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Building your army (RTS)

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I am looking for an alternative method of army building to the standard "mine resources, build factory, build tank" approach, which should acheive the following objectives... 1. Remove the emphasis of the game from peon pumping 2. Remove the need to balance on a per-unit basis... I want to be able to have super units without giving the player license to build reams of them and ignore everything else. 3. Encourage unit preservation. 4. Be scalable - ie a mission designed to take 3 days to complete will be just as much fun as one designed to be half an hour long. 5. Provide the player with "interesting choices" (gameplay value) The solution I have come up with, as I briefly mentioned in the Rock Paper Scissors thread, is a system of "reinforcements". (I think it was actually Diodor who inspired this one) Whenever the player feels he needs some more troops, he makes a request for reinforcements. The number of reinforcements the player is entitled to depends on one factor only - how much time has passed since he last made a request. Note that resource management has nothing to do with it... the game balance only changes according to the players combat skills. This is also scaled in favour of making fewer requests, in order to discourage the player from "spamming" his HQ with constant, piddlingly small reinforcement requests. It also gives rise to an interesting decision... can I hold off a bit longer and get that extra unit, or should I just get my reinforcements now? The list of different units available will depend on a few different things. First of all, a unit is not available unless you have the facility to maintain it. So you cant get a super heavy tank unless you have the logistics in place to keep it running. Secondly, every unit will have a frequency of occurrence: infantry units are common, but super heavy tanks are relatively rare. Finally - an element of luck could be involved - it simply depends on what reinforcements HQ have available. The reinforcements are delivered to a special place (eg a starport or dock or whatever). The time it takes them to arrive depends on the size and content of the request (generally small units are more easily dispatched than large ones, but the forces arrive at the pace of the slowest). Also, the size of the dock may be have an effect on what units you can dispatch to that dock. So, thats the basic idea - any opinions/ideas? Edited by - Sandman on July 17, 2001 12:11:55 PM

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Sandman.. Let''s do this.
answered in no particular order:

1) Campaign-based persistence. This completely obviates peon pumping, and encourages intelligent deployment and fallback strategies.

2) Finite resource supplies with terrain-based influx rates (like Civ/Civ2), but no explicit resource management (perhaps you can make that an in-game option like in homeworld, or even a separate game-type). This should give rise to maintaining "supply lines" over more fertile, perhaps more difficult to defend, terrain. I watched 2001 last night and had forgotten all about the Dawn of Man scene with the two protohuman clans fighting over the watering hole. Great way to remind me of the simpler things being the most important.

3) super-units require more resources than light units or cannon fodder (remember that game?!), hence if resources or resupply do not increase fast enough, you will have a battalion of superheavys sitting on their ass in the middle of an artillery target Light units are of course less resource intensive. I don''t think you can keep the Rolling Thunder approach out of the game unless you have some way to affect a ceiling of some sort with respect to the worldmap. That will be hard to figure out without using some kind of points based or resource based accountability.

4) Staging!! Whooo hoo buddy you are the MAN!! Restrictive staging is realistic and RULES! Say, if your beach-head is only X tiles wide you can''t land more than X(c) units at once.

5) Scalability is going to rely on LODAI or something in order to allow heavy unit numbers without eating up all the ticks. A well-defined state machine for the Unit classes is going to be key.

Have I hit all the high points?
----------------------
-WarMage
...out of the mouths of babes... comes strained carrots and other excreta.


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This is an interesting idea but I see a simple problem.
Where do you reenforments come from? I picture a city or town under siege when the player requests for his reenforments...then what? Do the new units simply appear in the town? Do they walk from the edge of the map into the town? What about the enemy army?

Command and Conquer: Red Alert did this for the helicopters but I forget if they could be shot down as they approched the player''s base. Even on the beach head mentioned above, what if the ships bringing the units can be shot at? Is it fair for the units to be destroyed before the player gets them? Or, is it fair to prevent the other player from destroying the reenforcements if he sees them approaching?

Even in the scenario where the player is situated on the side of the map, does this prevent him from relocating if he is losing his base?

One solution might be to have a reenforment route that the player must guard, and will never change based of the map, that the player knows about and is responsible for. Another solution might be to allow the player to choose an edge of the map that is within a certain distance from his base. But, the player might use this to place a new command center hidden right next to the enemy base inorder to be able call reenforments straight into the enemy base.

