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Dauntless

Thoughts on Morale

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A coworker and I were discussing some things we''d like to see in strategy games, and he hit on something I hadn''t really considered about morale. He mentioned how some cultures really show a lack of respect for life because of the way they believe. For example, in Islamic and Asian cultures, they can take casualties that would be appalling to Western sensibilities. To them, it''s just how they fight. But what he brought up intrigued me when he was talking about "We Were Soldiers". He said one of the things about the movie was Mel Gibson''s devotion to his troops, and how far he was willing to go to protect them. And it got me to thinking about a story I read of a Officer in the Rangers. This man served 3 tours of duty, and not a single man of his under his command died (approxiametly 100 men). Because his troops knew hor far he was willing to go to save them, they were much more willing to take risks for him as well. So it got me to thinking about the mentality of "cannon fodder". In RTS games, the notion is so pervasive that its not even really considered. Troops are expendable....end of story. Some games may reward you for keeping troops alive by giving them experience, but I don''t think there are any games that penalize you for throwing them away. One advantage that American forces had in Vietnam was our superb Med Evac teams. It boosted morale knowing that A) your wounded buddy had a good chance of getting medical attention and B) if your butt got shot the same applied to you. I''ve heard tales in the Civil War of men clamping their ears so they wouldn''t hear their buddies screaming in agony out in the no man''s land. I can only imgaine what a horrific experience that must be. Ulysees S. Grant was called the Butcher by his forces and they hated him. The US people were on the verge of forcing Lincoln to remove him from his post, but Lincoln wisely knew that Grant was doing what was necessary to win the war...since Grant couldn''t outsmart Lee, he had to wear him down. Grant could replace his troops, Lee could not. I think that depending on the culture of the faction that you play, this could significantly affect the utilization of your forces. Abandoning the "cannon fodder" mentality will be diffucult at first since it''s not a "standard" RTS component, but I think it could add depth to gameplay.

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I think your idea is pretty interesting, but once you think about the big picture, I don''t think it is practical for gameplay balance.

Let''s say you mismanaged your troops in a game and accidentally sent them to die (or use as cannon fodder, they''re basically the same to me). The rest of your troops would get demoralized and their power would decrease. Now, not only you lost the cannon fodder troops, you would need extra troops to replace them because of the demoralization. So when it comes down to it, whoever loses more troops first will be at a much bigger disadvantage than losing just the initial set of troops - that doesn''t sound much fun to me.

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Jim Rome, of sports radio fame, calls that effect a "boat race" in that as soon as one of the yachts gets ahead of the other, it''s usually over. If you look up articles on balance, you will see graphs that discuss that very effect. It''s almost exponential.

Back to Dauntless'' concept. I agree that there should be a departure from the "send wave after wave to die" mentallity in games. Part of the reason that exists is the fact that unit creation pipelines are horribly unrealistic in most RTS. In fact, the very fact that you CAN create units gives them a sense of expendability.

Close Combat did a nice job of punishing you to some extent for losing units. They DID replenish them between battles in the scenario - but not at a rate that would keep you at the same strength level entirely. Also, since units'' skills progressed somewhat throughout the campaign, you were losing veterans in exchange for rookies. Therefore, you had a sense of loss when you sent your troops to do something stupid and they got waxed.

Of course, CC also had a morale/suggestion system wherein you didn''t really control the troops entirely. Most of the time they would find a way to do what you were telling them to. However, based on their morale at the time compared to the difficulty and danger of the task, they might just refuse. If an individual soldier got too freaked out, he would bolt or freeze up and not respond to anything. This was counteracted by such morale boosting factors as the proximity of officers, friendly armor, cover, etc. Often, if some Joe was holed up and cowering, you could roust him by sending an officer over near him to "shake him out of it".

You may want to look up some of the resources on the web where they discuss what was attempted in Close Combat and the challenges they faced. I seem to recall that Ferretman (Steve Woodcock) had a small blurb about it on his site.

Dave Mark
President and Lead Designer
Intrinsic Algorithm Development

"Reducing the world to mathematical equations!"

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Close Combat is an excellent series and probably my favorite RTS of all time. The campaign mode is excellent, as it discourages just throwing away your troops...and in a way that I thought was superb to Homeworld...which also did the same thing. Homeworld''s fault lay in the fact that if too many of your forces died, it became impossible to complete the game. In Close Combat, you could lose the battle, but if you played your cards smart, you could still get enough reinforcements to turn the tide.

