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Sandman

Army building: a new take? (RTS)

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This was inspired by Dauntless'' comments on RTS in treknerd''s thread, which also got me thinking about comments he made in a much older thread about balanced forces. The typical RTS game starts you off with a few peons and a base, and lets you build up from there. As Dauntless has said, this is an incredibly abstract and frankly rather stupid way of doing things. I have been thinking of doing away with the build factory -> build tank paradigm and replacing it with a reinforcements system for some time. But the initial parameters were in fact very similar to the standard RTS, namely, you start off with a small group of units and establish a field HQ and build it up from there. But could this be made more interesting? Why restrict the player''s starting units? It may be interesting, if before the battle starts, the player chooses his starting force, given knowledge of the map. Not only would the contents of the force be left largely up to the player, but the size of it could also be left open to the player, within some limits. The player could perhaps begin the game with a complete army. This might work as follows.... The server sets some limit to the biggest force a player can start with. We will say for arguments sake that each unit has a ''points value'' and the player can choose units until he has used all of his points. However, there are a few caveats which need to be taken into account when picking your forces content and size.... 1. The percentage of your points you spend at the beginning will have a direct bearing on the frequency and size of reinforcements you can call in during the game. Hence if you spend all your points at the start of the game you can expect a very long wait before you can get reinforcements - you had better not waste your forces. 2. Infantry units are required for the establishment of bases and depots and other buildings. Some of these buildings are *required* for supporting certain units. Without these buildings, those units will only have a limited useful lifespan. The difference between the size of the players starting forces is taken into account when the score for the game is calculated. Hence a player who starts with a very weak starting force could actually ''win'' against a player with a very strong force, even though his forces were completely wiped out. On the one hand, such a system could make for some interesting game play - you have to gamble on how much to take in, how quickly you should attack, and how much your opponent is likely to take in. On the other hand, it could be terrible. It may be that the first few seconds of the game can have too much impact on who wins. Even if the scores are adjusted accordingly, will players care, or will they base their ''victory'' on the fact that they wiped out three peons in the first 5 seconds of the game with their force of three thousand heavily armed battletanks?

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You're talking about deployment, which in of itself has a cost: transportation to the site. Deployment also takes time. If each player has equal resources to begin, what if winning has a great deal to do with how successfully they deploy their units?

An effective chain of command needs to be setup. Deployment depends on this and a good balance of resources: fuel, warehousing, refueling ability, rations, etc. What if the players were allowed to choose the components of their military in advance, and then were presented with the scenario. If the scenario requires access via naval forces and the player did not create a military that was strong in naval forces, they would be at a disadvantage. Winning could be dependent on a well balanced military that could handle any scenario thrown at it.

___________________________________



Edited by - bishop_pass on January 14, 2002 1:23:30 PM

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Sounds like an interesting idea, but I can see it failing if not done well.
For instance, you already mentioned that the beginning of the game may be too important. This will cause an imbalance that can ruin the fun factor for a lot of people.
Imagine if you get reinforcements every minute, but the opposition gets it every 10 minutes. That sounds like you have an advantage, until you think that you only have 5 units at first and the opponent has 50. All he would have to do is move out all of his forces all over the map. One minute might not give you all that much time to try to defend against it before your reinforcements come.

I think a lot more research should go into something like this. It could make for interesting handicaps and remove part of the micromanagement that might turn off some players, such as resource gathering.

What if you could play as either a resource manager or the military strategist?
For instance, imagine multiplayer battles where the military commander is in charge of only military units and buildings, while the resource manager is in charge of the domestic part. He would have to make sure that resources got to where they had to go (and created automatic routes would be good for that so he doesn''t have to micromanage). Repairs would be handled by him.
Medics and hospitals could be his domain. Destroy him, and the military will have to play a more defensive role, trying not to lose too many units since there is no way for them to be rebuilt or repaired/healed.

Lots of good ideas coming out of these forums.

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bishop_pass: The problem with choosing the force before you see the map, is that the choices are no longer interesting. You will nearly always pick a balanced force, since this gives you the best chance of winning, unless you know the map back to front, in which case you can pick an optimum force and you will always have the upper hand.

However, it could be interesting to introduce a ''home'' and ''away'' concept, where one player (the defender) gets a smaller force, but gets to choose it with knowledge of the map, and the other (attacker) gets a larger task force but has to pick his forces before he sees the map. The attacker can then choose a very large force, but risk it having a large proportion of unsuitable units, or pick a smaller force, take in more appropriate units as reinforcements, but must hold ground in the face of the defender''s forces.

GBGames: Currently there is no resource management in the design. The player''s time is devoted entirely to figuring out how to trash his opponent.

