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Ammo restriction/ logistics in RTS

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I have never seen an RTS which limits the ammunition that a unit can carry. They all grant their units unlimited firing times and never worry about the logistics that real armies use. For instance, an M1Abrams guzzles fuel and needs incredibly strong logistic backup to stay running. Taking such factors into account could have a profound effect on how an RTS game plays. On the gripping hand, manually managing your armies baggage train could be boring as well as frustrating. To counter that effect, which I suspect is what has kept it out of games, AI controlled logistic managers could take control of the creation and command of fuel/ammunition trucks, relieving the player of the tedium while adding the strategic element of supply lines to protect. The question is: Is the added strategic elements worth the allied AI controlled units and the frustration of having your soldiers run out of ammo if you lose your supply vehicles?

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Well its a matter of opinion. Adding in supply trains would add more depth to the game, but I really think it limits your audience. I know for one that I can't micromanage/strategize down to this detail while still having fun. But I bet if done right it could appeal to a certain group of people.

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I think the current breed of RTS is too fast paced for this. What we mostly do is build waves of mixed units and send them into a war of attrition on the open plains. For supply lines, I think we'd need trench warfare, and other kinds of taking advantage of terrain, and significantly slower gameplay. With current mechanics, your units could die twenty times over before supply ever becomes an issue.

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S.W.I.N.E. and Codename: Panzers come to mind. And if I'm not mistaken, Earth 2170 or such also has an ammo supply system. In the first two games however, it's limited to a few trucks that are just part of your force, except that you'll have them stay in the back and only come forward once the fight is over. No real supply line to speak of, and losing them was more of an annoyance than a strategic thing, similar to how destroying the enemies ammo trucks wasn't very usefull: it's not like they would run out of bullets before you'd be dead.

So as lightbringer already said, supply lines are a longer-term thing. Most RTS'es we see play on a much smaller, on-steroids time-scale. You could, however, use construction materials for a supply-line - without them, you can't build new units, which are sort of your ammunition, given the amount of them that you send towards the enemy, and the few that come back.
For example, instead of gathering from mines or tiberium/ore/supply fields, you could have transports coming at your base at a regular interval. Perhaps containing resources, perhaps reinforcements, but interrupting, or even just slowing down, these transports could seriously hinder a player.

Just a few (random?) thoughts on the subject.

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It was one of my favorite features of Home World 1.
The fighters and corvetts all burnt fuel, so you had to have places they could
dock up and rearm/repair.

I agree that if not done well, it could end up a collosal pain in the ass. But simple renditions of fuel, ammo, and remote resupply station
would definatly work. The focus would have to be on supply units (like the carrier or support friggate in HW1) that you just
have to keep near the front lines so troops can run back to it at get stuff.
NOT on supply lines that you have to maintain.

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Quote:
Original post by HeWhoSurvives
I have never seen an RTS which limits the ammunition that a unit can carry.

Unless disabled in the options, Homeworld limits the fuel supplies of smaller ships, which has much the same effect as limiting ammunition. Ships can refuel at carriers, but there's no "supply chain": the fuel just magically appears in the carrier ships.
Quote:

They all grant their units unlimited firing times and never worry about the logistics that real armies use. For instance, an M1Abrams guzzles fuel and needs incredibly strong logistic backup to stay running. Taking such factors into account could have a profound effect on how an RTS game plays.

C&C limits the ammunition of certain types of aircraft. Supreme Commander limits their fuel supply.
Quote:

On the gripping hand

Coincidentally (or perhaps not) The Gripping Hand contains the only reference I can remember to logistics in futuristic warfare: it is noted that, during battle, the MacArthur (a warship) is continually refueled by a chain of hydrogen tankers moving between the ship and one of the system's gas giants.
Quote:

The question is: Is the added strategic elements worth the allied AI controlled units and the frustration of having your soldiers run out of ammo if you lose your supply vehicles?

Yes. I'd love to see more strategy in real time strategy games. In fact, I'd love to see any strategy.

I think if you have the player worry about fuel and ammo, you must let them loot enemy bases and defeated enemies for fuel and ammo, so that units aren't completely useless if they're cut off from your main force.

