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jollyreaper



Joined: 20 Jun 2003
Posts: 181



PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a few other thoughts on play mechanics:

simpler is better.
The classic example is building repairs. In Dune 2, you pressed a button and spent resources to repair a building. Every game since then requires to to maneuver around an annoying little repair unit. It's cumbersome and the extra complexity adds nothing to the game.

Another variation on this is how one goes about repairing mobile units. Again, every game since Dune 2 uses that repair unit. Dune 2 used a giant transport to nick units out of battle and move them to a repair facility. Perfect way to keep your units intact since the AI wasn't smart enough to retreat them for you and it's easy to lose track of what's going on.

Keep the limitations of your technology in mind when designing.
Dune 2 could not handle pathfinding. Therefore, the levels did not require it. The whole world was flat. Command and Conquer and Warcraft added complex terrain and the pathfinding algorythms never did catch up with it. End result, you pull your hair out when your forces get slaughtered in bottlenecks, columns get stretched out across the screen, and then to top it off, when your line of pokey heavy units comes up to the target, the line leader stops in his tracks the moment he's in range and you get shuffling and confusion behind him as each unit moves a little closer, stops in it's tracks, more shuffling, etc. The first unit is pulverized by the counterfire. In fact, your whole group would have come out better if they moved fully into range as a group, then opened fire. The massed firepower would have taken down the target more qucikly and the closer units would not have suffered as badly as the line leader in the first example.

Resist the urge to add "cute" features that don't help the game.
Games suffer far too much feature bloat. To misquote the scientist from Jurassic Park, "Game designers get so caught up in whether they can add a feature that they never stop to ask if they should." The expansion module for Homeworld, it added modular ships, two smaller ships can dock to form a more powerful unit. That wasn't anything other than annoying. Other games have upgrade features where an improvement like +1 firepower isn't just made at a research building, it has to be performed individually on each and every unit. Maddness.

Another perfect example of this is the whole resource thing. If one resource was good for Dune 2, why not two resources for Warcraft 2? Ok, how about three resources for Warcraft 2? And what did age of Empires have, was it four resources? Enough already! And this brings up the very next point.

Don't do something just because everyone else did.
This is the "old fat cop joke" of game design. You know that if there is an action movie, there will invariably be an older cop in it. If he's black, you know at one point in an action scene he will huff along and say "I'm getting too old for this bleep." By the numbers, you can predict it in your sleep. Well, RTS games seem stuck in the same rut. You have to build all your units on the battlefield. You have to make "support" buildings with as wind traps, farms, solar collectors, etc, to increase your overall unit count. Resource harvesting! God help me, resource harvesting! You either get a harvester or your worker uints will go traipsing off to the mine like ants at a picnic. You have to create manufacturing buildings and then upgrade buildings whose sole purpose is to let you click on little icons that increase unit firepower or whatever. Why do designers put this sort of thing into games? Because it's expected, just like every enemy base needs exploding barrels of radioactive goop, heavy weapons are left laying about the enemy's stronghold in logical places like behind the stairs or in the bottom of water-filled pits with monsters, your entire army is defeated in a frontal assault on said stronghold but you, the sole survivor, shall go on to defeat him in detail, etc.

If you're going to make a game in a crowded genre, make it so unique, so original that nobody will even think to compare it to any of the other ones. First person shooters were dead until Half-Life came along. First one of 'em since Doom that impressed me.

A few funny links to think about:

Game Cliches
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=videogame%20cliches

RPG game cliches
http://project-apollo.net/text/rpg.html
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with a lot of what you have said, a lot of good points, but I think this is one of those really contentious issues that can sometimes be over emphasised.

Sometimes people criticise game A for being too similar to game B and sometimes that criticism is justified, especially if the similarities border on plagiarism.

However, other people will applaud game A because it feels familiar to game B (which they really liked) and they want more of that same familiar fun wrapped up in a new package. Fundamentally all RTS games are about playing with tanks and soldiers, playing at war, something we all did as children and we all love.

