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RTS Abstraction

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In most RTS's I've seen/played (actually, all of them), the general theme is that the player takes the role of a "general" or commander of sorts, and goes about lining up build jobs/unit movements/attacks and such. But there seems to be a contridiction - the player is set far enough up the command chain that he's projected into an almost Bureaucratic position when concerning the economics of the conflict, but is then expected to play a on-the-field squad sergeant when commanding individual units. As a remedy, I'm envisioning a RTS system that has the following traits: You are given a Requisition pool that supplies units; no more and no less. For the combat system, each squad has a leader. You drag and drop commands onto the leader; these can be assault/capture/defend and the like. The actual implimentaion of the move is decided by the AI to sort priorities. Ex: You command a squad to attack an enemy squad by dragging-dropping the attack command. The squad AI will then prioritize the highest threat in the enemy squad, take any available cover, and deploy any flanking manuvers if available or the situation warrents. While this may take away some of the "fun" of the game, I believe that the player is then freed of micromanaging in order to form a solid tactical and stratigic overall plan. Comments are greatly welcomed.

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This is quite a challenge. I think many players see micromanagment as a part of the play where they can express their skill, rather than an annoyance.

But if your IAs are well done enough, and you compensate with new interesting possibilities, that could work.

I'd be interested to see the results, good luck !

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Original post by SriLumpa
I think many players see micromanagment as a part of the play where they can express their skill, rather than an annoyance.
I have always seem unit micromanagement as an annoyance, and thi is probably why I am a lousy StarCraft player [wink]

I mean, micromanagement is fine for a tactical RPG, or similar, but does it really belong in something labelled as 'strategy'? I wouldn't mind maintaining supply lines, or something in that vein, but I really would rather not have to micro each marine if I want to win.

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Original post by Esys
In most RTS's I've seen/played (actually, all of them), the general theme is that the player takes the role of a "general" or commander of sorts, and goes about lining up build jobs/unit movements/attacks and such. But there seems to be a contridiction - the player is set far enough up the command chain that he's projected into an almost Bureaucratic position when concerning the economics of the conflict, but is then expected to play a on-the-field squad sergeant when commanding individual units.



Seems to me most people view the genre wrong. Every action shouldn't be taken literally (The same way you can build a structure in under a minute) but as notional. Heck, you may not even be the 'general'. In any real war thousands of people are involved in the decision making, from politicians to high ranking military offices and their support chain. Maybe every action you make is taken from them to achieve their goals; to include gathering stone for the construction of star ships. Not everything unrealistic about a game has to be realized.

On a more personal level, I enjoy the tedious micromanagement. In some RTS games I can get up and go make myself a hot pocket without any expectations of having my base wiped out or losing ground... that's not fun for me. I prefer having to completely involve myself into the victory of every skirmish. If my mouse is not making a hundred clicks a second, then I feel like a seriously miss-allocated resource myself :/



...But, then again, fresh ideas can spur remarkable outcomes. If you believe you have a winning idea, do something with it.

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This form of RTS could work (Ground Control is a little like that, you give orders to unit groups not individuals). But your squad AI needs to be extremely good, because otherwise the player will spend the whole time going 'Why is he going there? No, go THAT way! Oh my god this game is so frustrating!'. Also, games where the user's role is too high level and you don't actually spend much time doing anything don't have a lot of space for skill and quickly become boring.

Having crashed and burnt with a resounding failure first time around :p I am thinking of revitalising my multiplayer online nation building game to incorporate more RTS elements; battles would actually take place on a RTS type map and you could take personal command of the units if you wished, but if you didn't want to (or were offline, or several battles are taking place at one), a field sergeant would manage it for you. The point I am most worried about though is how to make an intelligent AI.

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Original post by Bob Janova
The point I am most worried about though is how to make an intelligent AI.


Isn't that the real question?

Making the AI intelligent would be the most important part to the abstraction. The unit should follow your orders while balancing its own decisions about how to move to where it needs to get. The unit should strike a balance between moving quickly and moving safely by moving between patches of cover.

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As other people have pointed out, unless you can make the AI play as well as the person can then people will constantly feel like they are handing the controls of something they think they can handle better over. Bear in mind that most people think they are better than what they see until they try it (when watching a football match, how many times have you heard "I could score there" or "what is the manager doing, they would be better of doing.."), this is going to require some supremely good AI, better than any human :P

Assuming you don't have such an AI engine, there are other ways round this. Firstly, make it so the battles are purely symbolic. Ie, the AI commanders strategy has no impact on the final result. If you send in a squad of shotgun troops close range to a squad of snipers, then you will win. This is basically moving towards are real time version of something like Civilization.

Or, if you want to keep the commander aspect, hide it from the player. Make it so they can't see what the commander is doing, so they won't get aggravated by it.

Possibly the most optimal solution is make it part of the game play. Do you spend resources training generals, or just select someone at random and afford a bigger army. This means players can't get frustrated with their generals because they should have just made them better. Much like in traditional RTS you don't get frustrated when your bowmen don't hit the target and wish the game switched in to first person, because you could fire the arrow better.

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