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Multiple vs one resource

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Most games just have one resource (as a limiting factor, they might have several ones but you can easily sell/buy/exchange these so it is as if there was just one). Few games have several resources that are not easily convertable (like Civilization's food/hammers/money). I wonder which is better and what are the implications of both models?

I think there are 3 cases:
1) There is one resource (money) and it is used for everything OR there are several resources but all can be bought via money OR there are several resources that can not be exchanged but a player is free to adjust production of these without limits.
2) There are several resources that can be never exchanged and a player can not change their production rates.
3) There are several resources that can be either partially exchanged or a player can adjust production to some degree (like selecting plot improvement type in Civilization).

StarCraft model is interesting, it is a mix of 2 & 3. Most of the time gas act as a non exchangable resource which production can not be adjust (3 drones per refinery max vs almost infinite drones for minerals) still you can decide when to start mining gas (so you still can adjust the production to a tiny degree). Note that this system works only because there are many investments that require only or mostly minerals, so these two resources behave completely different.

This made me notice that I can not name right now any famous game that would use model 1... Is model 1 clearly inferior then?

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To be honest, in the most balanced and fine-tuned RTS games like Starcraft, they often consider time as a resource too.

The build times are almost as critical in balancing as the costs.
Also keep in mind the tech trees, and the attributes of the units themselves.

Model 1 is not inferior, it's just that multiple resources make better strategic trade-offs. You could do a 1-resource system well if you also place strategy in the time/tech trade-offs.

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What you should really be asking yourself is what limits do you want in your game?
1) Everything is resource "A".
You end up with a game like Supreme Commander. The strategic choice becomes what to spend the resources on. The strategic buildup is a race for economy ouput. The players are given the full array of choices to choose from. (supcom has 2 resources, but the nature of the economy makes it really close to a single resource.

2) You have resource "A" and "B".
From that you can end up with several choices of limits:
You can limit particular tiers of the game. Starcraft, in general, makes higher tier technology cost gas. Access to the scarce resource provides advantage on the battlefield.
You can limit particular segments of the game. Age of empires segregates different types of units into different building materials. Defenses require stone. Siege weapons require wood. Soldiers require food. Access to different resources changes the style of gameplay. Arid maps will force players to choose wisely about how they spend their wood. Dense forest maps force you to better choose your allocations of stone or gold.
You can limit particular areas of the game. Civilization and Dawn of DIscovery both provide a world where resource "B" only exists in particular physical locations. This causes points of contention between players, who all want access to it. This opens the field for either trade or war.

3) You have resources "A" and "B" that can be exchanged.
From this, you can't really limit the player the same as #2. The player will create "farms" of resource "A" to convert into the harder to find resource "B". In Age of Empires 2, this often resulted in wood->farm->food-> sell at market for gold -> buy whatever i needed. What it does do however, is make the game feel like #1 while having the benifits of #2. You can still design maps that limit the location / amount of resource "B" while still letting the player feel like didn't lose access to unit "X" because the map screwed them out of the resources.

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A good simple game that has multiple resources is settlers of catan. A board game. It has 5 different resources that each player needs to be able to win the game. But you are able to trade with other players, or exchange in the market at high exchage rates. 4:1, 3:1, or 2:1. Kinda sucks, but nice if you are sitting on 11 wood. Trading would allow you to get something at 1:1 or sometines 1:2, but that would mean yoour opponent would get something they needed. Plus that game discourges hoarders. Get a thief and half your stuff is bye bye.

Just my 2cents on resources and how I liked them done in simple terms.

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Most tabletop games I've played recently had multiple resources - up to 6 - and generally provided a way to exchange them, sometimes at a very limited cost.
I'd say having at least two resources is necessary - linearizing costs in a single resource such as "gold" generally requires to crank up the range of possible values, often leading to ridiculous numbers.

I remember playing a mod in which they had "gems". Each gem would be (5k or 10k golds, I don't remember) more or less enough to buy the most powerful gear available for "standard" characters. Higher level gear would only be bought by gems (I don't remember any way to buy gems) and according to a friend of mine who finished the game, they could take easily 15 or more gems (more than a standard character will ever see).
Now that would be the equivalent of 75000 (or 150000) gold units. Did you read that?