Over time such universal concepts begin to develop certain rules, men have rifles, tanks fire over a longer range, jeeps are fast, etc. People begin to get a deep understanding for such things, expect them in fact. Sometimes developers take shortcuts, they put all the obvious things into the mix but forget to just make it good/fun, such titles define bad cliches and cause resentment and stagnation.

Occasionally a game will emerge that manages to stand the well established rule set on it's head and still work as a fun game. Such games are very rare but instantly successful and take the entire industry into a refreshing new area of gameplay.

It is still valid and desirable IMO for developers to take the well established familiar rules, fix a few things, add a few things and just make a really FUN game with their own spin on a familiar genre. A good developer should naturally come up with an interesting look, setting, story, sets of units, etc, etc - that set his game apart from everyone else.

Dune2 was a great game (the daddy of them all), so was Starcraft, warcraft and C&C, I played them all to death. They were all just evolutions of basically the same thing though (Dune2). I don't think there was one groundbreaking feature in SC/WC/CC that made them great for me, they were just all great games in their own right, each adding to and tweaking the basic rules set. Warcraft3 is now trying to go in a different direction from 1+2 by adding the rpg hero element - great! Might not be to everybody's taste but it will appeal to some, other games are also doing similar things and it makes a new mini-genre, the RTS-RPG - cool.

I know i'll buy SC2 when/if it comes out, hopefully it will be another great well rounded game. They are such experienced developers I'm sure they will have thought of all sorts of new things to add, some will just be tweaks and some might be major changes. At the end of the day for me it doesn't matter, as long as the game is FUN, I just like playing FUN games.
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jollyreaper



Joined: 20 Jun 2003
Posts: 181



PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Poo Bear wrote:
I agree with a lot of what you have said, a lot of good points, but I think this is one of those really contentious issues that can sometimes be over emphasised.


We're talking video games. Video games've got fan boys. Everything involved is going to be contentious, right down to the binding on the manual. Smile

Quote:
Sometimes people criticise game A for being too similar to game B and sometimes that criticism is justified, especially if the similarities border on plagiarism.

However, other people will applaud game A because it feels familiar to game B (which they really liked) and they want more of that same familiar fun wrapped up in a new package. Fundamentally all RTS games are about playing with tanks and soldiers, playing at war, something we all did as children and we all love.


Valid point. However, the "plays just like game x!" coolness factor is directly proportional to the amount of time it's been since x came out. That's why the retro feel of Starscape with ginchier graphics was such a bonus. If game x came out last week, being just like it has less appeal.

Now where you can really be spot on is if you can say "plays just like game x if it'd been done right in the first place!" But that's a pretty steep hill to climb there. Especially for RTS games, more have been done poorly than well. Nobody sets out to make a bad game, it's that things happen and a bad game results. Can you avoid the "things happen" route?

Quote:
Over time such universal concepts begin to develop certain rules, men have rifles, tanks fire over a longer range, jeeps are fast, etc. People begin to get a deep understanding for such things, expect them in fact. Sometimes developers take shortcuts, they put all the obvious things into the mix but forget to just make it good/fun, such titles define bad cliches and cause resentment and stagnation.


It all comes down to play mechanics. Is the game fun or a bore? Worst example of that ever, Afterlife. Supposed to be the gods and demons version of Sim City with a snarky Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett sense of humor. The jokes were fine but when you got right down to the gameplay, it was tediously dull.

For the bad RTS games, it boils down to "build base, defend against a few weak and pathetic enemy attacks, build a zillion of the only decent attack unit you have and march them all into the enemy base. Their pathfinding sucks but if you build enough of them, you can lose most and still win."

Fix that and you've broken just about every bad cliche of the genre. Smile

Quote:
Occasionally a game will emerge that manages to stand the well established rule set on it's head and still work as a fun game. Such games are very rare but instantly successful and take the entire industry into a refreshing new area of gameplay.


