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Wavinator

Grand strategy and RTT fusion, with characters

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Another retake on an old idea: Can you fuse real-time tactical battles with grand strategy combat that runs simultaneously? In an RTS battle a type of unit, placed in the right place at the right time, has a chance to create a certain effect. Cannon, for instance, might be able to strike calvary before it gets close enough, possibly even destroying the riders before they can ever attack. Whether a commander is clever enough to get units into position, however, or use resources and terrain wisely is based on their experience, ingenuity, and the resources given to them. So how could this concept be translated into a fusion of real-time tactical combats you control and abstract battles directed by allied NPCs?
Here's a basic stab at it: Battles occur at two levels, a real-time tactical and grand strategy (also called theatre) level. RTT At the RTT level, you have RTS game deployment and some building, but no battlefield research, resource gathering or unit production (happens elsewhere). To make up for this loss in depth, you'd have unit reconfiguration, mixed formations and (possibly) automatic supply line markers. Reinforcements from adjacent towns and other map locations would supplant production, and more emphasis would be placed on tactical options, unit types and deployment choices. Grand Strategy To mix in grand strategy, NPC lead battalions would move about the theatre level map in real time. While you were engaged, this movement would be very slow, allowing for nearby reinforcements or air/sea fire support to arrive somewhat realistically. If you weren't in battle, you could opt to speed things up. Abstract Abilities Battalions you didn't control would have stats and abilities that reflected the unit's density and makeup of the battalion. Adding archers, for instance, would give the battalion a special ability allowing it a chance at damage attacking unshielded infantry and calvary; calvary, OTOH, could withdraw from combat from slower units like archers and infantry. Combined unit stats would define abstract movement speeds across the theatre map, attack and defense factors, sighting range and overall resiliency. The size of battalions engaged and strength ratios would determine the length of the battle, allowing you to (like Napoleon) attack one battalion directly while an NPC commander holds off another, then quickly march over and defeat the other battalion. Equally matched forces might stalemate, requiring either bolder orders from you or your direct intervention. Mixing and Matching Control At any time, but especiallly between battles, you'd get to position and give marching and formation orders to NPC-lead battalions. The stats and abilities of these battalions would change based on where you ordered them deployed and what formation you ordered the commander to take. A battalion of cannon and rifleman, for instance, ordered into fortress square formation, might have an increased all around defense against charges and infantry attacks. Commander NPCs Commander NPCs, however, would ultimately tip the balance either way and determine how often (or if) special abilities were even used. Abstractly, for instance, an idiot calvary commander with a superior force might lose to a bunch of hill clinging irregulars (because round after round special abilities did or did not kick in), while an outgunned but brilliant commander might be able to constantly frustrate a superior foe, perhaps holing up in a fortress in a "little roundtop defense" until you sent help or arrived on the scene. At any time, the player could view the status of an abstract combat and take over, or let a commander mop up (assume radio/AV tech level). In theory, the player could run around with a massive centralized army and do RTT combat all over the map, sit back and do only abstract, or mix the two (especially when a batallion was losing).
Conclusion My overall thought is that the speed of RTT battles and grand strategy battles would make or break this idea. I'm slightly worried about players being able to hold onto the multiple rules for both RTT and grand strategy, but I think this can be overcome if options are very slowlly introduced. Because NPC commanders are the deciding factor in special abilities, and special abilities would dominate abstract unit combat, I think players could accept (?) losing a grand strategy battle that THEY themselves could have won, on the reasoning that the commander they appointed just didn't have the skills or experience to bring out the best in the batallion. What do you think? Can this idea be improved? In general, I'm looking at this being like a lightweight AoE / Civilization fusion, with combat more interesting and a lot less micromanagement.

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I think that it's crucial that you don't let a whole army be destroied just because of a mediocre leader or bad luck. If this was allowed to happen, I'd try to micro-manage everything; if, however, the troops would fall back at some point when it was obvious where the battle was going, and I would be informed, I'd give my commanders a lot more freedom.


There's also one potential problem: if you abstract too much, min-maxers might find out that they can get an unfair advantage by controling or not controling a battle (forcing the game to use abstract calculations or precise simulation).

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Original post by Jotaf
I think that it's crucial that you don't let a whole army be destroied just because of a mediocre leader or bad luck. If this was allowed to happen, I'd try to micro-manage everything; if, however, the troops would fall back at some point when it was obvious where the battle was going, and I would be informed, I'd give my commanders a lot more freedom.


