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Personality in RTS?

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I had a nostalgic moment and was going through some of my old Battletech and Dirtside rules for inspiration and guidance on my game design. While reading the battletech stuff, I was reminded of what I liked about it...the pagaentry and history of the various sides in the conflict. A unit wasn''t just a nameless faceless cannon fodder that you sent out to obey your whims. Each unit (for the most part) had a long and illustrious (or dubious) history that made the unit feel more real. Also units weren''t created, they were already there for you to command. How many people would be interested in strategy games in which army construction was not really a factor? Instead the armies would be pre-existing AND have a certain history and esprit de corps about them? While some games have done the former (Myth, Ground Control) I don''t know of any that do the latter. I personally hope to inject some character and personality into the units that I create...almost as if they were characters in a RPG, each with their own particular idiosyncracies, quirks, habits and styles.

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I had a touching moment while playing Close Combat. The game's base units where groups of around five men. So this one group was caught in a really bad crossfire, and four out of the five where killed in seconds. The remaining guy was freaked out (morale - cowardly), and crawled to some cover. But then, after a few minutes, he got really mad and wreckless over his friends death (morale suddenly went heroic), took his rifle, and ran against the enemy (ok, so I gave the attack order - but it felt like he wanted to do so).

[edited by - Diodor on October 16, 2002 10:25:13 PM]

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It seems like that idea would lead to controlling fewer units. Reminds me a bit of Commandos, where each character really had specific duties.

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You can make every unit affected by effents and the way they are feeling... just add aload of varables for different aspect of the mind... like;

happyness, hunger, desire, pain, fear level, comfort... etc... etc.. just sit down and think about how u think your self... u must be unbiased though..

then you tailor the AI to your specific game... if your making your game now then you should include a small/medium memory system for you AI... (because in about 2 years most people will have quite fast CPU''s and Memory systems....

then like start coding (or better still do it via scripting - becuase if your up to it.. you can make dynamic AI interpretations... based on past events...) and make conditions for certain situations... like.. "my friend, has been killed... " > leads to the character being upset.. (varable - how good can the character pull him self back) > revenge level (varable - does the character like to avenge his friends) - > effect > character will probably want to take revenge and will go bezerk... or > (varable > is the character well trained [millitary]) > effect > character will take his/her revenge but will think hard about how to do it...

Anyway

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Hey Dauntless,

What kind of history are you talking about?? Only military history, or also personal information as well?? For this post, I am assuming you mean military...if not, tell me what exactly you were thinking of...

How about instead of a predefined history, you make the history yourself. So whenever you create/recruit a new unit, they have a random name generated and they are a raw recruit. As you go through the missions "Tony Rush" builds up his history. That way instead of having to read about what he has done, YOU actually take part in it.

Obviously at the start your guys will simply seem like Cannon Fodder, but that way it is the gamers choice whether he wants to get to know his units and build them up over time/missions.

This could then tie in with the units strength/experience. As their history expands, so does there knowledge and therefore ablility on the battlefield. So if "Tony Rush" dies you not only loose a "friend", but a strong soldier.

You would of course have to generate the soldiers history dynamically based on what happens in a mission (if he drives a tank, or flies a plane etc). This would make for quite a fun little object you could create, pass in his kills, what weapon he used for each and it returns a nice little description of that mission to go in his history.

Doolwind

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Doolwind-
I was thinking of both military history as well as personal information. For the military history, visually this could be represented by having a military banner or standard, replete with various former campaigns and battles that it has fought in. Since my organized units, which I have since been naming "clusters" to avoid confusion between unit used in the singular and unit used in the plural, will have a quality rating and morale rating, I thought this could be well reflected by its history.

Personal information will be a little harder to nail down, and in many ways will be reflected by behavioral traits of its commanding officers. However, many units have a sort of "rite of passage", which molds the personality of the individuals within the cluster. These could be things like prejudices against other units, questionable loyalty to its leaders, or how gung-ho it is to fight. Notice that morale and willingness to fight are two seperate entities. A unit could have good morale but not be aggressive.

In order to do something like this though, I''d need to include behavioral traits within both the cluster class, and the officer class. The more I look at how I will organize units, the more I realize how complex the cluster will have to be. Not only will it hold behavioral information, but it also has to be able to access the individual units capabilities to provide a central "bank" of methods that the officer object can access. The officer''s personality will then influence the orders that are given by the player.

