Techtree Contest #16 - Results

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Contestants were to create a Techtree themed around Faith. Interpretations were encouraged to get creative and think outside the box.






  • 1st place: 75 reputation points
  • 2nd place: 50 reputation points
  • 3rd place: 25 reputation points
  • Entry: 15 reputation points
  • Judge: 15 reputation points per entry
The three winners will receive an award icon representing the winning entry.















Theme
How well the various elements of the Faction (including aesthetics, gameplay & design) fit together in a thematic manner such that they feel like they are representative of the given Faction, as well as that of the chosen Contest Theme. Well-fitting & polished aesthetics which complement a cohesive theme will be graded well; poorly-considered or lacking thematic elements will result in a poor score./25

Gameplay
How well the various elements of the Faction work together to achieve the tactical synergy & gameplay style the Faction has, as well as how efficiently each element performs its particular function. Strategic systems that endow an identity to the Faction, comprehensive & well-though-out roles which complement a cohesive Faction will be graded well; ill-considered, insufficient or over-compensating roles will lose points./30

Creativity
How original the design of the Faction is in terms of innovative ideas, clever implementations, or creative concepts. Innovation and creativity will be rewarded; extensive re-use of existing elements in vanilla factions & poor originality will result in a poor score./45

/100


  • Judgement: 70%
  • Poll: 30%
FinalScore = (30*Reached_Votes/POSSIBLE_VOTES) + (70*Average_Judge_Score/POSSIBLE_SCORE)

@Spellbound received a 3% penalty for late submission.


Dancing Skull Tribe by Riki
Theme 25/25 You nailed the visual aesthetic. Trolls are often described as being blood-themed but this design using Loas and the Sanctum concept is dead on. Why do Trolls and dinosaurs go so well together? I don't know but it's fantastic. You've created distinct bonuses. I got lost in the race, thinking about how best to counter my AI overlords as I chose each Loa.
Gameplay 30/30 By having multiple tracks you create a real sense of agency for players - their choices have important consequences, but in a fun way. I never felt as if I made a mistake choosing one track over another. Upgrades being housed on the food structure is brilliant for fast teching while still providing an enjoyable level of risk (low hit points). Having Hunting Packs update on attack is something I have not seen before but is a much more intuitive way to implement an attack bonus ability. You created synergy in spells that is simply fun, in particular the Hemomancer. For added clarity perhaps have tooltips update after choosing a Worship path to not mention tech that will no longer be available. Replay-ability here is the best I’ve seen in years.
Creativity 40/45 The Worship system created a great deal of room for you to expand on your concept, and you did so for the most part. There are some fantastic ideas, particularly in casters. I think where you could have improved the most is in your heroes. While they are interesting they could have benefited from the same spell synergy (you did a bit with Zenja) or integrated them some way into the different Loas more directly, perhaps with spell augmentations or some kind of synergy with specific units.
Total 95/100
Bugs
- The music volume is quite loud compared to vanilla levels

Cult of the Maw by Spellbound
Theme 25/25 Tentacles! It's clear this is some crazy cult worshipping an ancient evil. The Classification system feeds nicely into this providing flavor for each unit. Despite there being a number of unit types they all end up feeling part of a coherent race. Essence Garden and its associated units and upgrades really demonstrate the thought you put into designing this race – I got a SC2 mutation vibe from that set in particular. Your abilities expand on this aesthetic quite well with notable entries being Void Infestation and Psychic Warfare.
Gameplay 25/30 The system to sacrifice units to unlock tech is a great idea that falls short in gameplay. What I end up doing is training units only to immediately sacrifice them, especially at "tier 1-3". I'm not sure how to address this right now though. One cheesy bonus from this is the synergy with Death Broker. It also seems to not be affected by the health of the sacrificed unit. I was able to retreat or return from a fight, and then sacrifice all my near death units getting the same number of ticks as if they were full health. There also isn't any in game explanation for how many ticks a particular unit provides, or even how the system works. I don't see the need for two workers; the Anointer doesn't seem to provide real value for the added complexity.
Creativity 40/45 The idea for a Void race is certainly not unique, but the alternate upgrade system affords the player unique options. I greatly enjoy the different classifications and how each has a set of upgrades associated with it. Some of the spells are similar to vanilla spells, but even in those cases you've taken effort to give them meaningful differences. Hungering Horrors is a nice touch, although it's quite similar to Gargoyle Spire Sentinels as far as this contest goes. Your heroes are a mix of well executed known ideas (ex. Void Door), and some surprising ideas such as Shadow Mirror.
Total 90/100
Bugs
- Once I reach level 10 it should change the error message when ordering a unit to sacrifice, or simply remove the ability to on that Devourer
- Void Door can be cast anywhere, even in trees or deep water

