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Acharis

land + buildings turn based online strategy

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The basic mechanic is: you get acres of land (via exploration or conquest), then you construct buildings on the land (each acre allows 1 building), then you get X turns per minute/day and when a turn is processed (triggered by player) buildings produce things. There is no map or anything like that, purely text based game with a bit of static images at most and display of variables.

In short, something like Utopia/Red Dragon/Archmage. Actually, I never really played these games, I could not get into these for some reason, but I liked the basic mechanic very much. So, I could miss the obvious things here, please don't hesitate to list/remind how they solved it in these/other games.

You might also check this prototype [url="http://worldoflords.com/misc/games/industrialrevolution.php"]http://worldoflords....lrevolution.php[/url] (althrough, it is only single player and just a prototype of several economy mechanics, not the prototype of the whole game). So, don't get fixated on how it is already done in that prototype, it's just so you can get into the mood :)


[u]Questions/dilemmas:[/u]

* When the turn should be processed? It can be done via "EndTurn" button (like Red Dragon) or as a side effect of some action (you perform some actions - like constructing a building or attacking uses a turn - and then as a "bonus" the turn is processed and buildings produce things). I have also seen systems where the turn is auto processed each hour. Personally, I lean towards "EndTurn" button.

* How to represent production capacity? I have a real problem here, on one hand the buildings produce things on their own (coal mine produce coal each turn, foundry changes coal+iron into steel each turn) on the other I would need to let the player produce things on demand (like military units).
Right now I solved it by making all resources being produced by buildings but there is also factory building which produce "hammers", the hammers represent your workforce. Then you click on "Produce" and can manually produce things up to your hammers quota. It's not exactly the most intuitive mechanic...
In the earlier prototypes I also stumbled upon the problem of competing resources usage. The buildings were auto consuming the raw resources the player wanted to use for manual production of things, so the game could go stale.

* What should limit the combat? Traditionally combat uses turns (in the model with turn being triggered as a side effect) and/or is restricted by casualities. I don't like casualities (it makes a cowardly game where players rarely fight unless they are sure the outcome), I'm also not so fond of directly tying it with turns (which are rather economic assets than combat assets).

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What do you have in mind when you talk about "online" strategy. Will the turn based design be scalable? Like, is there a maximum of players that can play a session at once? How long is that session supposed to last? Since youll have to consider when lets say 8 players play at the sime time, every player will have to wait for every other player to finish his turn (kinda reminds me of HOMM 3). Usually, these kind of browser games run in real time and youll wait for resources and stuff to get done in hours/days/weeks and you always choose yourself what to build. Only the lowest, raw resources just get produced nonstop (the higher the mine the more output etc.).
If youre not waiting for other players, when turn based, then pretty much everyone can just hammer his enter key (EndTurn) and wait until he has enough of everything, no? If youre going to say, oh no it takes XX:YY:ZZ to produce resources, then I think a real time approach would be more considerate?

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Depnding on how you want the online play to go. I'd either have a set number of turns per day that players either use or lose. Or have a turn pass every hour.

For production and resource I'd use the civ 5 style of stategic resources. So a mine might provide 5 iron and a tank takes 200 hammers and consumes 1 iron. Which means for every mine you can control 5 tanks. If you want to build something else that requires iron you need to build a new mine or scrap a tank.

This forces the player to balance their economy by deciding between production capabilities, resource extraction, manufacturing and maintaining an army.

For combat it depends again on how you manage turns. If its set number per day the give the player a number of attacks a day, or let the attack as much as they want out can only attack each player once a day. If its tick based then let them set orders to attack as many players as they want.

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[quote name='Daft Code' timestamp='1317738350' post='4869000']
What do you have in mind when you talk about "online" strategy. Will the turn based design be scalable? Like, is there a maximum of players that can play a session at once? How long is that session supposed to last? Since youll have to consider when lets say 8 players play at the sime time, every player will have to wait for every other player to finish his turn (kinda reminds me of HOMM 3). Usually, these kind of browser games run in real time and youll wait for resources and stuff to get done in hours/days/weeks and you always choose yourself what to build. Only the lowest, raw resources just get produced nonstop (the higher the mine the more output etc.).
If youre not waiting for other players, when turn based, then pretty much everyone can just hammer his enter key (EndTurn) and wait until he has enough of everything, no? If youre going to say, oh no it takes XX:YY:ZZ to produce resources, then I think a real time approach would be more considerate?
[/quote]MMO, a round/era/age lasts 1-3 months (then high score is generated, game is reset and starts fresh again).