I was pretty bored with Starcraft because it did nothing to really advance the genre past Warcraft. It was basically Orcs in Space. Now in terms of polish, Starcraft was incredible. Production values were top-notch. Still, it was just Warcraft with a sci-fi tileset. Things got really ridiculous when bleedin' bugs with acid spit could knock down space cruisers. Marines with machine guns could accomplish that same trick. Oh, and the Zerg are magical, they can flap their wings and fly in vacuum.

The funny thing, though, the Starcraft storyline was interesting. For the Brood War expansion, the FMV's were slick as anything. In fact, after that stunning intro I was drooling and said "I want to play a game based on that movie. Heck, I just want to watch that movie, could you guys add another 85 minutes to it?"

Quote:
Dune2 was a great game (the daddy of them all), so was Starcraft, warcraft and C&C, I played them all to death. They were all just evolutions of basically the same thing though (Dune2). I don't think there was one groundbreaking feature in SC/WC/CC that made them great for me, they were just all great games in their own right, each adding to and tweaking the basic rules set. Warcraft3 is now trying to go in a different direction from 1+2 by adding the rpg hero element - great! Might not be to everybody's taste but it will appeal to some, other games are also doing similar things and it makes a new mini-genre, the RTS-RPG - cool.


I never liked Command and Conquer. Played through them so I could form an educated opinion. Basically, the AI was beastly poor and sucked the life from the experience. Then again, your results may vary.

Quote:
I know i'll buy SC2 when/if it comes out, hopefully it will be another great well rounded game. They are such experienced developers I'm sure they will have thought of all sorts of new things to add, some will just be tweaks and some might be major changes. At the end of the day for me it doesn't matter, as long as the game is FUN, I just like playing FUN games.


I'd seriously suggest getting a working demo up as soon as possible so your beta boys can tell you what works and what doesn't. Most of these crummy RTS games, you can tell that they designed it outward in with nobody getting to experience the gameplay element until a few weeks before the game went gold.

If you're planning on the writing and story elements to help sell the game, it's going to require a lot of effort on someone's part. Classic example, Crimson Skies. Nothing was really new about a flight simulator. In fact, they cheesed up the flight model to make it arcady and accessible. Thing is, the whole production was extremely top notch. Wonderful voice acting, a perfectly thought out and imagined setting, really gets you into the game. The radio drama approach was a brilliant idea, not just because the 1930's had a lot of radio dramas, it also saved them the expense of putting together FMV's or talkie head Wing Commander animations for every briefing. Still, that whole project was a ton of work.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing what you come up with!
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So in simple summary form:


BAD
1. Being too similar to a recent RTS.
2. Units charging headlong into obvious death.
3. Units getting caught up under each others feet.
4. Unit shooting stupidly into obstacles they should have gone around.
5. Excessive micro-management, a little bit is good as you feel in control but it is a fine line.
6. Good old tank rushes (noooooo!).
7. Excessive resource->build->research->improve loops, it can be good, but not EVERY single level.
8. Scouring the map because the level wont end until every single enemy is dead and the last bad guy has ran off and hid right in the corner.


GOOD
1. A well rounded fun RTS polished up to a high standard.
2. groundbreaking major new features are always nice Smile, if not that then at least a few new takes on the old rules.
3. An involving backstory with a few characters and the odd animation.
4. A nice well defined look to the whole thing.
5. Early beta testing to help make sure gameplay is ballanced.
6. A focus on strategy, fighting must require thought, not just build 100 of the hardest unit and engage.
7. Multiplayer.
8. Units that behave appropriately i.e. if your mate is getting shot don't just stand there looking at him waiting for the player to order you into action.
9. A full set of anti-tedium features i.e. select multiple units and assign to a key, queue up units to build, set waypoints, set rally points, set default unit behaviour style (hold, aggressive, defensive), set formation, etc.


There are lots more, but hopefully this is an indication we are thinking seriously about what is good and bad in the genre. Feel free to add to the list Smile
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jollyreaper



Joined: 20 Jun 2003
Posts: 181



PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds spot on!

