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the PERRRRRRRFECT RTS

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Hello all; I''m back with more questions about game design. I''d like your input on what I need to do to make the perfect RTS. Although I would consider myself to know quite a bit on this subject, my gameplay has been limited to Starcraft and other such games. Again, I would like to thank you all ahead of time for your input.

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Well, three things would make the perfect RTS for me:

A. Possible to customize the came. Not just the terrain, but the units/buildings too.
B. Too little emphasis is given on govenment and civilians. Your civilization always seems to be militant.
C. Ancients. I like ancient civs more than these modern, futuristic RTSs.

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Well, it IS a strategy game, not a simulation =). I think that users should be able to ADD units to the game using configuration files. You know, users should be able to specify a model, give it ablities and what-not. If you really wanted to go all out, users should be able to custom script new effects, etc.

Z.

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Well, backing gph-gw up here: Is the only option for a (R)eal-(T)ime (S)trategy game war?

If not, then competitive non-warfare based RTS games are an option.

I''m getting a little tapped out with RTS games after playing Starcraft, Warzone 2100, Dark Reign 2, Ground Control (bleeech!!!! ), Red Alert, etc... Many are just the same game with different units, which ultimately ends with the same gameplay...

But!

If you''re gonna do an RTS...

Territorial Expansion: It''s critical. Nothing is lamer than a game of harvester napping (Emperor of Dune) where both sides sit back in their humongously defended bases and don''t attack. Anything that get''s folks trading blows constantly in my view is a good thing. Starcraft did this well because you had to expand, until Big Game Hunters became the most popular friggin map. (I take it back, maybe people like sitting in their base and rushing... I dunno)

Multiplayer Glyph Setting: Until everybody has voice over IP and uses it! we need better communication between players. I need to be able to tell my allies where I''m going to attack; or what areas to avoid. If I could set down markers on the map that only they could see, I''d be most happy.

Better / More Multiplayer Games: You know how CTF and Assault spiced up same-old, same-old deathmatch play for FPS games? More of that''s needed for RTS. King of the Hill, allied base sharing, etc.

Unit AI Scripting/Settings: Face it, units are never going to be as smart as we want them to be. But having good, logical options will help. Total Annihilation was best, I think, because it was simple and effective: Movement was a choice of (Don''t Move, Move Along Path, Move Freely) and Attack was (Don''t Attack, Return Fire, Fire Freely). I''d like to see priority settings, so that given a choice automatic defenses kill certain targets (like engineers) automatically, but I guess that''d be asking for too much...

Rush Killers: I hate ''em. They end the game quick, there''s no strategy, and they make the game pointless. Early, cheap area effect weapons that damage cheap, en masse units are the way to go to stop rushing.

I could continue, but this is prolly already too much!



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
gah, such anti RTS responses

Ok here is what I see as the big problem with SC:

too much emphasis on huge numbers of units and too much time spent attending to boring details.

Now you need to figure out why that is such a problem and deal with it. Here are some of the causes:

peon pumping. Design a resource system that does not involve peon pumping. I really life Strifeshadow''s approach. It has two kinds of resources. The main resource is drawn from pools by towers in a network, then the money is relayed back to base. If the towers are damaged or spaced too far they leak. You can kill a tower to cut off their network. It is a really good system. The other type of resource is mined. However because of the way mines work you only need one worker on each. The mine builds up money which the peon then takes back.

The need to build farms. It is pointless, pull it.

Global upgrades, particularly upgrades that add +1 to damage or something. They favor people who make hordes of units, not people who use their units well.

The next biggest problem is that massing units is too powerful. The reasons:

you have to spend so much time on getting resources you don''t have time to plan, and just sending hordes is the way to go. This is addressed above.

global upgrades, addressed above

the resource system. Each resource beyond the first means something. The most common (and bad) approach is to make a second or third resource and make it a "tech" resource. What does this do? It makes it harder to get advanced units, you are forced into making lower tech stuff more than is good for the game. Starcraft and Strifeshadow, Age of Empires, etc... all suffer from this problem. If you don''t need another resource don''t use it.

