheres in the game.
- Ice Storm replaced with Glaciate - A direct upgrade to Ice Storm, Glaciate deals damage and freezes enemies within the caster’s radius (though the effect of the freeze isn’t as powerful as the Freeze spell). To compensate for the additional freeze effect, the damage isn’t quite as high as it was, but it is still a devastating ‘ultimate’ Ice Magic spell. That isn’t the only upgrade, because Glaciate doesn’t fire projectiles like Ice Storm did, meaning it’s impossible to miss - something that Ice Storm was infamous for.
Chaos Magic, although not the worst spell sphere in Warlords Battlecry 3, was one that had very limited use. Most of the spell sphere consisted of various Morph spells, which could either help or hinder everything in the command radius. Due to its lack of control, Morph spells could only really be used on units which were already insignificant - that way the Morph spells could only ever benefit. The rest of the spell sphere bar a couple of spells were situational or overcosted, which left Chaos Magic with few usable spells. This entire spell sphere had to be largely redesigned and fixed so it could contend with other spell spheres. Firstly, nearly all Morph spells were combined into a single spell and secondly, Chaos Magic has become more of what it should’ve been - uncontrollable, but beneficial.
- Morph Combat, Speed, Health and Damage are all a single spell called Morph Any (may become just Morph), which resides in slot 2 - The spell effects are all very similar except the negatives only apply to enemies and the positives to allies. It is just as chaotic as in Warlords Battlecry 3, but much more beneficial and thus more usable.
- Wildfire shifted to slot 1 and renamed Wild Bolt, replaced Morph Combat - In the theme of other spell spheres, Wild Bolt is the ‘Hand of’ spell for the Chaos spell sphere. It has the same effects as Wildfire, except it does less damage, with respect to its new slot. This spell may be replaced with something else in future, but for now serves as a simple direct damage spell which isn’t too excessive for a spell sphere that doesn’t specialise in damage.
- Morph Health replaced with Arcana Curse - Since all the Morph spells have been merged, it meant that the Chaos spell sphere finally received the room it needed for other spells and effects. Arcana Curse is one of Chaos Magic’s new offensive mainstay’s. It casts another offensive spell from any spell sphere at random with +2 spell levels. Though the caster doesn’t have the choice of spell, Arcana Curse’s effects are usually potent, though whether it casts Poison Cloud or Glaciate is entirely down to luck. Regardless, its effects are nearly always beneficial in every situation it is cast.
- Morph Damage replaced with Chaos Plague, which now has completely new effects - As Contagion Magic now exists, Chaos no longer is the Disease spell sphere. Chaos Plague’s effects were moved to the Contagion Magic spell sphere, where it was renamed Rot (and the old Rot became Proliferate). Chaos Plague is now Chaos Magic’s Freeze equivalent, which inflicts a random affliction on each enemy unit. Again, though the caster has no control, Chaos Plague is often potent, debuffing each enemy in its own way. It works on every level it should: it is uncontrollable and it is powerful.
- Morph Tower replaced with Berserker (from Pyromancy. To see why Berserker was moved here, please see Pyromancy) - Morph Tower, like every Warlords Battlecry 3 morph spell, is something that either buffs its intended target or destroys it. As Chaos Magic already has so many morph spells and abilities, we decided to take Morph Tower out of the game. Out of the Chaos Magic spells, Morph Tower was one of the most unfitting, bizarre spells which completely overlapped Rune Magic’s design. Changing towers just wasn’t anything we wanted Chaos Magic to be able to do, and we deemed its ability to morph units adequate by itself.
- Morph Resources replaced with Whispers of Madness - Morph Resources was a worse version of Transmute. As we wanted each spell sphere to be unique, Morph Resources had to be replaced with something more fitting for a 7th slot Chaos spell. Whispers of Madness is a great replacement with effects new to the Warlords franchise. When cast, all units within the caster’s command radius change to a random side, Neutral included! Powerful and high level units may resist this spell, so that Dragons for example can’t suddenly switch sides. Whispers of Madness is the epitome of Chaos, representing the madness and strife of the battlefield, something the spell sphere has been wanting since it was made in Warlords Battlecry 2.
