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starbasecitadel

Snowballing and Turtling

27 posts in this topic

I'm working on a starship battles 2D mulitplayer iPad game, and have most of the high-level game design for the first version of the game in place. 5 races compete in a free for all, which each race having 10 starship pilots on their team.

However, I feel as it stands now the game will be too difficult for any side to win in a reasonable amount of time, and thus am looking at implementing more snowball mechanisms. In addition to that, as with any free for all style game, putting in place some anti-turtling mechanisms is probably going to be helpful.

If anyone has general ideas for snowball, or anti-turlting mechanisms / design techniques please chime in! Here are some possibilities:


* [b]higher resource income[/b] based on teams' map control, leading to better equipment and teleportation ease (currently the only one in my game)

* [b]experience[/b]; leveling up with new abilities or better stats unlocked based on time and distance spent away from your homeworld

* [b]buffs [/b](eg Baron buff in LoL; a team doing well enough can secure the powerful Baron further increasing their advantage)

* [b]stronger NPC allies / weaker NPC enemies[/b] based on map control objectives; (eg destroying an Inhibitor in LoL gives your team more powerful minions trying to defeat the enemgy team)
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Nice. Also, hopefully under-powered players will still have stuff they can do to help their friends without feeding or just spending most of their time waiting to respawn.
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I'm not sure if this is applicable for your game, but I find that allowing more/better units to be trained or hired (say from a different race or faction) based on increased map control is a really effective way to stop players from turtling without making it an extremely obvious cop-out. It can also help to end games quicker as you start to restrict your opponents' unit selection while increasing yours with any captures.
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Any type of "one time use" or inaccurate long range attack helps break up turtling. Relic game's do a good job of anti-turtling IMO. As for snowballing, I would issue the leading player of a team the task of issuing specialty weapons to other players (if this applies). That way the leading players can explore more responsibility and less successful players can explore some new items.
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High level units should have capability to break down all defences. In StarCraft 1 the Terran battleships were such units. You just built 10 of these and the ground defences became obsolete. At theat point it was one decisive battle.

You could also make a classic timer. The side that controls the most victory flags/beacons when the times run out wins. Generally, play Team Fortress 2 (I know no other FPS, I'm not a fun of this genre, maybe there are better examples) and it all will become clear. Won't fit all genres/themes through.

I advise against all complex mechanics here. Just adding more attack to end tier units and such things is enough/the best in my opinion.
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Great feedback, thanks everyone!

One thing to clarify is the starship pilots are all individual players with their own iPad's, so it is 50 live players divided into 5 teams (races), as opposed to just 5 live players. But I think the same logic in terms of strategy applies, every idea you have suggested is really good.

What I'm leaning on right now is this:

* [b]Timers [/b]: every 20 minutes, if no race has been eliminated in the previous 20 minutes, then the race who has lost 1 of their 2 bases, with # of planets controlled being a tiebreaker, is eliminated. In the case of a remaining tie (eg there are 2 races that each have 1 base and 10 planets), a warning message goes out to all players that these 2 races are at risk of extinction and as soon as one of the races involved in the tie has a change in map control, the worst-positioned team is eliminated.

This is for the first released version of the game. The first version is a stepping stone for a more expansive version of the game down the road, which builds on this basic gameplay but adds in more players, more unit type variety, more upgrade variety, and a much richer diplomatic / strategic aspect. In later versions, I might replace or augment the timer with these other snowball mechanisms.
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The key problems in a FFA are how to prevent last-to-move-advantage (which causes stalemates) and how to prevent kingmaker situations. I wouldn't worry about snowballing / turtling until you have a good idea what you are going to do about those things.
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If your game has a time limit anyway, why not have non-replenishing resources in the game? That would encourage exploring and fighting. Different tech trees might have different consumables.
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[quote name='Stroppy Katamari' timestamp='1346697540' post='4976141']
The key problems in a FFA are how to prevent last-to-move-advantage (which causes stalemates) and how to prevent kingmaker situations. I wouldn't worry about snowballing / turtling until you have a good idea what you are going to do about those things.
[/quote]

Yes, I admit I had originally intended this to be just 2 teams playing against each other, for all the challenges FFA game designing presents. It was only recently that I changed my mind, as part of an overall push to re-prioritize diplomacy (though most of the diplomacy-side features will not be in place until a later version). I believe a 5 team, 10 starship per team war would feel more epic than a 2 team, 25 starship per team war. I like the depth it gives. But yes, it definitely introduces many game design challenges, some of which I'm not prepared for.

