The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

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The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 05 Dec 2008, 17:34

.......

this short essay was published in Gamasutra earlier this year.

for those who are inspired to make changes to WZ as modders (or coders) it
makes for fascinating and, i think, inspiring reading.

well worth your time and just a matter of minutes to read - i strongly recommend
the doers in the community check it out and if you have some thoughts you'd
like to share-discuss, do post... i won't leave anyone hanging.


The Future Of The Real-Time Strategy Game

if after reading you find yourself hungering for more insights the following article is good brain food:

Seven Deadly Sins for Strategy Games

between these 2 you have clearly articulated what are the cul de sacs and the ways out from fading
novelty to enduring replay value.

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 06 Dec 2008, 02:07

.

Let's start here:
Have you ever experienced this feeling after playing a real-time strategy game? You get used to the controls, learn all the hotkeys, become efficient with the mouse, and find that the best way to win is to build units and firepower as fast as possible and throw them at the opponent in successive, inexorable waves.

It's not that the game ceases to be fun, but that it ceases to be fresh: the basic strategy never really changes. Essentially, your only viable strategy -- your overall plan for success -- is to wear down your opponent and destroy him.

I have experienced this feeling. As empowering -- and, at least initially, as fun -- as real-time strategy (RTS) games are, I often find that they turn into real-time tactics (RTT) games after a while. So often, there is no other viable plan for success beyond attrition. Sure, I may construct that building here instead of there, or gain control of those resources over there instead of these here, but I can never really change my basic plan for victory.
WZ is replete with inconsistencies and shortfalls that, regardless of unit customization, will always relegate it to a failed curio and none is greater
than what is expressed in the 3 paragraphs above.

If you also look at the 7 deadly sins article you'll see that WZ is violating at least 50% of the fundamental caveats of RTS design.

None of this should come as a surprise or revelation to anyone who has played enough WZ MP. WZ's continuing fascination 10 years after
retail release is 3-fold: unfulfilled promise, modders (& MPer game play styles) that have worked hard to address the games weaknesses over the years and the fact that there are very few 3D RTS games whose source has been liberated (this last a gross understatement..)

So the million dollar question is: what are the enduring changes (& feasibility) vs fleeting novelty.... ?

Shucks, what am I thinking...I should rephrase in a context more inviting to comment -

"I'm gonna do this, that and the other to make WZ way better but i don't know how to do anything. I can't even get the map editor to work. But point me to some tutorials and give me some help and I'll create miracles over the next 4 years unless it turns-out I'm full of crap."

Oh lord, I have a wicked streak, don't ya know. :cool:

But seriously - there are surely many ways to tackle such a challenge and I may detail some if the brains here abouts are drawing a blank. That said I will suggest here and now that the overarching binding thread for any as yet to be named solutions to this challenge will best utilize the WRPs current development branch known as "Betawidget-Lua".....

Back in a few days unless there are responses beforehand.. :ninja:
.....
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by Per » 06 Dec 2008, 14:41

From the first article:
RTS games have done a superb job of simulating war but a lousy job of simulating politics.
This guy doesn't want to play RTS games. He wants to play Civilization. The rest of the article goes downhill from there.

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 06 Dec 2008, 17:52

.

I hear what your saying Per. I played Civ back in the day but have not been able to for many years
because the fun of combat just isn't the focus of the paradigm.

Getting to combat - that is such a simple phrase that conceals a wealth of possibilities that all involve
the scope of decision making on the part of the player as a direct consequence of HOW the game play
mechanics are designed.

Let me segue to how I interpret bringing varied strategy along these lines without diminishing an RTS's particular
combat flavor by offering this quote:
Clausewitz's description of war as a "continuation of politics (Politik) by other means" is of course well known. But it is unfortunately interpreted to mean that war is merely an act of state policy brought forth to acheive a political aim. At least part of the confusion surrounding this misunderstanding stems from the ambiguity of the German term Politik, for it means both policy and politics. But Clausewitz, too, deserves some blame, for he neglected to define in simple language how he wanted this multivalent term to be understood. Indeed, German scholars and soldiers alike have puzzled over this question since the late nineteenth century. Historian Eberhard Kessel argued, for example, that, for Clausewitz, Politik consisted of subjective and objective elements. The former pertained to the choice or choices made by the political leadership regarding the type of war to be waged and the specific aims to be pursued. The latter involved the dominant ideas, emotions, and political interrelationships unique to a given time and place.*4

In fact, Clausewitz's varied usage of Politik and the historical context within which he wrote indicate that he meant three things by the term. First, Clausewitz did intend Politik to mean policy, the extension of the will of the state, the decision to pursue a goal, political or otherwise. Second, Politik also meant politics as an external state of affairs, the strengths and weaknesses provided to a state by its geo-political position, its resources, alliances and treaties, and as an ongoing process of internal interaction between a state's key decision-making institutions and the personalities of its policy makers. Lastly, Clausewitz used Politik as an historically causative force, providing an explanatory pattern or framework for coherently viewing war's various manifestations over time.
Full reference called "War and Politics" can be found HERE

So how does that translate to RTS in the context of expanding varied strategic game play without invoking a game like CIV?

