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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
"The Requested Information Is Unknown Or Classified" -Anonymous

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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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Guest Anonymous Poster
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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What I wonder is how you can create the underdog army situation if all you consider is plan-counterplan? What I see is a problem is that, much like rock/paper/scissors, there is no set in stone moves to counteract other moves. So, given that you have an army which is inferior in quantity or even quality to an enemy, how is it possible to beat them? I simply think this can not be done if all that is taken into consideration is an action/reaction type of gameplay.

There is far more to strategy (in my conception) than that. Here is another problem...when all you consider is the end result of an action (say, attack) what of the means to get there? In martial arts, quite often it is one thing to know how to counter move, and another to actually implement it. Just because you see an opening in an opponent''s defense, and know you should do a shiho nage throw doesn''t mean that you are able or capable of actually committing that move.

In martial arts, you have to start small. In the Choy Li Fut class I took, we did 3 months of JUST stance training. That''s all we did for three months...no kicks, no punches, no blocks. Just 3 grueling months of horse stance, diagonal, cat and arrow stances.

So in my game, I want to take away all of these things that are simply taken for granted by the player. The victory will go to the player that can maximize the effectiveness of troops as well as formulate good battle plans to defeat the enemy. It takes both. It does no good to have grandiose plans if your army is incapable of implementing them. George Patton once remarked, "do not give great orders, give orders that can be understood".

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I can tell that my leadership idea is not too popular But I think I can make it fun in it''s own way. But perhaps that begs its own question. But before I get started down that topic (which I will post in another thread) I think that organizing your forces and learning the principles of leadership can be an interesting aspect of gameplay.

If you play a multiplayer version of an RTS game, you can assign different players different units, and assign an overall captian. In this sense, you practice REAL leadership skills, and not the management of AI commanders. If you play a single player game, each AI commander could have their own personalities that you would have to manage and train...as well as motivate your troops trust in your judgement and skills.

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A problem with leadership is that you are talking about things like charisma, respect and other social qualities that don''t translate to games or game AI. I suspect if you tried to implement such things you would end up creating a game where the goal is to find and exploit AI problems.

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I''m want to fight a war, not baby sit these soliders.

Shogun isn''t completely realistic. Neither is what you''re suggesting. If you flee in the middle of the battle, first thing I do as a general is to court martial you and make sure you will never be a part of the army ever again. And as for the fedual Japan like in Shogun, it''s perfectly reasonable to lose your head just because you fleed the battle even if your side won.

quote:
Original post by Dauntless
If you play a multiplayer version of an RTS game, you can assign different players different units, and assign an overall captian. In this sense, you practice REAL leadership skills, and not the management of AI commanders. If you play a single player game, each AI commander could have their own personalities that you would have to manage and train...as well as motivate your troops trust in your judgement and skills.


Exactly, I don''t see why people try to improve the AI and incorperate it into the single player game when you get all that plus more if you just add the multiplayer to the game.

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
I can tell that my leadership idea is not too popular



Argh! Don''t ya hate it when that happens.

quote:

But I think I can make it fun in it''s own way. But perhaps that begs its own question. But before I get started down that topic (which I will post in another thread) I think that organizing your forces and learning the principles of leadership can be an interesting aspect of gameplay.



As someone who''s been interested in the idea of a player being able to use leadership skills as a starship captain, I sympathize with your idea. But I just can''t envision what you do as a leader that''s not a bunch of responses to canned situations.

quote:

If you play a multiplayer version of an RTS game, you can assign different players different units, and assign an overall captian. In this sense, you practice REAL leadership skills, and not the management of AI commanders.


I think the problem with this is twofold: You''ve seen games, I''m sure, where you manage a bunch of people in an office situation or whatever. A lot of this comes down to micromanaging stats (don''t mix a slob with neatfreak; or don''t yell at the timid mouse character or their morale will go down; heh, or don''t fire the silent, moody guy, whatever)

The other part of the problem is that the people you''re managing aren''t real. Your options for creatively motivating them, or negotiating, practically require a human being.

It''s a tough one.



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Just waiting for the mothership...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote by Dauntless:
quote:
What I wonder is how you can create the underdog army situation if all you consider is plan-counterplan? What I see is a problem is that, much like rock/paper/scissors, there is no set in stone moves to counteract other moves. So, given that you have an army which is inferior in quantity or even quality to an enemy, how is it possible to beat them? I simply think this can not be done if all that is taken into consideration is an action/reaction type of gameplay.