I'm debating the possibility of encouraging Kingmaker situations, at least to some degree. I am considering incorporating some of the design elements of the board game Diplomacy into this: alliances, backstabs, etc. The key game design element in Diplomacy is that to expand your position (and thus make progress towards winning the game) requires either putting one of your borders at risk, or taking the risks of an alliance. The risks of an alliance are that it could leave you open to backstab, or simply that while it helps you out it also helps out another player, one that you eventually will have to destroy.

Unlike the game Diplomacy, there is no delayed orders so to speak (in Diplomacy, it is a turn-based game where everyone submits their moves and they are unveiled simultaneously). All teams have full vision (simply because I believe at a certain number of players, it just becomes too easy to have another friend log into the enemy team as a spy and report their position to you, making the game unfair). I have not figured out a way around that, so decided no fog of war in order that everyone be assured the game is fair. It complicates game design significantly though (particularly if I go with a Diplomacy-game style strategy element).

For the initial version of the game, I would like it to be somewhat more of a general mahem with few of these higher level strategy and diplomacy elements. Not that I think they are unimportant, but just for the initial version I don't think I'll have capacity to implement enough depth to be able to support the rich diplomacy aspects that I want for a later version.

[quote name='jefferytitan' timestamp='1346707506' post='4976192']
If your game has a time limit anyway, why not have non-replenishing resources in the game? That would encourage exploring and fighting. Different tech trees might have different consumables.
[/quote]

That makes a lot of sense. As currently designed, each starship can have 2 special abilities. Initially I was thinking each of the two special abilities would have both a cooldown as well as require resource income (currently just mining credits). It might make sense to keep 1 of each starship's special abilities still based on the main resource (mining credits), but for their 2nd special abilities have it based on these non-renewable resource locations. There could be enough supply for not just 1 usage, but perhaps multiple uses, with each starship being able to carry the additional inventory in their cargo and being appropriately marked as such, so they would not only have to find the resources but also make it back to one of their bases successfully. Starships carrying such cargo would be vulnerable to ambush and losing the bonus resources to an enemy team until they returned to base.
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This sounds quite fun. I think removing fog of war is okay, check out the Starcraft maps Zone Control, and also Starcraft Evolves UMS. I imagine it playing out something like this, with a giant brawl, and position being everything (except coordination will be more difficult because you have individual players for each units, rather than controlling a single army)
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[quote name='starbasecitadel' timestamp='1346711467' post='4976223']
Yes, I admit I had originally intended this to be just 2 teams playing against each other, for all the challenges FFA game designing presents. It was only recently that I changed my mind, as part of an overall push to re-prioritize diplomacy (though most of the diplomacy-side features will not be in place until a later version). I believe a 5 team, 10 starship per team war would feel more epic than a 2 team, 25 starship per team war. I like the depth it gives. But yes, it definitely introduces many game design challenges, some of which I'm not prepared for.[/quote]Coordinating 10 (or god forbid, 25) players on your team is a big effort to begin with - the kind that needs hardcore players. I presume these will be public/random teams. Scouting and discerning the intentions of another big team in a hidden information situation is another big challenge. Keeping track of a five-way FFA situation and understanding the dynamics is very, very hard. When I was in about 10% of best Starcraft 2 players after the launch, I couldn't effectively scout three other players to a FFA or properly use the information I did get.
[quote]I'm debating the possibility of encouraging Kingmaker situations, at least to some degree. I am considering incorporating some of the design elements of the board game Diplomacy into this: alliances, backstabs, etc. The key game design element in Diplomacy is that to expand your position (and thus make progress towards winning the game) requires either putting one of your borders at risk, or taking the risks of an alliance. The risks of an alliance are that it could leave you open to backstab, or simply that while it helps you out it also helps out another player, one that you eventually will have to destroy.
[/quote]That's not kingmaker. Kingmaker is the situation where a faction can't plausibly win anymore, but still has power to affect others for the lulz. So while factions 1 and 2 have played well and are dead even, and faction 3 is dead as far as winning the game goes, faction 3's actions decide which of factions 1 and 2 will win. It really takes the fun out the game for 1 and 2 who know their win or loss was an arbitrary decision by another faction. It's always bad and it's hard to keep out of FFAs.

