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dSKhan

RTS/RPG hybrid idea - feedback and guidance needed

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Hello all. First post here :) I'm a bit nervous about how's all this gonna sound to all of you but here it goes. Basic concept is a controller friendly 3rd person perspective game with the ability to give orders to other units as well. If I could use games to describe what I'm thinking they'd be: Sacrifice (3rd Person RTS) but instead of single units the user will control groups of units (as in Praetorians or Kohan 2). The game begins as the player receives an amulet which shapeshifts into an armor. He arrives at a battlefield between the good and bad guys and you guessed it! - you get to choose your side. You will not be in direct control of your units. Lieutenants will join you as you progress through the game and you choose with which one of them you go to battle as they have different traits. Some of them can recruit archers, others cavalry, etc. The economy system is entirely based on 'Prestige' which means that every kill you or your units make will earn you prestige points which you can earn for upgrades for your units, weapons for yourself, enchants or to recruit more units. The player will be encouraged to spend as less points as he earns more, as a Hiscore ladder will show the players with the most Prestige points amassed. Another 'hidden' resource is the 'Honor' points system. I consider it hidden since the user doesn't need to see the mechanics of this system. After completing the tutorial, in the mission you choose a side, you earn 1 Honor point towards the race you chose. From there on, before any mission you can choose the mission to play by choosing its difficulty. For example, easy missions are represented in Green, easy in Yellow and hard ones in Red. The user will choose where to go next considering what's the difficulty he wants to play in. He can go for a casual.. I just wanna fight some guys and relax hacking and slashing before going to work green mission, or a harder red mission with a more tactic feel to it. The Honor system is responsible for rewards the player gets for what types of quests he plays: the sidequests that appear, the way the storyline progresses and the lieutenants and spells that he can earn. The player is able to: 1- give instruction to recruitors (attack/wait/guard/follow/defensive stance) 2.1- be a brawler (he can use melee weapons and uses taunts to boost his men or weaken the enemy) 2.2- be a mage (use staff for melee and use spells) There aren't any level upgrades since the game should focus more on tactics and less on grinding and I considered the Prestige points a better option than gold since the game is viewed from the perspective of a hero, not of a mercenary. The units are a more complex rock/paper/scissors system with variables such as formation, stance and higher ground. The mission types are: - Conquer - in which you have to conquer cities, strategic points, etc. - Offensive/Ambush - in which you have to eliminate all units - Defensive - in which you have to protect an objective or resist waves of attacks - Escort - where you escort units/caravans/etc. - Race - in which you have to earn more prestige than an allied opponent in a battle Now here comes the tough part in which I find myself stuck. The land has gone into a full scale war, so I need to express the idea of greatness, but from the 3rd person perspective and with a controller it's pretty hard to control a large number of unit groups. So, by holding a button you can choose the unit to control with the analog stick, between 4 or 6 groups (I haven't figured out the limitations yet). Do you think I can represent the idea of a war by using such a small number of troops? How many units do you think should be in a group? Are you aware of any game engine for beginners, SDK or Editor (my programming skills are at their minimum) I can use to experiment? Thanks. Besides my questions, any feedback on what I've listed so far is kindly appreciated.

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Sounds a little bit similar to some of the history simulation games by Koei (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nobunaga's Ambition). I suggest maybe taking a look at some of them for some inspiration.

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Those two games you mentioned are from a top-down view and turn based strategies.
It's much easier to control and view the units from this view, but for a real time game this kind of control is much less enjoyable using a controller imo.

I don't want the user experience to have a "Rambo" feel to it so he'd really feel there are two armies clashing instead of a one vs. all gameplay (as in the Dynasty Warriors series where the AI of units sucked).

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Hm. Since you brought up sacrifice, how about we talk about that.

Most of the appeal (at least for me) was that you weren't on the front lines, you were trying your best to stay out of melee, while ordering your guys around and casting spells. Having the player fighting alongside his minions will end up making the player feel weak or overpowered, with very little middle ground.

