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Humble Hobo

The Classic RTS... is it such a crime?

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So... I'm planning an RTS, and I'm hitting a block. What I really want, is an RTS that plays like something classic, like StarCraft. I also want something new. I was deciding between: - something that is very classic, with workers, buildings, and units like the old games, and - something obviously new, like a physics-based RTS, where you attract magnet balls as resources or something, using physics to throw around enemies... With the classic model, the innovation would come through adding to classic gameplay. For example, a race might gain money by throwing resources in a furnace, which would increase the rate of income of that furnace. Or, a race might have buildings that slowly build other buildings... anything. The other model is radical, and uses sweet physics to manipulate the terrain, gain resources, and harm the enemy. I haven't worked out the details on this one. So which would you rather play? Which would perk your interest more? Is there anything left in the classic RTS model, or can nothing more be done? I ask you, -Humble Hobo

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I don't understand why they're exclusive. Why would adding advanced physics make the game less classic? Classics didn't use advanced physics because computers were limited. The gameplay should be essentially the same, just more detailed.

Personally, I never spent much time worrying about resource management when playing Starcraft. That part of the gameplay was usually over within the first few minutes, then it was all about combat.

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I suppose because the classic model has a certain set of rules. Each unit is explicitly defined by how much it costs and what it can do. Things are predictable, in a good way.

A physics-based RTS would be rather chaotic and unpredictable, which could be very fun too. For instance, Little BigPlanet relies almost completley on a physics engine for it's gameplay. I was hoping to throw this kind of gameplay into an RTS.

It simply never occured to me to mix the two. I'm going to have to think about some possible gameplay options. Thanks.

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I can see some cool uses for physics in an RTS, but personally I don't think throwing around enemies or anything else that's very actiony is a great idea; it would require constant micromanagement during combat to win, which is something many people don't like. Similarly, you wouldn't want to be constantly be throwing objects around in real-time in order to harvest resources or build your base, again, because that's too much required micro-management and you wouldn't be able to handle everything at once.

But it might be cool to change base building and resource harvesting into a game where you must build ramps, levers, tubes, and such to move resource spheres from point A to point B. Maybe you could make the player have less direct control over his troops than usual in an RTS, and instead require him to build chutes and trampolines to funnel his troops into positions.

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One of the aspects of the Classic RTS that I think stands out the most is the clear Scissors/Paper/Rock relationships between the units. In modern RTS games, units can act in more than one role in the R/P/S relationships, or can be converted (through upgrades, etc) to another. Starcraft had a fairly simple one (Flyers beat Ground, Ground beat Anti-Air and Anti-Air beat Flyers).

In a game like Dawn of War, the Space marines for instance can be converted between Anti Light Infantry, Anti Vehicle or Anti Heavy Infantry depending what upgrades you give them.

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Original post by Edtharan
Starcraft had a fairly simple one (Flyers beat Ground, Ground beat Anti-Air and Anti-Air beat Flyers).

This is just absolutely wrong.

And no a 'classic' RTS is no crime. However experimenting with new ideas isn't wrong either, if they are actually fun and not just 'innovative'.

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Original post by Eternal
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Original post by Edtharan
Starcraft had a fairly simple one (Flyers beat Ground, Ground beat Anti-Air and Anti-Air beat Flyers).

This is just absolutely wrong.

Actually, it sounds pretty close to the truth to me. This mechanic didn't really have a huge impact on the game, though. Everyone still pretty much stuck to the same principle: Defend your base with ground / anti-air units and attack other bases with heavy air units. Highly effective, since most heavy air units had greater range than everything else.

There was usually far too much ground defense to attack with ground units directly. Most players that actually attacked with ground units just dropped them behind the front line with ships.

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Original post by Kest
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Original post by Eternal
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Original post by Edtharan
Starcraft had a fairly simple one (Flyers beat Ground, Ground beat Anti-Air and Anti-Air beat Flyers).

This is just absolutely wrong.

