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Member Since 17 Aug 2003
Offline Last Active May 14 2014 05:26 AM

#5101436 Combat System for a 4X Game

Posted by on 14 October 2013 - 07:14 PM

I will restrict the number of elite units that can be produced by other means of course, but I think it will just cause the player to gather them from all around the country and form a doomstack. 

In some ways I think the most interesting army variations come from how they are produced. If you gather your forces from across the land you'll get archers and footmen from the villages, heavy mercenary troops from the cities and knights from the nobles. Or something like that. Heroes of Might and Magic of all games reflected this nicely I think.
I wonder what your problem is with the doomstack. Is it the "elite units only" or the gathering of all forces into one huge army? The former can be solved by having cannon fodder valuable enough to bring along anyway. Your 20 legion doomstack is defeated by my 20 legion + 40 auxiliary legion doomstack. The latter, which a wise man once called concentration of force, is more of a strategic thing. If you don't want wars to always be "I gather my stuff, you gather your stuff and we fight in the middle" then you can make raiding very efficient. The Europa Universalis games do this to some extent, you can cause quite some harm by pillaging enemy provinces with only a few regiments. Combine it with good defensive bonuses so a smaller army can easier hold off a bigger one on home ground while your raiding parties wreck his economy.

The player has no combat input (you send the army to fight, end the turn and pray for the best), possible exception are some orders adjusting the behavior of the army, for example when to retreat.


In EU I've always wanted to tell my troops what the goal of this battle is. Is it to destroy the enemy army, to hold the province, or to delay them as long as possible so my reinforcements can arrive? In a "hold ground" scenario you would get defensive bonuses and inferior units would perform better (they'd be more dug in or on a hill or something) but the attacker could more easily retreat in good order because you wouldn't be in a good position to counter-attack. So now we have a few different situations:
Both attack: Heavy casualties, one side likely to be destroyed.
One hold ground, one attack: Heavier casualties for attacker, but defender less likely to retreat if defeated.
One delay, one attack: Somewhat heavier casualties for attacker, defender likely to be able to retreat. Slows battle down, if applicable.
One hold ground, one attack "if safe": Both sides exchange rude words and the attacker pulls back. Or something like that.

I would love some feedback and of course more ideas on the matter, I'm sure you have some.


I sure do. Like you I had the EU mechanic as a sort of baseline when thinking about this. As a general rule I wanted a little bit of a rock-paper-scissors feeling without having too much "this unit has +50% against that unit". Less gamey but the same result basically. Also the consequences should be relatively easy to understand for the player, as you said.

First of all, scouting. If you have few scouting units, primarily light cavalry, you increase the risk of being forced into a fight you don't want. And decrease the chance of catching the enemy unaware for that matter. This bonus would be capped at a certain number of scout units. By the time you have a scout in every tree it doesn't really matter if you have even more. This would be implemented by some sort of maneuver roll when an army enters the province of another army. If it falls in your favor, you get some kind of bonus, potentially a huge one. Easy number: Risk/chance of ambush.
Second of all, mobility. Light cavalry might not stand up in any kind of battle but they can just run away with very few losses. Mount & Blade illustrates this well with their Khergit(=Mongol) faction. They weren't that much more dangerous than the other factions in a fair fight, but they would never fight fair. If we where equal or I was stronger they would run away. If they where stronger I could not run away, so every fight against them was to my disadvantage, which made them terrifying.
So a more mobile army could more easily retreat in good order which is useful with delaying tactics.
In EU terms, having units that are faster than enemy units might slow them down and/or cause attrition. Enemy quick units would offset this as they fight rearguard actions. In the most extreme case, an army of heavy infantry might be able to force a pure mongol-style cavalry army to pull back 9 times out of 10, but that 1 case when it fails, the infantry army would be surrounded and destroyed. Easy numbers: Some kind of "Pursue" score for each battle which affects chance of successful retreat as well as casualties taken if the army breaks.
Thirdly, "unopposed" cavalry gets a big bonus. Cavalry facing enemy cavalry is going to be an even fight. Cavalry not facing cavalry is just going to attack the rear and cause havoc. And you only have to have some cavalry to threaten with so he just can't surround. They can still be kept in reserve. This could be simulated with a rule like: if enemy has no cavalry, my cavalry get 200% bonus, on account of being able to run around and attack any weak point they find. Combine this with the possibility of routing enemy cavalry off the field and you can now simulate the Punic war! Easy number: That 200% bonus.
Fourthly, fatigue. A fresh soldier is a lot better than an exhausted one. Your hardcore troops might have broken the enemy but they're not in any shape to pursue and destroy. Luckily, even pitchfork-peasants can stab fleeing enemies. This is a great reason to have lots of cannon fodder in reserve. Fresh recruits can also be able to protect better units for short time while they regroup so they can get back and do the real fighting.
Fifthly, formation. A formation score would reflect a units ability to withstand cavalry charges and melee fights. Capped by unit type, so pike infantry can have a very high value, light cavalry and skirmishers have a low value. Skirmishers like slingers can lower this value by being annoying without necessarily dealing or taking casualties. 