On the other hand sometimes you want to control something so go ahead and make a resource for it. I think Warcraft III is going to address this problem wonderfully. They have a core resource and a secondary resource that is used for a specific set of functions (getting heros and teching, but not for tech units). The secondary resource is to help control the timing of the game. However it doesn''t stop there. They are putting neutral buildings on the map that you will be able to control. For example there will be several types of units only available by taking control of these buildings. The transport units are one such unit. If you have an island expansion and you are able to control the transport building you''ll be in a good situation. Other buildings such as an observatory (comsat) will be available.

Next issue is the units themselves. Hydras counter a lot more things than they are countered by and so it is a no brainer to make more hydras. If the system had better defined counters more units would be used. Myth is the classic example of this. So few units (like five maybe?) yet so tactically rich. SC isn''t that bad on this issue but it could be better. SS is good on this.

Oh and make sure to order your tech tree correctly. The very order of your tech tree determines whether your game is a mindless rush game or much more interesting. As a rule make each tech level counter the level before it, and ideally make it lose to the unit two levels below it.. That way people are encouraged to gradually tech, but if they rush up the tech tree they don''t really gain any significant benefit.

well that''s it for now

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Pretty much everything that has already been said plus....

Buildings as tactical objectives
I think buildings should be neutral, they belong to whoever occupies them. And there should be appropriate tactical advantages/disadvantages to occupying builidings.

Terrain as tactical objectives
RTS''s are getting better here, but they still arent perfect. High ground is tactically invaluable, you have better lines of sight, longer range on your weapons, and advantage in melee, etc. Low ground can also be useful for concealed approaches, and offers the advantage of surprise...

Less resource-centric gameplay
Most RTS''s to date a very resource oriented - the winner of the game is the person who gets the best resources at the early stages of the game. I would rather that the winner was the person who uses the better tactics.

Better balanced units, particularly infantry
Every unit should be useful at every stage of the game - there should be no obsolete units. In SC for example, marines/zealots/zerglings are pretty much only useful early in the game, to defend your base from any initial rushes. Once more powerful units are available, they tend to just sit around or get sent on suicide missions to make space for better units. Infantry are generally crap anyway (RA is the worst offender here - there are only a couple of infantry units worth building, the rest are a waste of resources) In reality, infantry are probably the most flexible military units we have.

Less shitty micromanagement
This includes resource management, and managing the units themselves. I would prefer to have 5 men acting as a group than 5 individuals which I have to micromanage in order to stop them doing something stupid. This would require a certain amount of autonomy on the part of the units, ie better AI. I guess RTS''s will always need better AI.

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The perfect RTS would look pretty much like StarCraft.

StarCraft is either playable by newbies, like SandMan who thinks that zealots/marines/lings are only useful in early game, but also playable by professionnal gamers. Yes, StarCraft is a sport in Korea.

Some points were used in StarCraft, probably not as deep as they shoul have... but they have a system for high cliff units, having an advantages on the ones on the lower cliff. Also units hiding behind walls/trees gain a defense advantage.

In your perfect RTS you should have both micro and macro management. Producing in multiple expansions (pumping peons) is a skill that not every player has. It''s hard to be good at macro management. Also you should have enough unit control to have good fights, and at equal forces, the one with the best mouse/keyboard control should win.

No need to waste time on game types like King of the Hill... hardcore gamers wont play them, you can''t get known at being good in a King of the Hill game!

A real important thing is that all your "races" must have different units. Not like in Warcraft where swordmen were like orcs with different bonuses...

The techtree/technologies should be different from a race to an other, the way buildings produce and all. Those are different nations that might not have heard of the others before this "war" or what ever, so it''s nearly impossible that they build the same way.

And by the way, "mass expanding" then producing lots of the same unit IS a strategy, and it''s easily counterable. So you shouldn''t cut the user to use any strategy... if he wants to rush, let him go, since the other player can also rush to defend himself.

Both melee and ranged units are important. If you plan to let the user produce "masses" of units, you should also include spell casters or anything with the ability to kill masses when used the good way.