Actually, it sounds pretty close to the truth to me. This mechanic didn't really have a huge impact on the game, though. Everyone still pretty much stuck to the same principle: Defend your base with ground / anti-air units and attack other bases with heavy air units. Highly effective, since most heavy air units had greater range than everything else.

There was usually far too much ground defense to attack with ground units directly. Most players that actually attacked with ground units just dropped them behind the front line with ships.


I'll try to keep it short because this is not a thread about StarCraft (sorry, but I can't resist :( )

First you contradict Edtharans point, because all static defense besides sunken colonies (and firebats in bunkers) is anti-air and thus should own air units.
Then the only air unit which effectively has a larger range than the static defense is the Guardian, which isn't really heavy because it dies pretty fast.

Also the gamestyle you seem to remember is most likely to be found in Free for All games played on custom maps with unlimited money and played by beginners. Even on the lowet levels of public games on regular maps on battle.net the games are usually decided before lategame tech kicks in OR they are played without a lot of static defense anyway. (Terran vs Terran is somewhat of an exception ;) )

The effectivity of an army depends a lot on unit ratios (and unit counts), unit positioning and micromanagment during the battle. For example 3 lurkers (a good anti-ground unit / counter to any ground unit with lower range!) can easily take out 18 marines and a few medics if they defend a small choke point, but if the lurkers are in an open space a good player can spread his marines out to take minimal (or even no damage at all) and kill the lurkers easily, unless the zerg has support for his lurkers in the form of zerglings, which will usually die to marines and medics, but are strong when combined with lurkers, because then they can close the distance to the marines without taking hits and block their retreat. Or Goliaths, which can counter Mutalisks OR Zerglings, but die horribly if they get flanked by Mutalisks AND Zerglings at the same time.

Team Liquid has a database of >1000 recorded starcraft games uploaded to youtube or similar, if you want to find out how this looks in practise.

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Original post by Eternal
First you contradict Edtharans point, because all static defense besides sunken colonies (and firebats in bunkers) is anti-air and thus should own air units.

+ Tanks and vultures destroy goliaths and turrets.
+ Goliaths and turrets destroy light ships.
+ Light ships destroy tanks and vultures.

However, enough heavy ships can destroy just about everything. It has been several years since I played, so they may have drastically rebalanced some of it.

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Then the only air unit which effectively has a larger range than the static defense is the Guardian, which isn't really heavy because it dies pretty fast.

When I last played, the Battle Cruiser had a special energy blast attack that could destroy any static defense (or any unit for that matter) before it had a chance to fire. I have solid memories of cruising around the entire map with eight of those things, extinguishing everything in sight. I remember doing something similar with the Protoss equivalent that launched those little fighters. Back then, there was nothing that could stop them. Whoever built their battleships first essentially won the game. The only alternative strategy was the "rush". But if it failed, you were scaroowed.

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Well, I think I'm sticking with the more classic type. My radical model was new for the sake of being new, and I didn't take into consideration the micro required for that type of play.

And my original question has been answered, so let's go ahead and devolve this into a SC thread. I want to focus on the Rock-Paper-Scissors mentality and why it's fun or not.

In games like AoM, it's clear that some units always beat others.

With Starcraft, I never clearly saw a rock-paper-scissors method. It seemed that there were a few specialized GvG, GvA, or AvA units, but for the most part, they had tactical specialty, not just one type beats another specialty. For instance, a guardian was obviously an anti-ground unit, and served little other purpose. However, an arbiter was terrible for combat, but had abilities that made the difference.

Even more in Warcraft 3, you had different types of damage, (chaos, piercing...) and abilities that had tactical use (anti-magic shield). They don't just use the R-P-S. They have abilities and natural attributes.

I'm going into this design with the goal, that all units should have a significant strategic purpose, even in end-game situations. I'm also planning on not having R-P-S units, and possibly not having dedicated anti-something units.

Sound like a good idea?

[edit] About the carriers (the things with the little drone flyers), you could take them down with invisible wraiths pretty easily, or simply mind control them. Also, about 20 zerg scourge could take down carriers as long as you grouped them together.

