The Bad King Solution

  • Dear TK developers and community,


    First of all I would like to say that I absolutely love what the developers have made with Travian Kingdoms (TK). It is an incredibly cleaver idea to introduce the 3 different roles (Gov, Duke, and King) in a systematic fashion to accommodate for players different levels of activity and wish for responsibility in the kingdom. However, over the time of playing TK I have come to realize that the game's largest problem have always been the negative player experience that players have had due to their own King. Don't get me wrong here, it is not power of the King that I'm arguing is the problem, it is rather who the game encourages to hold this power that is the problem.


    Let me be a bit more concrete. We have all have seen it happen to our selves or to other players, bad experiences with Kings that have either gone inactive, have threaten his governors to send resources to him (or be kicked from the kingdom if they didn't), used his kingdom in a purposefully destructive way to his governors, or in any other way abused his power as a king... or more commonly been a very poor leader. Again, do not get me wrong, I think that there will always be a skill disparity between the Kings on a server, but what I will argue is that the current system encourages disparity to be larger than it needs to be. And the losers of this happening is the governors.


    Given the importance the the King role have over the game experience of other players I think it's high time that we together analyse the King situation and possible remedies to it. Please keep the discussion going in this thread and I will update my solutions section with the new good ideas that are submitted.



    ~ Problem -- What is the Bad King Situation in TK? ~
    In short the "bad king situation" of TK could be descried as: Players are by the game forced to permanently subjugate themselves to a king whom have not proven his ability or willingness to act as leaders or to act in the players own interest, and there are no clear way for governors to judge a King in advance of joining. Or in other words, the game throw players into the force of other players whom more often than not abuse this power in various ways, and in the process sabotage the player experience of the players the game have allocated to them. There are 3 parts of this problem:
    1. The Game essentially forces the player to join the first best king based on your randomly allocated position. Alternatively move away from your starting location to another King, which might be just as likely to ruin your experience on that server.
    2. The Game does not only facilitates, but also encourages, anyone to assume the King role, independently of his/her suitability to hold this power.
    3. The choice of King is in practical permanent. As you start to settle more and more villages in the area of this King, you will eventually find it impossible to revolt against malpractice of the King.
    In short. There are no checks and balances on who can assume or hold the King role, and consequently on who will have this huge impact on the player experiences of unknowing governors.



    ~ Current Solutions -- What do the game offer today to mitigate the problem? ~
    There exist only 1 counter measures to the problem today, and that is to only start a server as pre-made with a group that have a king of proven good records as king. Unfortunately this option is not available to new players, and they are left to the lottery of placement.



    ~ Is this problem solvable? ~
    One may begin to think about whether or not TK does something differently than other games of this type, which could enhance this problem. In my experience there are 2 MAJOR difference in TK compared to other games of this type.
    1. In the other games there is HUGE amount of work required to be performed before you will be accepted as the leader of an Alliance. Specifically you need to first assume the willingness of the people around you to have you as their leader. This process of trying to gain the loyalty of your neighbours and having them accept you as their leader is by itself sort of a natural filter that will eliminate leaders that cannot handle work of actually being the leader throughout the server. In TK however, the process of becoming a leader is as easy as clicking the left mouse button at the start of the server.
    2. In the other games your position as leader is not in anyway fix. You may at any time be switched out for someone else if the members decide they want a better leader.


    To summarize, TK is unique in the sense that it requires almost no effort to assume OR to keep the role as King. The only thing that can threaten your position as king is if you AND your governors are demolished by an opposing Kingdom. And the fact that TK is unique in this regard is for me a sign that there are solutions to this problem.



