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How To Do Multi-planet Surface Battles?

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There probably won't be another game like the now ancient Emperor of the Fading Suns, but if there was... How would you do mult-planet surface battles so that they're strategically challenging and complex without being overwhelming? In the old EotFS game, you could fight it out across multiple planets simultaneously. From what I remember, the actual implementation suffered from brain dead AI, slow speed and management fatigue as you got more planets and more units. On the other hand, a "one battle takes over the planet" concept (as in Master of Orion) isn't very satisfying. Some thoughts I had that might fix this:
  • Tier the map so that each planet relies on n number of control nodes. If you take the 3 or 5 control nodes, you take the planet.
  • Tier the space map so that the planets that can be taken act as strategic control nodes for space.
  • As the player gets stronger, give him fewer, but drastically more powerful units.
  • When a key planet falls, all planets linked to it automatically fall.
  • Use alien tech or politics or whatever to explain this
In theory, this means that you invade in only a few places at any given time, and that each place only has a few nodes to take. You might have to chew through units in space and on land to get to them, but you're not managing fifty maps at once. Thoughts?

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It sounds good in theory as a method to get away from having a single battle per planet yet not having an overwhelming planet-wide war theatre every time you invade a planet. I don't see any reason why it won't work, but it's the sort of thing that I think you'll need a quick throw-away prototype to determine if it does what you want it to and meshes with the rest of the game.

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As far as you idea for linking planets, how about explaining it by having some planets simply referred to as Homeworlds or Ruling Planets. Taking control of a Homeworld could then cause linked planets to succumb to your rule. This would introduce a simple element of strategy... do you attack planets that pose a higher threat, or do you fight your way through a couple of minor planets to reach the homeworld and destroy the leadership chain. Immediate resolution of problems versus a more effective long term strategy.

Perhaps using a slightly more complex version of this, each planet could boost the resources/defences of neighbouring planets, so every planet has a different level of strategic value in reducing the effectiveness of linked planets. You could easily describe this as a flow of trade/resources/etc between the linked planets. Of course, each boosted planetary statistic would have to be applied to a separate bonus pool, otherwise planets would get a boost from a neighbour, which would then be applied to it's neighbours, which would lead to an infinite loop of boosting :)

I think this system would balance itself out. Sure, your forces could grow and require a bit more micromanagement, but as you become more powerful, your planetary influence will grow and remaining planets will be easier to conquer.

Just my 2 cents anyway!

Cheers,

Steve

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Tier the map so that each planet relies on n number of control nodes. If you take the 3 or 5 control nodes, you take the planet.

My first though after reading this was why have to take over the whole planet. If each control node (country? continent?) gave access to certain resource (land for building, minerals, etc), then you could have multiple players (or AI) on one planet.

This could lead to some interesting political/strategic situations where you know that if you break your ceasefire agreement with one player, then they will be poised to take over the territories you control on several planets (that might be providing needed minerals).

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Tier the space map so that the planets that can be taken act as strategic control nodes for space.

I would try to include in the game play more than just controlling planets. I would try to allow players to have a roving fleet that does not tie themselves to particular locations. They might need to go to planets to gather resource, but these would be more like raids of other players/AIs, or trade with them for bounties/alliances.

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As the player gets stronger, give him fewer, but drastically more powerful units.

I would not do this myself. Giving player more powerful units as they advance might seem like a good idea, but it introduces a runaway leader situation (if you want games that last only a short time, then it is good).

If a player gets more powerful units for getting stronger, then this just makes the player even stronger, so they can get even more powerful units. SO the first player to get the more powerful units has a runaway head start and it becomes harder for the other players to even catch up, let alone win.

Games will be short and decisive. Strategy and even tactics will be limited to getting the stronger units as fast as you can.

In my opinion, this has been so done to death as nearly all "strategy" games are like this. Having this as your progression would not make it very different to what else is out there ("Sins of a solar empire" for instance - even so, a good game).

By giving the player drastically more powerful units, you reduce the number of options (and therefore strategies) available to them.

Instead I would try to give them more options, and thus increase the number of strategies that are available to them.

Start with units that are generalists. That is they can handle any type of unit sent at them.

For instance if you built your fleets around a Scissors Paper Rock like relationship, you might have a Fighter, Bomber and Capital Ship (Fighter -> Bomber -> Capital -> Fighter).

The first few ships you give the player might be of each class (a Fighter, Bomber and Capital Ship), but they are not the best at taking out their "prey" (the one they are good at destroying), but neither are they overly vulnerable to their "predator" the one that is good at destroying their type).

