A good way to avoid extermination in RTS?

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Most games are won with the total extermination of the enemy, but real life battles usually end with 5-10% of casualties with some rare deadly battles up to 30-50%. That's because real warfare is slow and it doesn't take much for people to lose morale and lose ground.

I'm trying to make a semi-historical game and I really want to respect this reality of war. So far, what I do is that only a fraction of your army can be sent in battle at once. That way, the combat can be kept deadly, but at the end of a battle, you only lose a little percentage of your total army strength. The problem is that you have to do a lot of battles before an enemy army is completely destroyed which feels very grindy.

How would you make battles rarely cause more than 5-10% causalities of an army, but keep a fast pace so that it doesn't get grindy and boring?

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I don't entirely understand the problem. Real battles had low casualty rates because one side would flee the battlefield and the other wouldn't necessarily pursue them. So why aren't you just implementing a fleeing mechanic?

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2 hours ago, Kylotan said:

So why aren't you just implementing a fleeing mechanic?

Just be careful with that.

When tuning MASSIVE, the software that rendered the battle scenes in the LotR series, in some early versions the soldiers were often running away from fights.  Between the combination of the fear of the opponent's viciousness and the ratio of damage they could do versus the damage they would take, some units decided the best option was to not fight.

"In the first test fight we had 1,000 silver guys and 1,000 golden guys. We set off the simulation, and in the distance you could see several guys running for the hills."

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In rome total war, troops have a morale rating which causes troops to run away so battles dont often lead to a total anihalation.

They run away when they have taken too many loses in a short period of time. Getting surrounded also lowers moral so some can break while others on the side are still okay. Seeing nearby friendly units die or running can also effect moral. Being near the general increases moral as does him blowing his horn.

 

Edited by CortexDragon

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As others have mentioned, this isn't a particularly hard problem at first glance. Institute systems to model what makes this true for the real world - morale and retreat. As a bonus, this also opens up opportunities for players turning big losses (route) into smaller ones (orderly retreat with rear-guard). 

As for how this makes something grindy? If you're looking to history, then simply follow the same - most enemy armies were not "completely destroyed" before their parent state offered terms of peace. If you want to change the tactical concerns, then you're going to have to revise the strategic ones as well.

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8 hours ago, Michael Aganier said:

but real life battles usually end with 5-10% of casualties with some rare deadly battles up to 30-50%

You mean on the winning side ??

or in a very one-sided battle that  isn't balanced?(isn't "fair" we would say irl)

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9 hours ago, Kylotan said:

I don't entirely understand the problem. Real battles had low casualty rates because one side would flee the battlefield and the other wouldn't necessarily pursue them. So why aren't you just implementing a fleeing mechanic?

I get the army fleeing the battlefield part. The problem is that the losing army, not having had many casualties, always comes back and makes you fight it a lot of times before you "disband" it. If the enemy army loses only 5-10% each battle, then it takes 10-20 battles to destroy. What should I do to avoid having to fight the same army 10-20 times?

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5 hours ago, CortexDragon said:

In rome total war, troops have a morale rating which causes troops to run away so battles dont often lead to a total anihalation.

This is a good step in solving the problem. But in total war, most battles end up with 50%+ casualties on the losing side which is far too high. I could make troops flee after 5-10% casualties, but that might be a bit boring. I want to lower casualties to 5-10% without having everyone fleeing the battlefield which I fixed by only sending a fraction of the whole army in battle. But then, it causes a grinding problem: if each battle only does 5-10% casualties, I have to fight a same army 10-20 times to defeat it. How to avoid this grinding?

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Most games with morale implement a lasting morale.  Either for the company as a whole, or for each unit.  Losing a battle would cause the company to all lose morale.  So battle lost, the company flees, but now is at 50% or less morale than what they started the battle with.  So if the winner were to engage that loser again, they'd flee even faster.

Or boardgame style, games often have the loser of the battle flipped over, and any subsequent engagements either cause the unit/token/company to either be automatically destroyed, or automatically flee (perhaps with some loss of strength).  Some regrouping phase comes later, perhaps at the start of the player's turn, and the token is flipped back over, representing the unit having regrouped and regained it's morale enough to fight again.

Another way to look at things, is that 'casualties', in games like Total War, don't always represent kills, but people who have fled the battle, and who don't go back to their army.

 

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@Telcontar and @ferrous seem to have the solution. What I understand is that I must make that a faction surrenders to me when his armies are weakened enough or make sure that a weakened enough army just isn't able to keep fighting anymore. A combination of both would make a lot of sense.

I'll have to try how well this plays in game. Thank you.

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That uh, isn't true at all.  Especially that last bit, "That army that used to fight you is now your army".  It's more like, that army that used to fight you in official battles will now fight a long, grueling guerrilla war against you.  It takes a long time to unify people, and standing armies have to remain behind to put down rebellions, etc.  Look at the Iraq War and occupation thereof.   Or Napoleon's invasion of Egypt.