I'm fine with people discussing SC tactics here, 'cause I love them so much [/edit]

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Original post by Kest
+ Tanks and vultures destroy goliaths and turrets.
+ Goliaths and turrets destroy light ships.
+ Light ships destroy tanks and vultures.

Tanks and vultures also get killed by Tanks and Goliaths.
Tanks alone also can be killed by Vultures with mines.
Turrets and Tanks can defend against light ships, but gives up all mobility.
Vultures can be used to attack underdefended expansions when facing air units, which distracts them away from your own bases or allows you to deal heavy damage to the opponents economy.

Also while these are somewhat valid examples in theory they don't really hold true for all other air/anti-air/ground units and they might not matter in practise because getting certain unit-combos gives up too much strategy-wise, even if they would counter the opponent army perfectly.

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However, enough heavy ships can destroy just about everything. It has been several years since I played, so they may have drastically rebalanced some of it.

Nah, the basic balance wasn't changed much since the expansion pack in 1998. But as a counter to "Heavy ships own anything":
Zerg don't have any heavy ships, but can still own Battlecruisers and Carriers with spellcasters, devourers (which increase the damage enemy air units take from other attacks) and hydralisks or mutalisks (and maybe scourge). Protoss can use Psi Storms, Mind Control, Stasis or even Feedback or Scouts to counter heavy air and their Carriers own Battlecruisers, so you only see heavy air against Protoss when the other player is Protoss too and thinks he can end the game quick enough before a counter can come into play. Terran can also counter carriers with goliaths, cloaked wraiths if he kills any observers first or even ghosts (in very special cases ;) )

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Then the only air unit which effectively has a larger range than the static defense is the Guardian, which isn't really heavy because it dies pretty fast.

When I last played, the Battle Cruiser had a special energy blast attack that could destroy any static defense (or any unit for that matter) before it had a chance to fire. I have solid memories of cruising around the entire map with eight of those things, extinguishing everything in sight. I remember doing something similar with the Protoss equivalent that launched those little fighters. Back then, there was nothing that could stop them. Whoever built their battleships first essentially won the game. The only alternative strategy was the "rush". But if it failed, you were scaroowed.

Yes, the Battlecruiser has the Yamato cannon which has a higher range and deals a lot of damage (not enough to kill any unit, but enough to kill static defense, yes ). But the inability of your opponents to counter mass BCs or stop you from getting there was not caused by any game balance problems, but by the fact that they were "Newbies" not understanding the choices that were offered by the game.

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With Starcraft, I never clearly saw a rock-paper-scissors method. It seemed that there were a few specialized GvG, GvA, or AvA units, but for the most part, they had tactical specialty, not just one type beats another specialty. For instance, a guardian was obviously an anti-ground unit, and served little other purpose. However, an arbiter was terrible for combat, but had abilities that made the difference.

True. Of course there are some really hard counters in the game, e.g. Reavers owning mass zerglings, because of splash damage etc. But in most cases this is all really depending on circumstances too.

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Even more in Warcraft 3, you had different types of damage, (chaos, piercing...) and abilities that had tactical use (anti-magic shield). They don't just use the R-P-S. They have abilities and natural attributes.

Starcraft already had Normal/Explosive/Concussive(?) damage and Small/Medium/Big as "armor" classes, which would take different damage depending on the type of the attack. I actually think in Warcraft III the system got a bit too complicated, because you now had to remember a 6x5 damage matrix or something instead of a 3x3 matrix, which wasnt even used excessively anyway (most units doing normal damage in Starcraft, which did 100% to any armor type).

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I'm going into this design with the goal, that all units should have a significant strategic purpose, even in end-game situations. I'm also planning on not having R-P-S units, and possibly not having dedicated anti-something units.

Sound like a good idea?

Sounds like a great idea :)
It's just really hard to come up with units that actually work like this, while still preserving hard counters and really meaningful choices when building your army. Actually I'm not even sure how I'd start with that, without stealing from StarCraft too much ;) I'll have to think about this.

