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RTS Passive Abilites versus Active abilites

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For all you RTS fans out there what are your thoughts regarding Passive and Active abilites? Passive abilites are abilies that once a unit aquires them they are constantly in use such as the ability to attack while cloaked. While active abilites are abilites that have to activated in order to be used. They may have recharge delay or consume power such cloak which makes a unit invsible but constantly drains power while the unit remains cloaked. There is a second element to active abilites and that is should the units be allowed to active them themselves or have to be order to do so? Lastly are there any abilites that people have seen in other games that they though where either overpowered or underpowered and why?

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I personally dislike active abilities in a RTS game. Those sort of abilities tend to be things you have to baby sit, or have great manual dexterity to use effectively [or at least more effectively than your opponent(s)]. I don't think a strategy game benefits from removing strategy in favor of who can wield their mouse the best.

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agreed ... the less you have to micromanage the better in my opinion. I'm not saying don't have special "active" abilities for the "hero/unique" units as those are theoretically limited in numbers, but your grunt troops should all have passive abilities so you can anticipate what they will do without thinking about it too much

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I agree whole-heartedly.
Having to activate abilities manually takes alot away from gameplay. It forces you to spend your time micro-managing your troops instead of paying attention to greater strategy. If you wish to have active abilities then make it available only for a limitied few - like heroes.

RTS games in the past have shown that a good game with passive abilities are more than enough to keep the player busy strategizing. Flooding the player with active abilities just makes him/her frustrated.

This is of course only true when the player have access to large numbers of troops. If the player only have access to a very limited number of troops then you SHOULD actually add something. If there's a risk the player could start to sit around and wait for something then add just enough micro-management to keep him/her busy. But not more.

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I would like to see active abilities combined with AI, so you could either control them directly or let the AI determine when best to use them.

In Warhammer 40k DOW there are so many upgradable abilities that it's a nightmare trying to remember who has what. I just want to click "Use Frag Grenades when appropriate" and be done with it.

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I want to add something:

Look back at Total Annihilation and see how they mixed it very successfully. Almost every ability was passive, but the cost-expensive things were active abilities.

Such as:
- The Commanders secondary weapon - the D-gun - which consumed ALOT of your natural resources when fired
- Certain units ability to cloak, since this also consumed alot of energy

In a way you can also view the factories as having active abilities to create units. You have to activate them in order to build something. You might also consider the 'patrol' function as a active ability.

So where do you draw the line between what to make passive and active?
To do that you need to figure out what adds to the gameplay. Allowing the player to choose when and where to 'patrol' adds to the gameplay. It also prevents the player from trying to find runaway units. Allowing the player to choose what to build adds to the gameplay.

If cloaking costs resources then have the player take care of it.
If it doesn't cost anything, then let the unit take care of it.
If blowing your generals 'Horn Of War' to boost morale in turn makes him deaf (-4 defence), then make the player decide when to use it.
If blowing the horn only boosts morale, then have the general do it automatically whenever he pleases.

Having the troops use the ability by themselves when there's a downside to it makes the player angry; "No! stupid game! The general cannot be deaf NOW! He needs to be able to hear the song of the fairies at the temple!"

Having the troops NOT use the ability by themselves when there's no downside to it makes the player angry; "What are you waiting for!? You're waiting for PERMISSION to use your super-rechargeable-no-ammo-no-cost-lasergun when I'm being stormed by five hundred purple goblins!?!?!?"

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I agree that most abilities should be passive.
If the 'active' ones are automated (such as the Faerie Fire ability in Warcraft 3, like that "cast/use when appropriate) then have some good visual for it, or some way where you KNOW it went off; its quite annoying to buy a new ability then never see any evidance of the resources you spent.
What annoys me is when I get something that, lets say, increases your damage by what you would think is a decent amount, but I don't notice killing things better (without like counting bodies or something), I feel cheated.

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You need "active abilities" in order to make your game have replayability. It adds the speed/dexterity/multitasking factor into RTS, which plays a major role in BW and WC3. With "active abilities", it takes much longer to master the game (in order to improve you must be clever strategically, be great at multitasking, and be very quick).

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Quote:
Original post by Daniel Miller
You need "active abilities" in order to make your game have replayability. It adds the speed/dexterity/multitasking factor into RTS, which plays a major role in BW and WC3. With "active abilities", it takes much longer to master the game (in order to improve you must be clever strategically, be great at multitasking, and be very quick).


I'm not sure I agree with this. Chess is an incredibly replayable game, and it speed/dexterity/multitasking plays no part in it at all. Well, I suppose you have to be sufficiently dextrous to not completely demolish the board layout every time you make a move, and sufficiently quick that your opponent doesn't die of old age between moves, but those skills don't really play any significant part in it.

Of course, it's not an RTS, but I don't really think that makes much difference. I reckon that it should be possible to develop an incredibly strategic game with chess-like levels of replayability and depth in real time, where speed, dexterity and multitasking aren't emphasised anywhere near as strongly as in 'twitch' RTS games.

Of course, with a massively reduced 'adrenaline' factor, it may appeal to a smaller audience, so whether it is desirable to actually develop such a game is another a question.

As for the original question: I don't have a problem with active abilities, but I tend to think they should be kept to really special abilities. For the vast majority of cases, units should be able to function fine without the player having to faff around with special abilities.

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[Slightly OFFTOPIC]: Well, I totally hated it 6-7 years ago when in Starcraft I attack the comp with 12 battlecruisers and 8 of them immediately got locked down. Needless to say, an average player would need a minute to select every single ghost and lockdown every single battlecruiser without choosing anthing twice. Also, (not wanting to offend anyone) I hate starcraft for another reason - it really gives an advantages to zealous fanatics (not only Koreans :) ) to rule in this game, and measure some stupid rates like APS (actions per second).
So, passive we should go.

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