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Idea for avoiding (some) micro-management in RTS games

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One thing I have always been annoyed with in the popular RTS games is that I have to do micro-management. I just hate doing a pretty successfull attack only to find out I didn't notice that all my wood-gatherers had just been idle because they couldn't find any wood. I got a little idea which might, or might not work, I haven't implemented it myself and doubt I ever will. There will most likely be a lot of grammatic and spelling errors in it, I apoligize. I have run the document through a spelling checker and read it over a couple of times, but lots of errors might still be there. Problem In many of the more traditional RTS games today (Red Alert-/Star Craft-/Warcraft-style) micro management is a very big problem. Often you have to take care of many small groups of units, for example in Warcraft and Age Of Empires you have to make sure your workers gather wood from the correct places and don't start looking for wood near the enemies bases or too far from where it's returned. In most RTS games you have to keep creating units, upgrading your technology and expanding your base, while you attack the enemy, in addition you might also have to make sure your workers gather resources from the correct areas. If you are attacked you have yet another thing to take care of. If the units were able to attack on their own, if the workers could stay close to the base etc. then you might be able to take care of everything, but units have basically no AI. Often you choose a group of units, you can then attack a single unit at a time, when this unit is dead your units start attacking, either at random or follows some very bad algorithm. This gives very bad results compared to when a player guides the attack. Having units attack a mill, while a hostile catapult or a whole army is attacking them, is not rare. How to reduce the micro-management? The main problem is the stupidity of the units (lack of AI). The have very simple, hard-coded rules. Just imagine the gain you could get if you could choose between ten different strategies when attacking, maybe strategies like:
  1. All attack strongest enemy
  2. Attack closest enemy
  3. Choose strongest enemy, where there aren't enough attacking units
  4. etc.
Actually we could get much smarter strategies, but they would be hard to present in a list form. Now imagine you could also specify input parameters to the strategies, now you could say find the strongest enemy which isn't attacked by a force n times his own, if you believe taking out the strong enemies first is a priority you should have n high, if you like to battle all the units keep n low. Some of the strategies would be hard to describe as text though, and shouldn't. The player shouldn't need to know the exact formulas used to determine which enemy to attack. Consider the following pseudo code.
STRATEGY
{
	// Input from the user
	USER_IN
	{
		MAX_DISTANCE_FROM_BATTLE_CENTER = 0< feet
		RULE_STRICTNESS = 1 to 100
	}
	// Input from the game
	GAME_IN
	{
		BATTLE_CENTER = POINT
	}
	// Code for each individual unit
	UNIT_PROCESS
	{
		// Check if we are to far away from BATTLE_CENTER
		DIST = DIST ( BATTLE_CENTER, POS ) IN FEET
		IF ( DIST > MAX_DISTANCE_FROM_BATTLE_CENTER )
		{
			MOVEMENT_GOAL = RETURN_TO_BATTLE;
			// Calculate how important it's that we return
			// If the value is low the unit might choose to keep out of battle
			MOVEMENT_GOAL.IMPORTANCE = (DIST- MAX_DISTANCE_FROM_BATTLE_CENTER) / RULE_STRICTNESS;
		}
		REL_F = RELATIVE_FORCE(THIS.CURRENT_SQUAD, CURRENT_ATTACKERS)
		// If we have double the force of the enemy and someone needs assitance
		IF( REL_F > 2 && FRIENDS_NEED_ASSISTANCE )
		{
			SQUAD.SEND_FRACTION_TO ( REL_F/(REL_F-2), SQUAD_IN_NEED_OF_ASSISTANCE)
		}
		ELIF ( REL_F < 1)
		{
			CALL_FOR_ASSITANCE( IMPORTANCE = 1/REL_F)
		}
	}
}

