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RTS gameplay you'd like to see implemented

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Hello, I am working on an RTS, and was brainstorming on gameplay features that I could include. I figured if I brought the brainstorm here, I could get considerably more ideas When I come up with an idea, I ask myself how much gameplay it adds, and if there is a more simplistic way of representing the same thing? Basically, I try to simplify the idea down to as simple as I can with-out loosing the intended added gameplay. Some Ideas I have so far: Customizable units - there are an infinite # of uinit types you can create. Gives players more flexability when designing an army/platoon/etc... VERY IMPORTANT here that there is a very simple interface for creating these... also, attributes need to be very self-explanitory. See my other thread from quite a while ago: RTS where Players create custom units Daytime/Nighttime transitions - at night, it is hard to see unless you use ''artificial'' vision such as radar, heat, radio(sent by the unit you are seeing) etc. Allows players to launch surprise attacks. When creating units, must think about heat/radar signiture if they plan on using them durring these times. Terrain - The terrain greatly effects the abilities of a unit. If in a gully, it cant see into the next gully (obviously ;P), when in a gully/ditch, harder to see with radar. As altitude increases, so does the ability to comunicate. Snipers can be placed on tall mountains and can see/shoot a long distance... units hiding in the gullys of mountains can''t be seen by it though... It is very vulnerable and any communications/heat/radar it transmits gives it away... Ability to intersept communications - If a player doesnt encrypt their radio signals, or if the encryption is broken by the opponent, that opponent can see where each unit is planning on moving/doing.... A player can send a command unencrypted so it can be intersepted, then send a different encrypted method. The opponent thinks that he knows where he can ambush his army, only to find he is ambushed himself... etc... What other ideas do you have that could be implemented into an RTS as to allow the player to use more stradegy/planning than would be available with-out... following my ''guidline'' as stated above. also, if you would like to critique my ideas, feel free ;P Thanks! Dwiel

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Hi,
This sounds good so far. The ability to be a sniper is one of my favourite parts of modern RTS''s, which probably means I should be committed, but I like the sneaky, covert feeling it gives when done well.

The only real suggestion I can think of is this: It''s bound to have been done before, but it irritates me greatly in many games when I can only group together units by keyboard shortcuts if they are of the same type. It would be nice to be able to arrange all the units of whatever type in a formation at some waypoint or other before beginning the assault on the enemy city. For this at it''s simplest level, the ability to group miscellaneous units together for easy access with the keyboard would be important.

To go a little further, you could have a sort of war room or satellite mode to set out specific parts of a plan. If you want to blow up some enemy installation, it would be good to be able to give commands almost on a macro level. Specify in what order which units are to attack which structure i.e. destroy resource collector, once completed, move on to factory, etc. For units emulating a shell firing behaviour, it would be nice to be able to specify where exactly on the terrain they should sit while they fire, so the terrain can be used strategically, as opposed to the more open "attack this from wherever you like, feel free to mingle with the enemy''s crack troops" approach. Such a list set out for each set of units would be very handy. If things go wrong, have a big red button to retreat all units. Small craft weaving between your big tanks to defend them from nimbler opponents would be a very snazzy feature. Perhaps I''m getting carried away, but the defence AI in most games seems pretty poor, and being able to let one set of units defend another while it was attacking would make all geeks-who-would-be-king drool.

Most of this probably isn''t feasible, but you did say brainstorming :-) Good luck with the project.

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1 problem I''ve always had with RTSs: How the hell does your footman see 360 degrees around him? Have a line on sight at about 60 degrees, and have them look around on their own when idle to stop cheap attacks from behind.

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I think comuniations would be good to include. You have to build radio towers or some such thing. In order to comunatinacte with troops. Units outside your com range can not be controlled by the player.



-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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I''d like to see a rts with a heavy focus on the ''s''tratergy element. I''d like to play a game that is as much about tactics and manouvers as it is about technology, expansion and building units.
I think battles should be won or lost depending on the player''s skill, not the amount of units he has. Tactics such as flanking (would this not work perfectly with jerubaal sugestion?), covering and supressing fire with heavy automatic weapons while the assault force attacks, bombing enemy forces out of cover and into the open with artillery etc - these should make the difference between a win or loss.
Perhaps troops should have more independace that typical rts games - I am sick of seeing my units walk blindly to their deaths. Men should scatter and take cover when under fire, relocate themselves (only slightly) constantly during combat, and take shots at the enemy equally as much as they shelter from gunfire. Is it not boring to watch as your men stand still and fire constantly at the enemy while taking fire themselves? Of course, this would mean a heavy AI load on the machine.
And for in-game unit design - take a look at Earth 2150 (great game) and see the pefect example (Warzone 2100 also feature customizable units).

