Human Factions in Battle Brothers Part 1

Oct
23

Dev Blog #57: Progress Update – Factions, Part 1

Things are progressing nicely on our end. Many mechanics of the new worldmap are already in place – albeit largely with placeholder visuals and still in need of some refinement. This week, we’ll cover an entirely new and very important aspect of the worldmap rework: Factions. Let’s find out what that’s about!

Introduction

Battle Brothers has evolved a lot during development, and it has evolved even more so during the Early Access period since its release in late April of this year. One constant for the game is that it will always be fundamentally about managing a group of human mercenaries in a low power fantasy world. What’s changing is how we’re wrapping it in a game that best serves the theme and is the most fun, while at the same time keeping it at a level that is ambitious yet achievable.

As you may be aware, the current strategic open world gameplay was considered to be a milestone along the way to an ultimately more structured game experience. One aligned more along bits of story and one single emerging threat – the greater evil. The concept of a more or less united human world against a single big threat was inherited from the game’s X-Com roots, and was to provide a mid and late game challenge and goal. It’s a sound and achievable concept, and we’re at this point now where we’d implement those greater evil mechanics. So what’s happening?

We’ve been taking a step back to look at how we can best serve the theme of a quasi-medieval mercenary simulation given how the game has evolved, and also in light of our move to work full-time on the game some months ago and the resources now available to us. As it turns out, the game worked out quite well as an open world experience, even as barebones as it still is in some aspects.

Our conclusion is that it’d make for the best game in the long run if we really focused on improving the open world gameplay and make this one of the strengths of Battle Brothers, instead of constricting the gameplay that is already there by forcing the player to ultimately fight against a single threat each game along a much more narrow story path.

It’s for this reason that we’re now introducing multiple human factions to the game. No longer will there be just one implicit human faction – instead, there will be multiple ones each with their own goals and competing with others by means of diplomacy, intrigue and warfare. And it’s you, the player, navigating their sea of schemes trying to make a living as hired swords. As we’re tilting the focus of the game more towards interacting with these factions, you’ll also be fighting more and different human enemies, and we’ll convey more story via completely reworked contract mechanics. But for now, let’s learn about the first kind of factions: human noble houses.

Noble Houses

Historically, bigger realms have always been a very diverse mixture of a lot of smaller realms and fiefdoms ruled by competing and collaborating noble houses. Although these small parts were usually devoted to a king or supreme ruler, they often changed allegiance and fought and schemed against each other in their struggle for power. The feuds between these noble houses create a perfect place for a mercenary company that is not bound to a lord and that can take on whatever contract pays best.

Like most things in Battle Brothers, noble houses are procedurally generated for each new campaign. To give them as much personality as possible we want them to look and feel very distinct from one another. Each noble house comes with a set of different traits that determine their ‘corporate culture’; their goals and their actions in achieving them – which ultimately also means the kind of contracts they’ll offer to the player. While a ‘Warmonger’ may hire mercenaries to aid in open warfare, a ‘Schemer’ may hire the player for some false-flag operation to gain influence over a neutral city.

Noble houses also come with their very own coat of arms. We dove deep into medieval heraldry to make the coats of arms realistic and believable, but we also took a bit of artistic licence to make them easier to read and more catchy. You can see some concept art pieces of how they may look in the finished game below.

coats of arms battle brothers

Besides their coat of arms, each noble house will also have a motto. A motto is a short phrase, proverb or word of wisdom that the house identifies with. The motto will usually mirror the character of a noble house, and we’ve based these mottos on historical references as well. A very aggressive house that is bound on acquiring new settlements through war and intimidation might have a motto like “Through arrows and enemies!”. A noble house that is rather peaceful and cares about the wellbeing of its subordinates may have a motto like “Firmly in act and gently in manner”.

With the combination of all the above aspects we’re confident that there’ll be a great variety of noble houses that not only look differently but also feel different on the worldmap, offer different contracts and create new and unique situations in every game. The world of Battle Brothers starts out for now with three different noble houses that are in a kind of cold war state – they do not openly fight each other but are still working against each other in most cases in an attempt to increase their influence based on their specific goals. Mercenaries, of course, are ideal for any operations that must not be tracked back to the noble houses, and not all of them necessarily chivalrous in nature.

But wait, there’s more!

Noble houses aren’t the only factions in the world of Battle Brothers. There’s also a new ‘relations’ mechanic, and we haven’t touched on the role of individual settlements for factions yet. And is there still a greater evil around? All this and more in next week’s progress update!

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12 comments

  • Meeky
    Oct 23, 2015 @ 18:08 pm

    I’m intrigued. I certainly do hope there is a central evil around, but that the exact nature of it shifts depending on the game. It’d be interesting if the evil could lurk within the human factions, even.

