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TASO: Character developement

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TASO - Tactical Assault Squad Online Pass me a personality please. Will it be crazy Ivan on a rampage or the unseen soldier who lays in wait? I started a thread last week requesting feedback on different types of gamemodes that I had come up with for a game idea. I also recieved some nice ideas from the people who responded. I have given the project a name since then and further worked on the idea. You can find the original post Here. This week I'm focusing on how you create / choose your squads. I've decided to give the individual units personalities. Every person in a squad isn't good at everything right? I think different personalities can benefit certain character roles in different situations. Take the following attributes and personalities on a scale of 0 to 100. Player Attributes Reflex - How well the character behaves under stress (0 slow response, 100 increased response) Sanity - An imaginary level which balances recklessness and organization (0 unpredictable, 100 follows orders) Charisma - Attitude of the character expressed through ammo usage (0 savage, 100 reserved) Alertness - How much the character looks around.(0 focused but not alert, 100 alert but not focused) Possible Soldier Personalities Joe Reflex: 40 Sanity: 60 Charisma: 50 Alertness: 50 Joe will follow orders fairly well but can freeze up if he's under too much stress. Joe will use his ammunition moderately, mixing up attacks with availible loadout. He does basic scanning and has a general idea of whats going on around him. Gus Reflex: 90 Sanity: 20 Charisma: 10 Alertness: 80 Gus is reckless. He will do is own thing to follow orders, often taking his own way to reach a destination. When in a tight situation, Gus has excellent reflexes and can think up a strategy quickly. Gus tends to unload most of his ammunition into an enemy or use a grenade when only a few rounds are needed. Gus is extremely alert in his surroundings but cant concentrate on things farther away. Vance Reflex: 80 sanity: 80 Charisma: 20 Alertness: 20 Vance will follow orders whether its logical or not. He responds well under stress, often beating oponents to the draw. However, vance will tend to put a few extra bullets into a target to make sure it's dead. Vance doesn't look around often but knows what is going on where he's looking. Unit Breakdown Each character has different attribute allotments and will respond differently. Each has a total of 200 points, but no one personality is better than the others overall, however, given the right equipment and placement, one will excell in different situations. For example, Joe would be your average scout. I would give him a basic assault weapon and armor. He would be good for general scouting without too much worry of him doing something radical or too focused. Now gus on the other hand I would give either a large assortment of small arms (smgs + handguns), with explosives and grenades, or I would give him one heavy machine gun with many rounds. Vance, I would probably give a sniper rifle and put him in a spot I know he can be protected from all directions except the one hes looking. I think that giving the player personality options in creating the members of his/her squad will allow the player to have some unique strategies and opportunities during gameplay.
Questions What I need from you are some answers, comments, and suggestions. 1) Would you enjoy playing a game with this much depth in character creation or would you rather pick a known squad role with little or no stats? 2) As a game designer, do you think adding a feature such as giving personalities to units -- considered adding fluff and taking focus away from squad based strategy or will it overall add to the experience? 3) What player attributes would you add/remove or change and why?

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I like the idea alot. There's very little fluff in this because realistically, not everybody does what you tell them to. :)

In the short-term, the outline you have has quite a bit of merit, in my opinion. It reminds me of the lance-mates in MechWarrior 3, although I don't think the divergence was intentional. :(

Longer-term, you might start making it more detailed, but I think that directly depends on the number of troops you're commanding. The level of frustration can rise exponentially with behavior complexity. Approximately how many commandees are you talking about?

:stylin:

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1) I would enjoy tailoring and tweaking out my squads, but only if they had some longevity. If I lose half my squad (permanently) every 5 minute mission I'm going to say the hell with it, and just use default/template squads.

2) In games where my soldiers can panic and freak out, I usually find it annoying rather than "what a cool feature". I'm a control freak though, so ask someone else :P

3) Your attribute names are a little bizarre and non-intuitive. Unless that's what you were going for, I'd make them more clear (I'd probably do "sanity" -> discipline, "charisma" -> bloodlust or something, "reflex" -> nerves). Also, most of your attributes are "all or none", like low scores are bad, high are good. Alertness, though, has focus on end and alert on the other - a trade-off. I think your attributes should all be "all or none" or all trade-offs for consitency.