- Increase Casting replaced with Shamanic Call - Increase Casting was an extremely costly spell which varied massively in its effect. By default, it only gave +1 skill in a random spell sphere for 55 mana. This meant that Increase Casting was never really used. If it was any more efficient however, it could become far too powerful. In exchange for just a single spell slot, Increase Casting gives the caster access to every other spell in the game. Either Increase Casting is not good enough or too good, there’s no inbetween. Something this abusive couldn’t remain as a standard spell, so it was removed and replaced with an alternative mana-sink: Shamanic Call. Comparable to other similar spells, Shamanic Call summons the shaman(s) of the caster’s choice: Goblin Shaman, Minotaur Shaman, Snakepriest or Witch Doctor. Each shaman gives access to their own spells, so Shamanic Call not only gives access to summons for Chaos Magic, it also gives access to a limited selection of unit spells too.
- Wildfire shifted to slot 1, replaced with Transform (from Illusion Magic. To see why Transform was moved here, please see Illusion Magic) - Wildfire was a spell which didn’t have any sort of chaotic or random effects. It was a standard damage spell which fired bolts much like Warlords Battlecry 3’s Armageddon. Due to the changing design of the Chaos spell sphere, Wildfire was remade into a basic ‘Hand of’ spell. See Wild Bolt above for more information.
- Chaos Plague shifted to slot 4, replaced with Mutate (from Illusion Magic. To see why Mutate was moved here, please see Illusion Magic) - As soon as a Contagion Magic spell sphere was announced, the old Chaos Plague became outdated. Contagion Magic superseded any Disease-based effects, so Chaos Plague was altered into something Chaos Magic needed. See Chaos Plague above for more information.
Announced in the official 1.04 patch or a Warlords Battlecry 3 expansion, Time Magic was a spell sphere that saw no official release. It was once going to be a part of some kind of official update, but sadly Infinite Interactive were pulled off Warlords Battlecry 3 and thus it was never made. However, a version of this spell sphere was made by the unofficial patch team and released in version 1.03.2. It was classed as an advanced spell sphere, one of only two alongside Arcane Magic. The advanced spell sphere concept involved multiple wizard classes getting access to such spell spheres at high levels. The unofficial patch team’s implementation of Time Magic was based on it being a combat magic spell sphere, and thus its spells had very short timers. Unlike Arcane Magic’s game breaking spells though, Time Magic was another spell sphere infamous for its lack of potency. Almost every spell in the book did very little for the cost, meaning Time Magic was considered not only weaker than standard spell spheres but one of the worst in the game. Many of the spells Time Magic had acted in exactly the same way as many others, meaning only a few had completely new and original effects. Because of Time Magic’s dire state, the only thing that could be done was to completely redesign it almost from scratch. In The Protectors, Time Magic is no longer a combat magic spell sphere. Instead, it controls everything to do with time, turning it back or forward and using it to enhance the player’s side.
- Vigor replaced with Weatherlock - Vigor increased only the caster’s speed. Mechanically, other spells exist which do the same and more around the same tier level. Statistically, Vigor was utterly useless and paled in comparison to most other spells in the game. By default, it gave 1 speed and lasted 30 seconds. Every spell level improved the caster’s speed by an additional 2, increased their attack speed (by an unknown, undocumented amount - but a very small amount) and increased spell time by 30 seconds. Its somewhat high cost of 12 mana, coupled with the fact the wizard won’t be utilising the attack speed bonus, makes Vigor one of the worst spells in the unofficial patches. In its stead, a countermagic-style spell was created: Weatherlock. Throughout the duration of this enchantment, all weather-altering spells fail. Weatherlock is one of the first spells to use the new ‘global spell’ interface, where this effect can be seen by any side so they know what is stopping the weather from changing. The uses of Weatherlock are immediately obvious: it shuts down any kind of weather alteration and if the caster can change the weather too (which requires another spell sphere), they can change it and lock it to whatever weather type they wish.
