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thk123

2 Resources Enough?

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I was reading "Game Architecture and Design" (as recommended by this site) and I am came across Shadow Costs. Page 51/52 if you have the book, if not allow me to briefly summarise. Shadow costs are the implicit costs. The 200 wood that is required for x unit is the cost. The shadow cost is the money you have spent to get to the point where you can build the unit (ie. the buildings that you had to build). However, the bit that interested me was the case study they gave(Age of Empires). In it, he talks about dynamic costs. The example given is a charioteer, costing 60 wood 40 food and 40 seconds. However, the importance of each of these costs changes. At the start of the game, resources are sparse so 60 wood is quite hefty, but everyone is in this problem, so 40 seconds, not such an issue. Mid game, resources are plentiful but time is of the essence, so the 40 seconds will be the most important statistic. Then, at the end, the wood cost rises in prominence because resources are running out. The game I am currently designing is a real time strategy game so I was wondering how this would fit in to my game. However, in my game there are only two resources: Population and money. The first comes from cities and the second...comes from cities. The way I can envisage the game working is the population will most likely decrease whilst money will increase. However, do just 2 resources offer enough dynamics to be able to recreate the element I mentioned. One resource I was thinking of including was oil, especially given its prominence in today's world (my game is set in the near future). Because this would be limited, the player would have to be very careful with it as many units would be based on it. In conclusion, are 2 resources enough to create a dynamic costing system where resources rise and fall in importance as the game progresses and would an ever decreasing resource be a worthy addition to the game? Sorry about the length of the first paragraph, but without it, the rest of my post wouldn't have made a lot of sense!

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You could definitely get some interesting dynamics with this. Like the case study, your population resource could be very valuable early on since the cities are just starting out. Then, as they increases in size, the population becomes larger making it worth, essentially, less. But, towards the end, the population experiences overcrowding or just caps off, leading to a sense of "wow, this population is finite", making it important once more.

As for money, this could be a very interesting mechanic. Imagine if a city had a surplus or a recession. How could this affect the strategy in the game. Both of these resources are very different, so it'll be interesting to see how they could interact with one another.

Imagine a city nearing its end. The population has stopped growing, but everyone in it is rich. How could that affect the player's ability to expand and build up their forces? Very peculiar concept indeed. I wish you the best of luck.

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How is Time not a resource in your game concept? I fail to see how that is possible unless everything you are creating with these two resources is created instantly. Is this so?

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Well having two physical resources is just perfect in my mind.
Time, while a given, should still be mentioned in the concept even if serious numbers havn't been hammered down.
Also, people, the human resource, is most often handled as an infinate supply as long as you can support them with food. A "how many people can you feed?" scenario, as opposed to a "how many people do you have access to scenario.

So Money, while truely the only real physical resource needed, may not be enough for a good game structure. In reality what does it take to build a tank? Steel, Iron, computer components etc. But in the end it's all bought with money. To have money as the only physical resource, no wood or iron to gather, is a realisitic approach, but something else is needed.
In a situation like this you could introduce something special to the mix, a newly discovered substance or energy that makes your most powerful units possible. And it's only found in pockets near ancient alien crash sites (or whatever). This forces playes to go out and look for this stuff, otherwise a player could just sit back and generate money to build a massive unstoppable army.

An RTS is an excelent challenge in balancing units. Remember to use paper cut-outs and dice to simulate your units fighting, this will help give you a better idea of how they should be structured, stat wise.

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Quote:
Original post by Sulphix
But, towards the end, the population experiences overcrowding


To me this would make them more expendable, rather than more valuable. If over-crowding is occurring, the population become projectiles to hurl at my foes.

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Yarr.. The whole reason behind different resources is to force the player to expand. The more complex the resource hierarchy is, the more complex the player's organization will need to be. The more complex setting up a base is, the more you can delay, for instance, access to the strongest units. This means the best players are those who manage to micro- and macro-manage efficiently.

You'll often want a player's base to be "spider like" rather than "blob like" ; that means force the player to have weak points away from the main core, and have them fighting over common resources. In the case of your oil idea, if the players need oil to get an edge, and 3 oil wells/pockets are located right in the middle of the map, they'll be constantly fighting over them until they manage to overpower the other and rush in.

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Quote:
Original post by NathanRunge
To me this would make them more expendable, rather than more valuable. If over-crowding is occurring, the population become projectiles to hurl at my foes.


I think theres a definition problem, perhaps...

