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Hybrid strategy timing and thoughts on orders

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I''ve been thinking about a lot of things for the wargame I''ve been wanting to create, and have been see-sawing between real time and turn based. I actually want to create a pen&paper game as well, so I was leaning towards the turn based system. SO I got to thinking about how I could do turn based gaming, but with a slight twist. The trouble with turn based gaming is that usually, you have a sequence of events: 1.Move 2.Attack 3.Rally etc, and once you have done the actions for all units on your side, then the other side goes through the same sequence. Obviously, this leaves alot to be desired, and was the reason RT became so popular. But RT brought it''s own slew of disadvantages to the table, I''m not convinced that it offers a more compelling "realism" than turn based. Granted it is more fun watching the battles happen in real time. So I thought, "how are armies actually ordered?". When you think about it, units are organized into groups, then giving standing orders which are long term objectives ("seize Hill928") and update their tactics second by second to cope with the changing battlefield. So what I thought about doing was having each controllable group of units be given "orders". These orders are filled out to the best of the unit''s ability, and are modified or conditional upon the circumstances the unit is under. In other words, an order has a long term objective, but also has conditionals that reflect how the unit will behave depending on immediate circumstances. For example, let''s say that I have a platoon of infantry sitting behind a ridge. As the player, I want this unit to seize the northern skirt of a small hamlet, while another group composed of a platoon of AFV''s and supporting infantry moves from the east. However, I don''t know what the enemy is up to since this isn''t real time. From earlier recon, I know that there is at least one rifle squad in the hamlet, and possibly more. So, here is in a nutshell what I''d want that platoon to do. I want to give the unit an order for a "cautious move to northern edge of DB56 (map coordinates)". But what exactly does that mean? I haven''t worked out the details yet, but basically it means that I want the unit to advance, but I want it to take a path that offers maximum cover, and also to halt if return fire becomes too heavy. What if instead I had given it an order like, "move to DB56 at all costs", which basically means, "get to point A as fast as you can, ignoring casualities, and not pausing to return fire". Do you see where I''m getting at? I need to come up with an ordering system that takes into account several variables: aggression (will you attack if chance presents itself), defensiveness (will you stop for cover or take a roundabout path to get cover), priority (are you willing to stop if another event arises), threshold (how much losses can you take), etc. I think that if you can codify orders into basic templates, then you can issue these orders at the beginning of the turn. Then all units will have to follow their orders, but depending on the kind of order they were issued, they may or may not be able to change actions to take advantage of the enemy''s actions. Here''s another example. Let''s say you give an order to a unit to "provide covering fire for unit UNLESS enemy advances to houseB THEN move". Hmmm, complicated order ehhh? But these are the kinds of orders that are given in real life. Sometimes units will have the brains to do certain things on their own, sometimes they won''t. What I was thinking about to solve the above kind of order is to have a GUI interface that pops up a small menu when you hover it over the unit. From it, you select the basic order type, then select conditionals which will trigger different events. In essence, you are coding IF/ElSE statements or testing BOOL statements (is unit dead? true=move, false=advancing fire) in a sort of built in scripting engine, but hiding the code from the player. Is it more work? Yes it is, but it also allows for much deeper levels of gameplay...and in my book that''s more fun. If the GUI element can be designed well enough, it may not even take that long to point and click your way to the type of orders you want. So how does this make it a hybrid time system? Because after you issue the orders for your units and are done, you "start" the turn, and all the units follow the orders that you have given them out in real time. If a unit was given a move order, and the enemy was given an order for "holding fire", then it gets to attack the moving unit when it is out in the open. What this style of play will require is a chess-like thinking of "what kinds of orders is the enemy going to give to his units?". It will also reduce click-festing of units because orders have already been issued, although there will still be alot of managing involved per groups of units (but at least it won''t be in real time, and you won''t have to fear the dreaded "flank attack" where you are so busy with your plans in one section of the map, that you don''t realize the enemy has been sacking your own forces).

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I gotta say, those are some solid thoughts.

Here is a mild variation of what you said.(perhaps even what you had in mind)

It could remain turn-based, but on specific intervals. Both players could be given 2 minutes to set some targets, goals, etc. After the interval, the game goes into motion. Both players watch the interaction, guess the opponent''s goals. After the game is in motion for 2 minutes, the game pauses so both players can add or change strategic settings. The pause-play cycle keeps a fair window of time to put things into motion. When the action is "live" both sides are forced to watch what unfolds, for better or for worse.

There may be a clickathon in those strategy breaks, but between them, players watch, think, and prepair. They could even set up some strategies, but have to wait until the next interval to activate them.

The actual ratio of the breaks to live game could be modified to player preference and the number of units/strategic sites.

I like that this type of setup would force players to set units into motion right away, and would allow them to deepen the strategy as time progressed. The interval approach would mitigate the tedium of waiting for the opponent to take his turn.


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There was an old game for the Mac called Robo Wars or Robot Wars or something that did something similar.

