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Allowing players to create procedures in strategy games

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#1 agemO   Members   


Posted 02 March 2013 - 08:12 PM

Hi, I'm not an English native speaker and I apologise for all the mistakes you will see in the following post.
I just want to talk theoretically about what could, and I think should, be a feature in strategy games or even a whole new game design.

I first think about it when I encounter something very frustrating in the first strategy game I played to. In this game (fragile allegiance) you had to rule over a bunch of asteroids. Every month in this game a federal ship come to one of your asteroid and you can sell him the resources you have accumulated on that asteroid, therefore every month you have to send all your resources from all your asteroid to that asteroid thanks to a ship or a teleporter.

The first month when you have only few asteroids its fun, but then it becomes very repetitive, boring and sometimes you just don't have the time to do it !
Then I thought "Why the hell can't we just tell a ship to travel every month to collect all the resources and bring them to one asteroid ?"

And in every details of that game and all those I have played since I encountered this "problem" which often I think is not a misconception but a choice : you can never build an organisation, a system where you have put in place procedures, where you can give orders.

When you can do it it is just for a few details and you never have the possibility to give exactly the order you want to use.

There are many examples where you can do it partially, and sometime I think it's a good idea to force the player to use "supervisors" to take care of substructures of your empire since it can add something interesting to the game, but I'd love to see a game where you can really take care of every micro management details by giving orders or by putting procedures into place.

It would be something systematic : for example in the game alpha centaury you can give to a terraformer unit orders such as "plant forest everywhere" but neither "plant fungus everywhere" nor "plant forest exactly on the following area" : of course you can make the action "plant fungus or forest just there" but you will have to do it for every small square of the area you want to cover.

In the kind of game I would like to exist (I have no time to develop myself anything), every action could be put into more complex procedures : to continue with my first example :
-I can tell my ship to travel from one asteroid to another one
-I can take resources from an asteroid to store it in the ship
-I can unload the resources of the ship

Therefore I should be allowed to build a procedure that make my ship collect the resources of every asteroid and unload them on my main asteroid.

Every or most of the actions that the player can make would be usable in a procedure, events such as "new asteroid discover" could also be used
in procedure to automatically explore or colonize it.

That kind of feature could be used both in turn by turn and real time strategy game, I really think it would make very funny games and I wonder what do you think about it.

#2 Dragonsoulj   Members   


Posted 02 March 2013 - 09:03 PM

Some minor things like what you mention exist, but not to the extent of programming procedures. Sins of a Solar Empire has a few "Auto" options for units, like the scouts to "auto" explore each star/planet/asteroid and gather information until the ship is destroyed or you cancel it. I believe the colonize units can "auto" colonize, but this option requires the ship to be within the gravitational sphere.


I think having more automated functions that the player has control over seems like a really great idea. It would eliminate some micromanagement, but that management also is part of the skill players develop, particularly in RTSs. Some players are better at that while others are better at macromanaging.


If this kind of feature were to be implemented, then I would suggest adding an option to disable it for all players within a given match. The disable feature could be used for competitions where the players are used to being able to micro and macro manage based on their style.

#3 agemO   Members   


Posted 03 March 2013 - 08:58 AM

"It would eliminate some micromanagement"


In fact I think it would allow more micromanagement because you can control every details, you have no "supervisors" or "automatically improve the base", you would be able to give a precise schedule for everything.

But you're wright (right ?), once you have put a procedure in place you don't have to take care of it except if you want to change or remove it.


It would be such a pleasure to see a whole part of your empire working by itself thanks to the orders you gave cool.png

#4 ZeroBeat   Members   


Posted 04 March 2013 - 07:37 AM

In theory making everything manage itself sound like fun. It would be really cool to set up what your units do and then just watch it happen in theory.


If there is no user input required after that....wouldnt it make the whole game more like a movie?

The player wouldnt really be as attached to his/her units. Decisions wouldn really matter as much.


1) Imagine if the player told his units to build him a city. The units will make a city while the player concentrates on something else.

2) Now imagine if the player places the buidling in the city, makes it look how he wants it to look.


If some enemy attacks that newly build city, which city do you think will bring more emotion from the player?


Automation is great but I think every game needs to find its own balance. Probably that balance would depend on the strategic level of the game.


Maybe some of the more repetetive things can be completley removed to make the more important parts shine more? Ie find the core of the game and only add things which actually make the experiance better, not add unnesseccary stuff.

#5 Stormynature   GDNet+   


Posted 04 March 2013 - 10:41 AM

And in every details of that game and all those I have played since I encountered this "problem" which often I think is not a misconception but a choice : you can never build an organisation, a system where you have put in place procedures, where you can give orders.


I have often thought about this issue over the years. Though I must admit I tend to think of it in a city/country/world builder perspective when thinking about various solutions. To summarise:


You build a city requiring a number of complex interactions to maintain and grow the city into a success.


Your success leads you to being promoted to running an area comprising a number of cities.....at this point most games (in my experience) require you then to individually manage each of the cities into successes i.e. the same tasks as previous but now multiplied by the number of cities. Personally I think that this is where the design goes wrong. What I would prefer is that when you graduate to this level you are faced with a new set of tasks/goals and a different set of interactions and the previous level (i.e. at city level) becomes an optional choice i.e. you can employ city managers to carry out the tasks associated at City level while you are involved at the country level. Upon achieving success at this level...