Dauntless, seriously, really, have you been watching Andromeda? Sci-fi show featuring Kevin Sorbo.
www.andromedatv.com I think.
Capt. Dylan Hunt, true, he always wins(it''s his show) but he''s the perfect example.
Given your experience with martial arts I would have thought it''d just be the way you think, but that quote makes me think otherwise. What does the enemy want? Action/reaction does suck and if you play that way you will get beat, especially in chess, because if the enemy has the smallest amount of intelligence you''re doing what he wants.
You don''t ask "What do I to win?" you ask "Why is he fighting?" and then "Why is he fighting this way?". A concept so basic it made it into DragonballZ, to paraphrase Piccolo when speaking of Vegeta and a couple of other times as well, ''He''s different. He''s focused. He has no wants, no desires. Nothing to exploit. He''s the perfect warrior.''

I guess I took some leeway with your quote and perhaps you know what I''m talking about, designing a game with enough depth to illustrate that point is a challenge. That''s one thing that separates bad and good RTS''s and space sims. Notice how the good ones will have a map of the game world and you''re shown the course you''ve taken throughout the game and mission briefings will have a good explanation of why you''re attacking and what that mission''s effects are supposed to be, which does happen in real life because there may be missions where the stated objective cannot be achieved but the effect can be duplicated.

This is why heroes in movies have trouble with zombies and machines, they don''t care about being shot. All the training for using a gun suddenly doesn''t work as well because the enemy isn''t someone who''s trying to shoot the hero.

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quote:
Original post by Dauntless
What I wonder is how you can create the underdog army situation if all you consider is plan-counterplan? What I see is a problem is that, much like rock/paper/scissors, there is no set in stone moves to counteract other moves. So, given that you have an army which is inferior in quantity or even quality to an enemy, how is it possible to beat them? I simply think this can not be done if all that is taken into consideration is an action/reaction type of gameplay.



Plan/counterplan need not be action/reaction. A good commander will realise that his enemy''s actions are essentially unpredictable and take these into account, and look for win-win strategies, like in chess when you place a knight in such a way as to threaten two important pieces at the same time. In a similar vein, a good commander knows how to recognise such traps being laid and learns how to avoid them - although it is not always possible.

Even with an inferior force it should be possible to win with strategy alone - it is a case of understanding your army''s weakness and adopting a strategy to minimize that weakness. Of course, the smaller and weaker the force, the harder it is to find a winning strategy, but that is to be expected.

Like several people have hinted, I don''t disagree that in real life, good leadership is a very important factor. The problem is presenting the detailed aspects of it to the player in a fun way. Take your martial arts example - like you say, there is a great deal of training and discipline involved in learning a martial art, but do you see any of that in Street Fighter II? Would you want to? Would spending 30 hours of game time practicing the cat stance before you even get near a fight make the game more fun?

Of course, if you know a way to build up the leadership aspect in an interesting way, then you can ignore that last paragraph.

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"Plan/counterplan need not be action/reaction"
I believe that they are the same thing.
If I plan to move to point A, and think you will move to point B to counter that, I move a tenth of my troops to point C and make them much more visible to distract you from my real moves. That is a plan, and I am predicting your reaction to my action. As for troop leadership, it is the same thing.

If I had been leading well, every person on my army would know that I wouldnt needlessly throw their lives away. Thus, they would know that when I say "this is it, we stand here or lose", they know that defending this location is worth their lives and might come up with something surprising that ends up actually winning. Also, being the underdog does NOT mean you can''t when using only plan/counterplan. Unless the enemy is perfect, he has some weakness that can be exploited. Perhaps guard rotations at night are weak, and you can sneak ten men into the enemy camps and plant bombs all over the place and destroy all their equipment so that when they wake up from the explosions, half the army is dead and all their transportation and artillery is blown up. Then it would be their thousand fists versus your hundred guns.

The planning is not only against the enemy, but also ''against'' one''s own troops. Without being able to control them well, the great plans in your head will never amount to anything. You must understand what your enemy is doing and why, but you must also understand what your army is doing, how they feel, and why.



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

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quote:
Original post by Extrarius
"Plan/counterplan need not be action/reaction"
I believe that they are the same thing.
If I plan to move to point A, and think you will move to point B to counter that, I move a tenth of my troops to point C and make them much more visible to distract you from my real moves. That is a plan, and I am predicting your reaction to my action. As for troop leadership, it is the same thing.



