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hpdvs2

Dynamic Game Content for an MMO RTS...

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I posted this same thing in the "Writing for Game" section, to get the writers perspective, but I think that a designer's perspective will also apply and be helpful here:

 

I am working on an Massively Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy game.  I'm toying with the idea of individual stories to follow players.

 

1) They will start out building up a city, technologies and troops.  The city is safe.

2) They will deploy troops to other planets, and manage them directly in a Real Time Tactical Strategy.

3) Planets will be won and lost, which affect large numbers of players.

4) The battles for planets will continue until one side wins the entire planet, could be hours, could be months (actual time), with players regularly adding troops to fuel the battles with dozens of other players.

 

 

I've worked on Dynamic content generators before, but I was hoping some of you might have helpful insights that could make this better than my initial thoughts.  (I'm not posting my initial thoughts, and welcome complete flexibility for suggesting dynamic content.)

 

I may not use stories/plots at all.  At the moment, I'm just considering my options, and if a good idea can be done without a lot of work.  Suggest away!

 

Thanks.  :)

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he first player who arrives on the planet should be the owner of the planet. If time permits, they can build a city with fortifications making it more difficult for future enemies to attack. Defenses can come in the form of walls, anti-air missile, heavy defensive artillery which destroys any target in sight. 

 

During war, I presume that the only way troops will arrive from other planets is via air-lift. Maybe battles can revolve about control over the airspace. A battle between fighters and the bombers will destroy any anti-air target on the ground. If it's an undecided battle then the airspace gets split into half, else if one side dominates over the air, sending reinforcements over will be more difficult but not impossible.

 

I thought of a weather system. Depending on the weather, it will have different impact on the war situation. If there is snow, troops move more slowly and if they lack adequate clothing, they will freeze and suffer a large drop in morale. Vehicles also may move slowly too. If there is rain accompanied by thunderstorm, it may be difficult to send reinforcements as the planes may get shot down by lightning. If there is fog, visibility will be poor rendering planes almost useless and the defensive lines will be weaker. Thus players can launch an attack during the fog and yet suffer less casualties as the guns and artillery will have decreased accuracy.

 

For a never-ending war, there should be a powerful defensive element involving turtling which is normally a taboo in RTS games. Making it such that it is almost impossible to break the lines using just sheer numbers and no tactic. Players have to plan over long period if they were to breach through the tight defensive lines such as flanking them.

 

Maybe the resources can be scattered all around the world some being extremely rich and some not. Maybe players can build resource collection centers around the safe zone to exploit the resources for temporary gain as well, maybe to fund the war as well.

 

How about players playing the support role? Sometimes, players are not interested in participating in these war campaigns. So what can they do? Maybe building vehicles and planes and selling it to other players especially when the former's technologies is much better than the latter. These ways, economic players can also have a part in the game.

 

There could be a guild system where players get together and conquer planets together as well as make new friends. It also provides for better communication. When they seize planets under their guild name, they can share the resources amongst themselves.

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357345701' post='5017580']
The first player who arrives on the planet should be the owner of the planet. If time permits, they can build a city with fortifications making it more difficult for future enemies to attack. Defenses can come in the form of walls, anti-air missile, heavy defensive artillery which destroys any target in sight. 
[/quote]

 

I like this idea.  This gives a bit of a way to defend a planet.  Perhaps there are Atmospheric Defense Systems, Something that doesn't help in battle itself, it just prevents space ships from landing in that area that aren't permitted.  Perhaps a planet should have those every X amount of space, perhaps 20 to a planet or so.  Being the first in the groups to land, you would land on a spot and attempt to put that into play, at the same time others would also be going into that area.  Dispersed evenly across the planet, these sites would become targets of the opponents until the entire surface is protected by one side.  at which point there is no escape or re supplying, though remaining troops can attempt a last stand  (unlikely) to take one of the defense systems out.

 

It gives goals.  This would also provide control centers.  These defense centers get extra government resources to maintain them.  Perhaps these players also get to influence the target areas that the battles occur.  getting to identify which areas should have more drop offs for battle. 