    ~Proposed Solutions ~



    §1. First off is the important question of WHO can assume the powers of being a King. The key here is to set up Barriers of Entry. Before a player even can claim the King role he must have demonstrated some abilities that will be required to lead a kingdom and to keep this governors safe an with at least a hope of going far on the server. A concrete proposal I would like to make is:
    - All players on a server start completely without Roles, they start as Majors.
    - A Major can pledge loyalty to 1 and only 1 other Major, and thereby signalling that he would be willing to serve as the other Major's Governor should the other Major get enough support to found a Kingdom and be King.
    - IF a Major can make 10 other Majors (within a certain distance from him on the map) pledge loyalty to him, then this Major can Start a Kingdom and crown himself as the King. The Majors that had pledged loyalty then instantaneously becomes Governors of this kingdom.
    This System would not only filter out Kings that are incompetent in the diplomatic realm. The governors have themselves been engaged in evaluating all players that aspires to be king by asking them for their loyalty. Furthermore, the fact that a king have been able to gain these first 10 loyal Majors to join him as Governor will signal to the other players in this area that this King may actually be someone they can rely on, hence they are also more safe in their decision even if they did not take part in the "evaluation" process.



    §2. As I mentioned above. It is not only enough for the King to do a good job in the start of the server, a king should also be required to do a good job throughout the server in order to make the experience enjoyable for the kingdom members. Solution in §1 increases the likelihood of this, but things may happen along the way. In short, should the King be banned for cheating, go inactive for some reason, start to abuse the power of being king, or clearly demonstrate that he is not capable of working in the members interest, then there MUST be a way to replace him. In the current Kingdom Unions this is not possible, which have been criticised here on the forums (I will not enter into this discussion here). In the previous version it was possible for the King to abdicate voluntarily. However, the option to abdicate voluntarily is not enough to protect the Governors and the Dukes from a King that decides to go inactive or begins to abuse his position. There must be a way to replace a King from below.


    Before going into suggestions on how such a system could and should work there is one thing that need to be kept in mind. Namely, that even if the King himself is supportive of stepping down as king, maybe due to some unforeseen event IRL that forces him to stop playing.. there are Barrier to Exits that make the process of changing king close to impossible to achieve after a while. Primarily these Barrier to Exits are the treasury villages he is owning. The process of replacing these with villages of the new King is simply too much to go through with. But these Barrier to Exits must be torn down.



    So a concrete solution to this problem I would like to make is:
    - On the initiation of a Duke, a vote to replace the King with himself (The Duke) will be accessible by all members. Only submitted votes are counted, and a majority of >50% is needed for the change to realize.
    - Treasuries are NOT built in normal cities belonging to Kings and Dukes. As a new Active Treasury slot would become available (in the current system) instead a Castle City Slot Becomes available. This slot permits the assigned Duke/King the ability to found a Castle City on the map. These villages have certain properties:
    1. These are the only villages in which you can build treasuries.
    2. The population in these villages do not count towards the Duke/Kings total population.
    3. IF the King/Duke loose his role as King/Duke the ownership of these villages goes to the newly assigned King/Duke instead. The same is true for the troops produced in them. These villages are simply "owned" by a certain Duke/King slot, and the player have only control over these as long as they hold the position of that King/Duke slot. Who even holds these positions gains control of these villages. It is also to these castle villages that the Taxes goes... which in a way ensures that the taxes will be used to increase the power of the Kingdom, no matter of the current King/Duke falls of along the way.
    4. These villages have a distinguished look that captures some of the feelings it gives he players that have been lucky enough to hold a World Wonder. Specifically I would find it interesting if the Inner Circle of the village was covered with a Castle (like a WW, but a Castle instead), hence the name.
    5. These villages starts with a water ditch (level 1) as if it was a city., and a Wall (level 1).


    By this system the kingdom is allowed to live on successfully even in the unfortunate situation of the King goes inactive or something else happens. There are no Barrier to Exits, the only that is needed is a majority vote... + we get a cool new village type :whistling: .




    ~ Final Remarks ~
    1. As you noticed I did not mentioned anything about the Kingdom Union version here. The reason is that this system can be incorporated with with either 1 or 2 kings. But just from my own preference I see no reason why there need to be 2 kings if you can easily remove a bad king with a new and better.
    2. I personally fully support the changes so that we now need 10.000 Treasuries for a new Active Treasury slot. Smaller Kingdoms were indeed needed.



    Thanks for reading~
    /Scorox

    "Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all." ― Alexander the Great

    The post was edited 1 time, last by Scorox ().

