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Thoughts on Tactical RTS Maps

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Hey game devers, I am making an tactical stratigy game. I want to invite your ideas on how the maps could work. Second Antarean War (2aw) is a tactical game - there is no resource gathering and no building on the map - there needs to be some thing interesting on the map to make it relevant. We came up with putting control points throughout the maps. Control points gives you win points, after you have a 1000 more win points then your opponent you win the battle. Lets look at a standard 2aw map: You can see spawn points in green and control points in orange. We can already see some of the strategies on capturing the points on the map: Designing those maps you can think on how the players might play the map: Say at the start USN(gray) pushes on both 3 points while AISN(orange) pushes on just 2 points. Because USN is spread on 3 fronts while AISN is spread in 2 AISN ends up winning. Maybe they also because of good counters to USN units. Next AISN can advance to the USN points, those are virtually empty. USN panics and instead of going after relatively empty points in the back and fighting AISN from their spawn points they decide to attack backwards. Because defense is easier then offense, AISN wins again. Now all the AISN has to do is keep supplying that force out of their spawn point to keep the USN force at bay. Now USN forces have to work to break out of AISN blockade. AISN might not have won this battle yet but they do have the advantage of holding the map for now. Other interesting map types i have been thinking about is the middle spawn map. Basically the spawn in the middle is capturable and it gives huge advantage to players to spawn in the middle of the map. Another interesting dynamic is close spawn points where the spawn points are relatively close and ships have to fan out to capture the control points. Do you fight in the middle or do you capture the edges? Or the map can be a ring where all spawn points are capturable. The last spawn points of a faction is never capturable. The factions might fight and change positions alot. In the picture we see a ring, but in 2aw it can also be a sphere map. Many maps would be just empty space. But some maps can happen around or intertwined with stations: This is a simple map with one side following a path to the other. It would be a huge and probably drawn out tug of war. If you have an idea for a interesting map please post it here or on our forum http://aff2aw.com/forum/topic-349/ . [Edited by - eiforall on April 28, 2010 8:55:46 AM]

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If you haven't already, I'd recommend playing Dawn of War II, as this game uses a similar victory point system to the one you describe.

In principle I like the control point system, but one thing I find with DoW II is that it can also be a bit annoying. Even if you have numerical superiority, the enemy can often sneak behind your lines and take undefended points - which up to a point is fine, but it can just get irritating to be constantly chasing them around and recapturing things. I don't think this is a fundamental problem though, just something to watch out for. You want control points to be harassable, but not annoying.

I think your second map design (the one with the spawn points close together) is the weakest of the ones you've suggested - there's little bringing the players into conflict, as they can just capture their respective points and effectively turtle, leading to very long, boring game.

It might be interesting to tie the control points to specific functions, giving specialised advantages. This could make some control points particularly valuable targets - perhaps of more value to some strategies than others.

Some possible examples:
Superweapon: The control point gives you control of an immobile long range weapon facility. You will still need to get LOS to your targets, but this weapon can do significant damage to the enemy. Different superweapons might be balanced to be effective against specific unit types: high single target damage weapons are effective against advanced late tier units, low damage large splash weapons are devastating to massed armies of low tier units.

Radar Facility: The control point gives you control of a radar system that increases line of sight. Multiple radar facilities might coordinate to increase LoS by more than the sum of their parts, like an array telescope.

Fire Control Facility: This system coordinates weapon systems for all nearby ships, increasing damage output for all units within its range. The range would probably need to be sufficient to make the bonus relevant for more than just defending the control point itself.

Drone Control Centre: This system has a limitless army of combat drones stored within, although it can only control a fixed number at a single time. Whoever controls this control point also controls the drones. Drones autorespawn when destroyed after a short time. It could result in some dramatic changes in the balance of power if suddenly all the drones in your army switch sides in the middle of a major offensive because your opponent swiped the control center while you weren't paying attention. [grin]

Shield Projector: This facility can project a powerful shield on a single unit, or perhaps even another control point, anywhere on the map. Think Death Star/Endor [grin].

Repair Dock: This facility houses a large number of automated repair drones which can rapidly repair damaged units nearby. All friendly units within the area gain increased regeneration. The repair drones are not designed for combat usage though, so they will not function if there is any fighting within the area.

There are a lot of possibilities, and it could add even more positional elements than the basic control point system alone. For it to work you'd want individual points to not be too powerful, but perhaps with a few carefully chosen ones, working in synergy with a carefully chosen selection of units to allow a cunning player to gain a significant advantage.

Also, from your screenshots here and your IOTD pictures, this is looking like a really cool project. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

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An interesting possibility is to connect the control points like in Unreal Tournaments onslaught mode. Then you can only conquer control points that are connected with ones you already control. That eliminates the problem of small raiding parties taking over random points all around the map and leads to a better defined "frontline".

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Thanks, Sandman your ideas are interesting. I was thinking making some command points control turrets placed around. But i have not really thought about other stuff it can control. It could create some neat maps and map dynamics.

Thanks!

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So beyond the control point system. What resources do each player possess?
You have units (power), and then you might even add money, which can be used to take control, like buying new units at the "control points". Or even buy defence structures that makes sure that the "point" is under your command.
This way it would in essence be a game of conquest, where the resources are counties, military power, and influence.

So with the resources defined, you may start to create interesting strategies (algorithms or rule-sets) of distributing them. As I see you have done with the control points.

Just some general theory for now. Hope it helps.

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I don't think you can let the tactics just be about trading and shuffling control points. If you're going to stage a battle in the middle of nowhere, you pretty much have to deal with the fact that there is nothing there but your own ships. Unless there are already places that need to be captured, like stations, planets, or asteroids, the idea of "control points" is meaningless. At best they're just an arbitrary, abstract graph.