No, there is no waiting for other players turn. It is tick based and the "turns" are more like actions allowed.
Personally, I hate the "wait X minutes for something to finish being built", so I want some "buffer" like turns which you accumulate over the day/s and they you can trigger these all at once for all your production needs when you feel like it.

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1317737034' post='4868995']
[u]Questions/dilemmas:[/u]

1) When the turn should be processed? It can be done via "EndTurn" button (like Red Dragon) or as a side effect of some action (you perform some actions - like constructing a building or attacking uses a turn - and then as a "bonus" the turn is processed and buildings produce things). I have also seen systems where the turn is auto processed each hour. Personally, I lean towards "EndTurn" button.

2) How to represent production capacity? I have a real problem here, on one hand the buildings produce things on their own (coal mine produce coal each turn, foundry changes coal+iron into steel each turn) on the other I would need to let the player produce things on demand (like military units).
Right now I solved it by making all resources being produced by buildings but there is also factory building which produce "hammers", the hammers represent your workforce. Then you click on "Produce" and can manually produce things up to your hammers quota. It's not exactly the most intuitive mechanic...
In the earlier prototypes I also stumbled upon the problem of competing resources usage. The buildings were auto consuming the raw resources the player wanted to use for manual production of things, so the game could go stale.

3) What should limit the combat? Traditionally combat uses turns (in the model with turn being triggered as a side effect) and/or is restricted by casualities. I don't like casualities (it makes a cowardly game where players rarely fight unless they are sure the outcome), I'm also not so fond of directly tying it with turns (which are rather economic assets than combat assets).
[/quote]

1) Yes, a button that ends the current turn is an elegant and simple solution. Side effects due to some actions might not be desirable, as then you would limit the number of said actions, and the players would treat them more as a final neccessety rather than progression trigger.

2) Your soliution would be allowing for the player to set the queue of things to be done. What do I mean by that? Let's say you have said hammers. The player has the capacity to churn out 50 hammers per turn. He wants 500 hammers. As such, he sets a slider/types in the number 500 -- he may alter that number at any time. Upon clicking the end turn button, the player will be granted 50 hammers, decreasing the number 500 to 450. Now the player can either alter it or leave it as it is, until it reaches 0. The player may also build more factories, thus increasing the hammer output, and shorteting the time in which the desired amount is reached. As shown, you should treat the End Turn button as a confirmation one -- the player is sure he wants to continue, and all functions should be processed after the player said he is ready. Like in chess, you may change your mind about moving a piece as long as you hold a finger on it. Your move is only undoable once you are satisfied with it and let go of the piece. I can't think of any cons of this method from the top of my head here, but there are likelly drawbacks to this method...

3) The most elegant solution I saw, was in Red Dragon. Bear in mind that this works well if you have a set amount of turns DAILY. If you generate turns in a shorter time-space, like a minute or hour, it is more wise to take the Galactic Conquest approach (which I'll cover later on).

So in Red Dragon, all battles were done after midnight -- that way the players had a set, visible time until which they could prepare their kingdom, use up their turns and whatnot. The whole calculations took like 10 or so minutes, and the report was available along with the new turns for that day. It worked well IMO because it created a routine, and enough time for the player to prepare his kingdom in a busy schedule. As for the combat itself, since this is online, hapenning daily and automatically, you could have several parameters, such as defensiveness, agressivenes, formation etc to enrich the combat formula (should you wish so of course, stat bashing works as well. A slider saying "I want my army to retreat is X percent/units are destroyed" would be usefull too).

In a faster game enviroment, where turns are given out during the day (every minute/15 minutes/hour), attacks were possible by sacrificing 5 turns. That is of course an arbitrary number, but it raises an interesting point -- combat cost you "time" you could spend on building, researching etc. Here, turns are a resource as any other. It does make for a bit of a timespace discrepancy (one player uses 15 turns at once, the other only 10 -- so one will naturally be in a "later gamestage" than the other), but in the end it evens out, as everyone gains the same amount of turns over the same amount of time (and players don't really see that, trust me).