I'd seriously consider doing team vs team first before going for an even more enormous challenge. Team vs team equals FFA at the point where two factions are left, so everything you have to figure out for team vs team, you'd also have to figure out for FFA. But not vice versa.
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[quote name='GnollAF' timestamp='1346750460' post='4976350']
This sounds quite fun. I think removing fog of war is okay, check out the Starcraft maps Zone Control, and also Starcraft Evolves UMS. I imagine it playing out something like this, with a giant brawl, and position being everything (except coordination will be more difficult because you have individual players for each units, rather than controlling a single army)
[/quote]
Thanks, I'll check those out!


[quote name='Stroppy Katamari' timestamp='1346751942' post='4976355']
That's not kingmaker. Kingmaker is the situation where a faction can't plausibly win anymore, but still has power to affect others for the lulz. So while factions 1 and 2 have played well and are dead even, and faction 3 is dead as far as winning the game goes, faction 3's actions decide which of factions 1 and 2 will win. It really takes the fun out the game for 1 and 2 who know their win or loss was an arbitrary decision by another faction. It's always bad and it's hard to keep out of FFAs.
[/quote]
Gotcha. I don't have a solution for this yet, and agree it is annoying and something hopefully I could eliminate. In some cases I could see snowball mechanisms help mitigate this, as perhaps the losing race is weak enough at one point they can't even play kingsmaker as they are dealing with just survival. Sort of like (though without the FFA), in LoL when a team has lost 2 or 3 of its 3 inhibitors. At that point not only are they behind in position but also are subject to super-minions attacking their base, forcing them to defend. Of course by this point they will probably lose the game soon, and can only win if the stronger team royalty screws things up.



[quote name='Stroppy Katamari' timestamp='1346751942' post='4976355']
I'd seriously consider doing team vs team first before going for an even more enormous challenge. Team vs team equals FFA at the point where two factions are left, so everything you have to figure out for team vs team, you'd also have to figure out for FFA. But not vice versa.
[/quote]
I am still very open to this being a 2 team game, particularly for the initial version of the game, and to a lesser degree the full version of the game. That is a good point that any FFA game eventually gets down to 2 teams, so the initial version could be used to make sure play balance is decent in that situation, and then I could start expanding the number of players potentially. Ideally I can get some good design elements that make the FFA enjoyable, but if not certainly more balanced, well designed 2 team game is going to be a lot better than a poorly designed FFA. So we'll see.

[quote name='Stroppy Katamari' timestamp='1346751942' post='4976355']
Coordinating 10 (or god forbid, 25) players on your team is a big effort to begin with - the kind that needs hardcore players. I presume these will be public/random teams. Scouting and discerning the intentions of another big team in a hidden information situation is another big challenge. Keeping track of a five-way FFA situation and understanding the dynamics is very, very hard. When I was in about 10% of best Starcraft 2 players after the launch, I couldn't effectively scout three other players to a FFA or properly use the information I did get.
[/quote]

On the coordination aspect, I'm highly influenced by the old game Netrek if anyone is familiar. That is sort of the core gameplay I am going for though want to expand the depth with some aspects of LoL and other techniques as well. Netrek is around 2 teams of 12 players each or so, and coordination is important for your team to win. But a key discovery I realized is that the game is still incredibly enjoyable even when some players are newbies. Yes-- a ranked game is even better, but on any given pickup game we would have about 70% of the players being experienced and 30% being newer players that didn't know what they were doing to some degree. With too many newer players it does get frustrating as there aren't even people playing for the strategy (eg playing for their team to win), they are just dogfighting without purpose.

