Sign in to follow this  
Wavinator

Fighting For A Kind of Future

Recommended Posts

Imagine that you're playing a multiplayer RTS-like game with the goal of uniting a civilization on the brink of collapse (think Fallout). Your goal is not just to take over or crush your enemies, but rather to shape the kind of future they live in. But imagine that rather than just the familiar build and conquer "warlord" route, you have large, powerful civilian areas containing key characters that can be influenced via special missions. The tech tree for build and conquer is straight forward, but the key characters unlock special resources, units and technology otherwise unavailable to one playing just the warlord (giving stealth units, area of effect snares, or the ability to temporarily turn troop loyalty). At the end of the game, it's not territory or units left that determines the winner. It's the state of the world. Counts of natural resources, the health of the land (how many nukes were dropped?), how much industry left and the number, health and loyalty of the people count more than a huge mass of units and scorched earth. If, for example, all the oil is gone everyone's gets a "Defeat" screen, even the strongest player (because his win was pyrrhic). Or, if the warlord takes over but ignored reports of mutant telepath clans growing in all the cities, the player helping the telepaths gets the actual victory via a story telling of how the mutants rose up and took over. Games would be played against a time limit in order to close the game. Questions: Do you think the goal of struggling for a future can be made to be as engaging as the traditional warlord path? If so, how? Do you think leaving the victory to values in the environment and those of the people is to cheat the warlord players? I'm asking this assuming that they were taking over, saw the growth of the special characters, and failed to stop it by capturing the towns and stopping the progress of the missions. Should the game pit the warlord player and the character/mission player against each other directly (maybe via contests for common resources) or would it be better to allow for a kind of asymmetric warfare, with the weaker side having to use trickier tactics, influence, traps and the like?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I dig this pretty hard. The idea of using the traditional gameplay elements, not in a race to scorch the Earth, but instead as a means to an end, seems very deep and engaging to me. I like the idea of having a good reason to trade, treat or terrorize as your machinations require.

My main fear with this idea is that "victory conditions" will be unclear or downright hidden, making the game resolutions feel like deus ex machina. You can do your very best, and then the timer runs out and "Oh, whups, the virus nobody teched up to detect or treat wiped out the Earth, everyone loses, except the robot guy who spent the game building obelisks and saying, 'Check out my dongs, ladies!'"

But as long as the factors are either explicit or reasonably discoverable by all players, the only real difficulty you'll face will be balancing such wildly diverse play styles. It would be a real shame if the best way to wrap it up was to kill everyone with zerglings and then plant some trees before you topple their last building.

Ideally, I'd like the warlard/carebear relationship to be symbiotic. I've had a vague pipe dream for years about a game in which the invincible swordsman has to politely ask the farmer to allow him to sleep in the barn, and then has to pay a merchant to give him a ride to the desert oasis. If there was a way for the different play styles to lean on each other most of the time, then try to break away and take control at the last minute by managing resources and influence, that would be a best-case scenario for me.

I imagine a game in which a trader and a warlord and a cartographer team up to beat enemy warlords with embargos and enemy traders with superior exploration and enemy cartographers with murder, and then as time winds down they each try to influence the outcome with their own brand of power, but since their so intertwined, it becomes a real crapshoot, since you've got to wrap up the game on top, but not alone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Do you think the goal of struggling for a future can be made to be as engaging as the traditional warlord path? If so, how?


I believe it most certainly can be. The key, I believe, would be in conveying a strong sense of narrative. Even if there is not pre-written or scripted narrative to the contest, then the world could be engineered so that it contains a situation in which players will find themselves to play out roles. Immersion would be the key.

Quote:
Do you think leaving the victory to values in the environment and those of the people is to cheat the warlord players? I'm asking this assuming that they were taking over, saw the growth of the special characters, and failed to stop it by capturing the towns and stopping the progress of the missions.


This would be tricky to manage. The example you gave of the mutant uprising is a situation that could possibly lead to some complaints. If you completed this match and you, as a warlord player, ignored some minor/major rumours, then these 'rumours' are automatically attributed a victory, you may feel somewhat cheated. An example I encountered of something like this was the original command and conquer. If you played through the NOD campaign and kicked serious GDI arse, you'd feel pretty good. You pretty much win the war, then in the last mission GDI just use their ion cannon on you and BOOM you lose. You kinda sit there and go "oh... well that sucks".

I think you should avoid giving people an automatic victory without giving other players adequate warning and chance to act. I think you'd need to force sneaky-player-A to actually instigate a revolution before you awarded them a victory on those grounds. At least a certain level of support for the cause should be established.

