Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future ?

Ideas and suggestions for how to improve the Warzone 2100 base game only. Ideas for mods go in Mapping/Modding instead. Read sticky posts first!
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Rman Virgil
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Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future ?

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 19:52

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What Kafkaesque offspring would spring forth from the union of Big Brother & a Stepford Wife...?

OOPS - Wrong thread. ;)

How this came about: From the APM thread.
.........

Interesting. My experience with WZ MP is just the opposite. Which is to say I think the GPM bias is weighted too far on the side of Build Order such that outcomes are rote determined very early on, prior to in theater combat (this is how I also understand Iluvalar's work & insights which coincide with my own experience and experiments over the years).

In turn this build order bias has the direct consequence of narrowing down the scope of mid-late game in-theater combat tacs to a simplistic arcade style that practically eliminates a whole combat world of viscerally compelling victory tacs based on risky, but clever & complex, asymmetric maneuver.

Which if you refer to my previous posts you can see my obvious focus on expanding the range of combat tacs in-theater and specifically doing this my evolving Commanders based on WZ Creator's original GPM vision for them which I do not see as being just a variant of sensor system mechanics. Thus to offset the early game bias weighting of Build Order mechanics, I would introduce Commanders earlier on along with those intimated enhanced abilities.

I am (& have been since day one) very keen on Commanders for reasons that embrace Pumpkin's original vision for them along with some of my own insights into compelling game design vis-a-vis the combat experience (purely visceral & by mechanized extention), 21st century warfare doctrine, hard-wired heuristics identified by the cognitive-neurological sciences of last decade + and last, but not least, the good interactive fiction crafting that creates the virtual visceral immersion known as the willing suspension of disbelief (this last would be entirely sacrificed by both elliminating Commanders as such or by demoting them to sensor system variants).

I speak to Commanders from a very different place than any of you here. I actually had long, detailed, deeply interesting & thoroughly enjoyable conversations with several of the original creators of the game from the Pumpkin Studios team about them (& l8r when they became Pivotal Games) - along with much else about the game. This doesn't by any means make me an authority but it is a fact of my relationship to the game and does speak to the lasting formation of my perspective (first hand 1998-2012) which comes through in most everything I have to say about it along with all my acts & deeds throughout.

- Regards, RV. :hmm:
Emdek wrote:Rman Virgil, can you share with us their opinions / ideas (as list with points, but in "short" form ;-))?
That's a tall order. And not just because of the concision you request. ;)

I must balance the past with the present, WZ Creators original vision and intent with their standing position since shortly after source liberation of staying strictly out of the public mix (best believe they still follow the proceedings and play the binaries).

Let me sleep on it. I'll do my best to respond within those total parameters tomorrow, Sunday.

- Regards, RV. :hmm:
Emdek wrote:Rman Virgil, OK, good idea. :-)
Personally I think that such information should be placed in separate place, like that thread with unimplemented things, to be not lost.


I cannot do this overnight. It will become obvious shortly why that is. However, I will procede step-wise because it is of value to me.

I also must state flatly that this is no way an effort to persude or convince anyone to do any work along these lines. The tools to make this a reality are already in development and that is all that is essential, at last, to go forward, at least, in the form of a mod at some point within a year I'm guesstimating.


Some Prefratory Remarks: My baseline for going foward.

This is the begining of an attempt to whittle down some 200 + pages of raw material collected since 1999 just on Commanders (and made up of various conversations in BB posts, Emails & Irc chats between myself, WZ Creators-Pumpkin devs & contributing community members going all the way back to retail release) into a Twitter-type listing that addresses the thread's topic heading. (Good luck with that... eh... ?)

In the broad stroke this thread will, I hope, simultaneously speak to an historical perspective vacuum, be an effective counter to ubiquitous reductionism (& egoic selective exposure) as well make clear that WZ is an emergent system dynamic sandbox in the form of a fun RTS game of visceral, virtual, martial decision-making and entertaining myelination opportunities. ;)

(At the same time, truth be told, I must also be mindful of my ROI for partcipating because it has mostly been spiking in the red 2012 - a fundamental cultural disconnect, I am guessing, to give it a neutral expression. To warm it up a tad - I'm very old school & a gadfly to boot... which means I can rub some folks the wrong way (& I'm sure I have but we won't get into the consequences or mention any nicks).