So in the first, daily-turn-giving scheme, you may launch an infinite amount of attacks that is only limited by the amount of troops you can deploy. Here, soldiers are the main resource. In the second variant, you may launch as many attacks as you have turns available -- time is the main resource. I personally like the former more, as it diminishes the "attack under impulse", allows me to change my mind during the day and generally lead to a more predictable, and comfortable (for a busy working man) eviroment. The latter is more in favour of those who have lots of time (students and office workers that have a not-so-strict work policy) and makes for a more exciting combat element -- kind of a gamble, as after wasting time, you are prone to retaliation while your turns regenerate, allowing you to deploy troops.

Hope this helps!

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The RedDragon's solution is indeed the most elegant, but it has several drawbacks:

1) Confusion. Everyone instantly associate "EndButton" with a gameplay like HoMM. Whenever I bring this topic, around 50% of people get confused on this part. Which is not a surprise, RedDragon is the only game on this planet I know of that used such system. Althrough, maybe it is only when in writing? Maybe when they see it in an actual game they will understand the intent instantly?
Maybe this could be made more obvious by renaming the button to "NextTurn"?

2) Timezones. One fight at the end of day works fine if you are doing for a specific language (and that language is not English). International players simple have no fixed "end of the day" :)
I was thinking about battles every 8 hour, but this kind of breaks the purpose behind having a whole day to prepare for the fight...

3) Pace. Maybe that's my taste but turns hourly sounds better to me than turns daily.


It has also some advantages:

1) Originality. Since there is only one game on this planet that use this kind of mechanic (and it is completely unknown to English speaking audience) I could get points for originality :)

2) Personal taste. I like it :D

[quote]attacks were possible by sacrificing 5 turns[/quote]Really? I have never seen it.

[quote]Your soliution would be allowing for the player to set the queue of things to be done. What do I mean by that? Let's say you have said hammers. The player has the capacity to churn out 50 hammers per turn. He wants 500 hammers. As such, he sets a slider/types in the number 500 -- he may alter that number at any time. Upon clicking the end turn button, the player will be granted 50 hammers, decreasing the number 500 to 450. Now the player can either alter it or leave it as it is, until it reaches 0. The player may also build more factories, thus increasing the hammer output, and shorteting the time in which the desired amount is reached. [/quote]I'm not sure I get it... If there is a production queue why the player would need to enter the number of hammers? What would be the purpose of hammers then? Wouldn't it just be a production queue with, let's say, a cannon that needs 50 hammers to finish, and all available hammers are allocated to it until it is finished?

I'm waiting eagerly for the "Galactic Conquest" :)

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[quote]
The RedDragon's solution is indeed the most elegant, but it has several drawbacks:

1) Confusion. Everyone instantly associate "EndButton" with a gameplay like HoMM. Whenever I bring this topic, around 50% of people get confused on this part. Which is not a surprise, RedDragon is the only game on this planet I know of that used such system. Althrough, maybe it is only when in writing? Maybe when they see it in an actual game they will understand the intent instantly?
Maybe this could be made more obvious by renaming the button to "NextTurn"?
[/quote]

Maybe. Or just running a tutorial on the first day/having an image by image guide on the website to explain the rules. Not everything has to be standard, and the players who wish to play longer are more compelled to read into the rules and figure out mechanics. Also, as a player, I always try and read some easy and fast tutorials on how to play.

[quote]
2) Timezones. One fight at the end of day works fine if you are doing for a specific language (and that language is not English). International players simple have no fixed "end of the day" :)
I was thinking about battles every 8 hour, but this kind of breaks the purpose behind having a whole day to prepare for the fight...
[/quote]

I admit to being guilty of not thinking about timezones. Having a set hour to perform fighting might be a solution nontheless, although it will be uncomfortable to some other players. If you aim international, one solution would be creating localized versions for each time-zone, instead of one planet-scale mash-up (which would be difficult either way, as server placement will generate lags for some people all in all. You could have like 3 servers that would catch most of the timezones, thus allowing for the calculations to happen during night-time/early morning hours).

[quote]
3) Pace. Maybe that's my taste but turns hourly sounds better to me than turns daily.
[/quote]

Indeed, the pace is slow, but it works if you want players to play for a long time. It:
* Extends the time players need to develop their kingdom
* Increases anticipation for next turns (increasing addiction to the game and community volume/engagement)
* Gives you time to actually perform maintenance, patch, answer player questions etc. without hurting the gameplay or flow of the game.
* Limits the amount of time players can actually play the game (parent friendly game, in which the game itself limits the amount of time "wasted" by the PC)


[quote]
It has also some advantages:

1) Originality. Since there is only one game on this planet that use this kind of mechanic (and it is completely unknown to English speaking audience) I could get points for originality :)

2) Personal taste. I like it :D
[/quote]

I get lost with your sense of taste ;) But it is true, I haven't encountered a browser based game that would take up that approach. In some PC TBS's it is common practice (or at least the system seems similar enough).

