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Dauntless

Elements of Warfare

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I'd just like to throw out some general topics and see what things people would like to see in Strategy games, and see which things might be overkill or too picky. 1) Leadership - Strategy means generalship and therefore the essence of the word revolves around Commanders telling their troops what to do. Should AI objects command troops? See #2 below 2) Rules of engagement - Units should have certain conditions that determine which actions they pursue. For example, a Unit's RoE might say, "if outnumbered, retreat", or "fire only if fired upon". 3) Political Support - Wars, even if fought by military juntas must have the support of its people. Without popular support for a war, it is doomed to fail. Should a game keep track of casualties and thereby reflect the popular support of the war? Should victories spur patriotism and lend support for it, and conversely defeat will demoralize the people? 4) Logistics - units can not fight without supplies (an army travels on its stomach). Should supply lines be a factor in determining the stamina of its fighting units? Without supply lines, units will run out of ammo or fuel and be unable to fight, making supply lines (roads, railroads, airdrops, waterways, mercantile/dsitribution hubs, etc) very important. 5) Fatigue - Units can not fight on and on and on without rest. A unit that is constantly ordered to fight will have its prowess diminished over time. 6) Unit Creation - Should players be allowed to create their own units? Will this disrupt game balance or allow for new ways of tactics and let the palyers dictate what their strategy and tactics will be instead of the designer? 7) Unit Organization - Should individual units be interfaceable with the player, or like real militaries, must they be a part of an organized structure? While this may lack flexibility, it allows for less clicking and micro-management. 8) Weather - Should weather be a factor for games? Other than visibility, it may also affect supplies (not being geared for Winter items for example). 9) Probability functions - instead of having deterministic calculations of 1 Unit of type A beats 1 Unit of type B, have random factors that could affect the outcome of the engagement (a lucky shot), or the killing of the AI Commander for example. 10) Communications players must keep in touch with units and/or Commander objects in order to control them. Without the ability to give them orders, units and Commanders can only rely upon their built in rules of Engagement and the AI of the unit or Commander itself. Also, battlefield awareness is dependant not only on the ability of a unit to observe targets, but also in passing what it knows to the player. Therfore the player only knows what the units or Commander tell him, and conversely, a unit or Commander can only carry out orders which are received. This allows for Electronics Warfare and espionage to come into play. 11) Abstract Resourcing - instead of building factories and gathering resources manually, a nation has a "budget" on which spending is based. The budget determines what resources are allocated to what capacity. For example, war material requires raw resources (oil, metal ore), refined resources (electronics, machinery) and people resources (technicians to run the equipment and crew/soldiers) to be made. The player simply allocates what percentage he wants his resource "budget" to be allocated for war material. 12) Non-real time Unit Building - instead of directly ordering from factories what units to build, a "wish list" is made based on priority factors. After a certain period of time, the units are created as they finish. Teh main difference is that the player can not order new units any time he pleases. HE must calculate ahead of time what units he thinks he will need. This represents factories tooling up for production and gathering the necessary materials. A process which takes a substantially longer time than ordering troop movements on a battlefield. 13) Unit personality - Instead of hving all units be generic copies (all the same), units should be unique. They should have factors like Discipline, Morale, Quality etc. 14) Leadership personality - Like units, Commanders should have personality traits that help define the behavior of the Commander. Does the Leader inspire confidence? Does the Commander fear sending his troops into battle (more timid)? Is the Commander good at tactical skills? 15) Physical Avatar of player - Is it good to have a unit piece that represents the player himself? Instead of a God-like view where the Player is controlling his units through some sort of mystical remote control, the player himself is represented on the map (or in high tech, in a warship). This is a vulnerability factor but also a leadership one. Troops will rally impressively if you are within range, and the avatar can move closer to the battle so as not to rely on communications with other units (to relay the information to him). 16) Prisoners of War - Should this be represented? What happens if a unit surrenders....is vital intelligence gained? Is the capturing unit now handicapped by having to lead the POW's off to a safe zone? 17) Irregular Warfare - Should SpecOps troops be allowed that can break supply lines, assassinate officers, demolish structures, and steal plans (to name a few)? 18) Grand scale or small scale - Is it more fun to get into the nitty gritty tactical elements of fighting on a small scale (say a representation of a few hundred troops symbolically), or is it more fun to plan grand wars with multi-planet invasions or three front wars on the scale of tens or even hundreds of thousands of troops? Tactical combat focuses only on the combat and not on extraneous things like economy or politics. Strategy must consider everything, including logistics, politics, resources, etc. 19) Morale - How important is morale to a strategy game? Should a unit obey its orders to the death, or behave more realistically and act on self-preservation? 20) Multi-unit Integration - when units are combined, should they have built in rules that determine how they act so that the player does not have to manually order each individual unit how to work? For example, if you have an artillery battery and a Forward Observation team, these two units should automatically work together to help spot and fire on targets. However, will this upset the plans of the player who had other ideas on how to use the artillery? Well, that's it for now, and plenty to digest on. Let me know what sounds good, what sounds bad, and what sounds ugly. [edited by - dauntless on January 23, 2003 6:57:53 PM]

