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Icefox

Turn-based tactics MMO idea

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Icefox    238
I recently came up with the idea of a turn-based tactics MMO, roughly modelled after Nintendo's Fire Emblem series of games. I don't like most MMO's, but I think this one is actually somewhat original. It would, in it's initial form, consist of a big fantasy battlefield upon which two armies are busy killing each other. Each player would control a unit of 10-25 soldiers, probably consisting of a knight and various retainers. Each weapon type would have a rock-paper-scissors advantage over other weapon types, mounted and unmounted units would each have advantages and disadvantages, and there would be various combat, healing and buff magics. Basically, a nice framework for a small-scale tactics game. Except that each side of a battle is made of dozens or maybe even hundreds of players, leading to hundreds or thousands of actual soldiers. Turns would be generated every day, alternating between armies, so each army would move every other day. This is where things get both cool, and complicated. First off, these dozens or hundreds of players are going to have to coordinate themselves SOMEhow. The most likely method is to have a GM or someone playing the general of each army, outlining strategy in general. There would also be objectives that have to be completed, both for the battle as a whole (capture the enemy castle) and for individual units or small clusters of units (prevent their skirmishers from breaking through our flank and owning up on our unarmored healers). Objectives achieved would give bonus experience/reputation/cash due to the people who achieved them, and give a lesser benefit to the army as a whole. Hopefully this will make people try to achieve their assigned objectives, without actively hindering their fellow players from doing the same. Second off, death can't really be permanent. I'd originally intended for it to be, but that means if your Uber Awesome Lord gets plinked by a lucky arrow, or if you simply lose the battle and get demolished, your unit is pretty much screwed. But that would probably be rather frustrating, so having a character fall in battle will probably just mean they're out of the current battle for good, with a moderate chance of a stat-reducing injury and a small chance of real death. Nice negative incentive without utterly demolishing people on a regular basis. The problems I don't have solutions for: 1) Power level. Characters in units are going to get better stats, skills and gear the more they fight; that drive to achieve is a very powerful draw, and not one I want to remove. But I also am rather disinclined to make it so that a new-formed unit will be useless in a battle full of experienced people. I like EVE Online because it deals with this; in a fleet battle, even a rookie pilot can hop into a cruddy ship and assist the fleet in certain roles, tackling/ECM'ing big ships or shooting other tacklers. I'm not quite sure how to make similar roles in this game that let low-level units assist high-level ones. Maybe healing and buffing, but then you just end up with a lot of high-level healers, not a combat force. 2) Synchronization. If two units are going to mob a third, then there are a finite number of positions they can be in (the battlefield is a grid), and a finite number of targets they can attack. If these two players are logged on at the same time, they may end up trying to move to the same places and attack the same people. How to handle this gracefully isn't really obvious. My first idea was to essentially lock a portion of the battlefield while one player is on it; no other player would be able to move into the region that might lead to conflicts. But especially in large battles, or if your unit happens to be spread out over the entire front of a battle, this causes issues. My current thinking is to just allow people to move at the same time, and have the server deal with race conditions (ie two different characters trying to move into the same square at the same time) in an arbitrary fashion. This would work, and make communication between players more important, but also requires updating the positions of all characters in realtime, which is... more irritating to program, and more subject to bugs or mis-features. 3) Setting. Huge awesome battles only are interesting for so long; they become much more so if you're actually fighting for something. This leads to a need for a bigger situation, a world with nations and politics. That way each battle has a "real" impact, gaining or losing territories or key points, giving people something to really fight for --especially if players are based out of certain home territories. This creates more problems though... Mainly, how far does it go? Can players found their own nations and rise as warlords? How do you keep things in equilibrium? Does territory captured affect, say, availability of weapons and supplies? This edges more into RPG territory than turn-based tactics, which isn't really the focus of the game. But I don't want to have to come up with scenario after scenario for each single battle. 4) Not getting sued by Nintendo. As it stands now, the system is pretty much a direct cop-off of Fire Emblem. I actually like that, because it's a good system, and it works, and I'm a huge fan of the games. I also don't have the money to license it, even if they would let me. This then becomes more of an issue of how different do I have to make the system, and how different CAN I make the system without breaking something horribly. Some things are easy to change (pegasus knights and wyvern riders? Fine, gryphon knights and dragon riders), but others, like the stat layout and the rock-paper-scissors weapon triangle, are rather more fundamental. Changing those changes the game in big ways, which... well, makes life hard. If it must be done, it can be, but I'd rather avoid it. Anyway! That's a basic outline of the concept, at least, and the main problems I've been having in developing it. Questions? Comments? Advice? Criticism? I know this leaves out a lot about how the system actually works, but I intend to make another post about that, if people are interested.