You could have them chose between archery and casting, or some sort of melee reach weapon, like a spear.


The general idea also seems to be a bit odd from the armies perspective: a complete stranger walks up and allies with them, so they let him control as many guys as he wants.
I would recommend putting a cap on number of guys you can command at one time, which honor would increase. That way, while a large battle could be raging, you would be commanding a relatively small squad doing elite special opps stuff: damaging enemy siege engines, assassinating leaders, but rarely fighting in an area with 500 people against you.

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Long ago I did a mod for Neverwinter Nights where I made a kind of RTS out of it (it is a 3rd person RPG).

In this each player joined one side and then took their character out into the world and collected resources by collecting gold and food. Gold could be used to buy minions (of various character class types) and equipment (for themselves and their minions) and food could be used to help manage them (healing, getting spells back, and could be used on the player character too in various ways).

However, what I did was to allow the player to issue commands that controlled the way their minions acted. They could tell them to guard an area, follow them, or even line up into a formation (box, line, column, wedge, chevron, etc - there were about 8 or 10 different formations) and how spread out the formation was and where it was in relation to the player (behind, in front, to the side).

The player could also give other types of orders (charge, retreat, fall-back, range only, etc).

The formation responded naturally, in that if a minion was killed then the formation would close ranks.

All this gave them a very detailed control over their minions.

As the player could direct their minions through commands, the player did not need to have direct control over them (there were several tags - like name, class, race, etc - that allowed the player to specifically order an individual minion or sub group of their minions around) but still had the ability to manipulate them in a micro way.

As each Minion was an autonomous agent (NPC), they followed a set of rules which controlled their actions. S if the player issued the order for a box formation, then depending on the class, they would either go into the centre, or move to a position on the edge. The player would not have to spend time making sure that their casters were not in a vulnerable spot.

The AI was pretty simple and complex at the same time. The structure of it was simple, but the work that went into it to make it so was not.

Each entity in NwN has a series of parameters that describe it (name, class, race, HP, etc). You could also create a set of variable that were attached to that entity. Using these attached variables, I created my own set of tags that described its roles in the various formations.

Upon issued an order, the player character entity would assign each individual minion to a specific place in the formation. When one was killed, the dying minion would notify the player character entity and it would reassign another minion to that place in the formation.

The formations were designed using a dynamic system rather than having a set structure. I used a set of rules to describe the shape of the formation (just basic geometry really), and then distributed the minions along that geometry.

This was given to the minion AIs as a set of vectors relative to the Player Character entity (how far away from the player and in what direction the player is facing). This allowed the Minion AIs to move around as the player moves and as the player changes direction the formation would wheel around them (quite spectacular with 20 minions).

So the Player would issue orders, the Player Character entity would interpret those orders and then give specific orders to the individual minions. The minions were then responsible for carrying out these specific orders (eg: move to this location, attack the nearest enemy, etc).

This frees the player up for making the big strategic decisions and not worry about moving individual units around a map.

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Quote:
Original post by doomhascome
Hm. Since you brought up sacrifice, how about we talk about that.

Most of the appeal (at least for me) was that you weren't on the front lines, you were trying your best to stay out of melee, while ordering your guys around and casting spells. Having the player fighting alongside his minions will end up making the player feel weak or overpowered, with very little middle ground.

You could have them chose between archery and casting, or some sort of melee reach weapon, like a spear.


The general idea also seems to be a bit odd from the armies perspective: a complete stranger walks up and allies with them, so they let him control as many guys as he wants.
I would recommend putting a cap on number of guys you can command at one time, which honor would increase. That way, while a large battle could be raging, you would be commanding a relatively small squad doing elite special opps stuff: damaging enemy siege engines, assassinating leaders, but rarely fighting in an area with 500 people against you.