But to me, the challenges of coordination is not entirely a problem but more of a good thing. That is what makes a good team game fun-- your ability to rally other players and motivate them for a coordinated attack, defense or whatever other operation. That is part of what makes multiplayer games fun -- you ping or use ventrilo to ask for an attack, and you really don't know if 3, 4, or 5 of your teammates will make it to the battle in time. Even if the players are experienced, they may ignore your orders and instead stop for ammo or health, or get ambushed (eg a Spy uncloaks and attacks them on the way to a battle in Team Fortress 2) or what have you. Rather than this being a disadvantage, I see this as a huge plus. I don't want every battle to be the same 10 players lining up-- I want there to be chaos to some degree. I want to hear things like "oh man, Engineer your sentry isn't up yet get that going now, we can't hold them!". It is the unanticipated lack of coordination, variability of battles, suboptimal positioning etc that makes games fun, otherwise they would be the same thing over and over again.

That said, while I have seen (Netrek) games where 12 v 12 etc work very well in terms of gameplay, I am planning on an expanded player base for the full game. I'm still early in the planning stage of the game so this isn't locked down yet, but I am thinking of around 250 players divided up in 2 (or more) teams as a sort of benchmark for the full version. That is an order of magnitude increase from Netrek so I realize coordination is going to be a big (perhaps defining) issue/aspect of the game.

My idea here, is that there will be a second "class" of players. They will be the commanders, and they will be given a different interface. An Admiral will be in charge of each race and will not be fighting at the tactical level, but rather more of a resource management level and strategic level. A friend suggested they even play on a different platform, eg PC instead of iPad, but I'm leaning on keeping it all iPad. So you can almost think of it as in on each team 1 player is playing a game that somewhat more resembles a RTS game (Starcraft) while the other 49 players are playing a more 2D starship battles game, with a few players in between on scale.

This "Admiral's interface" is what lead to us brainstorming about switching this from a 2 team to 5 team game. We were wondering if managing resources and directing general sub-squads would be enough to keep the Admiral busy. It very well may be. But we added in the possibility of on top of all that, they are playing a diplomatic game, messaging the other Admirals as well and allying / backstabbing them at a strategic level. In terms of whether all of the individual starship players/pilots follow the Admirals' orders exactly? I know they won't and I'm counting on it to make the battles realistic and fun. But, the hope is with some of them (the players who actually care about teamwork, winning the game etc) listening to the Admiral, there will be an overall sense that the game isn't just about dogfighting but something more strategic too.
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Finite resources tend to push the player out of their home.
Dune2 did remarkably well with this, perhaps better than any rts so far... Look it up :)
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I was thinking about the admiral controlling players side of things. Controlling players can be like herding cats. However, if you make it worth their while.... How about the admiral controls the boring yet necessary NPCs, e.g. harvesters, shipyards, supply lines, weak drone fighters, etc. If the players want support, they need to compromise with the admiral. If the admiral is moving the supply lines left and players go right.... uh, good luck getting more ammo for that big gun.
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[quote name='Orymus3' timestamp='1346790459' post='4976564']
Finite resources tend to push the player out of their home.
Dune2 did remarkably well with this, perhaps better than any rts so far... Look it up [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
[/quote]
Thanks! I remember briefly playing Dune 1 about 13 years ago. Of all places, an acquaintance who worked as a play tester for the company that made the Thief game showed me their office and we did a bit of the game. The Spice must flow. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

[quote name='jefferytitan' timestamp='1346794716' post='4976579']
I was thinking about the admiral controlling players side of things. Controlling players can be like herding cats. However, if you make it worth their while.... How about the admiral controls the boring yet necessary NPCs, e.g. harvesters, shipyards, supply lines, weak drone fighters, etc. If the players want support, they need to compromise with the admiral. If the admiral is moving the supply lines left and players go right.... uh, good luck getting more ammo for that big gun.
[/quote]
Great idea. You are definitely going to pay more attention to your Admiral if they have control of the supply chain and influence your own upgrades. This part I have almost nothing mapped out yet, only the vague idea of NPC mining/harvester ships that are under the at least indirect guidance of the Admiral. I was even toying with the possibility of having PC's play the harvester ships but it just doesn't sound fun enough, since this is designed to be a fast-paced combat arena game, not EVE online.