I'm having trouble grokking your response. What is the most offensive part of losing: Losing, period? Or being forced to trust NPCs?

Keep in mind that if a batallion loses, it's because you either parked them in a bad place, you appointed a bad leader, or you lost other engagements elsewhere that allowed the enemy to advance. So unless I'm not understanding, it seems like you'd be in charge (aka "at fault") for the losses.

Would it help at all to be able to set rules for engagement for each batallion that had a rough chance of success. Something like, "retreat at 1/2 strength" or "never attack entrenched positions?"


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There's also one potential problem: if you abstract too much, min-maxers might find out that they can get an unfair advantage by controling or not controling a battle (forcing the game to use abstract calculations or precise simulation).


But I think I want this, but I want it to be entirely focused on the commanders. You never get to see the actions of NPC commanders, so it's fair to abstract their battles. You, on the other hand, win or lose based on YOUR skills as a commander. So I WANT you to say, "I can't win this battle, but I bet Monty can, I'll send him," or "Custer's such a moron! I should have fought that battle myself!"

I don't plan on including an out-of-game quickload, btw (to undo the world-state), so I'm expecting the repetitive experiment/quickload cycle that feeds minmaxing to be somewhat dampened.

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This is certainly a very interesting idea Wavinator although I do think you'll have to be very careful how it is implemented.

You're right in that choosing the correct AIs, armies and so forth will be quite a skill but ultimately with any generated result the player can often be left feeling cold when that random loss occurs. For instance imagine a game of chess where the pieces only had probabilites of making a capture? Even if they were high those few times it goes wrong could destroy countless hours of careful thinking and planning.

I would say, given a game, having 1 failure in 10 would be unacceptable but having maybe 10 in 100 or 100 in 1000 would be due to the fact that it would be an integeral part of gameplay. The NPC would do it's best and sometimes it would do better than you could do but you can't expect it to win everything.

Jotaf makes a good point about micromanagement too. You don't want the player feeling like they have to do everything. In fact it might be better to not give them the option. If things go badly then they have to stick with the result?

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Original post by Metorical
You're right in that choosing the correct AIs, armies and so forth will be quite a skill but ultimately with any generated result the player can often be left feeling cold when that random loss occurs. For instance imagine a game of chess where the pieces only had probabilites of making a capture? Even if they were high those few times it goes wrong could destroy countless hours of careful thinking and planning.


I'm not sure I understand 100%. What is the most offensive part about this? That the computer might be cheating? That you may not know the range of possible results? Or is this more philosophical, more along the lines of wanting to lose only because of making a poor move?

Games like Risk and Civilization use probabilities to give combats replay value. Do you think this situation is different because it involves NPC commanders?

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I would say, given a game, having 1 failure in 10 would be unacceptable but having maybe 10 in 100 or 100 in 1000 would be due to the fact that it would be an integeral part of gameplay. The NPC would do it's best and sometimes it would do better than you could do but you can't expect it to win everything.


Let's take a simple example: Your NPC faces a force whose total combat power is greater than 3:1, due to both superior numbers and superior firepower.

What do you consider a fair way to resolve this, if probabilities aren't used? Does the NPC and battalion just die?

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In fact it might be better to not give them the option. If things go badly then they have to stick with the result?


Rethinking this, I think you're dead on right. This should be a strategic tradeoff, like this:


  • If you don't trust NPC commanders and/or don't want to be bothered with or learn grand strategy combat rules as well as RTT rules, keep everybody in a mob. You'll be limited to one mob, won't be able to defend in multiple locations simultaneously, but will be able to control and gather great glory for every battle.

  • If you want to only trust NPC commanders and not fight RTT, you should lose out on something akin to personal glory and loyalty from your troops, but you'll be able to fight in multiple locations using the grand strategy rules.

  • If you mix and match, you should get greater coverage for somewhat less control, and personal glory.


The personal glory concept could be some notion of respect which carries more weight when dealing with more militaristic personalities and factions. Would this be enough to put up with the risk of loss, do you think?

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I'm not sure I understand 100%. What is the most offensive part about this? That the computer might be cheating? That you may not know the range of possible results? Or is this more philosophical, more along the lines of wanting to lose only because of making a poor move?

Games like Risk and Civilization use probabilities to give combats replay value. Do you think this situation is different because it involves NPC commanders?


As I said before, the problem is not so much when you lose, but that when you lose it means losing a whole army, like it happens so often in strategy games.

It's also very unrealistic. Imagine an event like that in real life -- 50 000 troops lost in just one battle, it would be catastrophic! If wars were fought like that they wouldn't last years, but the time it takes to play an RTS.