I think of my being as a vital composite of Sophoclean, Elizabethan & Victorian sensibilities in a Steam Punk da Vinci mashup (if anyone can make sense of that). ;) And I ain't sacraficing or compromising a minute of any of it for anything or anyone. I also don't suffer fools or boors with anything less than a Wildean wit. Though I am by nature fair-minded and empathic. :3

Still, to paraphrase good 'ol Honest Abe Lincoln: You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time but never all of the people all of the time. So, since I am not here running for any position, trying to create a consensus to do anything in particular or make any money, then what's left is the fun of learning and doing what I find enjojable and that's plenty good enough for me..... :D

But enough of what I'm about as a man, my transparent motivations and my history with the game.



===========>


Ok, we'll kick this off with a quote from a WZ creator made in these BBs a few years ago which is in fact the most concise statement of WZ Creator's original vision for Commander's role in WZ's MP GPMs & the why of their subsequent crippled state to this day.


That most recent statement by a WZ Creator:

whippersnapper on Sat., Jul 04, 2009, 6:57 am wrote:
Couldn't resist after just reading Alex Lee's answer to a question posed by Per....

(Alex Lee was on the original Pumpkin Team, aka WZ Creators, & was their A.I. Guru. Also note that the italics, underlining and bolding of the text are mine.)
Per wrote:
Was there many things that you were planning to do with commanders that you never got around to ? The source code certainly gave that impression.

alex wrote:
Yes, commanders did a bunch of extra things during development, but they got scaled back, both the control mechanism and UI got very complicated.

We wanted them to order units realistically, not just become a grouping with a bonus and a common goal.
You can read Alex Lee's postings in their entirety HERE..

In subsequent postings I will break that quote down & post link references from the past to some of the relevant & practical details (but by no means exhaustively) of going forward with Commanders.

I will be reserving some post spots to that end but feel free to share insights going foward starting now If you are so inclined. It's all good and we'll eventually get this all concisely organized. There's no rush because the project tools in the works already won't be fully mature for some time yet (I'm guessing a year) and that is what it will take to pick up where WZ Creators original Commander efforts and vision had to be drastically scaled back.
Last edited by Rman Virgil on 11 Dec 2012, 15:50, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 19:53

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Experimental Implementations:


~ Version 2 of Shadow Wolf TJC's Mod WIP Released - 4/5/12

~ Shadow Wolf TJC's *2 Commander Types Mod WIP* - 4/4/12

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=9196&p=99927#p99927


~ Version 2 of Iluvalar's Mod Released (3/31/12)

~ Iluvalar's *Commander Mod WIP* - Need Data - (3/23/12)

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=9196


- RV :hmm:
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 19:54

Reserved

Short-term Commander Improvements to Dev:


* Combat Mechanics:

  • ~

    ~

    ~

* Experience & Rank Linked Boosts for Commander Grouped Units:

  • ~

    ~

    ~


===========================>



Reserved


Long-term Commander Improvements to Dev:


* Combat Mechanics:
  • ~

    ~

    ~

* Experience & Rank Linked Boosts for Commander Grouped Units:
  • ~

    ~

    ~

* Command UI changes:
  • ~

    ~

    ~
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Last edited by Rman Virgil on 25 Mar 2012, 04:48, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 19:55

..

Some Community Historical References for Proposed Commander Engancements

Within a couple months of retail release in April 1999 we had a Commander enhancement thread of several hundred posts.

The enhancements fell into 3 inter- locking catagories:

* Combat Mechanics

* Experience & Rank Boon Mechanics linked to Commanders.

* Command UI changes

The following historical references cover those grounds & present valuable resources to review from which can be mined nuggets that have stood the test of time.

This is what I will be doing. Anyone is free to have a go at it.

The review process for me will account for viability and integration at this time, keeping in mind the cautionary watchwords: modest reach, biggest bang for the buck, elegant execution and design synergies.

