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RolandofGilead

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RolandofGilead    100
In at least one recent thread on strategy games there was mention of point armies where each player is given points to buy his army and then the players fight. It was noted that just because the points are the same that the units might not, hence throwing the game out of balance and making it about units rather than strategy. What would still be missing if a point army game were made from the beginning to always balance out the effect of points so that the available combat resources(armor, fire- power, mobility, stealth, etc.) of each side always equaled each other regardless of the type and size of the forces involved so that only strategy-when, where, what kind, and how power is deployed-affected the outcome? For cases where, for instance, a swarm of very light units attack very heavy units the light weapons do no damage so the light units lose, I count this as a strategical mistake(swarming was a bad idea, obviously) since before joining any battle a commander picks his forces carefully and in my system fire- power can often be concentrated(but not easily) so that the light units can gang up and use their cumulative firepower and that if the light units fail to do so it was a matter of poor choosing of the strategical elements of when, where, what kind, and how(formations) power was deployed. Okay, and now some game philosophy and another concern. Please remember these are assumptions I''m making based on the game mechanics, the game has not been made yet. My game seems to follow the rock-paper-scissors mode. No one strategy can ever become dominant because as you become stronger in one area you become more vulnerable in another. The game also has the possibility for as much flexibility as the player wants. This seems to follow chess and the numerous combinations of moves possible. Are chess and rock-paper-scissors more similar than we think? With the (for argument''s sake, infinite) combinations of chess moves, how can any one combo ever be the greatest? Is it that rock-paper-scissors is chess boiled down to its simplest possible form? More importantly, with such opportunity to explore and play seemingly forever because I have more than three choices(r-p-s) and those choices can be combined in many many ways, always one step ahead sometimes one step behind the competition, does my game or that class of game sound fun?

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Mooglez    122
quote:
so that the light units can gang up and use their cumulative firepower and that if the light units fail to do so it was a matter of poor choosing of the strategical elements of when, where, what kind, and how(formations) power was deployed.


Fair idea, but don''t take this too far. If you can build light units and cumulate their firepower vs heavier units... it makes the heavier units less useful and valueable, not to mention more unbalance.

quote:
My game seems to follow the rock-paper-scissors mode. No one strategy can ever become dominant because as you become
stronger in one area you become more vulnerable in another.
The game also has the possibility for as much flexibility as
the player wants. This seems to follow chess and the
numerous combinations of moves possible.


Personally I don''t think it''s a good idea to use the rock-paper-scissors as reference for a game that involves unit improvement. A good strategy game should not be about becoming more powerful and dominant in one specific area and more vulnerable in another. The rock-paper-scissors is a really poor model to use when it comes to more possibility and flexibility because the player would always be limited to a general choices of 3 types of units like light calvary vs armor vs artillery even though you can constantly improve their stats throughout the game.

quote:
More importantly, with such opportunity to explore and play seemingly forever because I have more than three choices(r-p-s) and those choices can be combined in many many ways, always
one step ahead sometimes one step behind the competition, does
my game or that class of game sound fun?


Having limitless possible choices when combined dosen''t mean a whole lot if the outcome isn''t useful on the battlefield and can be easily replaced by something that basically does the same thing.

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Sandman    2210
The problem is that you still have a balancing act to do. And to be honest, I am not entirely convinced you need to balance stuff that well.

My favourite quote from GA&A is "A game is a series of interesting choices". What this means to me, is that you should only give the player a choice if that choice is 'interesting'. If you wind up with a game that plays itself, then you obviously had a flawed design in the first place.

Now, lets suppose you want to give the player the choice of his forces. With a perfectly balanced RPS system, it is never going to be interesting - there is one optimal solution which will always give the best results. It might take a newbie a few games to figure out this optimal force, but all he really needs to do is look it up in a strategy guide. In other words, it may seem interesting, but it lacks depth. With an unbalanced RPS system, it isn't going to be interesting either, since there will be a dominant or dominated unit in there somewhere. Finally, RPS balancing places too much emphasis on 'what' and not enough on 'how' and 'where'.

Chess is nothing like an RPS game - There is no single garanteed strategy. At any point in the game, you can calculate the 'optimal move' - this is pretty much how chess AI works - but since the whole state of the game can change next move, the optimal strategy will change.

The best solution in my opinion is not to balance units, but to place restrictions on the availability of units, and thus control the populations of those units. Chess for example, fixes your army completely. If you were free to choose any pieces you liked, most people would probably choose all queens, and as a result the game would be utter shit. An alternative might be to assign rough values to each piece, and let people choose pieces up to a fixed value. So you could have 6 queens at the beginning of the game, and not a lot else, while your opponent might forego his queen altogether and get a couple of extra rooks. This may suffer from balance problems if the points do not accurately reflect the value of the unit, but is far better than free choice. Finally, you can also place prerequisites on units - e.g "You can have one queen for every 4 pawns in your force" or something like that. Im sure there are other alternatives, but I can't think of them at the moment.

[edit]
Another good approach is to ensure that all units have at least one thing at which they excel - they should all fill a distinctive niche. Starcraft did this pretty well, there are very few redundant units in SC.


Edited by - Sandman on February 6, 2002 6:58:51 AM

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RolandofGilead    100
Thank you for the replies.

Mooglez,
Don''t worry about the concept being taken too far, the best
moments of any game I play are when the really big bad asses
join the fray.

I''m just putting that in there because I''d hate to see the
other guy not even have a chance. The whole point of this is
to avoid instances of mega-units winning the game. I love
mega-units but there should be some way to deal with them or
the game becomes an mega-unit or tank rush race.