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357345701' post='5017580']
I thought of a weather system. Depending on the weather, it will have different impact on the war situation. If there is snow, troops move more slowly and if they lack adequate clothing, they will freeze and suffer a large drop in morale. Vehicles also may move slowly too. If there is rain accompanied by thunderstorm, it may be difficult to send reinforcements as the planes may get shot down by lightning. If there is fog, visibility will be poor rendering planes almost useless and the defensive lines will be weaker. Thus players can launch an attack during the fog and yet suffer less casualties as the guns and artillery will have decreased accuracy.
[/quote]

 

I like the idea of weather, or some sort of temporary (or permanent depending on the planet) changes that give certain advantages, such as Gravity being too intense, that troop must go through extra training, flying vehicles don't operate well, or at all.  I think this would be a later feature not in the first draft though.  

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357345701' post='5017580']
For a never-ending war, there should be a powerful defensive element involving turtling which is normally a taboo in RTS games. Making it such that it is almost impossible to break the lines using just sheer numbers and no tactic. Players have to plan over long period if they were to breach through the tight defensive lines such as flanking them.
[/quote]

 

It occurs to me certain issues.  a planet may never be won, but that is the objective.  So what about players who built up a great defense system?  Imagine they are on for 4 hours building it up, with NOTHING happening, then 10 minutes after they log off, it goes under attack, and has no player to support it, or expand on it as needed, the city would be far easier to take.  This tells me that I'll need some additional system here. like a city building/maintenance AI, or a team/guild system for defending a planet.  For instance, if a player is offline, and their colony is in danger.  Other Colonies in that area can spend their own money and resources to build up extra defenses and maintain existing ones.  Of course with this massive of a struggle, I imagine that Blitzkrieg style attacks may be preferred.

 

This solution would be far easier if I didn't let players attack each other's colonies, and stick with the original concept where the building and the tactics where managed separately.  I'm not giving this up yet.  if I can think of a good way to get it going, without a lot of work or complication, I might still add this general mechanic, but the complication is open now.

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357345701' post='5017580']
How about players playing the support role? Sometimes, players are not interested in participating in these war campaigns. So what can they do? Maybe building vehicles and planes and selling it to other players especially when the former's technologies is much better than the latter. These ways, economic players can also have a part in the game.
[/quote]

 

Agreed.  I was figuring this might play from multiple perspectives that way.  some players will be mostly interested in Tactical Combat, and others only in City Building.  I was figuring that City Builder's could let there troops go out to others.  I.e. Other friends can use the squads.  Both people gain if the squad succeeds.  Also, early players, not connected to teams or guilds could provide their squads out to an open forum in a sense.  

 

Additionally, Combatants who have no interest in the city side, could start using these free squads to use.  Combatants will only have access to low level troops.  After proving them selves with the starting troops, they will get get better resources to go into battle with.  After any available human players squads show up on the list, it will be followup up by AI squads, so even if player squads aren't available, AI ones will be.

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357345701' post='5017580']
There could be a guild system where players get together and conquer planets together as well as make new friends. It also provides for better communication. When they seize planets under their guild name, they can share the resources amongst themselves.
[/quote]

 

I like this idea.  For instance, perhaps you have guilds, but you also have those leading the battles on planets.  So the ones who own planetary defense systems on the same planet, perhaps they share the board.  They can see each others systems.  If another player is off line, then another can use their system.  No one would want to sabotage anything, because if the do, it weaken's their side, and they could lose the planet.  (not to mention get kicked off the game) 

 

This could actually fix the issue involving when a player is off line.

