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TechnoGoth

They Killed Fritz!! Those lousy strinkin....

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I've you seen wizards you might remember that quote if not oh well. So I'm working on the design form my little RTS entry for the 4e4 competition which has some how now become ccg but for prototyping purposes and I've become to wonder about people. In most RTS games units are irrelevent WCIII had heros who you cared about a little since you had to invest time in improving them and increasing their useful nessary and TA had the commander but otherwise units arn't very important in most RTS. Instead RTS games seem to be all about buildings. loosing a barracks is generally considered far more serious a loss then if you just sent a dozen marines off to their deaths. What do people think about the idea of making units in an RTS game more important? What changes would have to made to typical RTS format before you considered units to be more valuable then buildings?

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Levels and names!

If every unit was created randomly but with a slightly different physical appearance, difference voice (from a small library or something), and they could all gain levels they'd be worth a heck of a lot more then a building.

You could also tweak their price to be worth more as well.

edit for clarity: The levels shouldn't be excessive. You don't want to create heroes. I'll use WC3 as an example. So you have Arthas a hero who can attain level 10. He's by far the strongest of your units with his special abilities. Arthas can be followed by 5 footmen, all with distinctive names: Raphael, Gordon, Micheal, Benjamin, and Geoffrey. These units can all reach level 4 which would increase their endurance, strength and maybe give them a small ability. This ability wouldn't be as powerful as Arthas's own but they could help turn the tide of the battle. Maybe a faster healing rate then regular units, seeing how they can "suck it up" better?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
X-COM-ish!!

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This is actually something I've spent a lot of time thinking about. I've got a rough design for a game revolving around the importance of each unit that will be an RTS when I find some time to work on it.

Basicly you make the units have levels, experience etc things that take time to get. Remember that in an RTS the resources aren't just gold and wood or whatever there is also time which is a HUGE resource, anything that takes time and skill to develop from the players point they will care about. Basicly make the player invest some of his resources (not just gold/wood but also Time/Attention) into a unit and they will care about that unit. This is why heroes work so well in Warcraft 3 and it is how you make other units become valuable as well.

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Might sound stupid but I remember player old RTS games and whenever a unit would survive for a long time I'd make them retire because I didn't want them to die. This goes back to Red Alert and Tiberian Sun. In TS I knew which unit was older because they kind of gained levels by being awarded mini medals in the corner of the selection box when you clicked on them.

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Actually, in most RTSes a unit is the most important thing. The peon.

The problem stems mostly because RTSes are 'rate' games. Peons create a rate of resource, which are used in buildings to create a rate of units, which are used by the units they produce to create a rate of death.

To fix that, you would need to move the rest of the units to be lower on the totem pole than buildings, or change the game from a rate game [like Total Annihilation's commander unit, which lost you the game if they were killed; or Ground Control's complete lack of buildings]

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It's really "just" the build-and-rush games that dismiss the faces as meat to throw into the fray. When you can't replenish your units, when this guy isn't just as good as the next guy, players stop seeing numbers and start counting the units. I played Myth 2 a lot on bungie.net, and you didn't just throw troops into the fray... I also did a lot of campaign, and would know who my three best archers and warriors were, 'cus I'd be watching the kill counts ( => experience => faster, more accurate attacks), and would endeavor to keep them alive, compared to the green units, who you still felt bad about losing.

But individual units won't mean much to the players if the individual unit doesn't mean much to the game.

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I see someone brought up X-Com, which i still consider by far the best squad based game every made. Ahh, such good times..

I think the trick is giving the units enough customizability in RTS's to give it the ability to form a personality in the players eye's. I don't think X-Com ever directly intended it, but people got very attached to their units. You'd strap a High Explosive on a useless grunt and throw him into the alien horde, fully expecting him to blow into pieces with the blast. But down the line if he survives you can look at him and say "I remember how he started out, i straped him full of explosives and ran him into that group of Floaters!".

WarWinds 1 & 2 seemed to put more emphasis on units than buildings. First off, units could be upgraded individually with cybernetic upgrades, could carry upto 2 items, have custom names and move with you onto other missions. All units start off as builders, and the builders can construct facilities, (but you have a Commander Unit, so the buildings are ultimately expendable), you can then "train" the builders to become combat units, scouts, or mages.

One of the problems i've found with this kind of gameplay though is that people will resent cheap insta-gib. You could spend hours and several missions getting a group of guys you really like, only to have them sniped by the commando elite on one mission that almost guarentee's they'll all die.

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Gah, I really need to play XCON!

From what I hear, it's an old game

edit: Hmm seems like only half my post was posted.. What I meant was:

From what I hear, it's an old game.. is it abandonware or do I have to buy it? Was it released on the public domain?

edit 2: Corrected because I was using an illegal term. Plee of ignorance.

[Edited by - sanch3x on August 23, 2005 11:32:56 AM]

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The experience, and importantly, graduated leveling, seems to be a good way to make players value their units. It also helps to reduce the number of units the player controls - keeping units alive means babysitting them instead of just ordering them off to their deaths, so you need to make the task doable by a human.

Warcraft 3 made players value their units at least to some degree because of experience, though it was backwards in how it worked. While losing a hero was a big setback (it cost time and money to revive them, giving the enemy a temporary advantage), players would actually retreat or recall entire armies if they where losing for another reason.

The idea of retreat as a useful, if not vital tactic, is a sure sign of a game that makes the player treat their units as more then cannon fodder. Warcraft 3 did this not by making the individual units special (apart from the hero), but by making their death a big benefit to the enemy - if your army was losing and you just left them to die (take as many of the enemy out as possible, as is normally the best tactic in RTS games) you where giving your enemy a lot of hero experience. In turn, a leveled up enemy hero posed a huge tactical disadvantage.

So even if the player didn't connect with the faceless grunts, he would make every effort to avoid letting them die.


Without the hero aspect I can see a graduated leveling system working to make players value their troops, as well as provide balancing power to a game. Basically each unit gains experience as they fight/kill. Now instead of the experience/benefit being 100% linear, it's graduated. After a certain amount of experience, the "Infantry" unit you built (and which could can turn out 1000 more just like him) suddenly becomes a "Veteran Infantry" unit.

This new "Veteran Infantry" unit is slightly enhanced (more armor, more damage, more speed) and has it's look altered slightly from the regular infantry unit (in game terms, it has become a new unit that you cannot simply create in your base, you have to fight the enemy to get it). To further this, the Veteran can be returned to your barracks (perhaps after getting additional required experience), where he can now be turned into one of several advanced infantry units - sniper, anti-tank, special forces, etc. These units cannot be built normally, and while not essential (they don't have any abilities that are required) are a powerful, non-nerfed type of unit.

The battle requirements needed to make these units provides a natural way to limit their numbers (and thus balance their superior power). It also makes them very valuable to the player. While even the most expensive unit can be replaced with standard funds, replacing these advanced units effectively requires manual labor on the part of the player. They are basically mini-heros.

As suggested before, units could have random names assigned to them when they are first created, and could have "unique" graphical features to set them apart (a series of parameters randomly assigned, so that all snipers look like snipers, but two snipers side by side are slightly different)

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