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Dauntless

Thousand yard stare: Morale and Campaign persistence

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I was thinking back to the Bastogne episode of Band of Brothers, which detailed what the medic had to go through. There's a scene from that episode that was used in the intro for every episode where he's leaning against a tree and just sort of staring off into space. As the war dragged on, the medic in particular had to deal with seeing men torn apart in a way that would make most butchers blanch, but all soldiers had to deal with the growing mental, physical, and spiritual fatigue of war. Combat vets call that the 1000yd (or mile) stare. It's when a soldier just becomes numb to all the violence, death and futility of what they do. And it usually takes a while for it to catch up to soldiers. So I was wondering, since I want to have unit persistence in my game, I need to somehow model this. Keeping your units alive is a good thing because they gain experience. However, get them mauled in a battle too badly, and you'll wind up with more replacements than vets, and the quality goes down. Also, if you keep a unit on the frontlines too long, its morale will drop. Even if it isn't under any combat conditions, the overall war fatigue will make the unit perform more poorly. So, anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this longterm morale factor?

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Original post by Dauntless
So I was wondering, since I want to have unit persistence in my game, I need to somehow model this.


You probably aren't doing it for this sake, but it begs mention anyway: Just because its an aspect of reality doesn't mean it has to go in. It has to go in if it will add to the deeper meaning of what you're trying to achieve.

It sounds like this sort of thing is only relevant if there's high level personalization of the troops and if you can somehow see this and react to it (even plan ahead). Otherwise, this could simply be an event that triggers something (like the old Bridge Too Far game where you get messages about a named soldier panicking).

Quote:

Keeping your units alive is a good thing because they gain experience. However, get them mauled in a battle too badly, and you'll wind up with more replacements than vets, and the quality goes down. Also, if you keep a unit on the frontlines too long, its morale will drop. Even if it isn't under any combat conditions, the overall war fatigue will make the unit perform more poorly.


If you're really abstracting this, can you use something as simple as morale directly factoring into combat tests or (even more simple) morale being hit points?

If you're going for more complex social modeling then battle fatigue will have to be married to a host of interesting events and problem solving options / items / choices, I'd think.

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Wavinator-
Figuring out what elements to model is probably the most important design consideration a designer can make. I want this aspect in my game because it will add an interesting strategic element that a player will have to understand to utilize his troops as best as he can.

I've always had a couple goals in mind with this "game".

1) It should be closer to a battlefield leadership simulator than a strategy game.
2) I want to do away with god-like control of almost all aspects of the game. The player should only be able to control things the way a real commander would (given the constraints of the computer).
3) I want players to realize many of the subtle and intricate factors that make a fighting force effective in battle
4) Going with #3 above, the game should focus just as much if not more on the human element as it does on the unit element (most games stress the importance of the power of a unit rather than how it is led into battle).

While it's not a design goal per se, if I can make this game give an experience or insight into how deadly war is, then all the better. In my game, I want units to lose their fighting effectiveness the more they are under fire...both in a short term sense (morale and being suppressed) as well as a long term sense (the thousand yard stare). Since the game is going to have a storyline, I want the gameplay to juxtapose nicely with the storyline, and these morale elements are really important to me.

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If you're really abstracting this, can you use something as simple as morale directly factoring into combat tests or (even more simple) morale being hit points?

If you're going for more complex social modeling then battle fatigue will have to be married to a host of interesting events and problem solving options / items / choices, I'd think.


I think it's going to be a combination of the two. I was thinking of having two psychological ratings....Morale and Motivation. Morale is the short term measurement of how resilient it is to emotional distractions. Motivation is a combination of mental, physical and emotional fatigue that accumulates after being in many battles over the course of a campaign (or even a single battle).

Both attributes will directly factor into combat ability, as well as handling Stress tests. Stress tests should be performed whenever the unit is ordered in such a way as to put it into harm's way. Now, how to model "being put into harm's way" is a tricky enough question as it is. How does a unit know this? Checking for a reaction if it does know it's being put into danger is easy enough, the hard part is having some kind of AI that can detect this without being fired on (for example, the AI would have to know somehow that if it's nice and safe in a covered position, if it leaves that position and it's in range of the enemy's weapons, then it's being put in harm's way). Moreover, the AI would have to understand the severity of the threat level, as a whole company moving against a single squad isn't much of a threat.

As for battle fatigue being married to other events, I think it can be a simple accumulation over a period of time. Now, having other factors involved might modify this. For example, a unit which has taken high casualties (though not kills) may suffer this worse. Units cut off from supplies or from other friendly units will also suffer this (as well as Morale).

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Quick question: What choice will you have over individual troop selection, especially over the long run, and what options will you have for individual troops?

If you can't swap the guy out, send him on vacation or rotate him to the rear, then I think this factor will end up being like the weather-- something you can't control, but you have to plan around.

If you have more detailed interaction (Patton's famous slap in North Africa? :P) then you've got alot more choice... and I'd say such a model deserves a lot of attention.

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Take a look at the close combat series.

You'd place your units on the battlefield in key locations then the game would start. You can tell your units where to go but if they are being shot at, they won't go no matter what you do. Sometimes your units will panick and run. I've even had a few units go bezerk and charge at the enemy. You can sneak, ambush and lay cover fire. Enemy units will only show on screen when your units can see them. But like i said, it wasn't total control. You basically gave them an order and they carry it out if they can.

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Don't forget discipline. You should be able to invest time in increasing an individual unit's discipline, which would affect his overall performance under fire. Units with low discipline would break and run sooner, disobey orders more frequently, etc. If I wanted to I should be able to train a group of crack religious zealouts who virtually never flee from an enemy and who single mindedly obey all orders, no matter how suicidal and no matter how green they are.

In other words discipline could help balance lack of experience when it comes to the moral factor.

Also, on the idea of how to determine some of the factors influencing a unit...you can use the proximity to friendly units to great effect. The more friendly units nearby, the higher an individual unit's Morale.

Great ideas, and something I've wanted to model in an RTS game for umpteen years. Heh.

Take care, good luck, and keep us posted!

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Just thought I would say it since no one else did ....

1000 yards = 0.568181818 miles

Dauntless, love the topics man, great reads. Keep em comming, there is definately a lot of meat in some of the things you have rattling around atm.

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Wavinator-
The idea of an R&R button crossed my mind :) But I don't think that'd be practical for a couple of reasons. Firstly, whole units don't go on R&R at the same time. Plus, that just introduces a whole nother level of micromanagement that I'd like to avoid.

I think the most practical way to reduce the reduction in Motivation is simply not to have them on the frontlines of combat for extended periods of time. I was thinking of some kind of timer that starts and stops depending on if the unit is under fire. If it reaches a certain level compared to its Discipline rating within a certain amount of time, it's Motivation will go down. It will go down more quickly if they also take casualties.

With Motivation, not even good leaders and commanders can really help. Maybe Chaplains of some sort, but the only way to really heal from this is to have time away from combat.

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Trapdoor-
CC mostly implemented Morale....or short term psychological factors of battle. I'm looking for long term affects. Now in a way, CC did model this because it too had unit persistence between missions. And if a unit took too much casualties, it's morale would only improve slightly inbetween missions.

For me, I'm looking more at "War Weariness". It's possible that some troops have a good morale, but low motivation. They'll keep to their orders, but their "elan d'esprit" will be poor. In effect, their aggressiveness goes away. So in some sense, troops with low Motivations tend to survive better, because they don't take many chances. But their reactions tend to be poorer as well.

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