- Age replaced with Wisdom of Age - Age decreases enemy movement speed by 3 for 30 seconds, +1 speed decreased and +30 seconds per level. By comparison, Freeze only gave 1 less speed decrease but it also lowered attack speed too. Age managed to have some use because it costed 14 mana, but its effects were more or less the same as other spells. In The Protectors, Age is reworked in Slow, which currently decreases speed more than Freeze but it doesn’t decrease attack speed as much. In Age’s place, Wisdom of Age is moved down and tweaked to provide more effect, for longer and for a lower cost.
- Life replaced with Overwork - Life was Time Magic’s version of Enervate. However, where Life increased HP and mana regeneration by 60% and 40% respectively for 30 seconds, Enervate increased mana regeneration by 50% for 2 minutes and cost 4 less mana to cast. Life’s HP regeneration was already pointless, as almost no wizard ever fights on the front line and thus loses HP, so Life was a considerably worse version of Enervate. Spells which increase mana regeneration have long since been purged from The Protectors because they yielded infinite mana and broke the game, so Life was replaced with a weaker version of Overwork which costs less mana to cast.
- Foresight shifted to slot 6, replaced with Slow - One of the most classic spells of all time (alongside Haste and Magic Missile), Slow does exactly what it says. No Time spell sphere is complete without Slow or Haste effects, even though they do conflict with other spells at present. Slow is similar to Freeze, and is just as usable.
- Springtime replaced with Haste - Springtime was a very cryptic spell. It wasn’t at all clear what the effects of the spell were by its name alone. Perhaps it was a metaphor of some kind? Whatever the reasoning may have been, Springtime increased combat, speed and damage of allied, living units. It’s not entirely clear what any of this has to do with the manipulation of time, so it was replaced with Haste. Haste is one of the old Time magic classics which increased both speed and attack speed. It does just that, and functions similarly to Invigorate from Healing Magic, but like Slow, focuses more on speed than attack speed. In future, these spell effects may become more unique.
- Decrepify replaced with Foresight - Decrepify was the opposite to Springtime, but its effects were a little weaker. Again it was boring and its effects had little to do with Time Magic. In addition, it was very strange that age would be applied to enemies in multiple different ways, but almost all were temporary. In fact, Time Magic had Age, Decrepify and Breath of Dying, all of which amplified the aging process of enemies. That, alongside its weird, impotent effects was far too much, so Decrepify ended up biting the bullet, so to speak. In its place is a reworked version of Foresight, which increases Combat more and provides a ‘save from death once’ effect like Life Ward, except it doesn’t heal the unit. The new deathward effect of Foresight is based on the spell allowing units to glimpse into their future and see their deaths so that they may prevent it - but Foresight only allows them to do this once.
- Wisdom of Age shifted to slot 2, replaced with Blink Group - Blink Group is a spell which has multiple uses. The caster and any number of units within the command radius are all teleported wherever the player wishes. It functions exactly like Blink except it teleports all other units, whether they be friend or foe. This means Blink Group can be used both offensively or defensively. All affected are transported through time and moved anywhere the caster wishes, in the blink of an eye. Its unique effects help to round Time Magic’s utility and support-styled design.
- Whispers of Time replaced with Chronostutter - Whispers of Time was one of the most useless spells. For a huge amount of mana, it summoned 3 Wraiths for a single minute and unlike most unit timers from the unofficial patch line, Whispers of Time’s unit timer didn’t improve with spell level. It was ineffective and completely overlapped other spell spheres like Necromancy and Illusion. In its stead, one of the most interesting spells in the game was created: Chronostutter. This aptly named, epic spell literally slows the game for everything except the caster, meaning they can literally walk through time. However, Chronostutter costs a lot of mana and only lasts a few seconds. Despite this, it still allows the caster to move faster, attack faster and cast spells faster, buying them much needed time.