And yes, balancing this all could be a complete nightmare. Aside from the hassle of balancing units, you have to balance the reinforcements system and the scoring system. Details like map size could have an important effect on the overall balance of the system.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
hi
im a rts fanatic and ive played alot of them and i think the more complicated they are the more boring they are. take red alert 2 great graphics and sounds but they tried to make it more stratergy based . this is great for single missions but when it comes to multiplayer well i would like to say that i find myself falling a sleep. but take a real good look at the first red alert
by westwood and you will see that when you get good at the game
its a perfect balance in stratergy and the fun factor of killing things. seing your beautiful tanks just being built with there shiny new paint work just being shipped out to be destroyed is great fun but if u win the battle its rewarding as well. all of this in a simple little game that has not been beaten yet and may not ever be beaten. simplicity thats what u should think first then build on it from there . if you dont have red alert by westwood go and buy it then download the rules ini, the red 126 mission editor and the single player mission tutorial on how to get started on making your own single player missions for it and you will get a great feel on how much you can fiddle around with it its great!!!!!!

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Haven''t any of you Ground Control??? It''s an 3D RTS with NO resource gathering... It won alot of prices! Check it out! http://www.massive.se/massive/index.asp (oh yeah, the programmers/developers are swedish)

}+TITANIUM+{

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Hm.. Let''s have a look at real-life warfare. (I''m assuming the time is present day or somewhere in the future)
Usually, the attacker knows a good deal about the map already.
At least the map will be known (I think every government can get hold of a decent road map ), and more often than not the attacker has satellites and spy planes so they know roughly where the enemy has his strong points and weaknesses.
That''s a major flaw in current RTSs, you as a commander often have to lead countless soldiers to death as the enemy has some huge cannon building (think Tesla cannons, SAM sites etc in RA for example) just waiting for soldiers to march by (or planes to fly over) and kill them all in one shot.
I don''t think the inhabitants of a country would appreciate the government knowingly killing their men just so they know ''ah they all got killed. Good, now mark the artillery on the map''.
It would be quite realistic if the player could see a satellite image of the battlefield before choosing his units. For example, if there are some bunkers, he could spend some of his money in bombing them with planes. Then he could move past those without trouble, but his army would be significantly smaller as he doesn''t have much money to buy tanks and all.
A problem here is, that most countries buy their military gear in times of peace, or at least not hours before starting a battle. But still, this is a game and not a simulation, right?
I liked the Cannon Fodder idea. In that game, you had to finish a level with a number of units, and every time you lost, new soldiers (fresh out of boot camp) could be used to try again, but there was a limited amount of reserves. If you advanced a few levels, of course new soldiers arrived, but not fast enough to be a real loser at the levels. Needless to say it didn''t have a save function (well, I believe only to save the level you were in and the number of troops you had left)

OK that''s more than enough for today

---
Allow me to clear my head for once...
Stop polluting the air!

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Here''s my take on the RTS genre:

PEONS:

In current rts games, the standard procedure is:
build base in middle of nowhere, pump peons, mass peons in big group, order mass-attack.
I guess this works fine for the types of games it''s used for.
But, whenever I see fantastic battles depicted between large forces, I always dream of having a battle like that made into a good computer game.
Peons (troops) should be persistant within the game world. If they weren''t there before the battle started, they wouldn''t be there during the battle. If they get killed during the battle, they won''t be there after the battle (unless you use resurrection methods). Players (generals) should build up their army outside of the actual gameplay.

Player opens up game. He creates a general to play with, then starts to gather troops. Troops are equiped and trained. Troops are put into units and given specific instructions (unit AI is set by player). Once all this is done, the player can take his army and move out into the game world.

The game world could (should) be a persistant world. The designers create an entire world map. The armies move around on this map. When an army gets within range of another army, and when one of the armies scouts notices the other army, the player is made aware of this and can act upon this information. If the opposing army seems small, the player might decide to attack it. If the opposing army seems big, the player might decide to flee.

The player might know the surroundings. Maybe the player knows of specific places where an ambush can be setup. Maybe certain spots give strategic bonusses. The player can try to maneuvre the two armies into a situation that will be beneficial to him.

The battle itself is another thing. But important is that the units that are fighting will have their very lives at stake. If a unit dies, he dies. He''ll be gone once the battle is over. Units that live gain experience and can loot the conquered army. Surviving members of opposing army might enlist in the winning player''s army. The losing player''s army might be completely wiped out.

------------

I just want to do away with the ''build during battle'' type of RTS. That''s fine for some people (I guess for a lot of people) but not for me personally. Hopefully enough people agree so that the genre will change, or perhaps a new genre can be created.