[quote]
[quote]attacks were possible by sacrificing 5 turns[/quote]
Really? I have never seen it.
[/quote]

Then try playing Galactic Conquest. It's a really nice sci-fi game that may give you a few ideas.

[quote]
[quote]Your soliution would be allowing for the player to set the queue of things to be done. What do I mean by that? Let's say you have said hammers. The player has the capacity to churn out 50 hammers per turn. He wants 500 hammers. As such, he sets a slider/types in the number 500 -- he may alter that number at any time. Upon clicking the end turn button, the player will be granted 50 hammers, decreasing the number 500 to 450. Now the player can either alter it or leave it as it is, until it reaches 0. The player may also build more factories, thus increasing the hammer output, and shorteting the time in which the desired amount is reached. [/quote]I'm not sure I get it... If there is a production queue why the player would need to enter the number of hammers? What would be the purpose of hammers then? Wouldn't it just be a production queue with, let's say, a cannon that needs 50 hammers to finish, and all available hammers are allocated to it until it is finished?

I'm waiting eagerly for the "Galactic Conquest" :)
[/quote]

It is already out, you may google it and join even now :) They have a large player base, and for a good reason -- the game is polished, constantly maintained and, well, interesting.

EDIT: Forgot to adress the last point

Maybe it is just personal preference, but I like to see the flow of my materials. Maybe I want to stockpile hammers to sell them, or in case I get attacked? While you can deffinettly have the end product being queued, and resources taken automatically, what about the scenario in which, lets say, metal is used by mutliple products? Does that mean metal will be evenly distributed? Or will one production line hog it? What if I want part of the production to be sold on the market?

This turns out more complicated than I thought -- still, if you go for the sliders, you can add an option to dedicate all or a fraction of the resource to the generating mechanism. Like, I can produce 50 hammers, but I want only 40 hammers each turn being distributed amongst my other production lines. I think that is a neat solution -- instead of a queue, have a "I want to dedicate X% of production for other production lines", or similar. Now that I recall it, Red Dragon did this with training soldiers -- you had buildings that trained a specific % of soldiers from tier 0 to tier 1 and then to tier 2. You could turn it off at any time, and at the same time don't worry about clicking "Recruit" each bloody turn.

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[quote]Then try playing Galactic Conquest. It's a really nice sci-fi game that may give you a few ideas. [/quote]Have you really liked it? To me it seems very boring and lacking strategic options. The "turn processing being a side effect" shallowed the building part greatly, since the thing what matters is which action you select, not what the buildings produce during the turn.

Timezones.
I guess, I could make 2 timezones, America and Europe (on the same game world), so the "big" thing happens twice per day, not daily. Therefore, the player would, have 2 "time slots" a day to command army.
As for separate servers for different timezones it is impractical and impossible in my case for several reasons.

How exactly combat is done in these games? I never played/survived long enough to see it :D I understand in RedDragon you give orders and it all battles are ressolved once per day. On all other games you spend turns to attack anytime.

For resource being useful for several processes there would be predefined priority (player can not alter it). First coal goes to foundries so steel is made, then if something is left it goes into upkeep (like railroads/machines consumption), then if something is left it become available to player's manual use or goes to warehouse. For other resources first all goes into building materials like timber to planks, only if something is left it goes to paper production (it is so you never get stuck, the resources that let you construct buildings will be always produced first so you can fix your economy if something is broken).

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[quote]
Have you really liked it? To me it seems very boring and lacking strategic options. The "turn processing being a side effect" shallowed the building part greatly, since the thing what matters is which action you select, not what the buildings produce during the turn.
[/quote]

I've spent like 3-4 months playing it. I played in the fastest available server. I'm one of those people who loves hoarding resources and generally having large numbers, compared to others. Also, the combat system was quite intriguing, and it was exciting to combat others. But then I found out how to exploit the game a bit (it was a known exploit, and quite common actually), and the game lost its charm.

