Author Topic: An interesting idea...  (Read 1796 times)

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Offline Tal

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An interesting idea...
« on: February 22, 2006, 03:05:41 pm »
Today I was reading the first Foundation novel by Isaac Asimov for my English class, when I stumbled across something that I found interesting. <SPOILER ALERT> In the book, Hardin saves Terminus from Ancreonian invasion by reminding the other kingdoms of the power of nuclear technology and the inevitable destruction of their nations by the conceptual nuclear-powered Ancreonian Navy. <END SPOILER ALERT>

Well, this got me thinking about all sorts of things. First of all, I thought of how complex yet subtle that strategy was. Then I thought of how to apply this to games. The most obvious genre, of course, is RTS games. I have yet to see such a skillfully-orchestrated diplomatic strategy implemented in a game. Sure, I've seen all manner of military tactics that are pure genius when done by a good player, but it surely would take some kind of thinking to come up with a plot like that. Even if one could think of it, there has yet to be a game that I have played that would have, in theory, the tools to let you do this.

Civilization is the first game I'd think of. Sure, the game is largely a race for technologies as much as it is a race for resources or troops. In fact, Civilization is the only game I have ever played in which I won without a single shot being fired. Through giving out lesser technologies and allowing trade routes and missionaries into my territory, I was able to focus purely on teching up and building a culture unmatched by any of my opponents. However, Civilization still comes up a bit short in the scenario I'm thinking of. Though, if your enemy did try to use military power to get the Fission tech from you, you could inform your neighbors of his intent and have them fight him for you, sure. That sounds about right, but it's still missing the invasion aspect. For example, if you're defeated in Civilization, as far as I know, the enemy doesn't have the ability to absorb your technologies into their own nation.

In Rise of Nations, the broad, sweeping technology tree and use of subtler diplomacy is unusual in a fast-paced RTS game, but it worked so well here. Now, I remember spies being able to inflitrate enemy installations and give you line-of-sight, but stealing technologies wasn't among their powers, if I remember correctly.

Empire Earth 2 had a nice little diplomacy system, allowing people to barter all sorts of stuff, including troops, to get what they wanted. It featured the chat system and the ability to plan strategies on the battle map. All of that was cool and all, but it still lacks the tech-stealing feature that intrigues me.

The game I'm thinking of, to do this right, would be turn-based RTS, but it could be applied to RTS if you wanted a faster-paced game. Now, we take the excellent technology systems from Civilization and RoN and combine them. First, we have the broad categories of techs, each level of which must be unlocked RoN-style. After that, individual techs must be researched by themselves. However, along the way, a bit of subtlety will help a crafty player. Let's say that one of the other players posesses nuclear technology. You have unlocked the atomics section of the tech tree, but have yet to invest in nuclear missiles. The number of turns and resources consumed seem unusually high to you. So, you build a spy unit and send him into enemy territory, where he can take up residence in the nearest research station or nuclear silo. There, you can activate his power to smuggle documents about the selected technology, in this case nuclear missiles, to you. So, with this new information, the number of turns and cost to produce the nuclear weapons tech are dramatically reduced. Or, if you're really in need of the nukes, you can have the spy attempt to smuggle a working model across the border to you, thus giving you one free nuke to either use or dissect for its secrets.

In another scenario, let's say you have just conquered an enemy that possesses the secret to nuclear power and weaponry. Now, being a smart opponent, you destroy his armies and capitols, but you leave his infrastructure intact, as it will soon belong to you. In most games, I see a disturbing trend of massacring every building. Buildings that, in a realistic setting, are now yours to keep and yours to plunder. While farms and barracks won't get you much, an intact research station is valuable indeed. Looking through it, you can send in your own researchers to unlock the secrets of your former enemy's technology. Having saved these technologies, you are now in possesion of valuable secrets that will put you far ahead of any remaining opponents.

Now, in the same scenario, let's say you are the one with the nukes. However, having neglected your ground troops, you find yourself under attack. Pulling a Hardin, you warn your neighbors of what will happen if your warmonger enemy gets control over your nuclear secrets. Then, in a temporary union, your enemies ward off the attack of your neighbor to save you and themselves. However, now they'll want something in return, something tangible. Passing off some other technologies might save you, but if they demand your nuclear secrets, you might just have to give them up...