  • Pretty good ideas here, I like them for the most part. The only idea I personally don't like is the voting out the king part, if that kind of system would be implemented it would have to be super majority so at least 66% of the kingdom agreed but perhaps even something like 75% or 80% to make sure no trolling happens. Would be idiotic if the king changed every couple of days based on who is online to vote for their favorite :D



    Some feedback on the ideas


    I actually think one of the big issues (especially at the start) is that you don't really have a choice in your kingdom. Even if you were able to freely join any kingdom as you pleased the physical distance is very punishing in this game and as a result lot of people get stuck in suboptimal situations because you can't just take up and leave. Relocation is nice option but often gets you nowhere and simply waiting for relocation to work it's magic is often a noob trap as just playing to max potential and growing where you are could be faster.


    On the points I really like the Mayor idea, often times the barrier for entry is something like more prestige requirement which isn't really fun and doesn't guarantee the person is actually good at the game (let alone being good as a king). The idea seems pretty great on paper at least but there is some danger that it favors premade teams if the interface on it isn't crisp as heck. I got a premade team myself and I bet I wouldn't have any problems getting 10 govs to vouch for me to be a king if I wanted to. Maybe some people even know me here from Forums so I could maybe gather support that way without my premade team. But if I'm able to establish myself as a king day 1 because of these advantages while others bicker and feud and perhaps are limited by the interface as well being unable to gather enough support early enough as my kingdom trucks along and crushes them. I suppose the same problems exist in current system but at least no one has to put extra thought into it. Good suggestion though I like it The mayor idea helps to solve the issue at least a little as it means borders are more dynamic


    On the castle suggestion I kinda like that as well though perhaps bit less than the mayor one.
    I think the castles shouldn't be real villages though, instead they would be more like the Robber Camps, visible on the map and controllable trough a click interface. There would be 3 levels (or more) that cost progressively more and have increased border range and defense power. Say Outpost as lvl 1, Fort as lvl 2 and Castle as lvl 3


    Speaking of borders I would love to see treasury area increase and more emphasis put on the control of an area trough power rather than the ability to sim out 20 villages to build enough treasuries. I like the Castle idea because it kinda does exactly this. Castles are easy to make and you can aggressively place them towards your opponents without losing your nights sleep of enemies draining you of VP in the nigh.


    Currently in my end game Com 2 server I have 11 villages ( 5 cities) 10 of which have treasuries in them, 9 of which are lvl 20. I think this is bit ridiculous in lot of levels and doesn't really have any good feeling in the gameplay. Enemies fake massively and if we guess right (or they make a mistake) we pop their offense easily so defense is extremely unskillful in that sense. On the other side of the coin offense is also unskillful as the enemy has 40 treasuries I have an army of 40k in my disposal I send fake to every treasury (costs me 2000 units), the enemy needs at least 50k to stop me effectively which means they would need 1M defense to just have 50% chance of stopping me. This basically means I will keep popping treasuries until I get unlucky. It feels meh to pop a treasury as I gain essentially nothing and it feels meh to defend as I know it was essentially just luck. This is of course lot better in early and mid game but still.


    In a server like this cost of replacing me would be overbearing, but if at least some of my king power was offloaded into the Castle system that would help if I had to quit for any reason. Additionally it helps with foreign govs who perhaps want to join as Castles are more expendable and easier to set up than actual villages and as such can more accurately represent where you have real power (willing governors)


    I also think the general number of treasures should be heavily reduced, My kingdom might have 150k active treasuries but we actually have at the very least 250k treasuries total as lot of them are placed to governors villages outside borders so they can't be used to steal VP
    Treasury being full should be the exception instead of the rule in my opinion. It will be left to be seen if the kingdom unions changes this in any way though.

    The post was edited 1 time, last by Curtain ().

  • Thanks a lot for your feedback Curtain, and I'm happy you like the ideas in the broad sense! ^^ Your suggestions for sure improves it I agree. Let me give my thoughts as I read it.


    "majority so at least 66% of the kingdom agreed but perhaps even something like 75% or 80% to make sure no trolling happens."
    ... Ye I totally agree, I just pulled a number of 50% out of my head as I typed on.



    "often times the barrier for entry is something like more prestige requirement which isn't really fun and doesn't guarantee the person is actually good at the game (let alone being good as a king)."