Now the refs by catagory:

* Combat Mechanics ~


whippersnapper's Commander Unit enhancement aggregation HERE


Even though seperated by the better part of a decade, this thread covers the same ground in exact detail as the April - June 1999 thread in Pumpkin's MPlayer BBs. Not suprising as Commander shortfalls in combat theater have not changed & can be sumarized like so: excessive baby-sitting of dumb-a$$ behaviors with often frustrating and fatal consequences.



* Experience & Rank Boon Mechanics linked to Commanders ~


http://warzone2100.wikia.com/wiki/Exper ... Mechanisms

http://warzone2100.wikia.com/wiki/Exp._ ... _Section_2

http://warzone2100.wikia.com/wiki/Exp._ ... _Section_3

http://warzone2100.wikia.com/wiki/Exp._ ... _Section_4

http://warzone2100.wikia.com/wiki/Exp._ ... _Section_5


This discussion is singular in the history of the game for 2 reasons.

It is one of a kind in modeling experience-rank in the context of WZ. The participants were active veterans of WZ in the following areas: elite MPers, coders, modders, mappers and A.I. scriptors.



* Command UI changes ~


Artist Elios did some GUI mock-ups HERE that are intended to suggest the direction of change necessary to enhance Commander effectiveness in theater and correlate directly to what is covered in the first catagory: * Combat Mechanics.

======>

That's enough for now with the history.

.
Last edited by Rman Virgil on 15 Mar 2012, 05:14, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Per » 12 Mar 2012, 21:08

Since we're talking history here anyway.. In the original source, there were commented out and/or unused code that was related to commanders having loaded AI programs. Each commander's brain had "program capacity", "learning capacity" and "learning speed". Programs apparently had their own orders, which could be one of stop, scavenge, attack, guard, aid, build, demolish, or repair. How these abilities worked together, I have no idea. There was not enough remains in the source code of this to piece together a coherent picture of it, and eventually I removed it.

I think that Pumpkin were painting themselves into the same corner as the people behind Master of Orion 3 did in regards to automating micro-management. Being a strategic commander in command of automated commanders doing micro-management chores for you sounds like great fun on paper, but when it hits the reality of an actual game, it fails horribly and just reveals a failure of game design. Fortunately, they appear to have had some idea that this would not work, and dropped almost everything related to commanders before launch. Commanders as we have them today are a mere embarrassing shadow of what they were originally envisioned as, and I think personally that we would do the game a favour by removing them entirely.

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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 22:18

.

I'm intimately familiar with the debacle that was MOO3 dev & agree that it is an important object lesson in game design gone horribly wrong.

I also understand how Pumpkin's initial approuch constituted backing themselves into an unwieldy corner.

I also agree that in their current state there would be no great loss to eliminating them from MP mode altogether. Much like a short solution to a failing biz is to boost the bottom line into the black by fireing some folk.

That said, there is a place between those extremes where Commaders could be made truely useful, tactically expansive and interesting in MP mode and remain a unique component of WZ's identity as an RTS game. A place not as grandiose as the above object lessons on how not to proceed in practical terms but still in keeping with the original vision. Modest, elegant but still powerful, in short.

This last is the basic thrust here.

Of course if you remove any possibity of even a Mod approach, then this effort is in vain. It's as straightfoward as that and nothing more need be said or done.

.

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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Shadow Wolf TJC » 12 Mar 2012, 22:30

Still, Commanders, as they are now, can serve as a handy micromanagement-reducing tool, automatically telling damaged units to return to its position after being fully repaired, and automatically assigning units produced from factories that are assigned to them. In fact, if I was to design an rts game in the future, I'd like to design and incorporate a group AI that functions similarly to Commanders, though without requiring a battlefield presence.

Although, I do think that limiting how many units can be assigned to a Commander was a poor idea, one that may have been the reason why not many people like to use them in multiplayer.
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 22:41

Shadow Wolf TJC wrote:Still, Commanders, as they are now, can serve as a handy micromanagement-reducing tool, automatically telling damaged units to return to its position after being fully repaired, and automatically assigning units produced from factories that are assigned to them. In fact, if I was to design an rts game in the future, I'd like to design and incorporate a group AI that functions similarly to Commanders, though without requiring a battlefield presence.