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Instruo    373
2 and 4 are pretty easy, in my mind. 1 is a classic design problem (one which most online games simply handle with 'the higher level player is better, period'), so the solution is going to depend very much on the specifics of your game. 3 is simply a matter of how far you want to take things, each new stage adding different design challenges to overcome. I'd suggest start out with the simple battle and worry about the rest later.

As for 2 and 4:

2)
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My current thinking is to just allow people to move at the same time, and have the server deal with race conditions (ie two different characters trying to move into the same square at the same time) in an arbitrary fashion.


I think this is the way to go, with the exception of the arbitrary part. Have movement speed be a deciding factor here. In the most simple form, it could be:

Unit A speed: 4
Unit B speed: 6

Unit B takes the square.

Another approach might be to use the speed values to weight a randomizer. So, in the above example, Unit A would have a 40% chance of taking the square, and Unit B would have a 60% chance

4) Naturally, IANAL, but this is a pretty common kind of aquestion that comes up around here. Basically, concepts can't be owned, but the details are. Stay away from any names from the other game. Just make something in the style of, with your own unit types and such, and you should be fine. If you're particularly worried about it, its something you should talk to a lawyer about.

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Edtharan    607
If the game is a tactics based fantasy game, then you will probably want to use formations too. A combination of Formations and Weapons can be very effective. For instance consider a group of Pikemen. If they are in a formation that is spread out over an area with no discernible structure (scattered in other words), then a bunch of cavalry can easily charge in and wipe them out, but if you got those same Pikemen and lined them up in several ranks, then the cavalry charge would be the one wiped out.

An interesting note is that horses won't charge into a solid line of infantry, even if they don't have pikes - if the infantry is trained to stand their ground they can survive the attack easily, but if they run, the cavalry will easily run them down.

Also, you might want to do some work on frontages. This is how many units can attack or be attacked (not always the same number either).

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1) Power level. Characters in units are going to get better stats, skills and gear the more they fight; that drive to achieve is a very powerful draw, and not one I want to remove. But I also am rather disinclined to make it so that a new-formed unit will be useless in a battle full of experienced people. I like EVE Online because it deals with this; in a fleet battle, even a rookie pilot can hop into a cruddy ship and assist the fleet in certain roles, tackling/ECM'ing big ships or shooting other tacklers. I'm not quite sure how to make similar roles in this game that let low-level units assist high-level ones. Maybe healing and buffing, but then you just end up with a lot of high-level healers, not a combat force.

How about implementing a leadership/psychology aspect. Instead of having better stats or overwhelming weapons, how about the veteran player has a better ability to control their troops.

I am not talking about having the player's troops flee (which can be annoying), but have other aspects of the troops influenced by moral or the character's leadership ability.

If you are using formations, then the character's leadership ability might influence whether or not they can maintain a formation in the face of opposition. Eg: A line of Pikemen defending some archers from the enemy's Cavalry. The Cavalry charge in a wedge formation which is designed to disrupt a line formation.

Now, if the line formation is broken, then the Pikemen can't stop the Cavalry from moving past them (but still might slow them down).

Now, the player's command skill comes into play. if the command skill is high enough the Pikemen Line formation might be able to hold and prevent the enemy Cavalry from moving past them. If the command skill is not high enough, then the line could break and the Cavalry break through the defensive lines and have access to wreak havoc among the Archers.

Of course, the charging Cavalry would also need to pass a command skill check to charge into the massed Pikemen, so even a low level character could be in charge of that defensive group of Pikemen.

So this would give us 4 results:
1) Cavalry fail their command check and can't charge into the Pikemen - no melee from either side and the Cavalry are no longer in a cohesive formation (they will need to reform before they can charge again).