(I wrote this at different times so the first instance occurs
later) Again a word makes the difference, I really shouldn''t
have said ''become''. It should really be ''as the player makes a
choice to use a very mobile unit he is losing the chance to
use a unit with heavy firepower. You''re absolutely right,
in developing this force over time over-developing and leaving
vulnerabilities becomes a death trap for the player and nothing
about a game frustrates me more than being unable to progress.

Besides, I have way more than 3 units and many can defeat
various types of others so it doesn''t fall into a circlular
pattern like rps.

"...limitless possible choices when combined...", naturally some
combos are gonna suck and it should be obvious very quickly.
Same with chess.

Sandman,
I wasn''t really talking about a r-p-s system, I meant the real
rock-paper-scissors doesn''t have an optimal strategy and that
was the point. No matter what you choose, you can be beaten.
If we extend this to a strategy game or even an action game
(like if we had a really good and adaptive ai), the thrill is
hopefully neverending because you can never be the master.
That''s my real quandry, for how many people does ''never get
boring'' become boring in and of itself?

If such a perfectly balanced force could be found, there is
still the question of how skillfully can the player put his
forces into play and if mission based, there will need to be
very specific strategies, which throws off the balance.
I''m also still not too worried cause as I said, strengthening
one area weakens you someplace else, this means that even if
a balanced force is created it would not have enough power in
the appropriate areas to defeat a force which focuses and
there''s still and always will be the skill of the commander.

As Sandman has said, there is no optimal strategy in chess and
I''m trying to point out the similarity because
rock-paper-scissors doesn''t have an optimal strategy either.
You try to guess what the other person will do, some prefer
specific openings(chess) and some prefer specific choices(rps).

What''s really interesting is that Sandman actually agrees
with my system. I never said I''d balance the units. It''s
amazing how one word affects things, if my original post
had included the word "few" when describing the number of
heavy units you would see that it''s exactly as you describe
"...a queen for four pawns...". My system doesn''t give each
side a gun and then they pick the size and strategy; my
system gives each side the same amount of firepower and
choice of strategy-which dictates how the firepower should
be concentrated.

And thank you for the quote, Sandman. It''s a good principle
and your application of it is insightful.

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Dauntless    314
It sounds like what you are trying to do is essentially create a wargame version of chess. Like in chess, if you are clever enough, even a lowly pawn can take out a Queen.

But I think to go about designing any game with rocks/papers/scissors mentatlity is just too limiting. There are two primary means of fighting. You can be a specialist, or you can be a generalist. The specialist excels at what he does but has weaknesses in other areas. The generalist is all around good, but can not beat the specialist at his own game. The trick then is to figure what style you like, and make sure that your strengths are always available while making sure that your opponent fights at his weakest.

So, let's look at the possbilities

Specialist vs. Specialist: In this type of warfare, each will try to maneuver themselves to their best advantage. The player that is best at utilizing his forces strengths to counter his opponents weakness will win.

Example- A Wrestler vs. a Kick/puncher. If the kick puncher can evade the wrestler, then he stands a good chance of winning. If the grappler gets his hands on the pugilist, game over.

Generalist vs. Specialist: In this case, while the generalist may be able to take a lick or two from the specialist, he can't afford to do it too often. So he has to be able to manipulate circumstances so that the fight falls in his favor.

Example- Spear vs. Sword. The sword is a multi-purpose weapon, but is at a decided disadvantage at long range. The swordsman must be able to close the range to be able to fight effectively.

Generalist vs. Generalist: This seems to be what you are going after. The multi-purpose armies that can do a little of everything so that while they excel at nothing, they also have no glaring weaknesses. Here, Maneuver and Leadership are what win battles.

Example- Shaolin vs. Karate. Both styles are very well rounded, though they have slightly different philosophies in combat. Neither will have a decided advantage save in recognizing a weakpoint, or feinting to make a spot weak.

So what does that have to do with rock/paper/scissors? It always assumes that one thing can defeat something else. This isn't the case. Rather each unit has a CONTEXT in which it excels...remove that context and the unit may become ineffective. Even units or styles that are very good all around, can be beaten by clever use of very specialized units...and vice versa. In other words...no one unit should always be guaranteed to beat another. Look at infantry versus tanks. Out in the open, they are mincemeat...but in a city, they are like cock roaches..almost impossible to kill. Look at how units would work in the real world, not as mini-specialists (a rock, a paper, or a scissor).

But if you design a game where BOTH sides are generalists, as it sounds like what you have in mind, then you are right...everything will be equal because there will be no overall "winning" strategy. Winning will boil down to the player that can spot weaknesses the most quickly to exploit them while covering his own. However, in the real world, units aren't always "balanced" As my examples above, some militaries are very specialized. For these kinds of militaries, their commanders must force their opponents to do battle when and where it will be most advantageous for them. Since their military units are different the players choice of strategies will differ.

I personally find this a more interesting way of playing rather than reducing both armies to the same essential types of units. In the real world, this is actually true...it's just that the qualities or quantities of the units differ (say for example that in chess, white might get 3 rooks and only one bishop). This in turn will drastically alter a player's strategy. I also think that a game based solely on units as their method of play loses a lot of potential game play. Factoring in the ability to control your units effectively throws another whole monkey wrench into gameplay, and can make even the most powerful army ineffective if it can not be mastered.



Edited by - Dauntless on February 6, 2002 12:27:26 AM

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RolandofGilead    100
Oh my goodness thank you Dauntless, I have made a
mistake, I have been associating that
if unit A is not intrinsically defeated by unit B
then
unit B will win(rps scheme) with context as you say.

I wrote that the units can overpower each other in
different ways and indeed, the effectiveness depends upon
the situation.

I am really just drawing a parallel to rps, the system is
not actually rps. It is as in my first post, the simplest
possible form of mutliple possible strategies is the
mathematical proof that you won''t necessarily win by any
one strategy. That is the quality of my system that I
am expounding.

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