I think that if a fair system could be worked out, this may be an effective way of supplying the player with more units.

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Building a system where the player is discourged to call frequetly for reinforcements means they are encouraged to wait. That sounds like a situation that will cause players to hunker down and wait as long as possible to do anything, and I can imagine that could get boring...

How about the increasing reinforcements with a twist? If you wait too long (randomly determined), that juicy group of available reinforcements gets deployed somewhere else HQ sees fit (aka you lose them all). Now the pressure is on!!

Dash Zero
Credits: Fast Attack - Software Sorcery - Published by Sierra 1996

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fist off the units requesting re-enforcemnt must be able to call for re-enforcements. A unit that is seiged in without any communications cannot call for reinforcements. Any good staginf area would not be complete without a communications outpost or a clear line for reenforcements.

Re-enforcements can be attacked and killed, but as long as communications are good they can be controlled as well.

Peon supply should also be factored by population control. If the population doesn''t like you it takes longer/you get fewer reenforcements.

How about population playing more of a role as NP AI''s for resource generation and unit generation? This is where the real resources come from anyways. You control population indirectly by protecting them and expanding your spere of influence. Remeber that since your units are people too, killing too many makes you loose favor with your people and they can defect to the other side.

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Oh....

Allowing a native population that could grow and expand would also help to solve the dreded zero-sum problem of the *Craft games. The only problem is that maps would have to get MUCH bigger.

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MagicScript: For my own design (sci fi), I was going to have the units dropshipped in. The units would come down on a suitable landing area (I originally thought some sort of landing pad might be necessary, but then I decided that any region of open land large enough for the dropships to zero in on would do. The dropships would be destroyable (which suggests that dropping them deep inside enemy territory is pretty risky - you''d want to keep them further back) but would also have a limited capacity to shoot back. They would not be controllable, and would piss off as soon as they have dumped their cargo.

This could be adapted to any setting though. In a contemporary game, infantry could be airlifted/paradropped in, tanks could be airlifted or sailed in, aircraft would fly in under their own power. Foot troops might also be able to enter at certain points near the edge of the map.

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snowmoon/warmage

You guys have definitely got the idea.

DashZero:

No offense, but you seem to expect that the players always want to do the most boring thing possible It is a fair point though, I think the idea that the units available should change is great... so when you see that super heavy tank you just *have* to ask for it...



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In my fantasy RTS design, players have a base of operations where units are stationed.

When a player sets out to do a quest/battle/etc, he takes a group of these units and starts the travel to a location.

When reinforcements are needed (depending on the situation) a message is dispatched (birds, magical, etc) and the reinforcements will then travel from the base to the location (so don''t travel too far).

Haven''t quite figured out what the units will do while inside the base (what''s the reason for them to remain behind) but I''m sure I''ll figure something out (maybe they''re defending the base, maybe they''re training, maybe they''re healing, maybe they''re creating new weapons and armor).

Just to throw in another way of dealing with reinforcements.

Ol'' Silvermyst doesn''t even know how to program his own VCR, so take ANYthing he says with a big pile of salt...

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hehehe Slivermyst: "We''ll FOX ''em!!"

I want to borrow from my RTS/Lance/etc thread and poke some more detail into it all. The idea of doing an RTS instead of YAFPS is probably where the majority of we kit-coders will make our mark!

So you have abstract tile types like Landing Zones (lightly fortified), Staging Areas (moderately fortified), Fire Support (which are towed guns/ballista/Plasma-Crapping Bugs, etc with troop fortification) and HQ (the works).

Abstracts of same type must be a minimum distance apart, this is not unlike waypointing, and allows upgrading the abstracts pretty much through the chain described above, and prevents being able to, say, cluster a dozen FST''s right next to the enemy city.

Reinforcement would come from the nearest FST or greater. Based on the Line/Arrow/Interdependent Objective UI I described in the other thread, Resupply requires routing, with time to resupply increasing as the logistics chain is more circuitous.

