Slippery slopes and intuitive games - Page 3

Slippery slopes and intuitive games

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Argh
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Argh »

Um, about the only thing that I have to say about this topic that hasn't really been said yet is that I believe that the main issue is whether or not decisive and proper tactical usage of a given set of units X can influence the economic situation Y in a way to counter the slippery slope.

It's in that area- the "blowing stuff up" area of a RTS (y'know, where the fun is supposed to be)- where I think that ultimately real play opportunities are created. People who focus purely on the economic curve are assuming that one tactical play is the same as the other, and that units with unique capabilities at different price points aren't ultimately the arbiters of gameplay... which they should be.

A good RTS is not about faceless swarms of spam who automatically counter each other ad nauseum, ala NanoBlobs, imo, and was one of the major reasons NanoBlobs was a failure as a game design. Lua's completely altered this picture- now I can give unique advantages to units at a tactical level, that require user attention to use properly- shifting the micro to the proper domain, which is fighting, and away from messing with a virtual economy, which is boring.

Good RTS games should involve delicate tactical problems created by the special abilities of the units involved. I think that people should be looking a lot harder at creating special abilities for their units, that if micro'd properly can greatly multiply their tactical utility, and less at economic factors, in order to arrive at a successful game design.
manored
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by manored »

Saktoth wrote:
manored wrote:It must suck to reach that point of the game :)
Actually it was quite fun and is something id like to make as a proper mod. You have this macro element of massive armies pushing against eachother in a general combat line, and then you have your units that take gold (relatively finite resource) such as heavy cavalry and siege engines, that you use in a more careful micro fashion, doing deep strikes against vulnerable positions, taking out defensive structures etc. It was quite fun.
However I believe it would be funnier if instead of having to build small armies all the time and send then you could make a single huge arm and watch the epic battle :)
manored
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by manored »

Argh wrote: Good RTS games should involve delicate tactical problems created by the special abilities of the units involved. I think that people should be looking a lot harder at creating special abilities for their units, that if micro'd properly can greatly multiply their tactical utility, and less at economic factors, in order to arrive at a successful game design.
Must agree here. The funniest strategy games are those that have lots of special abilities (or diferent options) that you can use and combine to form up all sorts of tactics.
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KDR_11k
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by KDR_11k »

Argh, econ is important because winning battles is mostly to reach the enemy econ, destroy it and thus pull his legs out from under him. Battles don't win the game, they remove obstacles to victory.
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Argh
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Argh »

I'm basically saying I question that assumption. IMO, I think it should be about winning battles, in series, to arrive at a victory condition, instead of grinding down an economy. The tipping-point should be the result of poor tactical management, not because you forgot to upgrade your mexes 5 minutes ago.
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Zpock
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Zpock »

Economy is an important part of standard RTS. An RTS with simple dull and/or minimal is certainly not a good RTS. It better have extremely good combat gameplay with lots of depth, and then it's really not a RTS anymore, but more of a "RTT" similar to world in conflict which is a largely unexplored territory as far as I know. WC3 went strongly in this direction, although not fully. And WiC is a pretty shallow game with very few units and unit abilities/mechanics in my opinion.

It's like saying you'd have an awesome RPG by ripping out all the character building and concentrating on pure combat. You'd have an FPS.
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Argh
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Argh »

I think it's mainly a matter of emphasis, not an absolute. If you want an absolute in an RTS format, good ol' Myth is really the example you're looking for... and it's totally unsuitable for multiplayer (I know, I'm one of the few people who even bothered I'm sure).
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Zpock
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Zpock »

Yeah, I'm not saying an emphasis on either side is wrong, just that basing an RTS on interesting economy is not a bad idea, and that a game focusing on tactical combat needs to have deep interesting tactical combat. Most RTS games do lack interesting combat mechanics and would become very dull if you removed the economy. Of course an overly shallow game is still appealing in some ways and to certain people. And there's always other aspects that could be brought in like teamplay focus in WiC.

