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Sandman

Role Driven Unit Design (RTS)

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Sandman    2210
RolandOfGilead's thread got me thinking - does unit dominance really matter that much? Now I am not suggesting that it is OK to have one unit that can kill everything else in one hit. The units must be at least vaguely balanced. What I am suggesting, is that if every unit has a clearly defined role, which other units cannot easily fill, then that unit is immediately useful, even though it may seem weaker than other units. So lets get to the interesting part - when designing your units, what roles do they have to fill? Here are a few ideas of my own, but remember this is based on my own design, a hi tech RTS setting. Some of these roles are applicable to any setting, others maybe not. First of all, there are two broad catagories: Ill call them Support and Assault . However, there are grey areas in between, I'll call the mid point Tactical units. Support units consist of your artillery, your long range weapons. They are typically lightly armoured, because they do not expect to get that close to battle. They will generally have one huge-ass gun which can do shedloads of damage at a great distance, but for various reasons, they cannot attack nearby targets effectively. Assault units consist of your close combat troops. They are equipped with short range or melee weapons. Armour is often heavy, to protect from attacks from all angles. Weaponry needs to be powerful, since they must wipe out their opponents quickly or risk being overwhelmed. Speed is also of considerable value, although use of combined arms be enough. Tactical units fall somewhere between the two. Flexibility is more important than power for these units. These units often act as response units, filling gaps when something unexpected happens. You then have your subtypes: Infantry, Light, Heavy, Aerial etc. These have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages: Infantry : Slow, Weak armour, moderate weaponry. They are stealthy however, and in some ways more mobile - you can get a soldier into places you could never get a tank. Light : Fast, moderate armour, moderate weaponry. Not terribly stealthy - they rely more on their speed to get them into and out of trouble. Heavy : Slow, heavy armour, powerful weaponry. Not even remotely stealthy, you can see/hear/smell these bastards a mile off. Aerial : Very Fast, light armour, good weaponry. Not terribly stealthy. Main disadvantage is its maintenance - Air units will typically fly a mission, attack a few targets and return to its base for refuelling, rather than sticking out a large fight. So you can create a fairly well niched unit by combining a type and a subtype. e.g: Heavy Assault: Big, very heavily armoured tank with lots of close range firepower. This thing will just wade into the middle of a fight and dish out some serious punishment. Light Tactical: Some fast moving unit, like a hover tank or something. This unit is a useful response unit, that can be used to fill for stronger units when something unexpected happens - also useful for scouting. Infantry Support: Soldiers with mortars, or rocket launchers or similar artillery. If you can get these guys into hiding on an difficult cliff top they can surprise your opponent with a devastating barrage of fire, with little chance of retaliation. Now this breakdown is far from complete, and probably a bit muddled - it is a bit of a brainstorm really. I'd appreciate any ideas that you guys can contribute. Edited by - Sandman on February 6, 2002 8:22:39 AM

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Silvermyst    113
Scouts: these units move in front of your army, locating the enemy, noting their defenses, then relaying that info back to base camp. They are armored as lightly as possible, because speed and stealth are their priorities. They do have weapons to deal with a lone enemy, but generally try to stay undetected.

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Sandman    2210
I originally thought that scouts could come under one of the headings above, but on reflection I think you are right - they don''t really fit in.

Maybe we should add another category... an Intelligence unit. This unit covers spies, scouts, surveillance devices etc.

Perhaps also a Stealth sub category could be added.... Stealth units have better stealth than normal for their type, but at a cost - reduced speed, or weaponry. After all, a huge engine or a massive, loud cannon does not lend itself well to stealth, but a Stealth tank is still feasible - it might look like a big rock, making it harder to detect, but it has a weaker weaponry than usual for its class and slower movement.

I''m thinking that generating unit stats around this system might make balance easier to reach, but I haven''t got time to go into details yet....

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Zileas    122
I did something similar when I made Strifeshadow. Role based design is pretty important I think to control the interrelationships. My classes are a little different than yours naturally.

http://www.ethermoon.com/developmentnotes/developmentnotes1.phtml

Zileas

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stevenmarky    369
The most important thing is balance, you shouldnt be able to have a set of fighters/units that will dominate every time.