Cool idea, BTW!

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Original post by stylin
Longer-term, you might start making it more detailed, but I think that directly depends on the number of troops you're commanding. The level of frustration can rise exponentially with behavior complexity. Approximately how many commandees are you talking about?

I'm currently planning around having 5 guys in a squad and you can control only one squad. I'm not sure if this number is realistic though without playing the game. I realize how annoying it will be if you lose a man because you can't give him an order because you are doing something more important elsewhere. By giving the soldiers a little personality, I hope to let the AI decide their plan of action when they are getting shot at and haven't recieved an order. Does this sound reasonable?

Quote:
Original post by captainmikey
1) I would enjoy tailoring and tweaking out my squads, but only if they had some longevity. If I lose half my squad (permanently) every 5 minute mission I'm going to say the hell with it, and just use default/template squads.

Point well made. I will have to think of a way to make the battles last longer. At the moment I can think of: a) chance to hit target is low, b) units can take many bullets, c) make bigger maps, d) extend usual gameplay time to 10 minutes, e) combination of the above.

Quote:
Original post by captainmikey
3) Your attribute names are a little bizarre and non-intuitive. Unless that's what you were going for, I'd make them more clear (I'd probably do "sanity" -> discipline, "charisma" -> bloodlust or something, "reflex" -> nerves). Also, most of your attributes are "all or none", like low scores are bad, high are good. Alertness, though, has focus on end and alert on the other - a trade-off. I think your attributes should all be "all or none" or all trade-offs for consitency.

Yes, I had a hard time coming up with names that are self explanatory so I decided to come back later and fix them . I put the descriptions on the side and gave some examples with paragraphs undernieth for each player so I'm glad my idea came through at least. I did notice that some are "all or none" and some are tradeoffs. What I'd like to do is have more tradeoffs than "all or none". I think overall it is one big tradeoff but only if you limit the number of points able to allocate in a personality. Reflex is definately a "all or none" attribute except you can choose to give him the chance of freezing up(low reflex) so you can boost some other attributes.

You might also think charisma (or bloodlust) is better the higher it is, but take for example a soldier that is trained to use the minimum amount of ammo on target. There will be little chance that if the soldier misses that it will hit other targets because they only squeezed off a few extra rounds. Now if you have a player who has a low charisma(bloodlust) then even though they go through the ammo, they put so much fire power out that they have a higher chance of hitting nearby targets as well (if they miss). So basically, units that have high charisma, will conserve ammo (possible living longer and taking out more targets), units with low charisma can have the possibility of taking out multiple guys but with the chance of running out of ammo early in a game.

Sanity could be a minor tradeoff if I tweak it a bit. Possibly, I can make insane personalities go more on instinct rather than following orders. Because it is AI against AI (being given orders from the player for major decisions), insane personalities will be able to precompute a stunt that lets the player know they have a crazy person in their squad. Of course there still will be chance the unit does something stupid and dies for it.[lol] I suppose this is something I have to reconsider or work out.


I want to make a distinction between player stats and player personalities. Stats are things like, current stress level, amount of health, armor, how fast they can move, etc. You will want these to be as high as possible. I want personalities to be something that could benefit you in certain situations depending on what equipment and where you are relative to your opponent.

After reading my idea for point allocations in personality attributes, I believe it is imbalanced if I start all attributes at 0, which would favor having insane, scared, defiant, twitch people. I suppose if I started each attribute at 50 (considering I fix attributes that are not trade offs to be trade offs) and allow the player to modify the value away from the medium it would be balanced. If they are all tradeoffs, then I won't need to worry about limiting allocation points because the units will not become better with more points. This also allows for players who dont want to configure personalities, to pick standard joe blow and hope to use him effectively.

Thank you stylin and captainmikey for your feedback. If I use any of your ideas I will gladly put your name in the design document.