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I see a contradiction here.  It seems you want to "win" the battle once the enemy has lost 5-10% of the troops, but yet they keep coming back, so you have to fight 10-20 battles to exterminate them........so which one is it.  Do you want the win to happen at 5-10%, or do you want to have to exterminate them?

In the real world(theoretically), once a good number of troops are lost, the leaders make peace in order to not lose more(although we can leave out the whole guerilla war stuff for this topic).  That means that one side won the war.  So you don't have to do those other 10-20 battles to exterminate them.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but if you are creating the game yourself, then you should be able to make it however you want.  If you don't want all those battles, then consider it a victory sooner.  If you want 100% extermination sooner, allow more troops into the battle.

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Most competetive RTSes end in "gg" and one team surrendering rather than playing until every single building is dead.  That's the gaming equivalent of this.

Whether this happens for an entire match (ala StarCraft) or if there is a higher level 'campaign' or 'war' layer wrapped on top of it doesn't matter.

Edited by Nypyren

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Yeah, watch some starcraft 2 esports matches. If two armies engage 100%, one will get wiped out, which leaves the loser defenceless, leading to a loss... So that simply doesn't happen because it's bad strategy. Instead, players identify whether they can decisively win the battle or not, and if not, they retreat. Often neither side can decisively win, so there's lots of small skirmishes and hit and run attacks where both sides retreat. 

While retreating, your time to receive reinforcements reduces and your proximity to defensive buildings increases, which often tips the scales in your favour enough that now your opponent must stop chasing you and themselves retreat. This swings back and forth until a tactical slight of hand disrupts the balance. 

Often, there's an eventual large battle that decides the match, which usually doesn't eliminate a player's army, but puts them into a situation that they know is unwinnable, (due to economic/industry/technology supremacy of their opposition - e.g. Knowledge that their tank production rate is not high enough to survive the *next* battle) so they type "gg wp" and concede defeat. 

Its only at lower ranked levels of play where people don't understand the game where anyone actually loses via elimination. 

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9 hours ago, ferrous said:

That uh, isn't true at all.  Especially that last bit, "That army that used to fight you is now your army".  It's more like, that army that used to fight you in official battles will now fight a long, grueling guerrilla war against you.

That does happen sometimes.  It doesn't always happen, at least not to the same degree, and if you're writing the game, you can choose to either let it happen or not let it happen.

Historically, there were all sorts of factors that influenced if this happened, such as:

  • The loyalty of the army.  (Paid mercenaries are likely to join the conqueror, soldiers with personal loyalty primarily to the previous ruler are not.  Soldiers with loyalty to the country could go either way.)
  • The perceived legitimacy of the conqueror's rule.
  • Quality of life under the conqueror, as compared to the previous ruler.
  • The realistic chances of driving the conqueror out.

Regardless, dealing with local unrest is fundamentally a different proposition than fighting an opposing army.  Even if the local rebellion is eventually successful in driving out the invaders, this doesn't do the previous ruler any good if he has been killed in battle or captured and executed.  So if the game is about the conflict between rulers A and B, then the game is over with a victory for A if B is captured and killed, even if A will ultimately fail to hold on to the conquered land.

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There are multiplayer games where once you defeat an enemy by capturing their base, you gain all their resources. Others you gain their resources but all come at a reduced rate, or come to you damaged.

Gaining their resources can be a factor in larger games. You may defend against a larger opponent but focus mainly on defeating smaller opponents.  Or you may attempt to strategically attack a powerful opponent while you know they are sending resources elsewhere. When different players have different types of resources you may target opponents not because of their immediate power but because a combination of resources will improve your standing.

These aren't just new games. Long-established games like Monopoly (played by the official rules) use the tactic. A bankrupt player turns their assets over to their creditor, which can make the creditor extremely powerful in the game. If the creditor is the bank, all the assets are auctioned off which can help a cash-heavy player tip the scales. Further, a player can strategically help to bankrupt a heavily mortgaged opponent to another of their opponents.  Since the creditor must pay a penalty for mortgaged assets transferred to them, the automatic payments due to acquisition can cause a trickle-down bankruptcy.  In turn this leads to a secondary strategy of purposely mortgaging property in the hope of becoming a poison pill, others do not want to bankrupt you because of the damage they will inflict on themselves.  Thus the complete acquisition of the opponent's resources can dramatically impact the game, perhaps in favor over their victor or damaging their victor in a Pyrrhic victory.

Resource acquisition can be a powerful feature in a game.

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On 11/17/2017 at 9:02 PM, Hodgman said:

Yeah, watch some starcraft 2 esports matches. If two armies engage 100%, one will get wiped out, which leaves the loser defenceless, leading to a loss... So that simply doesn't happen because it's bad strategy. Instead, players identify whether they can decisively win the battle or not, and if not, they retreat. Often neither side can decisively win, so there's lots of small skirmishes and hit and run attacks where both sides retreat. 

