Unique Resource Ideas for RTS Game

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Just joined and I've been reading through various RTS concepts and idea blogs and it has re-surged some old design concepts I still have written down from years ago. I love diving into the world of Game Design but to keep this topic concise I want to discuss Unique Resource Ideas and Mechanics for an RTS game. The ideas are not pertaining to a certain genre/timeline for a specific game but rather let us just explore what Resource Ideas come up.

With that open genre in mind, lets see what you can add comment to below resources. I want to think of unique resources besides from the typical Gold and Wood resource. While these resource types are purely cosmetic we can then also discuss new Resource Mechanics, something different from the conventional way of harvesting resources with a worker type unit.

Ok Lets start!

Resource Types Ideas

• Energy - Energy harvested from Lightning Storms or something similar that is emitting energy > 'Unstable Energy' from the Earths core > Energy from the Earth's Electromagnetic force harvested by building types of Energy Beacons in (remote) locations *Think of the Bermuda Triangle
• Bio-Luminescence - Provided by certain animals/plants/creatures
• Crystals / Gems - Similar to that of 'Gold' resource but something a bit more diverse from a design point of view
• Runes
• Lava
• Souls / Bones
• Gas / Chemical Compound
• Myrrh (because Jesus)

Resource Mechanic Ideas

• Fossil Fuel (Finite Amount) Used to build powerful units
• Pertaining to the Energy Resource above - Having multiple Beacons and Further apart from each other generates resource at a higher rate (Not Dissimilar from Trading Post generating more trade the further they are away from each other)
• Pertaining to the Energy Resource above - Energy can be harvested in various ways > eg: an 'energy geyser' which is more of a fixed location but with the added random occurrence of a Storm Cloud (randomly appears on a map for a short period) you can harvest the Energy Resource added a bonus rate.
• Capturing/Holding Territory Points (seen in Company of Heroes) - promotes map expansion
• Generating a resource type by killing enemies - the more you attack the more you generate of this resource (Lets call this "Blood Lust" to give it a name for now)
• Roaming Resource / Non Static - Animals and Fish roam the Lands and Oceans, never staying in one place at a time, your 'harvesting'of this food resource becomes somewhat different to harvesting a static gold mine and building a depot next to the gold mine. It can lure your workers away from where you might want them to be and adds a dynamic of having to guard your roaming workers (high risk resource) - promotes attacking parties to try cut off unguarded roaming workers
• Building a 'resource generating building' that generates a continuous income stream - seen in a few games already
• Time as a Resource - Not my idea but I read this in another article somewhere and it was a really interesting concept. Can't remember it exactly and will try find it before incorrectly quoting it.

Give opinions and expand on above!

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I'm trying to use soldiers as a resource in a strategy game project. Basic resources are acquired from mining the natural environment and go into the basic resources pool. Basic resources are used to buy soldiers which go into the soldiers pool. The soldier pool is used to deploy actual soldiers on the battlefield.

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I'm an RTS fan so I'll bite

Faith ( You need convert followers to believe in you to increase your power. Not an original idea, but i'll put it anyway)

Hydrogen or other space gases for a planetary rts

Old landfills in a post apocalyptic world

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On 31-10-2017 at 11:53 PM, Darin Wolfaardt said:

Resource Mechanic Ideas

1) capture a point to generate income

2) build an economy(invest) to generate income.

to keep the game balanced this is often combined with point 1 or point 3

3) protect a trading-unit who travels between two or more points.

4) destroying something, be it an enemy or a some lootable town or monster.

5) exploration; obviously, in any RTS exploration is important, many games give a bonus for exploring somewhere first,

some games also give a  bonus for continuïng exploration. This is generally not very strategic, but can help balance the game out.(esp. when exploration is dangerous )

6) time, well, some games give resources over time, however this is more a balance-fix and not realy a (fun) mechanic.

These points can be combined to make mechanics(i may have forgotten a few points)

Another way of making differences between resources is changing what they can be SPEND on.

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On 11/1/2017 at 10:27 PM, Michael Aganier said:

I'm trying to use soldiers as a resource in a strategy game project. Basic resources are acquired from mining the natural environment and go into the basic resources pool. Basic resources are used to buy soldiers which go into the soldiers pool. The soldier pool is used to deploy actual soldiers on the battlefield.

Cool! Reminds me of Stronghold 1. Grow Wheat > Mill Flour > Bake Bread = Food Resource

Your Soldier Pool could even be used as a 'Population' Requirement to deploy units whether it is soldiers or Vehicles. You could even incorporate in-game animations - Eg: Barracks fills up with Soldiers Training as your Solider Pool grows

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18 hours ago, Dramolion said:

1) capture a point to generate income

2) build an economy(invest) to generate income.

to keep the game balanced this is often combined with point 1 or point 3

3) protect a trading-unit who travels between two or more points.