The Runic Clans by Footman16
Theme 25/25 The included lore sets the tone and helps build the narrative as I play. It encourages me to explore the tech tree more thoroughly. The upgrades available at the Shrine are fantastic both in their affects and overall design. If there was a balance category though you'd lose points for Hands of Nuada as a 20% increase to gold income rate is incredible. The unit spells, while simple, make perfect sense for this race. Your heroes bring home the concept of clans with distinct identities, yet they work well with the complete unit tree. I can't say enough about how impactful the flavor text is on my sense of immersion - it is history lesson presented in fantasy form.
Gameplay 20/30 I’m not a huge fan of locking units exclusively behind heroes, it doesn't feel good to have units disabled for a game. That my production ability is then tied to those heroes being alive is crippling as it makes me hesitate to even use them in combat. It's quite hard to recover from a losing battle if I'm not able to train the counter I need for potentially minutes. Fervor was quite confusing at first as there's nothing in game I saw that explains how it works. Having to come back to a Shrine regularly to make an offer was annoying as I want to maximize output but might be in combat at the time. Kils present an incredible weakness that I'm not sure the race overcomes, forcing me to focus heavily on base layout and defense rather than being the aggressor. In combat the race is intuitive to use overall. There aren't too many spells that require micro to use affectively, and your core combat units are solid. Where you excelled though was in hero design. Rune Keeper is a delight, although due to him being so susceptible to reveals he would probably only be a third pick. I suggest you make the wards invulnerable with shorter lifespans. Warlord also has a good set and his ultimate plays right into the idea of him being a super-tank. The Banduri being the sole air unit seems fine to me, although I would have it be air only and keep her spells. Because she is the only one having to pay an extra 25 mana to access AA seemed excessive and unnecessary added complexity. The Fervour system needs to be re-thought though and that's the source of most of your points lost in this category. Approach it from the perspective of the enemy player and how they would combat it. As a player I'd like to see something I do normally be the source of Fervour rather than require me to go out of my way at potential critical moments – similar to how gold/lumber are an “automated” resource.
Creativity 38/45 I enjoy when units can serve multiple purposes and the Fianna does this nicely. I can tell you thought about what each unit could add to the composition. While it has its issues the Shrine and related upgrades are interesting, particularly that once unlocked they are free. Fervour is not unique in terms of sacrificing X to get Y, but how it integrates with the tech tree providing substantial benefits and unlocking a semi-hero is. The Culdee in particular felt recycled from vanilla spells. Rhinox and Thane, while useful, suffer from the same issue.
Total 83/100
Bugs
- Kelpies Call and Deathly Breeze have the same lore text
- Serenity and Fuil-fala have the same lore text
- Fire Potion and Mind Games have the same lore text
- At some point Make an Offering stopped reducing my max food
- Cry of the Damned works on critters
- Ice Cage seems to be broken and last forever

Shadow Covenant by xISLx
Theme 25/25 Right away I can tell this was going to be a heavy magic race. You've created a highly integrated tree that uses the Faith mechanic in a way that makes sense. The global spells are fantastic, although I will caution to be careful as damage without a discernable source can be frustrating to enemy players. Something I appreciate is the color scheme you keep consistent throughout the race. There are quite a few summons that feel correct, particularly the Gargoyle Spire Sentinels. The distinct cults and pros/cons are fairly clear after playing a few games and each present as meaningful. You really delved into the mythos here and it shows!
Gameplay 18/30 Complexity! There are two worker types with multiple uses, linking structures in several ways, difficulty in switching unit composition due to the progression system, global spells, and the Faith system. I understand why you have two workers, but from a control perspective it's not something I enjoy. Disciples present a terrible weakness much the same Acolytes do and I find myself worrying about how to best layout my base, in particular that I need to consider placement of Shrines given they: heal, produce a critical resource, and need to link to a Nexus. I also needed so many of them and my base was a mess of workers. Faith generation seems to take way too long. I perhaps didn't pick the best Cult at game start on my first game and most of the tree was locked. The Cult Progression system, while interesting, is daunting as a player. There are so many requirements, and tiers, that it's hard to plan out an army composition. The number of upgrades is also extreme, and just about every unit has 2-4 abilities/spells. Overall as the game progresses there is simply too much to manage. I would take a step back and look at the vanilla races paying attention to how many total spells and abilities each race has, as well as the distribution among units. For example I think three of the Assassin's abilities could be combined into one, with Shadow Cloak being its own. Once I choose a tier three cult it would be nice if the permanently unavailable tech would not show in the UI. Heroes feel meaningful to use which is a definite positive, but again because there are so many other spells some of that value is lost. I understand you were going for a micro intensive race but you've overshot that a bit.
Creativity 39/45 I love being able to teleport units between bases, it's not something I have seen done this way before. The main issue I see is that while many of the spells are original in concept they end up mostly being stat adjustment based. Generally though this entry has unique components That make me want to play it again. Resource gathering could be more automated, or at least have an option for automation, thus freeing up workers.
Total 82/100
Bugs
- Divine Favor and Light of Setta have the same icon
- My expansion Nexus got into a broken state where the Evolcation progress bar was gone, but it was still in progress and cancelling did nothing