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quote:
Original post by Tazzel3D
Customizable units - there are an infinite # of uinit types you can create. Gives players more flexability when designing an army/platoon/etc... VERY IMPORTANT here that there is a very simple interface for creating these... also, attributes need to be very self-explanitory. See my other thread from quite a while ago: RTS where Players create custom units


I''ve sure I''ve said this before, I''m of the opinion that ''customizable units'' is one of those game features that always sounds like a much better idea than it actually is.

It does depend somewhat on the exact details of the implementation, but there are a number of problems with it in my opinion:

1. Balance is exponentially harder to achieve the more options you have. And it only takes one ''ultimate combination'' of options to allow a super unit which can completely dominate the game.

2. Design distracts from strategy - in more ways than one. If you design your units in the real time portion of the game, then that''s another thing that is diverting your attention from squishing your enemy. Even if you design them away from the actual battlefield, outside the real time gameplay, part of the challenge of strategy games is learning what you can acheive with the units available to you, and how to acheive it. If you can just redesign your units at the drop of a hat, this challenge disappears. It''s the limitations of your army that make things interesting, and having fully customizable units lets you remove those limits at a whim.

This isn''t to say it could not be implemented successfully though. The way I envision a successful implementation would be something like:

Each race has access to *very* different technologies, thus meaning that each race has distinctive strengths and weaknesses even with full customizability. ''Stealing'' technology might be possible, but the stolen ''alien'' tech will never be quite as good as the original.

Customization takes place outside the real-time portion of the game. Players would have persistent ''accounts''. Between games they could earn a certain amount of resource points (perhaps dependent on the outcome of the games) Which could be used to research new technologies, or develop new unit types.

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I still like Close Combat 3''s idea of buying units between battles into the player''s fire brigade. If you could make something like that together with player designed units it would surely be quite fun.

However, as was mentioned the balancing issue is a rather hard one. I played the game Warzone 2100 for a while, and in its campaign the concept was to gain technologies from enemies during missions. This usually resulted in the following:

1. Get a Heavy Machinegun turret that is better than a Machinegun turret.
2. Get a Light Cannon which is better than a Heavy Machinegun.
3. Get a Rocket Launcher which is better than a Light Cannon.
4. Get a Medium Cannon which is better than a Rocket Launcher.
5. etc.

While combined armies was possible and used, technologies usually became outdated very fast. I usually kept a few mortars in the back lines and machineguns and flamers for infantry, while the cannons fought off armoured units and AA guns shot down aircraft. All the local variety of components was unnecessary though, mainly because no one will really notice if there are twenty types of anti-tank weapons that are barely different. Don''t overdo it is my advice.

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I like it when units gain experience. I gain an attachment to the Level 3 sniper that was created at the very start and is still around sniping. Although I generally did not like the game, Emperor Battle for Dune did this well.

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I like it when the resources are very limited and scattered throughout. There are few games which aren''t about turtling up around a resource and repeating.

Also, I''d like something other than the standard health bars above units. What kinds of wounds do my battle-hardened troops have? Will my medics actually run out to get a troop and bring him back to camp or does he just explode upon death, not affecting morale or anything at all really.

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I liked the idea of only being able to issue commands within the confines of your chain of radar towers. If you send something out and it doesn't come back, you have no idea what happened to it, or what lies beyond until a scout returns.

There are some problems with this, though. I wanted to have icons on a resource sheet showing the status of all your units (so you could know what's going on at a glance and issue commands to whole squads or just one unit). They would naturally be grayed out if they left your radar chain. But if they got destroyed, it wouldn't be right to remove that icon until you know they have been destroyed. But then, how will you know until one of your units sees the wreckage and comes back? And what if the engine removes the wreckage to manage storage space?

Just a little design paradigm I haven't quite worked out yet.

Others here on the forums had ideas like sending out scouts to call shots for long distance weapons, provide awareness beyond the towers, have the AI automatically determine the best way to attack, etc. Others wondered why I couldn't keep radio contact with my units anyway, if the rest of the technology is so advanced. Well, it was a game device, that's why

Oh, and hopping directly into a vehicle to mementarily handle a problem. :D


[edited by - Waverider on January 12, 2004 1:05:33 PM]

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Here are some off the top of my head...

Instead of gathering resources, how about having airstrip or port where you can order supplies. HQ has a budget, so you can only order so much per day. The game becomes more about what you do with your units and less about how fast you can build the most units. You can build additional ports to keep from getting all your eggs in one basket, but your buget doesn''t change.