To answer your question about the the start of the game, I''d like the player to be able to create the cluster''s history before gameplay begins. This way, he will have a handle of which units are his elite ones that probably won''t crack under pressure, and which ones are his green units that he may want to keep in reserve (or put into partial action to gain experience). As a visual interface, when he clicks on the appropriate cluster, a military standard can pop up displaying not just action potential, but behavior characteristics as well.

I think the disadvantage of my system is the sheer amount of pre-game planning and setup that needs to be done. While I''ll include pre-generated units/cluster organizations/officer types the player still has the option to design his forces in very detailed ways including unit history. I''m thinking I''ll do this very much like a role-playing game, where the player can buy little advantages or quirks, or offset the cost with disadvantages.

I think the key advantage to my system is that units are no longer cannon fodder, but living breathing entities that are unique even if they have exactly the same equipment. I think this will help eliminate a cannon fodder mentality common amongst RTS games. Indeed, I want my game to be able to beat any cannon fodder style of play with the judicious use of units allowing them to gain experience. As they say, "discretion is the better part of valor..."

I think someone said it will lead to control fewer units....yes and no. I was thinking on the scale of about 100-300 controllable units per player. However, due to my hierarchical system of control, theoretically, you could order all 300 units to do a complex order with 3 clicks of your mouse. The level at which individuality and military history come into play will be at the battalion level though...which is approximately about 4-600 men in real life, and in game terms about 12-20 units. I might think about extending it down to company level. If I ever get the game finished (read 2+ years at my rate ) I''ll have to playtest it out.

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Very interesting idea.

How would the history creation turn into gameplay? I mean, ideally, every player wants armies that are completely loyal, follows orders, high morale, and gung-ho. Seems like you''d want some other factors which have tradeoffs and disadvantages so that these decisions can mean something.

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beantas-
well, for starters, I think I should probably explain the fundamentals of my game system. There are 3 primary objects in my game. The first is a Unit class. This class makes specific instances such as tank, rifle platoon, helicopter, artillery, etc and the associated methods and data of that individual unit. The next class is a Cluster class. This class is a container class (defined by the player) that holds the instances of the Unit. The Cluster class extracts what methods are available from its Units, and also has built-in methods itself (such as formation(), regroup(), etc.). The Cluster class in turn holds a pointer to the last primary class....the Officer class. The Officer object in my game is where you do the actual controlling. You the player issue orders to the Officer object who in turn calls the methods available in the Cluster to do the work.

So you have a couple chances to inject "personality" into the playable "units" of the game. Note that there is a difference in the types of "personality" you can inject in each game object.

at the Unit level you can have factors like:
1. Discipline- how well unit follows orders under duress
2. Quality- level of training provided to unit
3. Willpower- measure of fatigue and/or morale

at the Cluster level you can have things like:
4. "Esprit de corps"- similar to morale and confidence
5. Attitudes- varying quirks such as prejudices
6. Proclivities/talents- actions that a unit feels more comfortable with
7. Disadvantages/habits- opposite of advantages...makes unit cheaper

at the Officer level you can have:
8. Confidence- how quickly does officer issue orders to unit?
9. Leadership- how effective is leader at making units respond or rally?
10. Quality- level of training provided (i.e., Academy grad, or OCS?)


Note this is just off the top of my head and I''m sure there can be many more factors.

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What about being able to train recruits and then train them for specific jobs. That would allow for large armies.

Here''s an idea:

Have a base and then every now and then you can radio for reinforcements. When those (aerial) vehicles arrive you can take those recruits and either train them to pilot a machine or wield a weapon or use them to manufacture vehicles or construct buildings.

You would only get like 8 recruits per shipment and they would still have personalities. Maximum military forces could be limited to 14 with a total population of 18, allowing for more intamacy with your troops.

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In Xcom: enemy unknown (or UFO as it was also known), i got quite attatched to my squad of men. Each of them had different names, and generally you had under twenty, although I believe some people had loads, but I usually kept it into just one squad of guys. Throughout the game, not only did they get better, but I got to know theyre abilities based on who they were, it sort of gave them a character. Every time my main leader guy, who was usually a leiutenant, Yuri something, got into a fight he alwasy kicked ass. Adversly, there was some guy called Guy something, and he always had a habit of shooting teammates, intentionly or otherwise i was unsure, and I never trustede him to do anything right. So although they didnt actually have real histories as such, they had an identity to which I personified them. Quite a cool game actually, anyone who hasnt played it should, or get UFO:Aftermath when it comes out, seems like a really cool update of the original.

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