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Muliplayer Tick-Based Strategy starting locations.

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I've been batting around ideas for a persistent tick based multiplayer strategy game. It started out as wanting to do something text based, but then it evolved into wanting to do something with a graphical representation. At the moment I think that the gameplay will revolve around a map divided into a grid of 'sectors' - each sector will in turn be a rectangular grid, maybe 15 squares high, 20 wide. I am interested in the notion of procedurally generated random landscapes, based on algorithms (though as an artist, I know very little about this sort of thing). Since the map grids themselves are only going to be made up of about 5 different types of tile (Deep water, Water, Shallows, Land, Ice - No differing altitudes or anything), I figured that this wouldn't be too demanding - and could probably be achieved randomly with the programming equivalent of a flow chart of somekind. The idea is that Player No.1 registers, joins and starts building his territory up (note: the randomly produced geography forces the players to work with what they are given). Player No.1 is the first player to join, and the land that he occupies happens to become the CENTER, of the game world. Very prestigious. Let's call his starting sector "X0:Y0" Every time he ventures/expands into a new sector, the new sector is created at random and stored as part of the game map. There are only four ways you can go from a rectangular sector: North (X0:Y1), South (X0:Y-1), East (X1:Y0) or West (X-1:Y0). Each sector is given a fairly simple X/Y number based on its relationship to X0-Y0, the starting sector. You could even grid reference individual tiles within each sector; eg: Tile C/15, Sector (X45:Y-5). Here is the interesting bit: Player No.2 comes along, he/she registers a week after Player No.1 did - which means that Player No.1 has the experience and technological advancement advantage that comes with more time spent playing. I was thinking that it would be nice if every time a new player signs up, they find themselves in the wide open, at least a few sectors away from their inevitably more advanced neighbours. This would prevent them from being wiped out in their infancy by a more advanced hostile player that they were dumped next to. New, tiny, fledgling tribe with bows and arrows - stuck next to a giant expert empire with ICBMs? Unless they make friends straight away - the outcome is a no-brainer. Where would you put Player No.2? Or No.3? Or 4,5,6,7,8,9... I don't want the basis of this game to be war, if players want to be diplomatic and buy their way out of conflict - they should be able to - if players want to farm and export - they should be able to. Rich nations should be able to buy research if they have an abundance of cash and not enough time... etc... However - how many people play multiplayer strategy games in order to farm and be neighbourly? Some but not all. My question is: How would you tell the game to place the new players in geographical relation to the ones who are already there in order to give them a fighting chance? Once a game like this has a good few players, then it will be slightly easier for new players to blend in and step back as bigger more evenly matched players are distracted slogging it out with each other. The scope to forge unions and alliances is then more realistic/ effective also. The only sollution I can think of is to have the game calculate a safe distance from all of the other players, based on the other player's strength (however you would measure this) at the time of joining. This seems clumsy to me for some reason though. Bear in mind that players also need space for their own expansion as well as allowing for not treading on their neighbours' toes.

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You obviously can't have: New, tiny, fledgling tribe with bows and arrows - stuck next to a giant expert empire with ICBMs?

The easiest way to solve this is to basically have research "max out" in one or two weeks. By max out I mean max effectiveness(how much you can use in any situation) rather than the "real" max.

Another thing to consider is hard capping some mechanics.

For instance if you were to Cap a player to 40 units. It would mean that a smaller empire has better defense(less area, faster response) when compared to a larger more "expansive" empire. It also means that established empires probably won't get as "expansive", and "expansive" empires are forced to focus their resources on defense rather than aggression.

If you were to hardcap research(can only have 10% of available research on/applied). It means that players choose their niche(with a suitably complex resource system it means that most land is actually useless to most of the rest of the world)(with a classical rock/paper/scissor system it means for every type of warfare the empire only has 1 or 2 of those available).

