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Portugal Stew

Fog of War thoughts and suggestions

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While I like mechanics of it, I always thought fog of war was pretty flimsily explained concept. It makes sense that you would only know what's going on in areas where you happen to have under your control, and it makes sense to represent uncertainty as a fog (something which does literally appear in war), but the representation perplexes me because that's simply not what a general would see from his tent as he's commanding his armies. Granted, from a gameplay perspective the way an RTSs work is fun and good, but it doesn't make very much sense in the typical interface. To make this concept work in my head, I've come up with the following game design. Feel free to comment on the game design or FoW in general and what you think of it. Think of the interface as a general's map. The map is marked in excruciating detail including topography, various landmarks, and convenient territorial divisions, such as land properties or noteworthy fields. From the general's vantage point overlooking the battle zone, he can see a reasonable distance and have a good idea of exactly what is happening. Further on down the battlefield you can see less accurately but you can still see the general position and status of things. Beyond your view, however, you have to rely on radio relays. You only use very short-range radio, either because of technological limitations or so that the enemy can't hear your secret transmissions, it doesn't matter, but because of that updates take time to travel over distances, and information will be more limited the further it has to travel. So, displayed on your map there would be radii of detail, near your base having the most detailed and up-to-date information, down to the number of soldiers at what precise location, and further away having more less precise count of troops and more general geographical descriptions being updated at regular intervals (and the rate of update being slower depending on the distance from base), and areas with none of your troops in range being left simply blank. What this adds is an extra level of strategy because of the effect of where you set up your base. For the sake of fun, let's say you have devised a convenient, easy-to-use base-on-wheels, which you can transport with no break command simply by ordering your base be moved. However, as the general, if your base is destroyed (or worse, captured) you automatically lose the battle. Therefor, you have to be careful to pick a location that can allow you to have good information on the battle without necessarily being in the line of fire. It might be convenient to set camp in the heat of the battle because you'll have the most accurate information, but you'll also be at the highest risk of being attacked. You could set up base on a hilltop and have a broader field of vision, but then you could be hit with a well-aimed mortar. Conversely, you could hide in a trench where you'll be absolutely safe from harm, but then you couldn't see and would have to rely on radio data. Of course, if you're protecting a certain objective, it wouldn't matter how save your base is if the enemy could sneak right by you. As a side-effect of making some damned sense, this system give players an inherent defensive edge. When your opponent is approaching your base, you have immediate control over the area, so you can organize more effective defenses against the enemy soldiers. [Edited by - Portugal Stew on October 16, 2009 9:35:52 AM]

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Both systems don't make a lot of sense,
In a real battle:
1: A general decides they want a city or similar location of strategic value captured.
2: A group of other high ranking officers figure out how their going to capture it and what forces to send. Basically they write a script for the battle and then send it to the field commanders.
3: The field commanders gather up their forces and attempt to complete the objectives listed for them.

Both systems amount to you filling all those roles and commanding a army of roomba's. Games tend to use abstraction because first a lot of people would find it boring to only preform preplanning and secondly AI usually isn't up to the task of autonomously following complex orders.

[Edited by - Kaze on October 17, 2009 7:56:09 PM]

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Ultimately, this depends on two things: execution and game style.

If you make it such that the fog of war mechanics seem arbitrary and confusing, this really won't be a fun experience for anyone except those who spent hours figuring it out. I do like the idea of moving your command tent to gain faster paced tempo, but having a lucky mortar win the game is kind of lame.

The game style could also make or break this. A world war 1, or 2 set game would be perfect, with minimal micro required, and more of general orders. A game like starcraft would fail epicly. Some sort of commanding system would really make this work: sub generals who you can give squads of units too, and they will do whatever you order him to do. Additionally, capturable zones and upgrades that reduced penalties would be cool. In a more modern game, a security center could give you access to CCTV cams of an entire area as long as you set up inside. If this is a 4x rts, upgrades or specific units (with stronger mikes, telepathy, or anything) that gave you better control would be cool.

I like the idea of finding out your scouts died just as the enemy is about to begin bombarding your command center. This would appeal greatly to me, but losing a game without knowing what hit you is always lame.

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I like the idea in principal. I can imagine having an overlay of concentric rings that show me less and less detail and maybe even trying to estimate the enemy's center of gravity by how rapidly parts of the battlefield change. This sounds very much like how modern and recent battles have been fought, with a heavy reliance on probing and maneuvering before the real fighting starts.

But it seems to me that getting closer to the enemy you'd be going from a human controlling a unit's minute actions to a human issuing general AI script orders via settings. This puts the attacker at a huge disadvantage and could cause the game to really drag. At their borders both players might be equal, but within a certain range an attacker is relying on scripts which will likely not stand up against a human. If both turtle up it becomes a war of attrition where they don't even get to see the final moves of the battle.

I could see a system instead where you might have a kind of lag designed in. Maybe something like units that freeze and fade as they go into action on the periphery of your comms, losing state info like HP and resources and getting special comm cycling/action-in-progress icons until they snap back into focus. It might be really cool for 4X strategy over a very large map, but it could work for small scale historical battles too. Many early fights would probably spring form meeting engagements much like tank battles were expected to occur in Cold War Era battle plans throughout the myriad roads of Europe. And true to modern warfare there'd be a huge emphasis on cutting off the head: going after regional command centers and destroying lines of communication.

This would probably cater to hard core strategic thinkers over gamers that just want to see crap blow up, though, because like doomhascome points out with the Starcraft example you won't even see the cool stuff happening.

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You can probably not make a conventional RTS with this.

But you can probably make a very realistic war simulation, turn based or real time.

As a sidenote, some first person shooters where one player gives orders already work in a similar way if no map is displayed where friendly troops can be seen; the general's view is then obviously limited to what he himself can see and what others communicate to him.

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This is a good idea that I think would fit perfectly for one genre : war-general RPG. It can be a strategy game or anything, but at it's core it is a role-playing game. So, you'd do best if you maximize the role-playing aspects.

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