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Wavinator

"Okay, you made it" -points as a pathing failsafe?

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Let's say you've got something that's vaguely like a FPS/RTS hybrid: Personal combat, maybe climbing & jumping over obstacles, and squaddie/team deployment. There is forever the chance that the AI squad will hit a pathing bug or take so long that the player doesn't want to deal with it. So what if, like a good GM, the game can simply determine that the team "just makes it" to certain points? In playing games like Project Eden and Brute Force I've encountered times when the AI couldn't navigate an obstacle that I could. Both of those games (IIRC) let you hijack the AI and deal with the problem yourself. But obviously, this is an imperfect solution, especially if your team gets above four. Other times, I've left people behind and simple wished that they'd hurry the *#@! up and catch up. During the worst of these moments, I've thought, "to hell with immersion, I just want them here NOW!" So what if a map naturally had "spawn points" either in indoor or outdoor environs. You get some UI choice that pops up when you get there, and you can simply teleport the team in after a certain amount of time, despite obstacles. The downside of this would be that it hurts immersion. But the upside is that it provides a failsafe in case a bug causes the AI to not be able to make it through, or you've got a squad so large that it's taking too long. To mitigate this a bit, spawn points MIGHT be behind walls or hills, though since it's already such an out-of-game solution it might not be worth it to try and hide it. Thoughts?

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Thoughts?

It can be meta-gamed: "Let's see, I know my all non-combat specialist team really isn't strong enough to go through that area, but if I can sneak in and hit the checkpoint that's waiting some way behind, I'll be able to bring them all instantly at no risk whatsoever. Excellent."

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Hmm.. its a tough call, it really depends on the puzzles and variety of the environment. SWRC did a good job of pathfinding and keeping your guys upto speed, as well as saving the players butt a few times. It would probably work better if it were somehow incorporated into the story or gameplay, like running through a dangerous area and activating a teleport beacon or shutting off steam/plasma flow on the other side for your main forces, effectively working as an advance scout.

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Quote:
Original post by Fruny
Thoughts?

It can be meta-gamed: "Let's see, I know my all non-combat specialist team really isn't strong enough to go through that area, but if I can sneak in and hit the checkpoint that's waiting some way behind, I'll be able to bring them all instantly at no risk whatsoever. Excellent."


Hmmm... does the risk of metagaming outweigh the benefit of convenience to the player?

And does the rule "spawn points only open if the route is safe" solve this?

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If you've played it, recall that in Half-Life 2 the game is split into sections which load when you walk through level dividers like doorways etc. You also had sections of the game where NPCs would follow you around (or try to, to the best of their half-witted abilities). Sometimes they would walk and you could actually run away from them and lose them easily. The way the game designers handled it was to simply ignore the problem. When you crossed a level divider, the new map loaded and your buddy NPCs would spawn with you either behind or ahead of you depending on who was supposed to follow whom.

This approach relieves a good amount of the annoyance you're talking about. Then again it also doesnt apply to games without map boundaries. (And on a side note, in Half-Life 2 a bug would occasionally allow you to spawn two NPCs from one, which was pretty funny. [grin])

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I suppose you could make the "you made it" point one that just follows the player around and drops the NPC somewhere stable and out of sight when an NPC gets horribly lost. (i.e. the NPC appears somewhere outside the players field of vision, it can't be a pit of lava but it can have a badguy right next to it).

This way, if you try losing your squad in the dust, you're guaranteed that they will catch up with you, but can't be sure that in their desperation to catch up with you they don't get beat up by an enemy or set off an alarm or something.

But if you're trying to play the game correctly then you're less likely to lose crewmates and the times you do then you'l just be glad they made it at all.

But if you want, you could remove some HP from NPCs for every enemy they bypass by warping, just to discourage that kind of behavior.

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Instead of making it completely blatant that your team just spawned right by you, why not make it so that when the player reaches such a point that the team is automatically ported to the cloasest non visible location that they can easily path from? For example, you could make the point right after turning around a building, and then have the team spawn just down the road you walked down. When the player turns back, their team looks like they've been coming along the whole time.

Because this is less obtrusive you could also do it more often. Say in a building environment (like mentioned in the last post), instead of your team simply being with you when you cross into another zone they come out into the room once you are half way across. Foe the player, this would make it seem that the team got through the area instead of 'cheating'.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator


And does the rule "spawn points only open if the route is safe" solve this?


This is the basic Flaw I see with the whole system.

If you know the Route is safe, then you know the route, therefore the AI will not have a pathing problem.

How often or dense will 'jump locations' be? Where are they located?

How can you tell where they are NEEDED. If you can determine where they are needed then you can fix any pathing problem.

If you cannot determine where they are needed, then you solution is incomplete as there very well may a geometery that causes a pathing problem without having a 'jump out'.

So do you just make the jump out locations more dense???
If so then it is a more practical solution to use some standard pathing techniques and build a precalculated pathing graph .

Over all, I don't think this 'jumping' solution is a solution.

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Quote:
Original post by Risujin
If you've played it, recall that in Half-Life 2 the game is split into sections which load when you walk through level dividers like doorways etc.


Alright! The big guys did it! Makes me feel 100x better about this already! [rolleyes] (Revenant, a game where you could raise the dead and turn them into your allies, also did this... except sometimes the allies didn't carry over the boundary, nor did the enemies-- it was very confusing!)


Quote:
Original post by The Shadow Nose
But if you want, you could remove some HP from NPCs for every enemy they bypass by warping, just to discourage that kind of behavior.


Well, keep in mind this wouldn't only be for pathing bugs. Say you're invading a base with 4 NPCs, but have (for whatever reason) dozens of robots carrying gear/loot. You wouldn't want to wait for each of them to trundle past you slowly just to get to some location you knew was safe, right?



Quote:
Original post by intrest86
Instead of making it completely blatant that your team just spawned right by you, why not make it so that when the player reaches such a point that the team is automatically ported to the cloasest non visible location that they can easily path from? For example, you could make the point right after turning around a building, and then have the team spawn just down the road you walked down. When the player turns back, their team looks like they've been coming along the whole time.


This sounds good in theory, but consider it in practice: Let's say you've got a long factory wall that you're running beside. You run for 20 seconds, peak over your shoulder, don't see anyone. Then you dash around the corner, and for whatever reason (maybe you see an enemy) dash back. Are your allies now standing there looking at you?

Your solution also calls for a higher number of spawn points with LOS information on the map. This would work for canned levels, but would not work for random maps all that well.

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Personally, I'd rather have no squad at all than one which I had to drag around. Would anyone really want to make a game where AI teammates were both necessary and too dumb to be dependable?

If pathing really will be that much of a problem, perhaps record the player's path constantly, and allow the player to order team-mates to follow his/her path exactly. Alternatively add in a sophisticated waypointing system to allow the player to provide hints.

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