Original post by Wavinator
How would you be sure to calculate the path the player intends? Are you going to assume shortest path? What if this drags them through territories they don't want to go through?
Likely allowing the player to plot the (approximation of) route they'd like to take, either by placing series of waypoint or straight draw the curve of route on the map.
I think the whole army thing is a handwave that ignores the basic problem: You've now got a different game. It's fine if you're doing a hybrid (in fact, I'd like to play it), but you open yourself to a whole rash of concerns (some of which I tried to outline) that simply don't apply to a party or single character.
Very true; but i think it's partially what makes trying to piece such game together fun. Let's be frank about it, the 'typical RPG' isn't *that* far from Progress Quest (i've been biting my tongue for 200+ posts to not mention it, but now someone else already had, so to heck with it :p) ... and this eternal cycle of "go out, whack monsters, bring loot, sell loot, watch tiny numbers grow into bigger numbers" with never anything new to it... it's dull. The much-touted "character development" that's supposed to be large part of experience is a fake when the character never changes from being ultimate killing machine ... that 'grows' from exterminating rats to exterminating dragons... but never moves beyond _exterminating something_ If you check every source outside of RPG games, it's generally considered a character "develops" when someone finally manages to break the mold they've been stuck in. I'd really like to see the concept of RPG grow to that level, too...
For example, if you go from an individual to a huge, warring group, the experience will be disjoint. Whatever was fun that related to being a young adventurer will now disappear when being a general. New concerns will arise, responsibilities you didn't have will crop up.
Aye, and i'd actually hope the game manages to create such feel for some players. Why? Because it's a very real part of *being* someone important and finding you no longer really can do all the little things you enjoyed. People either find they like new responsibilities and power, or not. And it's what ultimately drives some to turning it all down and getting back to what they were, just to be happy again (or not, people find different ways to cope with these sensations, and i'd like to allow for at least some of them)
What, for example, would be the interface for choosing the army? How would you specifically group and order different units? Where would your screen focus lie? If you switch to an RTS mode, you'll begin to devalue character identification. If you lock to the character, then you'll either frustrate players because they won't have fine army control, or you'll have to issue orders by proxy and effectively watch scripts run-- very "hands off," and annoying when individual units get stuck pathfinding, or get attacked where you can't see them. (..)
One of the biggest design problems I've had so far in trying to blend empire game and RPG is that of the training curve. A game must train you at each level to progress, and do so by exposing you to specific challenges that allow you to slowly sharpen your skills. The problem is, if your scope broadens, your training curve goes up exponentially.
So you'll have to figure out, at each level of being a hero, how it relates to having an army. You can't just suddenly spring an army on the player and expect them to be competent. So they must be giving orders and dealing with tactics at level one, and they must know that they're being groomed to be a general.
I've rearranged your reply a bit, since i find these bits i put together here, related. Indeed, suddenly switching from 'single hero' mode to 'here is your army, now command!' mode would be very discomforting (and quite silly to boot) Fortunately, the RPGs already have mechanics which allow you to slowly ease in the player in their advanced roles, and that's through "adventuring parties".
The player gets to learn how to recruit the right people, how to manage them around and on the battlefield, how to deal with issues they have. By seeing their companions up close on the battlefield player gains understanding on how very different types can perform there, even though the player themselves isn't really a knight/thief/archer/wizard/ninja/pirate rolled into one and as such wouldn't be able to know what they can expect from different specializations. Since their companions are other individual "people" with their own attributes, the personal element is still there, now additionally enhanced since these people might have their own preferences and quirks. They may take orders well and perform them well, they may perform them sloppily, some may even decide they know better than charge half-dead into bunch of strong enemies just because you yell at them to.
This is the battle management on small, easy-to-swallow scale... and if the player proves they're capable of handling it, the bar can be gradually upped. At some point down the road Eric the Viking might be replaced with a squad of vikings... but because the player got to see many times how Eric the Viking deals with say, enemy archer, the player has already pretty good understanding how a group of vikings stands against group of archers or a group of knights, and how their attributes compare on average. The individual element slowly shifts as well, from individual soldiers to squad leaders who are able to put their personal 'spin' on people they command... and then possibly further up, but it's still there.
The personal touch of an RPG will be lost in translation. A general doesn't go around questing for the peasants. He probably doesn't try to resolve the relationship between a couple of married villagers for the sake of love. Nor does he go fetch magical wood to prop up an old, senile wizard's windmill.
The general is impersonal. He doesn't solve people's personal problems as the RPG hero does. He conquers towns, secures the border, perhaps plays politics in the court (never done, but could be). The tone and emphasis is different.
To a degree, yes, it's right; The difference imo lies in the fact that --before becoming a general-- the player has spent long time "down there". They tried to help a pair of villagers, they did fix the windmill, and likely did many other things which now altogether put a *meaning* to trying to secure a town that'd otherwise be judged as "not worth losing many knights over" (or if it's ultimately judged as 'not worthy' then it still has "human face" of people the player got to know there, rather than being just a statistical record like your typical RTS 'control point)
The general might be now too busy to go and visit the pair they once helped, but it doesn't mean he can't receive the birthday card from them, with well-wishes and thanks for what he'd once done. Or to get a note in thankful letter from a wizard, after the general's latest campaign managed to save the wizard's village: "p.s. the windmill still stands strong" A much valuable reflection of what the player achieved over the course of game imo, than "Strength: 322" instead of "Strength: 321" on the character's sheet.
LOTR: "LEGOLAS! KILL HIM!!!! KILL HIM!!!!" Why was Legolas singled out by Aragon to take out the kamikaze orc? Because he's the best damn archer in the entire army. You can't escape the fact that, given an RPG, NPCs will have uniqueness, and as such, players will want to tactically position that uniqueness in the most beneficial way.
I'll be a cynic here and say that Legolas was singled out because #1 he's in the credits and #2, he's the only guy there who actually has name that's known to Aragorn ;s It'd simply have no impact to the reader/viewer if Aragorn instead yelled "Joe_234, take him out!" and the reader never heard of this Joe up to now, and then Joe is also never mentioned after... because he was a simple Plot Device.
But yes, there should be unique individuals in the game. But i think the focus should be on findig these individuals and putting them where their unique abilites *matter* and can be utilized best. As squad leaders, property managers and all sorts of organizers who act as the bridge between you as leader and the final receivers of your orders. Failing that you get swamped in the micro-managing that's a plague of 'conquer and manage' games, where you're too busy trying to juggle few hundred of units to ever get a clear understanding of the big picture you're expected to paint.
The alternative, as you're suggesting, is a tactic-less zergling rush where hundreds of clone knights mob a target. In that case, why even bother with the idea of an army if you're going to strip the general of significant decisions of varying risk and reward (think about what decisions generals have to make).
I think any commander acting in that manner would get a rude awakening after wasting large part of their resources in battle where it could be easily avoided with just the right use of forces they had at hand ... and their commanding would end abruptly, and on sour note. Of course, hopefully by the time the player gets to that seat, they're already aware of it, having gone through series of (smaller scale) engagements which if anything taught them gettting that Dan the Wizard recklessly killed makes both healing after battle troublesome, and the other people think twice about signing up for duty...
(damn that was long. sorry >.<