Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Sandman

Morale in RTS, and how to implement it

Recommended Posts

Sandman    2210
Ive always been somewhat divided in my opinion of "morale" features in RTS games. While on one hand it may seem like a realistic and therefore desirable thing to add, in most games I have played where a morale system is used it has proved more of an annoyance than anything else - no one wants to play a game only to find his units wander off and do stuff of their own accord. However, this weekend I was talking with a friend of mine, and he was describing Sid Meier''s Gettysburg . Now I have never played this game myself (although I am looking to obtain a copy), but from what I have heard it is an incredibly good game, as you''d expect from someone like Sid Meier. Morale is not some extra feature bolted on for realism in this game, rather it is an essential part of the strategy. Units have different morale depending on how experienced they are, who is with them (bonuses for presence of a general etc) where they are fighting (morale is better fighting from higher ground etc) or where they are attacked from (morale drops faster when attacked in the rear or sides than when attacked from the front) Once a unit is routed, it is more or less out of the game, unless your opponent is lucky enough to rally it. In short, breaking your opponent''s troop''s morale is almost as good as killing it outright. Flagging it (surrounding it and breaking it, so it has to surrender completely) is just as good as killing. Looking at morale this way, it seems to me that it could actually make for some very interesting tactics. The question is how to deal with it without pissing the player off too much? I''ll list a few ideas, which ones suck, which ones rule, and do you have any other ideas? 1. Clear Morale display: The morale counter for each unit should be clearly visible to the player at all times, so that the player can clearly see when his units are about to break and run. This will enable him to shore up a flank before it breaks, rather than to be suddenly suprised when half of his forces run away. 2. Rallying troops: How do you rally fleeing troops? There are a couple of approaches to this - perhaps they run a certain distance away from any visible enemies and then rest, and regain morale points after a while. Once that time is passed, the player is free to control them again. Or maybe the player can control them while they are routing, but can only issue certain commands, depending on what kind of unit they are. Perhaps the player still has full control, but the unit will attempt to flee unless the player micromanages that unit to keep it in the fight. Maybe keeping a unit that really wants to flee in the fray has its cost though, if you stop it fleeing long enough it will completely surrender and you lose it entirely. 3. Surrender: So you manage to get some enemy units to surrender. How? Perhaps a unit routs if its morale reaches zero, but if it is forced to lose any more morale then it will surrender completely? Should your opponent get any long term advantage from capturing surrendering units?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ronin_54    122
Handle rallying as how it is really done.

When a unit breaks up, not every soldier has lost morale. A few usually retain their wits, but they can''t fight on their own, so will most likely follow the others. You can then let *these* soldiers issue a rally command, gathering nearby soldiers whom lost morale around them, to make a stand. Those soldiers could then regain morale as they defeat a few enemies, and return to active duty, perhaps scattering to rally the rest of the unit, and move for a full-fledged counterstrike?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silvermyst    113
I''ve always thought the Warhammer series dealt with morale pretty good and made it a good part of combat.

Sure, you might be attacked by an enemy that far outnumbers you, but if you can counter attack and make a few of his units run, then you might stand a chance.

Making the enemy units turn and run is actually probably THE most important thing to accomplish.

CLEAR MORALE DISPLAY:
I think this is one of those things that can go either way.
I can see it somewhat ruining the aspect of ''surprise''. I mean, if you''re the general and all of a sudden your troops turn and run, sure that stinks, but it does give more drama to the fight.
Then again, a good general WOULD be able to detect signs of weakness among his own troops. Or maybe a good general has a good communication with some of his captains. Those captains will have a better view on the morale of his troops. Maybe the general (player) should be able to see a captain''s findings.
If the troops in one unit are suffering heavy losses and are on the verge of running away, the captain of that unit would signal to the general ''almost running away''. The general then could quickly dispatch some reinforcements to that particular unit, boosting their strength and confidence.