Wolves of Winter by bruunk
Theme 18/25 Your heroes communicate your design clearly. Other than the unit art though it's not entirely clear visually what the core identity is for this race. There's a bit of a dual between ice and wolf going on, but not a great deal of explanation as to why these are working together. The Packleader also doesn't seem to fit in at all for example, based on the ability set it should be a paladin or similar. Bone Supply feels unfinished as it doesn’t have an overall influence in the tree.
Gameplay 25/30 Bone Supply could have been far more integrated. It's a good system for rewarding smart play. I would love to see it be a passive bonus system to all units/spells in some way, similar to a unit rank system. As it stands there is limited impact on gameplay besides a slight economy boost, and base defense or short/mid range creeping. On the demo map for example they are over 50% expired by the time I reach the enemy main. I don't feel there is enough differentiation to warrant two worker units, although I can see where you are going with it. Beyond this the race is generally standard, which while not good for creativity makes using the race more immediately accessible.
Creativity 20/45 Much of what I see in the tree are simple edits on vanilla abilities. I can tell you spent more time on your heroes as their spells feel more developed. Bone Supply is a wonderful idea but is woefully underdeveloped. Too many spells are reskins of vanilla. Soul of Winter is probably the most unique unit and is actually quite fun to play with. Much the same as Bone Supply the overall race design feels unfinished with the core concept being confused. There is a strong base though and I strongly encourage you to expand your ideas.
Total 63/100
Bugs
- Summon Marrowhound and Grind Bonedust have the same hotkey

Leoric's Almighty Cult of Corruption by Xelos
Theme 17/25 It's clear you're going for a traditional concept of darkness and despair, however the content of the tree is fairly shallow. It's also not clear how some units relate to the design such as the Void One, or the three different themes present in structures. I got the sense that this race was meant to be subservient to Leoric. It's a shame his abilities don't involve all units, or that units don't all have a special passive interaction with him of some kind.
Gameplay 18/30 Being required to build two dozen Stone Coffins to have enough food was tedious, as was having to manually use two abilities to get a Skeleton Pagan. The fact that they are single use and produce a very weak unit doesn't feel great, and then having to further use my hero to upgrade the pagans is far too much work. I would make coffins auto spawn skeletons without any required interaction. Other than this the race plays in a standard way. The pagans aren't useful enough in their current form though so my composition was mostly standard units.
Creativity 15/45 The pagan resource system should have been integrated at least into one unit from each production center. What could have been done was an auto-spawning system where you could assign a small hoard of pagans to the Goat Summoner, for example, and his spells would utilize the group as “fuel”. As it stands there isn't really a faith system in play, more of a loose hero augmentation. Speaking of the hero he is rather lackluster with very standard abilities, two slots of which are lost to the conversion system. Abilities are for the most part uninspired. The most exciting unit was the Jabberwock. There is a lack of content as well in terms of meaningful upgrades, and a lack of abilities on units - for example the Dark Cultist feels unfinished. What if Leoric never really dies, but only loses power or sustains some negative consequence? I encourage you to try expanding more on the race with a focus on supporting the single hero.
Total 50/100
Bugs
- Many tooltips have grammatical errors
- It's a minor issue but the music was too loud compared to standard game audio levels, and eventually cuts out



Shadow Covenant: A wonderful submission, this labour of love is the definition of “Autism Project”. Everything in it is immense and remarkable. Almost impossible to find any fault with it.