2) The Cavalry Pass their Command Check and the Infantry Pass their Command Check. The Cavalry and Pikemen enter into melee and both can be damaged. Both groups retain their formations (with the Cavalry given the option to change into a line, or retreat and reform for another charge).

3) The Cavalry fail their command check and the Pike men fail their command check. The cavalry broke the charge and at the last minute the Pikemen also broke. Both groups loose any formation cohesion and become scattered. Both groups must reform before attacking again.

4) The Cavalry pass their check but the Pikemen fail theirs. The pikemen break and scatter and the Cavalry retain their formation. The Pikemen no longer present a barrier for the Cavalry, which can, on their next turn proceed as normal. The pikemen must reform before they can present any more defence.

A similar situation would occur with any group type, where if they fail their command check, they must reform into an effective formation (however a scattered formation should also be useful, for example it might be better at avoiding attacks from ranged weapons).

This will make the combination of weapons, formation and command what ultimately has the most effect on the outcome of a particular conflict. It would give the player more control, and their decisions in the matter is what is more important than Character level (although character level, which gives a higher command level is still a factor).

If some formations are good against others, like a Scissors / Paper/ Rock game (although with more complexity and depth) and then the player's have to use their knowledge of their opponent to gauge what formation they would be best served using. One trick (which was used in real battles) is to assume a formation and just before the actual contact, change it into a formation that has an advantage over your opponents. The Romans used this quite extensively and was part of the reason that they were so good militarily.

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2) Synchronization. If two units are going to mob a third, then there are a finite number of positions they can be in (the battlefield is a grid), and a finite number of targets they can attack. If these two players are logged on at the same time, they may end up trying to move to the same places and attack the same people. How to handle this gracefully isn't really obvious. My first idea was to essentially lock a portion of the battlefield while one player is on it; no other player would be able to move into the region that might lead to conflicts. But especially in large battles, or if your unit happens to be spread out over the entire front of a battle, this causes issues.
My current thinking is to just allow people to move at the same time, and have the server deal with race conditions (ie two different characters trying to move into the same square at the same time) in an arbitrary fashion. This would work, and make communication between players more important, but also requires updating the positions of all characters in realtime, which is... more irritating to program, and more subject to bugs or mis-features.

Maybe just allow several units to occupy the same location (with a limit to that number maybe). Units doing so should have some disadvantage (slows them down, must change to a scattered formation, can't attack, or whatever).

Although this would reduce the occurrence of this problem, it would not eliminate it. Another solution (other than being arbitary about it, or using the unit's speed) is to use who ever input their move first.

The server will have a cue of inputs from all the players inputting their turn. Each will have a position in that cue and no two will share the same cue position. So this give an unique value to determine which input came first.

Now, if this occurs, then the player's other than the first can be notified (and as the inputs occur in real time, even if the game does not), this will only occur while a player is at their computer, so immediate notification would be possible.

What ever method you use, you will have to be able to notify a player about a failed move in real time as it would be very annoying for a player, if the moved their unit and submitted their turn, but then without their knowledge the server cancelled their move, and if all they have is 1 unit, then they would have then been as well off if they didn't even make their turn.

If this occurs too often, then the players will very rapidly give up and stop playing.

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3) Setting. Huge awesome battles only are interesting for so long; they become much more so if you're actually fighting for something. This leads to a need for a bigger situation, a world with nations and politics. That way each battle has a "real" impact, gaining or losing territories or key points, giving people something to really fight for --especially if players are based out of certain home territories. This creates more problems though... Mainly, how far does it go? Can players found their own nations and rise as warlords? How do you keep things in equilibrium? Does territory captured affect, say, availability of weapons and supplies? This edges more into RPG territory than turn-based tactics, which isn't really the focus of the game. But I don't want to have to come up with scenario after scenario for each single battle.

I would base a political system on the Feudal system. Each player can have a number of Vassals. Vassals are players that join another player under their command. This would be advantageous for beginning players as they would be able to gain protection of the more experienced players, along with their armies.

However, the Vassal must also provide their Lord with payment, this might be in terms of gold (earned from battles), food and equipment for armies, or even troops (the Lord might be able to commandeer a certain percentage of their Vassals idle troops).