Another mechanic you need to consider "keeping armies busy". For instance if you have a game that has instant battles and fleet that is instantly available for the next attack, you have the perfect "farming" game(against weaker targets). However even a simple mechanic like "civilian resistance" that holds fleets in place for 20 or 30 hours is enough to stop almost all forms of farming(or atleast open up quite a few other Options for the two involved parted and the dozens of other parties in the game).

If you combine these mechanics in a "right" way, it makes it so there is no "tangible reward" for going after new players. Though you don't need tangible reward to just like killing things.

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I haven't played Evony but have watched it being played a fair bit. I'd advise joining and checking out some of the options they give you to help you keep from being stomped when you first start: Teleports to different parts of the map, marching delays so farther targets take longer (sometimes hours) and advancement based on the difficulty of the target you attack. I wouldn't recommend everything they do particularly because that game has a lot of waiting for something to happen, but it could give you ideas.

Overall, though, if you're going to have PvP and a time based power disadvantage and you're not wanting the game to be a war-fest I'd seriously consider scraping the traditional paradigm of player as ruler of a nation-state. What if, instead, you made war expensive and nations indestructible? If a new player was attacked and lost he'd convert to a rebel role, and you could add mechanics that support low intensity conflict which could potentially drain the coffers of a rich state. The rich state would, by default, automatically field advanced gear which would have the unfortunate disadvantage of still being susceptible to relatively cheap munitions (improvised explosives if the theme was modern, poisons and snares for medieval, etc.)

You could create strong incentives for alliances if older, more established players could destabilize the neighbors of equally sized rivals. For instance, Maybe player 1 contacts players 4 and 5 to recruit them as client states since they're on the border of #2, hoping to bog #2 down in a treasury draining quagmire.

If you've got things like trade-linked economies, building, maybe even spies and secret operations to enhance the game and war is expensive you'll probably be sure that players won't just attack and trash new players just because they feel like it. I think this sort of thing happens more often then not because there's little else to do.

QUICK EDIT: For procedural planets let me throw out a recommendation for the seed based approach. I'm 90% done with my tile-based planet engine and really like the results. PM me if you'd like more info!

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From the description, it seems you're designing a multiplayer Civilization-type game, where players have a broad range of technology to research and develop.

First off, is each world a time-limited thing, or are you looking at an MMO-esque persistent world?

If the game is intended to end at a certain point, then what you can do is start each player at some 60% (random number there) of the highest-tech player's current level of technology. This means that instead of say assault rifles, they get bolt action battle rifles for their riflemen. Of course it all depends on how your research is designed. But this will keep the gap from being cave men with clubs and spears against modern man with Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters. It'd be more Abrams vs a Sherman tank.

For a persistent world, you might cap the level of research to a specific period. Clubs and spears can still kill a heavily armored Knight; in fact the spear remained in use up until the widespread adoption of gunpowder. Cap it around the development of percussion fired muskets; bows and arrows are still effective at this point, and melee combat is still the norm.

Another thing to do is to generate more territory with which to place each new player. Giving them time to develop and catch up. Generate the same amount of new land as was generated with the original player, basically giving everyone equal expansion opportunity, though it'll still be against the newer tribes as the established ones can expend resources into the new areas generated.

Finally, use tactics to help even the odds in battle. Allowing for flanking, cutting lines of supply and communication, modeling troop morale and so forth will help a smaller side out fight a larger one. It rewards clever players and gives the little guy a fighting chance; something completely absent in 99% of strategy games out there today.

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Quote:
Original post by lithos
You obviously can't have: New, tiny, fledgling tribe with bows and arrows - stuck next to a giant expert empire with ICBMs?

The easiest way to solve this is to basically have research "max out" in one or two weeks. By max out I mean max effectiveness(how much you can use in any situation) rather than the "real" max.

Another thing to consider is hard capping some mechanics.

For instance if you were to Cap a player to 40 units. It would mean that a smaller empire has better defense(less area, faster response) when compared to a larger more "expansive" empire. It also means that established empires probably won't get as "expansive", and "expansive" empires are forced to focus their resources on defense rather than aggression.

