By Chris Wild, Jure Rogelj and Mike Singleton
This is a list of ideas that have been sent to me or discussed on the mailing list. Please note I have added the text as written and thus they may seem out of context sometimes. None of these ideas are from me so I cannot take credit. They are in no particular order. Thanks to Ross Harris, Andrew Spaven, Ricardo Aler Mur, Steve Brown, Einar Saukas, Glynn Carey and anyone else not mentioned!
Night Moving Characters
Modifiers: Moral (Ice fear/Moon ring radiance)
Join armies together for easy movement.
The day length would vary over the year making it possible for some movement at dusk. I'm not sure that allowing movement at night would work as Doomdarks armies move at night and battles are settled at night and the nature of the game would change. How about keeping the 8 hours worth of movement per player, and the lighting is dependant on the time of year. If the season was winter, the last few hours of travelling would be dusk which would add atmosphere and suspense as the terrain ahead would be difficult to judge.
Each map position (or kingdom?) could have additional characteristics like "always rain", "sometimes rain", "never rain" that could even depend on the time of year. It would be very strange if there is snow in one terrain, sun in the next and rain in the following one, so to keep a consistent map behaviour, there should be a global variable to indicate the "global average temperature". This variable would be constant for the entire day and slowly change from one day to the other. The logic to decide if there will be rain or not in each region could be based in this variable: if the temperature is above X then there is sun, if it is between X and Y then there is rain, if it is below Y then there is snow. The map author would be able to specify the "curve" of the temperature variation and the degree of randomness in this variation.
If seasons could be added, then other effects could be added to the graphics such as snow on distant mountains, tracks through woods where previous armies have travelled, different colours for the grass and leaves to differentiate between spring and autumn, animation for snow fall or rain, lightning effects etc. The possibilities are immense.
Rivers could be added which would act as barriers like the frozen wastes in LOM. Bridges could be added to provide a means of crossing rivers and this could lead to new strategic elements in the game. Bridges would need to be defended or even attacked to gain entrance to other parts of the realm.
This doesn't need to be complex but just something to add atmosphere. How about birds singing in the morning, wolves howling at night, or the sound of other animals such as owls, dragons, horses. Other sounds added could be the occasional clap of thunder, rain falling, the flow of a river (if rivers are added), again the possibilities are immense.
As the moon ring allows the wearer to see the commanders at their control, a fade out / fade in sequence could be added. This would show the power of the ring as the view is changed from one commander to the next. Again a sound effect could accompany the visual effect similar to the effects in say Magic Carpet.
More imaginitive magical items
Rather than just weapons (other than the moonring of course), (excuse me if some of these are a bit corny but the ideas should come across) , items such as Famous standards (raising morale), Boots of speed, Armour (to reduce chance of lords dying in combat).
As you already mentioned go to, follow etc. These could be nicely expanded to include orders more in the vein of Dark Sceptre (another cracking Mike Singleton game). Things such as guard <location>, attack <person> (assuming Doomguard is modelled like lords as in DR) and find <object>
More involved treatment of troops.
Rather than just maintaining a number of troops I suggest allocating troops to "Warbands" or "Units". This allows units to be given more involved statistics other than troop numbers, morale and fatigue. Other aspects might be experience. A lord could command a given number of units - each of which is allocated a specific combat task - defend lord, frontal assualt, missile barage etc. Each keep/citadel would, in addition to possible units, have a contingent of assigned troops much like the Lom limit that prevents you from taking all troops out of a keep.
Keeps and Citadels could then be limited to the number of units assigned to them but mixed racial troops would be allowed. Again units in a keep could be allocated combat tasks - sally forth, man walls ...
Units could then be transfered from lord to lord in the field or assigned to locations - keeps and citadels obviously but also possibly ruins / villages.
Units can then be classified as infantry and riders or more extensively as foot, archers, horse, knights and sappers or whatever else seems valid without over-complicating matters.
More involved treatment of settlements.
I think it would be interesting to model settlements and such like as more complex beasts than just as terrain types. A city could consist of the citadel, a wizard's tower and a long hall. Entering a settlement then allows a lord to select which building to visit. Benefits accrue differently from each. Clearly the citadel provides defense and a place to recruit troops. The tower allows the seeking of guidance (same old same old) and the hall provides shelter. Clearly some settlements would be
bigger or smaller than others. This is similar to the treatment of settlements in games such as Midwinter ( yet another Mike Singleton cracker ).