- Overwork shifted to slot 3, replaced with Reset - Continuing the support theme of Time Magic, Reset completely restores a unit. Technically, it is the most powerful healing spell in the game, restoring HP and removing all afflictions - psychological or physical. Because of its power, it is definitely worthy of being a 9th tier spell, though it can only affect friendly units within the command radius, unlike Major Healing. The idea behind this spell was that it could restore a living unit to a previous stage of time. This would also mean that their XP and mana would also be reset, but doing that would give a troublesome drawback and break the spell’s balancing respectively. The drawback would be most prominent if the spell reset a retinue unit’s XP.
- Breath of Dying renamed and upgraded to Disintegrate - Breath of Dying is one of few spells which remained largely the same. It still acts in the same way it used to, except that experienced and powerful units can resist the spell and it also deals some damage to buildings.
One of the biggest overhauls to The Protectors was its item system. For starters, every items’ abilities was recalculated according to a new balancing chart, making sure that items do not vary in power regardless of their rarity. Rarer items are still more powerful, but all items of the same rarity are equally powerful. Everything from skills and spells are all balanced according to the hero system and all item spells now have their own, extended timer meaning that they can no longer be abused as much by dexterity builds. These changes were made to help balance the competitive multiplayer scene, alongside the new Handicapping which now takes items into account. The rarer and more powerful the item, the more Army Setup Points it will grant to opponents (currently however, this does not work yet. It will be fixed by 0.8.9).
Consisting of an enormous list of changes, the balancing in The Protectors is what gives it its unique style of gameplay. Almost every unit and building has had multiple changes since Warlords Battlecry 3, and may yet receive more. The environment in The Protectors is completely different to Warlords Battlecry 3. Whereas the original game disregarded balancing entirely, The Protectors attempts to balance everything from units and buildings to heroes. In this, it has both succeeded and failed in certain ways, though the ways in which it fails is not usually in its failure to balance - though it should be noted that some hero combinations stand out somewhat from the rest. Aside from heroes, the game has reached a very balanced state; no unit, building or research is useless or overpowered.
The Doomstacks Clause
One of the underlying issues which The Protectors version 0.8.8b is known for is its overbalance in units. Many players agree that the game isn’t dynamic enough, and that the unit stats are too similar to each other. To understand why this is the case, we must first be introduced to and understand the Doomstacks clause. Those who have played a lot of RTS or TBS games may already be familiar with this concept. Doomstacks refers to a group of units which are nigh-undefeatable and can steamroll through everything on the map. This group of units may consist of a swarm of units or a moderately-sized group of elite units, whose unit types may or may not be diversified. In every game, Doomstacks will likely lead any player who manages to assemble them first to instant victory. This type of strategy or victory condition is debated across all relevant platforms of gaming.
Arguments for Doomstacks include but are not limited to:
- They often decrease the need for management and micromanagement, meaning more casual players or players with less ability can use them
- There is often no decision-making process when creating them, making them easy to construct
- There’s always room for mistakes, as the force is so powerful
- They resolve the game if it has gone on for long periods of time
- They are easy to use and thus are favorable to new players
- They always consist of one singular group, meaning that there’s less need for sub-grouping and thus no need to divert the player’s attention
And arguments against Doomstacks include but are not limited to:
- They are a basic and unoriginal way of winning
- They can dominate a game’s strategies, meaning the game becomes about Doomstacks
- They decrease the value of unit abilities and interactions
- They don’t prompt any tactical decisions, production-decisions or decision-making skills
- They may decrease the value of harassment strategies
- They can remove too much strategic or tactical depth (for example, Doomstacks can make the classic rock-paper-scissors design irrelevant)