RALLYING TROOPS:
Again, Warhammer deals with this very well. Fleeing troops cannot be controlled, but there are two different kinds of ''fleeing'':
a) ''flee this local danger. Flee to a safe point, then stand and see if you can regroup.''
b) ''flee from the battle. Just turn and run and hope you make it out alive.''
As a player/general, perhaps you should have the option of showing your fleeing units just what will happen to them when they flee. They will be killed by their own commander. In combat, you do not turn and run unless ordered.
So, when the troops in a unit do decide the flee, the general might order his archers to open fire on his own men, killing some, but forcing others to return to the combat. It will also deter others from running away.
Or, the general can send an extremely powerful unit to rally the fleeing troops. Seeing an entire unit run away, the general sends his most trusted friend to catch up with them, and boost their morale by his sheer presence.

The more choices you give the player to act on actions of the virtual units, the better. Each player will thus be able to device his own personal tactic, instead of following standard procedures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sandman    2210
Interesting thoughts there guys....

I should probably mention some of the aspects of my design here. Units represent a squads or whatever, so a single unit of infantry may in fact consist of 5 men, or two tanks.

Each squad should act as a single unit, although the size of it is relevent (a unit of five men can shoot five different targets simultaneously, and can take up to five hits before it is destroyed)

Morale will probably be done on a unit by unit basis, and may use similar rules to the Warhammer ones: maybe you lose a point of morale after taking 25% casualties, another point after 50% casualties, and another after 75% casualties etc. I still have to come up with a complete list of circumstances which result in gained/lost morale so any ideas on this would be useful also.

Right now I am thinking that maybe a unit should retreat when it reaches 1 morale point, backing off and keeping firing at the enemy, as well as giving the player an audible signal that they are getting their arses kicked. The player can still control them at this point, but left to their own devices they will keep moving out until their morale increases again. If it reaches zero, the unit simply legs it directly away from the enemy for a period of time, which should be long enough to get it out of danger. If it is unable to do so (because it is surrounded) then it surrenders. The unit becomes controllable as soon as its morale becomes nonzero, but it should be at least 2 in before it is really safe to send it in.

So the interesting bit is, what should influence morale?

so far I have:

Casualties: being blown up is usually bad for morale
Outnumbered? Simply being near enemy units may be enough to drop morale. Unless they are running away, in which case, that may boost it.
Friendly units: Simply being near friendly units may increase morale. Unless they are running away, which may cause morale to drop.
Air superiority? Should this make a difference?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dracoliche    122
quote:
Original post by Sandman
so far I have:

Casualties: being blown up is usually bad for morale
Outnumbered? Simply being near enemy units may be enough to drop morale. Unless they are running away, in which case, that may boost it.
Friendly units: Simply being near friendly units may increase morale. Unless they are running away, which may cause morale to drop.
Air superiority? Should this make a difference?



Don''t forget fear of a specific unit. In Warhammer this is represented by the rules for Fear and Terror, where large or fearsome units can cause enemies to flee. In a modern game, you could use tank fever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KingRuss    134
I saw a couple good ideas.
1. Dynasty warriors doesn''t hit much on morale, but it does. Triggering events lowers the morale of the enemy. You control one man in an army (that doesn''t apply in your case) well sort of, seeing as how you control the general. Anyhow, running from enemies lowers your morale, getting damaged lowers your morale, being surrounded, low on ammo, starving, having a promise of more troops (like reinforcements) being broken. You guys covered a lot of those.
2. Yes, people with regular guns are afraid of tanks. Some people might not be afraid of tank though, such as Solid Snake, hehe. People with big enough guns to take them out.
3. If you add an element of command or intelligence to a situation, morale can be affected. Having four units of grunts will have a lower morale than having two units of grunts and a unit of tanks, or a commander or something. Smarter people know when to run, how far to run, and where to run to. Those dumb people just follow others or go crazy.
4. I can see certain units falling back. I''ve seen it in a couple games whos names don''t come to mind. They flee and make both a signal and a noise. But if you contol the general, simply going and meeting with that group, and lying to them will make them rejoin the fight. Generals that are smart could lie out of having their army retreat.
5. Giving us a little more information about the game might help us to detemine the effects of morale. Did you want a civil war type of game, a modern tank/special-ops strategy game, or a futuristic game where I think morale doesn''t come into play for a much more futuristic game.

