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Dauntless

Strategy Game: C3 Interfaces

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I played a demo of Relic's Warhammer: Dawn of War and came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I liked their abstraction of resources by gaining control of resource points over harvesting (though it's still a rather artificial way of allowing a player to create more units), and I also liked the squad-based combat instead of having to control every single little unit. A morale bar indicating the psychological ability to fight was a nice inclusion too. Several options for "stances" or priorities of attack and defense were also nice. But I still noticed several glaring faults. Firstly, it was way too fast. There simply was no time to click on any of the special abilities like throwing grenades...something like this should have been at the discretion of the AI. But something I really would have liked to see is a command, control and communications interface (C3 Interface). I don't know why virtually every strategy game out there makes you scroll and pan all over the map trying to find your units or your building resources. And although the mini-maps on such games help, there's no labeling whatsoever....just a friend or foe identification, or if the game is nice, it'll tell you the difference between units and buildings. Instead, why not create an interface system that allows you to connect directly to your known resource systems and the battlefield commanders in charge of your units? For example, if you want to create some more units of type X, then instead of hunting and trying to remember where FactoryX is, you simply go to the C3 Interface, click on the Resources tree, and directly create your units from there? If your game considers something called Unit Integrity, then you can have all your units grouped together with a relative distance to one another. For example, in the above mentioned Dawn of War example, the basic unit is a squad. My idea is that you can link the squads together under another leader type to create a platoon (in my own system, I call squads, clusters, and groups of clusters BattleGroups). Unit Integrity enforces the principle that you can't have squad 1, 2nd platoon of Foxtrot company, halfway across the map (unless they were elite units who have the ability to act independently of the chain of command). The ability to access units via a simplified interface seems simple enough, so I wonder why no one implements it. The only reason I can think of is because no game has an established chain of command. In other words, you only have your basic units, but no way to build larger forces under the command of a leader (other than hitting Shift+FX to lump together a bunch of disparate unit types with no regard for combined arms capabilities). In my opinion, the map should mostly be used as an observation tool...to enjoy watching the carnage, and to develop your tactics and strategies. I think that directly clicking on units on the map should be optional, and not required in order to access and interface with your troops.

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Amen, Dauntless. Amen.

I remember seeing an early build of your game (screenshots). How's it progressing?

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I can't personally play turn based strategy games but many of the concepts involved in tbs's compared to standard rts's could solve this little problem.

Instead of simple repedative tactics thrown together as fast as posible (think 'twitch strategy', the counter-strike of rts's so to speak), or the slow highly specialized tactics of turn based strategy games, what I'd like to see is a real time strategy game that involves more restricted units (not necessarily less of them) that act smarter.

The military doesn't tell each infantry unit what exactly to attack, hell most high ranking officers don't even know who their indirectly commanding, so why should we have to? (or for another analogy, why should we be forced to micro-manage, a tack much more suited to less inteligent beings!).

I agree that being able to control squads is definately more appropriate, but it would be nice if one told the squads what they objectives are and give the ai some freedom of movement, maybe some more complex gameplay could be created using this! Would be strange if we were able to see units retreating because of being overwhealmed, and then back them up with another squad (telling them where to go still, so not being not in control, just possibly a different kind of control).

One thing that I think is important is to be able to have an influence on the graphical representation, as in when a squad moves you know how they're going to move. Since I'm into sci-fi, I think something super-modern/slightly futuristic would benifit from this greatly. You grab a unit and tell it to cover a corner of a wall, and queue a command that has them tear around the corner placing covering fire for the squads anti-tank infantry and having them take out whatever they can, retreating back behind the wall if they take too much damage (retreating tactic attribute would help, probably a slider/option control on gui).

Hail to a new forms of RTS gaming, because they're already long overdue! There can only be so many clones.

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Hmm...seems I was a little off topic, got carried away.

As for C3 interfaces, I seem to remmember C&C doing something similar to this except that you had to remember where your units were going to appear from. Ground Control 2 does this as well, you use dropships to purchase reinforcements based on points allocated by achieving various objectives. Just tell the dropship what drop location to use and every time you purchase some units they appear excatly where you knew they were going to and there is no clunky interfacing issues (well sorta, it does work though).

There is a downside to this type of interface, if you remember Total Annihilation the ability to use multiple factories, a common tactic (think flash rushes or aircraft only players). It would be possible to implement something but not nessecarily the simplest thing to build. You would have to do something like telling it what factories you wished to use at the current time, and then tell it to build the units. The two systems combined could be very useful however! (inteligent build menus!)

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Finally, another one of Dauntless' famous RTS threads. No more of that namby-pamby religion-in-gaming stuff again, I hope.

The closest analogues I can think of are from 4X games, which often have lists of your empires resources. There's a limited similarity to Earth 2150's Platoon system, which was not well received. Problems in interface and AI limited the utility of these groups.

The interface for Earth 2150 consisted of a panel at the bottom that had tabs to switch between Structures, Platoons, and Units. The problem was that these tabs hid the Orders screen (which had the special orders a unit could perform), which meant that it was not available when it was needed. The AI was problematic in that repair units (which, like Starcraft: BW medics, healed things automatically) did not repair things automatically when in a platoon. Nor could they be ordered to do so manually because individual units could not be selected in a platoon (or not easily anyway). The lack of a command structure made the Units tab useless as well. Clicking through an entire armada is not practical.

I've been thinking about making a game where you set up a battle plan and then simply watch it play out. Obviously, this would require a rather different interface than a typical RTS, as the orders one can give to a unit are not conducive to autonomy. You would need to be able to set up formations, tactics, contingency plans, SOP, acceptable levels of casualties, and so on.

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Hey thats cool Dauntlaess.
I had an idea like that back in the summer, for almost the same reason as you (and I have the GUI to prove it as well :D), I told my (older) brother about it who said it wasn't a good idea (he had just got CC generals), but then again he isn't a game programmer anyway..
In my idea I thought of having the whole thing kind of data driven, you'd have a panel with maybe buttons on it for each sector of the battle field, when you clicked a button you'd get a drop down list with tanks & different units on it, which you could look up for that sector. I thought maybe you could have a separate screen for each sector as well or something.

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Thumbs up to dauntless. I can't see the point of not providing such an interface, except that it might make the RTS a little too transparent as it were. I've often lamented that I can't issue more precise or detailed orders to units, and that's because I'm scrabbling about looking for the units. In short, this sort of traditional design needs you to fight the interface of the game, and that always unconditionally sucks.

So, I'm with you brother.

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I doubt there's some sort of prejudice against this sort of design; it just happens to not be obvious. I mean, I had no idea what C3 meant until I read this, so I'm guessing most developers have no idea either.

I would still use the map to guide units for most operations. I prefer seeing the information at a glance in a 2D format and acting directly upon it.

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Oluseyi-
Screenshots of my game?? I wish :) I've got most of the basic unit classes nailed down, some of the templated container classes to represent the clusters, and a real basic implementation of a Fctory Manager to produce unit types, but that's about it. I'm learning clanlib right now, since the syntax seems really clean to me (at least after looking at SDL and allegro). Although I really wish I had the time to look at Ogre3d....perhaps after I get the core prototype 2d game working, I'll move what I can over to a 3d engine. Hopefully within the next few months I'll have a basic logical pipeline for the game and work on some kind of "World_database" that'll keep track of everything.

School's killing me though...in fact, I should be studying right now....4 midterms in one week....AND a 68k processor assembly project...sigh.

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