Captain Mode: Design Flaws and How to Get Around Them

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the_hajji

Sergeant
Hello everyone. I wanted to make a couple suggestions as to Captain Mode. I had about 500 hours in the beta last year and i have probably around half of that for the EA game, (I had to take a break for school). So I have a pretty good understanding of the development of the game mode so far. I’m writing this long post that no one will read instead of working on my Electoral Politics Midterm because I’ve spent too much time thinking about this to not have anything material, (or digital), to show for it.

Captain mode is basically the only other MP game mode other than Siege that has legitimate potential in the long term of BL MP, (if there even is one in the future). I’ve played it for quite some time and it has a refreshing new format that is really interesting and enjoyable for newcomers to the franchise, as well as satisfying for many long time veterans. It really has the capacity to be a great game mode, it just needs to get through some basic hurdles.

I’m not here to attack the dev team. Like I said I’ve been playing the game mode for a while, (despite a large break), and am aware of their many efforts at balancing the gamemode. I remember all sorts of metas, cavalry metas, archer metas, Sturgian metas, that made the game mode largely unplayable, and were worked on to a point where it was no longer as prevalent as a problem. So I am well aware that they have put in some serious effort to try to make the game mode really shine.

I’m also aware that there are some serious problems with the game involving the interactions between Captains and the AI, such as Ramboing with cav, or going behind shielded units to expose them to archer fire, infantry captains getting on horses to make horse archers useless, etc. that require more serious work to fix. However these issues dont seem paralyzing to me. They seem like temporary problems that have basic remedies that are probably gonna be implemented soon. Sue me if I’m wrong but I doubt these issues will last the year.

No, the main issues I think CM has right now are a series of well intentioned but ultimately counterproductive design choices. I will list them below, as well as my suggestions to fix them. Beware that this post is quite long lol.

The Conjunction of Skirmish and Captain Mode Layouts

This dosen’t require much discussion I think. One initial design flaw in CM that anyone who plays it comes face to face with is its shared perk system with Skirmish. Because of this, any changes to the perks provided for each class needs to be balanced to not ruin the metas of both game modes. This also leaves certain perks to be almost completely useless in Captain, yet still remaining because of its viability in Skirmish. This handicaps the creativity of both game modes, largely for no real reason. A shared roster dosen’t add any meaningful mechanic to the game other than uniformity, and seems to be a design choice of the developers rather than a reality of the game the developers are forced to work around. A viable CM needs to have a class system separate from Skirmish. They are just too different as gamemodes to share the same exact roster, unlike for example Skirmish and Siege.

The Maps

The maps and scenes, both in the SP and MP, are beautiful. However unfortunately they are simply too small. On this point, I think some people may disagree with me. But I’d argue that any meaningful Captain mode gameplay requires a map where all classes have legitimate strategic value, rather than different maps where different class types clearly dominate.

Unfortunately, the smaller the maps are, the larger the chance that this is simply not the case. I know they took it out of circulation, but there used to be a city map made up of ornate alleyways and statues, that despite its aesthetic charm became largely redundant as its tight spaces made any troop type other than shock infantry practically useless. I think there is a similar map at the moment, in circulation, with a wooden fort at the top of the hill, that is unfortunately incredibly similar. These kinds of maps lack any real strategic gameplay and tend to be moshpits of shock infantry from both factions. On maps like these, Khuzait teams might as well just log off.

However the small size issue is not limited to tiny maps like the city or fort map. Generally speaking maps with small fighting spaces and lots of cover, like the Cliffs of Akkalt and the Skala Landing end up with the same problem. There just isn’t a lot of room for troops such as cavalry, horse archers, skirmishers, or archers to maneuver. Obviously they aren’t as restrictive as the previous two maps, yet still they lack somewhat in class viability.

Ultimately if it had been up to me every Captain Mode map would be about the size of the Ruins of Jawalli, with those on the smaller size being around the size of Druimmor Forest. Frankly I would be delighted if they were even larger.

Another issue I’d like to discuss about the maps are the capture points. I have three main suggestions for these.
-First, they should have legitimate strategic value, rather then just being flags in the middle of nowhere. For example, a flag could be on the top of the hill, while another could be in a fortified location, with walls to fire arrows from. Obviously this would get repetitive, but there could at least be some aesthetic choice made to make it seem strategically significant. For example, a flat open space in a desert map like Jawalli could have wells.
-Second, I think the radius for capturing them should change according to the flag. For example, a flag on a hill should have a small radius from which it could be captured from, specifically on the top of the hill. But large flat spaces should be captured in a much larger radius. And fortified positions should have the borders of its radius extend throughout the fortified area.
-Last but not least, I think whether or not a flag is captured should be based on the number of friendly troops in the radius, compared to enemy troops, rather than who is literally closer to the flag. I stole this idea from the Battlefield games, and personally this makes more sense to me.