In my opinion, players shouls be able to make the logistic decisions and actions before and after battle, so that the actual battle is there purely for action. Send those scouts out to survey the battlefield, hold off those cavalry men for a surprise attack in the flank, line up those archers on higher ground, use those pikemen to stop a cavalry assault, slip around the enemy with a small force and attack them from behind, flee the battle when all is lost, spot the enemy officers and take them down, fight, fight, fight.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
bishop_pass: The problem with choosing the force before you see the map, is that the choices are no longer interesting.



There''s a difference between not knowing a scenario and not seeing the map. We did not really know about the Afghanistan scenario before we realized we would have to deploy forces there, but we did have a map. Thankfully, the U.S. has seen fit to continually keep its military balanced, having carriers, stealth bombers, special forces, and so on. However, we were not omniscient: we realized we had a distinct lack of intelligence officers who could speak various languages, etc.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
The server sets some limit to the biggest force a player can start with. We will say for arguments sake that each unit has a ''points value'' and the player can choose units until he has used all of his points.



The table-top wargames that I''ve played used this principle, and it worked very well for them. Basically, you first build up an army with a specific points value (usually 2000 or 3000 points). Just building this army is a huge step, because it involves buying the right miniatures and painting them, getting people REALLY attached to their units . Then, you play against opponents that have armies of approximately the same points value. The terrain is usually decided by taking turns setting various elements, which is not viable for a computer game, but it can be adapted to a fair distribution of terrain.

Sometimes, games are run where one of the two has a distinct terrain advantage, such as bunkers and buildings to hide in. These have point values too, based on playtesting. So, with the right buildings and terrain, you could play a 500 point defending army against a 1500 point attacking army, and still have a good chance of winning.

In a computer game, the point system can be easily replaced by unit costs (to buy, or to hire, or whatever works in the game context). So I think it''s definately a viable alternative to building-while-battling...




People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

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PS

The missing link in my personal RTS-dream-design is a motive:

why do players take their armies and travel across the land?

Also, how can you keep seemingly invincible armies from preying on the weak?

So far, I''ve come up with the Lifeforce idea:
The planet itself gives off life (lifeforce). Living beings that can be at the right place at the right time can soak up this lifeforce. Certain places on the world mape give off more lifeforce than others.

Armies will travel across the globe in order to gain power through this lifeforce. When an army arrives at a spot that is giving off lifeforce at that very moment, units in that army might gain power. But the lifeforce is erratic. It might be at location X with power 1 at one time, but might appear at location Y with power 2 at another time, leaving location X without lifeforce for a while.

Players will have to send out scouts to look for lifeforce spots. When a spot is located, they will have to move to it as soon as possible, to soak up lifeforce before it ends at that spot. But, they will have to remember that other armies are also on the lookout for lifeforce. They will have to make sure to set up defenses once they arrive at the spot, so that they will be able to hold off an enemy army. An arriving army might find a spot occupied. They will then find out just how strong the opposing force is (how many units, what kind of defenses, what kind of equipment etc) and decide if they will risk attacking them or move on to another site. A well fortified army might be able to hold off any opposing army and soak up ALL lifeforce from one spot (let''s say that each spot will give lifeforce for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour).

As different locations on the globe give up different averages of lifeforce, the bigger armies will most likely travel to the locations that give up the most lifeforce. Here is where they will be able to still grow in power (perhaps strong units will not gain any power from weak lifeforce spots). This will make it so the stronger armies will move towards the same general locations, leaving the smaller, weaker armies to live on the smaller, weaker lifeforce spots.

I can just imagine it...

I create a general, gather troops, equip and train them, set up specific AI instructions... then decide to leave my base camp and look for a lifeforce spot.

There, a spot has been discovered by one of my elite scouts. An enemy army is seen moving towards the spot, but since my army is lightly armored, I will probably be able to outrun it and reach the location first. I decide to go for it.

My army reaches the lifeforce location a while later. It''s still developing, so if I can hold the location I will be able to drain all the lifeforce from it. But for now, I will set up defenses around the location. I dig trenches, cut down some wood and sharpen them into big spears that I stick into the ground. I set up my archers and place certain units in specific strategic locations. I send my scouts out to keep an eye on the previously detected army, and I send a cavalry unit out, to attack the enemy once they engage.

Now I wait...

My scouts come back with a report. The enemy force is much larger than expected. And much stronger. I now have to decide if I stay around for the fight, or if I decide to gather my troops and leave this location. The opposing army will not attack me if they find a fresh lifeforce spot waiting for them. I will not risk losing my entire army for this small spot. Not yet.