The best game I have seen that employs this specialised unit types is a game called Sacrifice (awesome game, not popular) - in it there was small fast units, which could easily wipe out structures and big slow creatures, but flying creatures would easiliy wipe the ''frostwolves'' out.

There were hundreds of specialised units types in the game, but no group of them gave a definate advantage - I just cant work out how they did it!

www.sacrifice.net

Either they play-tested it to death (not possible too many unit types and possible tactics) or they somehow mathematically worked it out (which couldnt really acount for tactics that online players made up).

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Dauntless    314
Hmm, I've noticed that alot of people still have "balance" ingrained in their minds to death

I like the idea of just classifying certain units into various roles, afterall, that's how it's done in real life. Some countries unit types are simply better than other unit types (for example, the M1A1 Abrams vs. a T90). And also, like I mentioned in my other post, I think too much emphasis is placed on the units themslves, and not enough on how to control them.

Look at how the English Navy defeated the Spanish Armada in the 1600's. The English ships weren't as big, couldn't take as much damage and had far fewer guns. But they had two decided advantages. They were faster, and they had better Admirals and sailors. How do you accomplish that in a RTS? You don't. Now, some people will say, "see the units were balanced!!". But these people see the balancing from a UNIT DESIGN perspective, and not from a leadership perspective. The English were much better at coordinating their fleets to best effect, and the quality of their crews were much better. If you look at it from a pure design basis, you will never be able to fully emulate many types of battles.

When all you do is look at micro-balancing (unit design balancing) you overlook so many other possibilities. How many times have vastly underpowered armies defeated larger ones? You simply can't make everything "balanced" by trying to think too much about unit balancing, which unfortunately is such an ingrained notion in game designers heads that they can't see alternatives.

Units should not be built with balance in mind...they should be built according to real world parameters. In other words, what does a unit do, what does it work with, how much will it cost, and how much upkeep does it require? In the real world, other than nuclear devices, there is no such thing as an overly powerful unit. Every unit has it's role and its purpose, and therefore fits into the group as a holistic summation. Once upon a time, military thinkers thought that tanks were the be all and end all of warfare. They were wrong. Once upon a time, military thinkers thought that bombers would be the end of land forces. They were wrong. Any game that has a unit that a player wants to create at the exclusion of all others has a serious flaw. They need to go back and examine how such a unit could be so powerful...and in as far as I'm concerned, that's the only balancing that really is required to be done on a game.

There is an excellent series of games out by a very talented board gamer (Jon Tuffley). In StarGrunt II he explains why he didn't create a points system to create armies with. Firstly, he believes that any notion of balancing through a quantifier like "pts. cost" is doomed to failure, because it can not possibly take into consideration the synergistic effects of the sum of a armies parts. Secondly, to do so eliminates a more creative approach to designing armies and missions. Armies should be created because of a role that they intend to fit. For example, in the 1980's, America had what was coined the RDF, Rapid Deployment Force. It was composed almost entirely of very mobile (mostly Airborne) troops and air-mobile mechanized units that could rapidly be inserted into a hotspot anywhere in the world. From this military doctrine, America designed not only the constitution of a greater part of its armed forces, but even the design philosophy and direction of its technology. Conversely, Soviet Military doctrine was massive brutal front on force. No need for blitzkreig tactics, just relentlessly punch a hole through your foes mainline and give them no time for rest or respite. So the Russians mass concentrated their artillery, designed mediocre tanks (but in massive hordes
..and admittedly with excellent guns) and gave very little thought to fexibility in chain of command (which the Mujahadeen exploited this weakness to the fullest).

When you figure out what your Army's "style" is, then you plan out your unit designs, and how your Army will be composed. The idea of designing units first, and then building up an Army around it actually very backwards. Imagine for a second desinging a program. Do you start coding your functions and classes first...and then design your game logic and structure? Not very smart, but that's what I think game designers do when they design units in the traditional fashion. I know that I keep stressing realism, and people seem to be more of a "fun and gun" style of gamer, but I think so much extra gameplay could be added by making things more realistic. Afterall...haven't we been inundated enough with what's out there already? Isn't it time to make something that's different and unique? How do you know that more realistic is less fun until you try?