    I’m really interested in the new quests this suggests. Open raids on other towns? Subterfuge? Perhaps missions from the more good, just nobles to protect their villages from enemies / monsters? This sounds like a great way to build variety in gameplay, and I’d love to see duplicitous houses send the mercenaries on a job without giving them all the details.

    I’m also interested in seeing how these houses will interact with threats like the orcs. Might they start working together in face of a greater threat, or will they brazenly bash each others’ heads while ghosts and goblins and ghouls dive in for the kill?

    All-in-all, this is a good news section, and I look forward to next week.

    A final observation: between the ahistorical use of “Ser,” the presence of Hedge Knights, and the addition of house mottos, the Song of Ice and Fire influences are looking pretty stark (see what I did there?). I have no qualms with borrowing from other fiction, but I do want to note that ASOIAF does a lot of things that GRRM has outright admitted were for shorthand purposes. For instance, “Ser” is written that way because it’s easier to type with one hand than “Sir” (note the distance of ‘i’ from the ‘s’ key), and “House Lannister” should be “House of Lannister,” except it’s written without the ‘of’ in the books because it’s easier to type. Just a pet peeve of mine. I hope you guys call them “House of ” rather than “House .”

    As an example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_York

    Reply
  • OldGreyBeard
    OldGreyBeard
    Oct 23, 2015 @ 19:28 pm

    “… but we also took a bit of artistic licence to make them easier to read …” THAT is the essence of heraldry. It all started as a way to make it easy for household & allied troops to identify and rally around. The rules of color and metal came later. Some of them make sense, green and black, both colors, tend to muddle together at a distance, while yellow and black, metal on color, contrast well. Don’t hold to the rules, make the houses easy to recognize and differentiate at a glance. It may be the difference between deciding to hold your ground and “run like hell!”. ;-)

    As the time frame for the game is “low” Medieval, heraldry was in its infancy, so … what rules? They haven’t been defined, yet. Artistic License away!!

    P.S. Psen, don’t forget to add a skunk to the available player heraldry, if you can! ;-)

    Reply
    • Meeky
      Oct 23, 2015 @ 19:42 pm

      Definitely think OldGreyBeard has some strong points. Take artistic license and make those flags easier to read.

      And yes, we need a skunk flag. Also a duck flag. I want to work for the Mighty Ducks.

      Reply
  • mrbunnyban
    Oct 24, 2015 @ 4:09 am

    “Our conclusion is that it’d make for the best game in the long run if we really focused on improving the open world gameplay and make this one of the strengths of Battle Brothers, instead of constricting the gameplay that is already there by forcing the player to ultimately fight against a single threat each game along a much more narrow story path.”

    This is another excellent choice! Part of the charm of a mercenary company is the freedom that comes with it (see Sid Meier’s Pirates). I would heartily recommend the economic systems in the game are sharpened up so that players can trade for profit, and ways for players to invest in the game world (businesses and plots of land come to mind).

    Reply
  • harnas1977
    harnas1977
    Oct 24, 2015 @ 13:57 pm

    Very good addition as this adds variety to the game. Besides, tend to prefer human army as my opponent. I’m interested how this will play out…

    Reply
  • Asterix_von_TWC
    Oct 24, 2015 @ 14:57 pm

    Cries…. beautiful!

    You are welcome to use my family coat of arms for this https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7c/POL_COA_Poraj.svg/2000px-POL_COA_Poraj.svg.png :)

    Reply
  • Holy.Death
    Holy.Death
    Oct 24, 2015 @ 21:14 pm

    I does sound promising and I like the idea, if only because it does introduce other human enemies than bandits and thugs, but if you really manage to get it further than that I will be really impressed.

    Reply
  • Seraph7996
    Oct 25, 2015 @ 18:40 pm

    What does this mean for the Greater Evil concept? Is that still going to be a thing or is the Greater evil going to eventually be filtered out entirely in favor of this more open world approach?

    Reply
    • PsenBattle
      PsenBattle
      Oct 26, 2015 @ 10:22 am

      Thats a bigger topic and we will properly adress it in one of the next blog posts :)

      Reply
  • scaryned
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 17:40 pm

    OH! OH! WHILE YOU’RE WORKING ON FACTIONS

    It would be awesome if, when fighting along-side noble armies, that they have similar equipment to one another, such as all having the same kind of helmet, or same shield, or just a complete random selection of heavy armour. That would add so much character to the nobles behind their armies (and may change a mercenaries tactics when “taking care” of certain nobles).

    I noticed this in the current game and thought it was so interesting. I hope you add more combinations of army “traits” when they select equipment for themselves.

    Reply
    • Rap
      Rap
      Oct 27, 2015 @ 17:47 pm

      That’s what we’re doing :)

      Reply
  • scaryned
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 17:48 pm

    yay :3

    Reply

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