A very simple and very general strategy. In a real project we would use much more sophisticated strategies, but this was just to show the flexibility. Now imagine if we called this the "general attack strategy", we could also have a "cooperative attack strategy", "take out magicians attack", "protect buildings defense", "defensive attack", "base attack" (quickly kill enemy workers, barracks etc., but still keep defensive) etc. These strategies of course wouldn't be limited to attacking, we could assign a little group of workers with a "close the base gathering" strategy which make sure workers are always close to the defense, and maybe even build towers at strategic positions. Another group of gatherers could get assigned to "valuable resources" strategy, which makes sure they always try to find the best resources even if there are no friendly units nearby and fog of war still covers the area. Assigning a strategy to a group of units would feel a little weird to the user, in my opinion at least, so I would instead call these "strategies" generals; since it makes more sense to say a general is leading units than they just have this strategy. So you have an offensive attack general, cooperative attack general etc. This introduces yet another strategic choice; a general can only be attached to one group of units so if you start to like one general you will still have to use different generals, since you many groups of units. If I were to implement a system like this, I would do it in a hierarchy-way. For example imagine this:
     RESOURCE SUPERVISOR
                /     \ 
BASE_GOLD_GROUP        \ 
                        \ 
                       / \ 
                      /   \ 
                     /     \ 
                    /       \ 
         BASE_WOOD_GROUP    EXPLORING_GOLD_GROUP
The groups BASE_GOLD_GROUP, EXPLORING_GOLD_GROUP and BASE_WOOD_GROUP might make requests to the supervisor. For instacne if we have too much gold, but not enough wood some workers from the gold group might be transferred to the wood group. In the same way in an attack against a base we might have a "strategic buildings and towers" group of catapults and a couple of heavy-armed warriors (something like a Grunt in Warcraft), to protect the catapults. Another group of light warriors, maybe with horses, is assigned to a "worker killing group". Then we have a main group of different units which attacks all the enemy units. Above all of the groups we have a supervisor making sure all three groups are close to each other, possibly transferring units between the groups. The supervisor might also send requests, either directly to other generals or to the player who then have to decide (s)he you can make the request. So do you have any thoughts on this idea? Do there already exist games using this kind of stuff? Do you think it would completely ruin or game? Or do you actually think it could work if properly implemented?

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I think properly implemented, it could add something to the genre, but it would also take something off, since micro-management is both the bread and the butter of it. You can difficultly imagine a game where it doesn't show. And I have difficulties imagining a Real Time Strategy game where all the strategies are already hard-coded.

If I was to add something to a RTS, I would probably add the possibility for a group of units to act as a TEAM, which means that at no moment, the first member of the group can be further from the center of the group than is the last member of the group, meaning that, if due to a bad path finding, one of the units of the group cannot get from A to B, then all the group stays behind, because of the "You don't leave your own behind" Navy Seals rule. Which means that the devs should greatly enhance pathfinding, for a start. Maybe have a Group pathfinding, with each member of the gruop acting as a random movement aroudn a central vectoriezd direction, or something. I would also like to see some different formations, like loose ranks, tight ranks, and such. I think it could be beneficial to see the same strategies as in NeverWinter Nights for group movement included in some RTSes...

On the other hand, I have to admit that being able to predefine some set strategies could be beneficial for the players, since when you're doing an attack, you don't always have the time to juggle and toggle between different units to give the perfect orders, and it's also pretty difficult to bypass the stupid AIs. But at no cost would I want to play a Strategy game where all the strategies are predefined by the conceptors. It woudl rule out the fun of it.

Then, maybe, if you can think of a way to allow the player to define his strategies through, maybe, a sort of priorities ranking, through icons of sighted units, then THIS could be interesting. But I cannot conceive a game in which everything is already done for me.

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That is an excellent idea.
However the one thing you have overlooked is efficiency. When you have 1000+ units on the map, it is incredibly difficult to calculate the best strategy for every single unit without sacrificing processing power.
However, if this was pre calculated behind a loading screen, the player would never have to know.

If you have an existing engine, could you implement this and tell us how it works?

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Quote:
Original post by Fournicolas
I think properly implemented, it could add something to the genre, but it would also take something off, since micro-management is both the bread and the butter of it. You can difficultly imagine a game where it doesn't show. And I have difficulties imagining a Real Time Strategy game where all the strategies are already hard-coded.