While retreating, your time to receive reinforcements reduces and your proximity to defensive buildings increases, which often tips the scales in your favour enough that now your opponent must stop chasing you and themselves retreat. This swings back and forth until a tactical slight of hand disrupts the balance. 

Often, there's an eventual large battle that decides the match, which usually doesn't eliminate a player's army, but puts them into a situation that they know is unwinnable, (due to economic/industry/technology supremacy of their opposition - e.g. Knowledge that their tank production rate is not high enough to survive the *next* battle) so they type "gg wp" and concede defeat. 

Its only at lower ranked levels of play where people don't understand the game where anyone actually loses via elimination. 

Couldn't have said it better myself. From what I gathered, you want a realistic, historical simulation rts right? Much of a war, especially during the Great War (WWI) is getting caught in stalemates. You can fight for months on end, losing troop after troop and gain no ground in the skirmishes. Starcraft 2's matches can very much reflect these stalemates, while also making the game entertaining.

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Objectives other than wiping out the enemy would certainly help. For example, fighting to hold some objective would end the battle as soon as the important engagement around said objective is decided: players must invest troops and orders on the main theatre, making unneeded extermination of the enemy in other locations a foolish and unlikely waste of resources.

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If you want to "get rid of an army" but still want to only actually "kill" 10 % of it to keep a realistic feel, you can have large parts of the loosing army disband (this is pretty historically correct). They return to their farms after being discouraged/loose faith in their leader.

The end effect for gameplay is very similar (the loosing army gets removed from the game, or severely weakened), but you can keep death rates in the actual battle down. However, the winning army is now almost at the same strength (loosing only 5-10% of their men) so you still have a gameplay problem. 

Autoresolving in warhammer total war had this problem: you win and get rid of the  other army, but your army looses nearly nothing.

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The tabletop Warhammer game has an elegant approach to retreating: it's free (except for sometimes suffering extra attacks if pursued) and often forced (fleeing a minimum distance after failing morale rolls), but units that go outside the playfield (usually off the edge of the table) cannot return and are treated as dead. 

In a RTS campaign forcing (and allowing) a large portion of the losing army to leave the battle instead of staying and being slaughtered would have the double good effect of protecting them, making them available in the next battle,  and accelerating the victory of the other player in the current battle.

 

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On 11/19/2017 at 10:41 PM, Novadude987 said:

From what I gathered, you want a realistic, historical simulation rts right?

It is an historical game. Though the goal is far from making a simulation (2d with arcade art style), I want to make the context of the game as realistic as possible even if some core components aren't.

Edited by Michael Aganier

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You also have the option of making the units-to-be-exterminated be something other than the fighters themselves.

  • Weapons. Weapons are consumed by fighting (break, left on battlefield when fleeing, captured somehow), and enemy has limited supply. If you fight long enough, they will eventually have nothing good to fight back with. You dont need to kill a single enemy to render their forces useless (at least until they find/manufacture replacements).
  • Ammunition. Same thing, except might be easier to bluff (you dont know how long they can fight back until they cant, but you will notice if they have nothing to fight back with).
  • Food, supply lines. If you cut these off, the enemy can at best hold position for limited time, inflict some damage and retreat, or throw everything at you and try to win. Whatever they do with the front line fighters, there is a time constraint, and they cant throw their full force at you if they cant even get to the fight.
  • Communication channels. Maybe you can feed false information, or block an attack command from ever reaching enemy units, eventually disabling the whole army. Would work mechanically (imagine enemy groups on the map being greyed out one by one as you 'disable' them), but probably need to combine with another approach if you want realism.
  • Escape routes. Perhaps the enemy surrenders or flees if you are about to surround/corner them (someone mentioned a similar mechanic implemented through morale, but it could be standalone as well). Some overlap with supply lines, and you probably need to fight your way through.
  • Time. Maybe the enemy cant fight over winter (or they need to get back to defend their capital before your other army gets there), so your goal is to just survive until they run out of units of time. Asymmetric, but should work.
  • Undefended paths. Whoever builds a complete 'wall' with no weak spots first, wins. Maybe at first the defenses can be torn down, but if they remain defended long enough (increasingly fortified) they become invincible (possibly with weaknesses like attacking from behind - but that wont work with a complete wall of defenses). Assume there is room for only one wall on the map, so stalemate cant occur.

 

All of these can be combined, or split into multiple levels/layers, to add complexity and strategies. Of course winning the battle doesnt mean much - the enemy can be stronger in the end, so balance that with some victory/loss consequences if necessary.

You really dont need to kill a single unit if the victory condition is in terms of some other resource or pattern (so you can freely determine how big the losses tend to be).

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