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Dauntless

What does strategy mean to you?

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I''ve been thinking that lots of people here have different concepts of what strategy is all about. Some people envision strategy is like chess....planning your moves. Some people think strategy is about micromanagement....plot all the little details so as to out logisticize (is that a word? ) your opponent. FOr others, myself included, it is about leadership. When you look at the etymology of the word, it derives from the greek word strategos, which means "the art of generalship". In a nutshell, the origin of the word was about command and leadership. To me, this is what strategy gaming is about....the focus on how to best lead your troops. There is of course the element of planning, but I think that''s where an untapped game design for strategy truly lies. We''ve seen the chess like games, and we''ve seen the micromanagement games...but where are the games about leadership and command? Other than Close Combat and to some degree Shogun, I don''t think there have been games about the element of leadership. So when someone says the word "strategy" what kind of game do YOU envision?

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I like your idea of leadership and command, but I have to admit that when I think strategy I think planning. What makes strategy so fun for me is not just the planning, but the endless spiral of counter-planning ("if I do this, then he''ll do that; if he does that, I''ll have to do this... so I''ve got to stop him from doing that...").

I would be very curious to see, in a multiplayer context, how you could "out general" your opponents, though. The idea implies a lot of social gameplay that''s been woefully underexplored.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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"I like your idea of leadership and command, but I have to admit that when I think strategy I think planning. " -Wavinator

In my mind, strategy is the game of predicting action and responding appropriately(generally before the action happens, by either attempting to prevent the action or causing it to be in your favor). It also involves leadership. I believe part of leadership is planning, and that both are important for a good strategy. You have to know what to do, but just knowing does no good if nobody will listen to you and carry out what you know has to be done.

Micromanagement is a skill, but is in no way related to strategy. In real life, there is very little micrmoanagement (at least from my understanding of war). There is a good reason for a chain of command. Each level handles the same ammount of data, but at different levels of granularity. The highest-ranking official handles only the large geographical data and most important details, down to the individual soldier that handles the finest details and each individual tree makes a difference in his/her strategy. If the highest ranking official had to control each individual soldier, there would be more chaos than already exists since he/she could only manage a small part of the war at a time.



"I believe; therefore, it is." -True Perception
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Strategy at it's highest is trying to get inside the enemy's head, to understand and take advantage of his way of thinking. So I'm voting for the planning - counter-planning spiral, except more like "if I do this, he'll think I want to do that, and then do that, but to be sure he thinks this, I'll also do this and pretend to do this" or "if he knows this, than he'll realise that I want to do this and do this as a response, so placing a spy here will give me early warning that my plans have been uncovered.". Austerlitz, Normandy, Midway are some good examples.

Leadership comes second to that, not because it's less important in real-life, but because it's pretty hard to achieve in computer games. Leadership towards AI armies is the same as planning (with morale as a different resource - much like ammo) and it isn't very satisfactory. Leadership between players of different ranks of a hierarchy is a good goal, but it demands pretty responsible players and it is almost as hard to achieve as "real role playing".



[edited by - Diodor on April 30, 2002 3:43:59 PM]

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I guess most people here have the idea of the plan-counterplan envisionment of strategy. I definitely think that''s an aspect of a strategy game, but I want a game that focus on the player''s ability to control his units in the best manner possible.

When you look at history, the world''s greatest generals were not only tactically and strategically brilliant, they also awed and inspired their troops. Alexander the Great''s men would have died for him, and had it not been for weariness, could very well have conquered the known world. Robert E. Lee''s troops were so enamored of him, that the entire Army of Northern Virginia once tippy toed past his tent so as not to wake him up. Cartheginians were inspired by Hannibal, Spartans of Leonidas, Prussians of Frederick the Great, Federals of Chamberlain, and Germans of Rommel to name but a small handful.

All of these men were military geniuses, but were also virtual Gods to their men. I think this is something to be explored. When all that matters is the plan counter plan, one assumes that ones plans happen without fail. In other words, if you tell your units to do something....they do it without fail. In the real world, this simply does not happen, but with the above generals, they were such tremendous leaders, that giving an order was virtually as good as having it done.

In today''s games, it is like chess. When you pick up a piece, you have absolute control over it, and you precisely know its capabilities. And this is where, at least as a warfare simulator, chess fails horribly. Different units of the same type will have differing effectiveness, they may be more or less disciplined, and may have superior or inferior commanders. And yet none of these elements are ever taken into consideration. I don''t want to eliminate the planning elements, but the player has to think beyond this. He has to think like a leader, and not a chess player. There''s nothing wrong with chess-like games, but I''d like to see something new that goes beyond this style of play.