4) destroying something, be it an enemy or a some lootable town or monster.

5) exploration; obviously, in any RTS exploration is important, many games give a bonus for exploring somewhere first,

some games also give a  bonus for continuïng exploration. This is generally not very strategic, but can help balance the game out.(esp. when exploration is dangerous )

6) time, well, some games give resources over time, however this is more a balance-fix and not realy a (fun) mechanic.

These points can be combined to make mechanics(i may have forgotten a few points)

Another way of making differences between resources is changing what they can be SPEND on.

Liking all of these!

Risk = Reward. I favour Expansion over a Turtle base (although yes I understand Turtle is a strategy in it's own rite). Creating opportunity for Risk VS Reward automatically creates new dynamics and strategies

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You should consider the needs of your RTS game in a more abstract way before worrying about concrete resource types and resource-related mechanics. For example:

• Requiring higher or lower investment to acquire the resource. Extreme cases: the resource doesn't require any effort (e.g. earned invisibly on a fixed schedule, a likely case for reinforcements) or the resource is directly and proportionally paid with another resource, without leveraging workers, tools etc. (e.g. buying raw materials with money). Normally, the option of spending something to earn more resources or earning them sooner offers a meaningful choice.
• Acquiring the resource using units, buildings or in something else. When the enemy tries to disrupt resource acquisition, units can usually retire from contested places, while buildings might be stolen or destroyed. Warcraft and Starcraft traditionally involve both.
• Using multiple resources to force specialization (e.g. the player might be unable to build two advanced units in the early game because rushing to acquire two advanced resources quickly is over budget)
• Using multiple resources because their acquisition is interesting (e.g. providing long-distance caravans to ambush)
• Offering a finite amount of a resource to limit battle length, an unlimited supply in which rate of acquisition matters, or an hybrid.
• Requiring effort to store and preserve resources.
• Positive or negative feedback on resource stocks, depending on what behaviour you want to encourage.
Edited by LorenzoGatti

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I like Dramolion's thoughts simply because they focus less on theme and more on function.

Every RTS resource is more of the same and differs primarily in:

- How it is collected

- How it is amassed

- How it is used

- It's unique restrictions

Half a lifetime ago, I built a framework for asymmetric economies in an RTS (forget Starcraft here!).

Some species would use the 'same' resources, but in different ways (and not just for different purposes).

For example, while one could harvest crystals from the ground, with a truck, and bring them back (C&C style) another would need to build a structure with an AoE that would progressively (and passively) burn crystals within a vicinity, Since it didn't matter to the latter what burnt (as long as something did to generate some energy) it became a decision of how to best 'burn' the other species' resources. If someone takes the lead, start burning THEIR resources instead, etc.

Some species simply had no overlap. For example, one of the Ch'tau's primary resources was water, which 'nobody else cared about' (except for the fact it altered the land topography for combat). You could deny them oasis, but doing so with an actual economic gain was inherently inefficient. The Ch'tau's also turned out to have the weakest natural defenses, meaning it was best to attack them head on than to try and deny them resources (for which they needed complex logistics to begin with).

Another interesting difference was that while some simply tallied their resources 'directly to the hud' (\$ comes to mind), others had 'localized' resources. The crystals, for example, were stored at a particular building. Think of it like in Rimworld, where if you want to build something out of wood, you need to pick the wood from your stockpile zone (I'd bring up Dwarf Fortress as a better example, but very few people have the heart for its visual!)

Technically, localized resources are as old as the RTS genre (in the way refineries refined spine in Dune 2 at least) but it has been fiercely under-used until Dwarf Fortress clones came about, and given these are less RTS in nature, there's an open spot there.

So, I think it matters more how the resources are collected, how they're stored, how they're utilized, than what they are. But that's my Game-Designer-Hat speaking there

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Some species would use the 'same' resources, but in different ways

I always liked these kinds of diversity in games, but I find it almost impossible to balance. It might be fine if the game is single player, but not really acceptable for multiplayer.

How would you balance the asymmetric economies with the rest of the gameplay?

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1 hour ago, Michael Aganier said:

I always liked these kinds of diversity in games, but I find it almost impossible to balance. It might be fine if the game is single player, but not really acceptable for multiplayer.

How would you balance the asymmetric economies with the rest of the gameplay?

It isn't more asymmetrical than factions with different units. Predicting the resource productivity of several factions might be slightly more difficult if they are completely different, but once the numbers are in place the quantitative impact is similar to that of different units and tech trees.