Keep automatic resources flowing per terrain and terrain type controlled. If your half-batt of riflemen (falconers, archers, stormcasters) require 3 grain, 6 water and 4 fuel every 20 turns or 2 game-days or so, and the nearest FST is 15 tiles away gaining only 2 grain, 4 water, and 1 fuel every 20 turns, then the FST is going to have to get resupplied from someplace that has surplusses, and those surplusses forwarded down that heavily embattled 15-tile supply convoy before the half-batt ever gets a thing.

Provide Garrison-type units for urban combat / counterinsurgence / recruiting, rather than try and mke it a target for artillery. Scorched Earth should be a very powerful technique but has massive social repercussions. Nobody wants to be Saddam II.

------------------
-WarMage
...so should I get paid for this stuff, or what?!

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Some more ideas...

Flying units - Just like everything else, or are they one short reinforcements (a kind of "Summon Air Strike effect)

Supplies - Running low? cant keep your existing units supplied, let alone maintain new ones? Maybe you could get some extra supplies paradropped in...

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Excellent points Sandman, and I agree with you entirely.

I think a part of the problem is that with RTS today, they are really still tactical in scale. In a true strategic setting, you have several "fronts" that you have to worry about. It''s really all a factor of scale.

Let''s say that you are a Division commander. Your commanding officer''s Corp consists of four divisions. Your superior officer has assigned you with capturing a vital manufacturing plant. One division is assigned to attack a known enemy location behind enemy lines to slow down the enemy''s ability to launch a counter-attack. The third division is assigned to punch a hole from the manufacturing plant to the division dropped behind enemy lines. And finally, the fourth division is kept in reserve. Furthermore, you are given a strict timeline. You must capture your objective within 3 days, and 3rd division must link up with 2nd division in 5 days. You know there is a division in reserve, but who knows who may need it? Finally, you only have limited enemy reconnaissance. You know roughly what enemy forces you will be facing, but you aren''t sure of HIS reinforcements, nor are you positive if there might be unknown enemy units on your flanks.

Now, imagine a huge map. You have a huge industrial center that needs to be occupied and you know (roughly) the enemy forces that you will encounter. Given all the information above you must determine your unit composition that you think will best ensure the attainment of your goals (imagine Rainbow 6, but on a strategic level). you also have to think about the other assets at your disposal such as Orbital artillery, Ground ARtillery, Close Air Support, Med Evac, Supply Train, etc. There is no "build as you play". The campaign begins, and you know which units are at your disposal. Also, you know the insertion method.

Let''s say this is sci-fi. Perhaps 2nd division is orbitally dropped, but due to space contestation, they only have a narrow window in which to do so. Therefore, further reinforcements via orbital-drops are out of the question. Also, how are support elements attached? Are they organic at the Battalion level, regimental level, Division level (organic means that a support unit is integral at a certain level....so if artillery is attached at the battalion level, the battalion commander has direct access to issue orders to that unit, and sub-commanders,depending on the Chain of command of the army, may also be able to call on that support).

So now you have to plan out which units within your division will attack which enemy positions all while worrying about the unknown quantity of enemy forces as well as not being certain how relief can come.

So, to start winding down this already long post , don''t create army''s as you go. Instead, your country has to "build" them before the battle even begins, and how many units you can "build" is determined by the resources of your country. Furthermore, in a realistic army, there are TO&E (Tables of Organization and Equipment) that are generally followed. For example, a battery of artillery might be attached to a battalion along with a platoon of Main battle tanks. THIS I think is the true "fun" of unit design...not the individual units themselves, but how everything gets organized and the chain of command. People may think only having 10 different vehicles, and 5 differnt infantry types as boring, but when you factor in how orders are issued to the organizational units (i.e. the flexibility in how they can act) and the intangible elements of the units themselves (are they well disciplined, experienced, fatigued, have good leadership, etc) then you have near infinite possibilities.

They way people design games now, they only think about the radical Grav propulsion Phase Cannon SuperHeavy Tank vs. the Magnetic Drive DeathRay Gun Behemoth tank. In other words, way too much focus on the units, and no where near enough focus on STRATEGY.

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Well, I realized my last post may not have been entirely clear, so I''ll try to answer your points by point.

1) To remove the emphasis on "peon-pumping", don''t do "build as you play" style of gaming. You have a pre-determined amount of available forces at your disposal. This is where campaign thinking really needs to be addressed, as eventually, your units will be depleted, but reinforcements from other units or raw recruits form the homeland will refresh your forces.