So, FINALLY, getting back to your point I think that role design is an excellent way to design and balance units rather than worry about whether TankA is worth s of InfantryB. When you factor in a country's style of fighting, then they naturally have a proclivity towards certain design types. I sometimes wonder if the player should have the ability to design units himself, thereby making a part of the gameplay the creation of organized groupings of units that suit his play style. IF the unit creation is done carefully, I think you can avoid the "create killer unit" syndrome.

Edited by - Dauntless on February 6, 2002 11:57:39 PM

Edited by - Dauntless on February 6, 2002 11:59:10 PM

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RolandofGilead    100
Dauntless, yeah, I agree, you devise an army and then you
build it.

In the posts I''ve made about my game the only portion that
has been mentioned is unit balance but it does indeed allow
army devising before army building.

I''m glad you said because here is my fear, what if the
player does not wish to take the time to design? I''ve
wondered about this for my game ever since I thought of it
because my unit balancing is only the way armies are
constructed. I wanted from the very beginning for the
player to be the grand master of how. The unit system
is only there to give him the tools. There are some games
where a player doesn''t even interact with the game and
only programs it. These seem to be popular enough so at
least a few people ought to like my game. There''s still
the opportunity to be as involved a commander(or soldier)
as the player wants so basically, here''s hoping as many
people like it as possible.

My solution to ''lazy player'' is to have pre-built stuff
as an option. Not to hard since one needs to play-test
anyway.

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Wavinator    2017
quote:
Original post by Dauntless
Hmm, I''ve noticed that alot of people still have "balance" ingrained in their minds to death



While I agree with many of your sentiments on balance, I think you''re overlooking something VERY important:

Let''s say you and I sit down to multiplay a new strategy game that has come out. All the units are fictional, aren''t balanced, and don''t necessarily have a real world correlation.

In three out of three games, I beat you. But did I beat you because I''m a better commander, or did I beat you because the units I used are imbalanced?

Most players expect a strategy game to be be an even contest between minds more so than material. If you eschew balance, as some wargames do, then I think you need to let the player know about unit characteristics in advance. Otherwise, they may become frustrated as once they start discovering crap units.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Sandman    2210
quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Most players expect a strategy game to be be an even contest between minds more so than material. If you eschew balance, as some wargames do, then I think you need to let the player know about unit characteristics in advance. Otherwise, they may become frustrated as once they start discovering crap units.



I agree, but I don''t think this is really the issue. The forces that the players have access to should be balanced, but the units themselves need not be. So long as all units have some weakness, then no unit can really dominate.

e.g Lets imagine players get to pick their forces freely, up to a certain number of units. In otherwords, you could have X tanks, or X soldiers.

On the face of it, the tanks are vastly superior to the infantry units. They are faster, more heavily armoured, have better weaponry etc. So if player 1 picks a force consisting entirely of tanks, he always wins, right?

Wrong. A cunning player with a more balanced force should be able to take advantage of the tanks weaknesses - lack of stealth, and limited mobility in certain terrain. A group of stealthy soldiers could hide in a section of terrain which the tank cannot enter, and take potshots until the whole lot are destroyed. The tanks, unable to locate the hidden troops, and unable to enter the terrain to hunt them down, automatically lose.

So, back to the original concept, what is the minimum set of roles an army needs to be complete?

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Silvermyst    113
Minimum set of roles?

Reconnaissance (scouts)

Speed attack (fast, light armored vehicles)

Strength attack (slow, heavy armored vehicles)

Support (ranged attack)

Medic! (heal troops, repair vehicles)





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Dauntless    314
Wavinator

Well, in your example it really could be either. I think though that in a case where you are creating units that are very far future or fantasy, and therefore have no real-world model, it''s very possible to create units that are so out of whack that they just don''t integrate well.

But I think you said the key words when you say that players expect battles to be a battle between minds. I think that''s the booby trap that strategy games lure players into. I think that unless you play a game where both sides play with exactly the same units, players think more about the units than they do about strategy. In other words what combinations of units will it take to beat his combination of units. In a game where both sides have the same units you eliminate this mode of thinking and instead think, how do I maneuver myself to my most advantageous position (this is exactly what chess is all about, maneuvering your pieces to your greatest strengths while exposing your opponents to his weakest).