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If you really want to do something "next level" as an RTS game you should spend a year or so learning Avalon Hill's Advanced Squad Leader.  This would give you a LOT of ideas about how to improve this genre at a fundamental tactical level.  ASL evolved over a period of 50 years, developed by actual WWII veterans who had actually fought in a war.  ASL is the original "RTS game" and is still light-years ahead of any RTS computer game that has ever been made.  It should be the bible of RTS designers.

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49 minutes ago, Kavik Kang said:

If you really want to do something "next level" as an RTS game you should spend a year or so learning Avalon Hill's Advanced Squad Leader.  This would give you a LOT of ideas about how to improve this genre at a fundamental tactical level.  ASL evolved over a period of 50 years, developed by actual WWII veterans who had actually fought in a war.  ASL is the original "RTS game" and is still light-years ahead of any RTS computer game that has ever been made.  It should be the bible of RTS designers.

Is there an official pdf manual online?

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I don't think there is a pdf manual available.  ASL is comprised of about a dozen different products.

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On 11/12/2017 at 9:39 AM, Orymus3 said:

I like Dramolion's thoughts simply because they focus less on theme and more on function.

Every RTS resource is more of the same and differs primarily in:

- How it is collected

- How it is amassed

- How it is used

- It's unique restrictions

Worth adding (and Orymus touches upon it) is "How it can be attacked/disrupted." Orymus definitely discussed this, but didn't enumerate it in the list. Given that we're talking largely about RTS games I think it's worth considering as a primary concern. Economic warfare is underutilized in RTS games, in my opinion. Many of them pay lip service but don't do enough to actually make it a viable or noteworthy strategy. I especially enjoy economic "cold" warfare approaches, for games when you have options to hamper other player's development without actually going to all-out war with them (Orymus mentioned "burning" of other players crystals, for example).

As to Michael Aganier's concerns about balance... yeah. Like Orymus I enjoy the idea of asymmetric RTS games that have much more wildly differing factions than, say, Starcraft (which itself was groundbreaking in that area) - but as you said attempting to balance them against each other would be something of a nightmare. Honestly I don't really think there's a solution to that issue in and of itself, so I opted to try and deal with it in other ways - providing for multiple levels of victory and defeat, multiple win conditions, and even by awarding rating points based on faction matchup (pulling out a win when the other faction is rated  70% favorable against you should be worth more). In effect, I'd cede that there will be unfavorable matchups and just try to deal with that rather than eliminate the fact entirely.

Only one example of a resource idea I've played with feels worth mentioning in addition to the above in this thread, that being something like Computational Capacity: A resource that cannot be gathered from the environment (unlike, for instance, power generation which often has "nodes" that can be exploited in addition to building free-standing power plants). In the game in question, Computation is in effect the primary resource, with all other activities from resource acquisition to warfare existing in support of creating more. Computational Power is then divvied up across several uses according to player priorities.

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1 hour ago, Telcontar said:

Worth adding (and Orymus touches upon it) is "How it can be attacked/disrupted." Orymus definitely discussed this, but didn't enumerate it in the list. Given that we're talking largely about RTS games I think it's worth considering as a primary concern. Economic warfare is underutilized in RTS games, in my opinion. Many of them pay lip service but don't do enough to actually make it a viable or noteworthy strategy. I especially enjoy economic "cold" warfare approaches, for games when you have options to hamper other player's development without actually going to all-out war with them (Orymus mentioned "burning" of other players crystals, for example).

I like to think that Dune 2 (the grandfather of all RTS) did this brilliantly. Unlike late C&C entries (inspired by this game), the harvesters were actually rather vulnerable and slow. In addition, you could lure a force of nature (the sandworm) towards one to have it 'eaten' without actually engaging much. Trikes and Quads could run from the scene whereas the harvester was as good as dead.

1 hour ago, Telcontar said:

As to Michael Aganier's concerns about balance... yeah. Like Orymus I enjoy the idea of asymmetric RTS games that have much more wildly differing factions than, say, Starcraft (which itself was groundbreaking in that area) - but as you said attempting to balance them against each other would be something of a nightmare. Honestly I don't really think there's a solution to that issue in and of itself, so I opted to try and deal with it in other ways - providing for multiple levels of victory and defeat, multiple win conditions, and even by awarding rating points based on faction matchup (pulling out a win when the other faction is rated  70% favorable against you should be worth more). In effect, I'd cede that there will be unfavorable matchups and just try to deal with that rather than eliminate the fact entirely.