What I mean is that, choosing and executing your build orders and countering (scouting! tricking! anticipating!) the opponents actually can be where the fun is and makes up the meat of many good RTS games.
manored
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by manored »

Let us not forget that games can also be at a scale where they involve large amounts of both sides, such as Rome Total War where economy and battle skills are both vital for victory.
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Zpock
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Zpock »

Totalwar series is all tactical battles only for multiplayer... and it's a bit of a clusterfuck in my opinion. Scale itself doesn't really do anything I think. I guess it could focus on infantry formation moving, yet they don't have the basics down at all like manuevring with proper wheeling/90deg-turning, instead of formations breaking up into discoherent messes, that can move freely trough each other etc.
Saktoth
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Saktoth »

You are talking about RTT's though, fixed-force games with no economy, or games with a totally fixed economy. Thats not only a different system, its a very different sort of game.
However I believe it would be funnier if instead of having to build small armies all the time and send then you could make a single huge arm and watch the epic battle :)
You dont understand, the battle was a non-stop constant quagmire of corpses. The 100 unit limit was only the limit for the units currently on the battlefield- but they would be replaced as soon as they died and be back fighting again in a couple of seconds. Its actually more fun to have that constant engagement and push-pull for territory than it is to mass up 300 units and end the game in a single big, short, bloody battle.
A good RTS is not about faceless swarms of spam who automatically counter each other ad nauseum, ala NanoBlobs, imo, and was one of the major reasons NanoBlobs was a failure as a game design
Nanoblobs failure was its economic model, AFAIC. Which is why game design must address the economic model of the game.
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Argh
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Argh »

Nanoblobs failure was its economic model, AFAIC. Which is why game design must address the economic model of the game.
I couldn't disagree more. The economy was just fine- the Sheep / MegaSheep system was actually very cool, in a sneaky kind of way.

The problem with NanoBlobs is that there was no unit in the game that could establish map control, which was the sole way victory was going to be achieved- by shoving the other guy into a space where he couldn't build any units. The Demon was also watered down so much that it quit being the fearsome base-buster it really needed to be, imo, and mainly just blew holes in attacking forces :|

What NanoBlobs needed was something like a LRPC and a swarm-buster, and a real high-end nuke, that took a lot of tactical success to build, to keep unit losses from piling up too much while Sheep assigned to the project weren't being used to pump out units.

My last serious game with Day showed me how bad things were. When we reached stalemate, I sent forces to uncontested areas of the map, and it had zero positive results for me- in fact, it cost me ground that I couldn't regain, as the main swarm collisions are almost completely balanced in NB, if both sides are building a decent unit mix, and I'd removed a sizable percentage of my available units to attempt my maneuver.

That's a bad game design- nothing the players could do in micro had a real effect, despite us both trying various stuff, and nothing in macro was really effective, either. Without a tiebreaker to break play up and create the destabilizing force needed to change the balance of power, both sides just ground away at each other, with no real effects. Makes for really, really boring gameplay- you get excited at first, micro'ing stuff to increase its relative combat power, then you realize that it just has no real effects on the global situation as your unit dies and you repeat ad nauseum, and get bored :P
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Pxtl
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Pxtl »

I can see where his impression comes from - when you play NB, you read over and learn about the specifics of teh units... but then you try it and the numbers get so big so fast that all that goes out the window and you start swarming. Mentally, the player thinks "if only I could actually micro a bit, maybe I could take an advantage". To the player trying it out, it feels like the huge numbers caused by the exponential econ are making the game unmanageable.

But what you're saying is that it's only hiding the real issue - that even if you were managing the units, you'd still be deadlocked.
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Argh
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Argh »

Yup, that's what we found. That's why it was stopped. I felt that it just wasn't interesting enough to fix, frankly.
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Felix the Cat
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Felix the Cat »

I wanted to address one point made early in the thread.
The point that seems to be a point of confusion is the counter to slippery slope... IE, how do we shorten and steepen the slippery slope. Frankly, the answer is simple. Counterplay. This isn't to say that every unit in your game must have an RPS relationship with every other unit, but the primary requirement for prolonging the climax of the game is giving the player as many opportunities as possible to do more damage to their opponent while spending less then their opponent does.
There is a big problem with this approach as far as unit balancing. If there is a way to do more damage while spend less, the player controlling more resources (i.e. winning) will have an incentive to use it and will be able to afford more of it than the player controlling less resources (i.e. losing), and thus any advantage the mechanism would have given to the losing player will be given to the winning player in a proportionally larger amount.

I think the key is to analyze the differences between the player that is winning and the player that is losing, and base the choices given to the player that is losing on creating ways to exploit these differences.