You have like 5 robots, and at the start of each turn you give them orders like "move to this location while scanning in this direction and fire with this gun if you see something" or "move to this location while crouching." Then all the turns take place at once, you watch a 20 second movie of the action, then you plot your next turn.

The actual game was at least sort of fun, the idea has potential.

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For my own design, I took inspiration from Games Workshop's WH40K Epic game, and Starcraft. It may be rather simpler than what you are looking for, but it would seem to fulfil the basic requirements.

There are three basic orders: Assault, Support, and Advance. These orders can be assigned by selecting a unit, pressing the appropriate bolded key, and selecting a target.

The exact results of an order depend on the unit carrying them out, and the target, but the basic results are as follows:

Assault: Unit charges towards the target at full speed, via the most direct route possible. Units with ranged weapons may be able to attack the target while closing, but will not ignore all incoming fire and nearby opponents. Firing accuracy and spotting ability of the unit is drastically reduced while charging, but the unit gains a substantial bonus in melee.

Advance: Unit moves cautiously/stealthily towards the target at a reduced pace, using cover as well as possible. The unit will treat the target as being of secondary importance to its own safety. Firing accuracy and spotting ability is slightly reduced while advancing.

Support: Unit remains does not move, except to use appropriate cover. If the target is within range, it will attack it - if not, it will remain in position until it comes into range. The unit will also attack any other enemy units that come into range, giving priority to attacking direct threats before its designated target. Accuracy and spotting ability are at their highest on support orders. Also, some heavy weapons may require the unit to be on support orders in order to fire.

Complex chains of orders can be added by holding down shift and assigning a series of orders. By default, when a set of orders is complete, units revert to support orders.

[edited by - Sandman on July 25, 2002 7:15:47 AM]

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What you have in mind is pretty much what I was thinking. The "turns" would be a set amount of time, say a minute or two. You calculate movement and fire rates based on this time frame. So for example, let''s say a tank platoon has a movement allowance of "30". When you slect "move" over the platoon, the computer will draw a radius and factor in terrain penalties that the unit can move to. Also, the "type" of move...i.e., cautious, all-out, bounding will also factor in the movement range. Essentially, you plot the endpoint, and the computer will pathfind it for you (although I suppose you can set waypoints yourself). Like you said, it would be pretty click-heavy in the planning phase, but after that, you watch the events unfold. This will require a LOT of forethought, something sadly missing in RT games. And if you want, you can set a time limit during the planning phase to help reinforce spontaneous decision making.

The order concept is familiar, but want a lot more power than that. For my tabletop game, I''ll have to do something similar, but for the computer game, I want to essentially creating a tiny scripting engine that codes relatively simple conditional loops/recursions/decion-making tests to construct complex orders. In essence you take basic commands as the building blocks, set variables within the commands (the aggression, threshhold, priority and defensiveness variables), and then code the conditionals upon the commands. The scripting engine will have a front end which is just a GUI with some simple drop-down menus so you can chose various options. It should be very formal-like english for the player, so it should be relatively intuitive to construct complex orders by chaining together the above mentioned aspects.

I''m even debating having AI lieutenants making the orders for the player, then allowing the player to proceed with the commands or not. In other words, you can let the lieutenants do all the decision-making and just okay their orders, or fine tune them as needed.

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Take a look at this its what you guys have been talking about. its one of the few games that has kept my attention for a long time.


All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by frost.

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The depth of strategy would go pretty deep. I would use much care to remove as many programming terms as possible. It is a very cerebral game, but many people would be turned away by a system that feels devoid of personality.

You seem to know your military terms and situations. If all of the scripting can be built up by clicking on real military terms, the players will have had to learn something, and the game will have that extra layer of reality. Usually they feel better for it.

Players should also be able to set the strategy depth as a game option. For a light game, only allow troops to have 1-2 commands/conditions for their decision making. For deep, allow many more.

As long as the focus is on the orders and conditions rather than programming AI''s, I would give the game a shot.


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I liked what Warsong and Sandman''s ideas were. To elaborate on the combat options, to help people out, I would include the option to set the time limit on assigning actions for your units. Smaller armies will require smaller time limits, and if both players click on ''done'', it just goes ahead and does its thing.

The second thing I would do is allow the player to set separate variables for the different units to allow them to take secondary actions when a particular situation is met. By this, I mean you can command a unit to assult a hill. If it takes 50% casualties, then back off. That way, if you know that there''s at least one unit on the hill, but don''t know that there are actually five, you can have the unit retreat. That will give you close to the flexibility that you''re looking for without sacrificing your vision. You can also set up secondary goals such as "Don''t let the enemy advance to Point B, but the secondary goal is protect Unit A". In the example you gave, since your primary goal is met (until the enemy advances), it achieves the secondary goal with support fire. If in the middle of the realtime simulation, the primary goal becomes a reality (the enemy troops move towards the house) your unit starts firing on them.

Something else is that you can make it pseudo-realtime. I think someone mentioned that. The players set their orders, click finished to let the computer simulate your army for a little while, and then see what happens. Then, you can add in all the special animations, and special effects that you want to make it look really cool, but still have the turn based system you''re looking for and the micromanagement of the units.