In this situation if you fielded a fleet of fighters and I came at you with some capitals, you wouldn't do too badly against them (but you would eventually loose, only that I would take a lot of losses myself).

But, later on, as the player advances in tech, have the units become more specialised. That is they become better at taking out their prey, but become more vulnerable to their predators.

If done right, the early units would still be useful later in the game because they are better equipped to deal with uncertainty, but if you know what they are going to send at you, you can deal with it better by using the more specialised units.

This would make the early units good for spearheading attacks, or garrisoning as a defensive measure. Where as the specialised unit would be your reserves, the "crack squads" that are sent in as needed and for specific "missions". So a squadron of high tier bombers, would be held back for when their capital ship becomes vulnerable (maybe you were able to draw off their squadrons of fighters that were escorting their capital ships).

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When a key planet falls, all planets linked to it automatically fall.

It would depend on what you mean by "Key" planet. This is a good way to avoid the runaway leader problem (as a single planet might easily fall to a weaker player if they make a concentrated attack). But it can also be exploited by a leading player and critically weaken other players to the point where they don't pose any threat.

It is a double edged sword (it can cut both ways).

If you made it so that if a key planet falls, then there is disruption that can be exploited (in other ways other than military conflict - like diplomacy or economics) it might be better (you could also create a Scissors/Paper/Rock system for this too).

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On the other hand, a "one battle takes over the planet" concept (as in Master of Orion) isn't very satisfying.

I agree, but this "One Battle" thing is an abstraction of the ground battles. But I do like the idea of having multiple regions on a planet, and that these regions could be controlled by different players.

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Original post by Edtharan
Quote:
As the player gets stronger, give him fewer, but drastically more powerful units.

I would not do this myself. Giving player more powerful units as they advance might seem like a good idea, but it introduces a runaway leader situation (if you want games that last only a short time, then it is good).

If a player gets more powerful units for getting stronger, then this just makes the player even stronger, so they can get even more powerful units. SO the first player to get the more powerful units has a runaway head start and it becomes harder for the other players to even catch up, let alone win.


What if they meant it like risk? As you get larger you get 'stronger' units on your board, but they're really just icons for a higher number, and are the equal of a handfull of 'lesser' units. Just makes visualizing things easier.

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* Tier the map so that each planet relies on n number of control nodes. If you take the 3 or 5 control nodes, you take the planet.

This makes sense, and as Edtharan said, make for some interesting co-occupation scenarios. Having each node linked to something like a continent with it's own resource and production levels would be pretty interesting. Making the ease of invasion dependent on the proximity of the continents would make for some basic strategy(ex. you invade a remote continent and build it up as a foothold or go for a central one to be able to move into the other continents quickly- safe or fast). You could also have continents that have port facilities be important to resupply: take the port and force the rest of the planet to surrender (or face running out of supplies or lack of reinforcement). Advanced worlds have more ports and more nodes, and are therefore much harder to conquer

Destroying just the ports could also take planets out of play on a more strategic level because they can't build ships or export.

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* Tier the space map so that the planets that can be taken act as strategic control nodes for space.

We had a game project that used this idea- each system had warp points to the next system, so that you had to go through point B to go from A to C.

It also matters if you're going to have multiple planets for each star system. One planet, due to some made-up physics, has a gate to another enemy sytestem, while the others have gates to more innocuous ones. Taking over a gate planet means the enemy can't bring in reinforcements.
This system would probably create critical juncture-type systems that would be hubs for an empire that would be critical to defend(think of them like modern-day canals like Suez).

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* As the player gets stronger, give him fewer, but drastically more powerful units.

Eh, have tech increase but have the size of units increase much more. Instead of an invasion army of made up of thousands of soldiers, have armies made up of millions. Increase the size of moveable units. Early in the game, you can move battalions around but by late game you're moving around divisions and corps.

My personal preference would be to include a fleet component, meaning that an orbiting armada of battleships would have a positive effect for your forces on the ground.

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If you were ready to go with a grim/realistic way of doing space warfare and ready to go into a bit more complex system, you could take a look at Defcon. It is a simple thermonuclear war simulator. The game ends when nobody has nukes left or if someone surrenders. You choose targets, vectors and move your vehicles when possible. It isn't hard to imagine the same system applied to orbit-to-surface warfare.

About not having to micromanage every battle : you could assign NPC officers to some battles that would automatically determine both sides losses. The more victories you get, the more your officers learn and get a good tactical skill.

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