The whole idea is that you won't get that hard coded feel, because if each strategy have 3 inputs and we have 3 groups which can choose from 10 strategies. Then we would have 81 ways of combining it. Of course in many of the groups you will still have to guide the units, because the strategies can't take everything into consideration and know exactly what the player wants to achieve.

Essentially you make a strategic choice before the battle where you split up groups and assign strategies to them. When you're in the battle you should observe the battle and if something isn't going right you should adjust the parameters of some of the strategies and maybe even change the strategy of a group.

Also the player should still be able to control the units like in a normal RTS, but when the player is gone they should go on following the strategy they where assigned. In this way the player will always have something to do if he is better than the strategies.

Quote:
If I was to add something to a RTS, I would probably add the possibility for a group of units to act as a TEAM, which means that at no moment, the first member of the group can be further from the center of the group than is the last member of the group, meaning that, if due to a bad path finding, one of the units of the group cannot get from A to B, then all the group stays behind, because of the "You don't leave your own behind" Navy Seals rule. Which means that the devs should greatly enhance pathfinding, for a start. Maybe have a Group pathfinding, with each member of the gruop acting as a random movement aroudn a central vectoriezd direction, or something. I would also like to see some different formations, like loose ranks, tight ranks, and such. I think it could be beneficial to see the same strategies as in NeverWinter Nights for group movement included in some RTSes...

Yes, this would definatly be beneficial.

Quote:
On the other hand, I have to admit that being able to predefine some set strategies could be beneficial for the players, since when you're doing an attack, you don't always have the time to juggle and toggle between different units to give the perfect orders, and it's also pretty difficult to bypass the stupid AIs. But at no cost would I want to play a Strategy game where all the strategies are predefined by the conceptors. It woudl rule out the fun of it.


As stated before you should be able to gain control over your own troops, the strategies is a back up when the player isn't available or when the player shouldn't waste his time.

I do agree that if not implemented properly it could take some fun away from the player, and we also have problems like this, for instance when waiting to get enough resources for something you most of the time have nothing to do. I do believe, though, that if done correctly it could work quite well.

Quote:
However the one thing you have overlooked is efficiency. When you have 1000+ units on the map, it is incredibly difficult to calculate the best strategy for every single unit without sacrificing processing power.
However, if this was pre calculated behind a loading screen, the player would never have to know.

1000 units could be a problem, but still imagine if each unit had to be processed once every second. So 1000 units/sec, if we could keep the processing time at 50 KHz (I know KHz is not a good measure of performance, but it's easy to compare with the CPU) then to process all the units would only occupy 50 MHz or 2.5 % of a 2 GHz CPU. Remember that workers and idle units will have very fast processing.

Quote:
If you have an existing engine, could you implement this and tell us how it works?

Unfortunatly I can't implement it myself, right now at least, both because my engine is far from done and because I'm planning another project (role playing FPS/TPS with completely procedurally generated worlds).

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What you are saying is very true about todays RTS games. When you look at perhaps the very first RTS game ever made you start to see how different things have become.

I think the problem with many games today is that they are not fun and they are too focused on micro details and forget about the action.

For example, to this day Herzog Zwei (yes that sega genesis game) still has elements that todays top RTS games lack.

here is a list of orders that it had

Supply
Home Base Attack
Secure Minor Base
Enter Minor Base
Attack when approached
Circular Defense
Base Defense

Keep in mind it was made in 1989! but it sounds a bit like what you are talking about.


When I want to make a game I like to take a look at the old arcade games. I often ask myself how i can recapture the fun of those old games.