This raises one of the major gameplay decisions, which I haven't really touched yet, which is exactly how big of a role will NPC's have in the game. Initially I was thinking it would be a small role, limited to mostly just harvester ships. However more recently, I've begun to think of the possibilities of a significant set of NPCs, from all sorts of support as you mention, to combat ships (which can help as snowball mechanisms and to some degree even anti-turtling). It could even be expanded to a space "jungle" to use LoL terminology. The space jungle would help achieve another significant design goal, which is help give reasons for the starships to spread out. While I do want to see some epic "all-in" battles, particularly during a major assault (on a Starbase or Citadel), that should not be the norm. Most of the game should involve smaller scale warfare.
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Does anyone have feedback with this as a possible general solution to Kingsmaker:

Teams weak enough to realistically have little chance of winning (and thus are at risk for potentially becoming Kingsmakers) should get eliminated by game mechanics before they reach that point. When such an elimination occurs, a progressive rebalancing algorithm kicks in such that the weakest teams are helped more than the strongest teams.

The obvious problems I see with this approach is that first of all, you will sometimes be kicking teams out that while weak, still could have ended up winning. Yeah, it might be a stretch, but the players might still have been enjoying the game even knowing they are losing.

The second problem is just one of fairness. The stronger team(s) might get resentful of the rebalancing. It would not be a full rebalance where everyone is equal again-- the strongest team would still be the strongest, but it may feel as they are being punished for success.

Still perhaps those are not as bad problems to have as Kingsmaking. Edited by starbasecitadel
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To me it feel like you need to use Texas holdem technique of blinds to reduce the tediousity and also to deal with the kingmaker. Blinds must go from the table so the kingmakers' chips will not be used on pushing on one of the dominant factions though. So it looks that you need some neutral forces ala wrath-of-nature pushing harder and harder... maybe power of their attacking can be reduced by keep moving and not to stagnate somwhere. In combination with minefields (created by the earlier dominant player who was there already) this might supress kingmaker a bit ;-)

Have been thinking why the blinds in the poker game are so well accepted...the number one is probably that everybody "suffers" at the same rate transparently, second blinds also gives a chance - if you have a nice hand and you are low on the chips this way you can hide behind the blind for a while, third - its kind of classy - for example for Duna game the attacks of the worms would be classy too. For a generic battleship game (I dont know the background) I don't know. There probably some other reasons... Edited by Osidlus
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A catastrophe could work... e.g. the sun nearest the weakest player goes nova. Everybody gets hurt, the weakest player most of all. If they can fight back from that... good on them.
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[quote name='Osidlus' timestamp='1346888208' post='4977020']
Have been thinking why the blinds in the poker game are so well accepted...the number one is probably that everybody "suffers" at the same rate transparently, second blinds also gives a chance - if you have a nice hand and you are low on the chips this way you can hide behind the blind for a while
[/quote]

Yeah. I think in particular the idea you can breathe a sigh of release so to speak once you've paid that big blind is good. It's kind of like giving you a build in break where you can worry about defense a little bit less.

I was even thinking of such a literal copying of the blinds idea as having an external enemy invasion event that rotates around hitting each player in turn. Small blind is one of your two bases is attacked by a couple pirate or alien ships, big blind is both of your bases get attacked (or perhaps double the force size if you only have one base).


[b]wormholes continued:[/b]

Switching back to the idea of taking some elements from the game Diplomacy, one thing I struggled with is Diplomacy is turn based, whereas in this game it is more real-time. By turn based, in Diplomacy you submit your orders all at once (eg hidden), and only once all players have submitted them do you reveal who did what and thus get to see any backstabs, attacks, etc unfold. Unfortunately, I have chosen to have full vision, so as it stands now you can see any attack coming easily.