"Practice means good, Perfect Practice means Perfect"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sandman    2210
OK, I''ll chance a reply... hopefully IE won''t eat it this time. :o

quote:
Original post by KingRuss
I saw a couple good ideas.
1. Dynasty warriors doesn''t hit much on morale, but it does. Triggering events lowers the morale of the enemy. You control one man in an army (that doesn''t apply in your case) well sort of, seeing as how you control the general. Anyhow, running from enemies lowers your morale, getting damaged lowers your morale, being surrounded, low on ammo, starving, having a promise of more troops (like reinforcements) being broken. You guys covered a lot of those.



I''d forgotten about ammo & supplies. Many of the units will have finite ammunition, and will be reliant on supply lines (exact details havent been worked out yet).
It would be nice to take reinforcements into account - if the units know reinforcements are likely then they might hold out longer - but I am not quite sure how that would be implemented. It might be possible for units to be aware of orders that are targetted near them, so simply the act of sending a unit towards them might boost morale....

quote:

2. Yes, people with regular guns are afraid of tanks. Some people might not be afraid of tank though, such as Solid Snake, hehe. People with big enough guns to take them out.



Yes, as Dracoliche pointed out, tanks can be pretty scary. But what are tanks afraid of? What happens if a tank unit is broken: does it turn around and drive away, or do the crew abandon it and run? My guess is the latter, since the main threats to tanks are other tanks and aircraft, which have a harder time picking off individual troops than one big tank.

quote:

3. If you add an element of command or intelligence to a situation, morale can be affected. Having four units of grunts will have a lower morale than having two units of grunts and a unit of tanks, or a commander or something. Smarter people know when to run, how far to run, and where to run to. Those dumb people just follow others or go crazy.



Indeed. I am not sure I want ''commander'' units, but I''ll have to think about it... they could be very valuable.

quote:

4. I can see certain units falling back. I''ve seen it in a couple games whos names don''t come to mind. They flee and make both a signal and a noise. But if you contol the general, simply going and meeting with that group, and lying to them will make them rejoin the fight. Generals that are smart could lie out of having their army retreat.



I think the withdraw vs. rout thing I described above models this quite nicely: when on low morale, they retreat, but you can still get them to fight on if you hassle them. After that though, they just leg it and they dont give a shit what you say till they have calmed down a bit.

quote:

5. Giving us a little more information about the game might help us to detemine the effects of morale. Did you want a civil war type of game, a modern tank/special-ops strategy game, or a futuristic game where I think morale doesn''t come into play for a much more futuristic game.



The setting is far future/space. However, I disagree that morale shouldn''t play a part - the protagonists are still human, but the weapons are a lot scarier....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dauntless    314
Morale has always been one of the most important aspects in a strategy game for me. To me, nothing is more bogus and unrealistic than sending units off to happily die for their commander.

I think what other players might see as frustration at not having their troops do as they please is yet another tactical consideration. Coming from a wargaming background, morale in many ways was THE most important factor of your units...not what guns you had or how powerful your units were. Just as in reality, oft-times it was the better trained and more disciplined units that could defeat more powerful ones. Rather than seeing morale as a distraction, I see it as a vital component in strategical thinking.