2) Game design should not hinge on a per unit basis, but on an ORGANIZATIONAL basis. Again, thinking of Unit A vs. Unit B is a tactical consideration, not astrategic one. One thing you can do to make players not rely on the "super-unit" is to make it realistic so that the better the unit is, the higher the operational cost or cost for the country to produce (i.e. Russia can build a couple t-90''s vs. M1A3 Abrahms...partially due to manufacturing costs/capabilities, and partially because M1Abrahms are more sophisticated and require better training).

3) Unit preservation has been done on a few games where if the unit survives, it''s morale and/or efficiency increase. This will hopefully decrease the "cannon fodder" style of gaming....although some countries have firmly believed in this strategy in the past (afterall...if you spend 2 years to train a pilot until he''s excellent...it''s gonna take a lot longer to replace him than if you just throw some guy in a place after a few months of quick and dirty training...but it may balance out due to sheer numbers that you can throw against your enemy).

4) I think this goes back to campaign mode. I think campaign gaming is far more interesting than the "quick shoot-em up". It requires much more planning and long term thinking. Players aren''t used to thinking about the endurance of entire armies...but it''s a reality for real life commanders. AFter awhile your forces are going to get beat up, and depleted, so a good commander will compensate for this just like a good boxer won''t go all out at the beginning.

5) I think Gameplay choices hinge on the background of the world along with thinking about real-world scenarios. You can throw in a moral dilemma even if the background is right. For example, let''s say you have a sci-fi settings with a "feudal" setting. A noble''s planet has fallen under attack. You can either sacrifice a unit to increase the chances that the royal family evacuates, or you can try to protect the city that the invaders are attacking. Curry favor with the nobles by saving them but sacrificing some good troops? Or try to protect as many of the civilians on the planet until they evacuate?

I think the point that needs the most elaboration is the first one. Units should be assigned from the beginning of the campaign. In the real world, a commander rarely gets to choose "specialty" units that optimize the terrain or mission he is fighting for. While he may be able to request SOME additional forces to use, it should be limited (again, according to the country''s "fighting style"). Reinforcements should also be planned accordingly, although extra''s may be "requested" although not assured. How they are inserted depends on the battle itself...and you should have the freedom to chose if they are your own reserve forces...and beyond your choice if they are requested.

I think there should be a "grand strategic map", that shows where your forces are. This way, you could get a general idea how long it would take forces (whether enemy or yours) to reach your position. As I mentioned previously, it''s really alot about scale of battle, and the level of control you want to play (Corps, Divisions, Regiments, etc)

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I''ll add to Dauntless'' words.

1) Peon Pumping: Play Shogun to get to know how strategy without peon pumping during play works. You pump your peons (how about just naming all those standard RTS games RTPP -real time peon pump) outside of battle. The more peons you pump, the less battling you do. hogun is actually an excellent game to get a new view on RTS games.

2) Remove unit vs unit balancing: one option could be to not let the player decide what forces he gets to play with, but have units assigned to him. Imagine playing a commander in WW2 and being assigned to lead a platoon of X units. You''d LIKE to have units of type Y in your army, but alas, you''ll have to do with units of type X.
The system I''m working on has the players create armies based on what they are given, not on what they want. Do the best with what you have, or else... face the consequences.

3) Unit preservation: Another aspect that I want to use heavily in my own game design. This can give any RTS an rpg feel without having to implement any other rpg elements (and although I don''t like the current rpg games, I''m sure there are tons of elements in them that I DO appreciate). If unit preservation is important, then even a dominant force will have to still play smart. This will even make unbalanced fights interesting.

4) Scalability: ties in with points 1/2/3. So yes.

5) Choices: Choices are what make or break strategy. If there are only two choices to be made, there''s no strategy involved, merely luck (hoping you choose right and opponent chooses wrong). The choices have to all be intelligent though, not just quickly created silly choices just so the box can say ''now with 100 more choices to make''. Each choice should support a strategy.

Woohoo... I''m on day 4 on my C++ in 21 days course. %Another two weeks and I''ll be a master programmer!%

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There''s some excellent points about staging areas and methods of insertion in here. I think what WarMAge, Sylvermyst, Sandman and myself are really wishing for is a more true to reality warfare simulator as opposed to what passes for RTS''s these days.