Now these last three additions are merely things that would improve the gameplay in my opinion. However the size of the maps is legitimately detrimental to strategic play, and I would recommend increasing the size of future maps.

The Class System

Now though the class system might not make as much sense in Siege or Skirmish, but makes a lot of sense for CM. Even so there are a couple changes I would recommend for the classes in general and in specific.

In general I would argue that a class cap is the most meaningful way to move forward with the game mode’s development. I’m aware that this is probably the most controversial thing I’ve said so far, But I legitimately believe this would increase the quality of gameplay. I have two reasons for this.

One, it would make it largely impossible to take advantage of spam metas. Any overpowered unit would only be a somewhat strong unit. No team would be forced to face a six squad of a temporary, or permanent, cheese unit.

Two, it would increase the value of classes that, at the moment, are clearly useless. There is no real reason to pick light cavalry over heavy cavalry, as their increased speed and number does not make up for their punishing lack of armor and killing power (with the sole exception of the ridiculously overpowered Menavlion Courser). Though their cheaper price makes them viable in Siege and Skirmish, the lack of any sort of gold mechanic in CM, (which I agree with), makes this largely useless. Light infantry and skirmishers, at least for most factions, are also largely redundant, as they perform no roles that a heavy infantry unit could not perform. At best, some light infantry units, such as the Sturgian Warrior or the Vlandian peasant, are chosen because they have the option of fighting as shock troops. However if units were capped, these lighter units would play legitimate support roles to more limited elite classes.

If it were up to me, (though unfortunately it’s not :sad: ), I would cap it like this.

Skirmisher Cap:2
Light infantry Cap:3
Shock Infantry Cap:2
Heavy Infantry Cap:2
Light Archer Cap:2
Heavy Archer Cap:2
Light Cavalry Cap:2
Horse Archer Cap:2
Heavy Cavalry:1

Obviously cavalry units being so heavily capped means that their unit sizes would have to be slightly increased, for example 10-12 units per squad instead of 8, but for the rest of the classes I don’t see this cap system ruining the effectiveness of their troop type in any real way. Though it limits the gameplay somewhat, it still leaves a lot of room for strategic flexibility, and ultimately teams that want to be archer heavy or infantry heavy or cav heavy still can be, just with some more diversity.

However I also have some suggestions as to changes for class roles in specific.

One. Speed.
I don’t think the speed of classes should change according to faction. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but in the beta Battanian troops were faster than other infantry units. Obviously this isn’t a huge issue but I think it would make more sense if differences in speed were universal for infantry units throughout the classes. Ideally it would look like this.

Fastest : Shock Infantry
Skirmishers
Light Archers
Light Infantry
Heavy Archers
Slowest : Heavy Infantry

Two. The role of the Skirmisher class.
Though fun to play with, Skirmishers are often dwarfed in value with other class types, due to their inaccuracy and lack of range. Ultimately they are more glass then canon, and lack real viability. My main suggestion would be to change their main role. Instead of being used, at least in theory, as flankers, they should be used as they sometimes were historically, as vanguard screeners. I think Skirmishers would be more viable if the damage thrown weapons did to shields was seriously increased. For example, if 3-4 javelins could break the average shield, then it would make sense to put these types of troops in the front line to break the enemy’s shields, and then retreat with their high speed to let other infantry to do the fighting with enemies who are made seriously vulnerable. The way I envisioned it, this would be countered by archers, who with superior range and accuracy could suppress skirmishers who move to the front to throw javelins.
In my head it would work like this.
3-4 Javelins break the average shield.
2-3 Throwing Axes break the average shield.
2 Pilum break the average shield.
1 Ash throwing spear does roughly 80-90 percent damage to shields.

Obviously this is just what I’ve thought of, and if there any glaring flaws in what I’ve discussed don’t be afraid to let me know.

The Perks System

I remember when the two perk system was introduced late in the Beta, and many people were excited as to the class versatility this feature introduced. Sadly two problems developed following that update.

One, unit roles began to blend together. Often there would be heavy infantry with throwing weapons, light infantry with shock weapons, (in extreme cases, cavalry with shock weapons), and just in general a confusing roster with many perk combos that buffed some units enough to make certain classes in the same faction useless. For example, when the Vlandian peasant class was first given a unit, the Voulgier class became a much rarer choice, its only real advantage being its slight armor buff. I’m not sure if this has been fixed but this is just the example I’m using to describe this phenomenon.

Two, the maintenance of the “same roster” strategy for Skirmish and Captain made it so certain perks were pretty much useless for CM yet remained due to its, (supposed), viability of Skirmish mode. The most obvious example I can think of is the smaller sidearms provided to Shock units. Though these may be more entertaining for dueling in Skirmish and TDM modes, they are completely useless in CM and sometimes even detrimental, as a Shock unit drawing its one handed weapon in a fight actively goes against its class role.