Theme: The theme is perfectly captured. Every Dark Elf trope is met (barring slavery, but considering the number of other Dark Elf tropes and to the level they are made available, it's not really missed), and it's all connected to a cult-like worship with caste systems. By choosing which cults you wish to follow, you unlock various aspects of the techtree which makes for a very nice progression mechanic that relies heavily on accrued faith to progress in. The custom textures also really help tie everything together. 25/25

Gameplay: Where do I even start? Due to the nature of the cults progression, you can open the game in one of four different ways. This becomes critical to your early game strategies, and once you hit mid-tier it changes all over again as you expend faith to pick the next path you'll be taking. The drawback is progression is slow early on, so you want to make the most of the choices you have until you get a steady faith income. By choosing a combination of faiths, you can get access to some unique unit options, such as the Widowmaker which is achieved by combining the Cult of Shadows and the Cult of Spiders together. Even attack and armor upgrades are made completely unique, as three out of four of the cults get their own spin on this. The Cult of Dread gets the more traditional attack and armor upgrades, the Shadows get attack rate and movement speed upgrades, and the Cult of Spiders also gets upgrades benefiting movement speed as well as their “attack” upgrade option being increased potency in their venoms. The combination units get to benefit from the upgrades of /both/ the cults they are derived from, which means the Widowmaker, for example, stacks the speed upgrades to a maximum of 5 speed boosts (you can only accomplish level 3 in the research by hitting Cult Level 3, and that is only allowed for one cult, so choose carefully). This can lead to hilarious results when experimenting with mixing and matching, and makes the entry an absolute delight to play. There's really only a couple of nitpicks that could be made, such as the Cult of Dread requiring Faith to upgrade your basic melee unit into their Abyss Guards, when you can just train Abyss Guards without expending any faith at all. But the faith cost is so low you'll barely miss it, and it could be argued it's to off-set the training time difference. You can also turn egg sacks into egg sacks when attacking them with Queen Spiders. It's not a complaint, it is just something I find hilarious. Considering the magnitude of the entry and these being the only real nitpicks I can pick apart, the score I'm giving should come as no surprise. 30/30

Creativity: At this point, I think people know what the results are going to be. Anybody who saw the entry, or even dared to play it themselves, probably rightfully defecated themselves in knowing what they were going up against. This entry oozes creative content out of orifices you never even knew you had. Four separate cults that could rightfully be considered their own individual techtrees all connected together with intriguing heroes, phenomenally crafted unit design and all tied in with the overarching faith theme, this entry is more than anybody could reasonably expect from an entry in a Techtree Contest. While it could be addressed under gameplay that the units designs help define their roles and makes none of them feel redundant (the ones that might overlap with unit roles are direct upgrades from the original unit type, so it's fine), I also want to point out under Creativity that this was done so well with intriguing ideas matched to each individual unit. This is the whole bag, and is a real show stealer. 45/45

Judge's Notes: In regards to the contest scene, this guy came right out of nowhere. If balance was a judgement parameter, then we'd have some bones to pick, but even there the overpowered elements are done in such a way that are well crafted, rather than blatantly giving a unit one million hitpoints, divine armor and an artillery attack that hits across the map. I personally hope to see more from this guy, and if you haven't played this entry check it out, and check out the project he's working on.


Cult of the Maw: An intriguing submission that asks the question “what if there was a cult that progressed through ritualistic sacrifice?”

Theme: A very interesting take on the Faith theme, it's good to see things done while thinking outside of the box. Rather than a more literal take of accruing “Faith” points, this one is done by sacrificing many, many units to your Great Devourer, or one of its many, many Maws. Your Maws are everything – they are your means of worker production, you can build structures directly from them, they are your food production, your base defence and also your means of blacksmith researches and techtree progression. The level of importance placed on the Maw is staggering, and speaks /perfectly/ to the theme. The unit designs themselves can be a little perplexing in some areas, however. The “Corrupted Treant” unit is your tank unit, despite its… small stature, and while it's not the most mismatched design choice it is a little confusing. The Prioress is also a little perplexing, although these are partly explained by the lore put in game – there's Ascendants, Mutants and Eldrich Entities. So, from what can be gathered by what is shown and not told (a very nice design), the general lay of the land is that there are those who ascend to become more than mere cultists, forming the basic frontline of the military. The Mutants are abominations “touched” by the gifts of the Maw, while the Eldrich Entities are the upper echelon that is never eaten by the Maw (this is shown by the gameplay mechanics and also the handy tooltip that came with them) and are presumably playing roles that nobody truly understands. Some parts are still a little perplexing, but it's done very nicely. 24/25

