There's been a discussion
running on this forum for a while: should Ironfist support the Wait button?
Today, I would like to announce the final resolution: Ironfist will not support the Wait Button
The first reason is simple: doing so would require rebalancing all the creatures, and probably also all the existing maps.
But the second reason is: I've become convinced that the Wait button as seen in HoMM III is actually a bad idea, gameplay-wise.
This is something I've changed my mind on recently. I used to think it was a no-brainer that the Wait Button was a good idea. It's something that gives the player more choices. More choices means more tactics and more feelings of control, which means more fun.
What happened? I played a bunch of HoMM III. Specifically, I replayed the Armageddon's Blade campaign last month. And this time, I had a very different perspective: it was my first time playing HoMM III since I studied game design in college.
It was quite amusing to see how there were so many things (spells, buildings, creatures) that had the exact same stats in HoMM III as they did in HoMM II, even as everything around them had changed. I saw a lot of indications that the developers had prioritized adding more stuff over making sure said stuff was well-designed.
I've become pretty convinced that most of the game mechanics changes between HoMM II and HoMM III were mistakes. I have a couple pages of notes on this. I know there are many who disagree with this, and I would love to discuss it more over a metaphorical tea on a sunny afternoon, but am not really interested in getting into a heated Internet discussion over it, especially since this is a HoMM II forum and adding schools of magic is not on the table.
So, why is the Wait button a mistake?
I'll get the small reason out of the way: it slows down the game. People ask "is there ever a reason to not Wait?" Having the first round of a battle consist of trying to do nothing for as long as possible is not ideal for making a game fast and fun, to say the least.
But the bigger reason is: It reduces the variety of creatures seen in the game.
For me, one of the best things about HoMM II is how every creature feels different, even though most of them have no special abilities,
But how does the Wait button restrict creature design?
Let's look at some numbers:
The strongest creatures in HoMM II are the Tier 6 creatures. Their speeds range from Average (Giant, Bone Dragon, Green Dragon) to Fast to Ultra Fast (Phoenix). There is 1 faction where the fastest unit is Tier 6, 3 factions where the (upgraded) Tier 6 unit is tied for fastest, and 2 where the Tier 6 unit is not the fastest.
After them, the strongest creature is the Hydra (Very Slow). It serves as a powerful tank unit, a reason to be afraid to cross the battlefield, and the best use of the Teleport spell.
In HoMM III, the strongest creatures are the Tier 7 units. Their speeds range from 5 (Hydra, Fortress) to 21 (Phoenix, Conflux). Pretty good variety.
But, comparing within a faction, a different picture emerges.
In 6 of the 9 factions, the upgraded Tier 7 unit is the fastest creature.
In 1 of the 9 (Tower), the upgraded Tier 7 unit is tied for the fastest creature.
And only in 2 of the 9 (Fortress, Stronghold) is the upgraded Tier 7 unit slower than the fastest creature. In Stronghold, this is only because of the decision to make flying creatures not cross the screen, meaning they needed to bump up the speed of the Thunderbird.
Going down a level: The slowest upgraded Tier 6 creature in HoMM III is 7, which corresponds to Fast in HoMM II.
So, it sees that, in HoMM III, creatures become faster the higher-level they are.
As a result, there's less variety in how creatures feel.
What happened to the slow tank units? What happened to the fast raiders? So why didn't the developers just add more strong and slow creatures, or weak and fast creatures?
Because of the Wait button.
The core reason is simple.
In HoMM II, you could have units that were good for attacking early, such as to disrupt enemy shooters, as well as good for attacking late, defending against units that crossed to your side. The former could be given higher speed, and the latter lower speed. Hence, units such as Gargoyles and Hydras.
In HoMM III, the units that move first are also the units that move last. Hence, the units that are good for attacking first....must also be the units that are good for attacking last.
No design decision exists in a vacuum. There are a number of related design decisions, such as the larger battlefields, that make this more of a problem in HoMM III than in HoMM II, but the core reason is the above problem of role confusion
So really, the core problem is not the Wait Button itself, but the combination of the Wait Button with how creatures use a single stat to determine both how far they move and when they take their turn.
So, it is possible to create a game that has a Wait button, but doesn't have this problem. King's Bounty: The Legend is a good example: it has both a wait button, and strong/slow units. But it makes them viable through a host of other game design changes, such as having separate speed/initiative stats, a smaller battlefield, and the Running ability (a once-per-battle speed boost).
HoMM III has none of these, and hence the Wait Button comes with a host of problems that make the game worse. We will not be bringing these problems into Ironfist.
Jimmy "Darmani" Koppel
Executive Producer, Project Ironfist