The arriving army will find the lifeforce spot already fortified and will gladly take over. I will sneak out and look for another spot. There, a lifeforce spot has been found by one of my scouts. I move towards it, noting that another army has already occupied it. A quick calculation tells me that my army is about twice as big. I can''t see any special defenses yet, so now is the time to attack. I set up my attack plan, and order the first line to attack. Will they flee and leave me with a precious lifeforce spot, or will they stand and fight?

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Pre-game:
Maps (satellite imagery as well as road maps) depicting obstacles, fortifications, etc; scouting reports for additional details that can only be gleaned first-hand, very limited (your spies don''t exactly have access to national secrets).

Weapons/munitions - everything from bowie knives to nuclear warheads. While you could just light one of those mutthas and let her rip, your opponent most likely has at least one warhead too resulting in a "nuclear standoff" situation. "We die, you die." So you have to resort to other methods.

Tactics:
For starters, you might want to position some of your troops/guns stealthily and others publicly (decoy, draw attention). For instance, you might send an aircraft carrier out to sea far enough away from the hostile territory as not to be detected and then order stealth bombers in from there. Your opponent, of course, could do the same.

And all the other warfare tactics I have no ideas about.

Chain of command:
Reasonably smart AI would allow you to give orders/delegate responsibility to officers under your command, but a "zoom in" feature would allow you to directly take control of a specific battalion/platoon/squadron/unit/etc if you so desired. In fact, you could play the entire game as the captain of a single platoon deployed at ground zero. And, of course, you can zoom back out.

Updates/upgrades:
If you incur heavy losses, replacement units should come through as a whole. By that I mean, if the 83rd Division has lost 67% of its men and is pulled out, it would be entirely replaced with the 2nd Mechanized Division, or whoever. Thus, there would be no transferral of experience, though all intelligence gained would be available to the new units. The remainder of the recalled unit could then be partially incorporated into another division, giving that division actual battlefield experience.

Since all wartime governments keep scientists researching for newer and more effective offensive and defensive equipment, you may receive new (and sometimes experimental) equipment - some of which may only have seen test applications depending on how dire the war situation is.

Supplies should come through regularly, but supply vehicles are also valid targets. Loss of a supply train, for instance, should have siginificant impact on the strength and sustainability of your front. In addition, for games that choose to simulate time as well, a unit can not remain perpetually on the field/in action. There must be at least occasional periods of rest and refreshment.

Just my thoughts.



Note: Translate all opinions to the appropriate chronological setting. I only consider modern present-day warfare.


[ GDNet Start Here | GDNet FAQ | MS RTFM | STL | Google ]
Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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quote:
Original post by Silvermyst
why do players take their armies and travel across the land?

Because they are ordered to do so by their governments, an outcome of political conflict?

I think we need to separate the reasons for war from the act itself. We are simulating strategic war games, not global interactions. Ideally, the game should present a number of scenarios which provide a context for conflict. The generals/admirals (you) are given their marching orders and begin to strategize. Next comes deployment, followed by battle. Win enough of the battles and you''ve won the war. The rest is details.

The outcome of the war should then force a specific political outcome (surrender), which then allows us to move on to other conflicts. Heck, you could have simultaneous conflicts:

A "peaceful" rally outside a <your contry here>-an embassy in <hostile country here> went tragically wrong as both the crowd and the posted <your contry here> marines opened fire on each other. Heavy casualties were reported. The crowd managed to surge towards the building and eventually burnt it to the ground. All <your contry here> officials were successfully extracted.

Tensions remain high throughout the entire region as diplomacy appears to be failing in smoothing out this latest uproar. The <hostile contry here> government is accusing <your contry here> of ordering its troops to mercilessly murder <hostile contry here>-an people, an accusation that has been refuted by another accusation from <your contry here> that the rally was actually a government plot to forcefully eject the <your contry here> presence, a clear violation of the <some city here> Peace Agreement.

You declare war on the hostile country, their allies in the region declare war on you, you try to bring in some of your own allies - very interesting and complex combat scenarios may then ensue.

quote:
Also, how can you keep seemingly invincible armies from preying on the weak?

Why should you? A government with a weak army should opt for diplomacy. If it chooses war, well, that''s suicide.

[ GDNet Start Here | GDNet FAQ | MS RTFM | STL | Google ]
Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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OLUSEYI:

Well, the questions I had were specifically for my own design.

But I guess they would apply to any system that uses an army-building system, especially one where the units can suffer a permanent death (which would make some sort of system necessary that prevents powerarmies from outright crushing rookie armies).

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Ground Control is a good place to start for ideas. I would look more at Starcraft though, for purposes of seeing just how elegantly balanced an army can get (that game never ceases to amaze me). I would also ignore our AP, because it is inherent in a game that relieves you of in-the-moment micromanagement, that you would want a more diverse range of combat outcomes (have only one type of tank on each force, challenge yourself to come up with units that have a finely tuned, intertwined support for each other).