Gameplay: Sacrifice is the name of the game. From what I can gather, with quite a bit of investigation and digging around, there is no real means of healing. There are, however, plenty of means of sacrificing your core units. The Prioress can outright kill them to cause AoE damage around them, which is also a nice means of denying the enemy experience for a kill (really? A sacrificial playstyle in Warcraft 3 that /doesn't/ just feed the enemy heroes? God damn it Spellbound, well played), and with an upgrade units dying nearby the Prioress actually gives them a damage boost (stacking up to 10 times!). Furthermore, you progress in your techtree up to 10 levels by sacrificing units to the Great Maw. Don't worry about sacrificing too much military here, this is what the swarms of cultists are for. These Cultists are available for hire at the Great Devourer and any Maw, and you can just set the rally point to itself for instant gratification. Increasing your levels not only unlocks your techtree, but also provides a small health and damage boost to your units (I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that giving +1 armor for every time you levelled up would be broken, since your weaker units would end up with 10 armor at a minimum, which is hilarious for percentage based damage reduction). Of course, you don't go entirely without armor upgrades – a research later on in your techtree will provide a +3 armor boost to all of your units. Back to the sacrificial gameplay, your Mindlashes can drain their own health to dish out more DPS (much like a toggled Unholy Frenzy effect). This is only really a theme for the basic units, as you end up with mutants that are much more self preserving (for… some reason), and the Eldrich Entities which of course don't want to die themselves. The primary drawback in this entry can be the heroes. Some are interesting, such as the Eater of Twilight, with skills in AoE Illusion replicating entire armies, or its ultimate ability of creating a Waygate. Others, however, are the Prophet of Plagues. The idea behind this guy is interesting, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. His ultimate functions like Engineering Upgrade, which for some reason is not actually based off of Engineering Upgrade, but then it doesn't serve to enhance his abilities by all that much. I feel like this could have been expanded on quite a bit more, but like I said before the only real weak point for this entry does tend to be the heroes. The units are generally chock full of the kind of content you'd want to see with perhaps a few exceptions, while the entire gameplay surrounding the Devourer is really inspired. 26/30

Creativity: Again, I bring you back to the Great Devourer's progression mechanics. This sort of stuff is very interesting, and while Spellbound is able to code these sorts of things and take advantage of that, it's still an idea that had to be thought up. Even a simpler execution of this idea would reap in the points. That part is really inspired, and the unit design is a nice follow up to it. A few areas sort of feel like the contestant didn't really know what they wanted to do with them, and those sorts of gaps become a lot more apparent with some of the heroes, namely the Prophet of Plagues. This is still a very creative entry, with an even more creative spin on the Faith theme. It's just some of the execution let it down a bit. 38/45

Judge's Notes: This is a great entry, without a doubt. It's probably not one of the greatest to come out of this contestant, but there's still a very good design here. Probably the best use of the Forgotten One I've ever seen.


The Runic Clans: A more traditional entry from relative newcomer Footman16, this is an entry more geared towards Pagan worship and surviving in a harsh land. Contextually appropriate, given the choice of terrain for this contest.

Theme: It's hard to go wrong here. A nice texture set coupled with a nice building set, while this alone does not make the theme it does tend to play it safe. Where this entry shines is that it uses these sets in a unique way, and even adds in Lore(!) information in the tooltips. A really nice touch to help tie it in thematically with the faction itself, as well as with the contest's theme. This entry incorporates its faith mechanics in the form of sacrificing Food (and yes, I do mean your maximum army supply) to get access to new technologies. This requires a bit of mana from your Shrine to do, so you can't just sacrifice it all at once, but the technologies unlocked are generally (yes, generally) free after the sacrifice is made, leaving you to just spend the time researching them. Very pagan, and a very nice use of ingame mechanics to tie it all in together. I would also like to mention the Rune Keeper hero a little early in this area, as it makes use of ingame mechanics once again to actually incorporate Rune play. Yes, this comes under gameplay, but it wouldn't be much of a “Runic Clan” if it didn't have something like this. The use of the Keplie also puts in an undertone of the actual mythological components for the faction being a /lot/ rare and far more formidable, so you really get the sense that these Pagan Gods are something to revere. Overall, if you want to see a more traditional entry done right, check this out. 25/25