In this particular example, what they really did was to have two resources A1 and A2, specifically to keep number growth under control - the two weren't really two different resources in terms of gameplay. At a certain point, gems would just make gold obsolete. I see this has some rationale: keep cost design essentially a monodimensional problem.

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[quote name='Humble Hobo' timestamp='1298091805' post='4776211']
The build times are almost as critical in balancing as the costs.
[/quote]Yes... but this seem to be mostly the case of RTS only. These have a nice balance caused by certain buildings output. I can't recall any turn based strategy (which are mostly my interest) that used it, these just use one general production queue. I don't even think it would be doable in turn based games...

Generally, I have a dilemma of one resource vs many resources. Especially a situation like this: one unit use iron and another use "tritanium". You get both of these resources in equal quantities and you can not increase their production separately (assume one mine that produce both resources at once). This would make balancing very easy, since there would be 2 independent quotas of units, one based on iron, one on tritanium. Is this concept worth pursuing, or maybe should I stick with softer and more traditional approach?

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In turn based games it would simply be the number of turns it takes for a unit to be produced.

If it was me and both resources where going to be the same quantity then i honestly don't think i would bother doing it, it’s nothing a single resource couldn't do and seems like it would obviously limit players choice. What i would think of doing is making tritanium come from mines but in small quantities. That would at least make it seem like it’s rarer than iron.

As for the original post i don't think any of them are "better",it depends on how big a part (as a designer) you wish the economy to take in the game. There is certain realism to having more resources while making a single resource can simplify a system that would otherwise be a lot more complex, like the total war series.

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I have been thinking recently about a different type of resource system (It has probably been done already though).

the idea is that you start with a few (or just 1) types of resources. However, you need to refine it into more specific types of resources. However, as you get more refined resources they become harder to convert (you take more of a loss on the conversion), and maybe at the extremely refined resource, you can no longer convert it at all. However, the more refined a resource is the better it is (costs less to buy units that need that resource, faster build times, etc).

the idea is that the player, early in the game, can use the less refined resources as a general resource (it can substitute - although poorly - as any of the specific resources) and retain flexibility, but as they go on, they can specialise their resources and gain advantages, but also gain the disadvantage of lack of flexibility.

Resource management becomes a strategic choice (rather than just build up as much as you can).

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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1298118822' post='4776297']
In turn based games it would simply be the number of turns it takes for a unit to be produced. [/quote] Not really. In RTS you have several queues, a queue from barracks, queue from factory, queue from starport (so you build some lowly units even if these are not very powerful, but because these are cheap and you have free production capacity). In turn based games you always have just one general queue (strangely, there seem to be not even one exception here...)

[quote]As for the original post i don't think any of them are "better",it depends on how big a part (as a designer) you wish the economy to take in the game. There is certain realism to having more resources while making a single resource can simplify a system that would otherwise be a lot more complex, like the total war series.[/quote]Good point. Let's assume a game with mid or heavier focus on economy for purpose of this thread.

[quote]the idea is that you start with a few (or just 1) types of resources. However, you need to refine it into more specific types of resources. [/quote] Slightly similar to Deadlock2. It was not a groundbreaking feature but not a bad one either.

[quote]If it was me and both recourses where going to be the same quantity then i honestly don't think i would bother doing it, it’s nothing a single recourse couldn't do and seems like it would obviously limit players choice. What i would think of doing is making tritanium come from mines but in small quantities. That would at least make it seem like it’s rarer than iron. [/quote] Well, the whole purpose behind this is that when you play a game you build best cost effective units. Therefore there are no elite units. If you want to introduce elite units these have to be expensive and if these are expensive you would just produce regular ones. If the elite units are too cheap you just produce elite units only. If these are perfectly balanced with regular units it is irrelevant since you just build a random one... I can't find any, even theorethical, solution to this problem. Except for making a separate quota of resources (or another limit) that simply make elite units very powerful but still not competitive with regular units. I'm thinking about it not as a limit for a player but as an opportunity (or allowance) to build elite units even if your economy is not very strong. I do agree that the resource to make elite units should be lower quantity, purely for psychological effect.
Can you see other solutions for this?

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I think you could do a complex 1 resource RTS game, if you had trade offs.

-production
Mines-produce the energy quickly but run out.
Solar arrays- produce energy over time if you have not lost any unit in the past 2 mins
Geothermal Array- produce energy over time on some nodes.
Hydrogen Arrays- built by water, produce energy over time. Downside waterways can't be "walled" or defended easily.
reactor-low hit point, high space. produce the energy over time. Meaning these are very detrimental to defense.