This is the kind of gaming I''m looking for. A way to make players think less about their units than on how to use what they have available. In Sandman''s example, he wants a unit to be defined more by it''s role and function, rather than it''s attack, defense and special abilities. When you start thinking this way, and you as a commander are in a position where you have to be able to mobilize your army and making sure you can control it effectively, then you can get down to business.

So I think players want to think it''s a mental exercise, but what I think it really is is "rules lawyering". Its knowing what unit beats what other unit, and knowing how to maximize ones resources to produce the "best" kind of army. It''s a sort of mental calculation that doesn''t really vary very much.

In another post, I mentioned how rocks papers scissors doesn''t model the real world because it assumes that one unit type will always beat another unit type. In the real world, while tanks may be awesome in open fields, they lose alot of power in towns. So power and capability are very environment sensitive, and this is where the art of maneuvering comes into play...on both a tactical and a strategic scale.

The first lesson of warfare is....force your opponent when and where to battle at your leisure. This way you maximize your advantages and capitalize on his weaknesses. But most games simply don''t account for this. I mentioned the word "art", and this is important. I think most strategy games are more mental calculations, because you know that a unit''s capabilities are written in stone, and you know exactly how much each "laborer" can produce. So it really just becomes a mental calculation. But when you introduce variability in how units interact with each other, then you introduce unknowns ("how in the hell did that guy''s infantry unit just blast my tank to pieces!! I paid 100pts for that and he only paid 10!!!). When you introduce this way of thinking...the mental calculations stop, and you have to think on a different level.

I think its sort of a fallacy for players to think they are fighting a mental game when they play strategies, because there really isn''t an element of the unknown. Fog of war? Send a scout unit out....no mind that the scout unit has to report its findings back. UnitA vs. UnitB? UnitB always wins. Gold Mine with two laborers? Hmm, that''s 20gold per 30 seconds...enough to buy me 2 artillery pieces every 2 minutes. See what I mean? No uncertainty, then there''s no real strategy...just clockwork calculations. The real world is an unknown, and strategy is as much an art as a science. That''s why I want to include unknowns in my game...like not knowing if your units will obey, not knowing what other units know, not knowing if you can even access your units. Not knowing if UnitA will beat UnitB.

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Dauntless    314
As for roles, I think silvermyst pretty much got it

I would possibly include 3 more, depending on how complex you wanted your game

Communication- Specialists that can carry messages and orders, not related to scouts. Scouts are the eyes and ears, communication are the ears and mouth
Supply- Logistics, Quartermasters, supply depots, etc
Transport- troop transports that are not integral to the unit. For example, Helicopters, Higgins Boats, Evac units, etc.

In my personal game, I have it divided as follows (note some are fictional units, aoms are historic):

Infantry
Mobile- Air Mobile, Airborne, Orbital Infantry
examples: 23rd Air Cav, The Queen's Own Spaceborne (orbital infantry)
Mechanized- Land troops with integrated troop transport/IFV
examples: 1st Irish Guards, 10th Armored Infantry Brigade
Light- Rapid deployment forces, not much firepower
examples: Nihon Expeditionary Force, Marine Landing Brigade
Specialists- Mountain, Arctic, Desert, Jungle, Marines
examples: Royal Marine Commandos, 10th Mountain division
Irregulars- Special warfare units
examples: Special Boat Squadrons, Marine Force Recon, Dutch EV Naval Infantry

Armor
Light- Includes IFV's and also light tanks
Scouts- Includes some IFV's and specialized recce units
AFV (armored force vehicles)- MBT's and medium battle tanks
SPG (self propelled guns)- This includes MLR's and vehicles mounting large artillery

ExoFrames (my version of Mecha, very similar to Heavy Gears)
Light- essentially huge powered armor slaved to human body movements. Good for city fighting
Medium- all around fighting unit
Heavy- heavier unit good for rough terrain that tanks can't go to

Artillery
Towed- Artillery that can me made mobile
Mortar- Includes static and man or vehicle portable
Howitzer- Batteries composed of howitzers, mostly static
Rocket- Batteries of static rockets
Siege- includes rail guns, orbital bombardment, and other super heavy stuff