If you were to hardcap research(can only have 10% of available research on/applied). It means that players choose their niche(with a suitably complex resource system it means that most land is actually useless to most of the rest of the world)(with a classical rock/paper/scissor system it means for every type of warfare the empire only has 1 or 2 of those available).


Quote:
Original post by domhnall4h
For a persistent world, you might cap the level of research to a specific period. Clubs and spears can still kill a heavily armored Knight; in fact the spear remained in use up until the widespread adoption of gunpowder. Cap it around the development of percussion fired muskets; bows and arrows are still effective at this point, and melee combat is still the norm.


By capping advancement, aren't you reducing the amount of development needed between starting out and becoming a competetive force?

I'd rather find an alternative to this, since the whole point of the game idea is advancement and expanding development.

I'd like the game to be fairly limitless as far as the technology tree goes, but I don't want it to take the route of devices of mass destruction. This would make the gameplay mechanics too fragile. As far as the military side of things goes, I'd rather just have small scale units, regardless of how advanced they are.

What if, the ticks are every 15 minutes. For the first 24 hours (starting at the point you sign up), the ticks are every 5 minutes. For the first 20 minutes of this period, the ticks are every minute.

Do you think this would work? Initial development is accelerated - think of it as a temporary steroid.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Overall, though, if you're going to have PvP and a time based power disadvantage and you're not wanting the game to be a war-fest I'd seriously consider scraping the traditional paradigm of player as ruler of a nation-state. What if, instead, you made war expensive and nations indestructible? If a new player was attacked and lost he'd convert to a rebel role, and you could add mechanics that support low intensity conflict which could potentially drain the coffers of a rich state. The rich state would, by default, automatically field advanced gear which would have the unfortunate disadvantage of still being susceptible to relatively cheap munitions (improvised explosives if the theme was modern, poisons and snares for medieval, etc.)

You could create strong incentives for alliances if older, more established players could destabilize the neighbors of equally sized rivals. For instance, Maybe player 1 contacts players 4 and 5 to recruit them as client states since they're on the border of #2, hoping to bog #2 down in a treasury draining quagmire.

If you've got things like trade-linked economies, building, maybe even spies and secret operations to enhance the game and war is expensive you'll probably be sure that players won't just attack and trash new players just because they feel like it. I think this sort of thing happens more often then not because there's little else to do.


Originally, I wanted the players to be able to bring up a dialogue box that showed all other players names within a certain radius. Next to each name, they could click something like:

_

Player No.1 --- Neutral | Ally | Enemy | Trade

Player No.2 --- Neutral | Ally | Enemy | Trade

Player No.3 --- Neutral | Ally | Enemy | Trade

Player No.4 --- Neutral | Ally | Enemy | Trade
_

...which would define your relationship with another player (unless they had already decided that you are an enemy).

Perhaps, a player could set up next to someone and inevatably get attacked. When beaten - they become a province of their neighbour. This would effectivly grant the new player a tougher-big-brother, help the older player aquire land without having to spend time and money clearing it first; simply get it by "rattling the sabre"

The more experienced player who attacked them in the first place assumes leadership over the newer player. I'm not sure how you'd implement the hierarchy so that the leader is obeyed - but it's interesting as a solution.

This would be different to an alliance, as the balance of power would remain with the experienced player.

Alliances would need to include some sort of commitment system like: "If my ally is attacked, then I intervene". Perhaps even trade and research sharing obligations too.

Lastly, Stroppy Katamari: The game I am thinking of would be a tick based, multiplayer (maybe even massively multiplayer), strategy game. The game would be persistent, the object is to develop, expand and maintain your civilization in a randomly generated, virtually infinite world.

You may choose to be a peaceful race who avoid conflict - you may choose to be a race of traders who barter - you may choose to be a dictator who destroys everything in their path. Variety is the spice of life.

(On the topic of randomly generated worlds - I wouldn't mind getting a glimpse of some screenshots from that procedural seeder you're working on Wavinator).

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You probably wouldn't have a country "starting with sticks and stones" or at least not very long. After a technology exists, it becomes progressively cheaper for anyone else to duplicate or at least "have". Some of the poorest countries in the world have more guns in the country, than they have "coin".