The Doomstack clause has now been covered, but what does this mean within the context of Warlords Battlecry 3? In the case of this game, it is actually very simple. Excluding heroes, there were many units which, when amassed, easily became a Doomstack. In fact, Doomstacks were so dominant in Warlords Battlecry 3 that the game’s strategies were completely dominated by them. From Archons and Daemons to Dragons or even a Rangewall (definition coming later), Doomstacks ruled the game and nothing could be done to stop them. Was this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but in Warlords Battlecry 3 some Doomstacks were very easy to assemble and were just too effective. Many units in the game had stats that went far beyond their costs or their unit cap (known as Unit Value), meaning that an assembled army of these units were too efficient for others to defeat (within the dev team, Doomstacks may also be referred to hyper-efficiency). Even were their costs made to equal their power, they could still be fielded at a higher quantity by comparison to other units which require more unit cap. Because of these issues, Doomstacks were actually a serious problem with Warlords Battlecry 3’s gameplay. We understand that Doomstacks shouldn’t be entirely removed from the game, but they should be just one of many strategies the game has to offer. That way, there are options for each player no matter their skill or ability. This is the state we desire for The Protectors, but at present in 0.8.8b we understand that many players desire more dynamism and diversity. Doomstacks are also the reason why larger units may appear so much weaker in The Protectors. Each unit’s unit cap, or Unit Value, represents how much food it consumes in The Protectors. Tests were run, where we found that a Tyrannosaurus of 4 Unit Value could defeat dozens of Iceguards, Swordsmen or Dwarven Berserkers. Because that Tyrannosaurus was able to defeat so many units for such a small unit cap cost, it became a hyper-efficient Doomstack. We would like to make each unit a viable production, so that each race could have as many strategic and tactical options as possible. Doomstacks are the main reason why balancing is so different in The Protectors, though the units may have overly similar statistics. This is one of the issues that will be looked into by version 0.8.9, where we will attempt to improve it by providing more abilities to some units (especially those which have no abilities) and also by varying and diversifying the unit stats more.
The Rangewall Clause
A clause somewhat unique to Warlords Battlecry 3, Rangewalls are the reason why most ranged units in The Protectors no longer have as much range. A Rangewall is a type of Doomstack which consists of nothing except ranged units - an infamous strategy for Wood Elves in vanilla 1.03. Because ranged units in the game can attack any unit in range without any penalty, it means that hundreds of units can have the ability to engage in combat against just one. Normally, only 8 units can engage one unit in melee combat at maximum. With ranged units, any number of them can engage in combat with that unit and as an added bonus, disregard their combat stat too since they aren’t in melee range. The more range a unit has, the more of them can attack. As ranged units had around the same damage as melee units, it meant that melee units could never even approach a massed army of ranged units. This is what the Rangewall clause is, a nigh-undefeatable Doomstack and one of many available in Warlords Battlecry 3. To try and combat this issue, many ranged units have less range and damage, decreasing their effectiveness and their ability to initiate the clause. This decision may be altered in future, but if it is then ranged units may suffer a different nerf to ensure that Rangewalls don’t happen again.
Aside from the huge change in unit stats, there’s also been a change to the costs of all productions. Units specifically cost 2 types of resources and research and buildings costs have received several tweaks whether a change in resource cost types or quantities. The reasons behind the cost changes of research and buildings are much easier to address, so we’ll cover those first.
For starters, the buildings costs were an easy change. After a lot of playtesting, we discovered that some races’ had trouble with their economies because some of their buildings shared too much of their costs with common units. For example, the Empire’s buildings were very hard to construct because they all shared a cost with Peasants. This meant that much of their early buildings no longer share a resource type with Peasants (however, their higher tier buildings will do). Overall, the building cost changes were made just so that players had an easier time playing the game and to ensure no race was disadvantaged by their building costs.
Research are slightly different. Though one of the reasons behind their cost changes was to also smooth out gameplay, the other was purely for balancing reasons. Many of the researches in The Protectors up until version 0.8.7 had random costs which only vaguely corresponded to their approximate power and effects. It wasn’t until 0.8.8 that all research costs were recalculated, and many were found to be underpowered or overpowered. The new cost scheme, based on research statistics of research like Warhorse, now applies to all research meaning their costs now correspond much better to their power and effects.