I'll make it brief: playable, distinct, factions and stealing the other guys stuff..

------->

The author of the first article also downplays the RTT element (Real Time Tactical) of RTS and I think he's grievously mistaken on that score.

The problem with the RTT element at this stage is that the command and control is NOT fine-tuned enough to do anything but throw barely controllable massed waves of units at the enemy - a very limited game play mechanic that wears thin in the dimension of offering fascinating possibilities and is also frustrating because of the cannon fodder predominance of the results... good commanders are not known for the wholesale sacrifice of those under their command.

Briefly stated the goal here would be to better control the combined arms of several combat groups from multiple vectors with velocity. If you look
closely at Elio's UI mock-ups you can see where he is pointing in this direction of development with, what strikes me as, elegance...

....
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by stiv » 06 Dec 2008, 21:23

Perhaps, for people who are horrified by the fact that games like WZ ultimately involve crushing your opponent, we could add a build option for song books. Then everyone could sit around in a cirlce singing "Give Peace A Chance" and "Kumbaya" while passing the bong.

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 06 Dec 2008, 21:34

stiv wrote:Perhaps, for people who are horrified by the fact that games like WZ ultimately involve crushing your opponent, we could add a build option for song books. Then everyone could sit around in a cirlce singing "Give Peace A Chance" and "Kumbaya" while passing the bong.
the issue is NOT "crushing your opponent" .... it's the repetitive, thoroughly predictable, tunnel vision...The HOW of the GPMs to achieve that end - that is the point....

for example - if the only way to win a chess match was QxK... well the game would have died hundreds of years ago ..

...
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by lav_coyote25 » 07 Dec 2008, 00:17

stiv wrote:Perhaps, for people who are horrified by the fact that games like WZ ultimately involve crushing your opponent, we could add a build option for song books. Then everyone could sit around in a cirlce singing "Give Peace A Chance" and "Kumbaya" while passing the bong.

actually , we (human race) need warfare . makes us all appreciate it when peace does break out. dont bother arguing as i have heard most of the rebuttals - all i can say is if we had learned from our collective history - warfare would only occur in text books. warfare = arguing etc.

as for singing - no thanks...passing the bong i will leave to those that indulge in that type of "stuff". :stare:

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 07 Dec 2008, 05:15

.
Might is right has been with us since the dawn of humanity to this day - with no end in sight. Not even
the make-shift, wobbly, deterrent of mutually assured annihilation counts for much for it has no influence on zealots
who believe in suicide martyrdom even if the consequences violate their holy texts and trigger a living hell on earth
with little chance of reprieve for anyone... Translation: nukes in the hands of terrorists are a very real threat.

WZ 2100 is a game that emulates some aspects of warfare - it is in no way a simulation, nor should it be. Do you really
need to have experienced life and death combat to know that an RTS is only incrementally closer to RL warfare than
playing patty-cakes or tiddly-winks ?

Basically an RTS is an interactive artistic construct to provide an arena wherein to exercise, in challenging & fun ways, strategic and
tactical decision-making - by the seat of your pants knowing full well others are scheming to out-wit you and rip you a new one.,
And the true test of success for such is it's compelling replay value and what becomes rote and predictable has little such value.
compelling replay value
....

And what components exactly would constitute the game design leading to that outcome ? Anyone want to take a crack at answering that ? I will of course share my set of applied criteria, by and by. To be sure this is NOT simply some gaseous academic discussion for me. Far from it, really. It's all about doing, in truth and mental flatulence be damned. :ninja:

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by fisk0 » 08 Dec 2008, 15:47

lav_coyote25 wrote:actually , we (human race) need warfare . makes us all appreciate it when peace does break out. dont bother arguing as i have heard most of the rebuttals - all i can say is if we had learned from our collective history - warfare would only occur in text books. warfare = arguing etc.

as for singing - no thanks...passing the bong i will leave to those that indulge in that type of "stuff". :stare:
I don't think I agree we have to have wars to appreciate peace, but I do think it is a fact that wars force technological evolution/inventions to go faster. War forces both sides to invent new things, and those things often find a use among civilians as well, if not directly the things invented for military purposes inspires and become the base for a new invention.