As for balancing, I don't think this is any more a nightmare than balancing units. You're adding variables, but you're also adding tools. It all falls down to your process for analyzing imbalance, and dealing with it. Then, you need to have some heuristics in place about how 'easy' it should be for a particular species to have access to a specific resources, and balance unit acquisition accordingly, considering their actual offensive and defensive capabilities. If a species has a 'harder time' economy-wise (less 'hit-and-run, and more 'established' for example), you need to err on the side of natural defensive bonuses so that its moving army has more value when mobilized to protect a site than it has when actually attacking. This way, you confer it a situational advantage without making them 'OP' in open conflicts or offensive ones.

Think of the Terran Siege Tank in SC for example, it packs a serious anti-ground punch against small unit groups or clustered enemies, but only while it is in siege mode, which prevents it from running amok. It is much trickier to use offensively (except if you're a combined arms expert) but provides a relatively straightforward bonus to forward positions. If you'd need to build a proxy base and needed ground support, you'd probably have a similar unit that's slow to move, require some 'investment' from the player to actually maximize, in such a way that it can't just steam-roll the enemy on an all-out attack.

You get something similar in spellcasters, where they require a lot more micro, but when used well, are more efficient. If their skills are decently matched and tailored to such situations, then you can 'make it work'.

The idea here is to have a holistic approach to unit design, making sure the units a species have (and more importantly don't have) support their economic and tactical doctrine. A particularly interesting game for this (although turn-based) would be VGA Planets (dated back DOS era, but with a reboot still active to date in Planets Nu). Each species has varying needs, some are fuel guzzlers, others lack Duranium by essence, and though they share relatively the same resources (although in wildly different ways sometimes), the fact they were built in such a unique way made for a particularly challenging experience. It is true the game is not entirely balanced (the Cyborgs are a threat in the early games for all other players) the devs have progressively managed to balance the most hideous quirks of the original design, while still embracing some of the imbalance (which somehow does not decrease the fun or sense of fairness, quite ironically).

1 hour ago, Telcontar said:

Only one example of a resource idea I've played with feels worth mentioning in addition to the above in this thread, that being something like Computational Capacity: A resource that cannot be gathered from the environment (unlike, for instance, power generation which often has "nodes" that can be exploited in addition to building free-standing power plants). In the game in question, Computation is in effect the primary resource, with all other activities from resource acquisition to warfare existing in support of creating more. Computational Power is then divvied up across several uses according to player priorities.

I'll agree the 'food system' used in Blizzard games (farms, supply depots, pylons, overlords) was always a bit lackluster and could be revamped in such a way where a 'static resource pool' could be used. I think some RTS games used it intelligently in the past, but I can't quite remember the names right now. I think there was a game in particular (mech commander?) where it would also directly affect the speed at which you could build units, etc. Kind of like a dynamic budget where, if you incur debt, everything gets harder to handle.

In a more 'meta way', I'm a big fan of worker allocation systems (RimWorld, Dwarf Fortress, etc.) where, if you assign tasks poorly, certain things will 'never get done' due to priorities, etc. In this case, the resource is the priority allocation of the workers themselves, which is a bit abstract, but nonetheless critical.

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On 11/13/2017 at 1:08 PM, Orymus3 said:

As for balancing, I don't think this is any more a nightmare than balancing units.

Nor do I - and I agree entirely with your comments on holistic design. A faction's army and economic style should complement each other and both (along with whatever other elements you might name) should contribute towards a single "feel". My concerns about the nightmare of balancing largely stem from the fact that (in the game I have in mind) there are many factions. Balancing any two factions against each other is perfectly manageable. It's when you add 1, 2, 3, ... n additional factions that it turns into a nightmare - when changing any particular variable to more perfectly balance armies A and B completely screws the balance of matchups between B and C. Multiply by however many factions you have. Hence the acceptance that bad matchups will exist (and development of systems to make that tolerable to the players).

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3 minutes ago, Telcontar said:

Nor do I - and I agree entirely with your comments on holistic design. A faction's army and economic style should complement each other and both (along with whatever other elements you might name) should contribute towards a single "feel". My concerns about the nightmare of balancing largely stem from the fact that (in the game I have in mind) there are many factions. Balancing any two factions against each other is perfectly manageable. It's when you add 1, 2, 3, ... n additional factions that it turns into a nightmare - when changing any particular variable to more perfectly balance armies A and B completely screws the balance of matchups between B and C. Multiply by however many factions you have. Hence the acceptance that bad matchups will exist (and development of systems to make that tolerable to the players).

This is true of 1v1 games, but in RTS that have more players or AIs involved, this can be diminished by the fact perfect micro-balance is not a requirement.

In the very rich world of Planets Nu for example (once again, a TBS, sadly), some species simply can't fight others as they're at a disadvantage, but they have ways to force an uneven fight, and other species will have an incentive to take care of the seemingly overpowered threat early on so that even an inferior species may end up a fierce contender for the win in the late game.

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