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Ideas for a large, multiplayer online strategy game mechanic.


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#1 TexasJack   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 10:16 AM

Hi all,

When I was younger, I was into Warhammer 40k. As you'd imagine, there used to be (and probably still are) a boat load of conventions and meets where players would get together en masse. I never got into it deeply enough to attend any, but they were fairly well covered in some of the magazines etc... and always looked pretty fun.

One of the big attractions were these huge halls where the organisers would set up a big (...big) super-table made up of many smaller ones and cover it with terrain models. Players would turn up, set up their armies that they had brought along somewere around the edge and essentially stomp off into a big battle royale. Naturally, it would depend on the event, but often, there were no rules about how big or small a force you deployed because the game evened itself out. Players who brought huge forces had might on their side, but moved clumsily and slowly - players who brought a detachment of three tanks couldn't last in a sustained fight, but had guerilla tactics on their side.

The games would last several hours, generally the smaller forces would hole up in easy to defend bottlenecks and cause as much trouble as they could, while larger players would hammer eachother on big battlefields. The last man standing would win.

-

I've been interested in the idea of a turn/tick based massively multiplayer wargame universe for a while, and was wondering what lessons could be learned from massive scale gameplay in tabletop games.

I'm looking to design a game mechanic which ideally allows the following in a (massively?) multiplayer context:

> The building of an army/empire.
> The ability to progress an army/empire through a leveling system and technology tree.
> Armies/empires cohabiting/fighting over a game universe which changes according to the actions of it's inhabitants.

Basically, a massively multiplayer online turn based strategy, but one that lets you control units at a Warhammer 40k level of detail.

Does anyone have any experience, ideas or suggestions they'd like to throw in?

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#2 Wyrmslayer   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:12 AM

Here's my take:

In order to make it turn-based, this couldn't be an MMO. You'd be waiting on too many people before your turn came around again. They might not even be playing any more.

If it is turn-based, this would pretty much be Civilisation, no? I've not done the google search, but somebody will be doing a mod for Civilisation 5, or 4, to make it about Warhammer (/40k). This probably exists somewhere. If you haven't played Civ, do a little research - shouldn't be too hard to see how it could support your ideas.

If it is a persistant, large scale, real-time MMO strategy game instead... that's a little over my head without a sizable caffeine hit. I don't see it being balanced in any way, maybe I'll revisit the idea another time.

In short, for this project;
Online turn based strategy = yes. MMO = hmmm.
Unless someone else has a genius idea (or, has had their coffee this morning).

If you're genuinely interested in seeing this come to pass as an online turn-based game; Civ4 was a delight to mod. I have no doubt Civ5 is just as good. Either find the mod-in-progress and add your thoughts, or start your own up.


Just my take on things ;), hope it was helpful.

Wyrm.

#3 Dir3kt   Members   -  Reputation: 166

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:50 AM

Mmmh also been toying with this kind of idea. As Wyrm said a turn based MMO doesn't seem doable. But what about a simultaneous turn based game with limited time? Let me explains in more details.

The game is always running and ticks every 15 seconds (just throwing a random number here). Each player can send one order for every tick. At the end of each tick server resolve all actions, send the result and starts next tick. Players can send a new order and so on. Then of course if a player disconnects, he stops sending orders. However his units are still in the game and can still be attacked by other players. This is like your classic tick based browser strategy game but with a real spacial representation of the world where each tick you actually see the opposing units moving. If all your units are destroyed, you loose and are removed from the game. But you can start playing again from scratch.

This would give a feel of real time while still being 'turn/tick based'. Technically it seems easy to implement and to support large number of players :) However this system favors players that keep playing continuously which is bad. This could be mitigated by having the units go into defense mode when a player disconnects though. And also by being smart enough to take strong defensive position before disconnecting.

#4 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2667

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 08:36 AM

In former years, Games Workshop released "global campaigns," a political and military scenario detailing a wide-spanning military action. Players who subscribed to the campaign were allowed to send in the results of any matches played in its service, and the results would be tabulated and then translated into story progression. This allowed players to directly impact the franchise's story: for instance, the 13th Black Crusade formed the backdrop to 2003's "Eye of Terror campaign." Players with Chaos-affiliated armies excelled, and Abaddon's forces gained a foothold on the strategically important world of Cadia (the planet nearest to the Eye of Terror, and thus a natural bottleneck and battleground).


If I were attempting to make an MMO strategy game along the lines of what you were describing I would probably create two levels of involvement in the game
  • The overall view where outside of battles you would have access to how the war is waging. Here you could spend time upgrading, researching, buying, trading, training, strategy meetings, as well seeing where critical defense gaps or offensive possibilities are occuring etc i.e. a headquarters scenario.
  • The Battle view would be very much the jump into a battle with set pieces to choose from (from the theoretical troops available to that area - you might also give consideration to relief troops etc.)
From the multiplayer aspect, a battle list could be shown of available battles i.e. a player opts for a battle in said area - it appears on a list and you can pick or choose - alternatively a random battle would give you the longest battle request on the list.