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[edit] About the carriers (the things with the little drone flyers), you could take them down with invisible wraiths pretty easily, or simply mind control them. Also, about 20 zerg scourge could take down carriers as long as you grouped them together.

I'm fine with people discussing SC tactics here, 'cause I love them so much [/edit]

:)

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Original post by Eternal
Turrets and Tanks can defend against light ships, but gives up all mobility.

If I remember correctly, tanks had no attack against air units while in stationary mode. And the gun used while in mobile mode was pretty pathetic, all around. It has been a while, though, so I may be mixing things up.

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Vultures can be used to attack underdefended expansions when facing air units, which distracts them away from your own bases or allows you to deal heavy damage to the opponents economy.

Same here. I'm pretty sure Vultures had no air attack at all. Either that, or it was really worthless, to the point where the AI would run from ships.

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But the inability of your opponents to counter mass BCs or stop you from getting there was not caused by any game balance problems, but by the fact that they were "Newbies" not understanding the choices that were offered by the game.

It has nothing to do with the opponents being newbies, since every counter has a counter has a counter. A few Battle Cruiser escorts can usually deal with the units that counter them. Those are usually light units, which can be constantly manufactured at your base during your holy purge. And even the loss of your entire attack fleet won't set you back much, since it can usually be reproduced within minutes with enough star ports.

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Original post by Kest
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Original post by Eternal
Turrets and Tanks can defend against light ships, but gives up all mobility.

If I remember correctly, tanks had no attack against air units while in stationary mode. And the gun used while in mobile mode was pretty pathetic, all around. It has been a while, though, so I may be mixing things up.

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Vultures can be used to attack underdefended expansions when facing air units, which distracts them away from your own bases or allows you to deal heavy damage to the opponents economy.

Same here. I'm pretty sure Vultures had no air attack at all. Either that, or it was really worthless, to the point where the AI would run from ships.

That was my point. Tanks can't attack air, so they are forced to stay around turrets in this case. So even if the turrets counter air and allow you to make other extra units, they are actually a bad choice as a main defense against air units (yes, there are exceptions, like TvT stalemate/slow-push games ^^), because they are not mobile. Vultures despite having no air attack either can actually be used "against" air, because their mobility forces your opponent to be somewhat cautious, which allows you to get a decent counter to wraiths.


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But the inability of your opponents to counter mass BCs or stop you from getting there was not caused by any game balance problems, but by the fact that they were "Newbies" not understanding the choices that were offered by the game.

It has nothing to do with the opponents being newbies, since every counter has a counter has a counter. A few Battle Cruiser escorts can usually deal with the units that counter them. Those are usually light units, which can be constantly manufactured at your base during your holy purge. And even the loss of your entire attack fleet won't set you back much, since it can usually be reproduced within minutes with enough star ports.

No. Realistically you could see one of the following:
You get BCs vs Protoss and you will have trouble getting through his standard ground army which most likely contains dragoons and high templars. If he actually sees what you are doing he will a) either kill you before you get many BCs (they are a large investment after all) b) get mind control, arbiters or/and carriers, which will absolutely kill your cruisers. He can also expand freely while you tech and you will be unable to adequatly support and reinforce your cruisers later, because he has a resource advantage and you as terran won't have enough gas to support cruisers/goliaths/tanks/science vessels all at once.

You get BCs vs Zerg: He takes the whole map while you get cruisers and can send limitless units at you until he mines out his resources. Also you get gas trouble again after you lose your first army of cruisers. However BCs can actually be used against Zerg, if the map already is close to being mined out before you make the switch to cruisers, because the normal zerg lategame army usually doesn't contain much anti-air besides a few scourge.

You get BCs against Terran: Now here BCs are actually useful, because in long drawn out games you can often keep most of the tanks you make earlier in the game alive, which can then be used to support your BCs against goliaths AND getting a few valkyries nicely counters wraiths. However your opponent now has the same choices that you do, so it quickly becomes a game of scouting, timing, upgrades and resource managment and you could still lose to tank/goliath too in some circumstances.