While I think humans would always have the interest to explore, I think a peaceful human history might have created people that does not see a need to invent new things or understand chemistry, physics and all that. And then they'd probably all be wiped out by an unforeseen asteroid in the end (they might not even have invented radio). People speculating about other civilizations in the universe often say that the inventions that makes communication over long distances (and the possibility of us getting their transmissions) possible, and the discovery of technology that could wipe out all living things on the planet goes hand in hand - and that one reason that we haven't found any aliens with our SETI program could be that they wiped themselves out by the time they had evolved far enough to invent the radio. I kind of think it goes the other way too, if they wouldn't have researched technology to wipe out their enemies in a conflict - would they have stumbled upon radio?

Ouch, I hope my english isn't so bad that this all ended up as some incoherent mess.
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 08 Dec 2008, 16:58

...

@ fisk0: You express yourself well in English - your insights come across as coherent and also supported by 2
highly regarded works in their respective fields - 1 in the field of SETI and 1 in Military History.... I've relied heavily
on both in my own game creation work.


1.) "If the Universe is Teeming With Aliens.... Where is Everybody ? - 50 Solutions to the Fermi Paradox
and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life"
by Stephen Webb


2.) "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today" by Max Boot...
(He is also the author of another related and acclaimed work: "The Savage Wars of Peace"...)

All 3 highly recommended for those who want more primary source depth and analysis than what is usually available
on the net.

....
.
"I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction." Anthem

"Art is the selective recreation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value judgments." A. Rand
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 08 Dec 2008, 20:39

.
And what components exactly would constitute the game design leading to that outcome ? Anyone want to take a crack at answering that ?
So let me step-up to the plate & summarize the design strats of compelling replay value as I have come to understand my own subjectivity and creation goals. This set is by no means offered as gospel or exhaustive. No doubt there are other design sets that can achieve the goal of enhancing replay value that I can't even conceive. But this is the ground staked as the goals-benchmarks for a particular RTS in development and we'll see if it pans out in the end.

* 1.) Distinct playable factions.

* 2.) Fine-tuned command and control of combat groups on the battlefield such that multiple vector deployments with velocity are feasible. Being on the short end of the stick in sheer numbers during asymmetric conflicts is NOT an assurance of defeat. The foregoing is predicated on placing a premium on intel gathering tech and the facility to translate into intelligent maneuver with velocity.

* 3.) Boons to motivate unit preservation through ranking experience

* 4.) Passive and Special abilities.... with stacking.

* 5.) Minimizing economy, research and leveling-up micro-management

* 6.) Be able to absorb game play complexity incrementally and intuitively - the learning process cannot create confusion, frustration or feel like hard work. Complexity is a slippery slope and alone does not assure depth of game play that is both fun and challenging - sometimes the complexity can actually be entirely gratuitous..

* 7.) In-game player avatar investment scheme via dual game play modalities in MP... aka, the status of General in God-mode & FP POV.

* 8.) Squash all bugs as they manifest by stress testing in maximum # of gamers in MP mode. Play-testing at 50% load just doesn't cut it and there can never be sufficient MP play-testing for countless reasons amongst which balance stands out as the most obvious.

* 9.) Be super mod-friendly...

...
.
"I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction." Anthem

"Art is the selective recreation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value judgments." A. Rand
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by stiv » 08 Dec 2008, 21:44

In-game player avatar investment scheme via dual game play modalities in MP.
I realize I am sometimes hampered communicating on the Interwebs by having English as a first language, but does that mean anything?

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by whippersnapper » 08 Dec 2008, 22:22

stiv wrote:
quote:In-game player avatar investment scheme via dual game play modalities in MP.

I realize I am sometimes hampered communicating on the Interwebs by having English as a first language, but does that mean anything?
Yes it does. The second clause of the sentence explains it specifically:
aka, the status of General in God-mode & FP POV...
It's designer lingo which I translated. Many disciplines use sub-sets of the English language which are not common
parlance or vernacular but rather a useful shorthand within peer groups. In this case I did catch myself using such
peer lingo and thus provided specifics immediately after in a more common usage for those unfamiliar with game design
language. English as a first language is no guarantee of anything beyond skills sufficient to get by with the basic tasks
of day to day life like -

"Hey, can I get a bagel with cream cheese and chives with a couple slices of tomato on the side ? And don't make my Mocha
Latte to0 foamy. Tends to give me the burps. Thanks and I got a nice tip for ya if ya do me right...".
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"Art is the selective recreation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value judgments." A. Rand
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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by Deus Siddis » 09 Dec 2008, 02:39

SETI is a "highly regarded" institution? Hehe, what decade is this?
whippersnapper wrote:.
* 1.) Distinct playable factions.
Agreed, that would benefit WZ.
* 2.) Fine-tuned command and control of combat groups on the battlefield such that multiple vector deployments with velocity are feasible. Being on the short end of the stick in sheer numbers during asymmetric conflicts is NOT an assurance of defeat. The foregoing is predicated on placing a premium on intel gathering tech and the facility to translate into intelligent maneuver with velocity.
You're probably going to need to be more specific about what features or mechanics you are suggesting adding here, or find someway to be more clear about what you mean by this in general.