How about defining supply lines (series of waypoints?). Then assemble supply convoys and designate which groups they are to resupply. During battle, the troops could automaticly generate orders and the convoys would travel back and forth with fresh supplies. Select a storage depot and adjust the ammo/food levels. Select a supply vehicle to transfer from port to depot.

How about having vehicles manned. If you destroy the vehicle, the troops have a chance for surivial and can defend the area with light arms.

How about enemy troops can lose morale and attempt to escape or surrender. The enemy can capture them and transport them to a POW camp, where they interrogate and learn over time some random placements. Note that the prisoner can tell truth or lie, so don''t trust the intelligence. Use medical technology to improve the POW camp''s effectiveness.

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How about buildings that are actually to scale to the units. And how about actually entering them. I''d like to be able to double-click on structures, and get an indoor, top-down, view of them. You could cycle through the floors of the building. If it''s your building, then you can see everywhere. And if it''s an enemy building, then you can only see the areas around your units, or any cameras/sensors they may have placed.

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If you make a group/platoon and you set way points, ALL OF THE UNITS SHOULD TRAVEL IN A PACK. I always hated if I had a platoon of a few tanks with a bunch of smaller much faster units, the faster units would arrive at the way point way before the tanks and get destroyed if the enemy was there.

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Oh, totally random maps so that noone can memorize them and have an advantage in multiplayer! (With strategic playability of course - resources should be randomly placed but be similar distances from the players' starting points)

Some static ones are ok too, so the elitists can have their fun.

[edited by - Waverider on January 12, 2004 4:00:51 PM]

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quote:
Original post by Waverider
I liked the idea of only being able to issue commands within the confines of your chain of radar towers. If you send something out and it doesn''t come back, you have no idea what happened to it, or what lies beyond until a scout returns.

There are some problems with this, though. I wanted to have icons on a resource sheet showing the status of all your units (so you could know what''s going on at a glance and issue commands to whole squads or just one unit). They would naturally be grayed out if they left your radar chain. But if they got destroyed, it wouldn''t be right to remove that icon until you know they have been destroyed. But then, how will you know until one of your units sees the wreckage and comes back? And what if the engine removes the wreckage to manage storage space?

Just a little design paradigm I haven''t quite worked out yet.



Easy just have them marked as MIA(missing in action) on the resource sheet.




-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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Thanks for all of the good suggestions! I might not respond to everyone's ideas here, though I dont think there was an idea here that I didnt really like, so.. yeah... rambling...

Many have stated that they wish that controlling individual units durring battle or atleast give them more complex commands to start with, not just attack this building here... I dont care how you get there, or where you are attacking from or who attacks you on the way. One thing that annoyed me in some of these games is when I send an army to go attack only to find they were ambushed, but didnt bother to defend themselfs... they were so worried about getting to their attack point, they all died... kinda sux. What I think I will implement as of now to fix this somewhat:

I already have it setup where you can do more than tell a unit where to go. You can set waypoints so units travel to each in a specified order, and hopefully I will implent a method to allow you to state how quickly the unit travels to each way-point, and how well the unit should try to stay out of sight. If you would like the unit to be sneaky, it will probobly take that unit longer to travel. If, you just need it to get ther ASAP, it will not try to sneak past anyone or try to be covert.

Also, I am hoping to have a to a mission mode, where you can create a mission. For example, you tell each unit or group of units where you would like them to go, when they should get there, how cautious of being seen/heard/etc they should be, etc... Also, one idea I had is to be able to control the unit's defense/offense stance anywhere from say 1 to 10. where 1 would be extremely defensive and 10 nearly suisidal (like most RTS games today... if there is a tank at pointblank aimed at them, they stand there ground even if they only have a couple of knives ;P) I think this area needs to be expanded on more though. Say I am giving commands to a unit. Do you think the 3(cautiousness/agressiveness/quickness) settings I have come up with will suffice or would you rather see more/less some different... Basically, how would you like to be able to control your units?

Got kinda carried away, but in that mission mode, you could design a mission to a large amount of detail before any units are even created. Then once you get something figured out, you can create the units you will need, and send them off to do their parts in their respective places. Some things you would be able to plan would be those 3 I mentioned above, plus which order units/buildings should be attacked, who should stand 'in front of' who... and maybe even into which units are msot important. You could say flag a group of tanks you would like to use to take out the main base with as 'vital', and then units would go out of their way to protect them. How much control would you liek to have, and how would you like to use this control? What do you think of the idea of creating missions ahead of time and sending your units off to battle? This is much different then the common method used today where you must conduct a battle in real-time. This is ofcorse not how real battles occur for the same reason... its too hard to control everyon eat once in real-time with enough precision to carry out any kind of detailed stradegy.