The main problem with BCs really is that they take very long to get and are a big investment. By the time you get them you usually are at a huge disadvantage, because Starcraft is played so aggressively that any slowdown in unit-production and expanding is immediatly exploited.

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By all means, continue the SC tactics discussion, but someone made me think of a design question.

In a Starcraft-esque RTS, how can you make a map so you can't "mine it out?" It seems like a design flaw to me, that when all the available resources have been quenched, whoever's army is bigger at the time wins.

I know most games don't last long enough to exhaust all resources, but should I put renewable resources in my game? (i.e. unlimited or comes-back-over-time).

My dream for Starcraft was always to have a rediculously huge map, with tons of resources, and no unit cap. I wanted to see an epic struggle over dozens of choke points and dozens of bases. But that's just me.

-Humble Hobo

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My post about SC, I didn't intend for this to (d)evolve into a SC tactics discussion. Oh, well.

Actually, examining a successful RTS like SC can offer insights into how to develop your own RTS game, so we aren't really all that off topic :D .

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The effectivity of an army depends a lot on unit ratios

This is what is called combined arms. Using one type of unit to protect or enhance the effectiveness of another type of unit. Most of your counter arguments about SC using the S/P/R system revolves around using multiple unit type in a combined arms strategy/tactic. This actually supports my claim that it does use R/P/S as this is the exact type of gameplay you would expect if R/P/S was implemented.

Yes, SC does not use a "Hard" counter system (like the actual game of R/P/S), but it is a little softer, situations and micromanagement can shift the balance between the unit types a little, and some are so close in balance, that these kinds of influences can tip the balance between them.

What I am talking about is the balance that exists between two units that start off at a distance (beyond either of their weapon's reaches) and then close in and fight without any further intervention by humans (or high level AI).

Also, the basic S/P/R mechanic only uses 3 types, the system is not limited to only using 3 types. You can have many many more if you like.

Consider:
A beats B and C
B beats C and D
C beats D and E
D beats E and A
E beats A and B

This is a 5 way S/P/R like system.

That was a symmetric one, but you can have asymmetric ones too:
A beats B and D
B beats C and D
C beats A and D
D beats E
E beats A, B and C

But these are hard counter systems.

If you add in abilities and situations where units can change the basic R/P/S outcomes, then you can create a game with much more tactical depth (but is so much harder to balance), but it does give a "Soft" counter system where a unit might usually be a counter for a certain type, but if they apply their ability, then it can reverse the outcomes.

For example:
In a medieval type game, you might have Cavalry as counters to Archers (cavalry are fast enough to run down archers before too much damage is done to them). However, if you deploy archer in marshy ground, then cavalry can't charge them and the archers can skirmish against the cavalry (the cavalry can't run them down) and win. So the Cavalry -> Archers is reversed in this situation.

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I know most games don't last long enough to exhaust all resources, but should I put renewable resources in my game? (i.e. unlimited or comes-back-over-time).

My dream for Starcraft was always to have a rediculously huge map, with tons of resources, and no unit cap. I wanted to see an epic struggle over dozens of choke points and dozens of bases. But that's just me.


Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander offer those exact things, infinite resources and a nearly limitless unit cap. Some of the battles can get quite interesting to say the least. ;D

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Original post by Eternal
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Original post by Edtharan
Starcraft had a fairly simple one (Flyers beat Ground, Ground beat Anti-Air and Anti-Air beat Flyers).

This is just absolutely wrong.

And no a 'classic' RTS is no crime. However experimenting with new ideas isn't wrong either, if they are actually fun and not just 'innovative'.


I'd like to know what RTS game IS anymore than just like the classics like C&C, Warcraft or Starcraft anyway. Supreme Commander for all the hype was really just the traditional RTS formula with a snazzy 3d engine.

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Original post by Humble Hobo
By all means, continue the SC tactics discussion, but someone made me think of a design question.

In a Starcraft-esque RTS, how can you make a map so you can't "mine it out?" It seems like a design flaw to me, that when all the available resources have been quenched, whoever's army is bigger at the time wins.