As always, more comments, questions, answers, or critiques are welcome and I plan to respond to all of them in time. Thanks

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RE: Number of Troops After further thought, 5-10 troops per squad seems reasonable. On the low side, this allows full customization of the sqaud, and, on the high side, one can have the core team of troops backed up by a few additional computer-generated soldiers. (I had orginally imagined having a squad 30-50 troops, and it didn't seem feasable with 10-20 renegades to keep in line)

RE: Character Attributes CaptainMikey's suggestion with definitions is good, they need to be more intuitive. I would add that they need not be all all-or-none (single) or trade-offs (double), though, but they should be seperated into categories. Perhaps:

Nerves( response )
Discipline( obedience )
Bloodlust( ammo usage )
Concentration( focus, alertness )

Although Bloodlust() now seems to be an indirect part of Discipline(), from your descriptions. A well organized soldier in most cases would be frugal with ammo usage, but I guess this is moot if Discipline() only applies to following orders.

Another question I have, and is related to the above is: Are these stats constant, or can they be changed with repeated play?

Say I have this squad of 5 soldiers I have tweaked to squad killing perfection. Will my troops' become more disciplined the longer I employ them, for instance? Can one of my trooper's reaction time increase if I don't send him into battle regularly?

If this is the case, then it's perfectly fine to have trade-offs and all-in-one traits. Your single traits are generally going to be the ones affected, while your trade-offs would remain pretty much the same. Consider:

Concentration( attention( focused::alert ) ): Attention() can rise with experience, whether it's focused or alert is up to the player.

Bloodlust( guns( light::heavy ), ammo( conservative::deer hunter ) ): With experience Bloodlust() can emphasize ammo usage and gun selection


That's all I got for now.

:stylin:

EDIT: typos

EDIT 2: perhaps similar +skill dependencies can be woven in. A sniping(+) skill could directly/indirectly relate to Concentration( attention( focus ) ) and Bloodlust( guns ( light ) ).

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Original post by stylin
RE: Number of Troops After further thought, 5-10 troops per squad seems reasonable. On the low side, this allows full customization of the sqaud, and, on the high side, one can have the core team of troops backed up by a few additional computer-generated soldiers. (I had orginally imagined having a squad 30-50 troops, and it didn't seem feasable with 10-20 renegades to keep in line)
Agreed. 5-10 sounds reasonable. Again, this number will need some tweaking. I imagine some players that are quick would be able to manage more while others wouldn't.

Quote:
Original post by stylin
RE: Character Attributes CaptainMikey's suggestion with definitions is good, they need to be more intuitive. I would add that they need not be all all-or-none (single) or trade-offs (double), though, but they should be seperated into categories.

I think I will change to these new names. They do seem much more of what I have in mind than the current names. I would also like to know why you would choose a mix of trade offs and all-or-none's. I thought trade-offs would make for some interesting strategies because nothing would be insanely good, just better in certain situations. I'm curious now what you have in mind for a mixture.

Quote:
Original post by stylin
Nerves( response )
Discipline( obedience )
Bloodlust( ammo usage )
Concentration( focus, alertness )

Although Bloodlust() now seems to be an indirect part of Discipline(), from your descriptions. A well organized soldier in most cases would be frugal with ammo usage, but I guess this is moot if Discipline() only applies to following orders.
I figure bloodlust and discipline are different because of the following example. Say a soldier has a high amount of discipline (trained) and a very high blood lust (fires more than needed). This soldier, when issued an order will cary it out no matter what. However, when you issue him an attack order on another target, he will use whatever he has, grenades, full auto machine gun to totally obliterate his opponent. He followed your orders, the target is eliminated but how he does it will be based on his bloodlust.

Quote:
Original post by stylin
Another question I have, and is related to the above is: Are these stats constant, or can they be changed with repeated play?
In my first thread which I linked at the top, Oluseyi added an idea of having a bigger/longer war where you get reinforcements and such for players who want to play longer games. If I plan on doing this mode, I think I would add a build and train/grow your squad. This would allow players who play longer to have more powerful and finely tuned. I dont think this would fit in shorter / quick games because it would drive away all the people who cant put in the time and just want an even level to compete with other squads.

*I've run out of time on my lunch break, so I will have to answer the rest of your questions after work today. Thanks.