If you view the population in standard RTS terms, the population only consists of active units. There is no "excess" population that would be used for other things. The only other measurement is potential population - the amount you can support with your farms (or similar functioned building). In this case, overcrowding would mean youve reached the limit of units you can produce, and all your units are filling rolls - so you have no ability to use population for other purposes. Which would make them more valuable as you approach the limit.

Or theres the opposing definition which youre thinking of, where all youre concerned with is total population and the limit, without considering how much of the population are active as units and how much population is unused. In which case overcrowding suggests excess that can be directed towards tasks (especially if you think of it in "realistic" terms and say that active units are out in the field and so arent contributing to the city being overcrowded).


Explanation of how exactly the OP is viewing these things and their use might make the semantics a bit easier :)

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Good point caffeine. For some reason I had my mind more set on a definition similar to games such as Black & White or Civilisation. I still think I would do the same regardless though. If you have the capacity to produce the number of units, but have reached a limit, then sacrificing some units may still be beneficial.

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Thanks for the replies!
To clarify, population would be a resource as opposed to, as in hind sight more usually, the number of units you have. Your population would a number based on the number of cities (these cities are outside the actual playing area, difficult to explain without going in to a lot of detail) which you control. Each unit would require a certain number of people to recruit in to the unit.

Also, I admit that time would be relevant, and looking at my example, I see that would give me equal resources. Another problem I came across whilst thinking about this today was in my current design, money is collected from the cities in the form of tax. This would be closely tied to people (as they are the people would be paying it) that they would almost become one single resource. (Although not quite, as the population available for units depends on how well you are doing among other things, whereas taxes are compulsory, however I digress)

One solution to this would be making other things generate money, but I am not quite sure what these could be, so I will have to have a think about that. I quite like the idea of fighting over oil (once again, relevant to today) as it would add a secondary objective that would help, not secure, the main objective. The only problem I can foresee with this is that all provinces start in the control of either one of two sides. Either make the central provinces very ambivalent to their side and under-powered, to encourage battles, have a middle ground or maybe just put the oil in the sea?

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Time is a resource but not really applicable because you can't typically obtain or store it, nor do you have more or less than your opponents. What is interesting is the how the 'exchange rate' between resources changes as the game progresses. It gives you interesting choices to make, such as whether to bother mining gold that you can't use yet, but which will benefit you later.

The value of a resource can be measured in terms of what you can buy with it. To achieve the above effect, you need to have parts of the game where money is more useful than population, and parts of the game where population is more important than money. In low-tech times, population is important to get work done. In high-tech times, money is important to get work done. In between, it could vary.

As you have guessed, linking money to population via tax removes a lot of the diversity between these two resources. To split them up, ideally you need to be able to get money from other sources, and you need to be able to use people in useful ways other than just taxing them.

Some random ideas:
- You could have the notion of poor people, who generate no taxes but are still useful in population terms.
- People can be assigned to specialist roles, that produce extra money or services but render them useless as 'population'.
- Oil or something similar could indeed be a depletable resource much like gold in Age of Empires, but it would need to have some sort of relevance independent of both population and money, so that the player has to make choices as to which they will prioritise, or how they will balance it all.

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You know with the idea of control points (oil wells and such) remember that resources do not need to be stationary. A static resource like a mine or an oil well is fine. Then you have games which use expanding resources. Command and Conquer had the tiberium fields and some games use trees. Forcing the player to expand as they use resources quickly to fuel war is a good idea.

I always thought it would be fun to put only a limited supply of resources near where players started and across the map at control points place resources.

Also you don't have to harvest resources. Supreme Commander showed us this. Building energy farms and the idea of converting resources from one to another form. Age of empires has a market system to facilitate this.

Also another point to make is that there are two forms of gathering. The whole unit gathers then brings back to a home base or storage facility and the build an object on top of a resource point. Another less used form is a moving resource unit that automatically converts what it harvests into resource without a drop off point. (teleportation and other things can explain why this happens if players need a reason).

A quick idea is that if you have special units in the game that use a special resource found on the map this will force exploring and retrieval of this resource. An example might be a special crystal used to upgrade a building or units or could even be the resource to create the special units.

That's also another choice you have to make. Do creating humans/units require different resources than buildings such that it might be easy to build units, but constructing buildings is very impractical and forces a player to be strategic in the placement of them.

I'm sure there's things I've left out, but that should get you to to think about different methods. (2 resources is fine for an RTS)

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I had a think about this today and this is what I came up with, comments and suggestions welcome.