You should give vassals the right to switch their fealty (but not in the middle of a battle). Doing so will mark them as unreliable (which their previous Lord can spread around), so switching fealty is a risky and not necessarily a good thing (but if a Lord is going down the the rats will abandon ship :D).

Vassals can also become independent. This is also breaking their vows of fealty.

Independents are able to have vassals of their own, but then must defend their own territory with their own armies.

Vassals can also have their own vassals. These secondary vassals are not directly answerable to their Lord's Lord, but only to their Lord (they however don't see their Lord's Lord as valid targets). This way whole empires can be built by the players as each builds a tree of Vassals and Lords.

The depth of this Vassal/Lord Tree can be as deep as you like. It might be possible for the entire game world to be united under one leader (and if they could do that I would be very impressed).

Players should also be able to form alliances. That is two independents can become allies and their troops won't see the other's as targets (Vassals of Vassals will have this automatically for their Lord's Lord's troops).

I my self have actually though of making a game not that much dissimilar to the concept you described. An MMOTBS. (which is why I have so many suggestions :D).

If you want to pick my brains about it, fee free to ask.

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Icefox    238
Okay, cool. Good responses, and it's given me stuff to think about.

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Original post by Instruo
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My current thinking is to just allow people to move at the same time, and have the server deal with race conditions (ie two different characters trying to move into the same square at the same time) in an arbitrary fashion.


I think this is the way to go, with the exception of the arbitrary part. Have movement speed be a deciding factor here. In the most simple form, it could be:

Unit A speed: 4
Unit B speed: 6


That's probably pretty much what I'll use. It doesn't have to be fancy, as long as it prevents conflicts in a predictable and vaguely reasonable way.

And the issue of copyright... well, I've fiddled with the system and added enough bits and pieces that I don't think I'll have to worry about it anymore.

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Original post by Edtharan
If the game is a tactics based fantasy game, then you will probably want to use formations too...
Also, you might want to do some work on frontages. This is how many units can attack or be attacked (not always the same number either).


This is an interesting idea, but not one I feel is really necessary. Since you're moving each character individually, you can already put your people into whatever formation you want. This directly affects who can attack whom, and the battles are carried out in a one-on-one fashion. If you have a lone pikeman sitting out there all alone, he can easily be attacked from all four sides, or sniped with arrows, or whatever. If you have a line of pikemen, with archers behind them, each pikeman can only be attacked by one person, and in doing so the attacker will leave themselves open to be sniped on the following turn.

This will also make cooperation with other players more important, to keep a formation more or less coherent.

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How about implementing a leadership/psychology aspect. Instead of having better stats or overwhelming weapons, how about the veteran player has a better ability to control their troops.

I am not talking about having the player's troops flee (which can be annoying), but have other aspects of the troops influenced by moral or the character's leadership ability.


This is something I've sort of been thinking about, but... well, this game isn't Warhammer. I was thinking more along the lines of each unit commander having a Leadership stat, which would both affect the fighting ability of the characters under their command, and dictate how many characters they're capable of commanding. This may not be a hard limit; a commander might be great at ordering around 15 or so guys, but with 30 he can't keep people as organized, and everyone's fighting effectiveness suffers.

Hmm, this also brings up the possibility of leaders having specializations in different areas, ie cavalry commander or siege commander. This is a sorta cool idea, but I'm not sure how specialized I want armies to be. It'll take playtesting to figure out for sure.

I do like the possibility of heavy cavalry-type units being able to break through the defender's lines without having to slaughter everybody in their way, but am not quite sure how to integrate it with the existing system, if it even can be. I will keep working on it.

I also really like the Vassal system... not only does it fit the setting, but it provides the missing framework I need to make battles be more than GM-scripted events. Especially so since it will probably follow the typical feudal system: The king gives each of his lords a chunk of land and says "This is yours, defend it." The lord then gives each of his knights a chunk of the land, and says "This is yours, defend it." And if enough people team together to conquer an entire kingdom, so be it. Huzzah for hierarchy.

I think I've also come up with a couple solutions to the issue of power-level. Now, every character will have a certain level of prestige, renown, reputation, whatever. Obviously, having a reputation as a mighty warrior will get you better gear, more money, vassals wanting to serve under you, and so on. Now, if a high-level character goes around and randomly attacks n00bs, they're going to get a reputation for being cowardly and dishonorable. If n00bs try to mob them and they defend themselves, that's okay. If a green recruit manages to take down an experienced warrior, or even just fights them and survives the experience, then they're the one getting famous for it.