I disagree that they are the same thing. Plan/Counterplan implies forethought and anticipation. A good plan also doubles as a counterplan for what you anticipate your opponent''s plan to be. Finally, countering your opponent''s plan need not invalidate your own plan.

Action/reaction on the other hand, implies very limited forethought. The more you can force your opponent to rely on action/reaction rather than plan/counterplan the more likely you are to do well - your own example is one in which you are trying to get me to react rather than counterplan. The best response I could make to such a scenario is not to immediately send all my men to squash your troops at point C (since that is reactionary behaviour, which is exactly what you are trying to achieve) but to adapt my existing plan to compensate for the fact that a significant portion of your force may be sitting at point C instead of where I might have expected it.

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So you are saying that plan/counterplain is thinking about proper action/reaction and figuring out what to do without committing to it? I included thinking and predicting (foresight) when I say action/reaction, because acting instinctively is stupid and is not a good tactic when one is dealing with ''bigger pictures''. However, it isn''t hard to think too long either, as delaying can be fatal to an entire group of units. Its just personal meaning as there is no ''official definition'' (afaik), so no reason to argue about it. I belive that what you mean when you think of ''action/reaction'' (acting without much thought) is what I use the words ''acting instinctively'' for.



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

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AnonPoster-
There is a danger in any game of a player exploiting characteristics of a game design to mini-max things and find loopholes to find a better chance of winning. That floats some people''s boats, but it''s also what patches are for. Me personally, I don''t necessarily believe in the concept of balancing and fair-play anyway I''ve made a point of this issue in a previous thread about the concept of why people want to play...for the fun of it, or to win...

Mooglez-
Just because a general has to retreat doesn''t mean you should fire him. If that were so, Davis should have fired Robert E. Lee early in the war. As the old saying goes, "discretion is the better part of valor". Japan had a feudal system that had a very different concept of duty and obligation, but not all Japanese daimyo were like this. Shingen Takeda was a famous daimyo who outlawed duels as a waste of talent, and actually forced the victor to committ seppuku for his overriding concern of personal ego over duty to his people. As well, he did not view failure in a single instance as failure overall. Unfortunately, stereotypes are just that...and even in feudal Japan not all people followed a strict path that most games force you in. Just as an aside, the character for Bu (which loosely translated means war, as in Bushido "way of the warrior" or Bushi, "warrior") is composed of two radicals which literally mean, "to stop" and "spear". In other words, Budo''s true origin was to stop a fight, not start one...but most people view feudal Japan as a very warlike nation.

As for multiplayer vs. singleplayer, I think it''s always nice to have a good singleplayer experience...especially because that''s the only way to tell a good story.

Anonymous Poster-
What I meant by my comment on plan/counterplan as a limited viewpoint is essentially what you are also saying. Indeed, I''m saying "DON''T ask what do I do to win". In martial arts for example, you simply don''t think, "okay, he''s thrown a side thrust kick, therefore he''s left his groin and supporting leg vulnerable....therefore my best move is a leg sweep or counter side snap kick to the groin". Obviously this happens in the blink of an eye, and whether it is conscious or not, this is not how it goes. Battle is dynamic and flowing. Actually, if you fight like this, you''ll get beaten by an intuitive fighter....over and over again. It''s perhaps very counterintuitive to the Western mind, but really, we shouldn''t think too much. The famous sword saint Takuan (a teacher of Miyamoto Musashi) once said, "the mind should be nowhere in particular". There are many ways to skin a cat, and you just have to learn to "flow" from one move to the next so as to minimize your opponents chances while maximizing your own. This works on a grand scale too.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Dauntless:
Oh, I know, I wasn''t trying to apply the thinking long and hard stuff to the middle of a fight, I noticed what you''re talking about in just the couple of years I wrestled in high school.

I just meant that being killed or knocked unconcious or knocked down doesn''t necessarily mean that you lose, even in Andromeda, the characters usually talk about the plan while they''re enacting the solution.

Besides, when I said it was necessary to ask those kinds of questions, I never said how fast, for me, that''s what intuition does.

On topic:
Here''s a thought, for the planning stage, the number of aces up your sleeves at the start of the fight is an indicator of how good you are or you could think of strategy like in the game Castles that''s mentioned in The Dark Tower IV: The Wizard and the Glass by Stephen King.

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