So, what does the winning player have that the losing player doesn't?
  • The winning player has a greater inward flow of resources.
  • In most Spring games, the winning player controls a larger territory, from which to gain the aforementioned resources.
  • The winning player typically controls more units.
  • The winning player typically controls more technology - the meaning of this varies per game depending on how technology is implemented. In a *A game, it means that the winning player typically has more advanced units and a greater ability to construct more advanced units.
Now, we break this list down into its components and determine ways to give the losing player ways of exploiting them, or alternatively ways to mitigate them without causing the game to degenerate into the "brick wall" situation where the post-climax resolution of the game takes a disproportionate amount of time.

The winning player has a greater inward flow of resources
This is the basic fact that distinguishes the winning player from the losing player. More units and more technology both are caused by this fundamental distinction.

I'm not sure what capabilities we can give the losing player to specifically target this greater inward flow of resources (though we will examine a related way in the next section). However, we can mitigate this by a diminishing returns system. In order to properly design the diminishing returns formula rather than just tossing numbers into a pot and hoping that what comes out is good, we need to fix two quantities: 1) what proportion of raw, on-map resource control represents what we want to be the threshold between a fair fight and a clear winner/loser situation, and 2) what proportion of net resource income represents what we want to be the threshold. Then, create the diminishing returns formula such that proportion 2 occurs at proportion 1.

(In more concrete terms: say we believe that the game should be "over" when one player controls 75% of the on-map resources, and his opponent controls 25% - after this point we wish the game to quickly move through the resolution and to the end. Now say that, through testing without any diminishing returns system, we have found that one player wins when he controls 60% of the total resource income and his opponent controls 40%; before this point the final outcome of the battle is still to be determined. We now create a diminishing returns formula that means that, when a player controls 75% of the on-map resources, he controls 60% of the total resource income. We have now created a diminishing returns formula that fits our game design goals.)

The winning player controls more territory.
This is the corollary to the first point in most Spring games - the player controlling more territory controls more resources. (SpeedMetal and its ilk are designed to break game balance, so we can ignore them.) This gives us an opportunity to design a game mechanism that takes advantage of the winning player having more territory to protect - namely, raiding. If we structure unit costs and numbers and the like to create a situation in which the winning player will be unlikely to be able to protect all of his territory, and create a unit or units specifically designed to conduct fast raids on resource gathering units and buildings, and other unit or units designed to scout and find weaknesses, we give the losing player a way to take advantage of the winning player's advantages. The losing player now has the opportunity to raid the winning player and lessen the resource disparity.

The winning player typically controls more units.
This is how, specifically, the winning player is winning. Within the context of a "traditional" RTS I don't know how to take advantage of this. Upkeep is certainly a possibility here, but we must be careful to ensure that upkeep does not create a "brick wall" situation in which a clearly winning player cannot bring enough force to bear to finish the game. Upkeep should be created much like diminishing returns.

The winning player typically controls more technology.
If we design ways to specifically attack technology that are not high technology themselves, we can give the losing player a fighting chance here. A lot of this has to do with setting - if we're in a sci-fi setting, perhaps one element of more technology is stronger shields - create a "neutrino beam" unit that drains a target's shield at a rapid pace. If we're in a WW2 setting, more technology might mean using more oil - require oil to be stored in holding tanks that explode easily, and give the losing player options to destroy these holding tanks, such as commando raids.
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Decimator
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Decimator »

Felix the Cat wrote:The winning player typically controls more units.
This is how, specifically, the winning player is winning. Within the context of a "traditional" RTS I don't know how to take advantage of this. Upkeep is certainly a possibility here, but we must be careful to ensure that upkeep does not create a "brick wall" situation in which a clearly winning player cannot bring enough force to bear to finish the game. Upkeep should be created much like diminishing returns.
One way that this could be accomplished is to implement a simple supply system. The winning player would typically have longer supply lines in order to keep their units functioning. It could be an ammunition, fuel, or heal type supply.

For example, autoheal could be outright removed and replaced with healing purely by being in range of a supply truck which would have a limited amount of healing ability before it needed to be recharged at an expensive supply depot(such a depot would be another target for the losing player). Supply trucks could also recharge other supply trucks, allowing the player to simply stream supplies to his army, assuming, of course, that the losing player doesn't cut him off.

Fuel supply would mean that units not in range of a charged supply truck would slowly take paralysation damage until it was fully stunned. A supply truck approaching after this point would heal this paralysation damage and make the unit operative again.