Tying in the enhanced settlements with more items and troop types allows units of sappers to attack a fortification, adventuring bands to travel into caverns to find magical items and useful information.
The overall effect of this is to allow multiple features in a single location and in particular to allow features to be built in terrain - a tower in the mountains, a elven hall in the woods etc. The movement cost for the square is the terrain whilst the actions available depend on the
I've been thinking about alternatives to pixel maps for the terrain though, and I've come up with two-alternatives. Check out the gallery of images for the Flight Gear Simulator http://www.menet.umn.edu/~curt/fgfs/ , and bear in mind that these part of a real-time animation game. It's also free, and I'm sure the designers would be happy to share their secrets with you if you plan to make the game open-source.
Also, have you looked into the possibility of actually ray-tracing the terrain? This might seem a little ludicrous, but with current processor speeds, and the availability of some excellent algorithms and free ray-tracing packages, perhaps it should be considered? Have a look at the images at http://www.york.ac.uk/~mpf103/terragen/ (the Terragen project homepage) and tell me you're not tempted! Imagine a 256x128 ray-traced terragen image, scaled (x2, let's say) and smoothed, in your view portal ... I'm sure if you cut out atmospheric effects and kept everything simple,
you could come up with the most beautiful game engine ever!!!
This is a must. Brilliant though LOM was it was let down by how easy it was to complete (I think I read somewhere that Mike Singleton was asked to do this by Beyond Software because it was originally way too hard - or maybe I dreamt that bit). It's obviously not good enough to just improve the quality/quantity of Doomdark's armies - I'd like to see some real intelligence about them. They should group together instead of wandering about singly and attack objectives with more force. I'd also like to see alot of importance placed on defending the free lands. It was all too easy in LOM to just abandon everything and go around the side to attack Ushgarak. The best way to play the game in my opinion was to try to defend the Plains of Blood (very difficult). Perhaps the best way to do this would be to make the Lord in question abandon your cause if his own citadel/keep is taken. To offset how difficult this would make the game, citadels and keeps should be very difficult to take (especially citadels) even if only defended by a small guard (so you'd at least have time to send an army to help). Also, Doomdark's armies shouldn't just wander past the frontline citadels to attack those in the rear or you'd be forever rushing back and forth - he should take the frontline first. Also, how about allowing Doomdark's armies to retire to the rear to recruit new men?
Citadel / Keep recruitment
I think that Citadels/Keeps should recruit a small number of new men per day (perhaps 10 and 5) so that the game could effectively last forever - obviously Doomdark would have the advantage here which would mean that you MUST attack his outlying keeps at least to keep things equal. Finally, how about keeps/citadels being reduced to ruins if attacked continously - they could have 'strength' which would increase by perhaps 1 point per day (repairs) up to a certain maximum but would be reduced by fighting (the heavier the fighting, the worse the damage). Of course, even ruins should give a small defensive advantage (I think they do in the original anyway) but would lose their ability to produce soldiers so the loss of a keep in this way would be damaging.
Citadel / Keep properties
The point is that what (IMHO!) makes interesting an strategy game is the need to spread your armies to defend several strategic places, resources, mines, crops, industry, people, etc. If there is only one strategic place to be defended (i.e. Xajorkith), the obvious action is to concentrate all your troops in that place, which is not very interesting from a strategic poing of view.
So, I think the game would be more enjoyable if other places (besides Xajorkith) could be transformed into real strategic elements to force you to spread your armies: castles that produce warriors, terrains that produce food, requiring armies in cities to be well supplied, limitting cities to a certain amount of troops, lords lowering their moral if their home castles are conquered, victory points being lower if you lose many of your inhabitants (in towns), etc.
Obvious candidates would be Dodrak (a very front-line keep so I'd expect a tough lord), Ishmalay (near Brith so a bit of a wimp probably), Odrark (again near Brith), Fadrath (up above Ithrorn so slightly tough), various wimpy lords of Corelay, tough lords of Ithril and perhaps a super-tough lord of Lorgrim (in the keep way up north which is usually taken after a day or two). I reckon that Mike would have put these in anyway if memory had permitted at the time. There are probably plenty of other candidates.
Win lose conditions