I agree with most of what Oluseyi suggested. I would try to move more towards small forces though, if you stick it down to an average of twenty units in four to five squads then the player can really get into the grit of the tactical nature of the game. it makes decisions on the use of individual units more important.

Pre-Game, Oluseyi could not have put it better: The player takes his/her intelligence and after sifting through it (maybe pay some of your precious unit points to get more intelligence information) chooses an army to suit the terrain, and a plan of attack. I offer this as a multiplayer solution, that each player has five minutes to pick his or her forces (or a scenario defined amount). That the amount of points you get depends on the scenario. That the exact objectives of either side are defined by the scenario, and finally, that there is a scenario editor packaged with the game.

I propose this design for re-enforcements:

In the scenario document, a per-minute point gain is defined. Meaning that the player has so-many (let''s say 1000) points at the beginning of the battle to delegate to his/her initial forces, and that for every minute of game time elapsed the player recieves so many (let''s say 50) more points to be spent when re-enforcments are required.

So, during the preparation phase, the player not only defines his/her starting army, but also defines a few re-enforcement groupings to be sent onto the battlefield when required. It would be logical to say that once requested, the reenforcements will take a certain amount of time to arrive which depends upon scenario settings (where is the battle taking place) and force demographics (are you sending twenty men in parachutes or three tanks and a howitzer?). Note that all the re-enforcement groups are decided BEFORE the battle starts, your forces have to prepare them, et-cetera.

As an after thought, there should be either a limitation on the number of rounds for which the reenforcement bonus applies, or better yet, there should be a limitation on how many times you are allowed to call on reenforcements (again defined by the scenario). I would allow the player to define twice as many re-enforcement groups as are allowable however, so that (s)he has a good array of different options to choose from depending on need.

I also think that unit diversity should be of paramount importance, have a medic unit which will pitch a tent to have men come to be healed. Have builder units, which can be given the rescources to build certain objects from the start (bridge, bunker, short-range high-def radar, only one object per builder).



George D. Filiotis
Are you in support of the ban of Dihydrogen Monoxide? You should be!

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Symphonic, I consider your modifications/enhancements to my suggestions excellent! I particularly agree with the small forces suggestion, as I would personally find that sort of game more enjoyable, but there are those who might prefer truly macro scnarios (involving land, air and sea forces, etc).

As a matter of fact, I would find it interesting to play a game from the perspective of a squadron leader, with reinforcements, orders, directives, morale boosters, limited communications in areas where radio silence is critical - sort of a Band of Brothers RTS.

Agh, I really have to start developing games again

[ GDNet Start Here | GDNet FAQ | MS RTFM | STL | Google ]
Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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quote:
Original post by Symphonic
Ground Control is a good place to start for ideas. I would look more at Starcraft though, for purposes of seeing just how elegantly balanced an army can get (that game never ceases to amaze me). I would also ignore our AP, because it is inherent in a game that relieves you of in-the-moment micromanagement, that you would want a more diverse range of combat outcomes (have only one type of tank on each force, challenge yourself to come up with units that have a finely tuned, intertwined support for each other).



I agree. I never liked Red Alert (sorry AP), yet Starcraft has held my interest. It does have flaws in terms of balance though (protoss > zerg > terran - more so with the Brood War pack) I have only played the demo of Ground Control, but I remember it being a great game. I intend to pick up a copy of it at some point. And yes, I do intend to have a slightly more interesting range of troops than RA had.

quote:

I agree with most of what Oluseyi suggested. I would try to move more towards small forces though, if you stick it down to an average of twenty units in four to five squads then the player can really get into the grit of the tactical nature of the game. it makes decisions on the use of individual units more important.

Pre-Game, Oluseyi could not have put it better: The player takes his/her intelligence and after sifting through it (maybe pay some of your precious unit points to get more intelligence information) chooses an army to suit the terrain, and a plan of attack. I offer this as a multiplayer solution, that each player has five minutes to pick his or her forces (or a scenario defined amount). That the amount of points you get depends on the scenario. That the exact objectives of either side are defined by the scenario, and finally, that there is a scenario editor packaged with the game.



The idea of spending points on better intelligence is interesting. There are a few problems with this idea - players already familiar with the map/scenario have a clear advantage over other players, unless you use random maps, in which case you have to figure out some method of generating the necessary information. And of course you have to balance the cost of intelligence against everything else - too cheap and it becomes an uninteresting choice.

quote:

I propose this design for re-enforcements:

In the scenario document, a per-minute point gain is defined. Meaning that the player has so-many (let's say 1000) points at the beginning of the battle to delegate to his/her initial forces, and that for every minute of game time elapsed the player recieves so many (let's say 50) more points to be spent when re-enforcments are required.