Lastly, units have completely different and seemingly random costs by comparison to Warlords Battlecry 3. Units which had 1 resource cost or 3 now all have 2 resource costs instead. In addition, some have different cost-types altogether. It may appear random or sporadic at first, but there is method behind this. Back in Warlords Battlecry 3, many units had a singular cost, while others of the same unit type may have a completely different cost. Any hero with access to a resource skill like Wealth or Gemcutting could infinitely produce singular-cost units. Because of this, Merchants for example, became a top-tier hero class with few counters (such as the Assassin class and other 1-minute rush builds). Anything that wasn’t one of these counters had almost no hope of winning as they’d just get swamped by an infinite amount of units. The fix applied was: units with singular costs had to have more than one cost type. This stopped Merchant-styled builds from dominating the game without making them underpowered.
The second issue in Warlords Battlecry 3 was that units of the same unit type could be easily produced alongside each other. For example, High Elf Longbowmen were producible alongside Ancient Wisps, as they didn’t share a cost. This meant that there was less thought put into production decisions because if the enemy were using Skeletons for example, having Longbowmen is better than not having them even if they’re ineffective. This principle applied to many other units and races as well, so strategy was almost never a deciding factor in unit productions. As The Protectors desires to promote strategy whenever possible with minimum consequences, we decided to link costs of same-type units. For example, the dominant resource cost of a Pixie will be the same as a Leprechaun, to ensure that the best choice is made between the two. A cost pyramid (or square, considering there’s four resources) was made for each race, which decided unit costs by their type: Infantry, Cavalry, Missile and/or the elemental equivalents of these types. Due to the lack of some unit types, certain races may have one or two exceptions to this new cost scheme, but largely it holds up well and has been improved significantly in 0.8.8b.
Generals and Conversion
In Warlords Battlecry 3, each race could produce a General unit from a common production building or from their level 5 keep. Barbarians for example, could produce Reavers from the Camp whilst Dwarves could produce Dwarf Lords from the Citadel Level 5. As Generals were usually the only non-hero unit which could convert, this meant that some races had huge numbers of converters whilst others only a handful. Based on the decision made in 1.03.25, The Protectors too only allows Generals to be produced at level 5 keep structures. This is so that all races have even access to General units and to ensure much more strategic play. When the game was saturated with converters, it didn’t mean anything to lose one. Capturing buildings didn’t take any real effort due to the large number of converters available, and even the hero’s conversion abilities were completely overshadowed at this point in the game. Because of this, The Protectors follows on from what unofficial patch 1.03.25 did by making all Generals producible in each race’s level 5 keep building. Generals are harder to get and rarer, meaning that strategy and tactics is factored into conversion (except for the Elven races). Due to their throttled accessibility, each race’s General is more powerful as well. Losing a General or a Mine has more relevance within the span of a game. Strategy in a Real Time Strategy game is something which should always be promoted whenever there is little or no cons. There are still some discussions about finding a way to return Generals back into the standard roster, but it’s unknown what will be done and when or even if it will be done. If something is done, it may mean a change to the way conversion works within the game.
Buildings and the Tower Cap
In 0.8.8b, buildings in general have received multiple changes. Firstly, they now have their own Resistance and Vulnerability, just like units. This means that fire damage isn’t quite as dominant in sieges as it used to be, but it’s still the leading anti-building type. Secondly, towers no longer give +2 unit cap (+2 Food in The Protectors), as they became the only building any player would construct to increase their unit cap. Thirdly, towers have received a cap which depends on the player’s keep level. This is the most controversial change regarding buildings and maybe even balancing in general, especially when so many Warlords Battlecry 3 players were used to building a lot of towers. There were two reasons which decided the tower cap, the first of which is something we’ve already covered: the Rangewall clause. This clause didn’t just apply to units, it applied to buildings as well. With enough towers concentrated in a single spot, sieges were nearly impossible to perform, as the mass of towers shot down anything before they even got to approach them. Even some siege engines were countered by this tactic, which is contrary to their design.