Of the little that I managed to play Shogun, I really liked how there was a strategical map, and then when you picked where the battles would take place (or were forced upon you) then it went into battle mode. This is something that I would really like to see. Instead of building units as you play, you have to think about the natural resources of your land...the very things that your opponent wants. Therefore you concentrate your forces on defending those while taking his resources. To me, this is how resourcing should be done instead of during the battle itself.

The ideas about having staging areas, or areas of operation are also very vital to a battlefield commander. Choosing where your HQ will be setup, where your supply train will originate from and the insertion point and method of your forces are important.

What makes me really wonder though is.....can all of these details be put in a real-time interface that doesn''t bog down the player? Afterall, in the real world, it may take hours for units to merely maneuver themselves into position, so commanders have lots of time to assess their battle plans. I''m not sure if an RTS can handle he level of control in real time at the level of detail that we all seem to like.

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DAUNTLESS:

Yup. Movement is another thing that I keep running into walls with. Armies simply don''t move that fast (unless the entire army is on horseback, but even then, the enemy will see them coming from miles away, so it''ll still take a long time before the armies clash).

I don''t want the players to have to maneuvre for hours, I want them to be abe to fight. Then again, the movement and maneuvring CAN be a very essential part of strategy.

In Shogun for example, if I''d spot the enemy, I''d find a hill outside of their range, move around them (undetected), go to higher ground and then attack from there (aiding range to missiles, speed to charges).

But... I did use that ''fastforward'' option, which would of course not be included in any PvP combat.

Add to that the fact that I''d like to slightly slow down the pace of combat (maybe to 60-70% so that the player can actually see the units fight and also to give the computer a little bit of rest while computing all the real time one-on-one fights going on), and you''ll have one heck of a long time of play before the armies even get to fight. Too long...

Still... If you make players aware of this, and design your game on it, it might not be a problem.

If you as the player KNOW that each battle can take a long time (depending on size of map), say an hour, with maybe 50% of that time spent maneuvring, and there are real reasons to do so(strategy advantages), then maybe it''ll work.

But there has to be a way to avoid one side from just avoiding combat the entire time, while the other side chases him around (both armies will probably be able to reach the same top speed, so they could in theory chase eachother indefinitely). And this solution should not just be a silly one, but a logical one. Hm, will be hard to find.

I think that we as designers should really look into how real battles take place. Why they take place, where, under what circumstances (I actually already bought a few really interesting books about warfare in the middleages, of which I really like The Art Of War In The Middle Ages by Sir Charles Oman). Why DO two armies clash? What''s at stake? What should be at stake for the players? Why should the battle take place at the place it does?


Woohoo... I''m on day 4 on my C++ in 21 days course. %Another two weeks and I''ll be a master programmer!%

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Sounds like a good plan to me. Would you like to know I must hammer out the same typo ''WarMAge'' about every 3rd time I type it?

I think we could have a good core here, now if somebody had art and programming chops, we seem to have designers galore, and I am not yet masterful enough to tackle an entire game code project.

What''s to stop us from getting a new warsim out there for we megalomaniac control fr33ks?
---------------------
-WarMage
...you''re once... twice... Snowball Fight With Satan Studios material!! (I am really diggin'' that for a name!!)

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I am actually working on this kind of project right now. In regards to unit creation, as it stands now, at the very beginning of the game, the player will begin with a certain number of basic units (peons, a few soldiers, etc). You will still be building buildings, using peons (more than one, of course), but mostly the peons are there for two reasons. One, they farm, and bring in a harvest every hour or so, to feed the troops. Two, they get trained. Peon->Grunt->Cavelry->Knight, etc. Every unit must be trained from the base peon. They cant be upgraded, until they have at least a certain amount of battle experience (doesnt apply to the upgrade from peon to whatever). This automatically cuts the problem of unit preservation, and armies of super beings =).

The players army will persist from level to level, in case plan A fails. Plan A is to create "One Big Map". If i can manage that, there wont be any "levels", just a series of orders for the player to carry out. Wont that be fun?

Z.

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Anyone ever play Magic:The Gathering Sealed Deck?

MTG (Magic The Gathering) started out as an interesting game to me, but evolved into a game where players found the ultimate combos and just kept playing those over and over and over until they dropped me over from boredom.