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You have to remember that although some of those ideas might sound realistic, are they fun? I would not want my units to act on there own because some communications thing was destroyed. Sure it might be more realistic, but I would not have much fun with it. Some of your ideas are nice though. But some should be scrapped--especially #3. I don''t want to have to get public support to fight a war. It''s my decision; my game; and who is the dictator here? I don''t give a damn what the public thinks.

I think that instead of trying to make things more realistic by having less ''godlike'' control over your civilizations, you should try and give your players more control over their armies. You have to realize something: RTSs are played over and over again. People don''t ''beat'' an RTS. The game is different every time. That is what makes it so great. With all the games your players will be playing, you should try and let them have a little more control over their units. I like that ''Rules of Engagement'' idea. I would also like stuff such as customized formations, unit specialties (this goes hand-in-hand with #2: you could have your pikemen target cavalry, your swordsman target other swordsmen, and your cavalry target whatever), and maybe more organized structures such as companies and brigades: Have you ever played a game and you have your own little companies accessed by certain keystrokes? I think that you should expand on this with stuff like creating companies, adding units to companies, barracks dedicated to certain companies, company specialties, etc.

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That depends on the scale of the game. In a "traditional" RTS, I agree, some of them, especially #3 should be scrapped... They''d be cool in a larger scale game though. Say, you control an entire army (not just those few hundred units), through an entire war, and not just one single battle).

I disagree with elendil on giving the player more control... I guess it''s just a matter of personal preferences really, but I''d like if my forces acted just a little bit sensibly without my telling them what to do. Of course that hits the old problem of the AI. I''ve yet to see a game where I''d trust the AI to help me.

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A big problem would be the AI. If it isnt good enough, taking out communications wins you the game, but if its too good, you might be taking out your own communication to let the AI play for you. Unless its JUST right, the game will be pretty boring. That goes for a lot of the things you list. It could turn out to be the best game ever that is still playing 50 years from now, but it will have to be implemented perfectly. I think the implementation of an idea is all that seperates the best of the best from the worst of the worst.

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Someone once said, "the measure of a man''s happiness is in how much control he has over his life". I think many people feel the same about games, and therefore they want absolute control over everything in the game.

And yet challenge is what makes us grow. Adversity is what sparks us and gives us motivation to be better. Therefore I believe that control must be earned not simply given. If there is one thing I would like to change about RTS games today, it would be to take away God-like control over units. Instead, the player must learn how to maximize his ability to control his units. My grandfather who was a Captain in the Navy during WWII and Korea told me several things I''ll never forget: "Respect is earned, not given" and "You have to learn how to take orders before you can give them", and "Never give an order you yourself wouldn''t take". What I got out of hearing his war stories while sitting on his knee as a boy was that life was about earning things. You only get out of things what you put into them, and what you put into things you get out of them.

By having games give you absolute control over many facets that real commanders have to worry about, I believe it one big problem. The focus becomes what to do rather than how to do it. Both elements are necessary, and I believe both elements add to the fun. Some will say that adding extra elements that players will have to worry about only increases the complexity and will detract from the fun. But imagine the converse....does it make sense that the more you simplify things that the more fun they become? Why not take it to the extreme and only have 3 unit types per game (rocks papers and scissors), and only 3 types of buildings. You don''t have to worry about economy because that only gets in the way. My point is that there is a balance between modeling the essence of a thing, and either subtracting too much to make it too simple, or modeling it so exactly that you may as well do the real thing.

Since no one has yet made a mainstream game that errs on theside of complexity, how do we know that we have achieved the right balance between simplicity and complexity? I personally feel that the more elements that are included that reflect vitally on the essence of warfare, the more fun the game will be because it allows for more variety and more thinking. Perhaps that is what scares people though...that the game may be too cerebral and not action oriented enough.

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
20) Multi-unit Integration ... However, will this upset the plans of the player who had other ideas on how to use the artillery?



Not with number 2. You can tell your units to either do exactly as they''re commanded (go to destination at all costs, fire at nothing), or give them a bit more freedom (try to deal with any threats by working together).

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AI is a huge huge factor in my own game. If it''s not done right, it will break my game in single player mode. In multi-player mode, it shouldn''t matter too much, sense each player will have to contend with AI subordinates (although I have thought of having Co-Op play in which players assume the control of different parts of the armed force).