Take a look at the Civil War again as an example. In the eraly part of the war, most of the Northern forces simply didn''t have the same morale as their southern counterparts. The famous Iron Brigade not withstanding, the early part of the war was characterized by norhtern units often being routed by southern units, or even if it was a victory it was a very marginal one at best. Also, the lengths that southern troops would go to for Jackson and Lee are legendary. The Army of the Northern Virginia was nicknamed "Foot cavalry" because Lee could force march them so effectively (and the men did it for him) that northern generals couldn''t believe that they could maneuver that well. Jackson''s genius maneuver at the battle of Chickamaugua where he pivoted his entire division behind one thin regimental line took nerves of steel. Other than Joseph Chamberlain on the northern side, Northern generals didn''t inspire to the same degree that Southern Generals like Lee, Jackson, Hood, Longstreet, Stuart and Beauregard. Outmanned and outgunned, the southern units consistently managed to fend off and beat northern forces until ''63 (Gettysburg). By that point, with the collosal mistake that Lee made, and the inevitable lack of industrial resources the southern units faced...it was downhill from there. Even then however, the southern forces gave stinging blows to northern forces at Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania (the whole wilderness cmpaign actually...although both sides took horrific losses)

My point is, without morale...a game designer never would have been able to accurately portray the Civil War...and I will unequivocably say that no game designer will ever make a realistic strategic game without implementing a robust and complete morale system. I really believe it is that important. There is an old saying, "it''s easier to break a man''s will than break his body". I think morale could also open the doors for psychological warfare.

To balance morale you have to look at the big picture and have a system where unit morale can increase (and decrease) over time. As I said above, in the beginning of the Civil War the northern forces were pretty bad, but by the end they had gotten better (although Grant''s nickname as "The Butcher" to his own troops didn''t help alot....it was far better to serve in Sherman''s forces than with Grant by the latter part).

I think another factor in "balancing" is that PC gamers simply aren''t used to the notion. Unfortunately, thanks to the click fests like Starcraft that pass themselves off as strategy games (which truthfully they are...they just aren''t good warfare simulators at all), the gaming public really has no concept of how morale fits into play. because I''m an old grognard (yikes..not even 30 and I''m already old....), I''m not only used to a morale system, I demand one in a war strategy type of game. So a big part of "balancing" will be in simply educating the players how important morale is, and not to overlook the value of medium class high morale unit to a high-powered unit with low morale.

I''ll make a post a little later about the constituent parts of morale though, as "morale" covers a broad base of characteristics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dauntless    314
I think there are several facets that make up "morale" and each of them are seperate unto themselves. In other words, it''s possible to have a high score in one, but have a very low score in another.

1. Discipline: This is how well "trained" the unit, and determines to a good degree how well a unit will stand under fire. It basically determines the overall chance that a unit
will follow orders even under duress or against the units wishes

2. Courage: Courage is a measure of how well a unit will react against overwhelming odds.

3. Tenacity: This determines how aggressive a unit is. It is different from courage in that courage determines that a unit will act because in it''s mind it must do so. In tenacity, it''s more a reflection that the unit "wants" to act.

4. Resolve: Resolve is the determination and willpower of a unit. Resolve is also a measure of the "responsibility" factor of a unit. A reflection of whether the unit feels it must do it''s job so as not to let others down.

These are just a few of the factors I can think of off the top of my head. Some of them may need a little more clarification though.

As an example, let''s take a look at famous units throughout history, and how I would rate them from 1-10

Nez Perce Indians (Chief Joseph''s Tribe)
Discipline: 7
Courage: 9
Tenacity: 6
Resolve: 10

Napoleon''s Old Guard
Discipline: 10
Courage: 8
Tenacity: 8
Resolve: 8

Stonewall Jackson Brigade
Discipline: 7
Courage: 7
Tenacity: 9
Resolve: 8

Average Viking Raiding party
Discipline: 6
Courage: 8
Tenacity: 8
Resolve: 5

Average Colony Militia Revolutionary war
Discipline: 3
Courage: 5
Tenacity: 5
Resolve: 8

Average Viet Cong unit
Discipline: 4
Courage: 5
Tenacity: 6
Resolve: 8

Hopefully you start getting the picture that there are different aspects to morale. In essence, morale is very contextually based, and would have to be compared against the mission itself, and the units they are fighting against. StarGrunt made an excellent observation that missions themselves have priorities which will make units more or less willing to fight on. For example, in a search and destroy mission, there really isn''t a lot of motivation to risk its neck. But if you werer fighting a "last stnad" battle where you were protecting the rear gurad of evactuating civilians...there''s a lot more impetus for your units to fight to the last man. Part of this is reflected by the Resolve characteristic.