Most of my thoughts about morale were about control issues. In other words, would the troops obey your orders. But I think other factors like Esprit de corps, and willingness to fight are just as important. The Marines creedo is that they will not abandon their men, this gives them a psychological advantage that shouldn''t be ignored. Some faiths or cultures also make them incredibly resistant to what other troops would face. In the Korean conflict, the Turks were the only nationality that did not have any of it''s POW''ed brainwashed or forced to sign "apology" papers.

As for the mistake factor, that''s why I don''t want a game with simplistic controls that would allow such a possibility. As Oluseyi pointed as a possibility in his recent thread, and in mine about Unit Control and Leadership, I believe there are ways to remove such a "blooper" from happening.

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Not sure if this would help, but I''m making an RPG with henchpeople and their base ''morale'' is based upon their willpower stat. From there, the leader''s Leadership attribute affects their morale. I would implement some kind of ''success/failure'' scheme for adjusting from there, but in most situations the NPC henchpersons wouldn''t be with the player long enough to have a noticeable effect.

The leader''s Leadership attribute also has a negative impact upon the opposing side''s morale, so that Lee (with his exceptionally high Leadership attribute) would have a demoralizing effect upon his opponents. The effect isn''t so drastic as to outweigh an equally gifted leader''s bonus, but it can definitely force an enemy who isn''t actually losing to flee from the battlefield before they would otherwise.

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I actually think the cannon fodder idea should not be abandoned, but actually be made a bigger part of the gameplay.

Sacrificing units is a HUGE element of warfare. Sure, it''s better to not have to sacrifice any, but if sacrificing the few means keeping the many alive, it most certainly is a smart tactic.

Units can be specifically created (before or during battle) for just this purpose. The player knows these units are weak but come cheap. He knows they are expendable. The units themselves probably even know it. But, in a well-organized army, even those units that know they are going to die will perform their part (otherwise, you really can''t run an army).

Cannon fodder can certainly bring lots of new elements to RTS gameplay. In a game like Shogun, you send out a cheap group of units to take the grunt of the ranged attacks. Another weak group is used to create a diversion and draw some of the enemie''s stronger units into a trap. Some more weak units are used to start close combat, keeping stronger units in reserve, ready to charge the ongoing battle from a flank (or even rear).

Cannon fodder units can be a determining factor in battle. Well-used, they can be a great aid to a general. If not used properly though, they can do more harm than good. If a group of cannon-fodder units cannot reach their destination and turns and runs (they are not the units with high morale) right back to their core army, they might unnerve some of the good soldiers there. And this might bring the morale of the entire army down.

PS I don''t think Western/Islam/Asian cultures differ all that much in their core thinking. The Crusaders took huge losses, but that didn''t seem to stop them from sending more units to their deaths. The Asian way of thinking (just been reading Art of War by Sun Tzu) doesn''t think life is cheap, but it does think that anything needs to be done to ensure a victory. If units have to be sacrificed, so be it. But Sun Tzu''s teachings also show that they preferred to not even do battle at all. According to Sun Tzu it''s more important to keep your own power intact, than to destroy your enemy''s power. It''s more important to keep your own army intact, than to destroy your opponent''s. But, if sending a group of cannon fodder units to a sure death means victory, one should NEVER even wait a second before deciding.

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Silvermyst

I think it depends on the culture of the side you play. In asian and islamic warfare (and other countries...like Slavs for example), there is really no stigma attached to sending human waves to be annihilated. Try doing that with American trrops or European troops and the people are going to be calling for the general''s head.

Some countries SHOULD be allowed this, but others should not. This was what I was trying to point out earlier by saying that it depended on who was fighting. Other than in exceptionally rare circumstances (for example, D-Day or the other amphibious assaults on the pacific islands) should cannon fodder attacks take place.

The problem with strategy games now is that all sides can do this with little to no repercussion. I think it''d be interesting to play a country that has to take care of its troops or suffer morale problems, versus a country that does not have this stigma.

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
Silvermyst

I think it depends on the culture of the side you play. In asian and islamic warfare (and other countries...like Slavs for example), there is really no stigma attached to sending human waves to be annihilated. Try doing that with American trrops or European troops and the people are going to be calling for the general''s head.




Hmm...not sure how accurate this is, Dauntless. At the very least, this is a gross generalization. Much of the Art of War surrounds the concept that the truly great military strategists could win a fight without losing a single man, by outsmarting their opponents. When faced with an obviously superiour force or a clearly losing situation, armies would surrender rather than ''fight to the death''. This is not the case throughougt their history, but in at least certain points of Asian history (and to say Asian rather than specify Japanese, Chinese, Mongol, etc. is a gross generalization as well) there was a huge stigma against loss of life.

