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ruby-lang

online strategy and timing

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A serious problem with several persistent strategy games is that, to avoid losing units and resources, players have to check their status several times a day (or, where available, transfer control to an ally). To compound this problem, most of the time, there isn't much to do while online besides watching a taskbar reach 100% or a timer reach 0:00. I think that, in an ideal game, players wouldn't have to dedicate more than half an hour, 4 or 5 times a week, to be able to compete. Players that had more free time would get that 10% extra that gave them their edge, but more importantly, would be rewarded with actually interesting tactical decisions. I think I could reach those goals by removing direct combat, but I'm afraid that would be throwing the baby with the bathwater. After all, combat is fun, specially when you are winning. :) I lifted a few potential ideas from old games. Railroad Tycoon has price wars that last long enough for the "defenders" to reorganizer their strategy. Lords of the Realm lets the player skip a battle and simply show the outcome, but controlling your units in battle usually leads to fewer casualties. If I'm not mistaken, one of the Civs has a "privateer" unit that can block trade routes and turn by turn divert gold to your coffers. I'm sure you have your own ideas, so what would you suggest?

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Not really an answer to your question, but a way of working around it - notifications to your email, instant messenger, or even by SMS can alert a player to an event in the game that requires their attention.

A more direct answer would be to implement reactive orders, perhaps backed by AI, so that you can set contingency plans rather than just direct orders. If you can tell your units how to react as effectively as you can tell them how to act, you don't need to intervene as often.

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Combat is fun if your game is built around it, here's a few ideas of competitiveness without combat where the gameplay is not built around combat...

If it is a game on space exploration and colonization, regular players can just log in regularly to see their colony ships are still flying towards their destination, the colonies are progressing smoothly, setting a few orders which will take some time to execute before logging off. For those willing to spend the time and effort to look through reports and tweak different settings will be rewarded with that 10% advantage over the opponents because their colonies will be more efficient and profitable.

If it is a game focused on the corporate world (for example Capitalism 2), regular players can log in to check their business is still in the black. Tweak some pricing, orders, etc before logging out. Those playing longer maybe able to setup prices faster to undercut his rivals or take advantage of a profitable situation when it appears before his rivals that will login in a few more hours.

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Good suggestions. Between CPU constraints and lack of knowledge, I don't think I can give the units real AI, but a simple state machine with some input from the player should be enough. Obviously, even that adds complexity to the technical design, but it sounds worth the effort.

In comparison, notifications would be trivial to implement, and probably a good premium feature.

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