Gaming nostalgia ramble mode on:

If I were doing this sort of thing, I'd probably be a lot less ambitious than what you're thinking of. I'd probably start out with something like Crescent Hawk's Revenge as a version 1. This was a Battletech game. You were given set tasks to complete on certain maps, had to do it with the mechs at your disposal. Game was about 20 or so "scenarios" long with several "scenarios" grouped together to represent multiple battles in a single story. Depending on the storyline, your mech could be repaired between battles or might still be damaged at the end of the scenario. There was no resource management. You start out controlling one mech, eventually you can control up to 12. You are given choices periodically as to which mechs you would like to take on a mission and by the end of the game you can also swap out pilots. Plot was advanced between scenarios with still art and text.

ramble mode off:

http://members.fortunecity.com/lethe97/chr.htm#In-game%20Screensh

The advantage of doing something like above is that it's relatively simple to impliment but still results in an extremely enjoyable game and the graphic engine work could be reused in a sequel where all the development effort would go into wrapping a bigger and better strategy element around the fun tactical gameplay. But, if you guys are good, no need for that intermediary step!

So, do you yet have in mind what sort of combat you're looking to simulate? Are you going to go for modern combat in space with tanks and infantry, giant battlemechs, or what? Will you go for Dune 2-style civil war (everyone has the same units), Warcraft 2-style cloning (Orc and Human units are direct counterparts and share every stat), or Starcraft-style every unit is different? Play balancing will be a nightmare for the third option.

Well, I think I'll stop asking questions for now. Smile
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xxxg_00w0_mk2



Joined: 10 Sep 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2004 12:58 am    Post subject: Another Actual Idea Reply with quote

Interesting thought,
In the past, designs have been implimented, such as in C&C in which certain larger units could crush smaller ones. Now, obviously we don't want direct repeats, however, as a sort of one door down from that...

What if you had unit types that interacted with one another. Not just the stupid (well, actually, not so stupid...) crushing ability, but a sort of fear mechanic, or natural affiliation. Infantry near allied tanks move faster, infantry near allied mechs fight harder and longer. Mechs near allied tanks fight harder and longer, and when near infantry have better accuracy, but reduced speed... etc etc. Similar things could be applied to water and air.

The trick though would not be making this an active thing, but rather removing it to the backround, like how certain weapons are better then others against certain targets, certain units are more effective when paired with others.

Also, a field base option in addition to a stationary base would be nice. Along with water, or even airbases.

Perhaps a leader effect would be cool, units near leader might fight better, whereas an troop of soldiers with no organization would be easy targets.

Snipers......for armor, not just infantry.

Modified nightfighting.

Hovering units.

And finnnaly, mechs, supposidly being uber and all, that can convert for water or air useage, making them more then just a really big cross between human and tank.

Those who do nothing but dream should just stay in their dreams forever!
- Roger Smith -
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icarus
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Joined: 01 Mar 2004

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2004 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jollyreaper wrote:

simpler is better.
The classic example is building repairs. In Dune 2, you pressed a button and spent resources to repair a building. Every game since then requires to to maneuver around an annoying little repair unit. It's cumbersome and the extra complexity adds nothing to the game.


no you nead a repair unit a repair bouton is unrealistic and boreing and it means the develaprs wer to lazy to program anouther unit

it thare is one thing i dount tolarate its a magic build found in dune and C,A,C whare you have an counstruction depot and it makes buildings magicly pop out of the ground. aggen its boring unrealistic and shows how lazy the devs wer

simpleer dose not = beatter
reall life is not simple and games should be somewhat realistick
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xxxg_00w0_mk2



Joined: 10 Sep 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2004 4:37 pm    Post subject: Forgot Something Reply with quote

Last ideas, for now.

Aphib units. They add that little spice of something out of the ordinary. I mentioned this with mechs i think... but basically, units that fill more then one role are good.