What’s my proposed solution? Remove the perk system from CM, and instead introduce a loadout system. Players would no longer choose between two sets of equipment changes. Instead they choose from different loadouts, all of which have legitimate roles in the field of battle, instead of an arbitrary mish mash of inconsistent equipment set ups that leave certain builds obviously superior and others clearly useless. I have a whole Google Doc, with all the units split into these types of loadouts, (LOL), however I don’t think the devs need to be spoon fed what kind of loadouts these would be. Generally whatever “perk” combos are most dominant for different roles, these perks would then be combined into a loadout. For example, light cav would have shock loadouts with a lance and light armor, and then a melee loadout with more medium armor and a spear perhaps. Archers choose between more arrows or better bows. Heavy archers choosing from more melee capability to better range. Stuff like that.

Faction Balance

In my opinion, capping the classes would already alleviate some pressure in balancing the factions. However it remains true that the “asymmetrical balance” idea pushed around in the early Beta is no longer the case. The unfortunate reality is that all factions can play pretty much whatever playstyle they like, and some factions are just better than others. I would recommend the game mode, “go back to its roots’ per se, and try to make every faction have classes that are capable, and certain classes that shine. In my head it would look something like this.

Vlandia: Best Heavy Cav and Crossbows.
Khuzait: Horse Archers.
Battania: Best Heavy Archers and Skirmishers.
Sturgia: Best Heavy Infantry
Aserai: Best Light Infantry and Light Cavalry
Empire: All Rounder.

This type of balancing would make factions unique, without putting any of them at a serious disadvantage. The factions that would benefit the most from this buff, imo, are the Empire and Aserai, but I think the quality of the gameplay would increase overall if all factions have troops that are at least capable and at best superior to other class types. Ofc some units can be “weak”, but I would shy away from making any unit weak as to not be viable. That just harms the faction overall, especially with the unit cap.

Conclusion
I’m aware that this is basically a personal wish list for the game mode, but I had to write it down somewhere or I would go crazy eventually. Feel free to criticize what I’ve said, as I’m trying to learn how to mod, and would love to maybe implement this structure in a custom server type Captain Mode game years in the future, (when, or if, custom servers are made available),if no one on the dev team reads and follows through with what I’ve suggested, (LOL). If anyone wants to see the Google Doc I made then feel free to PM me.
 
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Terco_Viejo

Spanish Gifquisition
Grandmaster Knight
Good feedback mate, the point is that the bulk of your exposition has been suggested since the fan had access to this mode; I say this to you in a resigned tone, not as a reproach 🙏 😌 .

Perhaps @Ling* can give you more information and comment on his impressions in this regard.
 

the_hajji

Sergeant
Good feedback mate, the point is that the bulk of your exposition has been suggested since the fan had access to this mode; I say this to you in a resigned tone, not as a reproach 🙏 😌 .

Perhaps @Ling* can give you more information and comment on his impressions in this regard.
I am very happy to hear I am not in the minority here haha. Thank you for reading through my little tirade. I would appreciate any and all feedback of course, and if these concerns have been compiled elsewhere I'd love to put my support behind it to add to the tally of forum posters calling for a change. :smile:
 

AxiosXiphos

Sergeant Knight
M&BWBWF&SNWVC
I am very happy to hear I am not in the minority here haha. Thank you for reading through my little tirade. I would appreciate any and all feedback of course, and if these concerns have been compiled elsewhere I'd love to put my support behind it to add to the tally of forum posters calling for a change. :smile:
Very good feedback. My biggest priority list with captains right now though;

  1. Fix 'Ramboing'. Come up with a solution that makes it impossible - or adds risk to it. It would be a shame if we have to go back to NW style of self-enforcing via kicking.
  2. Give us a bigger/open map - the tiny city fights look great but they will always degenerate into mass infantry fights. If you want archers to act like archers & cav to act like cav they need room to move. Infantry will always have it's place.
  3. Balance - Battania really is rubbish right now (IMPO); this does need addressing.
 

the_hajji

Sergeant
Very good feedback. My biggest priority list with captains right now though;

  1. Fix 'Ramboing'. Come up with a solution that makes it impossible - or adds risk to it. It would be a shame if we have to go back to NW style of self-enforcing via kicking.
  2. Give us a bigger/open map - the tiny city fights look great but they will always degenerate into mass infantry fights. If you want archers to act like archers & cav to act like cav they need room to move. Infantry will always have it's place.
  3. Balance - Battania really is rubbish right now (IMPO); this does need addressing.
I agree with you completely. But I feel like the devs will probably fix the ramboing/turning shields/riding horses captain issues pretty easily. Im just worried the bigger design flaws ive mentioned will go unnoticed and the game will keep microadjusting instead of fixing the big structural issues:sad:
 
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