Gameplay: Back to the more “traditional” approach, things take a very interesting turn from the start of the game. The use of Food for progression in the god's favor makes for an interesting choice – you can potentially supply cap yourself if you're not careful, and it gives a very nice vulnerability to the faction which is thankfully supplemented by how much Food your food production structures give you (which also serves to make them juicier targets for raiding). Heroes are incorporated as a part of the techtree – choosing the first one will decide what tier 1.5 unit you unlock first. My personal preference is the Rune Keeper – instead of unlocking a new unit, your basic melee unit can switch its axe out for a spear. Combining that with the early Shrine research giving them +4 damage makes for a very strong early game. Alternatively, you can achieve something similar with the Warlord, unlocking the Teul which is a nice defensive unit option that is dirt cheap. If you want to play more defensively and expand, that might be your go-to. But back to the Rune Keeper, I cannot state enough how this relatively “simple” execution made for a really interesting hero to play. The hero has the unit ability of spending 25 mana to place a “Rune”. This is basically just a Ward that has no effects, other than serving the purpose of targetting it with your hero abilities to make them work. Your hero abilities, incidentally, can target any ward – so if you pick up Sentry Wards or Healing Wards (like I did), you can get some extra use out of them. Some unit designs I'm not the biggest fan of unfortunately (the Silkie, mostly, doesn't feel like the best option when you have ranged Fianna), but this could partly be attributed to the relative mix-and-match playstyle – some options are probably going to be better than others. But from this, you also have a design that compels you to try out different hero combinations to expand out your techtree, rather than just using one hero the entire match and relying on that (or even getting Tavern heroes, which could be an unfortunate side effect but at the same time, it's not really a problem). There isn't much for flying units (only one option and that's a caster's alternate form), which isn't the biggest issue but can be considered a relative weak point. The Kelpie, conversely, is the best take on a “titan” unit I have ever seen. Being a one-off “hero” unit, this is a titan that starts off with some formidable skills, impressive stats and can level up (although it has no hero abilities). The catch? Once this unit dies, you can never get it back. You can't get a new one. But this is also a titan unit that at level 1 can solo an enemy level 6 hero and win. Beautifully conceptualised and designed, a great deal of fun. That is, the Kelpie and the faction. 28/30

Creativity: Everything here is done “simply”, and done well. The Rune Giant is a tier 3 unit that isn't trained so much as it is built on the field (a nice callback to how the Thor was originally going to play out in SC2, which incidentally has a nice Pagan name to it as well so perhaps there is a connection?). The heroes playing a critical role in what units you get access to is a unique take. The use of the Kelpie makes it a very ominous threat, and keeps you motivated to keep sacrificing Food to get the favor of the gods. Food being sacrificed to the gods is such a remarkable take on the Faith theme, and so beautifully simple. But that really speaks to what this entry is – simplicity done right. I can't really praise it enough, and I love the bits of Lore littered throughout it. 44/45

Judge's Notes: This is a traditional entry done right. Couple of notes – one of the Shrine researches actually costs gold and lumber, and I don't think it was meant to. Also, I'm sure the Rune Keeper being able to target all wards is unintentional, but if it was intentional, I'm all for it either way. If you want to change that, add in the Ancient tag – no other Ward will be using it. Also, the Rune Giant – convert it to a structure, set the Pathing Map under Pathin to whatever you want (it won't matter), then switch it back to being a unit. It will make placing it function like a structure, which might feel a little nicer. All in all, great entry, keep up the great work.



Blood Trolls: A more traditional entry with a non-traditional twist, the Blood Trolls are the latest entry by contest regular Riki and go up to /four/ tiers instead of just three.

Theme: For the Blood Trolls, everything is all about their Loas and haematology. With the power to give their enemies leukaemia, this is a pretty formidable debut for Troll factions in general. While there isn't a huge amount of emphasis placed on a faith system or mechanic in general, instead, you get to choose which Loa you follow in each tech level beyond level 1. Depending on which Loa you choose, you get access to different technologies to research and different units to train. So, your techtree is effectively formed as you make your decisions, all depending on which Loa you follow. A nice touch. Towards the actual race's theme, this is beautifully crafted and depicted. It ties in perfectly with the Blood Trolls and perhaps Trolls in general. The heavy spiritual connection also ties back in with the contest's theme, and you get a fun element of mixing and matching within the faction (which arguably isn't what Warcraft 3 melee is about – except that it is, since you choose which heroes you get in any game and can't possibly get them all. So suck on that lemon, conservative traditionalists). Everything from the unit names to the ability names just tie in so well for this entry. 25/25

Gameplay: This is a very fun entry to play. The units are well designed, and the race subscribes to a raiding playstyle. Your base's structures are relatively unimpressive, and so you want to rely on picking apart the enemy to keep confrontations away from your base. That being said, the base itself could probably do a little more, just to help flesh it out, but at the same time it ties in well for the raiding playstyle to have the base structures take a bit of a back seat. It's where it gets a little tricky, since it works for the gameplay but could also stand to be worked on a little further. The food production structures are where you get all your Loa upgrades from, which is a little unusual for a food production structure but it does mean you'll have no shortage of buildings to research them from. Perhaps what helps this entry a lot in terms of gameplay is how there seems to be an innate awareness that raiding is a huge part of how this faction plays. In that, the base could perhaps be a little mobile to further emphasise that point, but the unit design itself is bang on for it. One of your early Loa options is the Ripper, after all, which is a siege melee unit that can be a little squishy against melee attacks (it has Medium armor). However, it will take reduced damage from most tower attacks and at the point in the game you get it, it will help you out a great deal. The alternative approach is the Medium, an anti-caster unit with a magic attack that casts “Silence” on its attacks. This gives your armies the capacity to snipe heroes to great effect. This is just an example of the unit design this faction offers, but on top of that the Ripper path lets you get some nice upgrades for your Flayer, your basic Melee /and/ Ranged unit thanks to alternating between two modes, while the Medium path gives you a nice boost to your economy. The raiding playstyle is perfect from the unit side of things (potentially imbalanced but that's not being judged here lol), but could be further accompanied by the buildings a little. Something to think about going forwards. 27/30