A combination of fuel and healing supply would mean that a cut off winning player would suddenly be in grave danger of losing his entire force.
Saktoth
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Saktoth »

There is a big problem with this approach as far as unit balancing. If there is a way to do more damage while spend less, the player controlling more resources (i.e. winning) will have an incentive to use it and will be able to afford more of it than the player controlling less resources (i.e. losing), and thus any advantage the mechanism would have given to the losing player will be given to the winning player in a proportionally larger amount.
We are not talking about some unit that is just more cost effective than other units, otherwise naturally that is all anyone would use. Firstly, killing more than you spend is about picking the right unit to counter his units. Thus, through playing well, with effective and correct unit use and choices, you can beat a player with a superior economy. Yes, the winning player can also do this, but if he is playing better economically and militarily, of course he is going to win. Unit counters allow a player to make a comeback from an economically poor position through good military play (or wild, risky gambles, hoping the enemy doesnt have the counter- air is the perfect example).

Secondly, it is about chosing the right unit for the situation. In most games, the best way to kill more than you spend is static defence. The winning player cannot win the game with just static defence- he needs to attack, while if the losing player makes a successful defence against the enemy, he can make a comeback. One of the most basic R-P-S mechanics in most RTS's is units > artillery > turrets > units. Turrets are the cheapest and most effective killers, but cannot be used in offence. Artillery can kill them by outranging them, but this takes time and an investment- an investment the enemy can turn against you by making a sortie with units and taking back territory.

Finally there are things such as AoE, scatter weapons and impulse, weapons which work better when employed against a numerically superior opponent.
create a unit or units specifically designed to conduct fast raids on resource gathering units and buildings, and other unit or units designed to scout and find weaknesses
Precisely the kind of counter-based system Swift is implying, though its still a good insight.
One way that this could be accomplished is to implement a simple supply system. The winning player would typically have longer supply lines in order to keep their units functioning. It could be an ammunition, fuel, or heal type supply.
Interesting proposal Deci, though logistics already exist in most games to a varying degree. The travel time from the factory to the battle means that there is a delay before your units can be used, and if he manages to penetrate behind your lines he can pick your units off one at a time (this rarely happens in most games though). This is especially where a counter system comes in- if the enemy quickly switches units or tactics, your response time is much lower. This is less of a problem with decentralized production, but that takes an investment.
To the player trying it out, it feels like the huge numbers caused by the exponential econ are making the game unmanageable.

But what you're saying is that it's only hiding the real issue - that even if you were managing the units, you'd still be deadlocked.
Argh said himself that if you take even a small force away from the battle you take significant losses. Thus, if there were some way to harm the enemy economy, or to increase your own economy beyond that of the enemy, you could quite easily win. Why are you deadlocked, then? Because your economies grow at the same exponential rate and there is not much you can do to either harm the enemies economy or make your economy grow much faster than his. Its an economic issue! You could make Nanoblobs a much better game purely by changing its economic structure.
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Decimator
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Decimator »

Saktoth wrote:
One way that this could be accomplished is to implement a simple supply system. The winning player would typically have longer supply lines in order to keep their units functioning. It could be an ammunition, fuel, or heal type supply.
Interesting proposal Deci, though logistics already exist in most games to a varying degree. The travel time from the factory to the battle means that there is a delay before your units can be used, and if he manages to penetrate behind your lines he can pick your units off one at a time (this rarely happens in most games though). This is especially where a counter system comes in- if the enemy quickly switches units or tactics, your response time is much lower. This is less of a problem with decentralized production, but that takes an investment.
The problem with the "logistics" in most games is that they don't allow you to harm the existing force without attacking it directly. With such a system as I outlined, you could surround them and essentially starve them to death without ever having to engage their main force.
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Teutooni
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Teutooni »

Uhh.. Farms.. I hate farms. One reason I like TA is that there are no makeshift restrictions like that.

And slippery slopes, eh? If two players are of equal skill, and have all the same options, the first one to make a mistake should soon find himself on a slippery slope, lest the games be "brick wall" stalemates, hardly the kind of back and forth Saktoth described. The one to make the first fatal mistake should really need to pull a miracle out of his sleeve or have the enemy make a similiarly fatal mistake. The losing player needs a chance, but what I'm saying, it should not be as much about something he can do, as what the winning player fails to do.

Did that make any sense? :(
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Forboding Angel
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Re: Slippery slopes and intuitive games

Post by Forboding Angel »

No, because that would mean that if you make the slightest mistake, You lose. Battles decided in 5 minutes? No thanks.
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