See, what I am talking about is a game that really opens up all sorts of paths to take to victory. Sure, you have good old war, but now you can add in diplomacy on a very real scale, perhaps even surpassing that of Civ. Also, there should be a purely economical way to gain victory. Like how Terminus becomes a nexus of technology, repairing old ships and providing services to other worlds. Now, imagine that, but in a game. The ability to become a sort of "neutral ground" nation where others can come to utilize your services and buy technologies and units from you. If we throw in the massive EE2 barter system, you can produce entire armies for your opponents, sell them to them, and gain a profit. Or, you could be an area where battle is prohibited, and enemies can send their diplomats to discuss peace treaties and other political manuvers.

On another tangent, a cultural victory, much like in Civ should be available. Through both superior culture and an influential religion, you could gain victory just by being more intelligent that the barbarians around you. If they attempt to cross your border, their army could be rendered paralyzed by the beauty of your cities or the magnificence of your buildings. This would buy you valuable time to find an alternative solution, or deploy your own troops. Or, like Terminus, you could be the center of a religion accepted by your enemy's troops and people. Any city owned by you could not be attacked unless your enemy renounced their faith and threw their economy into anarchy. In battle, their troops would suffer a demoralization penalty against your holy warriors. Of course, you would suffer no such effects, as you could simply brand your enemies heretics and attack regardless. Though, if your attack failed, you would be at the mercy of a nation that no longer follows your faith and will not suffer any penalties.

Also, it would be interesting to have control over the technologies you give away. For example, lets say your temporary allies from above force you into giving up the secret to nuclear weapons. While you are merely using the atomics section to generate easy power for your economy, your opponents intend to wage nuclear war. Like in RoN, there should be a limit to the number of nukes that can be thrown around before the world ends. Seeing the end of the world as bad for business, you decide to use a secret power of your own. Having given them the technology, you can now directly influence how it is used. For example, you could assume that your researchers gave them incomplete data and force them to take a few turns working out the kinks and making a few connections that were left out. Or, you could keep the missiles from launching by utilizing a special device installed on them by unknowing techies, giving you a few turns to work out a treaty or mobilize your forces. Finally, by paying quite a bit of resources, you could "retard" their knowledge of nuclear weaponry. This indicates that you gave them faulty information or left out some key bit, like how to process uranium-245. This causes the tech to slowly fade from their list unless they pay a hefty bit to get it back or barter with you to stop the retarding process.

Alright, my fingers hurt. I'll post more later, but let me have your thoughts on this.


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Offline Tal

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Re: An interesting idea...
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2006, 08:42:53 pm »
Okay, since no one seems to have any interest in this, I'm just gonna keep this tangent-thing going.

Now, we have only a fragment of the gameplay before us. One of the many questions is what the factions will be like. Now, I'm all for the idea of distinct, colorful factions, but those belong in a game that has a more definite setting. We'll come back to them later. Right now, I'm gonna focus on two distinct possibilities. The first is that of a EE-like system from the first game in which you get points at the beginning to spend on your faction. Now, while this does add a bit of versatility, it still seems generic to me. However, in the campaign, you gained points for acheiving certain goals.

Now, cribbing from RPGs, let's say we pepper the random maps with native tribes, villagers, monsters, or even neutral cities. Here, you can recieve mini-quests. Go kill so many monsters or donate this much gold or research this medical tech to save some city from a plauge. Now, you have gained points to be used improving some aspect of your faction. Spend a few points to shorten the amount of turns it takes to research a general area of technologies. Or, you could increase the number of soldiers per squad that are produced. Or, you could even barter your points as more stuff to trade. Or, you could use them to generate a one-time effect, such as increasing the amount of resources gathered or call in a squad or powerful mercenaries or a hero unit.

Now, the other way to make factions distinct relies on a technology that has yet to be released, but I have great faith in. The editors displayed in Spore, if applied to this RTS, would make each person have an incredibly distinct faction. Though this might be purely visual, we could work in gameplay aspects. For example, you could buy an upgraded version of the barracks, but you would get to design the look or it yourself. Or, if you want to add a giant superlaser to your tanks, buy it, shape it, then attach that bad boy. Going one step further, each player could design his units himself. If the tools are truly as powerful and simple as we saw, it is quite possible to create anything for your armies. If you wanted your basic infantry to look like samurai in powered armor, complete with swords and plasma cannons, go for it. Or, while your enemy is attacking you with a Panzer-ripoff, you're using tanks that look like steampunk robots.

