One of the issues with advancing the powers of units is that it may be hard to tell how good a unit is.
indeed, and that gives me a thought, involving this response as well...
When it comes to military structure, its easy to spot the units that are "stronger" they have a few more bars on the uniform and that's usually the guy dumb enough to be leading the mess onto the field. The only other way to spot the skilled soldier on the battlefield is to be probing the same flank as he is, scouting for targets of opportunity. That's how you spot real combat veterans. But to spot the real threat, look for the guy with the map. New soldiers figit, veterans are calm, even under fire. New soldiers have new uniforms, veterans know the dirt as intimately they know their enemy. New soldiers miss step, you don't survive the battlefield by stepping in the wrong place at the wrong time. New soldiers miss the mark, you don't survive long when you attack an enemy that hits the mark better then you. This is how you differentiate a veteran.
So the general idea is that 1, it is hard to understand the skill level of a squad, if upgrades can happen without visual cues. and 2, a method is brought up about making a squad appear more sloppy/less cohesive. Honestly, I think the less cohesive part certainly should be part of the visual queues, but I have an idea that can bring it out further.
Its normal in RTS's, to be able to mouse over for details on enemies, or select them for additional details. In Dark Reign, enemy troops (and yours) even had health bars over their heads. But perhaps their general damage can also be listed. As a Color bar. Perhaps there can be a valid side bar with scrolling data about what is visible on the screen. giving constant updates about ONLY what you can see, with warnings about areas out of your visibility with more intensity. (resolutions are better these days)
- what if this information side bar delivered threat information about visible forces. based on what is known. perhaps you don't really know all he details about an enemy force. Once you see them in action, it becomes more obvious about what is available. An AI determines which pieces of information are most valuable to you at the time, and is constantly updated with newly gained knowledge about the enemy troops and force movement.
Of course, then you can pay for more information, by
1) hiring spies to bring back information.
2) training troops to spot hints about enemy capabilities.
3) installing look out towers and upgrading detection capabilities.
4) capturing enemies, to learn more about general troop/squad setups at the time of the capture.
Most games seem to rely on visual appearance of the character to relay information, and/or upon selection, a full readout of capabilities. I.e. no surprises. if both sides can see the same unit, both sides know the same things about it, with the exception of its goals. But in this, perhaps you only know the generic information, but you have to study their capabilities to learn about them. This game could make information gathering a very important portion of the game. Camouflaging a caravan doesn't make them invisible while moving cross country, but it does hide the difference between a group of troops being transported, and a Rocket Battery system. In most games, you would know exactly what was approaching the instant you can see it.
I think it would be good for this information side bar to include known details, and hint at possibilities. For instance, a jeep approaches, but we don't know what its payload is. Another thing might be a captured spy. if it is done in a way where the original player doesn't know it was captured, it can be replaced, with one that gives only information the apposing players deems valuable. Once information is found faulty, the spy in question would be caught, so what might happen, is that upon returning, the player is given some troop information about the apposing side. some is correct, particularly about the first wave of weaker foot soldiers. That way the information is trusted. But then the second wave includes carrier vehicles, half with powerful rockets, and half carrying more cheap troops. This wave the information was reversed. So when the defending player (depending on spy info) sees the approaching forces, they believe the rockets are in one flank, and focus their defenses there. But as soon as that information becomes faulty (first rocket fire) the spy is terminated, and the information updates. Also, the defending player's AI bar informs them of the rouse.
I know a lot of games show these interesting graphics, with shifting information that serves no purpose, accept to look like its more cool information, despite it not being anything but a looping animation. This could be a chance to start turning more of that, into real information.