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Butcher's Bill?

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Hello ever''body. I''m currently designing an RTS. I don''t want it to be the standard SC clone. I want to make it so that if you sacrifice too many your units, your other units won''t be as likely to obey your orders. I''m implementing a morale system, but I''d like a few more ideas of how I can do this... Thanks and God Bless, Jim

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What is the difference between "sacrificing" your units and just getting beaten?

And, if soldiers desert you when you are losing, you can look forward to losing even more.

One of the fundamental problems of the RTS genre already is that "it isn''t over till it''s over" doesn''t really apply. Often it IS over well before the actual end of the game. Punishing people for doing poorly just makes that worse.

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I agree with anonposter,
although it probably could be pulled off by youre soldiers getting demoralised if theyre slaughtered when in the enemies "area of influence" (in and around the enemy base), and maybe get enraged when their fellow compatriots are slaughter at their own base.

this would give the losing team more of a chance to make a comeback, with their units more willing to fight, though it could also create a kind of tug of war gameplay where you''d get these annoying people building up nothing but defences & waiting for the enemy to attack & get slaughtered so they''ll be demoralised, then attacking with their own massive force, cant see that being too fun.

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There''s a huge difference between treating your troops like cannon fodder and simply having send them "unto the breech". When a leader simply throws a wave of units into a position which is highly indefensible, and/or for goals which do not readily translate into a meaningful contribution for victory, then that is sacrificing your troops needlessly.

Want some examples from history? Pickett''s Charge: most people didn''t understand Lee''s decision to do this, and Longstreet practically begged Lee not to go through with this. Lee made a tragic miscalculation, but he essentially threw away his troops needlessly in a hopeless charge. Charge of the Light Brigade: as made famous by the poem. The French at Dien Bien Phu: The french basically said, "if you fight like real men out in the open, we''ll kick your ass", and instead had to take a taste of their own....only a few hundred out of 16,000 survived that battle. And these are just examples I could think of in two minutes or less. So what are examples of sending them "unto the breech"? Just about any amphibious invasion of WWII or the Russian defense of Stalingrad. The losses were horrendous, but there was really no other choice...it was a do or die situation. That makes the distinction between sacrificing your units as cannon fodder, and doing what has to be done. In the Civil War, Grant was called the "The Butcher" precisely because he treated his troops like cannon fodder. He knew he could soak up the losses but Lee could not. As a consequence, his troops hated him, and morale, both in the Army of the Potomac and in the Northern states was at an all time low, despite actually finally putting Lee on the run.

I think Sam has a very good point. As a nation loses battles and troops, the morale can either get extremely low, or conversely can redouble. Take Japan for example, as their spoils of war shrank the Japanese resolve (and desperation) only got stronger. However, I think with most nations, as they lose more and more, their morale dips more and more.

Morale is a very complex system, and it depends on a lot of factors. Unit organization, the culture of the units, discpline, leadership, how "safe" a unit feels, the severity or importance of a mission, etc. etc. That last is often overlooked, but plays a vital role in determining how willing troops will be to follow through on orders. For example, in a simple reconnaissance mission, soldiers aren''t going to stick out their necks too far, but if it''s a last ditch stand to protect fleeing civilians, then those same troops may very well die without ever needing to take any morale checks. Situational as well as internal factors will play a huge role in morale.

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Any chance you could use this scheme but have some kind of "morale powerup" mechanism for the losing side? What I'm thinking of is a one time rally that troops can do that beefs them up for a limited time, so that when you do it it's your do or die gambit to beat back the enemy. This could be based on chance, or maybe leadership stats, or even something on the game map that the other player could control and counter against (say, like a shrine in a game about ancient warriors).

You could get more psychological about the whole thing, though. For instance, Jim Dunnigan, a wargame designer and military expert, has a bunch of example in his book "How to Make War" about factors that improve or lower morale. For instance, he says that being near armor, or having heavy air support, or being in the midst of lots of troops tends to raise morale. Of course, being scattered, being thin on the front lower morale.

I'd think that heavy casualties alone won't lower morale. Instead, that could just piss off your troops and rally them to fight harder. What if, instead, morale was based on losses versus the total fighting force you have? If you've got an entire division backing you, and you lost a squad, I can see you wanting revenge. But if you just lost a division and only have a squad left... well, maybe it's time to run.

EDIT: Hah, I should have known not to post into this thread until Dauntless got do it. Good points!


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

[edited by - Wavinator on May 3, 2002 1:37:46 AM]

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Thanks Wavinator

Sometimes I think I write my posts too long, so people don''t want to take the time to read through them, but I try to be thorough.

But about the topic, morale is a really complex issue that has tons of variables. A designer need not look at all of them or course, but I definitely think it will make a game have added depth of gameplay. I think the key to making morale an interesting game feature is to alert the player of a units'' decaying morale. If a unit just bolts and the player doesn''t understand why, then he''s going to be frustrated. If a player is made aware of a potentially dire situation, then he can try to make alternate decisions.

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Hey everybody,
Thanks for the feedback I''ve gotten thus far. It has been quite helpful; it has brought more questions to me, but for the most part, it has helped. A good morale system is a very difficult thing to implement, due to all the factors that would go into it. Again, I thank all of you for your feedback, and thank those about to reply as well.
Thanks and God Bless,
Jim

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I think if you''re going to have morale in an RTS, you really need leadership. Heroes and standard bearers in a medieval or fantasy game. Commanders in a sci fi game. If the commander dies, morale goes down. However, if a squad is taking heavy loss, but the commander is mowing down troops, morale will be increased. If a commander is murdered by a spy or something, the troops could charge without your command (kind of reverse fleeing.. you still have lose control of your troops due to morale, but the troops are attacking).

Another thing I''d like to see, is wounded soldiers retreating to the nearest medic, and another soldier stepping up to take his place. That could make battles last longer.. Of course, this doesn''t take away from strategy, as now positioning of medics is essential (you don''t want the medics too close to the front line, or they''ll be hurt, you don''t want them too far away for the troops to reach).

Yet another thing I''d like is intelligent soldiers. I''m sick of selecting a group that includes a healer, and having the healer walk straight up to the enemy I choose to attack and stand there waiting to die. I want him to know that he should cower behind the ranged troops.

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One of the most interesting displays of morale I ever saw in a game was in Close Combat: A Bridge too Far. One time I had two squads pinned down by some murderous MG42 fire, and I happened to notice from my squad info that one of the soldiers was starting to go berserk. Next thing I knew, I heard a soldier screaming and he charged from the building and made it to the next house where he promptly killed two germans waiting inside and then took out the MG42 (and the stupid game only gave him a silver star!!). In another instance, a flamethrower unit that was pinned down by some infantry in support of a tank finally busted out of his defensive position and point blank roasted a panzer at the corner of the street.

What amazed me was that this was totally without my direction. I had been ordering the squad to fall back, but they were so pinned down that they couldn''t even do that. I did manage to get them to throw smoke grenades (which is when the one dude went berserk).

I really hope to capture that feeling in my game. I think that perhaps players overestimate the fun factor of absolute control over something. Look at other things in life..we have little control over them, but they can still provide amusement or entertainment. And I think the surprise factor is what makes things truly intriguing and entertaining...if not sometimes frustrating. But isn''t that what makes us coming back for more?

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