That''s what some RTS games feel like when players use the same units over and over in mass production (tank rush).

In the final stages of my MTG period (I stopped playing because there''s simply nowhere to play in my area) I entered some small sealed deck tournaments. What this means is that you don''t get to spend time constructing your deck of cards at home for days (to get those ultimate combos) but instead you buy a sealed deck at the site of the tournament (one deck has about 75 cards I think and usually you get to buy two added small decks of 15 cards each). These are the cards you''ll be playing with the entire tournament. You still get to somewhat choose which cards you want in your deck, so there still is some strategy involved in creating your deck.

This to me is the perfect ''do with what you have'' idea. Can we somehow make use of this in army building?

Just to throw another idea into the fray.

Woohoo... I''m on day 4 on my C++ in 21 days course. %Another two weeks and I''ll be a master programmer!%

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Zaei,

that''s great for unit preservation, but boring from the perspective of having to bother to train all of the peons. As long as their is an easy way to train/permote batches of peons that would be great.

It also means that an attack on your peons could be devistating ( no food ). Do your troops defect or just not work as well the less foor they get?

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Make big list of (groups of) units. Generate such groups randomly, or decide on ''authentic'' groupings.
Give players 10000 credits each. (Any arbitrary yet large figure here is fine. Players can be voluntarily handicapped by getting a smaller figure than their opponents.)
Let them bid on the units they want, thereby setting their own perceived value on them. Highest bidder gets that unit or group of units.
Repeat until all credits or units are gone.
Kill each other.

Note that this applies as much to the Skirmish thread as the ideas posted above.

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KYLOTAN:

LOVE IT!

You could even do without the credits. Just toss a coin, let one player pick first, then the other player pick two times, then the first player pick two times, etc.

Great idea to keep each and every game interesting.

Woohoo... I''m on day 4 on my C++ in 21 days course. %Another two weeks and I''ll be a master programmer!%

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Sylvermyst

To have a logical reason why units would not be able to retreat could be something like this...

In the grand strategic map, there ARE resources. These tend to be Cities, natural resources like mines, or manufacturing centers. They could also be transportation hubs, communications centers, or even an individual or unit itself. Armies fight because either one side has to defend a position/resource, or because the attacking force outmaneouvered the defending force. If one player decides to play "chase" by not engaging the enemy, then he forfeits whatever position he had to the enemy. Also, sometimes it is impossible to escape from the enemy as terrain will prevent it, or the slowest units will not be able to keep up (how about a rebel army that needs to protect refugees?). Part of strategy SHOULD be knowing when to run away however....something that most RTS click-fests never account for.

That''s why I think strategy games should have multiple "levels". One level would be the map of the actual battlefield itself. A higher level would be a grand strategic map that showed where your forces and resources were (ala Shogun, Master of Orion, Imperium Galatica, etc).

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Dauntless:

I think thats the way I am probably going to go...
You''ll have a big world map which you can plan your overall strategy, based on the resources present in each region and the enemy forces that are based there. Turns will be based on a three month period (ie each turn represents a season)

The time scale of an individual battle should be something like one month. There will be a small amount of base building, but it will be more like makeshift stockades and prefab fortifications than full on heavily fortified positions just sprouting out of the ground. The defender will tend to have the advantage - even if the actual units are balanced (yeah right) he will tend to have better static defenses.

I think I will probably be sticking with the reinforcements idea... I want some army building (because I want a reasonably long game, and fixed units at the start of each battle will tend to reduce the game length) but I only want to allow the player partial control over what he can have - I like Kylotan''s economy model, I dont think I will use it exactly as Kylotan described it, but there may be some sort of self balancing "stock exchange" mechanics going on behind the scenes when it comes to letting the player choose his reinforcements...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
An attack on peons should be devestating (although it may make the military units fight harder, something to think about). Peons will definatly be able to group-train.

Lack of food is just one of many factors that go into if/how well units fight. For example, if a group of units is fighting a slightly larger, better equipped group, most likely, your units will start to fall back towards thier home base area. The closer they get, the harder they will fight to defend that area, until, when they do get all the way back, they will not run, and fight to the death. Hopefully, once the numbers get sorted out, it will be a fairly realistic system.

Z.

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