You can't afford to have a chance of "game over" every 10 battles. An army doesn't just vanish like that, unless the commander insists even after it's obvious that he's not going to win.

There are clear signs that a faction is going to lose, and as a last resort the men themselves will run away when they realize that there's no chance they're going to survive.

I think that the "option" to fall back after 50% loss shouldn't be an option at all. It should be default. Actually, 10% of an army is usually big enough of a blow. I watch the History Channel a lot and from what I've gathered, battles aren't usually a fight to the death: it's about control over an area, and all you need to do is to make the enemies go away. They took the "live to fight another day" maxima very seriously.

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It's also very unrealistic. Imagine an event like that in real life -- 50 000 troops lost in just one battle, it would be catastrophic! If wars were fought like that they wouldn't last years, but the time it takes to play an RTS.


Two things about this: First, the numbers. I think we have a problem similar to the "I should be able to take two arrows in the face and keep going because I have enough HP" line of thinking often found in RPGs. Why is 50k unrealistic? The Battle of Gettysburg in the US Civil War costs over 51,000 casualties, and that was with rifles and cannon. Great battles throughout history have not only cost thousands of dead and injured per battle as a matter of course (Battle of the Bulge, +80k, Waterloo +60k, Operation Market Garden, +30k, etc.), entire wars have costs tens of MILLIONS. But what strikes me is that no matter what the reality is, like the "arrows to the face" problem in RPGs, the game has to deal with what the player's perception of reality is. This I'm not quite sure how to deal with.

The second issue is scale. I'm thinking that future engagements will use less troops and have more powerful weapons (like power armor that rivals the firepower of 100 men). So the size of forces are battalions (about 1k men), rather than armies of millions. If the scale is smaller, doesn't it make sense that it's easier to lose a force. (more specifically on this in just a sec)


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You can't afford to have a chance of "game over" every 10 battles. An army doesn't just vanish like that, unless the commander insists even after it's obvious that he's not going to win.

There are clear signs that a faction is going to lose, and as a last resort the men themselves will run away when they realize that there's no chance they're going to survive.


Okay, let's assume that the flaw in many Risk/Civ type games is that armies just completely die, and there's no distinction between MIA/KIA or levels of wounded. On a game map, how do you represent-- and even better why do you represent-- retreating units, the gathering of wounded, etc.? Where's the real gameplay choice in doing so?

You could have a unit marker disappear when a battalion has been destroyed, then have a certain percentage of new recruits show up, but that would be very abstract. You could have nearby battalions get slightly stronger, I guess, but I don't know how clear or realistic that is. What if a battalion is encircled?


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I think that the "option" to fall back after 50% loss shouldn't be an option at all. It should be default. Actually, 10% of an army is usually big enough of a blow. I watch the History Channel a lot and from what I've gathered, battles aren't usually a fight to the death: it's about control over an area, and all you need to do is to make the enemies go away. They took the "live to fight another day" maxima very seriously.


Okay, so are you saying that the following should happen:

* You can never lose more than 50% of any group of forces, even if those forces are completely surrounded or outgunned 10 to 1?

* You can never kill off any AI forces because every attack can only reduce them to 50%? (Or are you saying that only the player should have this bonus?)

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I think I get what you want; you want tactical "platoon"-based combat with allocatable leaders with various attributes for each platoon, with a somewhat hands-off approach for the player? I don't see any reason why this won't work (in fact, this is one of the game designs I've got in my pile of ideas that I'll never get around to completing [smile]).

Firstly, have you played any of the Total War series? If I follow your idea; they do something similar to what you've suggested, but not to the same scale. I've only played Medieval: Total War, but they had a leader for each army that affected their performance to a significant degree.

One thing you'll have to include is the opportunity to remove bad leaders between battles. One memorable game I remember of Medieval: Total War was when I was defending a province in Italy with a tiny group of soldiers with no chance of retreat against the Italian king's army. Every turn the Italians would attack, but their monarch had the "coward" property which lowered their side's morale. My side concentrated their attack on the king's battalion, which was easily routed, and then the entire army would flee the field.

The problem with this was it turned into a feedback loop; since the king fled the field, he was deemed more cowardly, so the penalty was increased. Consequently it became easier to scare him and his army off the field. I think after several attacks it got to the point that my "army" of 10 men could scare off his army of 500. You'll have to make sure that both the player and the A.I. know the value of a good leader.