Also: When adding air units if at all, make sure that

1) Helicopters aren't overly uber powerful, as they usually seem to be able to lay waste to just about anything

2) Controling aircraft (planes) isn't overly difficult because their not helicopters and cannot stop in midair. This could be corrected by making all aircraft v/tol with thust vectoring, but then there's no flavor.

Just more thoughts... i'll post them as i think them
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icarus
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2004 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

actually in real life choppers are uber powerful

only 2 apaches have been lost to ground fire since the first one has been deployed way back when

i wish they were that powerful in video games
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Fost
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2004 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure that's a good comparison, since Apaches have never been used in any conflict where the sides were evenly matched. they have never come up against more than handgun fire as far as I am aware (and even that managed to completely damage several Apache's beyond immediate repair).
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HunterXI



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 1:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You guys both forget that the U.S. doesn't use Apache's anymore. We use Kiowa's (better in general) Smile
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icarus
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

since when? the reason we diched the comanchi was beacuse the apache was perfict for the kind of war we are fighting right now
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jollyreaper



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

icarus wrote:
simpleer dose not = beatter
reall life is not simple and games should be somewhat realistick


No, simpler most often is better. Complexity that adds nothing to the game detracts from it instead. If you throw too many details into the mix without a clear idea of what you want to do and where you're going with the design, you end up with a big nasty pile of unplayable crud.

If there's a compelling reason to have a repair unit moving around, if it really adds to the game experience, then fine, have one. But in games like Total Anihillation, the repair unit ended up being just too vulnerable and worthless. The pathfinding was so attrocious, units and structures a bot should have been ble to repair would end up getting destroyed. Either the bot couldn't pathfind it's way close enough or it would deploy and retract it's nano-forge sprayer a dozen times or do something equally ridiculous and fatal. I'd have been much happier with a carry-all bringing my units back to a repair bay and then bringing them back to the front. You make your game design fit the limitations of the technology, you don't stubbornly insist on doing things in a way that is infeasible or doesn't work.

If you want a good example of balancing complexity and simplicity, look at Soul Caliber or Advance Wars. Lots of ideas in both but nothing added that isn't necessary. Nothing is there that adds little, nothing is there that detracts.
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jollyreaper



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

icarus wrote:
actually in real life choppers are uber powerful

only 2 apaches have been lost to ground fire since the first one has been deployed way back when

i wish they were that powerful in video games


Wrongo. In the environment they were designed to operate in (WWIII in Europe) Apaches would have lifespans measured in minutes. Helicopters are not survivable vehicles and if you need any reminder of that, look at Iraq. We've lost Apaches to goat herders with AK's. There's just too many things out there that can knock a chopper down. You've got small arms fire, man-portable SAMs, vehicle-mounted SAMs, radar-guided AAA, fighters, the works. The anti-tank chopper is nice because it can come from out of nowhere, fire off a tank-killing missile, and hide behind a hill before coming out and doing it again. They're a great way of whittling down an enemy tank column and rattling the crews before getting hit by one of your own columns.

In Iraq, the choppers are basically being used as an Army version of Blue Thunder, law enforcement with heavy firepower. I'm sure everyone has seen the gun camera footage where an Apache locates what they think are terrorists loading RPG's on a truck. The pilot gets the order to engage from base and his gunner lays waste to them with the 30mm chaingun. Simpler than arresting them, I guess. Certainly, there's no real tanks for them to be fighting.

If you have any doubts as to what can happen to choppers in a serious missile-age conflict, aquaint yourself with what happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan.
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jollyreaper



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

icarus wrote:
since when? the reason we diched the comanchi was beacuse the apache was perfict for the kind of war we are fighting right now


The Kiowa Warrior is a scout chopper. The Commanche was supposed to be a light scout copter with stealthy characteristics but became so over-built and over-priced that the Army couldn't justify ordering any. As is, the Apache meets our attack copter needs for the near future. Probably the best successor system would be small, unmanned drones firing hellfires, similar to the Predator but cheaper and more expendable.
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