I'm actually working on a 3d version of Herzog game right now. :) I might post a few screen shots soon.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
One problem might be that the game might become too simple/easy to play. Right now to master an RTS game you have to be darn fast clicker and micro-manager AND know which strategies to use against whatever opponent. With these generals you'd reduce the gameplay more to the latter component only, making the game perhaps too easy to master. But on the other hand, with less emphasis on micromanagement, maybe you'd then be able to control a much larger army, have several bases and attack on many fronts simultaneously. So I guess it could still be hectic and fast-paced, only different. Overall, I like your idea very much and I'd love to see how it works practice.
Quote:
Also the player should still be able to control the units like in a normal RTS, but when the player is gone they should go on following the strategy they where assigned.
I think this could work better with a gameplay entirely based on indirect control. People perhaps wouldn't bother too much with the generals if they could still play it like normal RTS and just click darn fast themselves.

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Make it 3D and in space, and you've got yourself the game presented to Ender, in Orson SCott Card's saga's first volume, Ender's Strategy.

The main characteristics of said game were that it was Real Time, 3D, multi-front, and that the conditions of victory changed from mission to mission, because, well, it wasn't a game at all, in fact.

But what made it so interesdting was that it made use of "generals", in that Ender was the Ultra-Arch-Generalissimus, who commanded fleets from high level, and his sub-commanders all commanded a squad of battleships, and even some of them a squad of fighters. He had to make use of his generals and of available troops.

I think that learning to command the commanders, while leaving to them the execution of small tasks, and remaining high enough to be able to see every detail would be extraordinarily good for the genre. But I guess it would also be extremely difficult to execute properly...

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I'm currently making a 3rd person action/strategy game(it's actually a lot more, but this description is good enough for this thread). This is a short version of the thought-process behind the command-layout. This might not apply to RTS's but it might spark some ideas.

Design goals:
I compared movies and action-series to games on how the hero controls the friendly units. In games there is a lot of micro-management, in the movies the hero only says what needs to be done. It's not very ofthen (s)he says who to do what. In games this is how the controls has been done.

Goal based controls
So I came up with goal based controls. The player tells what needs to be done and the teammates/ai does it. Cover this, move there, fall back, etc. However in movies, the hero never really tells that the teammates to stop a order(unless it's a hold-fire order). To solve this I thought about using strengths. If a order is strong enough it is taken, this way I could give several orders(attack on the leftside and attack on the right side) and have the team split up and attack from several angles. However a problem with this approach is when to stop using a order. Reduce the strength over time(Option A), or only accept multiple orders in a tight combinations, a few seconds perhaps(Option B).

Teaming up
Another idea came to mind when I was reading a review of full spectrum warriors: ten hammers. Splitting the entire teammates set into manageble subsets: teams(Option C). You are not controlling the teams directly but instead giving goals to the currety team. Once a order is given a new team is selected (automaticly). This system has the downside of you have to give several orders for moving the entire team, but this could simulate the "go go go" command and could be lessened if the player easily could change the team size.

Final Result
Unknown, I'm still working on the engine/basic game code so I can't really tell. As far as I can tell Option B and C seems to give the best result, but only gameplay tests can show the truth IMHO.

hth

Back on track with the RTS. This seems to have the possibility to be come a great _strategy_ game, and not a micro-management game that the others seem to be. When I'm done with the current games on my todo list I'll let you know - I'll probably take about 40 years :)

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
One problem might be that the game might become too simple/easy to play. Right now to master an RTS game you have to be darn fast clicker and micro-manager AND know which strategies to use against whatever opponent.

I think that's the problem with some RTS's that will not be named: if you took out the micromanagement there would be no strategy left. In my eyes this is a flaw of the game, not the idea of removing micromanagement. Isn't this an RTS? Give more meaningful choices to the player.

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The Total War series split the micromanagement and the strategy into two different games.
The battlefield decisions have to be made quickly using the resources available, just like an actual battle. The long term things like research, financing an army and building an army are turn based, giving players more time to think, just like a real war.

Fights take minutes, beurocracy takes months. In RTS games, all of the infrastructure building takes place at a frantic pace, totally unlike anything related to an actual war.

Personally, I didn't miss the exclusion of base building and micromanagement from the battles. It gave me more time to concentrate on commanding my troops.

Micromanagement was further reduced by having regiments. You didn't have to tell each individual soldier what to attack. So you were only effectively ordering around 20 or so entities.