So one partial solution to that is to create a periodic event to allow for more devious moves. Initially, I was thinking that wormholes could be open up at any time (provided you have resources for it and are near a wormhole point etc). However, now I'm thinking that the wormholes will only be openable on this period of "wormhole" events. Initially, I was also envisioning the wormholes as having predefined entrances/exits, but now I'm thinking it would be better if you can select, with perhaps some limitation, the wormhole exits. 20 seconds before it is "wormhole time", all players get a warning. Between 15 seconds and 5 seconds before the wormhole starts, players in the right locations (adjacent to a wormhole tunnel opening) with the right resources can click on it as well as the target location to start the summoning process. Nobody besides the summoning player can see where the wormhole endpoint will be. 5 seconds to 0 seconds before the event, wormhole initiation is locked; summoning cannot be undone. Also, ships must be placed in the wormhole entrance at this time. Then, the event starts and all wormholes are activated, for everyone to instantly see. Ships who entered wormhole entrances are teleported to the wormhole exits. The wormholes are locked (inactive/unusable) for the next 15 seconds, and then are activated bidirectionally for 2 minutes and then the event is over.

So you would be able to see teams assembling a large force at one of their own planets, in preparation for a major assault, but you wouldn't know where they were going until the wormhole event which then actually activates these wormholes. And of course the whole idea here is to encourage coordinated attacks (2 races joining against a 3rd) and backstabs.
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Hey Starbasecitadel, you got that, here is just my little nuance...

1. The neutral forces should be like arch-enemy- it will not be a shame to lose against them.

2. The power should not be dependant on the power of players army they attack (we want them to prevent weak deciding about the winner and remove tediousity huh)
but the way they would attack should depend on the power of the players army/economy. To the weak they should primarily attack his army units and to
the powerfull they should use units that have a long range higher cooldown building strike (something like earthquake in space - Higgs -boson canon :-) ) so they will also be able to do some damage even to the powerfull base. The neutrals should have "hacked" radio so every player would be able to see the damages they caused to each player (transparency of the blinds). And it would be good even for the weak (after they lost some units) to see that even powerfull suffers.

3. Chance. Within the neutral attacking forces they should have a captain which is quite hard to get (is quick, high hp, special abilities etc.). The neutral forces should not attack until full losses but like 40% and than they turn away, (could be kind of snowball - if you are able to get higher percentage of them the power of their attacks grows slowlier). If you are able to get the captain ship you should be rewarded with some special component to one of your ships or even technology.

good luck[img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/wink.png[/img]
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Good ideas Osidlus. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

It's a tough balance to get right. The hard part it seems is giving the weak players enough of a chance to make a comeback, without having the game go on forever in an endless cycle of power shifts or be too random.

I got a couple of metagame related game design questions. These involve not my initial (limited in scope) game but the down-the-road Admiral interface version.

[b]protectorates : problem #1 : social/guild (metagame)[/b]

This goes back to the first reply to the thread. I go back and forth on this one, it seems to have huge potential but I've ran into some serious issues too. The problems relate to the metagame. In casual play I think it might be fine, but imagine this scenario:

You have 5 highly-skilled Guild teams (I've made no provision for Guilds at all at this time, so assume these are voluntary player-formed organizations/teams). Each of these 5 Guilds is matched in a pre-made game (or Ranked team game if that is supported at one point). So you have have 5 teams, each team with 50 players of the same guild.

Now, the game is going on, and the weakest Guild/team which is on the verge of extinction agrees to become a Protectorate of one of the remaining teams. Basically, the fundamental problem here is social. You have an enemy Guild that is now playing under another Guild. Would they ask for Ventrilo server info? Would they be privvy to trade secrets such as they find out that this Guild always does a feint in their wormhole event or what have you?

Perhaps these questions could be addressed by keeping the Protectorate players segregated. Eg, while they are now aligned with a stronger Guild/team (for purposes of 1 single game), they still retain their own Admiral who gets orders from the primary team (the one they merged into)'s Admiral. In other words, the more powerful team could still have mechanisms for giving orders to its Protectorate, but there is a barrier in the sense the Protectorate doesn't gain 100% of the winning team's data (including Ventrilo most likely but that is controlled individually by the Guilds).