Now that we have ways of making the factions distinct, how do we make them more suited to their individual players? Starting over each time, like in EE, is kind of a hassle, so I say we adopt the Age of Empires 3 system, albeit in a different form. After designing your faction, you get to keep the look and feel of it, as well as the upgrades you have bought for your units. However, points do not carry over from game to game. Instead, these points are shunted to a "real" pool outside of individual games. Here, it takes a lot more or them, but they can be spent to permanently improve otherwise temporary upgrades. For example, if you used points in the game to make yourself harvest resources faster, than won't stick. But, if spent outside the game, it will.

Also, if you spend enough points, you can "tech up" outside the game. This means that from now on, you'll start out at your current "tech level". If you want, you can set it lower to give newer players a better chance. If we go with the Spore-tech, then we need to have a certain number of unit slots, like in Impossible Creatures. In IC, you could create all kinds of creatures, but you could only use a certain number of them. Here, the same concept applies. Spend points, and you unlock more slots for more units. If you start out at a lower tech level than usual, then you can't include your higher-level troops, but you retain the option to switch out one of your lesser unit types for it once you reach regular tech level.

Now we run into a problem usually seen in MMORPGS. When you have a persistent character, those that play the longest eventually gain everything there is to get and become all-powerful in games. That's fine and all, but it seems horribly unfair to a new player. That's where a good matchmaker system comes in. As you "tech up", you get placed in a new pool of players to draw from, ones of a similar tech level, win/loss ratio and of differing play styles. All of these pools are linked, however, but the percentage of getting someone from a different pool drops precipitously in either direction. And, point rewards are given out based on player level. So, two new players will get a relatively moderate number of points, maybe enough to buy a single new upgrade. However, while the chance would be rare, if a new player were matched up against someone of a much higher level, then they would get a pile of points, even if they lose. Levels will be viewable by each player, so if a seasoned vet notices he has been matched up against a newbie, he might intiate a chat and ease them into the game. If he weren't so sporting, it wouldn't help him any. Instead, he would earn very few points for trouncing all over a new player, simply because they are much less of a challenge and shouldn't be worth the same amount as one from their own level.

Now, if several players are in a match, and one of them is eliminated, should the fun end there? Should they simply be dropped to the status of "observer"? I think not. This player can still participate, but they must be very careful. When their capitol is destroyed, a free leader unit is produced on the fringes of the player's former territory. He now has several options. He can make his way to a neutral city on the map and install himself as leader and get right back into the game. However, there are subtler options. He can return to his former territory and hide himself in one of his buildings to automatically gain a line of sight to all structures he formerly owned. Now, if he wants, he can begin working either for or against his conquerer. He can ask other players to contribute resources to him. If he gains enough, he can begin subverting enemy control. The leader unit can pop into and out of buildings, causing all sorts of panic. By controlling a barracks, the player can convert qeued squads into guerillas under his control to try and take back his territory. These guerilla units would also have the power to inhabit structures of the defeated player, so that if the enemy wants to rout them, he'll have to destroy his infrastructure to get it. The player could inhabit the foreign capitol, pay the necessary resources, then automatically cause a coup to retake everything in the province that he controlled or was produced from something her controlled. If the player wants to help his enemy, he could ask to be granted control over his territory as a provincial governor. He couldn't attack his controlling enemy, but her could help in excecuting attacks on other players.

Whoa, that's a lot of stuff, and it's getting late. Peace out till tomorrow...
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Offline Samog

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Re: An interesting idea...
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2006, 04:33:49 pm »
Tl;r.

You can do something like that in Clash of the Clans.

This isn't a shameless plug -- you can do maybe 2/3 of that, and the other 1/3 is only removed because it's not part of the game.
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Offline Tal

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Re: An interesting idea...
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2006, 07:56:38 pm »
Clash of the Clans? Care to explain that in more detail?
There are some things mankind was not meant to know...

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Offline Tal

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Re: An interesting idea...
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2006, 03:16:36 pm »
Interesting threads. However, I'm thinking more along the lines of an actual videogame. Sure, this is a pipe-dream, but hey, why not dream?
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"If you can't take the heat, get off the car hood." -Bucky Katt

Offline Snapple

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Re: An interesting idea...
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2006, 09:50:30 am »
i hate to tell you, but by posting an idea like this i believe you have now lost all rights to it, ive heard stories where companies ask whole studios to submit idea, then copyright them.  If you are really interested you could at least have a stab making it, maybe using the torque engine (cant remember but i think is meant to be pretty flexible).
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Offline Tal

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Re: An interesting idea...
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2006, 05:53:00 pm »
Meh, I don't care. If someone actually makes this game, I'll be happy as a mule eating briars.
There are some things mankind was not meant to know...

"If you can't take the heat, get off the car hood." -Bucky Katt