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Original post by Frequency
I think that's the problem with some RTS's that will not be named: if you took out the micromanagement there would be no strategy left. In my eyes this is a flaw of the game, not the idea of removing micromanagement. Isn't this an RTS? Give more meaningful choices to the player.


this is one of the reasons i don't like rts games; they're almost always RT with minimal s. if you break most of these games down to the actual strategy involved, it's almost always one single, simple strategy(zerg-rush?), and whoever has the best UBER-MICRO wins. all i've seen in the last few years worth of rts games is better graphics, the same ai(with no i), more of the same 10 billion mouse clicks to keep your army gathering resources to build more mindless drones that don't know how to walk from point a to point b. i'd like to see a rts game without the endless micromanagement, and instead some ai that lets you plan out your STRATEGY instead of having to repeatedly tell your gatherers to keep gathering and fighters to stop committing suicide and getting stuck on terrain.

i believe CTar is on the right track.

(after reading this post again "rpg" and "mmorpg" came to mind [lol])

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Apologies for the aside:

The biggest reason that all the micro-management is in RTS'es is that the market research says that the majority of the fans want more micro-management. So the RTS developers keep adding more to make their bigger fan-base happier.

I'm totally with you that there's not really any strategy in RTS games. Bascially most matches are decided in the first 5min of play. Everything else is just playing it out.

Personally, I also prefer _less_ micro-management. However, in the absence of strategy, if you remove the micro-management there really isn't any skill left to the game. The "skill" in contemporary RTS games is how fast you can click on stuff, make hot-key group binds, and micro-manage the crap out of your army.

-me

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Well I feel like I should comment on this matter, as I am currently developing a 3D RTS with an empahsis on micromanagement. Personally, I see giving the players the ability to use micromanagement a good idea. However, we also want units to have AI, so that they choose the most important target to attack, as well as options for automatic formations (two of the armies in the game are squad based) and tactics. However, micromanagement will also be important for those who can.

Here is an example. A squad of USAN soldiers consisting of an anti-tanker, two machine gunners and a leader with a rifle encounters a USSR tank. The entire squad shoots the tank. This may win. However, with an anti-tank tactic, the team might try to take out the turret gunner and then cover the anti-tank gunner who would shoot rockets at the tank. A player with micromanagement skills (see über-micro) might attempt to manouver his anti-tank gunner towards the rear of the tank, where less armour is. The player may decide to take a machine gunner with him, and leave one with the squad leader (the dude with the rifle) to provide covering fire. The squad leader then tried to take out the man on the tank turret.

So just plain clicking will get the player somewhere. Using advanced AI tactics, which involves researching and selecting the correct tactics for the situation will give significant advantage. But actually micromanaging the units will easily win an equally matched battle.

Thus, a blend of good macromanagement and use of AI tactics can match a player with great micromanagement.

That's the way I see RTS games should go. But of course, I would.

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Let's not get into the RTS strategy vs clickfest debate. I think we all know that some people think RTS games are strategically interesting and others do not.

The idea presented by the original poster is really just an extension of the idea that a player can move a group of units with a single click, or that a unit will move into range before trying to attack, etc. Basically the idea is to build in some assumptions about what a player's likely intent is, and provide that as part of the interface.

Unfortunately, assumptions don't necessarily enhance the player experience. There are a number of RTS games that allow players to set a "stance" for their units, but in many cases this adds micromanagement, because you're then obliged to set your units' stance appropriately (since your opponent can do the same). I don't think it's a particularly popular feature. I think the Warlords Battlecry series allowed players to employ user-created AI scripts. That hasn't taken off either - mostly because the optimal strategy is to download the best set of scripts, which isn't exactly exciting.

So in short, I think you really need to think this idea through, and explain why it will necessarily enhance the fun of an RTS game.