AI is ten times more important in my game than graphics. In fact, i don''t care if my game is GDI console based as long as I can implement what I have in mind for my AI commanders. AI is necessary for making the player not have to worry so much about the minutiae of things, and instead concentrate on how to maximize on how to best utilize his forces in the manner that will best accomplish his strategic plans. While many people associate micromangement with greater control, I see it as a huge huge negative in my book. The point is not so much that micromanagement is not bad as an option, but it should not be a requirement. In my game, many AI Commander and Organized Unit settings will be tweakable by the player. For example, you don''t just tell a unit to move to a location, but you tell it how it''s going to do it (cautiously, all out, or on a specified path for example). You don''t just tell a unit to attack a target, but how (suppression fire, synchronized fire, fire at will, etc). The rules of engagement will also act as a very basic conditional logic state machine that will help guide AI in what to do.

As for #3, while I think it''s a neat idea...it''s virtually a game topic in its own right. Trying to get all the variables down would be a fairly big project though not undoable. But here again, I think we have to look at how this affects gameplay. In most games, we just thoroughly decimate enemy units and buildings, and yet this would have ramifications. What if by destroying whole cities, the rest of the world looks down on you and helps your enemy? What if an enemy unit surrenders, but instead of taking them POW''s you kill them all, earning the wrath of the rest of the world and potentially alienating your popular support? But, this all depends on cultural perspectives, but it''d make for interesting choices. Perhaps you had intended for a unit to pursue the enemy, but now it has to round up POW''s and cart them off instead.

The biggest issue with #3 is that it allows for very lopsided microbalancing. What do I mean by that? You can have sides which are very unbalanced in terms of unit capabilities or even in the resource capabilities of each side. But, if you make victory conditions for the under-dog side more politically dependant, then you can help ensure game balance. As historical examples, look at the American Revolution, the American Civil War, or the Vietnam Conflict. So by allowing political issues to affect victory conditions for the overall war, one side might have less powerful units, or less money and material to build up its armed forces but still have a good chance of "winning". Some people will ask, "why would you want to fight with units that can''t do as well as another side?". Again, it is because of the challenge of trying to accomplish your GOAL....not of physically defeating the other sides units.

This is a fatal flaw mentality in a lot of gamers. In many battles and missions, there is a stated goal that needs to be achieved, and yet the player tries to kill as many of the enemy as possible instead of trying to actually achieve the mission''s goal. A great example is defending a target. Many times I''ve seen gamers abandon their target to chase after and kill as many attackers as possible, while forgetting that the ultimate goal is to keep alive your target. I see it very often in new chess players who feel that the easiest solution to winning is to kill the opponents pieces, and then leisurely set up the king for a checkmate when the opponents defensive and offensive capabilities have been whittled away. While this is an effective strategy, the GOAL of the game is to checkmate the king, which can be done even when no pieces have been killed. The problem is that players are so focused on the means of the strategy (killing pieces) that he forgets the end of that strategy (to checkmate the king).

In a nutshell, there''s more than one way to skin a cat....or win a war. It''s possible to lose every battle but win the war, or win every battle but lose the war.

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
[...]Since no one has yet made a mainstream game that errs on theside of complexity,[...]

To me that sounds like it indicates that complexity isn''t accepted well by the public. I can''t think of any names, but I know for sure I''ve played games that had too many variables to be fun. If not a single complex game has made it mainstream, maybe the masses don''t want complex?

Not that I think more complexity is a bad idea, but I don''t think it would do well commercially.

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Extrarius-
Perhaps people don''t like complexity or learning curves simply because it''s too much like work. That''s why I was thinking of having diffuculty levels that expose more or less of the variables at work. For example, at a beginners level, you could hide a lot of the details, for example not worrying about fatigue, or having AI routines that take care of Logistics for you. The higher the diffuculty level, the more elements that are exposed for the player to control and be concerned about.

It adds to the programming complexity, but it could be good in terms of mainstream success.

One note though, my game is just a hobby, and it won''t have great graphics or outstanding music. But it also means that I''m free to make a game that I want, instead of making a game that I think others want. Hopefully my vision will coincide with others, and if not, oh well. At least I''ll have made a game I will thoroughly enjoy.

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I think the reason is that most people just don''t like to think. I hear too many people saying things like "We were SO MESSED UP doing REALLY STUPID stuff it was SO COOL!!!" to think that people in general care at all about the intelligence of their actions. Its a good indication that many people would rather just not think.

I figured it was just a hobby project and was just making sure =-) But about graphics and musics - you should really speak to some people around these forums, somewhere around here are some awesome artists, composers, and sound effects people. Quite a few of the demos people have posted recently are very impressive in both departments.

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