A gun of any type is no laughing matter. Only takes one lucky fool to take out a unlucky bastard.

__________

If you want infinite advancement I would shy away from "technology" being the deciding factor.

Rather going for something like a "commander" or "general" type mechanic. Essentially you can train them infinitely, however you ALWAYS have a chance of losing them no matter what. This essentially means that to make good use of your "commander(s)" you should go for a similar sized target to make good use of them, rather than a smaller reward target and risking the largest investment of the unit(well group)(Anything from loss in battle, citizen outcry, or even very tracable Spec OPs).

Commander loss should be a very public thing as well, anyone who would consider you a target should get such information in a RL day or sooner.

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Quote:
Original post by lithos
A gun of any type is no laughing matter. Only takes one lucky fool to take out a unlucky bastard.


You've lost me.
_

I've been mulling it over though,

What about the Command and Conquer idea - where the main bass HQ is a vehicle that you can reposition and then deploy. You could just keep all of the structures as movable vehicles. This way - if you are unhappy with your neighbours, you can slip away, and if need be - exist as a kind of nomad, researching, building, etc... on the move.

There would need to be some kind of lowest common denominator unit, like the lowest level worker you could get - you begin with a handful of these, and a 'cart'. All of which are movable.

The cart can be used to produce more units, research new ones, even research new different types of cart (eg: mine cart).

The mine cart can in turn produce miners, who are more efficient at gathering resources than the run of the mill grunts.

So on... so on...

As a safety mechanism - every different type of cart can produce the basic unit - who can in turn build the entry level cart. This way - no matter how badly beaten a player gets, they can always rebuild themselves for lack of a better word. Unless they are 100% wiped out - in which case they would respawn elsewhere with the standard starting units (a couple of grunts and a cart).

What do you think? Would this work?

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It's a pretty unique idea. I don't know of any Tick Based Strategy game that focuses almost completely on movable bases(or even many standalone games).

If you do follow it though you're going to need supporting mechanics like depleting resources so people eventually have to move. Socially the game will play quite a bit differently since the player will often have to choose to move with their allies or be prepared to find new ones.

______________

Though I still think you should do away with "infinite" research. You either have exponential costs/logarithmic growth with an unending game, or you have linear costs/exponential growth in a round based game.

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Original post by lithos
Socially the game will play quite a bit differently since the player will often have to choose to move with their allies or be prepared to find new ones.


Good point, I hadn't actually thought about that.

Groups of allies moving with each other will probably give things more of a clan feel than a nation with borders, but I don't really have a problem with that. It would be interesting to see people trying to organise mass exoduses.

Also - it would allow tough enough groups (or even individual players) to remain stationary if they wanted to. Essentially defending the location they are comfortable with like a fort.

With the resources, what I'd like to do is have more than one development-essential resource. So if you're territory is abundant with one type, you'd still need to venture out in order to get enough of the one you're lacking.

As you said, having an infinite technology tree probably wouldn't work. I'd like a fairly expansive one, but not an infinite one. The only thing I wasn't keen on, was the idea of to-harsh a cap on development (like an era specific one) - I'd prefer variety (like cavemen developing all the way through to futuristic technology) but still want to rely upon the constant and unpredictable multiplayer battling for replay value.

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I like Wavinator's Idea that a newbie can be attacked, but if destroyed he will ressurect as a Rebel inside another Player's Empire, and basically will have the Power to sabotate that Empire from within.
But the problem you have is not only the big Fish swallowing the small Fish. Even if not attacked, putting a Stone Age Player near an ICBM Player will remove the fun of the (Initial Isolation+Expansion/Colonization+Technological Evolution) mechanics, that made Civilization such a success.
As soon as you build your first Scout, instead of having the Thrill of finding new virgin Land to colonize or another Stone Age Player to loot, you will sudenly bump into a Railroad, or a Factory, or a Highway.
Assuming that the game has the rules so that the owner of the Factory cannot exterminate you, were would you expand? Most of the Land around you is civilized already.
Also if Technology transfer is allowed you wouldn't bother to research, you would just ask the Factory guy to give you some of his obsolete Technology.
So basically instead of feeling like the beginning of an Epic Civilization, you would feel like a Group of Hippies living isolated from Society.
Travian and Evony are good sources for ideas. Their Model works.
But your task is harder, because, at least in the case of Travian, their Tech Tree does not allow huge technological Differences between Players.