It's important to realize that logistics would have a big effect on how an RTS plays. For example, in a typical RTS, if a player's base is virtually undefended but there is a large force between your base and his, it's reasonable to rush the front line with tanks in the hopes that a few would get through and make it to the base, which you could then destroy at your leisure. With logistics, those tanks would run out of ammo before they could do much damage: you'd need to get supply trucks, and lots of them, to the base as well.

Of course in reality you wouldn't use tanks to destroy a base, you'd use artillery stationed on the other side of the map. That artillery would also need ammo, though, and it would be hard to hide artillery in some corner of the map and pound the enemy to dust, since the enemy could track the supply vehicles going to the artillery.

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I really like the idea of supply lines, but I've never actually seen it implemented realistically, and all the implementations I've seen have, as KulSeran said, focused on the supply units themselves rather than the lines. Conquest: Frontier Wars was another game that utilized supply, and it had three dynamics. The first was supply stations, attached the planets, that would resupply any ships in the vicinity. The second was supply ships, which carried a limited amount of supply and would automatically feed out to ships within its effective radius. When these supply ships ran out, you simply flew them back to a supply station.

The third involved building gates to other systems, as the game revolved around the idea of conquering separate star systems, which were attached via warp holes or whatever you want to call them. You could fly through these warps all you wanted, but you had to construct a gate at the other end, attached to a system you already controlled, to extend your supply line to that system. Then and only then could you start building planetary installations in that system. By destroying an enemy's gate, you effectively cut off a major part of his forces.

I've considered for years how this might be approached in a land-based game, but I haven't come up with anything solid yet. So, the idea of supply lines is viable, and it does appeal to a certain crowd, but it depends entirely on implementation, in that it has to add something to the game rather than detract from it. To do that, of course, it has to be a major focus of the game, rather than a tertiary consideration; otherwise it feels like you're punishing the player with unnecessary mechanics.

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Going by the rule of seven, a common player could manage a MAX 3 cities and 4 armies depending on the game. This is because an army is almost like 1 person in real life. You control the army as one unit. The cities are more difficult, but each has it's own needs like a single person.

Can you imagine how hard the game would be if you had to keep up with 200-400 people in the game tending to each of their needs? You just might make the most frustrating game ever concieved. However, there is a solution.

If you want to keep your people realistic, why not take the black and white approach. People are sufficient by themselves, but during times of plauge, famine, drought, war, ect. they need your help. People are self sustaining to a point, but as all civilizations, they need guidence.

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Quote:
Original post by Tom
To do that, of course, it has to be a major focus of the game, rather than a tertiary consideration; otherwise it feels like you're punishing the player with unnecessary mechanics.

Right. You can't just add logistics to an existing RTS without making any other changes and expect the result to be playable. I think much of the criticism is based upon the assumption that that's how it would be done. (And also based upon the straw man argument of "if you implemented it in the worst possible way, it'd be pretty rubbish, therefore it's a bad idea.")
Quote:
Original post by TheKrust
Going by the rule of seven, a common player could manage a MAX 3 cities and 4 armies depending on the game. This is because an army is almost like 1 person in real life. You control the army as one unit. The cities are more difficult, but each has it's own needs like a single person.

What RTSes are big enough that they have entire cities in them? What RTSes treat an entire army as a single entity?
Quote:

Can you imagine how hard the game would be if you had to keep up with 200-400 people in the game tending to each of their needs? You just might make the most frustrating game ever concieved.

Well, no, I can't. I don't know what you're saying "their needs" are. Adding ammo only adds one attribute to your units: amount of ammo. You already have to worry about the health of each of your units.

Homeworld, SupCom and C&C all manage to restrict how long certain units can stay in battle between resupplies, and I don't think any of those are "the most frustrating game ever conceived".

It's not as if anyone is suggesting that you'd have to manually instruct each unit to restock their ammo when they run out. When out of ammo (or, ideally, just before), they'd make their way to the nearest supply vehicle or station to restock and then return to what they were doing. (Or, alternatively, a dedicated supply unit would ferry supplies between the supply points and the units that needed them.)

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the idea of supply really doesn't work in standard RT'S' games, most aren't really that much more involved than a spaceshooter arcade game, and are all about rushing and putting the unit that kills another unit in the right spot.


If you want to play with the idea of unit supply and supply lines, then you have to rework how your RTS game works at the core.

First thing that has to go is the single level command structure. You build a tank, you send a tank out, you build more tanks, and you send them all out, but at their heart, each one is its own unit, and they are under your Direct control. This is a bad thing when you think about it, you have to watch each unit yourself, and tell it to do everything.