#5098858 Post Mortem on 4x Strategy Games

Posted by on 04 October 2013 - 09:41 PM

Well most empires fall apart because the people in them don't want to be part of it anymore. When ypou're so strong that nothing external can defeat you, the threat must come from inside the empire.


When I make a 4X game I plan to have an "external threat"-meter. If you are attacked everywhere your subjects will want your imperial protection. When you've defeated every credible threat and just have to conquer everything, people might prefer independence. Expect unrest and rebellions in the fringe worlds. The people of your enemies OTOH will stand united against the threat of invasion from you since you're the massive imperial power in this scenario. 


This way mightier empires grow weaker awhile smaller ones make last stands, hoping the big empire might crumble.



#5063505 Why cards in a game design?

Posted by on 21 May 2013 - 07:38 AM

Hello all, 
Have you made a game design involving cards, tabletop or otherwise? Why did you put cards in there? What were the other options? Could the same mechanic have been displayed differently, especially in a video game? What core mechanic do cards provide in tabletop card games and what is the equivalent in a computer game? I'd like your thoughts on this since a lot of card mechanics (in video games) feel gimmicky to me especially when they display the actual card. I want the mechanic but do not want to be bound by the aestethic, so what's the mechanic?
One thing they do in tabletop games is providing a tangible marker of some kind. This is where the gimmic feeling comes from when translated into a computer. Sure, every inventory item in an rpg could represented by a card, every module in a spaceship, every regiment in an army. But on a computer that's just an aesthetic choice, not a mechanic. 
So what can we learn from cards? Here are some of my thoughts on what mechanics cards provide and how it relates to computers without actually showing cards on the screen. Faithful translations of tabletop card games (i.e. Poker online) doesn't count, nor does switching from cards to Scrolls.
1) Collectibility
Disclaimer: I've never played neither CCG's, TCG's nor miniature games so I don't actually know what I'm talking about.
Clearly CCG's proves that you can collect them. This they have in common with miniatures. World of Tanks is an example of this, but it feels more like miniatures than cards in that you get exactly what you buy rather than a random set of cards.
An example of this collecting mechanic would be a game where you recruit troops. Using standard clichés, you can send your recruiter to a dwarf village, a human village or elf village to get a certain kind of recruits, but the exact composition is random. 
2) Fog of War
In RL, cards are useful to keep information concealed from you yet available to me. Or concealed from all of us in the deck. In computer games it's very easy to conceal information from players (I'm ignoring hacking and hot-seat issues for now) so we do that in all kinds of ways. Actual fog of war, hiding unit statistics, line-of-sight, etc...
3) The Wonderful World of Discrete Mathematics and Probability
When you play a card in a card game, they can be thought of as actions. This means that you as a player can make decision trees: IF you do that, THEN I counter with, OR etc...
One way we do this in games is with various rock-paper-scissors mechanics: IF you get cavalry, THEN I get pikes.
4) The Deck
When you have a deck of cards it can be used as a resource with some randomness thrown in. In video games we do resource management in all sorts of ways, like health/mana, budgets, etc.
Remember my recruit troops example above? If that was an in-game action rather than something you bought or got "between" games, it could be an analogy to drawing a card from the deck: "You got a company of archers!"
5) Limits
As a thinking tool they might provide limits, in a positive sense. If you tend to have feature-itis in your designs (like me) then the limitation that *all* information about a unit, item or whatever should fit on a "reasonably sized" card could be a good one.
What other ways can you think of that cards are used in games, tabletop or otherwise? 