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Quote:
Original post by The J Man
Perhaps, a player could set up next to someone and inevatably get attacked. When beaten - they become a province of their neighbour. This would effectivly grant the new player a tougher-big-brother, help the older player aquire land without having to spend time and money clearing it first; simply get it by "rattling the sabre"


One thing to keep in mind is that it's fun to have vassals but not necessarily fun to be a vassal. If, by dint of your startup conditions, you tell people that they're going to be autonomous agents and they found out otherwise in the first few phases of the game I think there'll be resentment.

Another Evony example to prove the point: In that game you start out free and spend lots of time getting to identify with the town you're building. Some alliances, however, bully you into joining them (I think for their global rating) either by attacking you or by threatening to attack unless you join. While maybe realistic (USSR) it leaves a bad taste after you've spent so much time coming to care for your property.

I suggested the resistance mechanics because that's what people typically want to do when faced with a bully-- they want to be able to spit in his eye, even if it gets them punched in the nose. If you make WMD impossible, low intensity conflict expensive and foreign intervention a part of natural gameplay then smarter players will likely leave lesser developed nations alone or make them consensual partners most of the time because armed takeover just doesn't pay well.

Quote:

The more experienced player who attacked them in the first place assumes leadership over the newer player. I'm not sure how you'd implement the hierarchy so that the leader is obeyed - but it's interesting as a solution.


You could use the same vehicle that federations use to bind their members: Funding. In the US, for instance, if a state fails to obey legal edicts from the federal government (say on highway speed, as has happened from time to time in places like Arizona) they risk having related funds withheld.

To make this work, though, you'd have to create hard needs such as grain or gold without which a nation risks collapse.

Quote:

Alliances would need to include some sort of commitment system like: "If my ally is attacked, then I intervene". Perhaps even trade and research sharing obligations too.


What about implementing voting, maybe under different terms such as shares per size or age, or even rotating councils with permanent members?

Quote:

(On the topic of randomly generated worlds - I wouldn't mind getting a glimpse of some screenshots from that procedural seeder you're working on Wavinator).


I've been meaning to journal this forever and a day. I've got screenshots I wanted to put up but seeing as I went all of last year without a single journal entry you might want to PM me if you want a quick explanation of what I've done.

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One quick additional idea: Have you considered breaking the map up into regions so that like techs interact naturally? You could, for instance, have a notion of moving islands separated by vast seas. When you advance to a certain level, you're automatically wisked away to the next island, which is filled with players of your type.

You could do a similar thing with a space them and planets (maybe linked by wormholes).

Your overall excuse could be "just because" or that there's some much more powerful (benevolent) force that's keeping lower tech folk away from higher tech folk (think X-files, you develop gunpowder and some intergalactic zookeeper moves you into a new environment).

Acceleration and massification are this idea's two biggest enemies. We expect that as we ascend the tech tree things start happening faster and we can do more and more. The game idea won't work if it's in anyway dependent on direct competition. Indirect competition, however, may be the way to go, but I think you'll need to look at some level of social simulation to get ideas. In the modern world it's harder for the more powerful to destroy the weak because we have developed notions of empathy, social justice and moral obligations (whether followed or not). When backed by democracy its more perilous for leadership to do what kings and emperors of old did casually (like say sack a city and murder every man, woman and child)-- they have to be sneakier about it these days.

I think that if it doesn't appeal to you to go in that direction then you're going to have to artificially cap players to make this work. It just does not sound fun to have to move or join an alliance just because the game started you out in an uneven foot race.

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