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Acumen

Dynamic Food Consumption in RTS

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We are developing a freeware RTS game with a strong historical emphasis (www.wildfiregames.com/0ad). Our design department has been considering a system of dynamic food consumption (unlike the standard economy whereby food is used to purchase units as a one-off cost like any other resource). We''re currently divided on the issue, and thought we''d open up the discussion to a wider audience. Here''s how it works: * Food isn''t used to purchase units, but is consumed over time by your existing organic units. * If your food stockpile hits zero, you are unable to produce additional units until more food is acquired. (Alternatively, your food stockpile determines your unit production rate). * Your units suffer a blow to morale (impeding their effectiveness) if your food stores are empty for an extended period. * The GUI informs the player if food expenditure exceeds food income, so that he can correct the problem before his stockpile reaches zero. Here are the benefits: * Building up vast armies requires an equally extravagant economy to support them. This theoretically means that it will be in the player''s best interests to work with small, manageable armies, employing tactics, rather than relying on sheer numbers. * It also complements our unit experience system. * It mirrors the effects of a siege. By "starving out" a fortified city, it can be overcome. Or burn their fields and put a stranglehold on their food economy. * It has strong ties to our system of seasons, where the player is encouraged to harvest a stockpile of food in warm months to see him through the winter where food is scarce. Here are the drawbacks we''ve thought up: * It could conceivably have the opposite effect. Since the longer your units exist, the more resources they are consuming, it''s cheaper to throw them into suicide attacks at your earliest opportunity. * Initial build-up is much, much slower. It''ll take you a while to gain an equilibrium, unless you start with a substantial quantity of resources in your pool. Could be slow and boring. * May be too much of a paradigm shift for traditional players. * If you squander your initial supply of food, or lose all of your Workers while your other units scoff all remaining food, you could find yourself unable to produce the Workers to provide more food (catch-22). Unless Workers simply don''t consume food, but then we''d need to ensure that Workers cannot be used for combat purposes. * May be difficult to adequately display to the player the state of his food levels through the GUI. * Resource gathering will have to be reasonably "set-and-forget", using mostly infinite sources, otherwise the player is constantly battling to find food to sustain himself. * Morale loss from starvation may be too much of a negative reinforcer.

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quote:
Original post by Acumen
* It could conceivably have the opposite effect. Since the longer your units exist, the more resources they are consuming, it''s cheaper to throw them into suicide attacks at your earliest opportunity.


You are quite right, if a player is fortified, what stops him from spamming unit after unit at no cost at all? By increasing the build time and limiting the number of ''barracks'' a player can build, this strategy will become useless.

I like the rest of it though... I don''t really like super micromangement games ''that'' much though.

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I don't think Acumen said that enemies would be without cost. Just that food wasn't included in cost. So if theres things like population and other resources involved then Players can't spam out units. Also I think he mentioned that unit building is based also on food production ability.

It seems to me though that the older and more experienced a unit is he shouldn't necesarily consume more. Consider that in the beginning when unaccustomed to rationing they be trying to eat more, however vets should be used to rationing and be able to survive better on less then a green unit. That is unless the vet units actually increase in body mass or perform more work.

Edit: Might I also suggest that some special units be given the ability to forage after time or experience. Think of Special Ops training where soldiers are taught to live off the land.

[edited by - TechnoHydra on May 26, 2003 3:35:40 PM]

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Have you guys played Kohan? It is not as detailed but has some mechanisms on upkeep and besigement.

Kohan:
-- Each city has a supply range, within which no other city can be built;
-- As a city advance, its supply range grows;
-- Ally troops regenerate within the supply range of a city;
-- When enemy is inside the supply range, the city cannot train army
-- Each city has a standing army, not controlled by you, that defenses the city when enemy goes in the supply range and attack the city;
-- When a city is sieged, the normal income from taxation is suspensed
-- Any resource gathering site stops production when sieged;
-- Commissioning an army costs gold, and you must stay in a controlled region to allow the troop to recruit;
-- For each army or military building, there is an upkeep, when your production does not support the upkeep, you lose money. When your money is gone, your troop loses health.
-- When you gather wood or stone, they are not accumulated, but recorded as upkeep allowance.
-- To "stock up", you must sell your resources to get gold
-- Elite army comsumes the same upkeep, but do more damage and has higher defense.

