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Risk in strategy games: exploding barrels

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Just playng Red Alert 2 the other day and seeing every one explode while having tons of explosive barrels just nearby I thought could those have any other purpose than to lower difficulty on lower level campaing missions.

Mostly in strategy games I was taking risk while trying to predict enemy's actions and building countering units and maybe loose to find out that he was only making money at that time and later that payed him off... Barrels for example would be a risk when you know what you are getting: at the place of barrel's deployment you're units are stronger, but if you let that barrel be detonated, you will loose them.

I'm writing this post, because I am developing a strategy game (probably turn based) and want to know: how complex should a strategy game be, while still being fun to play?

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Amplification facilities:
any buildings within range have + production rate, +extra unit chance, -cost, +unit speed, or +attack(of units/"towers").
When it's destroyed you get an explosion that affects your structures only.
Balance the costs so that it's a very good idea to stack the area of effect rather than leave it 1 for 1.
and to minimize micromanagement and keep focus on units/battle(away from zerging) the structure is un-attack-able, and takes damage over time from enemy units just being near.

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The real problem, that I am facing, is that turn based games tend to go wery grinding-full. The more units you have, the more orders you need to give. If there is some economy in bases or building structures (what is fun in beginning) later becomes a time waste. Worst of all the player who will manage it well, will win, so the whole game gets very long. These are the possible solutions to the problem:

*Limit units and/or structures. But this can be a problem if you try to expand very fast in the beginning and every unit is in battle.

*Limit map size. This can't be the solution for a game with lots of olayers.

*Limit the complexity. Building bases, researching and so on, is exciting in beginning, but with 10+ bases you will spend more time than you think.

First I thought that a good balance of theese three is the key, but I found out, that if there is more than six players and in the end there is just two left, any more complex game just gets too long to finish. I need to find that transision...

First approach was to leave only one main base for platers and still have some resource managment. But it results in very great distance between the two finallists. So even if you know you will win, you still needed to go great distances (and if opponent had a lot of money left, he could just be making units every turn, greatly increasing the time of defeat).

The barrels on the other hand could force the player always to attack if there was a unit limit and automatically bought barrels if you have too much money. In the end, if you retreat once everything explodes and game over. This happened to be very frustrating in the beginning, when there is lots of players, but it would work fine in the end, cause youre main base "expands" with your teritory and if the movement speed is also enhanced from those barrels, the map never feels too big.

This is the only solution I could think of, but players who don't want risk can also be sad.

Thanks for reply, but I am more concerned about the owerall experience, than the exciting element of the barrels. Should I try to make a game this way, or should I be thinking only about a specific group of players?
(For me CIVILIZATION 5 was good at beginning, but too grindfull near the end.)

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You could limit turn duration. That's essentially what happens in RTS games (though at a very fine level). For example each player could be given 30s (or some selectable amount) each turn, and if they build too many units for them to control, then somewhere something will be left unattended/exposes/doing nothing/ect...

Civ 5 suffered from far more then just being 'too grindy at the end' IMO. But with a game like civ 5 having a time limit restriction would be quite frustrating due to its horrendously poor UI.

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Hi there,
I have an idea to solve this problem. In the beginning of the game when the resources are limited, we can let players face the details of gathering resources or something like that. When the scale grows large enough, instead providing an automatic way of gathering resources is reasonable. It is common sense that if you are in high position of social level, you need to be engaged in high level strategy things though you are more capable than others to do low-level things. So if game becomes complicated enough, we should free players from laborious low level work and help them deal with high level strategy things unless they prefer to do all things manually.
As for designing automatic way, I think that letting players authorize some officials with several parameters will count.


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Thanks,

@ Ryan_001
This is a wonderfull solution, thanks for bringing it to my head.
Ofcourse this will only work if you manage the time given by the ammount of units. Civ 5 time limit that is far too big in beginning could be too short later. Any turn based strategy will suffer from a lot of players: you will need to wait just too long (not a problem against AI). Maybe implement turns like in some browser games: everyone gets a turn every minute or so.

