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leiavoia

Offense vs Defense: Why Bother?

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Let's say we're designing a strategy-type game from scratch. The game includes attack and defense units. What is the point of distinguishing between offensive and defensive units? Many games, whether TBS or RTS or other, come down to numbers in the end. So if i'm "defending" some territory of mine, i do not see the benefit of using "defense" units for that purpose when attack units with the same numbers will do the same job. Would it make any difference if everything was just "a unit" with attack numbers and just forget about so-called defense? For instance, two units with attack=100 and defense=50 fight each other. If it was a really simplistic game with a formula of DAMAGE = ATTACK - DEFENSE, then these units would do 50 damage to each other on average. If i just get rid of "defense", adjusted the attack numbers to compensate, and changed the formula to DAMAGE = ATTACK, then you get the same result. I'm thinking that to make "defense" vs "offense" of any real concern, there have to be offensive and defensive abilities beyond what simple numbers are able to provide. Any thoughts?

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Yes, abilities -- which may arise from subtler tactical circumstances, even if they aren't strongly defined in the unit itself.

As an example, in Supreme Commander, the last time I played, (offensive) units were much cheaper when considering bang-per-buck than immobile defensive turrets, so in most early to mid-game situations it was best to defend with groups of units.

Turrets would only become important later, when focusing a lot of firepower into a small area was important because, A: turrets could be covered by powerful immobile shields (mobile shields were really slow and not worth the trouble), and B: large masses of units, when attempting to concentrate movement and firepower, would get bogged down by the wreckage of dead units, terrain ... and poor pathfinding.

So to make up some numbers, 5 tanks could easily take out 1 turret, but 50 tanks could never take out 10 turrets.


Or take the Chronotrooper in Red Alert 2: Their shot would freeze any unit, then they'd just have to hold their chrono-beam on the target until it disappeared, which would take longer for stronger units. As a dev. said in an interview somewhere, one Chronotrooper could take out the strongest tank 1vs1, but would lose if faced 2vs1 of the weakest infantry.


Or Starcraft: Marines in bunkers and deployed siege tanks are an example of defensive abilities. Yeah, I played Terran.

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Yeah offense and defense needs to be about more than just numbers. For example in Civ 4, where units can get bonuses when attacking, or when assaulting a town, or when defending from a hill or forest etc. In warcraft 3, units have different types of damage, and different types of armour. So siege damage does really well against fortified armor, but piercing does bugger-all (comparatively).

cheers,
metal

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What if there are three units... ATK:100 DEF:50, ATK:100 DEF:100, and ATK:50 DEF:50

ATK: 100 vs DEF:50 is not the same as ATK:100 vs DEF:100.
That difference cant be simplified into just attack because your attack changes based on who you are against. Changing it to ATK:50 doesnt Create the same effect.

Add in the common mechanic of damage types which are modified by the defense type and you have a dynamic system where your ATK effectively changes based on what you fight.

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You can't "forget about defense numbers", because you always need some variable that indicates how much damage a unit can take before dying, which is basically what defense is all about - so our units wouldn't die from a single hit. Whether that's called health, hit points, defense or armor is irrelevant.

Usually in games we have a case where one defense variable has been stacked onto another for additional (or damage type specific) protection. Armor over hit points, for example. However, if armor is just a linear extension of hit points, then you can easily get rid of it. That would only mean that the defensive capacity of an unit is now measured just in hit points.

Quote:
Original post by leiavoia
So if i'm "defending" some territory of mine, i do not see the benefit of using "defense" units for that purpose when attack units with the same numbers will do the same job.


I'm not quite following this. If "attack" and "defense" units have the same numbers, then they are essentially the same unit, no?

Otherwise, if you have the so-called "armor bubble" units, with superior defense, of course it wouldn't do the same job. You can use these units to soak up a lot of damage and have them block vital passages and defend key locations (eg. cities). Ideally, your opponent will have to overcommit himself to get past the bubble wall, and he will have to spend much more resources than you had to on that front. Which leaves you with enough time and money to exploit the situation.

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You also have to think about your simplistic Attack - Defense a bit harder.
100:50 vs 100:50 may equate to 50vs50
but how does your basic starter unit fair?
a 25:10 vs a 25:10 seems fair at 15vs15 damage.
But a 25:10 can't even touch a 100:50. One hundred 25:10 units wouldn't do anything (unless you set some min damage, like 1).

Even simple defense mechanics like armor allow you to invalidate damage from unit type A vs unit type B. Thus giving the higher level unit B advantage over smaller units.

You also seem to have forgot that defensive units also means stuff like the siegetank from starcraft. It is an ok unit on the roll, but in defense mode it dishes out massive dps but can't move. Or the mobile shield in SupremeCommander. It has no offense, but increases the HP of all the units under the shield. Defensive turrets/bunkers tend to have benifits too. In something like starcraft, a bunker costs 2 marines worth of unbuilt offsense for 9 marines defense, but it costs next to nothing to repair it from 1hp back to full.