Creativity: This entry is very creative when it comes to the unit design and the abilities. The heroes are very nicely crafted, and the use of Loas has a nice callback to the Age of Mythology playstyle which also incorporates faith as a part of your playstyle. The biggest let down is the base itself, which while aesthetically pleasing lacks a bit of functionality to really tie in with everything. The background music is a nice touch, but perhaps there's a little more that could be done in this area that might need some tweaking. Other than that, it's a solid entry with some truly inspired design. 39/45

Judge's Notes: This is possibly Riki's best entry to date. In each contest he continues to improve, and these guys are a lot of fun to play around with. Combining the early melee and ranged units into the same unit switching between forms makes for an interesting early game (refer back to the Runic Clans which does something similar), and the overall aesthetic for the Blood Trolls themselves is pretty damn nice. If you haven't already, check it out.



Wolves Of Winter: What could be best described as a furry convention, this an entry all about wolves, winter and crystaline constructs.

Theme: True to the name, you have a lot of wolves to play around with, mostly worgen models with a few other additions thrown in. This describes one half of the techtree, as the other half is covered by the Spirit of Winter. This worker can be easy to overlook, as all it really does is serve to make half the techtree inaccessible unless you get it and the half it locks off isn't available in tier 1 beyond the tower, but this will give you access to some decent caster units as well as some very powerful Crystaline units. To further aid in the theme of the Wolves portion, there is the “Bones” mechanic. Every time you kill an enemy unit, you gain a Bone. This is accessible in you Gorepits, and these Bones can be used to give yourself an economic boost, or to summon a Marrowhound. It ties in well with the Wolves portion of the faction, but where this entry falls short is that it doesn't really seem to touch on the Faith theme of the contest at all. In some senses it /might/ be that the whole “Spirits of Winter” are hinting towards some ancestral worship, but that's kind of a stretch to really consider and nothing is really hinted at in that regard. All in all, a decent theme to follow, especially in combining Worgens with another sub-race which is heavily appreciated, but it doesn't really take the contest theme into consideration. 14/25

Gameplay: For the most part, this plays like a traditional faction, with very little deviation in that regard. The bones system is an interesting mechanic that gives a nice quick response to early game harassment, or an early game scout, or even just a nice boost to your resources to get an upgrade a little bit earlier. The heroes are interesting for the most part, but many of them suffer from their ultimate skills being absolutely useless. An example of this would be an ultimate that picks a unit around it at random, and if it's an enemy, it will damage them for 55 hits, while if it's an ally, it will heal them for 55 hits. This can pick allied units that are already at full health, and will only cycle through the effect 16 times before it's done. Putting this next to something like Starfall or Tranquility, it really pales by comparison. There's some questionable design choices, too. The alternate worker aspect doesn't really do much, but if you transform one of your Runts into a Spirit of Winter, it cannot transform back – but the Spirit of Winter can also be trained and is 15 gold cheaper than a Runt. So you would never want to actually transform it like that. The whole Spirit of Winter's side of the techtree is also easy to overlook, as you cannot get any units from it at tier 1 and building the structures that both the Runt and the Spirit can produce will consume the Spirit due to Night Elf Ancient rules. The Half-Breed gets an upgrade that allows them to become a Ravager, which is not only more powerful than the Half-Breeds but also cheaper – however, previously existing Half-Breeds are stuck as Half-Breeds. So, the entry isn't perfect on a gameplay front, but it does play solidly and is a lot of fun. 18/30

Creativity: Not too much to say here. There's definitely some interesting elements, the Bones mechanic for one which was a very nice idea, and one of the ultimates, while useless in function, was an interesting concept – the Iceborn Guardian. It turns the clock to midnight and randomly summons big balls of hail on any unit across the map. This can, unfortunately, include your own units, although it only hits them for half damage, but nonetheless it's an interesting idea that could be better on the execution. There's a few cases of this, but then there's a few cases of lacking an idea, like how the Iceborn Impaler has the Impale ability, which is exactly the same as the ingame ability. Still, when the entry puts in some new ideas, while it can be hit or miss, they are at the very least interesting. 28/45

Judge's Notes: Definitely a lot of room for improvement from this contestant, but they made a pretty solid entry that had a lot of effort put towards it. They clearly put the hours in, and even with its flaws, it is a lot of fun to play.