Another thing is that I didn't particularly like Medieval: Total War, because the battles just took too long to fight out (up to a couple of hours for the long ones). It was always better to fight out a battle yourself once you figured out how to play, so it just didn't seem right to get the computer to simulate the result of the battle for you. This might be a problem if you want to deal with the power players. Frankly, I wouldn't mind having some of the battles forced to be simulated for you as part of the strategy (you'd have to figure out which battle was most important for you to personally direct). Of course, saving in the the middle of a battle if you want to quit would be nice too [smile].



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It's also very unrealistic. Imagine an event like that in real life -- 50 000 troops lost in just one battle, it would be catastrophic! If wars were fought like that they wouldn't last years, but the time it takes to play an RTS.


Two things about this: First, the numbers. I think we have a problem similar to the "I should be able to take two arrows in the face and keep going because I have enough HP" line of thinking often found in RPGs. Why is 50k unrealistic? The Battle of Gettysburg in the US Civil War costs over 51,000 casualties, and that was with rifles and cannon. Great battles throughout history have not only cost thousands of dead and injured per battle as a matter of course (Battle of the Bulge, +80k, Waterloo +60k, Operation Market Garden, +30k, etc.), entire wars have costs tens of MILLIONS. But what strikes me is that no matter what the reality is, like the "arrows to the face" problem in RPGs, the game has to deal with what the player's perception of reality is. This I'm not quite sure how to deal with.

The second issue is scale. I'm thinking that future engagements will use less troops and have more powerful weapons (like power armor that rivals the firepower of 100 men). So the size of forces are battalions (about 1k men), rather than armies of millions. If the scale is smaller, doesn't it make sense that it's easier to lose a force. (more specifically on this in just a sec)


Sorry, my numbers were all wrong! I had just seen a documentary on the TV about a battle in ancient Greece with 50k men on each size. The faction that lost about 10k retreated with their "shattered" army. This might sound ridiculous for the RTS player that never builds an attack force so it returns to the home base afterwards.

What I meant was, losing 50% of your force is catastrophic, let alone lose the whole army. You don't just "raise" another force after you lose one -- you might have some more to spare, it depends on your scale, but an army is a valuable asset.

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You can't afford to have a chance of "game over" every 10 battles. An army doesn't just vanish like that, unless the commander insists even after it's obvious that he's not going to win.

There are clear signs that a faction is going to lose, and as a last resort the men themselves will run away when they realize that there's no chance they're going to survive.


Okay, let's assume that the flaw in many Risk/Civ type games is that armies just completely die, and there's no distinction between MIA/KIA or levels of wounded. On a game map, how do you represent-- and even better why do you represent-- retreating units, the gathering of wounded, etc.? Where's the real gameplay choice in doing so?


An army comprised of 50% fresh soldiers, 30% injured (can't fight for a while), and 20% dead or incapacitated is very weak compared to the same fresh army before the battle.
The additional gameplay comes in knowing that those 20% injured will gradualy recover to combat readiness in a few days/weeks, making timing important.

How to represent retreats and wounded? You can assume they all work as a whole. Either the whole army retreats, or it doesn't. The top officer gave the order. Wounded are abstracted as part of the same army. Representation is not a problem, IMHO.

BTW, the additional gameplay in retreats is that the retreating faction loses control of the terrain, to conserve its troops. It depends a lot on *why* they're fighting, of course, or better yet, what they're fighting for; it's not much use if all you want to do is destroy the other army, though, but again, terrain control is a lot more important in real life.

As an exampple, who would've cared if the French army was waiting outside occupied France [hipotheticaly), if they couldn't take the country back? That army wouldn't necessarily have to be destroied.

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I think that the "option" to fall back after 50% loss shouldn't be an option at all. It should be default. Actually, 10% of an army is usually big enough of a blow. I watch the History Channel a lot and from what I've gathered, battles aren't usually a fight to the death: it's about control over an area, and all you need to do is to make the enemies go away. They took the "live to fight another day" maxima very seriously.


Okay, so are you saying that the following should happen:

* You can never lose more than 50% of any group of forces, even if those forces are completely surrounded or outgunned 10 to 1?

* You can never kill off any AI forces because every attack can only reduce them to 50%? (Or are you saying that only the player should have this bonus?)


Ok, you're right; these are the extreme cases when a whole army *is* lost. I said they would retreat after a threshold of casualties was reached, of course that when they can't retreat, they just endure the battle until the end. Surrounding an army is an effective way to completely destroy it. About being outgunned 10 to 1, they would be stupid not to run away :)

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