I would really like my game to focus on more on how each unit is used instead of how many of which unit you have. I guess this is a bit counter to the idea where you can designyour own custom units, but we will see... I would like for a player to be able to defeat an army of say 100 units with ameager 10 if stradegy is used by the player with 10 and not with the one of 100... I REALLY would like stradegy to be a focus...

to make a quick list of things I will look into implementing:

-much much better ability to conduct battles/stradgize (sp?)
--plan battles ahead of time
--simple method for grouping units. commands can and often will go out to platoons, etc...
--smarter units... (defend your self if you will obviously fail attacking)
-communication system
--units out of range, can not be 'seen'
---good point about how to handle the quickly large number of lost units that floods the system... ideas?
--try to be frugal with communications, it's not hard for an enemy to use 3towers and figure out where the message is comming from...
-Line of Sight
--units can not spot things behind them... maybe if we can set the units' covertness, it checks for units from behind more often, etc...
-unit experience
--maybe the full range of settings such as covertness/aggressiveness/all other attributes, will not be available to less experienced units. experienced units slowly gather better attributes
-ability to enter buildings
--I am wondering what level of gameplay this adds... maybe it would be a little more simple to just let units enter buildings and even hide in them... this allows you to still get all of the gameplay you were wanting without me having to render the inside of buildings ;P also then the player doesnt have to order his units around every building in the camp... I think this is mostly an issue of preference.

With all of that in mind, what other kinds of things would you guys like to see? Love the ideas so far!!!

dwiel

[EDIT]the last 2 or 3 posts were made while I was typing this...
I really like the MIA list. Good call.
I am currently working on a system which will provide completely random maps with interesting terrain... I couldnt agree with you more here
dont remember if I mentioned the point that units inside a platoon or group or w/e should stick together... good idea anyway, one that will hopefully be implemented...

[edited by - Tazzel3d on January 12, 2004 5:32:59 PM]

[edited by - Tazzel3d on January 12, 2004 5:34:11 PM]

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-when you upgrade a technology every unit you have instantly gets the new improved version X, even if they are engaged at the time and totally cutoff from supplies, i hate this. much better IMO to have, once the upgrade is done all new units benifit from it but all old units must be rotated from the front to be retrofitted with new equipment.

-Supply lines would be kinda cool too.

-dont know how it would fit in with your game but for the "Age of.." series i really would have liked a temperary militia force; you should be able to call to arms your civilians, but at the cost that once the battle ends they take a while to return to full effectiveness at their prewar jobs.

-for more modern / postmodern games a code makeing/breaking tech or upgrade would be really nice. Think about what a large part american codebreakers did in WW2, this is never included in games.

- moral; this was in closecombat, wouldn''t you be woried if you were facing down a panzer with a rifle?

- fireteam or larger units, never seen one or 2 men go out to war on their own myself!

- new ways of getting money/resurces, harvesting the enviroment is overdone, time for something new.

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I like the mission idea, Taz. I wonder if there could be a way to make a mission template and save it between games. This would allow the players to create combinations of orders that they could use during many games.



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The problems with modern RTS games are hard to solve. IMHO, there are only two flaws with RTS games as they are today:

1) Twitch
Most RTS games are not strategic at all but games wherein the production of more units is the be-all-end-all. It doesn''t matter how tactical you are in the maneuvering and utiliziation of your troops. All that matters is that you produce more guys faster than the competition. While it''s still fun, it''s not strategic.

2) The Master Faction
There is always a faction in an RTS that beats all others with dumb strategies: Soviet Tank rushes, Protoss Carrier Stomping, and so forth. Blizzard has done the best job of balancing the power between their games'' factions but they are still imperfect.

Like I said, these aren''t easy problems to solve. Part of the twitchiness of RTS games is inherent in the fact that they''re Real Time. You run the risk of losing some of the "umph" of the real-time aspect of gameplay if you take some of the twitch out. And if you don''t make the races feel powerful (in their own rights) then nobody will want to play them. It''s a delicate balancing act that takes years of work and playtesting to accomplish.