    ... I feel like that in the very very initial state there are now barriers of entry for kings. You simply select King when you start the server.. and then you are off to selecting your 2 Dukes. Note that under the Kingdom union system Kingdoms will start with 2 UNLOCKED duke slots. Anyone is in other words free to make a kingdom and select 2 dukes... this is what I mean by lack of barrier of entry to be a King... not even prestige points are required (which I agree would not help very much if that was a limiting factor).





    "danger that it favors premade teams if the interface on it isn't crisp as heck. I got a premade team myself and I bet I wouldn't have any problems getting 10 govs to vouch for me to be a king if I wanted to."


    ... Yes but if the players you know have enough trust in you from previous servers to pledge loyalty to you and serve as your governor and making you king, then this is a good thing. You passed the evaluation by your friends, and other governors in your area can feel a bit more save following. In today's system it is usually the remade teams that are the most successful in electing a King, just because there are some level of evaluation my the pre-made group of the king in advance. What I would argue is that the system I propose will benefit players that do not start as pre-mades .. since the kingdoms they will find on the map have a king that has been evaluated and trusted but more experienced players. The system do however, as you say, make it more difficult for an unknown and unskilled player to form a kingdom... but this is the purpose, so that players new to the game do not end up with an king that ruin there first experience in TK. There is however room for new players to become King their first or second server, but that will require them to be very skilled diplomatically and dedicated... but this is what we want for the rest of the players that play governors.






    "I think the castles shouldn't be real villages though, instead they would be more like the Robber Camps ...Say Outpost as lvl 1, Fort as lvl 2 and Castle as lvl 3"
    ... Ye I though about this too.. and I'm not completely sure what I prefer myself where thb. However, the benefit of having real villages is that now with the new treasury system you are required to place about 2 to 3 treasuries in each treasury village in order to be able to expand contentiously. So having Fort/Castle villages for this propose could have the following necessary implications:


    1. They can have stronger but much more expensive defence as compared to normal villages. Hence to build a Castle Village to protect the treasuries would sort of act like a mini-WW project that you have to succeed with as a team throughout the server.


    2. All troops build there belongs to the Kingdom. So the hammer built in this village (or the DEF) will not get lost when the King gets deleted or goes inactive. It will fall under the control of the next King.


    .... In this way the whole kingdom will be motivated and engaged in pushing res to the Fort/Castle villages to secure the kingdoms treasures... to maybe work towards that max level 50 Castle there. And maybe also pushing res there to build a common monster hammer. In general this will favour teamwork and organisation more.. and all members of the kingdom can take pride in what level of the Castle they have there and what crazy size there Castle City hammer is. But most importantly, nothing will get lost when a King has to be replaced.

    "Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all." ― Alexander the Great

  • Great posts Scorox!


    I like a lot of the ideas and they'd be great solution, but I think the problem analysis is incomplete/the game's problems are worse.


    You write that "It is an incredibly cleaver idea to introduce the 3 different roles (Gov, Duke, and King) in a systematic fashion to accommodate for players different levels of activity and wish for responsibility in the kingdom."



    The problem is that I don't think that feature was actually meant that way. I think the progression from governor to king was considered to be a purely temporal, from newbie to veteran player.
    Governors would be a mostly supportive role for the kings who actually compete to win the game, while they in turn are less threatened and can learn the ropes and participate in the game for a world or two without actually competing much.


    I think it was inteded that over time, *every* veteran player would become king - activity or wishes not being a factor.
    That's why there actually is a restriction - not everyone can select king role, but players with a certain minimum prestige. The original design expected players to want to play king so badly that they'd need to restrict access to the role. :P


    Still, many of the kings in-game are zero-prestige newbies in their first round, because of all the veteran players this game has, way too few choose playing king voluntarity. That would mean, since without kings -> no kingdoms and without kingdoms -> noone collecting victory points to compete over the game (no kings meaning to the game as it is designed that just noone wants to play competitively), the game would effectively become Sim City. That's why the game dynamically allows even newbies to become kings, since with not enough kings, the game opens the "floodgates" and forgets any requirements and allows anyone to become kings, just so there are at least some player playing competitively.