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My two cents:

It's a great idea. Keep the personality traits in there, even if you don't show them to the player. Having characters defined to the umpteenth degree will never hurt gameplay. Even if you don't show the players, the worst you'll end up with are very well designed and realistic characters, who react dynamically to situations :)

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I love the personality idea because it really does attach the player to the characters. It's even cooler if you actually make some of their action kind of random. If one of the squad mates is a coward and you're in a firefight where your squad is outnumbered it wouldn't be uncommon to have him runaway.. "Dammit Jim stay on your feet!"

Same thing goes for the overly aggressive character who won't way for your cue to attack, he'll just go for it. Mind you you'd have to find some kind of AI algorithm that makes them have a personality and not make them stupid (you wouldn't want the aggressive to try and take on 100 guys on his own and you wouldn't want the coward to try and runaway when your squad is surrounded)

But all in all, it's awesome.

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Original post by Rasm
I think I will change to these new names. They do seem much more of what I have in mind than the current names. I would also like to know why you would choose a mix of trade offs and all-or-none's. I thought trade-offs would make for some interesting strategies because nothing would be insanely good, just better in certain situations. I'm curious now what you have in mind for a mixture.

Sorry, I'm pretty sure I misunderstood you then. Keep reading ...

Quote:
Original post by Rasm
In my first thread which I linked at the top, Oluseyi added an idea of having a bigger/longer war where you get reinforcements and such for players who want to play longer games. If I plan on doing this mode, I think I would add a build and train/grow your squad. This would allow players who play longer to have more powerful and finely tuned. I dont think this would fit in shorter / quick games because it would drive away all the people who cant put in the time and just want an even level to compete with other squads.

I've understood the quick match/minigame aspect, but I was confused on how squad formation and customization would be implemented. In your squad menu, you'll be able select and customize x number of troopers, rolling dice or using a slider to affect their combat technique and general disposition. I think I'm good so far.

The error is mine in that I assumed you had the option of keeping part or all of your squad for subsequent missions (consequently their attribute stats as well). I interpreted it like an RTSRPG (where now I gather it's more of an accelerated RTS), and that's where my ideas about your character attributes are coming from. If this notion is incorrect, then you should definitely fill in the blanks for me. :)

I do have to say: there's something about dynamic troops that appeals to me. Even with the fast-paced squad battles, there's always room to grow. And more field experience means giving your soldiers a chance to develop, enhance and learn to play cohesively, emphasizing and perfecting their particular character traits (Obviously a renegade will always be a renegade, but I think it would be cool to see how he changes and learns how to adapt to the type of soldier he is).

As you said though, many games like that end up being dominated by people who win based solely on the fact that they play the game 24/7, and all their characters are levelled. Without trying to expand and corrupt this novel idea of yours, you could add a ... ? ... a mercenary gameplay mode, in which players could use their built up characters. The other half of the game would be something of a generic or militant mode where levelled characters with dynamic attributes are not allowed to play.

Either way, I still think I need more clarification on what this game entails, so I'm not wasting (more) of your time with my ramble.

:stylin:

EDIT: typing errors

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Original post by sanch3x
Same thing goes for the overly aggressive character who won't way for your cue to attack, he'll just go for it. Mind you you'd have to find some kind of AI algorithm that makes them have a personality and not make them stupid (you wouldn't want the aggressive to try and take on 100 guys on his own and you wouldn't want the coward to try and runaway when your squad is surrounded)

I believe a retreating, or rather, a deserting of one of your troops would not be a very happy thing, especially if you're playing for pinks. But the majority of that would probably be handled by the soldier's obedience trait. (imagine a guy in the middle of a firefight doing nothing ... smoking a cigarette perhaps ... checking out the various species of flora and fauna that is native to this terrain ... - oh wait no smoking anymore - give him a cigar then) I believe (I could be - and probably am - wrong) the current estimate on battle sizes is around 5-25 per side, give or take an A.W.O.L. or two.

Kirk: "Bones, is this man dead?"
McCoy: "Dammit Jim I'm a doctor, not a ... oh yeah ..."

:stylin:

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