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how about changing the gui, controls?

you have the normal detailed map where you can select, click units, then you have an overview map. you can toggle the main window via a hotkey. The overview map shows the map of the battle field and a toolbox similar to paint. selecting units and drawing a circle on the map makes thos units patrol/defend the area. drawing lines across the battlefied may signify you want to hold that line. selecting 2 groups and then draw a parabola-like tool to command the groups to perform a pincer attack. you can drag/erase these drawings on the overview map to change your strategies on the fly. You do not need to see the actual units, just the moving lines on the map, then just zoom in on the action for tweaking.

The overview map provides general strategies while the detail map gives some leeway. example is using the overview to attack a convoy makes the selected units follow and attack the convoy. zooming in on the action, you can select individual units to attack the defenders of the convoy while the rest of the group attacks the convoy. releasing the single unit automatically makes it join up with its buddies to attack the convoy, avoiding the problem of some units getting left behind.

another possiblity is assigning "loose formation" in the overview to minimize damage from seige weapons. This will make the units avoid clumping together even if you select them and attack a single target. You can set them to attack the mill in the overview screen then when you see a catapult, select them all to attack the catapult in the detail map and forget about them. once they finish the detail map commands, they will go back to attacking the mill. Lets say you can also assign numbers to buildings in the overmap map so you your army will destroy the base as ordered leaving the player free to control the detailed map for unexpected defenders, etc.

Or put a "last stand" icon in the overview which automatically causes all units to go to that location. erasing the last stand from the overview will cause the units to go to their previous commands/strategies.

for resource, you can paint the forests where your harvesters will gather wood. if they use all the wood you can display a notification easily in the overview window rather than wait for the player to notice his harvesters are idle.

I hope this helps.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
What I really would like to see in a RTS game would be

- The ability to actually plan an attack for instance. So that you can time things.

Your have one or more commando units infiltrate a base, and place rig the Anti Air Guns with bombs. Plan to wait to blow up just before your bombers come in range of the AA. The bombers take out the powerplant, barracks (where infantery should really be stationed in, not just spawned) and the radar tower. Immediately after that, your tank batalion rolls through the gates of the enemy base, the APC's unload the infantery and take any surprised enemy forces prisoner.

If you would be able to point and click this plan together, on a similar way to making waypoints, you could plan this and just press play when you feel like it.

You could also make defensive plans this way. If it would work like those sketches you see when a football team is discussing its tactics, and with a transparant background layered over the battlefield, it would really enable more strategy.

Another thing which really bugs me is the lack of scale; in C&C Generals you can call in a B2 for a carpet bombing campaign, it crosses the entire battlefield in under a minute and then "carpet bombs" the enemy with 4 or 5 bombs... Then just don't use a B2 and don't call it carpet bombing because it really isn't.
V2 rockets which can shoot only 500 meters far and kill one tank upon impact is also very sad.

With today's computer performance you should be able to make more realistic size battlefields. Operation Flashpoint a few years ago set a good example on that one, but I would personally be more interested if the would be some urban warfare included. This would add extra features and difficulties to the game as the player has to watch the civilian casualties and collateral damage of his actions (or not, of course)

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That would be a neat interface -- the "football plan" interface, where you can set up your attack plan(s).

The plan would include where you expect resistance, the amount of resistance that should "raise the alarm" and call your attention to an area, and the ability to include "backup plans" that you can swap to.

Finally, during the actual fight, you'd be able to give "exception" orders to on-field commanders.

For some extra tactical fun:
"Leader" units are units with leadership skills.
"Leader" units are placed into a command heirarchy. This is useful for "battlefield promotions".

A "Leader" unit has a speed, accuracy, and improv rate for it's order relaying abilities.

With 1000s of units on the battlefield, directly controlling each unit is difficult. Instead you select a leader unit, give it an order, and it tells the units it leads what to do.

When leader units get killed, you can have the command heiarchy "auto-promote" other units in an attempt to repair the leadership structure.

In effect, leader units act as personifications of "unit selection groups".

Assasin units, who try to kill your opponent's leader units, become very useful. Troop quality, which includes the leadership skills of your lower rank troops, is important for a robust command structure.

And all of this is required for you to be able to quickly turn a column of troops around and have it deal with a unexpected flanking attack.