-modifiers
Storage-increases resource max. If destroyed lose all energy it is "storing".
Relays-everything within range of the relay have -build time(buildings) and -upgrade time(units). Cost in space and organization.
AI module- everything within range has -costs(production) and -upkeep(units and buildings). If destroyed all items in the process of building/upgrading are interrupted(losing the build cost energy).
Efficiency Module- all energy buildings have +efficiency. Massive energy cost if destroyed(can put into negatives easily).

Game mechanics
-All units and buildings have an upkeep (in and out economy).
-if >50% max energy you will "store" energy less efficiently getting worse the closer to 100% you are.

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1298139974' post='4776372']
[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1298118822' post='4776297']
In turn based games it would simply be the number of turns it takes for a unit to be produced. [/quote] Not really. In RTS you have several queues, a queue from barracks, queue from factory, queue from starport (so you build some lowly units even if these are not very powerful, but because these are cheap and you have free production capacity). In turn based games you always have just one general queue (strangely, there seem to be not even one exception here...)

[quote]As for the original post i don't think any of them are "better",it depends on how big a part (as a designer) you wish the economy to take in the game. There is certain realism to having more resources while making a single resource can simplify a system that would otherwise be a lot more complex, like the total war series.[/quote]Good point. Let's assume a game with mid or heavier focus on economy for purpose of this thread.

[quote]the idea is that you start with a few (or just 1) types of resources. However, you need to refine it into more specific types of resources. [/quote] Slightly similar to Deadlock2. It was not a groundbreaking feature but not a bad one either.

[quote]If it was me and both recourses where going to be the same quantity then i honestly don't think i would bother doing it, it’s nothing a single recourse couldn't do and seems like it would obviously limit players choice. What i would think of doing is making tritanium come from mines but in small quantities. That would at least make it seem like it’s rarer than iron. [/quote] Well, the whole purpose behind this is that when you play a game you build best cost effective units. Therefore there are no elite units. If you want to introduce elite units these have to be expensive and if these are expensive you would just produce regular ones. If the elite units are too cheap you just produce elite units only. If these are perfectly balanced with regular units it is irrelevant since you just build a random one... I can't find any, even theorethical, solution to this problem. Except for making a separate quota of resources (or another limit) that simply make elite units very powerful but still not competitive with regular units. I'm thinking about it not as a limit for a player but as an opportunity (or allowance) to build elite units even if your economy is not very strong. I do agree that the resource to make elite units should be lower quantity, purely for psychological effect.
Can you see other solutions for this?
[/quote]

For unit cost/quality tradeoffs, I have one major point. If cost effectiveness is the name of the game, then "effective" is the key word. Many games have units that are specialized and only useful in a given context. If your context doesn't match the unit's strength, then the cost of that unit probably won't be worthwhile. The more complex the economy, the more of this you can allow, because a complex economy makes for lots of possible combinations of choices. But even in a fairly rigid game, the use of a unit goes well beyond a simple "basic" or "elite" level. Even if you mean something like a Hero unit (versus just a very powerful type of unit), this is still the case. Even when you have a scheme like upgrading units (they cost the same or a similar amount as normal, but for an up-front investment you can make them more effective), the improvements you choose to make are based on your overall strategy.

If your economy isn't strong, why would you create an elite unit? If they are similarly cost-effective to normal units, then a weaker economy isn't going to be able to provide the support that the elite unit will need to be effective. If they are not as cost effective, then investing your limited resources in them would be a losing strategy as they could be better invested elsewhere. If you want elite units, then I don't think you should go out of your way to give players special opportunities to have them. The reward for having them is their usefulness on the battlefied, and you get them in return for building an economy that can support them.

I know that you are wanting to focus on more complicated economies, but look at some examples with simpler economics for reference. In Perimeter, you have just one resource, and you can change your units on demand to meet your current needs. You gain access to more options for your units as you choose to invest that resource in different areas. There are no units that are elite, just groupings that are currently effective or not. In a game like Sacrifice, you have 1-2 resources (mana and souls), and it's still a matter of picking the right unit for your situation, not just going for the "best" one, because there is no objective "best" unit.

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