Leoric's Almighty Cult Of Corruption: This entry is all about Diablo making a debut as an RTS. With legions of demons and undead, this is my pick for the contest's edgiest entry.

Theme: The theme of this entry is all about Leoric, and that's about all you need to know. You have demons, you have hordes of the undead (in no small part helped by the fact you have to get a boatload of food production structures, and each one can produce one Skeleton Pagan each with the Dig Up research), and you have Leoric himself. A lot of the model choices are questionable, the aesthetic isn't the best, although there is some heavy metal playing in the background which adds a layer of “fuck yeah”. It's an entry that I feel doesn't take itself too seriously and just has fun. So it's got that kind of vibe going for it that is really nice to see. Despite the faction being all about Leoric's cult, however, there doesn't seem to be anything really connecting it to the Faith theme. It's /sort/ of there, in the sense that you have Leoric and then a lot of… what can only be assumed to be his followers? Do Demons worship him? It's hard to say. A lot is left to be desired in that regard, and the model choices do put me in mind of scrolling through xgm.ru and looking at all the imports that hiveworkshop didn't let on it. 9/25

Gameplay: Hoo boy. This both does and doesn't have a lot going on at the same time. The majority of your early game will be building Stone Coffins. This is your food production structure, and it boasts providing a mighty /2/ Food. Yikes. These are dirt cheap, however, and when you research the Dig Out upgrade, you'll be thankful you got so many. For as perversely plentiful as these are, each and every one of them can produce 1 Skeleton Pagan. Two of Leoric's hero skills revolve entirely around improving these (these are also Leoric's only activated spells, so you won't be using your hero's mana for anything else). While it would be nice to see levelling Leoric's hero abilities having more of an impact on this process, it is at the least enjoyable – he uses one of Mal'ganis' unique hero abilities from the campaign to accomplish this, after all, which is nice to see somebody make some degree of use out of it. Your early game units are also dirt cheap, the Demon Minion being super weak but only taking 1 food, which you'll be thankful for while trying to get your Coffin count up. The workers are laughably pathetic. They cost 70 gold but have 85 health. They don't offer anything other than being incredibly weak. Beyond that, the entry mostly plays best by a-moving a massive swarm of everything and seeing what sticks. Eventually you'll be getting the tier 3 unit referred to as the Siegebreaker which should help the push along. It's expensive but also very powerful, and since you got swarms of Skeleton Pagans to act as the frontline meat shield, you might as well splurge. There's a lot of improvement to be made here, but it's also quite fun for as goofy as it is. 13/30

Creativity: There's quite a few interesting takes in this entry. While it's not exactly flourishing with content, it's got some interesting executions that are worth noting, and I'm a big fan of the use of one of Mal'ganis' abilities. Still, it feels like there could be better concepts in quite a few areas which could lead to better executions, and there are quite a few cases of the unit abilities just being ingame abilities. Enrage for the Demon Minions was an interesting idea, though, turning them into more powerful versions of themselves but with a limited lifespan. But then the Siegebreaker just has Demolish as an ability, renamed to “Destroy the building”. The Goat Summoner's mastery spell is just Doom (yeah, Doom is a unit ability here). The items are kind of interesting, two of them being unique summon effects, and for some reason the Orb Of Pain's ability is the Orb Of Slow effect which gives you a percentage chance of casting “Bash”, which I can only assume then gives Bash the same chance that it normally has of actually activating it, making the chance of it proccing… incredibly small. That's probably enough to go on for now, there's a lot more creativity to be had, but it's not the worst starting point. 19/45

Judge's Notes: Definitely a lot of work required to improve from here, but it's a good starting point, and the contestant did well to put this entry together. It's pretty fun to play, and it's a callback to where a lot of us started with playing around in the World Editor, which mostly reminds us why we love it so much in the first place.










Assigned Staff: @Mythic

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Congratulations to the winners!

I was able to play every entry this time around but unfortunately didn't have time to do the full reviews I wanted to.

The removal of the balance criteria has also been interesting and personally I don't see any issue by excluding it has a judging criteria. I look forward to the next contest :)


EDIT: Also my first medal! :D I've made it! I have joined the Hive medal club!
 
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