The results of how each battle goes tabulates to the headquarters and is reflected in the changes to the frontlines on the server.

You might also give consideration to such things as individual leadership and morale skills, for example a player able to defeat a larger foe would gain reputation to his/herself which could be an effective tool for tweaking troop strengths i.e. a soldier with faith in their commander is more likely to push harder than a soldier with no faith.

#5 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:19 AM

I would assume that a turn-based MMO would have a scout system that made you wait on reports before making your next move. Therefore everyone could be playing at once but were forced to wait for the scouts.
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#6 Sayid Ahmed   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:29 AM

I agree with what Wyrm is saying. An online game with 1v1 up to however many players are viable would probably be better. Ask yourself what benefit making it an MMO would bring? Leader boards and statistics can be made regardless of this - look at Shogun 2's multiplayer side. All I can think of is that armies and empires will be long-lasting and old aged - is that workable with your game?

#7 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2667

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:32 AM

I would assume that a turn-based MMO would have a scout system that made you wait on reports before making your next move. Therefore everyone could be playing at once but were forced to wait for the scouts.


I must admit I considered that option myself - then thought to myself: "MMO" - people logging on at all hours of the day and night, some people completing battles swiftly whilst others taking hours, somepeople logging off or dc'd in the middle of a battle. It kind of turned me against too much of an arbitary "stop-go" system of play. Also in terms of the war it wouldn't be unreasonable to have battles occuring up and down a frontline whilst other parts of the line are asleep with inactivity. A hugely successful battle might cause an offensive opportunity if other players also battle in that section to push forwards whilst defenders join in to "Hold the line". In some ways that measure of fluidity would offset the turn-based play nicely imo.

All I can think of is that armies and empires will be long-lasting and old aged - is that workable with your game?


Very true - but given the success of warhammer which is basically a neverending war I think it could be workable. Treat it the right way and it could grind out it's own niche market that supplies tabletop players with a new variation upon their games in the virtual world.

#8 Sayid Ahmed   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:38 AM

I must admit I considered that option myself - then thought to myself: "MMO" - people logging on at all hours of the day and night, some people completing battles swiftly whilst others taking hours, somepeople logging off or dc'd in the middle of a battle. It kind of turned me against too much of an arbitary "stop-go" system of play. Also in terms of the war it wouldn't be unreasonable to have battles occuring up and down a frontline whilst other parts of the line are asleep with inactivity. A hugely successful battle might cause an offensive opportunity if other players also battle in that section to push forwards whilst defenders join in to "Hold the line". In some ways that measure of fluidity would offset the turn-based play nicely imo.


All I can think of is that armies and empires will be long-lasting and old aged - is that workable with your game?


Very true - but given the success of warhammer which is basically a neverending war I think it could be workable. Treat it the right way and it could grind out it's own niche market that supplies tabletop players with a new variation upon their games in the virtual world.


Well, the main concern I have with this being an MMO is that you will get people who are inactive or just not active enough and will have their empires completely swallowed up by their neighbor who will quite easily become the main regional power. You could have game mechanics to mitigate this but who knows how this specific game will turn out.

#9 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2667

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:46 AM


I must admit I considered that option myself - then thought to myself: "MMO" - people logging on at all hours of the day and night, some people completing battles swiftly whilst others taking hours, somepeople logging off or dc'd in the middle of a battle. It kind of turned me against too much of an arbitary "stop-go" system of play. Also in terms of the war it wouldn't be unreasonable to have battles occuring up and down a frontline whilst other parts of the line are asleep with inactivity. A hugely successful battle might cause an offensive opportunity if other players also battle in that section to push forwards whilst defenders join in to "Hold the line". In some ways that measure of fluidity would offset the turn-based play nicely imo.


All I can think of is that armies and empires will be long-lasting and old aged - is that workable with your game?


Very true - but given the success of warhammer which is basically a neverending war I think it could be workable. Treat it the right way and it could grind out it's own niche market that supplies tabletop players with a new variation upon their games in the virtual world.


Well, the main concern I have with this being an MMO is that you will get people who are inactive or just not active enough and will have their empires completely swallowed up by their neighbor who will quite easily become the main regional power. You could have game mechanics to mitigate this but who knows how this specific game will turn out.


True - I must admit most of my attention was being focused on the warhammer i.e. 2 sides (not counting the tyranids eldar etc) and not so much about the empire creation of each player. Your concerns are valid with respect to that unless you perhaps design a mechanic by where the empires themselves are inviolable and everything takes place external to them...somewhat like Age of Empires Online where the Capital city is basically separate to gameplaying itself (unless you like decorating that is). This would effectively protect each player but then does this belittle the idea of an actual "empire".

#10 Sayid Ahmed   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:55 AM

True - I must admit most of my attention was being focused on the warhammer i.e. 2 sides (not counting the tyranids eldar etc) and not so much about the empire creation of each player. Your concerns are valid with respect to that unless you perhaps design a mechanic by where the empires themselves are inviolable and everything takes place external to them...somewhat like Age of Empires Online where the Capital city is basically separate to gameplaying itself (unless you like decorating that is). This would effectively protect each player but then does this belittle the idea of an actual "empire".