Also, I realize these social problems would probably not happen in the vast majority of games, which are pickup (random player) games. It is only Guild games and pre-made games (assuming these are supported) that these social issues are even a concern. In random games it is perfectly fine for 100% coordination/assimilation of the protectorate into the more powerful team because these players are independent anyways so there are no trade secret tactics.

[b]protectorates : problem #2 : newly assigned player (metagame)[/b]

The second problem I consider minor, but still something on my mind a bit. It is that when one team is a Protectorate, in pickup games they will have turnover. In other words, players will leave for all the obvious reasons (parents came into their room and asked them to do dishes, they are late to class, lost internet connection, got a phone call, got bored). However, when a player leaves, a new player from the queue will replace them. The new player will probably be unhappy to be assigned as a Protectorate since it means they are guaranteed partial victory at best, without the possibility of full victory.

I don't see this as necessary a terrible thing, as I'm pretty heavily influenced by Netrek's player rotation which was effective. Yes, sometimes you would join on the winning team. Sometimes you join on a losing team. The best was you join a game that is in balance or was just about to start. But even so, it wasn't really a big deal if you joined a losing team. You would just lose, or possibly have a long but rewarding comeback, and still have fun. Then you would play another game or two, this time from the beginning (or 5 if you were an addict like me [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]).

So this issue isn't specific to having protectorates, this is an issue the game already will have regardless. But having protectorates exaberates the problem since there is no way to do a full comeback as a protectorate. Even if your combined team wins, you get only partial victory since you were randomly assigned as a protectorate player.


[b]Admiral interface : supply / demand (metagame)[/b]

The next issue I'd mention is not related to protectorates, but is yet another metagame issue related to the Admiral interface. For the full version game, I was thinking of having 50 players to each team, eg 1 Admiral and 49 starship pilot players. With 5 teams that is 250 total players. I like that scale in terms of it would seem to give an epic feel, but not be so many players you are completely lost as just a number (though perhaps borders on that).

The big problem I see is one of supply and demand. There are going to be more than 1 in 50 players who want to be the Admiral. This is partially addressed by charging money for the right to queue as an Admiral. The game is fremium model after all, and what cooler upgrade is there than the Admiral interface? Even so, my worry is many players would chose to purchase the Admiral upgrade and still not be able to be assigned that position nearly as often as they would like, due to the odds.

One idea is reducing the number of players per team to 20, down from 50. That would substantially improve the ease of Admirals to play more frequently (getting into the game as a starship pilot will be nearly instant). But, with 20 players that is a less epic feel than 50 players per team. I want there to be enough players that you can spread out among the various sectors, often in groups of 2-5, so I don't know.

For now I'm tempted to leave the design at 50 players per team for the full (Admiral interface) version, and some of the ratios in terms of queues are probably too hard to predict without beta testers etc, but it is something to think about.

I don't need to answer these issues now as that is all for the full version which is way down the road. Still it is good to get some of it preliminarily mapped out so if anyone has thoughts please chime in [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] I'm on vacation in a few days until Oct 7 so won't be responding for a while, apologies in advance for delayed response.
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On that last point, you could have Admiral and Generals. A general has control but at a lower level, and also participates in the action. If you request to be an Admiral and there are no free slots, you get made a General, but get put in a priority queue to become an Admiral.

Alternately, you could allow extra Admirals, but their forces are 100% NPCs. Therefore the fighting efficiency is low, but they still get their go at wearing the hat.
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[quote name='jefferytitan' timestamp='1347929357]
Alternately, you could allow extra Admirals, but their forces are 100% NPCs. Therefore the fighting efficiency is low, but they still get their go at wearing the hat.
[/quote]

Great idea! My only concern is that the other players involved would feel like the game is not as fun due to few players.

eg: There are 5 teams, 3 of which are full (50 players participating and 2 of which are Practice Admirals (just 1 player -- the Admiral -- on each of those two teams). It seems as this would diminish the playing experience of the players on the 3 full teams as 2 teams are already somewhat disadvantaged.

One possibility is to limit the Practice Admirals to only playing games with other Practice Admirals. So you might have games with 5 players-- each an Admiral, and that is it, for purposes of learning the new interface. After they have completed 10 such practice games they are then allowed to queue up in full games as Admirals.