Overlord is another game you can take for reference. Even if that type of control is totally out of question, the player can also get involved into melee. Most of the time it's recommended to stay away and give support to your players but that doesn't mean you have to put the sword away :)

You'll progressively be able to have more lieutenants with you, thus more army to lead. In the beginning you'll take care of a small number of units. At first because they ask you to lead them back to camp.. after which you'll take parts in missions that are handled by a group of generals, not only yourself.
Thing is, because of your armor the races really feel that they need you so it's more of a necessary trust.
You even have the ability to switch sides at some point in the storyline.

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Quote:
Original post by doomhascome
That actually sounds exactly like the Sacrifice interface, but then again, it seems to be the only rational way of doing such things.

I have never actually played Sacrifice so I have not seen the interface (but just looked for example on Youtube), so it sort of supports the conclusion that it is a logical interface for that type of game.

From what I have now seen of the game the basic concept of the interface seems similar, but the concept of the game is not as similar as the interface.

In my Mod, the game was more about combined arms, than having unit counters. It was less about what units you had, and more about how you used them. Also as the player character was similar in power to the units (minions were the same level or lower as the player character) the player was not so much a Hero/boss, but a leader/commander (they had more control over them but were not more powerful than the minions). However, minions were far more expendable than the player characters.

I have always though of one day making this mod into a game in its own right, but that will be a while yet.

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A good game to take a look will be Shattered Galaxy, anytime you can access the world map and see the battles raging around the world.

I think the way to convey a great war is not by the numbers you command at one time but by what is happening in the background. Like reading news of a huge battle a few provinces away is enough to grant you a sense of a full-on war taking place around you.

You can also provide pre-battle briefings and post-battle briefings, provide details that makes people feel that they were just in a battle, like things and events a player might not have seen or experienced first hand.

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@Edharan - how did making the commander almost equal to the minions feel? I'm actually afraid that it might give the player the feeling that he is weak as doomhascome suggested.

Si Hao - thanks for your suggestions. It really opened my way of thinking for some new possibilities story wise.

Thanks all.

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Quote:
Original post by dSKhan
@Edharan - how did making the commander almost equal to the minions feel? I'm actually afraid that it might give the player the feeling that he is weak as doomhascome suggested.

Well, players naturally bought themselves the best equipment to give themselves the best chance of survival, and they usually tried to have as many minions around them as possible. But, because they could easily come back to life, the death of a player character was not as big a deal as the deaths of the minions.

The player still felt a connection to their character, but they also tended to get a sense of connection to the minions too. I would say that their sense of presence in the game became more diffuse and spread out. The player became the "squad". Loss of minions was seen in a similar way to loss of hit points, and loss of the commander was seen as a critical hit (although the minions would still exist, they just no longer had a commander to control them, and if they survived long enough the player could reacquire them after respawning).

Generally, player would play more carefully usually putting their minions at the front as they moved around, however a few well placed ambushes could quickly target and eliminate the commander before the minions could respond and a squad without the commander, although still capable of defeating an other squad, usually would loose because they were less coordinated.

It did make them feel weak, but as they had control over the squad, this became their shield against that weakness. Play became more cautious, and less "rush in and fight until the minions were all dead then spawn some more" (which is how the videos of "Sacrifice" seemed to be played). Squad coordination, formations, strategy and tactics seemed to become more important than sheer numbers and knowing unit counters. I think it was actually a good thing.

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Interestingly enough, the upcoming game, Brutal Legends, will have a similar RPG-RTS hybrid as a multiplayer mode, where you command small squads of units, while you yourself can also jump into the action.

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How about changing the game slightly depending on what the player does during battles? If he spends more time fighting enemies directly rather than commanding his troops ,he gains more buffs or offensive/defensive skills but the number of people he commands lessen and he is limited to moving near the front lines only . A player who commands others gradually moves towards the back of the battlefield but increasing his sight and the number of people he can control at once. At one end you have a warload player who, with a small number of men can really cut through the enemy ranks and the other end is a general player who can command a vast number of weaker troops and deploy them over the battlefield. A balanced player can have good view/deployment skills but can also go himself in critical areas/battles to provide the extra edge, if needed.

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