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RobAU78

Resource Management and Complexity

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Just curious about what others think. How complex do you like resource management to be in strategy games? A little, a lot, or somewhere in between? Does it depend on how complex the other elements of the game are? I'd like to know your thoughts. - Rob

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Yes, it depends on other complexities. It also depends a lot [imo] on the pace of the game. Real-time strategy doesn't allow a lot of time for managing logistics. Limit of 3 is about right there. Turn based strategy allows more time to deal with things, and can have a higher limit.

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I guess I'm kind of middle of the road, but it really depends on the game. I don't like having any more than a maximum of 2 types of resources you have to gather, because after that it just gets too icky. I think there's definitely room for some innovative resource management techniques in RTS games, so hopefully a good idea or two comes your way. [smile]

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I'm a -huge- RTS fan, so this interests me a lot.

I play Dawn of War and Dawn of War's winter assault religiously, and had played StarCraft in the past.

Resource management.... I'm of a mind that this needs to mirror the intent of the game. The difference between Dawn of War and Civilization, let's say. Civ. games, the purpose is the management of the empire... Dawn of War the purpose is war, plain and simple.

If you want a game based heavily upon combat/unit micro/army macro, you need a very minimal approach to resource and building management. Which is where I think DoW is quite brilliant. If you're unfamiliar with DoW's system, you buy stuff with Requisition... which you gain from capturing strategic locations around the map. Each SP gives you a +6 requsition boost over a 10 second period. You can inrease this by building protective listening posts, etc... then, of course, there's a 2nd resource of power generators that you can build.

It's brilliant for the strategic aspect of the game, because you have to play the map as much as you have to play the person.

Ground Control 2 also had a brilliant resource management scheme based upon the idea of calling for reinforcements.... which is an idea I had for an RTS a few years ago.

A lot of people have problems with the multi-tasking elements of these games. Microing/fighting while trying to manage resources and build buildigns and stuff... if you make a war oriented strategy game, I'd suggest finding a system that minimizes this as much as possible.... the inverse for games where the economy is the focus.

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Thanks for your thoughts, guys! :)

To give you some more background, I'm actually working on a turn-based 4X space strategy game right now. As was said, turn-based games can allow for more sophisticated and/or complex resource management. Even here, though, there is a point where the complexity can become too great. The question is, where is that point?

Personally, I don't enjoy games that involve a lot of number-crunching. To me, number-crunching isn't all that fun. I have an inkling that a lot of other gamers are that way, too. Plus, I don't want to have players so bogged down in the nitty-gritty details that they forget about the big strategic picture.

On the other hand, I think realism is nice. I like games with a deep, immersive feel to them. In no way does it have to be a simulator, but it should represent how things are (or would be) done in real life.

With these two forces in mind, here are some general layouts for resource management. Any given species like ourselves is going to employ resources. There are two main kinds of resources: matter and energy. That's elementary physics. :P The two can be interchanged, usually the former into the latter (though the reverse is possible and could be an interesting late-game tech to acquire). So, it might be a good idea to keep track of matter and energy separately.

Matter is more easily divisible than energy. One obvious distinction is labor (i.e. people (and machines?) doing work) vs. non-labor (everything else). Labor can be represented by population. Non-labor can be called "materials", "goods", or "resources" (in the physical sense). This category can also be broken down into two types -- capital goods and consumer goods. Generally speaking, capital goods are used somehow to make other things and consumer goods are not. However, the line is blurry here -- a tractor, for example, can be considered both a consumer good (it can be used to mow the lawn) and a capital good (it can be used to plow fields and plant seeds). As a result, I'm not sure if capital and consumer goods should be distinguished in a game. One easily distinguishable consumer good, though, is food (or whatever a species uses in place of it). Other consumer goods can be grouped with food to form a "prosperity" category, letting capital goods occupy a "resources" category. I know the terminology is a little inaccurate here, but it seems the most intuitive from a gaming point of view.

So, in conclusion, there are four categories for resource management:
1. Energy -- whatever fuel source(s) your species uses
2. Resources -- raw materials gathered or produced by your species
3. Prosperity -- things produced by your species for their own consumption or enjoyment
4. Labor -- the rate at which new things can be produced; depends on the above three factors plus population size; should probably be renamed "Industry"

As far as "money" goes, I'd say the Resources category could be used as money, since it's the most easily tradeable. All of the types can and should be stockpileable, with the possible exception of Energy.

I think that's about it for right now. What do you guys think?

- Rob

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'That point' comes when the resources either: add no gameplay [read: interesting choices] or prevent other gameplay since the player is busy crunching numbers.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of prosperity goods as you describe.

And one you seem to have forgotten/dismissed is land. Even in space games planets often have building/population limits, which require more planets/land/space to grow.