Yet another possibility here is varying Ranks of Admirals. So, each Admiral has a Rank of 1 to 50. Their Rank increases via some formula (wins or ELO) and maxes out at 50. Their rank corresponds to the # of player slots reserved for their team. So at lower ELO pickup games you will more often see games with just 0-5 starship player-pilots per team (with the balance being AI bots) but that will go up to the max of 49 Player starship pilots as your ELO increases.


[quote name='jefferytitan' timestamp='1347929357]
On that last point, you could have Admiral and Generals. A general has control but at a lower level, and also participates in the action. If you request to be an Admiral and there are no free slots, you get made a General, but get put in a priority queue to become an Admiral.
[/quote]

On this point, I actually did have some of thoughts of having Generals too. However, I had not thought of it in terms of you Queue for a combined Admiral or General spot, that is a great idea. I had originally thought of it as an entirely separate spot in the Queue. I've been rethinking this aspect of the game and here's the latest iteration:

There are 50 players per team. Each team consists of an Admiral as well as the Starbase commander. The Admiral is the leader of the team and performs diplomacy, strategic attack/retreat commands and has a lightweight resource management interface.

The Starbase commander controls the movement and attacks of the Starbase, the most powerful strategic, (slowly) movable asset of each team.

So that is 2 players of the 50 per team.

Next, you have 8 squads. Each squad is formed by 6 players: a General and 5 starship pilots. That totals the 50 players.

The paradigm here is the aircraft carrier, you can think of each General as a kind of carrier of which the pilots are substantially (though not fully) tied to.

There are 4 squad types. Either each team will have 2 squads of each type (default), or possibly the Admiral can pick which squad combinations to choose from at the beginning of each game (adding to the metagame complexity).

The 4 squad types are:
- [b]explorer [/b]: high movement, high sustain, jungle bonuses, low damage
- [b]planetary assault[/b] : best damage vs planets, bases and capital ships, slower moving, low sustain
- [b]strike force[/b]: ship to ship combat, assassins, medium sustain
- [b]development [/b]: low sustain, low combat ability, best in generating resource income and tech upgrades

The explorer squad type is the equivalent of the jungler from LoL. In the explorer's case, both the General and all starship pilots of that squad will have greater sustain, movement, and range than other squads. That comes at the expense of firepower. This is a sort of special squad type than the other 3 in that the players will have a much easier time roaming.

The other 3 squad types will much more closely resemble the aircraft carrier model. While starships can still act entirely independently, the logistics of that will be unfavorable. The starship pilots of these 3 squad types will gain bonuses from being within a range of their Generals or docking with their General's ships.

And of course, any type of squad can still do any function. Your explorers at times will be the only starships defending your Starbase, or you need them to push through a particularly nasty assault. Your planetary assault squad can still "jungle", it will just be less efficient etc. Just like in LoL sure, your support sometimes has to take a tower or try to carry, it is suboptimal but its all part of the game. A major part of the game is trying to make sure your assets perform in their most effective roles, and forcing the enemy's assets to perform in their least effective roles.
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An interesting mechanic would be that your factories and army produce wastes of various kinds, which radiate/pollute the air/ground/take space, so you need to take them away. If you dump them right outside your uberfort, they will still affect and you cant keep doing that forever either. So you need a long route to a far away dump to get rid of them without side effects.

The enemy might block that route so you need to keep it clear (and it might be a long route)


The best method would probably be to make the waste pollute the air near it (water doesnt really matter, im sure youve got water filters and stuff)

If there is trees or such you need to build, the trees inside your base would die if theres much waste nearby.



You could also use this mechanic to attack the enemy. For example:
-Dump lots of waste somewhere to stop the enemy from making a big base there (a small base might be possible though, but it wont do well)

-Load your dying resource transportation ship with tons of waste and send it on a suicide mission to the enemy base (if its their main base, they probably have machines or something to clean the waste, but if its a struggling forward base with just the minimal supplies, itll weaken)


To make the waste even more important, make it so that if you leave it for a long time somewhere, the radiation etc. will slowly wear off and it turns into an useful resource like fuel or something you can recycle and get all kinds of materials out of.
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