These are just a few ideas to get anyone thinking about morale

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sandman    2210
Excellent posts Dauntless.

It seems to me that Discipline and Resolve determine how much punishment a units morale can take (the number of morale points for example) whereas Courage and Tenacity determine how points are lost. I also think that the difference between Discipline and Resolve are unimportant for the purposes of the game (Discipline is modeled in other ways), as are the differences between Courage and Tenacity.

So we crystallize them down to two numbers, for the sake of argument, we''ll call them Resolve and Courage. Resolve is a number which starts at X and counts down to 0 as morale events occur. Courage is a constant, which determines how well the units resolve survives in the face of scary events. Suppose each morale event has a "scary factor" for want of a better term: Whenever a morale event occurs, that events Scary Factor is compared with the units Courage. If the Scary Factor is greater than the units Courage then the unit loses a point of Resolve.

As for positive morale events, some might increase Resolve, others might give a courage bonus....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dauntless    314
Sandman,

you hit it right on the nose in that Discipline and Resolve determine how much punishment a unit can take. There''s also the concept of taking damage, and simple fear itself. For example, when a unit is charged, it should be forced to take a morale check to see if the unit will break. Indeed, a unit should take a morale check to MAKE a charge. I find it ludricous in most RTS''s that you can order a peon to attack a powerful unit, and it doesn''t balk that it''s going to be destroyed. So there''s the factor that, "I''m taking a lot of damage...I don''t know how much longer we can hold out" and the "JESUS CHRIST, it''s a swarm of barbarians charging us!!" type of morale check.

I also thought that Discipline would encompass training as a whole, but then I realized that that too would need its own factors. For example, a unit might have been well trained in how to shoot (take for example British troops in the Napoleonic era that were about the only major standing Army that was trained to actually aim their shoots) but may not necessarily follow orders well. In essence, training itself would take several factors. So discipline to me was more like having self-control. Again, this is different than courage because the most disciplined troops can act well behaved even under circumstances that aren''t particularly threatening. For example, maintaining silence while walking on patrol.

But you''re scary factor sounds good. Some units will have built in reputations which can be multiplied based on certain conditions. For example...going up against one Mongol unit was bad...going up against 10 of them is far worse. You can also take into consideration environmental factors like being on high ground, being behind cover, etc.

Another important factor is leadership. A good unit saddled with a bad leader can be disastrous (Scot''s Grey''s for example...which got eaten up by the Polish 1st Lancers...who admittedly were a pretty tough unit themselves at Waterloo), or rabble militia in the hands of an inspirational leader (for example the Colonial militia at Cowpens or Guilford Courthouse). I think leadership is another extremely important facet of strategy games that are overlooked, and is intimately tied in with morale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
usser    116
has anyone played Close Combat 3?

It had a great implementation of morale if you ask me. All units had a certain morale with the standard newly recruits having a very low and the commanders extremly high morale. All tanks and elite units also had great morale and especially tanks would almost never give up unless surrounded by two or three infantry squads.

Morale there worked great. When a unit was overthrown and obviously had no chance of survival it gave up. By the time units gave up i had already dismissed them as lost.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dauntless    314
I played Close Combat2: A Bridge Too Far and I agree that it is an excellent game. Indeed I think it is perhaps the best strategy game I have played. It had perhaps the best morale system I''ve seen implemented in a game. It also had an excellent campaign mode...where casualties inflicted in one battle will continue to the nest, as well as taking things like fatigue and logistics into account.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Discipline is separate from resolve IMHO. Discipline is how well and accurately they carry out an order. A unit may be willing to fight to the death but if they aren''t trained properly they might not all be able to carry out the intended order.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites