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Elpyfo

Real Time Strategy mechanics

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Greetings all! 

 

I've registered on this forum a couple of days ago, have lurked a bit and read the general rules, so here's hoping I'm posting this in the right place / in the right format.. 

 

ABOUT OUR TEAM:

 

At the time of writing, we are a core group of 3, being a programmer and 2 modelers. We have some potential extra people on board, who still need to be convinced to work for us. There are 2 at least, with a possibility of 2 more.

(Artwork person, story person, potential modeller and another artwork person.) 

More info for those interested. 

 

THE PROJECT:

 

So, my team and myself are working on a little RTS project, and we've got quite some stuff down already. This being the isometric-style camera, the edge scrolling, some basic models to toy around with, and a very basic way of creating units from buildings. We have a pretty good design document and right now we're in the process of developing (each our own individual) story, gameplay mechanics and whatnot. Our deadline is the 1st of september, where we will put all the ideas together and vote for whichever one we like the best as a group. Then we will proceed to modelling, further programming, et cetera.. 

 

Now my problem is this: I've been struggling with a couple of ideas for mechanics and I'm facing a number of dilemmas for my ideas.. 

 

Idea #1:

 

Would more or less follow the Age of Empires formula except it would be a medieval fantasy setting, with builder/resource gathering units, a rock/paper/scissors combat etc.. The main differences with AoE here would be a "production chain" style of resource gathering in the style of Stronghold (i.e to make bread you need grain from a farm, which needs to be milled into flour, which needs to be baked into bread.) and the idea of several factions vying for power within your empire. You get to choose which factions get more power (upgrades that are mutually exclusive), at the cost of making the people belonging to the other faction unhappier and excluding some faction-specific upgrades. (Ie you could put a militarist building giving an attack boost, which cancels out the trader's guild which gives a bonus to economic production). 

 

 

THE PROBLEM WITH THIS:

 

I keep thinking it's too generic. There's quite some ideas in there, but they're just a melting pot of RTS ideas I've played before. What could I do to make it less generic?

 

Idea #2:

 

"Empires: Deathmatch". A competitive RTS wherein players gather resources, build buildings and send units to attack in simultaneous turns with tech levels increasing each turn. So basically this game would be divided in 2 phases, each lasting a couple of minutes. It would be resource gathering/construction phase first, followed by a battle phase. Technology can only be upgraded in the resource phase, units may be upgraded in the battle turn. After the battle turn, the resource turn is re-introduced. This keeps going until there's only one empire standing. 

 

 

THE PROBLEM WITH THIS:

 

This is a bit more novel, with the turns and whatnot, but I fear I'm treading too close to the MOBA territory here. 

As in "little to no offline fun, will require tons of aftercare/balancing, too much/unrealistic for our inexperienced team, requires servers, etc.."

 

That, and I fear people may just turtle hard all the time and just release a hard counterattack whenever a player attacks first and loses, turning it into an arms race wherein whomever takes the initiative, loses. How could I counteract this?

 

 

Thanks in advance for reading this long post. Please tell me which one of these ideas you like more, or if you need more clarification. I have more information, I was just afraid to post too much. Also, if I make any newbie mistakes, feel free to point these out, I'm more than willing to listen to feedback to improve the quality of my future posts.  smile.png

Edited by Elpyfo

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I'd always suggest going with a more creative route. A small team, low budget game need something to set it apart from established games. If you went with a game that's already too much like an established game, the fan base you'd appeal to is only a narrow segment of the existing title's fan-base - a very narrow segment which is willing to accept a less-polished, not-as-nice-looking version of the game they've already played.

 

The only real exception to this is cloneish-games with a unique look. Sometimes a unique low-budget look (i.e. pixel art or voxels or whatever) has become enough of an appeal to draw some people. I've seen quite a bit of rumbling about pixel-art dark-souls-eque titles lately. 

 

With something more creative, you may either appeal to no-one, or a greatly wider audience. Regardless, it will be people who are willing to try something new and novel and art sick of the same-old sequels and repeats.

 

All that said, RTS seems to be a fading genre overall as most mainstream AAA titles are devoted to FPS sequels, so there may be people who are interested in your idea#1, but I imagine it would be mostly based on visual appeal. So if you go for option #1 - i'd suggest focusing heavily on making it look really unique. Games can be indie and low budget but still look really good, as long as you're setting your own standards for visual appeal rather than attempting to match the established AAA style.

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*snip*

 

All that said, RTS seems to be a fading genre overall as most mainstream AAA titles are devoted to FPS sequels, so there may be people who are interested in your idea#1, but I imagine it would be mostly based on visual appeal. So if you go for option #1 - i'd suggest focusing heavily on making it look really unique. Games can be indie and low budget but still look really good, as long as you're setting your own standards for visual appeal rather than attempting to match the established AAA style.

 

Thanks a lot for your input. I have discussed the subject on the chat and with my programmer, and it would seem that idea #1 is the way to go.

As for the graphic style we're going to do, we're not quite sure just yet, but that's what our deadline and following discussion/voting will point out for us.

More input/opinions/eventual brainstorming would be much appreciated!

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For idea #1, there definitely are a lot of RTS games out there and it is a pretty big space. You see quite a few variations on the mobile space nowadays, with very superficial differences between them.

 

#2 Definitely has a lot of elements that heads into a different category of game, and it's absolutely going to be harder to build concerning game balance.

 

I'd shoot for #1 and I'd recommend finding a core mechanic that sets you apart. It could be a very simple difference, or even a combination of features from various games that gives a fresh perspective.

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To make it less generic, the fantasy worldbuilding is the key.  If you're limiting yourselves to humans growing grain to make bread, there's no fantasy to that at all.  If you make your world and playable race(s) more unique, then their farming and manufacturing and such should change along with them.  Maybe their main type of fabric production involves raising angora rabbits, shearing them, and weaving their fur?  Maybe their houses are domesticated plants and they grow each one from a seed?  Maybe the 'knights' ride dinosaurs, so you have to have a supply of dino mounts to make knights?  Maybe they don't use metal for weapons at all, but instead glass or crystal or even magic cement?

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I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with generic as long as it’s well done and not a complete clone of an existing game. That faction upgrade system sounds like it’s enough to offer a unique experience and make your game stand out from others in the genre, and there’s plenty more you can do with small mechanical decisions to make your game feel different from existing games. Whatever the theme or gimmicks, I think the best strategy is to focus on the fundamentals and just make a really solid RTS game.

 

One problem I see with the second one is that it sounds too much like rock/paper/scissors, not in the sense of having a combat triangle of counters, but that by separating the production and battle phases, players will have to blindly choose a tech path and hope that they picked the right one to counter the other player, since they’d have much more limited opportunities to switch builds after seeing what the enemy is doing. It sounds like it’d run the risk of being too much of a simplification of the genre, and that could turn off the core RTS gamers who would otherwise be the main audience.

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As others have said Idea 1 is more conventional and Idea 2 is a bit more unique. From you specifying "competitve RTS" for the second idea i'm guesisng that you referring to things being persistant across game play sessions or at least having leader boards etc.
 
I think if you can simplify the second idea you can have it not require much if any more than the first idea. For me it wouldn't have any base invlolvement in the battle phase instead your armies instead would fight one another not actually attack the opponents base.
The resource phase could involve base building for producing resources (which resources to produce, production bonuses to get). Then you use your resources to purchase technology and units (do you spend your resources on technology or more units).

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To make it less generic, the fantasy worldbuilding is the key.  If you're limiting yourselves to humans growing grain to make bread, there's no fantasy to that at all.  If you make your world and playable race(s) more unique, then their farming and manufacturing and such should change along with them.  Maybe their main type of fabric production involves raising angora rabbits, shearing them, and weaving their fur?  Maybe their houses are domesticated plants and they grow each one from a seed?  Maybe the 'knights' ride dinosaurs, so you have to have a supply of dino mounts to make knights?  Maybe they don't use metal for weapons at all, but instead glass or crystal or even magic cement?

 

This sounds awesome. More or less the same production chain for every race, but using different resources. 

That would lead to certain races preferring certain biomes and epic battles for angora bunny fields. I'm loving it. 

It seems like this needs to be heavily emphasized, combined with our factions thing we've got planned, and possibly fun times will follow smile.png

Thank you for your feedback!

 

 

I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with generic as long as it’s well done and not a complete clone of an existing game. That faction upgrade system sounds like it’s enough to offer a unique experience and make your game stand out from others in the genre, and there’s plenty more you can do with small mechanical decisions to make your game feel different from existing games. Whatever the theme or gimmicks, I think the best strategy is to focus on the fundamentals and just make a really solid RTS game.