[quote]
Timezones.
I guess, I could make 2 timezones, America and Europe (on the same game world), so the "big" thing happens twice per day, not daily. Therefore, the player would, have 2 "time slots" a day to command army.
As for separate servers for different timezones it is impractical and impossible in my case for several reasons.
[/quote]

If not servers, then at least seperate databases. They don't have to be physically anywhere else -- I thought it through yesterday, and the only thing you should need is just a diffent place to store people from different timezones. Really, it is more practical to have people grouped as tightly as possible -- that encourages clan based play (if you intend any), as people will be online at roughly the same time, and neither will be a turn ahead or behind. But I guess your 2 turns a day is an option as well -- it's just a matter of pace you want to achieve, really.


[quote]
How exactly combat is done in these games? I never played/survived long enough to see it :D I understand in RedDragon you give orders and it all battles are ressolved once per day. On all other games you spend turns to attack anytime.
[/quote]

While I can't tell you the specific mechanics (they are most likelly discribed in the RD manual), it basically happens like this -- at the end of the day, if you ordered any of your units to attack, those orders were carried out. You could launch an infinite amount of attacks, including several consecutive strikes on one enemy, a probe force to see how the enemy defence fares, etc and so on. In an attempt to make it a bit more interesting, you could cast negative spells on your enemies (that also got applied at the end of the day, but before combat occurs) and attach a general to your army, increasing certain aspects of the force underneath him.

If you do not have a love for these kind of games, there is no point in programming it IMO. At a hobby level, you should do only the things you like/want. If this style of gaming is not your cup of tea, I'd rethink the project.

[quote]
For resource being useful for several processes there would be predefined priority (player can not alter it). First coal goes to foundries so steel is made, then if something is left it goes into upkeep (like railroads/machines consumption), then if something is left it become available to player's manual use or goes to warehouse. For other resources first all goes into building materials like timber to planks, only if something is left it goes to paper production (it is so you never get stuck, the resources that let you construct buildings will be always produced first so you can fix your economy if something is broken).
[/quote]

Personally, I wouldn't use that kind of system as a player. I like to know where and how my resources travel -- having just a little production being kept on the side in case a brilliant strategy unexpectedly pops to mind is comforting. Maybe its just me -- it is true that some games have a quantity of materials that one just can't keep track of, and such a system would be a blessing. In RD it was obsolete, as there were but a few things needed overall to thrive (basically, if I recall right, only gold and "manufacturing tools")

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[quote name='TechnoGoth' timestamp='1317750715' post='4869053']
For production and resource I'd use the civ 5 style of stategic resources. So a mine might provide 5 iron and a tank takes 200 hammers and consumes 1 iron. Which means for every mine you can control 5 tanks. If you want to build something else that requires iron you need to build a new mine or scrap a tank. [/quote]I would rather solve it via some sort of caps (like you can have max X units type per Y population). The resources I prefer to be consumable (you mine coal and use it up).

[quote]If you do not have a love for these kind of games, there is no point in programming it IMO. At a hobby level, you should do only the things you like/want. If this style of gaming is not your cup of tea, I'd rethink the project.[/quote]Well, it's not like that. I like the mechanic, but I don't like any of the existing games :D I think I just loathe the combat they made in all these games and that's why I can't get into these games. But the acres of land and constructing buildings on them so these produce things is utterly cool & cute to me.

[b]Production[/b]
How about this system.
- resources and half products are auto produced by buildings (this include processing iron into steel and copper+tin into brass)
- the player use only half products (so there is no competition with the system) he can do it in two ways:
* production queue, if there are no resources it moves to next product in queue, if no resources for any queued product the factory goes into iddle mode and produces gold.
* instant upgrades (like monuments, goverment acts), these just instantly use up resources and construct the thing requested

Example:
You have coal mine, iron mine, copper mine, tin mine, steel foundry, brass smelter, lumbercamp, paper mill, lumber mill, sheep farm, textile mill and a factory. Pluse some gold income from population tax.
First steel foundry and brass smelter use up coal and metals to produce steel and brass. Timber from lumbercamp goes to lumbermill (planks) and paper mill (paper). Wool from sheep farm goes into textile production.
Next the player can set up production of locomotives (hammers and gold and steel), soldier's uniforms (hammers and gold and textiles), ships (hammers and gold and planks and textiles), using the queue.
The player can also make a statue upgrade (brass OR copper+gold, as player wishes; the brass is more cost effective) which grants happines bonus and pass some editcts (paper and some gold). These are instant one time choices.

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