So, during the preparation phase, the player not only defines his/her starting army, but also defines a few re-enforcement groupings to be sent onto the battlefield when required.



Not sure about that, its a good idea but I think I'd like to give the player some more control over what he gets during the game. Need to think about that one.

quote:

It would be logical to say that once requested, the reenforcements will take a certain amount of time to arrive which depends upon scenario settings (where is the battle taking place) and force demographics (are you sending twenty men in parachutes or three tanks and a howitzer?). Note that all the re-enforcement groups are decided BEFORE the battle starts, your forces have to prepare them, et-cetera.



Definitely. I have yet to work out the details, but heavy equipment will need a suitable landing spot for a dropship, and will be easy to shoot down if it is too near enemy controlled territory, whereas infantry will be able to paradrop to just about anywhere, much more stealthily.

quote:

As an after thought, there should be either a limitation on the number of rounds for which the reenforcement bonus applies, or better yet, there should be a limitation on how many times you are allowed to call on reenforcements (again defined by the scenario). I would allow the player to define twice as many re-enforcement groups as are allowable however, so that (s)he has a good array of different options to choose from depending on need.
[/quote

I was thinking that too - either limit the number of times the player can call on reinforcements or make the 'points' penalty increase exponentially with each additional call. Hence players who want to get a good score will rely on reinforcements as little as possible...




Edited by - Sandman on January 14, 2002 4:15:23 PM

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
The idea of spending points on better intelligence is interesting. There are a few problems with this idea - players already familiar with the map/scenario have a clear advantage over other players, unless you use random maps, in which case you have to figure out some method of generating the necessary information. And of course you have to balance the cost of intelligence against everything else - too cheap and it becomes an uninteresting choice.

Very true. I think a good way to generate scenarios is to employ the same set of maps (a fixed world), but vary the context so that different tactics are necessary. A fairly simple formulaic method for deciding on the parameters of the contest shouldn''t be too hard to develop - based off of the parties involved, their financial status, their levels of training and equipment etc. It makes sense that if a "rebel" coalition decides to go to war agains a "superpower" they would employ more guerilla, hit-n-run, stealth and concealment tactics. So while knowledge of the maps would be an advantage, the gamer would still need to think fast to respond to the very varied types of conflicts.

Furthermore, local forces could have spent time preparing for the battles by modifying and boobytrapping the terrain - poisoning water holes, digging trenches and convenient concealment spots, etc.

quote:
Not sure about that, its a good idea but I think I''d like to give the player some more control over what he gets during the game.

The player could be allowed to request a specific type of reinforcements, but receiving them would be dependent on availability and higher priorities:

Supply Seargent: "Major, I''d love to send you a platoon of Rangers, but we''re too thin on the western front and they''re needed there!"

This could also introduce other elements like influence. Successful completion of missions with minimum casualties, war decorations, citations for heroism, etc, could make your commander more influential meaning more likely to get exactly what he asks for:

Major: "Son, I was cutting up the Kilbari when you were still painting fingers in playschool! Get that platoon out here ASAP, you hear me!"
WO2: (whisper) "Sarge, that''s Major Unglaublisch! He''s got more awards for courage in the face of personal danger than the entire command division!"
Supply Seargent: "*Gulp* Yessir!"


quote:
Definitely. I have yet to work out the details, but heavy equipment will need a suitable landing spot for a dropship, and will be easy to shoot down if it is too near enemy controlled territory, whereas infantry will be able to paradrop to just about anywhere, much more stealthily.

We''re all agreed on this one.

quote:
I was thinking that too - either limit the number of times the player can call on reinforcements or make the ''points'' penalty increase exponentially with each additional call. Hence players who want to get a good score will rely on reinforcements as little as possible...

Which would affect your "influence" as detailed above. If you use too many soldiers to accomplish a task, your commander may be relegated to a desk job. This could have a positive or negative effect on the morale of the units depending on how connected they were to him. For more on this, I heartily recommend the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. At one point the unit had a leader with no nerve, resulting in huge casualties and loss of morale.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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quote:

The player could be allowed to request a specific type of reinforcements, but receiving them would be dependent on availability and higher priorities:

Supply Seargent: "Major, I''d love to send you a platoon of Rangers, but we''re too thin on the western front and they''re needed there!"