I could continue but I guess it''s now time to work

You can still email me if you want more

BTW, I spent thousand hours playing Starcraft, I learned with people like Guillaume Patry (X''Ds~Grrrr...) who is now a professionnal gamer in Korea... I''ve discussed hundred of hours how SC could be improved, so I guess I know what I''m talking about hehe

Also, sorry for my English, I''m a French Canadian ;/

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I agree about having different races, this gives SC a lot of reply value and depth, far more than AoK where the race differences are relatively minor.

I disagree with this...

quote:

In your perfect RTS you should have both micro and macro management. Producing in multiple expansions (pumping peons) is a skill that not every player has. It's hard to be good at macro management. Also you should have enough unit control to have good fights, and at equal forces, the one with the best mouse/keyboard control should win.




This not the kind of RTS I want to play. If I want to test reflexes and mouse skills, Ill play UT or Quake. I want to test tactical thinking, rather like TBS's but in real time.

quote:

And by the way, "mass expanding" then producing lots of the same unit IS a strategy, and it's easily counterable. So you shouldn't cut the user to use any strategy... if he wants to rush, let him go, since the other player can also rush to defend himself.



This is true, but most RTS's strategic manouevering is more hassle than it is worth, whereas tankrushes are easy and effective. Sure, given equal forces strategy becomes important, but since the forces in these game are so rarely equal (because one player is better at peon pumping) strategy is not a skill that is really worth developing. Peon pumping on the other hand, is essential if you want to be a halfway decent player. Peon pumping isnt strategy, or at least, not the kind of strategy I am interested in.

quote:

StarCraft is either playable by newbies, like SandMan who thinks that zealots/marines/lings are only useful in early game, but also playable by professionnal gamers. Yes, StarCraft is a sport in Korea.



Well I havent played SC anything like as much as you have, it is true. So educate this newbie, what can an army of zealots do that a fleet of Carriers cant?


Edited by - Sandman on June 22, 2001 6:55:42 AM

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Warcraft 3 was there for a while, but then left (yes I know it isn''t out yet, I just mean it was designed to be the best RTS ever).

No levels.

Remove the idea of stages or levels. Make the entire campaign on one massive map. I realise this is hard from a hardware specification point, but this would to me be the perfect RTS.

Having the player finish one level, then take him out, and then putting him back in a new, totally alien environment is bad.

If it was one huge map, that the player had to scout and to discover tons of enemy bases. The objectives could be given in real-time, not in some mission briefing.

The user would get to know the map, learning strategies for specific parts:
e.g.
"Oh, I''m under fire here, but I remember that there is a bottle-neck in a canoyon a few screens down, so I''ll lure them there and then have the advantage.

And large maps aren''t totally unfeasible even today. Looking at the new ''Operartion Flashpoint'' the map sizes are like 16 000 miles square or something ridiculous like that. (Although the game doens''t really use it all, which is dissapointing...).

Anyway, you give me starcraft + what I described above and you''d have the perfect RTS in my mind.

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SandMan... if you go straight techno with Carriers, then my zealots will tear your base apart, you might call that a rush. Though by the time you''ll have 3-4 carriers, I''ll have what... 36-48 zealots? Which WILL be killed, some day by those flying units, though, they''ll do enough damage so you can''t do anything else

Melvin : the problem with that is that you don''t give the user any rest, no credits for winning a battle, it will be one damn long game that will take hours and hours to finish. I wouldn''t hook to this time of game. I prefer fast 1on1s against other PLAYERS. Playing the computer is just boring. Playing against somebody else though is more challenging, since you can talk with him, and you can feel his stress when you take down an expansion or buildings, what ever. The ages of campains against the computer is about to end. Almost everybody has an internet connection and i don''t know anybody who still prefer to do campains than to play online.

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quote:

SandMan... if you go straight techno with Carriers, then my zealots will tear your base apart, you might call that a rush. Though by the time you''ll have 3-4 carriers, I''ll have what... 36-48 zealots? Which WILL be killed, some day by those flying units, though, they''ll do enough damage so you can''t do anything else



This is all true, but none of this is contrary to my original statement, which was that in the later stages of the game, the zealots are pretty much obsolete - you have researched everything, you have enough resources to build all the carriers you want - why would you want to build more zealots? I suspect though, that you never end up in that situation - your last post suggests that you prefer the faster game which probably doesnt last more than half an hour to an hour. I prefer a longer game, but the RTS''s at the moment tend to favour your style of play. My perfect RTS would be very different from yours.

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Hm, this has become quite a SC talk, and as much I dislike SC, I will interfere.
xEricx, you sound like a hardcore SC player and that''s why the only thing you could want/think of, just as any hardcore SC, is bigger, better SC. I agree that SC has somewhat nice interface and gameplay, but it certainly in not the RTS of the future, IMO. And playing vs the PC''s AI will always be here, no matter you like it or not.

I like the One-Big-Map idea, really. It is better than the Fast Play scenarios with "Rebuild your base from the beggining up to level 10" thing every 40-50 minutes. Even if we have a split in several pieces big map, it would be nice to have ability to transfer units from other bases and regions that you already control. Or, if we have it as a one huge map, it would also be interesting. You''ll need to build really smooth infrastructure though all your bases for supplies, ammo, healthcare, etc. Also, you will have a battle on many fronts, so you could be surprised at any time by saboteurs in one of your first bases.

And tasks, yes, they could be assigned dynamicaly, in the process of the game and depending on what progress the player has by now. I.e. if your first task was "Take over Enemy Base 1" and you not only took that base, but also Base 2 and you control the supply route to Base 3, then your second task won''t be "Capture Base 2", but "Destroy Base 3 fuel silos". Just an idea... Also, task could depend on unit count, total unit strenght, specific units in army, supply routes, transportation means, roads controlled, etc. This would allow many different ways to complete the campain. You could have a save option only at the completion of each task, for the hardcore gamers.

Also, let units have experience, as seen in several games, but we need a better experience system. One that really values the veterans'' skill to get into or avoid combat. Say the more experienced your units get, the better they use the tactical terrain bonuses, or they start collecting supplies from enemies bunkers, bases, buildings, bodies as they pass by. Experience may also make some units leaders, which means that others will be willing to stick with them, as it is much more likely to survive with a skill commander.

And that leads me to a thought. Units should not seek their own death, unless programmed (for robots, i.e.), strictly commanded. Even then, infantry would flee if a huge tank brigade comes over the hill. No matter the orders. And you cannot order a medic "Halt", till 10 feet away there are soldiers dying. What I''m trying to say is that units should act smart, not just follow orders, not matter of the circumstances.

Enough for now, gotta run...


Boby Dimitrov
boby@azholding.com

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Guest Anonymous Poster
hmm it seems we have two different threads, the multiplayer guys and the single player guys. I had assumed that Duke Lion was asking about multiplayer because single player RTS isn''t really RTS, it is more like sim/RPG with RTS flavor. For example the unit AI thing, the most important thing about AI is that the unit be predicatable and controllable, not necessarily smart. In single player you might want them to be smarter at the expense of control.

Sandman, zealots are definently useful late game. Eight zealots in a couple of shuttles will destroy an expansion or take out a vital tech structure much faster than two carriers. I haven''t played recently and when I quit dragoons were kind of making zealots less useful, but SC really does let you use most of the units most of the time. It isn''t perfect but it is good.

xEricx, have you tried Strifeshadow? You know the game Zileas, designed? Pillars, Cram (I think he was Maynard) and some other good players are on the beta. It is a really good game. It seems kind of slower in some ways (the battles take longer) but you get into combat much earlier and you tend to always be fighting from beginning to end, the games are about the same length of SC games but with much more battle. Macro definently works but there is more micro and a stronger emphasis on tactics

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quote:
Original post by xEricx
The perfect RTS would look pretty much like StarCraft.