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As a plus, I'd like to see the commanding skill have a bonus effect on the troops. Like, maybe, a soldier with enough kills gets promoted to Lieutenant, and has a squad under his orders, with the commanding skill at level 0 when first promoted.

As he survives fights, he gains additional bonuses, like, being wounded and then healed gives him upgrade "hard boiled" once, which gives a defense bonus to his squad, or maybe a HP bonus. Maybe killing a man himself gives him a "top shot" upgrade, which in turn gives the squad more damage? Maybe having the squad kill two or three enemies in less than a minute or something makes the squad gain a tighter grip on itself, and have a smaller random component on the movement of each individual of the squad?

And then, maybe each commanding line in the hierarchy gives additional bonuses, but to the leaders of the units only, instead of everyone under the command, or else, you merely have to make an infinite chain of command and stack as many bonuses as possible? Or maybe, you can merely stack up to two bonuses, the closer two to your soldiers?

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(The above anonymous post about the "football interface" is mine, I found it's better to register so I can edit things.)

Outsourcing management within certain areas would also improve gameplay I think.
In the earlier, more simple, levels you could easily manage averything there is in a base. In this way also simcity-like features could be included in the game. Things like making roads and managing nuts facilities (powerplants, electricity & water grid, road infrastructure) can and should almost immediately be "outsourced" or delegated to another person (NPC, or cooperative multiplay).
Then, this character is responsible for, for instance, Power management, and in this role will do anything within his budget and abilities to ensure a healthy power management within the confines of your base.

This will add "back office" to your army, in a real life army this takes up to three quarters of the personnel, so this will really make the game more realistic.

Just like in Simcity 3000 (and other versions) messages will pop up from the advisors if anything requires your attention, but unlike simcity the will also do things themselves.

You could even go even further by adding the ability to make sollicitors apply for the job of advisor, and have the player choose the best candidate. (think hiring doctors in Theme Hospital)

By adding back office, you will add a really substantional civilian population behind your army. This will add even more realistic features like moral of the people and of the actual soldiers, and "social acceptance" of the actions in your army. If the player would bomb a village to the ground, it would have to be kept secret or the player would face a decrease in the social backing of the civilians. On it's turn this will affect the moral of your army.

This would mainly be an added handicap for the good guys (GDI / Allies), because they would have a more open, democratic background. Which will imply free press and other necessary evils for an army commander.

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Something I always wanted to see in a RTS is the possibility to have backup from the precedingly won maps. I mean, you DID build barracks and soldiers in that map, right? You did gather resources, right? So why can't you just benefit from all those resources now that you need them? You may build infrastructure right here and now, and receive the troops as soon as they come out of the barracks. But I'd like to be able to ask for reinforcements to the back supply lines, and receive it in a while after asking, without it having an incidence over my current battle.

Of course, to make it worth it, you should have to compute the same with the ennemy, who could be able to call for help to HQ too, and the resources gathered near the end would go to back lines instead of being invested building in current map.

Plus it would be nice to have to also worry for two or three generals campaigns at the same time, advancing on three different fronts. You could then decide how to manage the supplies, in order to make one general benefit of it over the otehr, thus making one progress easier than the other. Of course it would mean being able to transfer data from one map to another, as the ending state of your army would be the beginning state of your army in next map. But I think it would add something to the campaign mode, although RTS are not always played in campaign mode, for the most part.

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I think accessible past levels will work better if you would use the new level as an extension of the old level, so that the map because larger after time, but the point of conflict just moves to a new location.

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Micormanagment.. The idea that I thought would be nice is an XML file that you create to define how you want the differnet units to act, so ranged units would attack the most powerful and melee would atack closest. But you can even go further, have it so that they have trigger to inact different behaviors. Such as attacking building, just ranged units attack while the melee units protect the ranged. This would allow the player to change how she wants her unit to behave. You could even do the same thing for "grunts", collect this much of this, then do this, then collect this, fix this if it becomes damaged and so on. You could of course over-ride any of these actions and give them orders, but without orders they follow what you program them to do.

theTroll

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