Now, what if you built your units into actual military units? Simplified into something like An Army Group, made of 2 to 4 Divisions, which are made of 2 to 4 Companies, which are each made of 4 to 8 Squads. A squad is one tank, or 2 jeeps, or 10 infantry.

Now, you don't worry about suppling each man or every single tank, you supply their companies. AI for the companies will have the units spread their ammo and supply for you. Every unit with a weapon of the same kind can split their ammo, so you can't have 1 infantry soldier with a full box of ammo sitting next to 2 guys that are out of ammo, they'll naturally split the box up if they're close enough.

Units could have 2 or more 'cargo' cells depending on their type. Their standard supply, and their extra supplies. They always first fill and use their standard supply, but can either be ordered to equip More of their standard supply in their extra, which they'll use when they run out, or be ordered to carry a resupply for another unit type.

Some unit types would have a small standard supply, and a small extra supply (like an infantry soldier, they can only carry so much to fight with, and a single soldier isn't going to carry much to resupply a tank unit with much), others will have a fairly large standard supply yet a small extra supply (A tank can carry a fair bit for itself, but there isn't a lot of room for more.)

Then you could have things like trucks, which don't have a large standard supply, but have several huge extra supplies.


You have Company A up on the front lines, and company B in reserve. They are both made up of 40 infantry, 4 jeeps, and 2 tanks. You could order B to support A, or order B to relief A. In the first option B would move up and take positions beside the units of A that are already there, and share ammo. In the second option B would take position beside A's, but A would withdraw and rearm and resupply itself at its Division's Supply Point.


Slow down combat, and have the land determine a lot of what happens. For instance, Tanks would have problems moving through dense woods, but infantry would be barely slowed down. Infantry would 'take cover' and stuff, and not simply stand there and die instantly like they do in most games.

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But in homeworld and supcom at least, the 'restriction' on fuel is immaterial. It takes less time and resources to just make a new unit than to have it fly back and refuel. That is of course assuming that the unit lives that long. In my experience the life expectancy of fuel limited units in those games is exceptionally shorter than their fuel time.

I also don't particularly see what gameplay element supply lines provide. Players in most every RTS known to man can still do raiding and supply strikes on the resource gatherers/builders which has the same strategic effect.

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Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
But in homeworld and supcom at least, the 'restriction' on fuel is immaterial. It takes less time and resources to just make a new unit than to have it fly back and refuel. That is of course assuming that the unit lives that long. In my experience the life expectancy of fuel limited units in those games is exceptionally shorter than their fuel time.


You sure? I finished homeworld 1 once with 2 of the original scouts you started with. (put them in group 0 and don't use it again)

However homeworld really needs better controls for refueling, it feels like it takes forever for them to rearm, and often would all flock to the nearest support craft, while 3 or more support craft sit there doing nothing. Also requires better ways to SEE which units are low on fuel.

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Oh yeah. You needed to manage all your fighters perfectly if you wanted to skate through the endgame missions easily.
This being mostly due to the massivly limited resources you have through the whole campaign. You can quickly run out
if you just squander what you get.

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Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
But in homeworld and supcom at least, the 'restriction' on fuel is immaterial. It takes less time and resources to just make a new unit than to have it fly back and refuel. That is of course assuming that the unit lives that long. In my experience the life expectancy of fuel limited units in those games is exceptionally shorter than their fuel time.

You're obviously playing them wrong. [smile] Well, okay, Supreme Commander is devoid of strategic challenges, but in Homeworld I frequently had to refuel ships.

(And, as others have noted, squandering resources on unnecessary cannon-fodder ships early in the game makes things harder later in the game. Carrying on your units from one mission to the next added strategic depth absent from most RTSes.)
Quote:

I also don't particularly see what gameplay element supply lines provide. Players in most every RTS known to man can still do raiding and supply strikes on the resource gatherers/builders which has the same strategic effect.

Well, no, it doesn't. Resource gatherers are usually kept far away from combat. They can be protected with walls, automated turrets, regular patrols and whatever other defenses you can imagine. A supply chain is mobile and highly variable. Unless you have a spectacular excess of resources, you can't build turrets and walls to protect the entire supply chain, because the end of the chain will move about during battle. The logistics of logistics are completely different.

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