Effects:
-- Being siege is very bad, since your city can''t produce, and must rely on other cities and existing troops to help. The guys you get for free when enemy attacks are militia and are pretty weak.
-- There is not much micro management, and the fight begins very quick because you must conquer to get higher population limit and number of armies allowed.

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*waves* Hi, I''m another Wildfire Game designer Thanks for helping us out guys!

Oh, and I just wanted to remind you all - think Romans and Celts 2000 years ago not the typical modern warfare RTS.

quote:
Original post by Leffe
You are quite right, if a player is fortified, what stops him from spamming unit after unit at no cost at all? By increasing the build time and limiting the number of ''barracks'' a player can build, this strategy will become useless.


TechnoHydra hit the nail on the head. While it is true that all unit types (of a human form - excluding chariots, elephants, cavalary.. etc) would consume the same ammount of food... but, the units would also have a cost in ore or wood to ''outfit'' the unit. So, they still will cost the player something.

But, just to throw in another idea... because our units will ''upgrade'' in a fashion that is based on the ammount of kills they make (not but simply researching a tech - similar to RA2). Would that encourage the player to be less likely to send out cheap cannon fodder to the enemey who is waiting with open arms to recieve some easy kills (which equates for to upgrade points for them)?

And yes its true... that if they did try to perpetually spit out units, they would eventually run out of food to the point that they couldn''t creat more.. if thier food economy was destroyed and their food stockpile was zero.

quote:
Original post by TechnoHydra
Edit: Might I also suggest that some special units be given the ability to forage after time or experience. Think of Special Ops training where soldiers are taught to live off the land.


That is a neat idea, I hadn''t thought of that before.

Thanks for the tip Estok. I''ll try to see if I can download a demo to see how it works.

Wijitmaker™
member of WFG
0 A.D.

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Please, any more thoughts? I was hoping to get allot more posts than this. Is the post confusing? If so, we can try to explain it better.

We''ll take any comments on it... good or bad!

Wijitmaker™
member of WFG
0 A.D.

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It sounds good to me overall.
How about having farms produce x amount of food every fall?
That would be realistic.
hmmmmm....
You will need to watch out for massing suicide attacks.
Possibly have a semi-exponential skill curve- that is, a 5 kills fighter easily takes down a 0 or 1 kill fighter.


Another point- fighting in a area deprives it of food production for some time, making it costly to fight a war on your own land.

Don''t sweat paradigm shifts- you aren''t making it for money and the Standard Real Time Strategy Game is a little boring these days.

Workers should require little amounts of food.
Remember they are on the bottom of the food chain.
However, if you feed everyone well, that boosts everyones morale.

Basically you shouldnt worry too much about food once youve got it going.

Each food source that would require a person manning it should deduct a constant amount from the food it gives out, allowing for the peons eating cost.

You could have a ''loot'' system where you could hit the enemy food sources and grab all their food and destroy them.

Or if you want to be tyrranical, you could send soldiers over to the farms and grab all the food that is there(killing the peon, but you get a little more food)

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here''s something for you:

You have virtual "foraging" units. These folks would always be able to gather food, and would not appear in the game world in any way. Their ability to gather food is dependent upon the amount of territory you have in your possession, so the more territory, the more food you get per second.

You can define territory control as an area around a particular unit or building. This would basically be like your traditional sight-range. So... the more of the map that you have actively visible, the more food you''re going to get.

Buildings like farms would have a greater foraging range, foot soldiers would have less, etc.

Also, you can not have more than a single unit gaining food from a particular area. So... if you have a farm and a soldier near the farm, only the farm gets food, not the soldier.

Any organic unit that is not in its own place (like a soldier by himself on a hillside), is using up your food reserves.