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[quote name='hpdvs2' timestamp='1357437173' post='5017985']
I like this idea.  This gives a bit of a way to defend a planet.  Perhaps there are Atmospheric Defense Systems, Something that doesn't help in battle itself, it just prevents space ships from landing in that area that aren't permitted.  Perhaps a planet should have those every X amount of space, perhaps 20 to a planet or so.  Being the first in the groups to land, you would land on a spot and attempt to put that into play, at the same time others would also be going into that area.  Dispersed evenly across the planet, these sites would become targets of the opponents until the entire surface is protected by one side.  at which point there is no escape or re supplying, though remaining troops can attempt a last stand  (unlikely) to take one of the defense systems out.
 
It gives goals.  This would also provide control centers.  These defense centers get extra government resources to maintain them.  Perhaps these players also get to influence the target areas that the battles occur.  getting to identify which areas should have more drop offs for battle. 
[/quote]

 

To add on the the planet colonization, maybe some planets will have some native population which inhabits the planet. Players have to negotiate with them first. If it fails, they will have to take the planet by force. This way, it does not give planets free planet. They have to go through some hardship to colonize it by battling against the ai defenses. At the end of the war, the player can choose to kill off the residents or win their support and allow them to be part of the population of a new government which can enhance the rate in which the city is rebuilt instead of getting your residents to come over from another planet. 

 

[quote name='hpdvs2' timestamp='1357443659' post='5018042']

Agreed.  I was figuring this might play from multiple perspectives that way.  some players will be mostly interested in Tactical Combat, and others only in City Building.  I was figuring that City Builder's could let there troops go out to others.  I.e. Other friends can use the squads.  Both people gain if the squad succeeds.  Also, early players, not connected to teams or guilds could provide their squads out to an open forum in a sense.  
 
Additionally, Combatants who have no interest in the city side, could start using these free squads to use.  Combatants will only have access to low level troops.  After proving them selves with the starting troops, they will get get better resources to go into battle with.  After any available human players squads show up on the list, it will be followup up by AI squads, so even if player squads aren't available, AI ones will be.
[/quote]

 

Maybe you could provide more support for the non-battle aspect by creating a market where you can sell weapons you have built or maybe loans where player can borrow troops from other economic player for a fee. Also, they can help to guild manage the new cities which have been colonized, by managing the construction of buildings and defenses as well as how the economy of the city will be structured.

 

[quote name='hpdvs2' timestamp='1357444074' post='5018047']
I like this idea.  For instance, perhaps you have guilds, but you also have those leading the battles on planets.  So the ones who own planetary defense systems on the same planet, perhaps they share the board.  They can see each others systems.  If another player is off line, then another can use their system.  No one would want to sabotage anything, because if the do, it weaken's their side, and they could lose the planet.  (not to mention get kicked off the game) 
 
This could actually fix the issue involving when a player is off line.
[/quote]

 

So you mean something like allowing your guild mates to control your troops while he is offline? Maybe it could work this way. Before going offline, players can set one of their guild mates to command their troops so that they will not lack of man power should the player gets attacked. It also can help to resolve the problems of the timezone, Asian players may be asleep while American players are very active. 

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[quote name='hpdvs2' timestamp='1357441560' post='5018025']
Of course with this massive of a struggle, I imagine that Blitzkrieg style attacks may be preferred.
[/quote]

 

The trick is how to make it last as long as possible and to prevent the Blitzkrieg style of gaming, build up for months and months only to have the game determined by Blitzkrieg. Maybe something which forces someone to advance. As I have mentioned previously, geography may be key. It is easy to defend a small choke point but not a massive battlefield. Large areas leave more room for more mistakes as there will be a large area to defend making it not as difficult to exploit the enemy defenses. 

 

Making the map extremely large can be a good idea. There can be a lot of routes too which players can route by to ambush their opponents and seize positions from the shadow leading to a cat-and-mouse chase where players continue fighting against each other in many different areas. Also, no matter how big your army, it's almost impossible to control every single area. Thus, no matter how badly players are pushed back, they can also come back through sudden reinforcements and pushing through the weak points out of the sudden. 

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Different types of geographical choke points are important as well. Heavy cover, high ground, rough terrain, city choke points, constructed and burnt ground should all have useful units/unit skills that enable various lesser units to hold out against heavier more armored/armed units.