Something that might be added to this, is experience. If an uber character with awesome gear kills a complete rookie, they won't gain experience from it. In fact, they'll lose experience instead, since they're getting lazy and not fighting people who are actually a challenge. The problem here is it turns the situation around a bit, and makes it possible for hoards of n00bs with nothing to lose to seriously screw up one of your star characters, not just for the battle, but in long-term gameplay. There will probably be a limit of how much experience a person can lose at once, at least. But it does mean that bunches of crappy fighters will eventually wear down even the best warrior, which is pretty much what should happen...
This isn't a mechanic that's really used much, so I'm not sure what all the implications might be. But it's a thought.

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I my self have actually though of making a game not that much dissimilar to the concept you described. An MMOTBS. (which is why I have so many suggestions :D).

If you want to pick my brains about it, feel free to ask.


Well I'm certainly interested in learning more. :)

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Xtlk    126
I actually had an idea very similar to this, though I've never played Fire Emblem so I'm not exactly sure how you picture your game.
In my version it was set in Fuedal Japan, the leaders fight to gain land/become eventually leader of Japan. The player would start as a bushido samurai and would have one retainer (rise in rank=more retainers) if battle is won then not only does the player's samurai get better but so do the retainers. The player could tell his retainer to follow, form up, scatter, or retreat. Then if the player rises high enough he would become the Shogun and stage the battles. He would have an overall veiw of the battlefield and could give orders to gaurd specific places (ie: supplies, caravan, strategic areas).

These were some ideas I came up with and I hope they can lead you somewhere. Good luck.

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Edtharan    607
[quote]The player would start as a bushido samurai and would have one retainer (rise in rank=more retainers) if battle is won then not only does the player's samurai get better but so do the retainers. The player could tell his retainer to follow, form up, scatter, or retreat. Then if the player rises high enough he would become the Shogun and stage the battles. He would have an overall veiw of the battlefield and could give orders to gaurd specific places (ie: supplies, caravan, strategic areas).[\quote]
Have a look at the game "Sword of the Samurai". It is an old DOS game (abandon ware now, I think).

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This is an interesting idea, but not one I feel is really necessary. Since you're moving each character individually, you can already put your people into whatever formation you want.

Ok, I thought that the player would be in control of Armies. I thought that in the battles the player would control Squads of troops, rather than individual troops.

In medieval battles, armies consisted of hundreds to thousands of troops. Even if each turn was a single day, I would not want to move each troop in such a battle individually. Grouping them into squads would be a natural expectation of a player (as this is want was done - and currently done - in real life battles).

If the player is going to use formations anyway, why make them have to control the formations. Make it easier on the player (so they don't have to fight the interface), and give them the ability to use formations.

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This will also make cooperation with other players more important, to keep a formation more or less coherent.

By having the players have to communicate to maintain formations, it will make it harder to maintain formations between players, so what you will get is each player having their own formation and not sharing the operation of a formation with other players. So cooperation will not be encouraged, but discouraged.

So, if each player is going to just control their own formations, then why not just give each player their own formations?

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I was thinking more along the lines of each unit commander having a Leadership stat, which would both affect the fighting ability of the characters under their command, and dictate how many characters they're capable of commanding. This may not be a hard limit; a commander might be great at ordering around 15 or so guys, but with 30 he can't keep people as organized, and everyone's fighting effectiveness suffers.

You could also make this limit dynamic. For instance, if the limit was 15, then as situations strain the leadership of the troops, this might reduce the effective limit that can be controlled effectively.

You could also offer players a way to reduce the effect of the number of troops and the combat stress on the leadership. This might be in the use of an "Inspiring Speech" which temporarily decreases the cost of the troops on the leadership stat.

This would make it a gameplay choice as to how many troops to take. The player might be able to control 20 troops, but they choose only to take 10 because they know that they will need a bit of a buffer in case they encounter problems. IF the troops start to take damage (and/or be killed), then the "Cost" the troops goes up. So what started as a Cost of 10, might increase to 20 or 30 as the troops take damage from enemies.