This could also introduce other elements like influence. Successful completion of missions with minimum casualties, war decorations, citations for heroism, etc, could make your commander more influential meaning more likely to get exactly what he asks for:

Major: "Son, I was cutting up the Kilbari when you were still painting fingers in playschool! Get that platoon out here ASAP, you hear me!"
WO2: (whisper) "Sarge, that''s Major Unglaublisch! He''s got more awards for courage in the face of personal danger than the entire command division!"
Supply Seargent: "*Gulp* Yessir!"



Excellent idea! I was already planning to make the availability of different units vary during the game, according to some sort of supply and demand algorithm, but this makes a neat new twist. If the player has a set of persistent stats which include his ''efficiency'' - taking into account his reliance on reinforcements and the size of the force he picks to begin with, then this stat can be taken into account when he actually makes the requests - he doesnt get any extra men, but he is more likely to get the ones he really wants. Of course, if he over uses this privilege, his efficiency drops and he loses it.

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I''m sorry. I thought we were just talking ideas in general. I didn''t know that this was specific to someone''s design.
I just thought that if there was a resource aspect, it could be handled independently of the military aspect, yet still play a vital role in the overall game.
Just my idea, but everything is sounding good here anyway.

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quote:
Original post by GBGames
I''m sorry. I thought we were just talking ideas in general. I didn''t know that this was specific to someone''s design.

We are (which is why I simply disregarded the comment). Everyone is then left to implement those ideas they find intriguing/workable into their own designs. Me, I''m just letting my creative energies loose for a while (I''m not developing/designing any game ATM).

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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quote:
Original post by GBGames
I''m sorry. I thought we were just talking ideas in general. I didn''t know that this was specific to someone''s design.
I just thought that if there was a resource aspect, it could be handled independently of the military aspect, yet still play a vital role in the overall game.
Just my idea, but everything is sounding good here anyway.




Sorry, I didn''t mean to discourage you. It is an interesting idea, but simply not suited to my own design. By all means continue to brainstorm, thats what this board is all about.

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I can see where Sandman is going here, so I thought I may as lay down the overall premise of what I''d like to see in a strategy game. In many ways, this will look familiar as a combination of Shogun and Close Combat.

1) Pre-planning phase: Before you even get to move your forces to attack or start your industrial machines, you have to have the game setup. In my envisionment, it will be something similar to Empire Earth, in that you get to create your own civilization. You will be able to take certain advantages or disadvantages to create a society to your liking. For example, do you want to create something along the lines of Japan? Then limit your natural resources, but give your troops fanatic discipline. Germany? Give your troops excellent machinery, but inflexibility in command structure. You also get to chose your starting resources and armed forces. In other words, you "build" your society at the very beginning...the foundations of your might before the game even begins. I think a society at a bare minimum must be defined by it''s various natural resources (power, raw materials, agriculture), I think there are other socio-econimic factors to think about too, such as discipline, flexibility, mercantile or industrial prowess, etc. And all of this must be "paid" for by the player. In other words, just as in RPG''s you design a character by determining characteristics like strength, dexterity, health and then equipping him with weapons...in many ways you will "design" your country in the same manner.


Now, this is important...your ARmy will have a certain maintenance cost, and you must factor this into your nation''s industrial/economic capabilities. You must also take into consideration supply lines. Admittedly, I only have a rough idea of how to implement these things, but I''m slowly working on it (inbetween all my studies ) However, reserves and reinforcements will have no artifical restrictions...except those placed by you yourself. In other words, if you want to attack with 75% of your forces and keep a quarter in reserve, more power to you. Remember though, that you have to get your reserves into Battle (I''m sure Napoleon won''t forget that one at Waterloo). Also, make sure your own homelands aren''t vulnerable to attack by spreading yourself too thin (along these lines, we should thank the French, they helped us win our Revolution, and had they not stretched England''s forces thin in 1812...we probably would have been reconquered....England shouldn''t have fought on more than one front....then again, Napoleon was attacking Haiti at the same too...but I digress)

* now, I do have some reservations about all these "point totals" because I''ve never been keen on the idea of "point totals". In other words, assigning a value to a unit, (although I think factory, or a resource are more easily objective defined) is a bit subjective. In the real world, there are only a few factors that affect the relative quanitity of a unit; price, training, raw materials. In other words, there are far more infantry in the world than tanks because tanks cost a whole hell of a lot more than infantry. Then there''s other considerations like its more expensive to transport them as well. But there''s a more dogmatic problem to assigning point values to units. Let''s say you created a unit that has a devestating weapon that can be used at incredibly long ranges. Normally, this unit would be extremely effective....until you put it in a jungle where it can get mired and it''s long range weapon is null and void. See what I mean? The value of a unit is very contextually based, so you can''t really say, "this unit is worth this amount of points". There''s also the problem of holistic effectiveness. You can create two cheap units, but together they become very effective because they cover each other''s flaws. So the net effect is that they are worth more than the sum of their costs. How do you account for these things??