As for the Muslims, well, if we look at the history of the Crusades we see that the worst atrocities were those committed by the civilized Europeans (including rape, murder, and cannibalism, to name a few choice examples) so again I don''t think this example holds true.

Conversely, if you read any history of WW2, you soon see that ''civilized'' Western countries have as little regard for human life as any of the worst offenders in the East. There are many instances where the lives of Allied troops were thrown away simply to create a diversion for another invasion force or whatnot.

At the very least, I''d be very careful to refer to any war movie as being even a slightly accurate depiction of what happens in war time. Particularly a star vehicle as ''We Were Soldiers'', which I refer to as part III in the Braveheart trilogy (The Patriot being the second part). Hollywood is notorious for rewriting history to serve their purposes and although I haven''t seen this movie, I''d wager it''s as inaccurate as most of these other films (U571, for example).

Just thought I''d throw that out there, and this is by no means a stab at you personally, Dauntless, so please don''t take it that way.

R.

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quote:
Units can be specifically created (before or during battle) for just this purpose. The player knows these units are weak but come cheap. He knows they are expendable. The units themselves probably even know it. But, in a well-organized army, even those units that know they are going to die will perform their part (otherwise, you really can''t run an army).


This depends on the culture. In WWII Japanese kamikaze pilots knew they were going to die but they believed that their death would bring them reward in the afterlife. Same with the human waves the Iranians used. In WWI British general Arthur Haig was lambasted in the press for the enormous casualties suffered under his command. Same w/ Ulysses S. Grant. In WWI the French army briefly revolted refusing to be used as "human grapeshot" any longer. They remained on the defensive but would not attack. This is the point that Dauntless was trying to make (I think). Some "races" or cultures would allow you to have cannon fodder but others would not.

quote:
Cannon fodder units can be a determining factor in battle. Well-used, they can be a great aid to a general. If not used properly though, they can do more harm than good. If a group of cannon-fodder units cannot reach their destination and turns and runs (they are not the units with high morale) right back to their core army, they might unnerve some of the good soldiers there. And this might bring the morale of the entire army down.


That''s pretty scary that you feel the downside to using cannon fodder is that they might not die and in surviving they could bring down the morale of the "good" units.


quote:
The Asian way of thinking (just been reading Art of War by Sun Tzu) doesn''t think life is cheap, but it does think that anything needs to be done to ensure a victory. If units have to be sacrificed, so be it. But Sun Tzu''s teachings also show that they preferred to not even do battle at all. According to Sun Tzu it''s more important to keep your own power intact, than to destroy your enemy''s power. It''s more important to keep your own army intact, than to destroy your opponent''s. But, if sending a group of cannon fodder units to a sure death means victory, one should NEVER even wait a second before deciding.

The theoretical musings of a Chinese general 2000 years ago are not as relevant as the actions of Japanese kamikaze pilots a mere six decades ago. How about the Chinese justice system where executions take place in sports stadiums and unauthorized pregnancies are terminated by the government at the moment of birth. It is a fact that Asian cultures place a lower value on human life than Western cultures. This is to say nothing of the Middle Eastern cultures where sacrifice is extolled and encouraged to extreme ends.

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quote:
Original post by ewiar


The theoretical musings of a Chinese general 2000 years ago are not as relevant as the actions of Japanese kamikaze pilots a mere six decades ago. How about the Chinese justice system where executions take place in sports stadiums and unauthorized pregnancies are terminated by the government at the moment of birth. It is a fact that Asian cultures place a lower value on human life than Western cultures. This is to say nothing of the Middle Eastern cultures where sacrifice is extolled and encouraged to extreme ends.


Not true. Sun Tzu is alive in well in asian culture, especially in business, which to the asians is another front in which to fight. And now I''m generalizing...

I don''t think you can say it''s a fact that Asian cultures place a lower value on life then Wester cultures. I think it would be more accurate to say that in the case of massively overpopulated Asian countries which do not have many of the economic benefits we in North America and Europe take for granted, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. They have a completely different concept of ''individuality'' which we tend to take for granted in our own society. Analyzing a foreign culture with the critical eye of your own provileged position is the worst form of ignorance and jingoism, in my opinion. It is also a form of colonialism and orientalism, which does nothing to further our understanding or appreciation of other cultures.

/lecture.

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