All the mechanics of the game play together to make the distinctions between defense and offense much more noticeable than just reducing damage to a single number. And as such, no specific defense units would make most games play like the starcraft maps zonecontrol or golems. As all units would boil down to what "level" they were, and X number of the level below them would be equal in power. And this just leads to unit Z being the best damage-per-costs and thusly being the only valid unit to build if you want to win. While many games still suffer the game-ender unit problem, defense tatics/numbers/mechanics allow players to experiment with a wider range of units as they search for something that counters their opponent's units while not being single sided enough to expose a gaping weakness to a counter.

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With only one value, it basically becomes a rating/ranking system where only the unit with the highest number is worth using. The more modifiers and variables there are, the more choices the user has and the more diverse the viable strategies are that one can use.

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Another thing to consider is having the offensive/defensive choices made affect something additional beyond combat, such as movement. For instance, an infantry unit could be made for attack, with average armor and a strong weapon. These choices might give a relatively fast movement rate. A defensive unit would be made with very strong, heavy armor, a heavy, large shield, but would have relatively slow movement because of the encumbrance.

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Quote:
Original post by leiavoia
Many games, whether TBS or RTS or other, come down to numbers in the end.

Yes and no. It's about how these numbers interact. It's about what emerges from these numbers.

Quote:
So if i'm "defending" some territory of mine, i do not see the benefit of using "defense" units for that purpose when attack units with the same numbers will do the same job.

If they have the same numbers, what makes one a defender and the other an attacker? Just slapping labels on units without actually making them effective in that role is useless. A defensive unit is only a real defensive unit if it's actually useful in a defensive role. Some units can be equally effective in an offensive role and some will be better defenders against certain units than against others.

Quote:
Would it make any difference if everything was just "a unit" with attack numbers and just forget about so-called defense?

Sounds like you're mixing up 'defense' and 'armor' here, or you're speaking about a specific model that I'm not thinking in.

Quote:
I'm thinking that to make "defense" vs "offense" of any real concern, there have to be offensive and defensive abilities beyond what simple numbers are able to provide.

These abilities can emerge from numbers. Now, only having firepower and armor numbers is a bit limited, but once you start to play with rate of fire, range, speed, health, ammunition and so on, you can get pretty interesting results without adding 'special' abilities.

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Quote:
These abilities can emerge from numbers. Now, only having firepower and armor numbers is a bit limited, but once you start to play with rate of fire, range, speed, health, ammunition and so on, you can get pretty interesting results without adding 'special' abilities.

Yes, I ahve posted about this before on other threads.

If you use armour to reduce the amount of damage each hit of an attack does to the hitpoints, then you can get some interesting effects.

As an example: If you have a Unit that does 3 hits in one second and each hit does 10 damage (a total of 30 damage). Against a unit with an armour rating of 4, this unit only does a total of 18 damage (10-4 + 10-4 + 10-4 = 18).

But against a unit that has only 1 armour, then this attacking unit does 27 damage (10-1 + 10-1 + 10-1 = 27).

But then if you had another attacking unit that did 1 hit each second for 25 damage, would this unit be better against the first or second defending unit?

Well against the first unit it would do 21 damage and the second it would do 24 damage. SO it would be (marginally) better against the first defender than the original attacker, but worse against the second defender.

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Re: leiavoia

Quote:
I'm thinking that to make "defense" vs "offense" of any real concern, there have to be offensive and defensive abilities beyond what simple numbers are able to provide.

Any thoughts?


I would just like to point out that the default model of 'defense' is a wall or a shield. Its function is to block an attack. The attacker is not trying to attack the defense, but the targets behind the defense. Attacking defenses uses up the ammo/strength that could have been used to attack the targets.

If the game has the concept of strength or ammo, then any thing that is cheap that can block attacks become defensive units.

The root number you want to look at is probably not "attack point" or "defense" point", but "ammunition".

In general, the purpose of defensive units is to absorb the attacks intended for other valuable targets. Destroying the defensive units is not the objective, otherwise there won't be a difference. The game needs to distinguish between valuable targets and obstacles.

[Edited by - Wai on November 9, 2008 2:09:55 PM]

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Micromanagement is really the key to any units success or failure in defense or offense.

Starcraft is probably one of the better examples of this.

Adding abilities essentially adds more probability for imbalance.
Removing them and just making success dependant on who has the largest group of high attack units would most likely be boring.
Except when blowing things up.

Try a mix of both.

Maybe add shields?

I'm not sure.

But RTS isn't really a genre known for it's groundbreaking *shudder* gameplay.
Rather it's emergent *shudder* gameplay.

Count on the player finding a way to exploit something.
Just give every unit an equal opportuninty to succeed, rather than having units on a scale of bad to good, just to give more room for strategy.

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Divide and conquer - you put your defensive-minded forces (say 25% of total) in front of half of his army while swamping his other half with your offensive forces. Then, once you've finished off his first half, you clobber the other half with everybody.

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Also, it allows you to set up several 'pickets' of defensively strong forces along your frontier and have a more mobile force able to respond to enemy incursions no matter where they happen. The defensively strong pickets can hold out until help arrives. This allows you to reduce the total number of units needed to hold a given area

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