Or they might choose to have 20 troops because they know that they will not be involved too much in direct battle (maybe the player is in charge of the archers and so does not expect to take much damage from the enemies).

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Hmm, this also brings up the possibility of leaders having specializations in different areas, ie cavalry commander or siege commander. This is a sorta cool idea, but I'm not sure how specialized I want armies to be. It'll take playtesting to figure out for sure.

The main factors that will influence this is the number of troops each player has and how quickly they get killed.

If the player can control only a few troops and they can be killed quickly, then it is not in their best interests to diversify too much. The reason for this is that because of the low number of troops, any strategy or tactic that relies on them will be broken if they are killed.

So if I had 10 troops and 3 of them were pike men, 3 cavalry and 4 archers. If the enemy killed my pikemen, then my strategy would break down (actually, even just the loss of 1 would seriously effect my ability to implement a coherent strategy).

However, if you make them hard to kill (eg: lots of health), then, it gives me more opportunity to change my strategy/tactics (may be by retreating that unit or exchanging it's place with one that isn't under as severe an attack).

This is where squads again come into it. Individual troops can not realistically survive hit after hit after hit. However a squad, with limited frontage (how many troops that can be attacked and how many can attack) can realistically survive for longer. Even if the player only has 10 squads, these squads will have a long survival time and so give the player time to respond to the battlefield situations (damage, etc).

Squads also allow you to play around with the effectiveness of weapons.

Archers can fire from anywhere in a squad, so their Attack Frontage is huge, they can also land their arrows anywhere in an an enemy squad, so the enemy defense frontage is huge too. They don't however always hit with every arrow, so they don't do as much damage (to a squad) each hit.

Pikemen can line up in ranks several troops deep and their long pikes can poke through gaps in their own formation. This increases the Attack frontage of the squad, but only the front line of troops can be attacks, so this doesn't increase the Defence frontage while doing so. However, if their formation is disrupted (due to strain on the leadership stat for instance) then they loose this advantage and their Attack frontage is reduced to the normal size.

Cavalry are only really effective if the target squad does not maintain a coherent formation. A way you can do this is only allow them to attack troops to the sides of themselves (as the horse's head sort of gets in the way a bit). As cavalry could easily and rapidly attack either side of them then you could allow the cavalry two attacks each round, but only if the enemy is to the sides of them. This means that the Cavalry must actually enter the same "Square" (hex, or whatever) as the enemy. If you only allow an enemy unit to occupy the same Square as an enemy squad that is disrupted, then cavalry are almost completely ineffective against packed infantry (which was their real life weakness too).

If you are using individual troops, then you could have this as the Squares that lie either side of Cavalry troop (it also leads its self well to the Wedge formation to be used)

You might want to add in a single attack that the Cavalry can make to the front (maybe on one side only - sort of diagonal/front of the cavalry if you are using individual troops). This would make cavalry charges one possible way of disrupting enemy formations, and then having the cavalry press forward after the troops are disrupted. This single attack should deal less damage over time than the double attack to the sides. But it might also be more effective against heavily armoured foes than the double attack. This would make the choice to charge or overrun a gameplay choice.

Another problem with individual troops rather than squads is Lanchester's laws. Archers are subject to Lanchester's Square law. This means that the outcome of a battle is dependant on the difference in Square of the number of troops (in this case archers). Melee troops use just the difference in the number of troops.

So, with archers and a small number of individual troops, this means that with each archer that falls, the difference between the power of the two sides exponentially grows. So you want archers to be able to take a lot of punishment before falling, but long lived individual troops are not realistic, and archers that took too long to fall in melee would be uberpowerful and create a dominant strategy.

By having squads, the archer squads can weaken due to damage and survive for long periods of time, but can be tied up by melee units. In fact Cavalry would be very effective against them as the Archers don't have strong melee attacks and the Archers move slower than the Cavalry.

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I do like the possibility of heavy cavalry-type units being able to break through the defender's lines without having to slaughter everybody in their way, but am not quite sure how to integrate it with the existing system, if it even can be. I will keep working on it.

If you use Squads, then the solution is simple: Just allow 2 squads to occupy the same square if both are not in certain formations (like line, rank, box, etc formations).

