Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Considering multiple attack path mechanics…

Soo… one of the things about doing a reverse tower-defence mode in my game, is that suddenly you care more about the route your troops take. In tower defence, the fact that enemies may seem to mindlessly go off on a tangent doesn’t matter. If they act dumb then yay! if they act clever then yikes! but it’s never frustrating.

As attacker, things change. if a left turn goes to certain death, you expect your units to take the right turn. But is it that simple? Maybe left is lethal to infantry, but right lethal to tanks. Maybe you want to send the infantry to their deaths as a decoy etc. Consider the following map:

In terms of general design and gameplay, I love this. it makes for huge flexibility, unpredictability, and variety. As a player, I can find it frustrating when attacking because the troops may take a route I don’t want them to take. I’ve been mulling over various GUI ideas for issuing orders. None are perfect, and in any case, I’m keen to have GSB-style hands-off play for challenges, which means too many mid-battle controls are going to be a pain.

I can’t yet decide whether it really is frustrating as a player if the routes are chosen by each unit, or if that’s just me as designer panicking. The instinct is to add all sorts of options or UI controls, but I don’t want this game to be complex to play. Hmmmm…..

On a lighter note.

9 thoughts on Considering multiple attack path mechanics…

  1. Perhaps allow the player to place some kind of “beacon” during the planning phase? So all units that beacon applies to will move towards it if it is the closest one that doesn’t involve backtracking to get to (which requires some way of determining forward and back).

    Then you can have one beacon for infantry, one for tanks. Or one for group 1, one for group 2, one for group 3, etc, and the groupings are set by the player in the planning phase. Kind of like escort/follow orders in GSB.

    Obviously don’t want to get too complex with it, or it’ll become Gratuitous SpaceChem, but it might help give the player more direct control without giving them “runtime” control.

  2. Love these musings on your development process, very insightful.

    On a lighter note: LOL, a Cat DALEK — exxxterrrminate dog :-P

  3. What about of let’s say a fixed number of 3 customizable Paths for the Attacker that are configurable like in Anomaly Warzone Earth; meaning puting one directionicon per pathsplitpoint? That would not be very timeconsuming for the player to set up.

    Each deployed unit can select one of the 3 Paths or put to random choosing with a defaultseting to Path one.
    Meaning 4 more UI-Buttons in the Planning/Deployment-Phase when a unit is selected. Of course groupselecting for the Units is a must that way.

    My guess is that this Method would require around 5-40 simple Useractions for the pathing, depending on how much effort he is willing to pay for that matter. Sounds reasonable to me, since it is not that much effort and the user can choose himself the amount of micromanagement.

    A similar idea would be assigning each Unit to a group and each group has one customizable path. That would even allow more groupspecific commands like seting the order of Battleentry, adjustable unitdistances for movementpatterns and such.

  4. Right now I’m focusing on the real-time traditional mode, with the assumption that in a challenge battle, that is ‘hands-off’, you let each unit fend for itself.

    I already have some UI in that lets me select untis and issue orders, in terms of giving them a ‘preferred target’, so I could just extend that to letting you click on a map square too, and when it comes to a decision, those units could choose the quickest route to that square.

    The only problem is, that measn in complex routes with multiple branches, you’d have to keep an eye on every unit as it went along, anticipating the next decision, which might get fiddly.

  5. Yea, it could get fiddly to have things such that a player can get better results by microing every unit during the battle. I’ve found that a certain portion of the player population feels compelled to do that kind of micro so they can get maximum effectiveness, even though they find the micro detracts from their fun. And it’s much worse if that level of micro is actually necessary to get even basic competence out of one’s units, rather than necessary to get an extra edge.

    On the other hand, it may be worthwhile to have a sort of “no plan survives the enemy” thing going on here: you set up your units and orders ahead of time, and that’s the plan. When something goes wrong during the battle, you can try to patch things up with on-the-spot orders, but that’s almost always going to result in a pretty big loss of effectiveness.

    It’s almost tempting to put a “cooldown” on the giving of direct mid-battle orders ;) Almost, I say, because players have been known to take a Klingon approach with developers that make such choices.

  6. Hmm, I see that for realtimebattles giving orders to units could get very stressfull and at some point the clickspeed of the player becomes the determining factor for success in that battle. Shifting the gameplay to fast action rather than strategic planning. I assume that is not wanted.

    One way for orders in realtime-battles might be puting them on the path instead of the units. So you issue orders to multiple units with few clicks. Also the need and usefullness of orders might heavily depend on the current pathposition of the affected units.

    For example:
    I want my units to space out on a specific pathsegment because there are many Splash/Areadamaging Towers. So I put an order at the beginning of the Pathsegement that tells arriving units to stop until the distance to the next forward unit is a specific distance.
    At the next Pathsegemt are many Singletarget Towers, so i put a “clumpingorder” right before the range of those towers that tells my units to wait and clump together and then move forward.

  7. Just looking at the map, I picture a SpaceChem-like solution, you can put only one order at any intersection, but you could put down a sign like ‘All units turn right’ or modify it as ‘All tanks turn right’ (in which case other units turn left)

  8. Cliff

    What about Troop Types..?

    Basic Grunts – take any route medium pace

    Heavy Infantry – slower pace, takes on heavy emplacements

    Light Infantry – fast, takes path of least resistance

    Special Ops – few in number, but can take on specialised turrets


  9. Could you maybe have a slider the player can set (and possibly adjust if you’re allowing live control in that particular game mode) that balances speed vs. lethality? With it in the far left, all units take the quickest and most direct route, while at the far right, each unit considers the various route possibilities (of which I assume there’ll always be a finite, not-excessive number?) and determines which it is least likely to get killed on and uses that. In between, you can put costs on each route for time and lethality and pick the ‘cheapest’, depending on what is being favoured?

    I just suggest this because, while it’s probably one of the more complex solutions for you, it’s pretty simple for the player to operate (and understand)? I don’t know enough about the game to really suggest how you might judge lethality, but you’ve mentioned different turrets being good against different types of units, and presumably they have a limited range, etc., so you could maybe look at each square on a given route and see what turrets can fire into that square, how good they are against the unit in question and come up with a number from there. Assigning cost for length of the route can be done much more simply by just having a cost per square that the route contains.

    This limits how you could use decoys on a suboptimal path, but perhaps something as simple as a ‘follow unit’ order could override it? Units will take the most direct/least lethal/somewhere in-between route unless given an order that makes them do something else? Or you could set up the slider as an order itself (route selection, maybe?) and you could tell units individually to take the most direct or least lethal route?

    The main disadvantage I could see to this is that while the concept is relatively simple, it could make it harder for players to know exactly where their units will go, which might limit the ability to make more complex plans without experimenting quite a bit.

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