You then graduate to say continent level or world level at which point you have country leaders managing the countries while you focus on a new set of tasks/goals.


The idea obviously being in games such as this - you automate the processes below you whilst finding new challenges in front of you developing a perception in growth/progression for the player.



In considering along this lines though I also believe the ability to literally focus back down levels to say a city level perspective would be useful in terms of micromanaging a problem that might occur i.e. a devastating earthquake, or your home town wishes to celebrate your being world president and you must return to the throw out the cow pattie for the local festival, or your sponsoring of a new technology may have rendered a country out of work as synthetic beef replaces the ranchers of that country, or the city manager whom you employed has just been busted accepting bribes requiring an interim coverage as you employ a new city manager etc etc. Basically creating a situation by where you can step in and problem solve issues before leaving them to automation again. That capacity for event creation I think would be a powerful tool for maintaining player interest.


None of this would be a simple task I guess....but the idea of automating the repetitive processes that multiply with growth is a very attractive one.

Edited by Stormynature, 04 March 2013 - 10:42 AM.

#6 agemO   Members   


Posted 04 March 2013 - 04:29 PM

"1) Imagine if the player told his units to build him a city."


I think I was not clear enough, because that is exactly what I want to suppress : "automatic building", "supervisors" etc..., the idea is that the player would manage every detail. indeed, once I will have told a ship to collect resources every month I will not have to displace, load and unload it myself but it will will follow exactly the precise orders I gave to him (it ? does my sentence imply that I am talking about some kind of pilot ? can orders be given to a thing ? There is no pronouns for objects and things in my native language, only male and female ones).



I totally agree with you Stormynature : "the idea of automating the repetitive processes that multiply with growth is a very attractive one", and the idea to allow the player to come back to a lower scale is pretty good laugh.png

I'm not sure this is exactly what I meant, I think the difference between what you say and what I say is the way to automate things : my idea would be more the following : the player build a city, then another, then he should think : "I should make a procedure to build cities !", and then every time he will discover a place to build a city he would just have to launch the procedure he made. That would allow him to say "hey but here it's a place full of iron and coal ! I will use my plan to make an industrial city !, and here a farming city !", to manage every details, and not just 3 or 4 general management choices such as "explore/conquer/build".


In your design I think it's more that when the scale changes, management of the lower level of details is made automatically by the computer.


I think these two ways to "automate" things would make pretty good games, that's a shame they don't exist sad.png



Edit : Yeah ZeroBeat indeed I think you cannot place every buildings for each of your dozens of colonies, and in fact in games where you have to put click by click everything you just do it quickly always in the same way cause you don't have time, and you don't appreciate the 23rd colony as much as the first one. One solution is to make it automatic, but you will not be able to control the details if you want to. Another solution is to allow procedures or plans, so that the player can take his plan, modify it a little bit if there is something different, or make a new one if a colony has a special position for example. To prevent the game from looking like a movie, I think keeping bringing enough new situations to the player can be enough.

Edited by agemO, 04 March 2013 - 04:41 PM.

#7 ZeroBeat   Members   


Posted 05 March 2013 - 03:29 AM

I think Stormynature said it much better than me.


By telling his units build him a city, I was thinking in the lines of something like Age of Empires where there is an option for the units to make a city. Not placing the buildings yourself.


One idea for the ultimate strategy game maybe one that lets the player start very low level. Eg worker/builder. And slowly gives the player a higher level of management with new gameplay mechanics and things to do (Stormynature's idea). In a sense that's what Spore does. It starts low level and by the end of the game you explore planets. In such a case automation would be necessary to take care of the lower level stuff.

That way the player can concentrate on what he is doing currently.


Then yes the player wouldn't really care for the 23rd city so much hehe. He would be thinking about the countries needs and/or something more high level. In the same time this feels like 3/4 games into one. A city manager, A country manager and so on. Most cases these type of games are different. Eg Age of Empires is real time while something like Civilization 5 is turn based.


That alone makes a large difference in how things play out. Making such a complex game will not be easy hehe. Maybe bringing new situations can be enough. Maybe you are right. I like your idea, maybe one day you can build such a game and see it it works biggrin.png If the level of management is the same throughout the game experience, automation can be a great tool. The fun level would depend on the implementation. Then starting something (eg new city) for the 10th/11th time would not be as repetitive as you can use an already created 'procedure' to speed start things.


How much automation does a game allow ? I think that's the key thing here. Should a game let the player be able to save every action they do and later just apply it to different units? Or only certain parts.....It will be interesting how strategy games evolve over time hehe

Edited by ZeroBeat, 05 March 2013 - 06:58 AM.

#8 agemO   Members   


Posted 05 March 2013 - 11:49 AM

Yeah indeed I think that this idea is just something very general and all will depend on the way it is implemented, I totally agree with the example of spore and I think it was not very fun in that game to totally forget all the previous levels of details, it was like doing something useless before beginning the real game (space phase).


I think the main point to implement it is to allow the player to use almost (usefull word isn't it ? indeed I think maybe the biggest issue is this "almost") every action in a procedure and force him to continue playing by bringing new situation to him, it would not be very different from most of the game : new tech, war, differences between all place you can colonize, old city were all resources has been mined, ...


"maybe one day you can build such a game and see it it works biggrin.png"


I would like to have the time sad.png , I am totally sure it can work in several implementations I have thought about.

Edited by agemO, 05 March 2013 - 12:06 PM.

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