With individual troops it does become more difficult. The reason that it works easily for the squad formation is that you can assume that the individual troops that make up the squad disperse a bit, giving the attackers the ability to exploit the gaps and move through.

You can do this with individual troops, but you have to assume that the size of the square is larger than the individual troops need. You then need to track each individual troop's morale. If a troops morale breaks, then you can just allow enemy troops to enter the same square. To simulate how a squad's morale, you can have nearby troops morale effect them. So if a troop's morale breaks, this can reduce the morale of other, nearby troops. This could cause a grouping of troops to break in a ripple effect. The player(s) can then disperse their troops which would remove the effects of the broken troops and allow them to regroup (all of which take time and stops them attacking).

This will encourage the players to use several lines of defence and to keep some troops in a Reserve.

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Something that might be added to this, is experience. If an uber character with awesome gear kills a complete rookie, they won't gain experience from it. In fact, they'll lose experience instead, since they're getting lazy and not fighting people who are actually a challenge.

Actually if you combine this with players able to mass against a single opponent, then it opens the doors for griefers. A griefer might create several accounts and keep them at a low level. This would then allow them to mob a better player and the better player would, even if they defeated the griefer, will suffer. So the griefer succeeds no matter what the outcome.

If you have it that when a more powerful player attacks a weaker player the more powerful player suffers, then this make it easy for griefers to ruin the game.

It also opens the "Death by a Thousand cuts" where lots of weak players attack a powerful player in concert with a medium player. If the strong player attempts to defend against the medium player, then the weaker players will wear him down. IF he defends against the weak players then the medium player can attack freely and the strong player gets a reputation of attacking weak players. The strong player is in a no win situation (in fact the feudal system was a method to stop this from happening in real life).

In a feudal system the vassals had to defend against the small threats and their lord had to defend against the bigger threats (up to the king/queen which had to defend against threats to the whole country).

Now, in the real life system, the "level" of the Vassal was not governed by the "Experience" of the person, but essentially by the size of their land, how many troops they had, and their proximity to the Royal family (which was really the family that had the most land and troops).

The reason "Experience Points" do not really work as a measure of the player's Power, is that they can only grow. This leads to an inflation scenario (in fact an inflation only scenario). Any new player is then at a massive disadvantage. It becomes not a measure of the power of a player, but a measure of the length of time the player has played the game (and the player who got in early will always be better than ones that got in late).

Experience is therefore not a measure of a player's skill or ability and any rewards based on experience are not rewarding the player abilities. Players should be rewarded for their skill, not for their obsessions.

Also as MMOs are social games (co-operation and such) then the player should also be rewarded for the social ability. So, their ability to network, aid others, diplomacy, etc should be rewarded.

Rewarding players for their experience points is therefore not achieving any of these goals.

Because of this, I think the influence that experience has should be drastically reduced. Experience should not be used to directly reward the player, instead it should be used more subtly. Experience should be used like a resource that the player can use to gain rewards.

For instance, the Leadership stat is one. The higher the leadership stat, the more troops the player can support, but without the lands to supply the other resources for those troops, having a high leadership ability is useless.

You could actually eliminate experience entirely. Have the leadership ability of the player based on how they manage their lands. If the general populace like the player then their leadership ability will be high. If the player is a tyrant and brutalizes their plebs, then they will not have a high leadership ability.

With experience, the player has the expectation that it will always increase and that any rewards gain will not be removed, but if the player builds buildings, sets taxes, etc then they don't have the expectation of that reward always remaining.

So, the power of a player would best be measured by the size of their lands (you could go for the player's production levels instead) and the number of troops.

Actually, production levels (how many resources they produce) would be a better measure than the size of their lands as this would open up more play styles. A player might be a warmonger and focus all their efforts into gaining more land. Another player might focus their efforts into improving the land that they have. Both would have an increase in production levels, and so both should be encouraged.

You could have lands that are neglected too long become less and less productive (as the plebs are taken from gathering resources to work in the army), eventually becoming a desert or blighted area. So the warmonger might end up needing to continue warring to keep their production levels the same and their lands might become like Mordor (in the Lord of the Rings), all wastelands and such. This would allow your world to reflect the "personality" of the player. As the old saying goes: "The King and the Land are One".

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