Although, I do think that limiting how many units can be assigned to a Commander was a poor idea, one that may have been the reason why not many people like to use them in multiplayer.
Agree with all but one point.

They can have a more effective in theater presence than they do at present.... especially with the way MP is played. And that would be a principle area of focus - just HOW to make that so in an elegant, modest, implementation.

- Regards, RV. :hmm:
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by EvilGuru » 12 Mar 2012, 23:06

There exist three primary reasons why commanders in Warzone are crippled. The first is poor path finding. Automatic repair and automatic assign-from-factory are great if units can be reasonably be expected to get from A-B without hassle/fuss. But there is nothing worse in a warzone than a traffic jam. Secondly, units are slow; comparatively slow anyway. This forces you to attack in waves with battles usually being small scale and over relatively quickly. There is simply no time for units to go back and repair -- as by the time they have done so the battle is over. Thirdly, battles in Warzone tend to be relatively linear as opposed to parallel. (If you are confused by this take a look at the battles in the 'total war' series -- the fraction of your units on the front line is far greater than it is in Warzone.)

Now, what can be done to make commanders more useful in MP? Without addressing any of the above points a few simple enhancements could be: removal of the command centre to make commanders more readily accessible; increasing the default unit cap for commanders; and finally ensuring that when a commander 'dies' its experience is pooled and transferred to the next commander that is constructed. Think of it like auto-recycling of experience upon death. This would give players a fighting chance of getting a high ranked commander and the associated bonuses that come with it.

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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 12 Mar 2012, 23:14

.

Howdy...long time no see. :3

Agree across the board.... & well articulated btw, as is your wont..

- Regards, RV. :hmm:
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Emdek » 13 Mar 2012, 00:11

I like ideas how to improve them from EvilGuru, maybe except from retaining experience upon death, but since they are meant to be special units, then why not. :-)
Or maybe to make it more complex (;-))... CRC could be required for preserving experience?
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 13 Mar 2012, 00:15

.

Appropriate Transfer from yesterday:
effigy wrote:@Rman, Emdek: My feeling on commanders is simply that they don't survive a barrage from the mass of enemy units we're currently allowed. They're feature set is good (though, there's always room for improvement). This problem is exaggerated in high oil battles because they're confronted with large groups before they can gain much rank, and you'll be needing to make more commanders to accommodate you're surplus of units.

The fix seems simple to me, though perhaps I'm missing something in the big picture:

1) give them more HP. Either as a seemingly ridiculous base value and/or better rank bonus; 2) allow more units per rank (starting with 10+)

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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Rman Virgil » 13 Mar 2012, 00:24

effigy wrote:
I hope I didn't miss your post somewhere :)

I've had the opportunity to put commanders to work in a handful of MP & ski games recently. So far, in my experience, they definitely improve gameplay when oil is limited (4-6 oil resources).

On the rocket path I found myself wishing the commander beam was indirect fire due to troubles getting MRA to fire.

Tank dancing + narrow passages hamper retreating, with sometimes fatal results.

I think my only other complaint may be a bug: pressing ctrl+a selects all units, but afterwards any units assigned to a commander are unassigned.
Rman wrote:
Nope, you didn't miss it. Still working on organizing its begining set of posts. It's taken longer than I anticipated. And that's just the start. Should be done l8r today. :)

I'll say one thing really quickly about your MP experience with 'em. You've highlighted some of their present shortfalls. There are many more. However they can almost all be put under one general heading - excessive, & too often fatal, baby sitting. You can see in the source where Pumpkin was working towards solving this but eventually had to scale back to their current crippled state because they essentually ran up against the retail release deadline imposed by Eidos. But we'll continue this (& other stuff like the morale schema related to experience and rank boons) in the dedicated thread. :3

- Regards, RV. :hmm:
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by aubergine » 13 Mar 2012, 00:30

In terms of units not being able to go for repairs and return in time, that can be solved in 2 ways:

1. Assign repair droids to the group

2. Build repair stations in the field (NoQ's NullBot AI makes great use of this).
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Re: Commanders: Original Vision, Crippled Default, Future De

Post by Emdek » 13 Mar 2012, 00:38

aubergine, there is additional issue with artillery assigned to commander, these units won't return from repair (they unassigns when retreating).
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