I don't think it's a design flaw; it's there purposely to stop agonizingly long stalemates. It's the same reason a lot of competitive games have timers. As you said, if you like huge maps and long games, you could make some that way, but a lot of people get bored if the game is going on for a long time without either side making any progress against the other, so there needs to be a cutoff.

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Original post by makeshiftwings
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Original post by Humble Hobo
By all means, continue the SC tactics discussion, but someone made me think of a design question.

In a Starcraft-esque RTS, how can you make a map so you can't "mine it out?" It seems like a design flaw to me, that when all the available resources have been quenched, whoever's army is bigger at the time wins.


I don't think it's a design flaw; it's there purposely to stop agonizingly long stalemates. It's the same reason a lot of competitive games have timers. As you said, if you like huge maps and long games, you could make some that way, but a lot of people get bored if the game is going on for a long time without either side making any progress against the other, so there needs to be a cutoff.

I think something similar can be achieved by simply making new resources develop elsewhere. Having new growth points move around the map. That would also allow starving out a defensive player.

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I was also thinking of throwing in an optional resource. It is very powerful, but also very explosive, so you might accidentally nuke yourself while mining it. It might work, but once again, hard to balance.

By the standard formula, I mean:

Workers build buildings and collect resources.
The main building builds workers and serves as a resource drop point.
The other buildings build the army units.
There may be a research building thrown in there.

I really just want to shake this up.

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I really just want to shake this up.

Well changing the way the game handles resource can shake up the gameplay a bit. If you get away form the "Harvest" resource mentality, then you might be able to do something interesting.

Currently, resources are placed on the map and you have to go out and get (harvest) them. Here are some ideas I have had over the years (not all of them will be useful in the type of game you are making):

Constant Resource: This has been used, so nothing original here. Basically, all players get a constant stream of resources at the same time and the same amount. It then is what they do with those resources that matter.

Caped Constant Resource: A variation of the constant resource could be that the total assets of the player are monitored and they get a variable amount based on how much they have. The closer they are to the cap value the slower (or less) they get the resources.

This means that player build their armies quickly, and if they are badly beaten, they can rebuild fast (so it keeps the game going and give the loosing player a bit of a boost - evens out the field and you have to be a good player to push forward an attack to victory).

Player built resources: This has been implemented in games before. Usually in the form of Power. There are no resource locations on the map, but the player has to build buildings that supply resources.

May be the buildings only have a limited amount of resources in them and after a while they will need to be replaced (like farms in the Age of Empires games). If you also add in a resource drain (like buildings don't work if they are not supplied with power), then base management becomes important.

Different Resource for different factions: This might not be that each faction/race only uses it's type of resource, but that most of the faction's units and buildings (especially the powerful ones) need one of the resources in the game and other factions don't use that.

For example There are 3 Factions (Cyborgs, NanoTech and BioTech) and 3 resource types (Power, Metal and Food). The Cyborg units would require more Metal than other factions, the NanoTech would require more Power and the BioTechs would need more Food. This means that when you play a Map, you might know where your faction's resources are located, but then you have to defend other resource types and not get much benefit form them but deny them to the enemy.

It creates a choice that a player has to make, whether to advance and defend their own resource needs, or try to cripple the enemy economy. Two factions, might not interact much as their resource needs are different, but they will eventually be forced to interact (battle) when resource become scarce.

What you loose the other gains When you spend resource, you opponent gets some or all of them. Resources get shuffled back and forth between players.

Regenerating Resources: Over Time resource regenerate, but the if a resource is over harvested, it regenerates slower. So a small constant harvesting will, over the long time, yield a better resource management, but quickly harvesting the resource will give a lot quickly, over time it will yield less resource (but you could let it lie and it will get back up to full).

This will create a choice that the player has to make, whether to get what they can quickly and make a fast strike, or to dig in and go for the long game. Because resource are constant in RTS games, there is no real advantage in slowly taking resources. Therefore strip mining them and rushing are encouraged by the resource paradigm currently being used.

With several resource locations, you can strip mine close by ones, then leave them fallow and expand out to new pastures and then come back when they have regenerated. This therefore creates a reason to expand when you have an unlimited type resource system.