The second reason was a term many RTS or TBS players will already be familiar with: Turtling. Turtling can be considered the act of defence, extending game time, extending defences and winning by attrition. This tactic was something easily possible in the dev versions of 0.8.8, because of the Rangewall clause, their increased defence and the ability to infinite extend a base. By using massed towers, players could substantially extend playtime and in some cases, needlessly. Building an indefinite cluster of towers became a degenerate tactic that adversely affected gameplay, and thus the tower cap was implemented to help counter all related issues. Whether or not a tower cap is the way to go for The Protectors, it almost succeeded in all ways. However, the defence of buildings and garrisoned towers is still enough that game time is still being needlessly extended. This links in with the complaints about the lack of dynamism with units, as this issue affects the gameplay as a whole. The tower cap may be changed to an alternative solution, so players can still build the same number of towers as they used to in Warlords Battlecry 3 - albeit with an alternative restriction. This will be looked at along with the issue with needlessly extended game time and hopefully improved in 0.8.9.
Aside from the major changes to game balancing, there are many other smaller changes The Protectors makes. All of it contributes to the bigger picture, so we’ll tackle them here:
- Unit Levelling - Almost everything about unit levelling is the same as Warlords Battlecry 3. The only tweaks that have been made in The Protectors is that levelling gives more toughness than power by comparison to the original game. This is because higher level units were gaining far too much damage in particular, and this made XP hero builds extremely powerful. The increased toughness is because units in general have more hit points than they used to, so players are given a bit more room to manage their forces.
- Catapults and Battering Rams - Old players may have noticed that Catapults and Battering Rams no longer have the effectiveness against units that they used to. They can still raze buildings with ease, but they no longer have the ability to cut a path through an army. Catapults in particular were extremely abusive and decided much of a game of Warlords Battlecry 3, should opponents not have any ground-attacking fliers. With their massive damage stat and their splash damage, Catapults ended up dominating the ground and changing the metagame to be based too much around themselves (should another, superior play not be used such as Archons or Daemons). In a rock-paper-scissors strategy game, Catapults were both the rock and the paper, and as such needed to have much of their unit damage removed. Battering Rams are a slightly different story. With their tiny combat, they either did 1 damage to a building or nearly destroyed it. They were incredibly unreliable, but should their combat stat be improved, they started to become able to destroy most targets on the ground and raze buildings in one or two hits. The Protectors solves this issue by restricting Battering Ram combat vs units by a percentage, so they will almost never be able to act like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Elephant any longer. They will now only be effective against buildings.
- Eyries and Dragons - A small change in production, Eyries of levels 1, 2 and 3 are accessed in tier 1, tier 3 and tier 5 instead of tier 2, tier 4 and tier 5 respectively. This change was made to streamline gameplay. By the time players got to tier 2, basic fliers weren’t as useful and likewise with tier 4. By comparison, Ogres are accessible at tier 3 and made the Level 2 Eyries too obsolete at tier 4. Essentially, the technology acquired at Eyries of levels 1 and 2 didn’t warrant such high keep level requirements, so they were lowered. This also had the side effect of improving gameplay at keep level 1, as it increased the number of choices available. Level 3 Eyries remain almost the same. The cost changes to the Dragons inside were one of the larger changes to the Level 3 Eyrie, which now cost resources of each type instead of only gold and crystal. This was done for the same reasons production costs have been changed, to help prevent any resource-skill abuse and to allow all races to have the same accessibility to them.
- Miners - Back in Warlords Battlecry 3, miners produce an additional 1 resource per second. In The Protectors, it now depends upon which mine the miner was added to. Level 3 mines and rare mines give +0.5 per miner, while level 1 and level 2 mines give +0.25. The reason for this was because in Warlords Battlecry 3, resource income was based on the number of miners, and not the level of the mine. Level 1 mines could have over four times the income of level 3. The Protectors flips this around, making mine levels more potent than the miners - though miners are still very useful and even a requirement for most battles.
- Summon Mana and Spellcasting Research - A minor grievance so far, these research were removed because they were too powerful and too specific. The power they granted either turned games from RPG/RTS hybrid to pure RPG for wizard heroes, or to pure RTS due to the massive amount of mana spellcaster units would acquire. Warriors had no such research either, so the gameplay-breaking Summon Mana and Spellcasting researches had to leave standard gameplay.
For the second half, see The Protectors: Why we did what we did - Part 2!