@Nofootbird
I have thourht of that and there are two problems:
How two players at different stage compete?
When you do low-level work with little land (controlled units/power) and later have more land, but do more general tasks, the end result would be a few periods, maybe with varying gameplay, but same thing in the end.



Well, the biggest problem remaining is the number of players.
This starts to sound very different from the topic title, my bad.

Could there be a combat system, when you choose whitch nearby enemy to attack and only then begins the actual game whith seperated matches of 2 or 3 batteling players, happening at the same time?

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Quote:
Original post by xfront
Just playng Red Alert 2 the other day and seeing every one explode while having tons of explosive barrels just nearby I thought could those have any other purpose than to lower difficulty on lower level campaing missions.

Mostly in strategy games I was taking risk while trying to predict enemy's actions and building countering units and maybe loose to find out that he was only making money at that time and later that payed him off... Barrels for example would be a risk when you know what you are getting: at the place of barrel's deployment you're units are stronger, but if you let that barrel be detonated, you will loose them.

I'm writing this post, because I am developing a strategy game (probably turn based) and want to know: how complex should a strategy game be, while still being fun to play?

I think, you mean the Nuclear Reactor in Red Alert 2 which provides tons of power and explode with radiation if destroyed (Bah! Everyone sells it before it explodes ^^).

For the problem of grindfull - Why about the way Heroes of Might and Magic (200 dragons = 1 unit with the hit points and the damage of 200 dragons)

Have you tried a game called Dominion 3 - the battle of it is fully automatic ^^

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An idea that just occured to me while reading this thread is to limit what the player controls. However, instead of just limiting what they have access to, it only limits what they can directly control.

For example, say the player has 5 command points (a real game would probably have more).

The player might have 3 units and 2 structures (each taking 1 command point to control. However, the player needs another unit to help defend their trenches.

At this point, the player has two options:

1) Release a building to an AI ally (basically a second in command) to free up a command slot.

2) Destroy a building to free up a command slot.

By giving up something you control to the AI, you allow them to use it as they want, but you might be able to get it back later (or if it produces something you might be abel to get control of what it produces).

The idea is that although the player has control over a limited amount of assets, if they don't have control over them the assets are not actually removed from their side.

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Quote:
Original post by Nofootbird
When the scale grows large enough, instead providing an automatic way of gathering resources is reasonable.
As a player I loathe these games (MOO3). If they make an interesting feature let *me*, not the computer handle it. If the feature is not soo cool or too tedious just don't implement it in the first place. I don't want the computer to play the game for me, I want to play the game myself. If the scope of play is too high for human to handle I expect designer to reduce the scope so I can handle it, not making automated stuff to handle it instead of me.

Can you name one game that used automated AI managing things that you personally liked?

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Quote:
Original post by Acharis
Can you name one game that used automated AI managing things that you personally liked?

All Total War series for example, when you have over 30 towns. At some point it's not vital to precisely tell what and where should be build, and you always can manually override any decision that AI made if you think it's wrong.

It's very important to keep player between boredom (micro management of soldiers inventory when you have 5 platoon unders your control) and frustation ("why non of these idiots took that AT luncher and burned advancing tank???"). Basically it means that you should be able to micro-manage when you want so and have smart enought AI to do it for you as well. If it's technically difficult to achive any of these, then just don't bother to make them at first place.

For turn based game you can go with micro-management and no AI menagement for you, just make sure that player can give commands as fast as possible. Maybe GUI should be build in hierarhical manner + shotcuts and etc.
Take a look at Combat Mission Shock Force. You can play it turn based or real-time with pause, iterface is a bit strange and unusual compared to other strategy games, but it works well in both game mods. AI will auto manage things that are important to units survival and is difficult to react in time by you as a high commander, like smoke screening under AT fire or disembark ummobilized vehicle, taking cover and etc. things that you would normally do yourself as a high commander in 9 of 10 situations.

I would advocate to not use artificial limits such as unit\structure count until it's needed for game balance. So it's rather not be used as solution to user interface, unless it's a basic rule such as amount of cards in poker or size of the card deck in Magic The Gathering and etc.

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