This is quite a neat approach as it caters for a lot of flexibility:

1) An untrained soldier has a small foraging radius, but can be trained to have a greater one, making him more self-sustained.
2) Massed armies will not be able to forage, and so will consume mostly from your stockpile. This tends towards smaller combat groups.
3) Towns, while necessary, wouldn''t be able to get much food because they would overlapping foraging radii. This would force a player to expand with farms, plus a seige would hurt a lot.
4) Expanding only to resource sites (like goldmines in War3) is still valuable, but you would also need to expand to other areas as well to avoid overlapping foraging radii.
5) If you add in a foraging value for different land types, I think you''ve got it made. A farm would have a higher yield per squareunit than open grassland. A battlefield would have a lower yield.

I really like this idea and would be happy to defend it/argue the case for it more if you like.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Thanks for the ideas, guys. You''ve come up with some great concepts that we hadn''t considered, so I''m going to bring some of these back to the department. I''ve already relayed some of the earlier posts.

I''ll reply to the posts that Wijitmaker (the boss) didn''t cover in my absence:

>How about having farms produce x amount of food every fall?

We still need to discuss the seasons system in detail once we reach that point in our agenda, but that''s something like how it''ll probably happen. Depending on the source of food (fish, fields, orchards or animals), it''ll have variable food income depending on the season of the year and the climate that the map is set in.

>Possibly have a semi-exponential skill curve- that is, a 5
>kills fighter easily takes down a 0 or 1 kill fighter.

That''s more or less what we planned to do with the experience system: a unit with a couple of experience ranks is considerably more powerful than a grunt, and can shortly take him to the cleaners.

>Don''t sweat paradigm shifts- you aren''t making it for money and
>the Standard Real Time Strategy Game is a little boring these
>days.

True, but we do want to reach as wide an audience as possible. Secondly, we''re building an engine from scratch for the purpose of this title, so it''s perhaps in our best interests not to be too ambitious. A derivative title is less risky for a first attempt, while also being accessible and comfortable for the player. We''d rather create a complete and polished standard RTS then overshoot our abilities and wind up with a broken game and burnt-out staff. We hope to add enough to that framework to make it something special, though.

>Workers should require little amounts of food.
>Remember they are on the bottom of the food chain.
>However, if you feed everyone well, that boosts everyones
>morale.

The food needs of individual organic units will be very low. Cavalry will require a little more food to account for their strength and the requirements of their mounts, and something big and deadly like a war elephant would be compensated by substantial food requirements.

>Basically you shouldnt worry too much about food once youve got
>it going.

That''s the primary intention. The player shouldn''t be forever labouring to keep his food stocks in check. Once he''s established his economy, it should be reasonably self-sustaining (we''re considering taking a leaf out of RoN''s book in this respect, with inexhaustable resource objects, workers with a degree of autonomy, and as little micromanagement in gathering as possible), as long as he doesn''t want to drastically increase his population. An excessive army would require an equally excessive economy to support it.

>Each food source that would require a person manning it should
>deduct a constant amount from the food it gives out, allowing
>for the peons eating cost.

Well, all units would regularly remove food from your stocks, whether that individual is labouring in the fields or not, so essentially that would happen anyway.

>You could have a ''loot'' system where you could hit the enemy
>food sources and grab all their food and destroy them.

This is also something that''s likely to make the final cut, a form of "Pillage" tech that grants a player resources when destroying an enemy food source.

>Or if you want to be tyrranical, you could send soldiers over
>to the farms and grab all the food that is there(killing the
>peon, but you get a little more food)

Could also be doable. We''ve been discussing storing your resource pool within your structures, but will probably have to drop this in the interests of simplicity.

Thanks again, guys. I''m going to pass your ideas onto the rest of the department to flesh out the discussion on dynamic food.

If anyone has anything else to add, please feel free. We''ll be regularly checking this thread.

Acumen

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My only real qualm about what I''ve read here is the lack of food only hitting morale - it looks like you''d be able to crash-produce an oversized army by letting your food stockpile a lot then pumping out units as fast as possible. Unless the morale hit is crippling, then the sheer weight of numbers could be too unbalanced.

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