    And that's where the root of the problem starts:
    Yes, quality of kings is low.
    That's because the quality checks are ineffective.
    The quality checks are shut off in first place because if they were effective, we'd have noone playing king at all.


    And that's why having stricter checks doesn't solve the actual problem - you'd just end up without kingdoms, because too few people like to play kings, and those who do want are bad, so with extra hard checks, even those who like to play king right now wouldn't make it anymore -> no kings remaining.


    The problem isn't "how can we better weed out the suited candidates from the bad ones from our huge pool of candidates for the king role", the problem is "how do we get enough candidates for king in the pool to allow us to be picky in first place."



    You see, if you consider that this may have been the original intent of the design, the obvious remedy to all the players' woes is to "just pick king as your role!":


    Players complain that they prefer much smaller kingdoms - but to get smaller kingdoms you'd need many more players playing kings, and to immediately get many small kingdoms all the community would have to do is to just pick the king role damnit.

    Many players complain that their kings are so bad and that ruins the game, and that governors are really at such a disadvantage, and that they can't change anything about that as a governor, but that they still want to play competitively and win, and they don't pick the obvious remedy the game offers for their plight: Playing as a king themselves. So play king and you can change it!



    I just think the original design vastly underestimated how much different the appeal of "manage a small group, be responsible for everything, and get blamed for everything" is to players (original idea assuming that everyone would want to do it) compared to "having no responsibility whatsoever but still be on a winning team", which is essentially the governor and duke roles. :P


    To solve the underlying problem, we need to somehow fix the attractivity of these roles, so that we have more candidates for the king role, and then we can get picky.
    But the game not-being-picky-enough is unfortunately not the root cause of the game's problems, IMO. That'd be really easy to fix, as you describe. It's harder to fget comptetent leaders in a community where noone wants to play leader. That's more of a complete failure of the original idea of seperate roles in itself, and more of a hint that the game doesn't attract a diverse enough playerbase to fill 3 distinct roles in first place.

  • Being king is very hard and while it's rewarding in resources and such (especially as one of the top kings on a server) it's also pretty stressful and if you want to be one of the surviving kings (round might start with hundreds of kings but in the end there are very few) you gotta put lot of time and effort into it. In my current end game server we have 24 total kingdoms, out of which I would consider 6 "real" kings in the sense that they have many active treasuries and more than 3 governors.


    The game puts a lot of pressure on the king especially to perform since you are the appointed leader of the group and as such everything is ultimately your responsibility


    Lot of the treasury, VP and wonder mechanics have some underlying issues with them that cause conflicting gameplay. Like how VP encourages you to fight it out midgame just before the wonders for maximum stealing potential but wonders encourage you to save your hammers till the end for massive VP boost. I have yet to see the new kingdom merge features and see how those effect the system though.



    Here is a total curve ball only loosely related to "bad kings"


    What if we were to decouple VP from Kings altogether and instead have governors build treasuries.
    Kings would invite people and be the center for leadership but without the pressure of building and maintaining treasuries (they could tho if they wanted to), this would allow more flexibility in each players choices on how to play. A lot of people I know would be fine with building treasuries and getting the benefits and risks that come with them but would rather not lead the kingdom as a whole. Others would definitely want to lead but don't want to lose their sleep because of their account being under attack around the clock. It would also mean governors (especially the ones that build treasuries) could have the option to vote with their feet if the current king proves to be inexperienced. They wouldn't be screwed by circumstances as much as they could actively take on treasury hosting role and influence their fate by offering their area to a more convincing king


    This would probably destroy the game balance but a funny idea nonetheless. :D

  • Thanks for reading and the informative replies! here are my thought on what I read in your replies:



    The problem is that I don't think that feature was actually meant that way. I think the progression from governor to king was considered to be a purely temporal, from newbie to veteran player. Governors would be a mostly supportive role for the kings who actually compete to win the game, while they in turn are less threatened and can learn the ropes and participate in the game for a world or two without actually competing much. I think it was inteded that over time, *every* veteran player would become king - activity or wishes not being a factor.