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I completely agree with you about the point that play testing is very important here in the ''feild'' of RTS games. I am going try to mix my love Genetic Programming in here to solve this ''kind of'' and for AI at the same time... Basically, I am also very interested Genetic Programming and will hopefully use it to create the AI for my game. By the nature of GP, it will hopefully find many of the gameplay quirks and loopholes that normally require human testers. This by all means does not mean that human testers are un-necessary, it just means that it can be used to reduce the amount of human time needed for testing. I am a little more optimistic with this GP stuff than most people though so it might turn out to not work at all but, its worth a try.

anyway, it seems that most of us here are on the general consensus that the stradegy in most RTS game are quicke lacking if present at all. Hopefully Me and now it looks like maybe some others, or just one other, will be able to create a game that requires some extra stradegy... Luckily, it looks like most of us all want the same kind of things so I guess I''ll get programming ;P

Dwiel

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I'm working on a RTS as well, with some friends, I liked a lot of the ideas brought up in this thread as many of them were already in my design doc.

I just have a few comments though about some of the ideas.

"I would like for a player to be able to defeat an army of say 100 units with a meager 10 if strategy is used by the player with 10 and not with the one of 100... I REALLY would like strategy to be a focus..."
Well the problem with this is that both teams have very similar units so 100 units with a little strategy is better then 10 units with very good strategy, unless the 10 units can stay out of sight. Now the problem with this is that "out of sight" is normally an engine rule, not a strategy; so the 10 units can manage to say out of sight then the 100 units would also be able to stay out of sight.


For the topic on balancing, ya its very hard so my team decided to drop to just having 2 races, a 3rd is just too much work.


Custom Units: i also had this idea but we dropped it because it makes the game less memorable. When you think of warcraft or starcraft you can picture 2 or 3 races and know every unit for each of them, maybe not by name but by look. This kind of thing makes people remember your game after they stop playing it.


"Oh, totally random maps so that no one can memorize them and have an advantage in multiplayer"
Well if you do that there is no strategy based on maps, its like an if-and-only-if. Also, people will never have a favorite map; and the more favorites you can give a player the more they like the game.

"moral; this was in close combat, wouldn't you be worried if you were facing down a panzer with a rifle?"
Okay, this should never be done in a RTS. It sounds like a cool idea but its the biggest pain in the ass when a player doesn’t have control over their units. I think it was a postmortem for C&C that i read and said something along the lines of "we changed the script for a harvester so that when it was attacked it would run away. Then we decided to put the new script on a developer's computer without telling him. The next day we heard the developer yelling at his harvester because he couldn’t control it once it started running away after it was shot at." or something along those lines.


Moral idea 2: the unit has worse aim or something. This is ok, as long as the player knows it, but dont count on them figuring it out on their own.


Ok, thats it. I dont mean to be too critical or bashing any ones ideas, I simply wanted to show the other side of the coin.


Tazzel3D, Good luck on your game and try not to get bogged down by feature creep.

PS: Custom Units - also it doesnt allow the players to have a favorite unit and doesnt allow your game to have flag units. If anyone says the word "Peon" who doesnt think of warcraft right away? I sure as hell do.

[edited by - TheDarkening on January 13, 2004 7:22:35 PM]

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Thanks for the great post and comments Drakening. I think you made some good points, and we should make sure that we dont go around adding ''gameplay features'' just for the sake of adding features. Its a very delicate situation. I really liked my cutomizable unit idea, but as it is turning out, I am not sure how good the idea is in practice... looks like its one of those things that sounds good conceptually, but then once implemented or attempted to be implemented, doesnt really work out as planned. Maybe I will work on a middle ground somewhere.

I agree in that we should also not make units poor fighters or scared of battle if moral is low... UNLESS, we dont make them make to drastic of change, AND the change is very easily predictable. I think that if you alter the units speed factor when moral is low, that is OK as long as you say in the stats box somewehere: "Speed: 20 -3(low moral)", etc... Just so long as the player isnt left guessing as to why his units are doing what is expected. Still, I think that is important that this sint overdone.

One problem that I am running into is units'' scale. In most RTS games, the units are much bigger than they ''should be''. It is unimportant in most of these. In the case where we want terrain to influence gameplay, this is unfortunately not acceptable. One solution is to make the units much smaller and leave the scale of the terrain alone. This ok, unless we would like the players to be able to see their units...

About the only other option is to change the scale of the terrain. By doing this, we nearly force ourselvs to also allow for the camera to be a varying height off of the ground... I am thinking about either allowing for the player to change the zoom, or for their to be some choosable zoom settings. maybe a close-up, a middle and a way out. I even thought it might be cool if we were able to be in the zoomed at view, and then click other parts of the screen to show a close-up of that portion. You could have maybe 4 closeups each showing the movement of a specific group, or just a close-up of your various bases. This way, you can view the big picture, and at the same time, control small units precisely.

Well, what do you think about the scaling?

Thanks for all of the input!

Dwiel

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