I think this sounds like a really good idea. Keep developing the idea and then go for it. Let me know when you''re done. I''d play it.

Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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I would like to make a couple of points here:

1. Unless you are going for a fantasy type game where you can make up whatever types of units and organizations you want (ie command and conquer, mechcommander) you should really start thinking about what organization to use for units. It could be a world war II type game, a vietnam era game, a present day game, a near future game etc... Military organization vary from country to country and even branch to branch in our own military. It sounds like your going for landbased warfare here though so I would suggest looking into contemporary unit organizations. Infantry units are organized by:

Squad - (~5 men) led by a Sergeant
Section - (~10 men) led by a staff sergeant
Platoon - (~30 men) led by a Sergeant first class (ie the Platoon Daddy)The Lt is just along for the ride here.
Company/Troop - 3 platoons led by a captain; the only officer that has a real job
Battalion/Squadron - (3-4 companies,a maintenance company, a mortar section and some scouts) led by a LTC(lieutenant colonel. this guy can be either a wussy or a real ball buster
Brigade/Regiment - Usually three combat battalions/squadrons and a couple of support battalions, some arty, brigade scouts etc...

(Armor units are about the same, only platoons are smaller, 4 tanks)

Brigades make divisions; divisions make corps; and corps make armies. In WW II the Wehremarcht had a little bit different organization: there units were usually smaller so an army would be an overall smaller unit and to make up for that they were organized into "army groups"

2. The order system your talking about is pretty reasonable and realistic. In real life units have what are called "battle drills" or a set procedures they follow in certain situations. For example, if your a tank platoon (4 tanks) and your order to say "defend phase line Queen" (phase line being an arbitray line on a map named Queen) then in that is an implied time constraint. The first thing the Platoon Daddy is going to do is have all the tanks orient their guntubes toward the expected enemy, the 2. take up a good defensive position using available terrain features and 3. If this posture is to continue for more than a day, then Engineer assets will be called in and defensive positions will be dug and mines/concertina wire obstacles will be implaced. Then you fall into a good "hide" (ie a hiding position) and "overwatch the obstacle" until the scouts call up and say theres an enemy unit heading in your direction. Then your platoon of four tanks move out of their hides into there holes and wait for the fun to begin. (Well, I did this for four long, long years in the army, so yes I am an expert.) There are other procedures for other occasions of course.

[edited by - nonnus29 on July 25, 2002 7:22:48 PM]

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I actually just want to build the engine first, then the world on top of that. That being said, I would like the game to have a customizable interface where you can chose the TO&E of your armed forces (tables of organization and equipment). I want to do this because I think a large part of warfare deals with how your units are organized. By being able to customize the size of groups, the chain of command, and the capabilities of the differing levels of command, then you can truly investigate and tinker with how armed forces truly fight.

In other words, one player might want a platoon to equal:
4 squads X 8 men = 32 men

and player 2 might want:
5 squads x 6 men = 30 men

Big deal what''s the difference? Well, in PlayerA''s example, on a squad to squad fight, he will have more men and therefore more firepower. Also, since he only has 4 squads instead of 5, he doesn''t have to worry about unit integrity of the PLATOON as much as PlayerB.

Player B on the other hand is a little more flexible, as his smallest controllable group is 5 instead of 4. He can sub-divide his units to do more or different tasks. And while unit integrity at the platoon level might be more diffucult, at the squad level it is easier, since it''s harder to lse track of 6 men as opposed to 8. Also, PlayerB can specialize his squads a little more easily, as he might one squad to be a AA team, or a combat engineer team, etc.

And this goes on up the chain of command. I think this is another highly overlooked aspect of strategy gaming, which simply isn''t feasible under real-time systems unless you have intelligent agents handling half of your troops (another possibility I have considered in previous threads).

But, for the actual endgame, it IS nicer to have concrete names like Lances, Squads, Fire Teams, etc for modern era combat. But having the ability to organize your Army, and nation as you see fit is an even more interesting concept to me than being able to custom design actual units.

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what you are suggesting is exactly why I want a system interface where you can essentially "build" orders from a set of basic commands, establishing directives to these commands, and setting conditional/decision making steps.

Basic Commands might be the following (each command will be a class which holds member variables and methods):

Directives based on these commands might be the following (Directives are some the arguments to the command class methods, as well as basic state data):

Conditionals might take the following forms other than simple if/else or boolean tests:
DO action UNTIL condition B is met (for example, "follow target up to the hill")
WHILE state exists DO action (for example, "shoot at target B until it''s dead")

See how it goes? You can pretty easily conjure up a wealth of orders by putting in your commands, then slipping them into IF/ELSE, FOR, WHILE, and even CASE switches and couching them in very English terms. Now granted, I''m a designer more than a programmer, but if push came to shove, I could probably code how to work this out given enough time. So I''ll leave that stuff to more experienced programmers But hopefully the point comes across that you can chain together some very basic commands into some very complex ones, and make conditional orders pretty easy too. The only real trick I see is in making a GUI interface that is very intuitive, but even that I don''t see as being too problematic.

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