Air Support
VTOL
CAS
Recon

Transports
Evac VTOL
Troop Transports-

Specialists
Communications
Engineers
Medical

Note, I make a distintion between large groups and small groups with infantry. For example, in infantry units you have many specialists. For example, a Mechanized infantry regiment may contain a squad of Air Defense soldiers, and a few Anti-tank squads. The general category will determine what the makeup of their subunits are (for example, light infantry will have an abundance of regulars and scouts, but few assualt and support teams). In that sense I break them down to the following:

regulars- standard infantry
Assault- mainline infantry but with heavier firepower
Support- use heavier support weapons
AT- Anti Tank
AA- Anti Air
light- lighter armed units often used for scouting
Recon- special trained units to probe for information
Communications- communications specialists, this also includes Electronic Warfare teams
Medics- Field medics and triage teams
Irregular- Commandos (demolitions, infiltration, harrasment)











Edited by - Dauntless on February 9, 2002 1:57:46 AM

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Yeah, real world stuff is more chaotic, but I think that
all games, even chess, have some ''calculating''(though
strategy games certainly suffer the most from this).
Computers are nothing but numbers so I guess it figures
that it developed this way and even things like D&D and
tabletop wargames are much easier to keep track of if
numbers are used.

Action games don''t suffer from this cause calculating on
the fly is the whole point(can I hit that guy, can I make
this turn,...), interesting.

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TerranFury    142
The key, I think, is unit specialization. If a unit can only do one thing, but does it well, then it is naturally both strong and weak.

Another element that seems to be lacking in strategy games is the use of terrain. Most strategy games work along the lines of 18th century European armies: line up in an open field and shoot (but without the organization of lining up). There are only a few useful terrain features: chokepoints and hills. The advantage in both cases is defensibility. The enemy knows you are there; he just can''t get you to leave.

What about cases in which the enemy doesn''t know you''re there? This is one of the most important aspects of modern warfare. To be honest, I don''t have an answer.

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aramstudios    130
I think instead of the units being able to see all around themselves, they should only be able to see in front of themselves. You know, their sight could be a little pie piece (Like a pie graph... not the tasty kind). That way there would be a chance for a sneak attack and stuff...

COOLNESS!

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liquiddark    350
quote:
Original post by Dauntless
Look at how the English Navy defeated the Spanish Armada in the 1600''s. The English ships weren''t as big, couldn''t take as much damage and had far fewer guns. But they had two decided advantages. They were faster, and they had better Admirals and sailors. How do you accomplish that in a RTS?


From a unit balance pov, you make the ships faster and more maneuverable, and remove the ability to automatically hit what you shoot at, perhaps supplemented with better formations. Instant reasonable approximation.

ld

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Spoonbender    1258
Then you''re down to the scale of Commandos, where you sit down and fiddle aroud with 5-6 soldiers , and tries to get them past a not much higher number of enemies. If you want to include anything resembling an army, the actual units FOV isn''t too important... Any decent soldiers have this nasty tendency to look around them to see if people are sneaking a small army up behind them... Their line of sight might be more relevant. If you could actually hide behind things, and make an ambush, or if certain units couldn''t move (or were far slower) in certain terrain, it''d open up some new possibilities.

The problem is that in most current games, even if you have specialized units, you don''t actually need them. Who needs a scout when the map is small enough for a tank to drive through it in a few minutes? When you can send a flying unit out to zoom through the enemy base? Why use medics when your infantry are useless anyway, and dies like flies, so you don''t have time to heal them? Or when you can just build new units all the time to replace the dead ones? Who cares that the big invulnerable tank is damn slow, when it doesn''t actually hamper its ability to survive against faster units? What''s the point in artillery if they have maybe 20% longer range than a tank? Just because you come up with specific roles for all units doesnt mean they''ll actually be used. You need to make sure the player really *needs* someone to fill that particualr gap in their forces

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smiley4    193
Say, why not make an ancient warfare game based on formation tactics -- like what Sun Tzu wrote about in The Art of War. You command each troop or regiment of soldiers by formation. Archers, ready! Front line form up for advance! You know, things like that. Have a RTS that focuses on the need for cooperation within an army and have the battle outcome be decided due to the preperations or lack of preperations made for battle, the leadership, and the cooperation of the soldiers.

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Excellent topic, excellent replies

a couple of dynamics that perhaps have not been mentioned.

quanity vs. quality - inferior units are less expensive.
so will 5 subpar tanks be superior to 2 top notch tanks? given that the cost is the same?