 

One problem I see with the second one is that it sounds too much like rock/paper/scissors, not in the sense of having a combat triangle of counters, but that by separating the production and battle phases, players will have to blindly choose a tech path and hope that they picked the right one to counter the other player, since they’d have much more limited opportunities to switch builds after seeing what the enemy is doing. It sounds like it’d run the risk of being too much of a simplification of the genre, and that could turn off the core RTS gamers who would otherwise be the main audience.

 

Indeed, the core elements will be important here. I'll do my best to work out the faction differences smile.png

And I think I'll shelve the second idea for the time being. There are too many reasons why it won't work with our programmer's wishes and specifications, and we'll encounter too many problems, the balancing and rock/papers/scissors deal only being one of them. It's definitely going to be idea #1 for me, for this project. Of course, that won't mean my team will necessarily vote for my idea, there's at least 1, at best 3 other ideas coming from the rest of my team. But even in the worst case scenario, this is still a pretty solid base for a project later on. smile.png Thank you for your feedback!

 

 

 

As others have said Idea 1 is more conventional and Idea 2 is a bit more unique. From you specifying "competitve RTS" for the second idea i'm guesisng that you referring to things being persistant across game play sessions or at least having leader boards etc.
 
I think if you can simplify the second idea you can have it not require much if any more than the first idea. For me it wouldn't have any base invlolvement in the battle phase instead your armies instead would fight one another not actually attack the opponents base.
The resource phase could involve base building for producing resources (which resources to produce, production bonuses to get). Then you use your resources to purchase technology and units (do you spend your resources on technology or more units).

 

 

You mean as in "the base is persistent throughout several matches, you only actually do battle with the armies?". What I meant with "competitive RTS" would be for example: "You start out with a base building, some walls and 5 worker units. The resource gathering phase starts and lasts a couple of minutes. In these couple of minutes you are tasked with gathering resources and building out your base. Once the phase is over, we go to the battle phase, where you "send" units over to the enemy, the units to your disposal being dependant on the buildings you have put down/the technologies you have researched in your resource phase. There would be little that is persistent over the games, maybe a sort of "skill tree" as you can see in games as League of Legends, conferring only minor (but still pretty important) bonuses and customisations of your chosen race. After a couple of minutes of that, we go back to the resource phase. This process keeps repeating until one base would be completely destroyed. Thank you for your feedback!

Edited by Elpyfo

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The main differences with AoE here would be a "production chain" style of resource gathering in the style of Stronghold (i.e to make bread you need grain from a farm, which needs to be milled into flour, which needs to be baked into bread.)

 

This may need a lot of investment before the player has what he wants/needs.

I recommend to have the player start with a lot of semi-end-products he can quickly turn into what he wants(military units i assume) with the use of one building,

then he can invest in the building that produces those semi-end-products so he can build units again, and-so-on until he builds the most basic production(farm ?) as a last building.

You can see this in Settlers 3 and later, in Stronghold they fixed this by allowing a lot of trading of resources.

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The main differences with AoE here would be a "production chain" style of resource gathering in the style of Stronghold (i.e to make bread you need grain from a farm, which needs to be milled into flour, which needs to be baked into bread.)

 

This may need a lot of investment before the player has what he wants/needs.

I recommend to have the player start with a lot of semi-end-products he can quickly turn into what he wants(military units i assume) with the use of one building,

then he can invest in the building that produces those semi-end-products so he can build units again, and-so-on until he builds the most basic production(farm ?) as a last building.

You can see this in Settlers 3 and later, in Stronghold they fixed this by allowing a lot of trading of resources.

 

 

Yeah, this was pretty much the idea behind it. We want it to be quite the investment to set up an industry. We feel that most RTS games don't make you work enough for your economy. This was why we loved Stronghold/Settlers and whatnot. They made you work to get your industry running. I'm also a big fan of Dwarf Fortress, where, because of the investment needed to get certain industries running, it's so very satisfying to see it up :). But yeah, I'd rather go for the "trading" approach than starting the players out with too much resources. I would prefer to see the players work hard to get their industry running and have only a skeleton crew defending their city, perhaps even ignoring the conquest victory mode and going full defensive/research/cultural/economical to get the win. Thank you for your feedback. 

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