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I am a big fan of Total Annihilation. Its only resources are metals and energy. You need building to produce both (although some units also do). It can also be salvaged: energy from trees and metal from dead units.

You have a certain capacity that is held and a certain production rate.

With these simple parameters, one of the best resource systems ever was made.

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I like the way that the new Settlers handles resources. You have wood as a resource for example. You collect wood by cutting down trees but there is also a sawmill for processing your collected wood. Instead of having two resources shown to the player - wood and processed wood, it does it in the background and total wood is displayed on the screen and then used in construction, while the miller takes the standard wood and processes it to make a large quantity of total wood.
Same with bricklayer/stonemason/etc
This way, instead of having a ton of different resources you have to manage, you only have to manage a few while the game still has the complexity behind the scenes.

And for RTS games that are solely based on battles, I think a single resources is good enough, ala bfme. The two resources in dawn of war sometimes is a little annoying, I'd much prefer if it was just requisition. And both have certain places where you can build things that create resources, so you can't just start creating lots of resource buildings (ala AoE, where you could build tons of farms).

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I feel that a greater amount of resources than the standard 2 or 3 in an RTS could be feasible, so long as it didn't overcomplicate the interface. The main thing that bugs me with an RTS with say 3 resource types, is that almost everything you can build invariably requires all 3 resources. It could be possible to add different resources in an interesting manner by dispensing with this requirement.

For example, perhaps you could introduce multiple types of metals into an RTS, but handle them in a novel way. If you'd stockpiled large amounts of aluminium, the tanks which you built with it would be faster, but less well armoured. If you had a whole bunch of steel instead, you could create vehicles which were more heavily armoured but slower (disclaimer, I know nothing about chemistry/metals). This kind of scheme would introduce interesting tactical elements as a player would race to control certain mines based on the elements they desired for their force.

Having said that, there's certainly nothing wrong with an RTS with 2 or 3 resource types. It's a tried and tested formula and works great in many games, just trying to throw some new ideas out there.

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Original post by RobAU78
This category can also be broken down into two types -- capital goods and consumer goods. Generally speaking, capital goods are used somehow to make other things and consumer goods are not.


Have you just had an economics class? My buddy just did, and now whenever I mention resources for empire games he brings up this distinction. :)

Quote:

So, in conclusion, there are four categories for resource management:
1. Energy -- whatever fuel source(s) your species uses
2. Resources -- raw materials gathered or produced by your species
3. Prosperity -- things produced by your species for their own consumption or enjoyment
4. Labor -- the rate at which new things can be produced; depends on the above three factors plus population size; should probably be renamed "Industry"


What do you think about Civ3's approach? In case haven't played it, you have (generally) money as the main resource, but then you also have peripheral resources that enhance the immersion. Mostly I think they break down to affecting either happiness and unit production. Dyes, incense and gems, for instance, if you have a road to them or a colony over them, generate happiness for your people, or can be traded away to other civs. But they're only a bonus, you don't have to have them. If you want to spend the money on buildings or general luxury, or assigning individual groups of people, you can do that.

Strategic resources are the most interesting. You might scour the map looking for coal deposits so you can create ironclads, or saltpeter for rifleman. If you don't have it, you don't get the unit. But you can still fight on, just with a different strategy. What's interesting is that strategic resources cause you to behave just like real nations: You might annex territory, or expand defensively, all to protect your access to what your nation needs to survive.

I think you can get very specific with resources, but only if you have gameplay in place that allows players to ignore the details from time to time. Sometimes in Civ I just want to spend my way out of a problem and not worry about how much dye or oil I have.

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you don't have to have them.


Except that the point where your city buildings keep their population happy [read: productive] and the actual population allowed by the technology is balanced in such a way that if you don't have them, you are at a significant disadvantage compared to a civilization that actually has producing cities, or a ~10-200% production advantage *per city* because they hold one tile.

That said, I like that arrangement, but think it could be better. Personally, I'm looking to make something akin to that in my project, but adding a 'distance' to the resource which rises with technology and the amount you build your infrastructure. A little more overhead for a lot more building and warfare tactics [imo].

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Original post by Telastyn
'That point' comes when the resources either: add no gameplay [read: interesting choices] or prevent other gameplay since the player is busy crunching numbers.


I completely agree. That's why I want to avoid number-crunching at all costs.

Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Personally, I'm not a big fan of prosperity goods as you describe.


Why is that, just out of curiosity? Prosperity could be useful for two things -- controlling population growth and influencing planetary morale. Although I do plan on having a few species that neither need nor create prosperity (e.g. a collective machine civilization).

Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
And one you seem to have forgotten/dismissed is land. Even in space games planets often have building/population limits, which require more planets/land/space to grow.


There's definitely going to be at least a population limit for each planet. I may also use a building space limit, like in Ascendancy or Space Empires IV, but I'm not sure yet.

- Rob

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Original post by Wavinator
Have you just had an economics class? My buddy just did, and now whenever I mention resources for empire games he brings up this distinction. :)


Yes, I took a few economics classes in college, and I've studied it in my spare time as well. :)

What I want to do with my game is try to get away from the interstellar-empire motif. While it's certainly fun, there are other ways to approach a game like this. That's why I want to have a fairly realistic economic model -- I don't want it to be a typical tax-and-spend strategy game.

Quote:

What do you think about Civ3's approach? In case haven't played it, you have (generally) money as the main resource, but then you also have peripheral resources that enhance the immersion. Mostly I think they break down to affecting either happiness and unit production. Dyes, incense and gems, for instance, if you have a road to them or a colony over them, generate happiness for your people, or can be traded away to other civs. But they're only a bonus, you don't have to have them. If you want to spend the money on buildings or general luxury, or assigning individual groups of people, you can do that.


Sadly enough, I haven't played it yet. :( It sounds like a very nice approach, though!

Quote:

Strategic resources are the most interesting. You might scour the map looking for coal deposits so you can create ironclads, or saltpeter for rifleman. If you don't have it, you don't get the unit. But you can still fight on, just with a different strategy. What's interesting is that strategic resources cause you to behave just like real nations: You might annex territory, or expand defensively, all to protect your access to what your nation needs to survive.


Yes, strategic resources sound like a good thing to implement. One example of such a resource for a space strategy game (at least early on) would be helium-3, as it's very useful for powerful yet safe fusion reactions. :) Another example could be black holes for power generation.

Quote:

I think you can get very specific with resources, but only if you have gameplay in place that allows players to ignore the details from time to time. Sometimes in Civ I just want to spend my way out of a problem and not worry about how much dye or oil I have.


Again, flexibility is the key here. :)

- Rob

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Why is that, just out of curiosity? Prosperity could be useful for two things -- controlling population growth and influencing planetary morale. Although I do plan on having a few species that neither need nor create prosperity (e.g. a collective machine civilization).


Rather gut feeling.

Thinking about it briefly, there's 3 reasons off the top of my head:

1. This sort of thing is too difficult to balance vs 'production' resources. Either the prosperity goods are overpowered [see earlier civ3 commentary], or underpowered [happy people are just as easily conquered, and newly colonized/conquered worlds will produce more with less effort than making people happy]

2. While "optional" most games pretty much make it a requirement to get the prosperity goods. It forces me into one mode of play, which is [imo] poor gameplay.

3. It's usually hard[er] to provide feedback on prosperity goods. For production, either you have it, or you don't. For prosperity, you usually have to balance the ever changing population against the flow of goods. It's hard to make the information available to the player so they can effectively play the game.

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Original post by Telastyn
Quote:

Why is that, just out of curiosity? Prosperity could be useful for two things -- controlling population growth and influencing planetary morale. Although I do plan on having a few species that neither need nor create prosperity (e.g. a collective machine civilization).


Rather gut feeling.

Thinking about it briefly, there's 3 reasons off the top of my head:

1. This sort of thing is too difficult to balance vs 'production' resources. Either the prosperity goods are overpowered [see earlier civ3 commentary], or underpowered [happy people are just as easily conquered, and newly colonized/conquered worlds will produce more with less effort than making people happy]

2. While "optional" most games pretty much make it a requirement to get the prosperity goods. It forces me into one mode of play, which is [imo] poor gameplay.

3. It's usually hard[er] to provide feedback on prosperity goods. For production, either you have it, or you don't. For prosperity, you usually have to balance the ever changing population against the flow of goods. It's hard to make the information available to the player so they can effectively play the game.


That's different from my ideas about prosperity. It would be something that members of your species produced. For example, farms would contribute to the production of prosperity.

- Rob

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Original post by RobAU78
Just curious about what others think.

How complex do you like resource management to be in strategy games? A little, a lot, or somewhere in between? Does it depend on how complex the other elements of the game are? I'd like to know your thoughts.

- Rob


Er, yes, it depends on the rest of the game.
I love games like Dawn of War, which tries to make it as simple as possible, or even RTS games where resource management is completely removed (you just start with a number of units, and make the most of that, with no potential for resource gathering or unit building), as well as super-complex ones where you have to juggle dozens of resources, maybe scattered over dozens of planets even.

What kind of game are we looking at? Where do you want the focus to be? Is it going to be about managing resources? Or is it going to be about throwing soldiers at your opponent as quickly as possible?

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