I see what you mean - honestly I don't know anything about warhammer. I'll probably need TexasJack to comment again so I know what he really wants.

But maybe you could have everyone with their core capital region of the empire, where all the trade and recruitment and research is carried out, then there are 'no man's land' in between each other. Players claim different territories and where they collide they are instanced into a more tactical zoomed in view of battle deployment.

#11 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2667

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 10:00 AM

But maybe you could have everyone with their core capital region of the empire, where all the trade and recruitment and research is carried out, then there are 'no man's land' in between each other. Players claim different territories and where they collide they are instanced into a more tactical zoomed in view of battle deployment.


That could work. Yeah but I agree with you - I think the OP needs to step back in with more clarification now that he has some feedback to help finetune for answers.

#12 TexasJack   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 12:35 PM

These have been pretty nice suggestions, my original vision for the game had three focuses;

1) The player starts out with very little and grow as they naturally progressed, as is common in strategy gaming. They then use the resources at their disposal (originally, I envisaged a mining/foraging mechanic) to build their empire.

2) The worlds in which this took place would be persistent, and would allow access to other players.

3) Battles, building and troop movement would have a very hands on (as was mentioned before, "spacially represented") control dynamic, similar to that of table top gaming.

Anything beyond these parameters is really up in the air, as the idea is still very much in its infancy. The MMO model was just a quick way of describing how to fit all of this into a connected, persistent game universe.

Also, I would like to point out that Warhammer 40K was just a popular example of the type and depth of table top game that I keep making reference to, as the genre in and of itself is hugely varied.

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One idea I have been considering is this:

The game could hybridise a typical MMO and a typical table top wargame

In most Warhammer 40K games (even the super battles mentioned in my original post), individual's army sizes were limited by practicality. The armies would generally consist of around forty units, infantry and artillery.

What if the game played out exactly like an MMO, with the exception of the player taking control of , say, twenty characters instead of one. The game would start you with twenty sparsly armed guys who's level and arsenal could be increased but ultimately you were capped to twenty units.

The game as would be tick based for the benefit of managing twenty units at a time. Perhaps minutely ticks?

This itself could go a number of ways:

> Are the twenty man armies persistent (i.e. Still present in the game world when the player logs off) or not?

> Should the players be left to build their own alliances, or should they be put into large factions (Like the Good Vs. Evil mechanics employed by games like WoW)? The advantage of the former is that there would be a more varied spectrum of factions, the advantage of the latter is that player evolution could see them climbing the chain of command on their given side, allowing them to issue missions to lower ranked players and take on missions offered by those higher up players.

#13 Wyrmslayer   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 12:54 PM

I kind of see your vision and where you'd like to take it, and to be honest, I can't see any reason to write it off.

"An MMO where you control a small squad or two instead of a single character"... why not? Making it turn, or tick based... I guess, seems doable.

As in a MMORPG, there could be "safe zones" (faction specific) where you are safe, but as a turn/tick based system you may also end up logged out in the middle of a warzone... adds a little more strategy, a bit more risk... I kinda like it.

As you say, the idea is in it's infancy, but "An MMO where you control a small squad or two instead of a single character"... the more I read it, the more I like the idea.


Wyrm.

#14 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 963

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:35 PM

Check out http://www.sgalaxy.com/. Its pretty similar to what you described.

#15 lithos   Members   -  Reputation: 413

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 07:22 PM

It works well in tick/turn+time/turn based strategy games.

Tick based games have a set timer where you collect resources(raw iron, taxes and similar), from there you issue as many commands as you can before you run out of resources. Free actions tending to be few and far between, or the cost of using them expensive to start(IE portals for free travel). This is what you will normally see in something like a web strategy/RTS game. The advantage of this is that play tends to be far more free form than other games(typically web games), but rewards highly active play very very heavily(IE logging in on the hour every hour). (ala astrowars)

Turn+time based games you as a commander are given the ability to issue so many orders in a day. Collecting new ones at a set point, or every other hour, and having rules for taking orders and "saving" them. The disadvantage is that you as a designer have to find ways to compromise "time travel" since some people will ending taking "future" actions the moment turns reset and similar, however a great advantage is that you force a limit on player size(they may have 40 armies/units but can only change the state of 12 of them a day, if they don't work on economy). (utopia and hobowars probably the closest)

Turn based games is that all players log in once a day issue all their actions, then at "midnight" all actions happen at the same time. The disadvantage is that you need to figure out a rule set that takes into account what initiative style rules are meant to simulate(did this unit account for future movement, was it aware, and similar) without player input(obviously requires daily log in), advantage you can simulate some very complex rules much more easily and fairly since the former two rule sets are pretty much required to have competitive actions be simplified to account for all players not being here. (very few games do this. Neveron achieves something similar but at 60 second intervals for it's combat, and based on battletech universe).




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