Tsun Tzu''s law of fortification: the first to arrive and deploy has the advantage on the incoming army. Could stationary troops be enhanced over time(up to a maximum limiter) to reproduce the advantage of a well rested and fortified soldier?

Tsun Tzu''s (shih) a bit abstract here but i guess it resolves to the ability to instantly destroy a diametrically opposed element.
whereby an anti tank gun cleans the floor with tanks, mounted soldiers over footsoldiers, pikemen over mounted soldiers. (much like paper rock scissors i suppose)

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alnite    3438
quote:
Original post by smiley4
Say, why not make an ancient warfare game based on formation tactics -- like what Sun Tzu wrote about in The Art of War. You command each troop or regiment of soldiers by formation. Archers, ready! Front line form up for advance! You know, things like that. Have a RTS that focuses on the need for cooperation within an army and have the battle outcome be decided due to the preperations or lack of preperations made for battle, the leadership, and the cooperation of the soldiers.
That's pretty much the same design for my future future future RTS game . Anyway, today RTS games, each unit has a mind of its own. I don't know how many units I have lost because each unit try to be a "hero" by attacking a well fortified base alone just because it takes an aoe damage. Or they attack enemy units just because they are in range; as a result: unwanted battles.

In real battles that I observe, in fiction and historical movies, whether a soldier attacks or not, it depends on the order of the general/commander. How a general wins a battle is mainly because his ability in leadership. It depends on how the general orders his troops, not what troops look like, or what their roles are. Sure, some of them serve different roles such as melee (knights), ranged (archers), but they don't vary as much as we have in games.

So, my opinion, in RTS games, we rely too much on unit specifications, instead of the strategy in real battles. What does a player do when a battle clashes? They just wait...and see if their army can win the battle or not. In War3, you have to..the so-called "micro your unit." And they spend the rest of the game creating units and buildings, and acquiring as much as resources as fast as you can. So, the strategy lies not in the battles, but in what units you build, what buildings you build, how fast you build them. I think that's why hotkeys are so important in strategy games.

quote:

Light Tactical: Some fast moving unit, like a hover tank or something. This unit is a useful response unit, that can be used to fill for stronger units when something unexpected happens - also useful for scouting.

I don't really like the idea of a "balanced" unit. They tend to be overused because they fit in every single state of the game. I think a unit should serve one purpose, and one purpose only. They shouldn't be able to do anything else, or at least, not good enough of doing it (not even if we have a massive number of them). Let's say, Knights, they are good at melee, and that's it. Archers, good at ranged, that's it. Siege, good at destroying fortified base, that's it. For scouting, it's better to make one unit whose purpose is to scout, can't attack (or does a very small small amount of damage), somewhat like Observers in Starcraft.


return 0;

[edited by - alnite on January 23, 2003 4:39:02 PM]

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Dak Lozar    122
Just one more vote for the balance people. I remember the first hero that I created for Freedom Force... A nice Spider Man alike hero... I wasted close to three hours creating a nice skin and tweaking the numbers till I got him just right. Then I decided to go online and face off with some other FF Geeks. The all had Hulk alike heros and within the first 30 seconds of the game I was out... tell me that balance in any game isn''t an issue and I''ll tell you that your game is doomed to fail. At GDC last year I talked with a guy that set up a the database for a well known RTS - this database was utilized to tweak the units to ensure balance (among other things). Balance, in an RTS, is a big deal and giving the players the ability to create their own units without a system that will maintain balance is probably a mistake.

-Just my 2 pieces of wood from my resources.

Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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Spoonbender    1258
quote:
Original post by smiley4
Say, why not make an ancient warfare game based on formation tactics -- like what Sun Tzu wrote about in The Art of War. You command each troop or regiment of soldiers by formation. Archers, ready! Front line form up for advance! You know, things like that. Have a RTS that focuses on the need for cooperation within an army and have the battle outcome be decided due to the preperations or lack of preperations made for battle, the leadership, and the cooperation of the soldiers.


Hmm, Shogun: Total War?

Or Myst...

Just 2 games that come to mind...