I'm no expert in naval tactics, but I think the tactics of two opposing fleets of ships that meet in deep ocean or deep space are going to be about dividing your enemies' forces, the layout of your fleet, and things like that. In such a scenario, the only control points are totally emergent confluences of the movements and goals of the two fleets, not something that can be planned by a map designer.

Basically, assigning value to random points in space doesn't make sense to me. Tactical depth should come from emergent properties of the situation, not arbitrarily assigned goals.

Where I think things would get really interesting is in the interplay between the tactics required for taking over a planet or natural control point and the tactics of deep-space fighting. For example, if you tried to intercept a fleet in the process of attacking one of your planets, they would have to deal with a dual attack with both deep-space fleet tactics and the land-based defense.

Also interesting would be planets with orbital motion, so that you could capture one which would later carry you deep into territory otherwise controlled by the enemy. Of course the tactics for taking over a space station are different from those for taking a planet, the former of which will not take nearly as much abuse. Maybe you just want to destroy the station, or you need to protect it, which means that no enemy ships can even get in firing range. Maybe super-powered self-guided missiles the size of a destroyer could be used as long range weapons. Then tactics would revolve around making sure your enemy didn't just shoot it down in deep space.

Hope this helps.

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Yes there is some thing important at each control point.

Most will be little stations, radar boys, rocky covered places.

The control points where added to add map and location important to the game. When ships meet in space its best to just clump them and go after your enemy. We have seen the "clumping" tactic alot in our tests. Thats why we chose to implement control points - to force player to divide the forces.

But yes those points should have other kind of advantages so they are not arbitrary points in space - which is kind of stupid.

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What do you have to do to take a control point? Is there also free-form open-space combat? Does anything stop me from just flanking an enemy control point from both sides?

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Do you have any desire to protect your original spawn point? What stops me from grabbing my entire fleet together and just moving it as a single mass to attempt and catch a portion of his forces split off from the others? (There by utterly destroying a group likely outnumbered 2:1 or worse.)

For a tactical game I think I would much rather have just a handful of ships at a time, and have them as complex units, rather than simple units as found in most games. That is, the single unit is made up of a large number of parts, and destruction/disabling/etc of one piece does not mean the entire unit is out of the game.

It is one element that I rather like in the game Men of War, as that great King Tiger tank can be 'taken down' by a lucky hit, its crew taken care of, and your own crew can run in and attempt to repair the beast and get it going to fight for your side. It also gives you important issues to deal with, such as where you hit them from. Many weapons need to hit the sides of larger tanks, if not the back. And some need to hit the back at near point blank range to have any effect.


I kind of want to see something that is more like a slow heavy weight boxing match. Nothing moves all that quickly (that doesn't die easily), and massive units can exchange blows for a long time as you feel out targets and find a point to exploit.

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theOcelot, yes you can totally ignore points, and you can attack them from six sides, 2aw is set in 3d like homeworld. But ignoring points will make you loose the battle.

Talroth, Yes but then the other play could play a cat and mouse games, cap all the points and stay out of range of the slow moving blob, as it only holds 1-2 points at a time the mouse will win.

Complex ships - yes thats one path that we could have chosen, what you describe has been done well in Nexus Jupiter Indecent. We did have some stuff but in the end we decided not to focus on sub unit management.

The game is slower paced than some RTT games, but not super slow. Fire, motion and panic.

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Quote:
Original post by eiforall
theOcelot, yes you can totally ignore points, and you can attack them from six sides, 2aw is set in 3d like homeworld. But ignoring points will make you loose the battle.


I didn't say I wanted to totally ignore points. I'm just saying that if ignoring points makes you lose the battle, it should at least mostly be because owning a points gives some material advantage.

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Quote:
Original post by eiforall
Talroth, Yes but then the other play could play a cat and mouse games, cap all the points and stay out of range of the slow moving blob, as it only holds 1-2 points at a time the mouse will win.


And what stops either player from playing "Cat and Mouse" with any sized group, and running from every battle in an attempt to just keep exchanging cap points?

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Quote:
Original post by Talroth
And what stops either player from playing "Cat and Mouse" with any sized group, and running from every battle in an attempt to just keep exchanging cap points?


This is precisely the kind of thing that annoyed me in DoW II: the constant chasing of pathetic little blobs that would sneak through your lines and capture all your points. It is definitely an issue which is worth addressing IMHO.

It didn't annoy so much in DoW 1 simply because there were more options available to defend the points - the most important being the Listening Post upgrades which acted as both a speedbump and a light defense against harassment. Even the basic listening posts would often slow down capture enough to allow a relief force time to intercept and deal with the problem, and the upgraded posts had turrets which could actually destroy an unprepared harassing force.

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Once you've got most of the points, you should (ideally) be able to hold all of them fairly securely and still have a force or two available for mopping up the little holdouts.

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I like control points, and I like the idea of separation of points instead of a flat goal-line. To create interesting scenarios, you need to be able to easily manipulate the value of each control point. I think there are at least three ways you could do this.

1. Geographic location. Easily defensible CPs are more valuable, etc.

2. Victory value. Some CPs could give give more points than others, and some could have increasing or decreasing returns. Points per second could be 10, 20, 5+0.2X, 40-0.5X, or could use any other simple formula (X = seconds you have controlled CP). These could be easily manipulated by the designer to re-prioritize targets.

3. Military value. CPs that have static defense, or that give an AoE movement bonus to your ships, or that increase LoS, etc. could be important in different situations.

Outside of control points, I think that any tactical game must have interesting terrain. Focus conflicts around strings of asteroids, derelict freighters, above a moon's surface, contrast large open spaces with tight constricting spaces on the same map. Anything you can think of to throw a wrench into cookie cutter strategies. I'll make some sample maps for you as well, although they'll only be in 2D.

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