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357448153' post='5018069']
To add on the the planet colonization, maybe some planets will have some native population which inhabits the planet. Players have to negotiate with them first. If it fails, they will have to take the planet by force. This way, it does not give planets free planet. They have to go through some hardship to colonize it by battling against the ai defenses. At the end of the war, the player can choose to kill off the residents or win their support and allow them to be part of the population of a new government which can enhance the rate in which the city is rebuilt instead of getting your residents to come over from another planet. 
[/quote]

 

I like this.  It adds a nice political side to this.  I don't like the idea of taking the planet from natives by force, and don't really want my game to express that as something of value.  Or perhaps if you do, you will have a constant hindrance of locals sabotaging buildings and laying mines etc...  i like that you need to negotiate first to claim some areas.  perhaps area's more rich with resources.  However, this mechanic would require considerable thought and work in areas unrelated to the targeted fun of the game.  I think its good, but probably not in a first version.  The genocide portion though I would immediately choose not to use.

 

 

[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357448153' post='5018069']
Maybe you could provide more support for the non-battle aspect by creating a market where you can sell weapons you have built or maybe loans where player can borrow troops from other economic player for a fee. Also, they can help to guild manage the new cities which have been colonized, by managing the construction of buildings and defenses as well as how the economy of the city will be structured.
[/quote]

I like this idea.  Perhaps squads don't need to be military only.  Perhaps they can be road builders, or construction crews with the knowledge to build certain things.  Then, they can be sent into the hot zone as well, but with non-combat objectives.  But also towards construction in general.  Perhaps Guilds have schools that your construction crew can attend to get better/faster/more effective.  Perhaps towns with more resources than squads of builders can also hire out other squads to build things for them.  Costs slightly more in the long run, than training your own, but sometimes you don't need the long run, perhaps money is easier, like in the war zone where you need a lot of things fast.

 

[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357448153' post='5018069']
So you mean something like allowing your guild mates to control your troops while he is offline? Maybe it could work this way. Before going offline, players can set one of their guild mates to command their troops so that they will not lack of man power should the player gets attacked. It also can help to resolve the problems of the timezone, Asian players may be asleep while American players are very active. 
[/quote]

I liked the direction of multiple players controlling offline regions temporarily, and have opened another thread to address it, which has had some feed back so far.  I like your idea of assigning a specific team mate to take over, and I've been considering approaches for other players not even known, to take over and assist.  As well as AI.  But I want to address one specific thing here:

 

[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357448153' post='5018069']
Asian players may be asleep while American players are very active.
[/quote]

I like this idea of building teams based on people you never meet.  for instance, establishing a time range that you are typically online, if in an active battle.  And establishing a chat/forum/pen pal system for people with other time slots.  The idea being that you have other people who can take over, with similar skill sets.  Be kind a good way to meet people all over the world, and learn about each other in real life, not just limited to your time zones.

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[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357449041' post='5018072']
The trick is how to make it last as long as possible and to prevent the Blitzkrieg style of gaming, build up for months and months only to have the game determined by Blitzkrieg. Maybe something which forces someone to advance. As I have mentioned previously, geography may be key.
[/quote]

 

I think this is a good idea.  I hadn't really thought about the issue of keeping the battle moving in smaller sections, but that is a good idea.  I was planning players who control regions to be able to constantly call down other small squads to take on certain tasks, like build a bridge, defend an area, take out a guard post.  By making sure this is constant, they can rely more on defenses, while making orders to have a constant trickle effect.  

 

If the map is huge, which it will be for this, then its not reasonable to keep a massive force on one side of your base and expect to defend against smaller forces exploiting weaknesses on the other side.  Getting a larger force to move will probably be slower.  Slower moving forces, and constant smaller skirmishes, might be a great way to deal with this.  Hit and run tactics.