2) Planning Phase- Okay, in the real world, when two nations are about to go to war, they already have an existing armed forces and industrial strength. Now, think of a grand map...for example, let''s envision Germany and Poland. Each country will be split into several regions, and units (and industrial might) will be placed in certain geographical regions. Now, if you want to attack, you simply move your forces via land air or sea (well, land or air in the Germany vs. Poland case) and invade the others territory. But, in true strategic sense, you have to make sure you don''t leave your own borders defenseless. So perhaps the German forces will launch a southern attack into the Carpathian area of Poland, spearing as deep into the rich urban centers along the Vistula river as possible. But to confuse Polish counterattacks, Germany could launch a feint along Poland''s northern reaches, near it''s Black Sea ports...making the Poles wonder what the true targets are.

So, there will be a grand map (and I do mean grand....in my thinking of strategy, I''m thinking in sizes of Divisions at least...maybe even corps or armies...i.e about 5,000 troops minimum up to 20,000+. Granted, these will be grouped into smaller units) that you can plot where you will put your forces. Now, you won''t be playing with all of these forces at once...rather you will fight in theatres of operations. In the above example, you might split it into a Northern Poland/Southern Poland thing

During this stage, you will also alot your industrial capacity to produce war material. I''m not sure how much domestic concerns I would include...such as civilian morale, feeding civilians, stuff like that, but I think it is important.

3) Real-time phase- Now comes the juicy part, actually watching your forces play out according to your overall grand plan, and watching them quickly crumble as no plan survives initial contact with the enemy. That''s where the RT aspect comes in, being able to alter your plans on the fly. After a certain amount of Real Time passes, it reverts back to the planning phase. The reason for this is I think it''s a bit silly to have a commander worry about fighting AND domestic concerns at the same time. I thought that ad with the game where a king has a trowel in his hand building a wall, while enemies were about to attack him was hilarious. They are two seperate considerations performed by two different people (well, except maybe in military regimes).

So, to get back to Sandman''s original idea, should a game start with predetermined forces? Yes, I think so. I also think that the "map" should be known for the most part. In other words, you create your armed forces because you know how you would want to attack or defend. For example, if your neighboring country was a jungleland, you probably wouldn''t build up on tanks so much, but concentrate on infantry. Conversely, if you were in a desert country, you may want to stock up on tanks. I''m just a bit leery on "valuing" units, since its so subjective, but I''m not really sure if there''s any other alternative. I''ve had discussions about balancing before, and I''m not sure if its entirely necessary.

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About the point cost of a unit:

You simply have to use an interactive feedback system.

Start with a default point cost (depends on not only on the strength of a unit, but also on how much it is actually used curing combat) set by the game designers.

If the players play the game using the game's site as a host, there should be a way to keep track of which units are being used a lot and which units are not being used a lot.
Those units that are used a lot will see their point cost go up, those units that are not used a lot will see their point cost go down.
Units whose point cost goes up will be used less often. Units whose point cost goes down will be used more often.

Tanks will always have a unit cost higher than infantry of course, but within the tank category, there will be different tanks with different unit costs. The most used tank will have a very high unit cost and thus become less used over time.
If in the beginning tank A costs 10 points and tank B costs 10 as well, but you personally find tank A better because it works well with another unit, you will use tank A a lot more than tank B. But, when tank A's cost goes up to 15, will you still used tank A? Are 3 tank B's better for your army than 2 tank A's?

Basically, every so often the point costs of units would change depending on use. Players should adjust their strategy accordingly.

You can even forego the point system for units, but instead use the feedback system for the materials used to create that unit. If more tank A's are used than tank B's, you could make the raw materials used for tank A rarer. Or you could make it so more raw material is needed to create tank A.

This system is essentially an automated nerfing-system. The goal is to make players change strategy. Where nowadays usually players tend to find the best, strongest unit and their best, strongest tactic with those units, with the feedback system you can entice them into using many different units and changing strategy every so often. I think this will make things a lot more interesting for all players involved.

Edited by - Silvermyst on January 16, 2002 10:12:36 AM

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Take a look at the table top game Warhammer 40.000 Epic Battles by Games Workshop.

It has exactly what you describe - units cost a certain amount, you build up your army knowing the map, but do not know

1) the enemy army
2) where he places his units

There is chain of command in the rules as well as morale and all the other factors you can think off. There are multiple races, so you can actually have a high tech Eldar race with few powerful units battle hordes of cheap, dump orcs.

When you start a game, you say "We will play a 4000 point game" and go from there. This approach works fine on a table, so why should this not work in an RTS?

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