DT: Better Party Controls

Hey everyone, it’s Tuesday! This week, Team Stonehearth is working hard to finish basic feature implementation for Alpha 14. That means more monsters, better party controls, final touches on the herbalist, and making sure everything works for Rayya’s Children as well as The Ascendancy. We’ve also heard a lot of feedback from you over the holidays about wanting to have bigger towns, fewer idle hearthlings, and games that are functional beyond the 60-90 in-game-day range, so we’re also focusing hard on performance and optimization. This week, let’s talk about a huge topic: better party combat controls!

Better Party Controls

To recap from the video:

The Existing Party Controls are Hard to Use

The existing party controls are designed to let you do two things:

  • send an offense-oriented party to a location, killing everything in their path and
  • send civilians to a pre-designated safe location when the town is being attacked.

We’ve observed that these controls, as they exist in A13, are really hard to use. The attack location command is buried in a bunch of menus, and hard to get to when your town is being attacked. The defense button is hard to figure out, and very few people use it. Even if you do make attack and defense oriented parties for your people, promoting them into and out of classes forces you to rejigger your parties manually. We thought we could make this better: less clicking, less obscuring UI, less micro.

Safety Standards and The Militia Replace the Party Defend Command


We’ve decided to re imagine the defense button functionality thus: starting in A14, your carpenter can now make safety standards. You should then place these standards in well fortified locations. When you hit the “alert” command (“r” hotkey, renamed from “town defense”) your crafters and other civilians will run to the nearest safety banner at top priority. If you have no safety banners placed, they will run to the starting town banner.

If you do not want your civilians to behave in this way/prefer the existing A13 behavior, you can use the hearthling therapist UI to put them into “the militia.” As per the default behavior in A13, militia members stay where they are when the “alert” command is given, and attack anything near them. Workers start opted into the militia by default, and crafters opt-out of it when they are promoted.

Fair warning though: the new combat system is tuned so that a militia of civilians should be your last resort against serious monsters. If you rely on militia over real combat classes, you will likely lose people.

Hold Location Command Replaces the “Attack” Banner 

Reimagining the attack command came next. The first problem is the fact that people tend to forget to put their combat units into parties until it is too late: your town is already under attack. We fixed this by creating 4 default parties for your town at the beginning of the game. They are available from the “Fight” menu and from hotkeys 7, 8, 9, and 0.

Selecting a party shows that party in the unit frame, and highlights all members of the party, so you can see them.

Any combat classes you promote are automatically added to the first party. You can move people from party to party, or disband everyone from a party, from the party’s unit frame commands.

Party combat controls now appear on the party’s unit frame, so you no longer have to pull up a large window that obscures the screen while you are attempting to give combat orders.

The “Go here, attack anything between you and the location, and then stay there” command (the old red party banner) has now been renamed to the more appropriate “defend location.”

Defend location stays in effect until some other party command is given.

Move to Location and Attack Target Commands Join Defend Location


After playing with Hold Location for awhile, we decided a few other commands could be useful. Move To Location moves a party to a designated spot at high priority. They will ignore targets while they are moving. Once they have reached the target location, they will continue their regular AI behaviors: attacking nearby enemies or going back on patrol.

Attack Target allows you to specify a particular enemy you wish everyone in the party to attack first. This is super helpful when you want to take out one specific monster in a raid group, or tell everyone to focus on one threat, over another.

Attack Target also allows you to attack everything near a specific location. Unlike “Defend Location” after everything in the area has been killed, the party will not stand around and wait for orders; they will resume doing whatever they were doing before.

Bonus: Individual Commands Override Party Commands

To get the new party commands working, we implemented them at an individual hearthling level first. As a bonus/experiment, we’ve left them exposed in the footman’s Unit Frame.

If you choose to use them, you will find that they override party commands. For example, if you ask a party to attack a location and someone gets injured, you can tell that person to retreat while the rest of the party finishes the job.

We are tuning the combat encounters to be played at the party level, so these individual controls will not be necessary. We do not want to add more micro to the game. But if you want to play with them, we’ve left them in in case you find them enjoyable. Let us know what you think!

Conclusions and Stream Schedule

This was a lot of features to cram into one Desktop Tuesday; indeed, this may be our longest Desktop Tuesday video yet! Look for our Improved Party Commands whenever A14 lands on Steam Unstable, hopefully later this month (bugs and performance optimizations willing).

In the meantime, the Tu/Th streams this week will be at their usual times, and the Wednesday morning stream will move from 8:30am PST to 10:00am PST. As always, we look forward to your comments, both here and on our discourse.