    Oh I never realized that the initial idea was to have you progress from Gov to King as you gained experience with the game. The reason why I think it's so damn cleaver is because it really let you tailor your role according to level of effort and commitment you are able to put into a particular server. Playing as King is my choice when I want to maximize my chances to win... because then you have much larger control over your destiny and may end up with a crushing victory like this :thumbsup:
    Victory.png
    On the other hand, on servers or at other times in your real life you may know that you cannot put in the effort needed to make use of the full control you have as a king, and hence I then choose to play as governor. This is why I love this system.




    many of the kings in-game are zero-prestige newbies in their first round, because of all the veteran players this game has, way too few choose playing king voluntarity. That would mean, since without kings -> no kingdoms and without kingdoms -> noone collecting victory points to compete over the game (no kings meaning to the game as it is designed that just noone wants to play competitively), the game would effectively become Sim City.

    I do not completely agree with this. The Image I posted above with my victory as King I did have "3 bronze" prestige level.. I had never completed a server before that one. What made a victory of such a great marginal possible was dedication and the willingness to learn everything.. and possibly also some individual skills that are useful in the King role. Therefore I strongly disagree with having Prestige as a Barrier to Entry for the King role. And this is why I made my suggestion of having everyone start as major and letting Kings and Kingdoms form naturally among the players whom their neighbours assess to be capable enough. In my suggestion players that will be allowed to start a Kingdom and be King is basically restricted by the players in that area who will have to be this King's governor and/or neighbour. And given how many people that do select the King role today, I do not fear that there will be a shortage of players whom will try get the 10 Majors to pledge loyalty so that they can be King. The only difference here is that you need to convince your neighbours or your suitability of being a King before you can be one, instead of just "selecting" King at a menu.


    As you see, my suggestion still allow anyone to be king, but it requires that you first convince your neighbours that you are suitable for the job.




    The problem isn't "how can we better weed out the suited candidates from the bad ones from our huge pool of candidates for the king role", the problem is "how do we get enough candidates for king in the pool to allow us to be picky in first place."

    To solve the underlying problem, we need to somehow fix the attractivity of these roles, so that we have more candidates for the king role, and then we can get picky.

    In my opinion no extra perks and benefits can balance up the sacrifices you need to make as a King. In the contrary, the extra perks you get of being King do really attract people to the King role that are in it for the perks, not for leading a Kingdom. So the question is not how you do attract more players to be king, the question is how you attract more of the right players to be King. This is what my suggestion is aim at. Say for example that you are an experienced player, and you realize that all the Majors whom try to gain your loyalty are shit.. then you might consider taking on the King role after all, since this is your better chance to making something out if this server as compared to serving under one of these "perks or ego driven" wanna be Kings. And suddenly this server is up one more experienced as King. Even if the process of selecting a King in your region takes a day extra or two, compared to areas where there is a premade group, I feel that it absolutely worth it.


    However, I do agree that there are several things you can do to make the King role less stressful and demanding.
    1. A King must be able to step down should he find it overwhelming. It is a way to huge task for some players to commit to the King role for 6 months straight.
    2. The administrative duties must be simplified. Especially the treasury management craziness needs to be simplified... planing treasury villages location, instructing dukes to place down treasury villages in time, having understanding on how moving treasuries work, and all of this is totally unnecessarily burdening the King role.
    My second suggestion about the Castle Cities are aimed to solve this.



    Many players complain that their kings are so bad and that ruins the game, and that governors are really at such a disadvantage, and that they can't change anything about that as a governor, but that they still want to play competitively and win, and they don't pick the obvious remedy the game offers for their plight: Playing as a king themselves. So play king and you can change it!

    Actually I think that this response do happen, and that it is equally likely to fuel the "bad king" situation as it is to solve it. Because the more players that have had the negative experiences of bad kings, the more people will be motivated to play the next server as King themself.. without regards to whether or not they will have the right activity level or skillset for the job. The "bad king" situation thus pushes even more unsuitable kings into the game.. all thinking "Next time I will play as king.. I'm fed up with shity Kings". But there is nothing and no one evaluating these "reactionary" King's suitability. This is where my suggestion comes in.

    "Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all." ― Alexander the Great