#4773590 What makes a good game-designer-team-leader hybrid?

Posted by on 13 February 2011 - 05:33 AM

Excellent post with excellent answers. Nice!

...Pure logic beauty about decision making...

I'd like to expand on this from a programmer's perspective.

If the coding has any implications on the game design then of course you can provide suggestions or decisions, it's your job. This falls in the "necessary and you need to be able to explain why" category. If it doesn't have any design implications then you can still come with suggestions but be very aware that they probably know better than you, so be very humble and/or very sure. Unless you're better at programming than them in which case you're probably the lead programmer anyway so go ahead and decide.

Personally, my ideal situation would be that programmers are able to spot important design implications in low-level code and bring in the designers when necessary. This way designers can focus on the high-level stuff. One example was when I was coding various item modifiers for an rpg (+4 strength, -5% dex, etc). While doing this I realized that the order in which these modifiers are applied matters.
 (5+1)*1.2 = 7.2
 (5*1.2)+1 = 7
It's a small issue, but it has effects on gameplay and the designer should have his say on how to handle it. He was brought in, we came to an agreement and everything was fine. Yay. :)

As an aside, a designer needs some math skills. Games throw around a lot of numbers. Depending on what game we're talking about you will calculate stuff like damage per second, income per minute, experience per level or maximum speed given all possible modifiers. If you can't do it yourself, you need to at least be able to understand the answers you get if you ask someone.

Show me you are a leader - show the way by doing. This is really often missed - a prototype, even a rough one, would give your project a much better chance of finding real talent just because it shows you are committed to the project enough to get your hands down and dirty.

A good thing to do if you want free-as-in-beer members is to do all the stuff that nobody else wants to do. It's your job after all. One example might be testing where you track down when and where this or that crash occurs, or converting various files to the right formats. If people can focus on what they like to do, they're more likely to work on your dream, rather than one of their own.

Speaking of which, as a designer it's probably good if you know how to read and use command line tools and scripts as it's usually a lot quicker for a programmer to whip up one of those, rather than full a rich GUI program.

I think this kind of view of game designers is common around GameDev.net. At least, that's what I noticed.
Are all game designers really like this?
It seems like writing up the GDD is almost considered to be no work whatsoever...like people just disregard it and say "You've done nothing so far" even if you have a detailed, well-written GDD.
That just seems to be what everyone gets at when they talk about game designers - the GDD means nothing and they're useless members unless they code well, regardless of the GDD's state.

Not everyone of course. I'm guessing they pop up more often because the good ones find help quickly and are already hard at work. Although I must say well-written and detailed GDDs are kinda rare. Often huge parts of it are fluff texts and race/unit/item descriptions that doesn't contain that much info on gameplay. Maybe with lots and lots of stats that seems to be just made up without any testing or solid mathematical reasoning on game balance. Don't get me wrong, the descriptions are important too, but fairly useless if a coder sits down to code the game. I have made several of these for the fun of it, usually in an afternoon or two. That's not much work.

Still, if you're willing to show your GDD and let people criticize it then it's just a matter of time before it's both detailed, well-written *and* really useful.