This week we’re talking mercenary contracts. They are a core feature for a game about managing a mercenary company, so we’re redesigning how they work in order to have them be more interesting, varied and reactive to your choices. Let’s get into it!
Battle Brothers is a game about managing a mercenary company in a medieval fantasy world. That’s pretty much the core premise, and something to keep in mind with every feature we consider. Mercenaries, by definition, are free agents that offer their services for a fee, that take on mercenary contracts offered to them by different parties. And that’s something we really want to emphasize and make a core gameplay element of with our new contract mechanics.
There’s a couple of issues we have with how contracts work in the game right now. They’re too few, too simple, too repetitive, too static. Because they also are agnostic to the player’s progress, they can be impossible to complete or be completely outscaled in their reward by selling loot of enemies the player just randomly engages on his own, demoting them to merely a means of additional income rather than the guiding light they’re supposed to be. Finally, with loot being the major source of income, certain enemy types are vastly preferable to others that drop few or no loot due to their nature.
With these problems identified, we took contracts back to the drawing board. Let’s check out what we came up with.
Contracts are offered to you in settlements all across the land. Some are concerned with local problems, issued by single settlements that require your services, and some are of more of a global nature and offered in all of the settlements that belong to a particular noble house. The number of contracts on offer in a single settlement is no longer limited to just 3, and you’ll also be able to see if there are other contracts on offer even if you have an active one. Because contracts may now have a time limit or contradict each other (like both attacking and defending the same caravan), you’re limited to fulfilling one at a time.
The contracts offered to you also depend on your relation to your potential employers and your renown. Renown is a new statistic that is basically your ‘business reputation’ and measures how reliable and competent you’re perceived to be across the lands. Successfully completing contracts will increase your renown, as will winning hard battles, but failing or cancelling contracts, not to mention betraying your employers, will lower it.
Contract negotiations are now handled in dialogs much like events on the worldmap are. Potential employers will introduce themselves, explain the task that they need you to perform and make an initial offer of what they’re willing to pay. This is where you’ll now be able to actively negotiate the terms of your payment. You may at any time accept their offer or ask for different terms, such as payment in advance, more payment on completion or other clauses depending on the type of contract. This also allows you to customize payment to your current needs – just lost half of your men in battle and are low on crowns? Then ask for a lot of payment in advance to be able to recruit new men and stock up on supplies before going into battle, even if it means less payment overall. Don’t test the patience of your potential employer too much, though, as eventually they may decide to break up negotiations. Once negotiations have been completed, you’ll see a final overview of what you’re to do and what payment you’ll receive. At this point, you can agree to take up the contract or take a look at other contracts available and return at a later time to sign it.
How Contracts Work
To put it simply, contracts can now be quite a bit more complex. Just take a look at the flow chart for the new ‘Raid Caravan’ contract to get an idea. Contracts now can branch differently based on 3 different ways;
They can branch randomly. Because you’re likely to do quite a few ‘Escort Caravan’ contracts in your time, we want to make sure that they play out differently and offer a surprise every now and then. Perhaps what the caravan carries this time isn’t quite what you expected. Or perhaps it isn’t bandits that stop the caravan, but soldiers of a noble house that claim that the goods the caravan caries are stolen. By changing contracts up we want to keep them feeling fresh and less predictable.
They can also branch based on your actions. Contracts can now trigger dialogs with player decisions at any time, the same way events work. For example, some contracts (and random branches) may offer you an opportunity to betray your employer for a fat bribe. Depending on your decision, the contract will play out differently. Other branches are the result of your actions in combat, and not of dialog. For example, contracts now come with more granular victory conditions; it’s no longer just a matter of getting a single survivor of a caravan to their destination – the less carts make it, the less happy your employer will be, and the less he’ll be inclined to pay you or hire you again in the future.
Finally, they can branch based on actions in previous contracts. Your decisions may carry over from one contract to another. Take the previous example of you betraying your employer. The next contract they offer to you may seem like any other you’ve done before, chasing away some bandits. But it’s a setup – heavily armed troops await you. Your employer isn’t of the forgiving kind and now seeks vengeance for your betrayal.
By introducing different branches, we want to have contracts feel much more varied, reactive and give you more choices of how you conduct yourself in the world, but also introduce consequences for your actions. Always keep in mind that helping one faction is likely to anger another, and you can’t afford to make enemies of the whole world if you expect someone to keep paying you.