I don't think the base game-play will necessarily leave the warlords feeling cheated, as long as it's balanced.

Quote:
Should the game pit the warlord player and the character/mission player against each other directly (maybe via contests for common resources) or would it be better to allow for a kind of asymmetric warfare, with the weaker side having to use trickier tactics, influence, traps and the like?


I always love asymmetric warfare. The idea of two complete incompatible approaches facing-off together always provides an intellectual challenge most games lack. I think points of intercession may be of benefit though. Once a sneaky player succeeds in raising his telepathic army of revolutionaries, for example, he may need to face the warlord on the field of battle.

Thanks for bringing us another interesting consideration btw.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is a "victory" condition even really necissary? If the game is more about showing the players in the end how their actions affected the world, wouldn't it be up to the player to judge their level of success based on what they intended to do? Competition against others would be irrelivant.

If one player is aiming for world domination (or even just nation security), another player is aiming for social development, and another player is aiming for technological advancement then the only way I think they could fairly compete against each other would be to score the influence each player had in their respective fields (perhaps chosen at the beginning of the game). The final "Shape of the World" narrative would be irrelivant. I'm thinking the pevailing attitude would be, "I won (or lost), I don't care about the cut scene at the end".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by kseh
If one player is aiming for world domination (or even just nation security), another player is aiming for social development, and another player is aiming for technological advancement then the only way I think they could fairly compete against each other would be to score the influence each player had in their respective fields (perhaps chosen at the beginning of the game). The final "Shape of the World" narrative would be irrelivant. I'm thinking the pevailing attitude would be, "I won (or lost), I don't care about the cut scene at the end".


Personally I think people would feel dissatisfied if they weren't expressly informed of victory or defeat, or at least given some measure of their success comparative to others. Perhaps a level of achievement towards each cause (if players have a set cause) could be output for each player, and the player who achieved the most won. If players choose their own causes to further their own power, then direct competition would be necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think that this would work well in a multiplayer RTS. It has worked in turn-based strategy games, though (Alpha Centauri comes to mind, although Transcendence there is a little weak and rushed).

I think the emphasis on winning will leech the fun out of it for some players.

I had a somewhat similar idea for one of the projects I'm playing with. The game (similar in theme to Colonization, though not slavishly so) would keep track of the actions of the player (it's a single-player turn-based strategy game, as multiplayer for this sort of thing seems like it'd be unfeasible to cleanly implement) and, at the end of the game, generate an encyclopedia-style "history entry" on the player's leader, or in other words the player's actions throughout the game. But that's more retrospective than current, which would be difficult to reconcile with a many-play RTS.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
My main fear with this idea is that "victory conditions" will be unclear or downright hidden, making the game resolutions feel like deus ex machina.


Thanks ICC, I think this is a critical point. It makes me ask, "How is it that we know how close a player is to winning in a typical RTS?" We see things like base size and number of units, how advanced they are, and how much of the map they own.

At a minimum, you'd need indicators for resources and who has them. I've started wondering if the best way to do this is the map itself. If, in a god view, you can see half of it scorched and you know Player X is building more nukes, it tells you what to do.

But I think growing threats that would lead to a defeat future have to be visibly signposted to all players through some sort of in-game mechanism like a rumor or spy network. This way even if you're not involved you're aware.

Quote:

Ideally, I'd like the warlard/carebear relationship to be symbiotic.


Yeah, that's the core challenge: What beats force better than force?
What's needed I think are constraints and dependencies. The warlord player needs the traders or his upgrades suck (because a trade can always get better cheaper); he needs the gardener player to feed his troops (maybe even to prevent the growth of desert, which kills the supply of recruits); he needs the healers to remove certain afflictions and heal faster; etc.

Quote:

I've had a vague pipe dream for years about a game in which the invincible swordsman has to politely ask the farmer to allow him to sleep in the barn, and then has to pay a merchant to give him a ride to the desert oasis.


That's cool! Odd how much of this depends on adding complexity in terms of needs to the usually cyborg-like hero. Why does he need the barn? Because he needs to sleep. So now you have a game where the character has a sleep need.

It's ironic because if you go out and propose something like, "in this RPG you need to sleep and eat" and do other mundane things, you'll get panned. But unless it's a strictly scripted puzzle, how else would you do it?

Quote:

If there was a way for the different play styles to lean on each other most of the time, then try to break away and take control at the last minute by managing resources and influence, that would be a best-case scenario for me.


I have some ideas here but they're very theme and mechanic specific, so I'll make a separate post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this