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Dauntless    314
Dak Lozar-
The problem wasn''t game balance, but mission balance. What if the mission you played required you to be agile or stealthy? Then those hulk-wannabes would have lost. The problem with game balance is that the game designers rely too much on micro-balancing....the units themselves. Not enough consideration is given to macro-balancing...the mission context.

Take for example the Vietnam conflict. The Vietnamese were vastly outgunned in terms of firepower. In a raw sense, unit design would seriously favor american units in terms of both training and unit quality/firepower. And yet the context of the war had two vital consequences. Firstly, the jungle vastly negated a lot of the firepower advantage. Secondly, mission objectives for each side were different in that the Vietnamese just had to wear out public support for the war and/or enlist the will of the Republic of Vietnam people while the Americans had no strategy other than "containment" since the US government was afraid that an invasion of North Vietnam would lead to another Korean War situation (i.e. the Chinese would get involved....and this time they had nukes). When looked at this perspective from a macro view then the sides are balanced more or less. To focus solely on unit balance is a huge mistake.

Moreover, designers try to balance out the capabilities of a nation. In most designers minds, everything must be equal, including the overall capabilities of a factions units, as well as the resources and production capabilties of each side. Again, it is a mistake to look at design this way. Each side has advantages and disadvantages, but the sums of these pros and cons may not be the same for all parties involved. So how do you make it "fair"? Again, by looking at the macro view and designing by a context of the war that will be fought. Look at the American Civil War as an example. Here the Union troops had much better equipment (especially towards the end of the war), far superior artillery and artillery crews (Longstreet once said, "give me Southern infantry and Northern Aatillery and we can defeat the world) and outnumbered the southern troops in almost every major engagement by at least 2-1. And yet the south almost won...how? Their generals were by and large better than their Union peers, and the tenacity of rebel troops was greater than their foes. However, the real stroke that almost made the South win had nothing to do with troops or manufacturing capacity. It had to do with popular consent of the war. By 1864, despite some Northern victories, the Northern people had grown very weary of the war. To them, there really wasn''t much point in going on. Many feel that had it not been the victory at Vicksburg that Lincoln may not have been re-elected and the North would have sued for peace. In other words, the South''s greatest advantage was that it did NOT have to militarily defeat the North''s army nor destroy its manufacturing. All it had to do was defend its right to exist...and it was up to the North to destroy the South''s armed forces and destroy its capacity to defend itself.

In my own game design, one side is pretty outnumbered on a scale of roughly 5-1. There are a few unaligned factions, but even if they joined in, the odds will be about 3-1. It too is about a civil war, and much like the ACW, all one side has to do is weather the storm. The trick is in surviving the odds that are stacked against them. Victory for the FreeZone side (the minority side) will be measured more by how many units survive to make it to the next battle, and to defend its people who are on the run. The NEG''s Earth alliance Coalition troops must take the offensive and capture key targets with a minimal loss of casualities, otherwise public support will wane over time.

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Dak Lozar    122
quote:
Dauntless typed:
The problem wasn''t game balance, but mission balance. What if the mission you played required you to be agile or stealthy? Then those hulk-wannabes would have lost. The problem with game balance is that the game designers rely too much on micro-balancing....the units themselves. Not enough consideration is given to macro-balancing...the mission context.


OK, I think that I do agree with you on the ''mission context'' point. This is probably (just guessing) the result of one set of designers creating units and another set creating missions - once each group has completed their work - the title goes gold. Then we get the game in our hands and discover the pros and cons of specific units through our own or someone else’s discovery.

Or even worse, the missions that ship with the game have been designed with the knowledge of the imbalance of units and once players start creating missions with the tool provided with the game - we make the discoveries.

I think with the shift in developers thinking that they need to provide tools to allow players to create missions, or in other words extend the life of the game; they (we) have created an additional burden of creating a tool set that can be shipped to end consumers thus requiring (depending on the size of the game and the tools that are shipped with the game) extra programming talent and sacrificing balancing and play testing of the missions released with the game.

Having said that and taking your point, I think it’s safe to conclude that the real mistake is in the tools that the developer creates for creating missions/scenarios. The tools need to be smarter with regards to unit capabilities and visually display to the user the balance or imbalance of the current scenario. I envision a tool that would utilize terrain analysis along with unit analysis in providing a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each side vs. another. I’m sure that somebody out there is actively working on a tool that surpasses my sparse description.






Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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