But you sound like you are saying that it needs to be easier to attack from multiple angles at once with separate forces? That always seemed like something more easily done in WZ than in the many other RTS games it competed with when it was first released.
* 3.) Boons to motivate unit preservation through ranking experience
Easy, you need fewer, faster-coming ranks with a little bit more dramatic enhancements to stats versus what we see in WZ. Currently, units never survive long enough to become smart enough to be worth preserving.
* 4.) Passive and Special abilities.... with stacking.
WZ has this. Not sure what exactly you mean by 'stacking' in this context.
* 5.) Minimizing economy, research and leveling-up micro-management
WZ has this too.
* 6.) Be able to absorb game play complexity incrementally and intuitively - the learning process cannot create confusion, frustration or feel like hard work. Complexity is a slippery slope and alone does not assure depth of game play that is both fun and challenging - sometimes the complexity can actually be entirely gratuitous..
So many games have too much of this.
* 7.) In-game player avatar investment scheme via dual game play modalities in MP... aka, the status of General in God-mode & FP POV.
Yuck, your having a damned avatar all the time was the greatest weakness of the otherwise fantastic cross-genre battlezone games (the '90s ones I mean). But at least then your avatar was a standard trooper aside from his sniper capability.

PSX WZ had it right, you select any one of your units at anytime and just take it over, drive it around, drive it into battle (Spring also does this now).
* 8.) Squash all bugs as they manifest by stress testing in maximum # of gamers in MP mode. Play-testing at 50% load just doesn't cut it and there can never be sufficient MP play-testing for countless reasons amongst which balance stands out as the most obvious.
WZ seems fairly bug proof to me, atm. Balance is of course another story though.
* 9.) Be super mod-friendly...
Most games are, with WZ mostly being limited in this respect by the difficulties of importing new content from a real content creation program into it successfully. But again, this is just the current situation- from what I gather there are alot of folks working on this issue.

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Re: The Future of RTS...& the 7 Deadly Sins

Post by Skrim » 09 Dec 2008, 06:13

fisk0 wrote: I don't think I agree we have to have wars to appreciate peace, but I do think it is a fact that wars force technological evolution/inventions to go faster. War forces both sides to invent new things, and those things often find a use among civilians as well, if not directly the things invented for military purposes inspires and become the base for a new invention.

While I think humans would always have the interest to explore, I think a peaceful human history might have created people that does not see a need to invent new things or understand chemistry, physics and all that. And then they'd probably all be wiped out by an unforeseen asteroid in the end (they might not even have invented radio). People speculating about other civilizations in the universe often say that the inventions that makes communication over long distances (and the possibility of us getting their transmissions) possible, and the discovery of technology that could wipe out all living things on the planet goes hand in hand - and that one reason that we haven't found any aliens with our SETI program could be that they wiped themselves out by the time they had evolved far enough to invent the radio. I kind of think it goes the other way too, if they wouldn't have researched technology to wipe out their enemies in a conflict - would they have stumbled upon radio?

Ouch, I hope my english isn't so bad that this all ended up as some incoherent mess.
True point. Rockets started out as "fire arrow" weapons in ancient China and spread to India and later Europe as rocket artillery weaponry. Then the Germans took things a step or two further with the V-2 missile and Me 163 interceptor fighter. The U.S and Soviets harvested the V-2's tech from the defeated Germans and improved on it. In the years to come, we had a Space Race. Robotic space probes spread the influence of humanity all over the Solar System, and the fastest among them are even leaving into interstellar space. As long as the Cold War was going on, progress in the fields of space exploration and aerospace technology happened at an accelerated pace. After it ended, nothing much has happened. The Germans were also the first to use jets in their revolutionary Me 262 war plane, and now thousands of regular people criss-cross the world on jets every day.

Of course, the major advances from WW2 - rockets & nukes - were combined to make the thermonuclear ICBM, a weapon that can both exterminate our civilization, and defend it from annihilation by asteroids. Of course, we've made no effort to use it as a protector of humanity(which would require a NASDA-like system pointed away from Earth, with an orbital asteroid-search radar network and nuclear missile satellites) as of yet. So, yeah, we could still get eradicated by an unseen passing asteroid tomorrow.

As for the SETI problem, I think the simple solution is that we simply haven't been running it for long enough. I doubt we'll find any radio-capable civilization within 500 light years. Run it for a thousand years and see if we find anything. If not, think of other solutions. Heck, in that much time, we'd probably have either wiped ourselves out or gotten wiped out, or would have colonized all the livable bodies and useful Lagrangian points in the solar system and invented a space-warping mechanism or developed useful sub-light propulsion, like Bussard Ramjets or Antimatter-based drives capable of at least 0.3c.

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