I settled on 3 resources: population, money and energy

Population
The population, which is required for all units that logically have people in, is a number created by the number of cities you own and how "happy" each city is. At the start of the game, this would be a moderate resource as you would have a few cities that are neither happy nor upset. In the middle, depending on the players performance (and I have actually got a post for this, but I will leave it for a little while!) either sparse or plentiful and then towards the end this will become more extreme.

Money
Money, which would be used in every unit and building, would be generated primarily from cities in the form of taxes. If I get time, I also plan to build in a small trading system and maybe RTS equivalent of side quests. You will start off with very little money, as the money will not have been generated from taxes. In the middle of the game would will have moderate. However, by the end, because tax revenue will be steadily decreasing (to reflect the inevitable slow down in the economy) it will end being sparse.

Also, the player has the power to raise taxes. to increase money. However, this will result in a decrease in available pop. in the form of the happiness scale. This will mean the player has to balance these two resources.

Energy
More advanced military units would require energy. This would primarily be collected through oil. Each player starts of with two oil fields complete with harvesting stations (or whatever they are called). A randomly generated number of additional oil fields would be randomly placed in a vertical area designated by vertical equivalent tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. These would be in the middle. All oil fields would be finite, so eventually they would start running out. Also, the random ones would be in the middle so you would have to fight over these. There would be alternative sources of power, but these would require certain techs.

Thanks for all your replies, you have really allowed me to think about this. Suggestions welcome!

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I feel like brining up dwarf fortress here -- which doesn't exactly apply as it has over a hundred resources -- but in regards to population, it does.

The notion that you can safely just keep lobbing soldiers at the enemy and getting them killed without any other costs than rebuilding your soldiers is a bit silly. Shouldn't morale start lacking? Or towns and soldiers defecting at your crappy leadership?

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Sorry, I didn't explain it very well. Happiness, what controls how much of your population you can recruit, is affected by a number of things. One of the primary effectors is the amount of deaths to kill ratio. If you use your men wisely, ie. killing many people for just a few of your own, the population will be more willing to join the army because they trust you to use them wisely. On the other hand, throwing soldiers to break a steel wall, something with a high casualty compared to kill, they will be less willing to join, reducing the amount of people available.

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You may want to rethink that last bit about deaths to kill ratios affecting morale.

Bear with me, this may not seem related at first. I had an idea for a fighting system for use in RPGs in which part of it involved degrading the players ability to fight the more damage he took, eventually crippling him. The problem here is that first blood is a huge advantage because the first damaged loses some ability to fight making another hit to him more likely than to his undamaged enemy. This loops viciously until first blood equals a win. It's not whole inviable, but there needs to be some serious counter measures in place to balance the loss of fighting ability.

This relates to your system at least in part because you have a situation where you lose resources which you use to fight with when you lose a fight. If you lose your first fight, you cant recruit as much and the enemy can recruit more, or at least afford a loss and not lose population recruits. Eventually you may have a crippled player because he has no population simply because he lost his first fight.

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Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
You may want to rethink that last bit about deaths to kill ratios affecting morale.

This relates to your system at least in part because you have a situation where you lose resources which you use to fight with when you lose a fight. If you lose your first fight, you cant recruit as much and the enemy can recruit more, or at least afford a loss and not lose population recruits. Eventually you may have a crippled player because he has no population simply because he lost his first fight.
There is another dynamic affecting recruitment, which you have both overlooked. If the war is far away, many people will dodge the draft, but if their own cities and homes are threatened everyone will volunteer.

This allows a dynamic whereby the player obtaining first blood is able to expand massively, but then becomes overextended, and when he tries to finish his opponent, may be unable to overcome the sudden defensive swell of highly motivated 'patriots'.

[Edited by - swiftcoder on April 26, 2008 5:31:31 PM]

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Yes, I was thinking about this, It seems a little like kicking someone while they are down. It means that the end of the game is irrelevant because either you are all powerful and nothing can beat you, or you are on the brink of destruction and no tactical genius on your behalf can save you. One counter measure I did think of, which swiftcoder basically said too, was that if you are facing death (not sure what the actual formula would be, but whatever) all of your remaining cities suddenly realise they might die and you can recruit 100% of your cities. Also, depending on testing, troops could receive a small bonus to show their die-hard attitude. Conversely, towards the end of the war, assuming you are not loosing (as you would be caught by the previous rule) people would start to get bored of the war, limiting your population.

I am aware of over dampening (is that the correct term?) the system, as when you are loosing, you want to feel like you are clinging on to life and when you are winning; you are a super power. However, it would make it more fun for both players, particularly the person who is loosing, that they can at least be trying to do something, and who knows maybe you might just turn it around. However, if you counter it too much, then the game could go on for ever.

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