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It's interesting how the gameplay in the RTS is just like you said; influenced by resources.

I rather disliked how when you stripped a resource, the base you built around it was rather useless, and there was a large hole where the resources used to be. Regenerating resources would definitely provide motivation to expand, but also defend the old bases.

If this thread stays alive, I'd like to keep discussing which resource systems people seem to like best. If not, I'll just make a new thread just for that question.

For instance, I just recently tried a game that uses that player-built resource (power) that was required to make buildings. It really bugged me, because they didn't generate power, but just provided a static ammount per generator. This meant lots of clutter, with all those generators sitting around being useless. I guess this particular system wasn't for me.

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I offer the following idea foward - ordering in.

To go into more depth, the player first orders resources of the type he needs, then, a little later, a merchant transport arrives. The player must escort this convoy to wherever he wants it to go to avoid it being destroyed by enemy troops (and those troops subsequently getting a "free" shipment). Also, resources come out of a finite store, meaning that only a certain amount of buildings can be built before the merchant runs out.

'How is money gained?', I hear you asking. Well, when the player defeats an enemy unit or fulfills a primary, secondary, or tertiary objective, or destroys an enemy establishment, they are payed by High Command. This encourages the player to attack and destroy outposts, so that they can gain money. Raiding bands would become a riskier affair, as the opponent gains more money (and resources) when they kill a unit. The player can also gain resources by destroying and ransacking enemy or neutral buildings for usable materials, or selling their own.

Good? Bad? Terrible? Fantastic?

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the way that 'Dawn of War' treated resources was quite good in that you could avoid the usual 'lets go mine some crystals/minerals/spice/gold' in that you had to capture strategic points, and holding these strategic points would earn you favour back on your homeplanet, or wherever your money supply is coming from, and that then results in a wired transfer to your account, so you can train/portal in new units.

The good thing was that after a while strategic points ceased to be as important, and while you would still earn some resources from holding them, it would only be a fraction of the original resource gain. This still allows for long battles, although you have to be prepared for a serious knock in your income, which makes the game a lot more even, since it then becomes harder to defend a greater number of strategic points, so this might actually flip the game in favour of the player in a slightly less advantageous situation.

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the way that 'Dawn of War' treated resources was quite good in that you could avoid the usual 'lets go mine some crystals/minerals/spice/gold' in that you had to capture strategic points

Yes, this is an example in a modern game the concepts I was talking about with doing away with "Harvesting". The one major problem is that once you have more than your opponent this creates a Positive Feedback Loop that makes the player in front more powerful and therefore easier to maintain their lead. So a good decision or luck, early in the game can make a large difference in the end game.

As we discuss resources, I think it is also important to understand Feedback loops. All resource are a feedback loop to the players. If you have a resource point, then that gives you the ability to capture more resource points, the more resource points you have the more you can capture.

This is a positive feedback loop. Positive feedback loops are needed to encourage player to expand (otherwise there would be virtually no reason to expand - and therefore little conflict). But, this positive feedback loop has that big effect later in the game in that a small advantage early on in the game ends up being a big advantage later in the game.

Negative feedback loops can be used to make it harder for the Leader to maintain their Lead and it reduces the effects of a lucky start.

Warcraft III did this with their "Upkeep" effect. The more troops you have the greater the Upkeep costs associated with those Troops (it meant that you got less resource from harvesting). So a player who had taken a big hit and came off worse in an early skirmish would start getting more resource and then could build up quickly again.

In "Battle Realms", you would get "peasants" at a constant rate (up to a cap), which could be used to either build troops and buildings or gather resources, but the more you had the slower they would spawn. If you lost a lot of troops, then this would lower your population and so the spawn rate would go up again. So loosing a battle a long way from your base, would mean that by the time your opponent reached your base, you would have built up enough to offer some defence against their counter attack (but if you lost the battle near your base, then you wouldn't have time to reinforce).

In Battle Realms, because of the way that the peasants were handled, they were more like a resource (as you needed them to build troops).

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