Hah. I remember people saying this about FPS games and citing Doom/Quake. Then Half-Life came out. Imagine, if designers thought the only FPS game type acceptable to be Doom/Quake, there'd have been no Half-Life...

quote:

In your perfect RTS you should have both micro and macro management. Producing in multiple expansions (pumping peons) is a skill that not every player has. It's hard to be good at macro management. Also you should have enough unit control to have good fights, and at equal forces, the one with the best mouse/keyboard control should win.


That's odd. Given that this is a strategy game, I'd think the one with the best tactics and strategy should win. Victory shouldn't as much go to twitch as it should go to brains.

Micromanagement gives even starcraft the same tedious build order. People eventually min-max the build order anyway, and in time know exactly how many peons to pump, which buildings to build first, etc... They publish this on websites, everyone eventually gets it, and then the game devolves into lame puzzle solving. If that's the case, why include it? It only works until someone finds the perfect build order.

At that point, it becomes an obvious choice. Any obvious choice (citing Game Architecture & Design here) should be automatic, because all other choices aren't really choices at all.


quote:

No need to waste time on game types like King of the Hill... hardcore gamers wont play them, you can't get known at being good in a King of the Hill game!


If you only cater to ego driven pugilists (which I sometimes am, too), then yes. They'll only want games which demonstrate their superiority over their fellow gamers. In that case, direct confrontation design only.

But not everybody likes deathmatch. For everyone else who wants to play this more for fun than for bragging rights, deathmatch gets damned dull. Hence you need other games. (If you don't play friendly games, I can see how this'd be lost on you.)

quote:

And by the way, "mass expanding" then producing lots of the same unit IS a strategy, and it's easily counterable. So you shouldn't cut the user to use any strategy... if he wants to rush, let him go, since the other player can also rush to defend himself.


Rushing is indeed a strategy, but it's often a lame early strategy that directs the game in a single, uninteresting direction. Every game reduces to either defending specifically against the rush by rushing yourself or getting rushed and falling behind economically.

Does this get you a win? Yes. But like I said, if you're not in this solely for ego, and instead are playing LAN games with friends, then this drastically limits the scope of the game.

quote:

Both melee and ranged units are important. If you plan to let the user produce "masses" of units, you should also include spell casters or anything with the ability to kill masses when used the good way.



I'm fine with this, but these guys should come earlier to neutralize the rush. Tiberium Sun (an otherwise crappy game IM-not so-HO) at least had this right for one side with the fixed EMP cannon. More stuff like that, so that people can't "Templar Rush"

btw, do we really need peons?



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

Edited by - Wavinator on June 22, 2001 2:53:37 PM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
xEricx: www.ethermoon.com, the game is in late beta testing right now, the beta has been like 2-3 months already so it is unlikely that you can get on but you can still ask questions in the forum, the dev team and forumers are very responsive

Wav, yeah I agree, SC isn''t the perfect RTS. Of course I do think that when discussing RTS games SC should be the main focus because quite simply it is the best hardcore RTS so far. Now we can discuss SS and WC3 but people are more familiar with SC. Occasionally other games should be brought up but when it comes down to it when you talk RTS you''re talking SC. I think we''re going to see things evolve beyond it but it is had to evolve without discussing the present.

quote:

No need to waste time on game types like King of the Hill... hardcore gamers wont play them, you can''t get known at being good in a King of the Hill game!

If you only cater to ego driven pugilists (which I sometimes am, too), then yes. They''ll only want games which demonstrate their superiority over their fellow gamers. In that case, direct confrontation design only.


I agree with both of you. If you have multiple game types people will only care about the game types that go well with the game. Just like the only maps played are temple and BGH the only gametypes are 1v1, 2v2, and those comp games. SC has lots of game types and nobody plays them because SC was tuned to 1v1 games with some concerns for 2v2 and even comp games. However if king of the hill is your only gametype and gameplay is tuned to it that changes things. Players can "demonstrate their superiority over their fellow gamers" in last man on the hill if the game is designed around it, Myth II is and it is a really good game. Of course most games will be deathmatch and so the game will be tuned around deathmatch and so the other kinds will be boring.



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