 

 

[quote name='DtCarrot' timestamp='1357449041' post='5018072']

There can be a lot of routes too which players can route by to ambush their opponents and seize positions from the shadow leading to a cat-and-mouse chase where players continue fighting against each other in many different areas. Also, no matter how big your army, it's almost impossible to control every single area. Thus, no matter how badly players are pushed back, they can also come back through sudden reinforcements and pushing through the weak points out of the sudden. 
[/quote]

Agreed.  Rivers, mountains, tunnels, ditches, etc...  Perhaps one of your squads is a dozen yellow bobcat vehicles digging trenches that tanks can't reasonably get through. all around your area, REALLY cheap defense, but quick and effective.  The enemy will need to fill in the dirt or put up a bridge prior to crossing, giving you more time to respond.   

 

I definitely like the idea of having limiters on the forces some how, so that you can't just fill a 10 square mile region with tanks.  I also like the idea of limiting the external forces that can be dropped off.  Constant smaller squads, but I don't like the idea of a 'rich' player (some one who actually paid, and wants to put in a dozen factories and a fleet of tanks ten miles wide) owning the area because they are rich.  Perhaps it should give them benefits, but not war winning.  just influential.

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[quote name='Mratthew' timestamp='1357456795' post='5018102']
Different types of geographical choke points are important as well. Heavy cover, high ground, rough terrain, city choke points, constructed and burnt ground should all have useful units/unit skills that enable various lesser units to hold out against heavier more armored/armed units.
[/quote]

 

Indeed, like in Star Craft, Zerg burying tactics.  Or ditch building, tanks can't get through, foot soldiers can use ladders to get through. And smaller ditches that tanks can't shoot into but soldiers keep popping up and shooting others in the open.

 

I also like the idea of a battle area taking longer.  a problem wiht Siege tanks in Starcraft, is that they are taken out to quickly.  They are heavily graphicsarmored.  Machine guns won't do much, but somehow they blow them up pretty quickly.  So perhaps there can also be not just damage to damge, but types of damage.  Perhaps an armored tank has a minimum damage limit.  for instance, if something doesn't deals ten damage or less, it won't hurt at all, so machine guns don't really hurt it.  But a grenade dealing 15 points of damage would deal 5 points against the tank.  and of course different shooting things.  Like EMP's do lots of damage to a tank, but not to troops.

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I'm just curious, how long does it take for transport ships to travel to another planet. Maybe 1 hour to a neighboring planet and it gradually increase. Hence, the combat can also revolve about holding out for reinforcements where they can quickly react and push back. 

 

How much will these ships cost though? What tech will be required for it? What is it's capacity?

 

[quote name='hpdvs2' timestamp='1357499933' post='5018276']
If the map is huge, which it will be for this, then its not reasonable to keep a massive force on one side of your base and expect to defend against smaller forces exploiting weaknesses on the other side.  Getting a larger force to move will probably be slower.  Slower moving forces, and constant smaller skirmishes, might be a great way to deal with this.  Hit and run tactics.
[/quote]

 

Yup, the idea is to have battles happening all over the map and not just confined to a small area. Maybe this is done to secure the geographical advantage in the map so that they do not lose out in the middle.

 

[quote name='hpdvs2' timestamp='1357499933' post='5018276']
Agreed.  Rivers, mountains, tunnels, ditches, etc...  Perhaps one of your squads is a dozen yellow bobcat vehicles digging trenches that tanks can't reasonably get through. all around your area, REALLY cheap defense, but quick and effective.  The enemy will need to fill in the dirt or put up a bridge prior to crossing, giving you more time to respond.   
[/quote]

 

Yup, geography really gives the room for weird and innovative tactics. Stuffing a bazooka squad just near the exit of a narrow alley will cause the enemy to suffer a lot of casualties. If the tank in the front gets destroyed, the other tanks cannot move on, only the infantry. If you place an artillery squad on top of a very high mountain, the enemy will have difficult walking through that path, continuously suffering rains of artillery attacks. 

 

I was just thinking of the aerial force which is rather unspoken of. They are key to controlling the battlefield given how devastating aerial bombs by bombers can get. 

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