Diodor-
You bring up a good point. Leadership of AI units will be diffucult, though not impossible I think. IT will require planning, but it will require more forethought, and also the ability to adapt and improvise more than in current games. What bothers me in today''s games is that discipline really means nothing. All armies are treated as robots subservient to the player''s whims. The military calls this command and control, and it is the ability to get your units to do what you told them to do. What good is a plan if your units can follow orders?

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strategy happens before the battle(the plan),
I call the counter-plans contingency plans,
and real life generals do take into account the effectiveness of the various bodies of troops on the field and what to do when their plan fails.

Dauntless: I understand how you perceive the word to be about command and leadership, but the thing is, the general makes the strategy(or did, we have military planners these days), so yeah, the general commands and leads, but he creates the plan first and that is his primary responsibility, the general''s officers execute the orders.

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Strategy for me falls into two distinct areas. Tactical and Strategic.

The general / government / president will form the overall strategic plan, i.e. invade Normandy. Now although all of the little details can be worked out during the strategic planning stage, the old axiom still applies that “No plan survives initial contact with the enemy.” This more readily applies to the Tactical details of an operation. So although the tactical plans may change, i.e. we’ve dropped the paratroopers in the wrong area, the overall strategic plan, i.e. take area Y is still in place. Any operation can be a good example of this, while the plans on the ground changed, the generals plan still remained the same.

Strategy is a multi-levelled entity that changes at the bottom, but remains the same at the top (unless something major happens). Strategy is fluid.

So far computer games have tended to model one or the other. Either strategic (i.e. Civ 2) or tactical (Fallout Tactics), very few to none model both with the same degree of detail.

On the point of generals, yes they are important figure heads, and yes they formulate the overall plan (or at least give the nod to their advisors plans), but their actual involvement at ground level will be very minimal. This gives rise to the impression that Generals are GOD like figures that no-one sees very much, thus when they do put in an appearance the moral boost can be like the second coming. Modified by how charismatic the leader is, leadership is more about style than competence. A charismatic leader can get away with almost anything and still people like him (e.g. Bill Clinton).




"Making it up! Why should I be making it up. Lifes bad enough as it is without wanting to invent more of it."

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
I guess most people here have the idea of the plan-counterplan envisionment of strategy. I definitely think that''s an aspect of a strategy game, but I want a game that focus on the player''s ability to control his units in the best manner possible.



I think whatever your definition of strategy, the plan-counterplan aspect is always going to be a major aspect of the gameplay of any good strategy game. A large factor in ''inspiring'' your men will be demonstrating that you know what you are doing, and that you won''t throw their lives away needlessly.

While I agree that players shouldn''t have godlike control over units, I think a heavily leadership based game would be hard to make ''fun''. Besides demonstrating your prowess on the battlefield, what can you do to inspire your men? Are these things fun, or are they just a tedious set of actions which you need to repeat ad nauseum? (try playing Black and White as a Good God and you will know what I mean)

Alternatively, you could take the RPG route. An RPG RTS would be very different to any current game I can think of. Your avatar needs to wander around a huge map, RPG style, gathering support and gaining followers. As you gain in power, so you attract the attention of existing powers and so you need to start fighting. It could be a great game, and it would lend itself well to a massively multiplayer environment or long term single player game.

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quote:
When you pick up a piece, you have absolute control over it, and you precisely know its capabilities. And this is where, at least as a warfare simulator, chess fails horribly. Different units of the same type will have differing effectiveness, they may be more or less disciplined, and may have superior or inferior commanders.


A good strategist knows this though, so even though the actions of the troops might not always be the same, the commander has counted on it.

There are also ways for a commander to ensure that his troops behave a certain way. If you''re afraid units might rout, make sure to not give them the opportunity (let them fight with their backs against a wall; make sure they know that you will kill any that try to flee), if you''re afraid certain units are not skilled enough, send those in as cannon fodder.

I guess to me, strategy is the thinking ahead. The ''if, then'' thing. Not only ''if this happens, then I do that'' but also the ''if I do this, then this happens''.

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I, personally, would much rather see a game about the "if, then" of strategy/tactics than about leadership. When I learn enough to make my first ''real'' game I''m going to attempt to make gameplay entirely dependant on being able to predict action and reaction (the "if, then" part). It could partly be that I''m much better at "if, then" than leadership in real life, and to me it is much more fun.



"I believe; therefore, it is." -True Perception
"The Requested Information Is Unknown Or Classified" -Anonymous

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