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Re: Command structure?

Not trying to be argumentative, but I'll give more detail.  :)  Keep in mind 
that I'm talking about adding it on top of existing interface, not trying to 
remove anything.  A lot of people like managing every single unit.

For me, having to make target selection for every single piece, move every 
single piece one at a time, and a few other small things are very 
frustrating.  It doesn't stop me from enjoying the game.  Quite the contrary, 
I just downloaded the new version and compiled it so I could play the Anthill 
map.  I got my butt kicked, but I held out alright until the end.

Anyway, here's what I'm talking about.

Right now, each piece is more correctly called a "unit".  So perhaps it's a 
platoon of infantry, a division of tanks, etc.  I think they're usually 
called units in these sorts of games, too.  :)

So, I look at the map and I decide that I'm going to send a group up the 
right-hand side to out-flank my opponent.  I'm going to set up the main line 
in the middle of the map, and it's going to be composed chiefly of heavy 
tanks.  I'm going to set both flanks on that line to be light tanks, and I 
want the artillery (both regular artillery and aa guns) positioned behind the 
front line, but within shooting range of the line and a ways beyond.  So I 
split up the line into two commands and give them the "advance slowly and 
kill everything that gets in front of you" command.  I set each of my flanks 
as a separate command with the "Don't let anybody get around you and kill 
anything blue" command.  My outflankers, going up the right-hand side, I 
define flank roles and the main body roles there, and then I give them the 
objective.  "Go take this city, avoid fighting until you get near".

Then I set up my air support in 3 separate commands.  For the interceptors I 
group them with the bomber and instruct the bomber "Go bomb the artillery".  
Then I tell my gunships to "Stay behind the flanks and plug the holes".

Then I watch each turn.  I update strategy as needed.  Remember, the first 
rule of battle is that your plan only lasts until you meet the enemy.  :)  
But a lot of the annoying stuff is taken care of.  Piece will automatically 
move in to close holes in the line, target selection is taken care of for me 
(presumably there'd be a way to prioritize targets for each command as well), 
and I can give one single "Fall back to this point" order and my line will 
fall back to formation.

See, I'd rather focus on the strategic and tactical decisions without having 
to deal with chosing targets, moving each piece individually, and so forth.  
On the Anthill map (an excellent map, if you don't mind my saying), there's a 
lot of hills that the heavy and light tanks can't go over.  So to move among 
these, I have to puzzle which ones to move first and so forth.  A simple 
retreat isn't so simple.  I lost the first time, but I think I could've used 
the hills better.  Instead I set up two lines, fell back once from the first 
defensive line, then when the line got too ragged for me to maintain anymore, 
I let those pieces die (of course they kept fighting) and let the enemy 
advance onto my second line.  The second line didn't hold, of course, because 
the enemy punched a hole on the right flank and snuck some infantry into the 
base.  :(  I didn't have any reserves to plug the hole.

It's pretty involved, a command structure, and it'll be a lot of work to put 
it together.  Ultimately, though, it would help improve the existing AI 
because you can write an AI to deal with strategic and tactical decisions and 
let the command AI deal with individual and group decisions that are needed.

Now for specific points.  :)

> Personally, I'd put it the other way around: The micro-management is what
> makes it fun (as long as it doesn't get too micro). But that doesn't
> necessarily mean it wouldn't be interesting to have such a feature. I'm
> not convinced that it would work well (in fact, I'm rather sceptical),
> but I've been proven wrong before, so...

A lot of people like that about these sorts of games.  The main problem I see 
is that there are two types of wargames (ignoring the shoot-me-ups, of 
course).  There's the territorial types of games that focus on strategy only, 
like Axis & Allies, and FreeCiv to an extent, and then there's the tactical 
games like Crimson Field (which reminds me of Ogre from Steve Jackson Games).  
The first I find unsatisfying because it's too general, and the second I love 
but have to work really hard to play.  :(  (FreeCiv has traits of both, of 
course)  In any case, Civil War appears to have the command structure setup, 
but crashes on my computer.  The old Caesar game had it, but the actual 
control over the battle was very poor, and I didn't like the realtime aspect 
of it.

> Just a few random notes that come to mind:
> The management in CF is actually not that "micro" in so far as it
> already represents some level of abstraction. You don't have to bother
> with ammo and fuel, you don't move each infantrist individually
> (as a piece in CF is more akin to a division or something) etc.
> If you take all of this away, what's left of the game? A sample
> mission with a command structure may look like this (I'll
> deliberately exaggerate a bit):
> Mission scenario is: Conquer the enemy HQ and prevent them from
> getting yours. You assign 10 of your 15 divisions to taking the
> enemy HQ and the rest to defending your own. Then you take the dog
> for a walk and mow the lawn. When you come back you see that your
> strategy was successful. Yay! On to the next map!
> I hope it's clear what I'm trying to say. Basically the
> question probably is: What would your objectives look like?
> Wouldn't taking the micro-management away mean there'd be not
> much left worth playing?

Objectives would range.  I guess "mission" is better.  Send one group with the 
mission to "take this city" and click on the map to tell them.  For tactics 
select "avoid fighting and move quickly".  Another mission is "attack all 
enemy pieces of [this type] in [this are]".  For piece type you would select 
a list and prioritize the types of units to attack.  For area a polygon 
selection tool or even just a box selection tool, or bezier curves, or 
something.  You know, select an area on the map.  :)

> Currently I wouldn't want to hand the fighting over to the AI
> simply because it's too stupid to be a real match for a human
> player. If anything like command structures should ever be
> useful, that means that
> a) you must only use it on 2 player maps so that 2 AIs of equal
> strength can battle it out
> or
> b) the AI needs to be improved significantly. This of course
> would be a very welcome feature even if command structures
> never take off...

AI is an issue here, of course.  If the AI is bad enough, no command structure 
would ever be useful.  If it's good enough, command structure would give 
someone an advantage because every piece would fight as needed.  When I have 
to manage stuff, it's easy to forget something.  In the Anthill map I played 
earlier, I forgot to fire my AA guns at one point, and had I fired them, I 
might have prevented the breach that lost me the game.  It's a simple human 
error, but it's the reason generals don't choose specific targets for every 
single squad or platoon or whatever, too easy to forget to order someone to 

> > If there's interest, then I'm interested in hacking on it when I can find
> > time to add the feature.  :)
> My doubts shouldn't stop you from trying if you think you can
> get it right. The concept in itself is certainly interesting
> and I'd be curious to see any results of your work.

I'll start hacking into it and see what I come up with.  It might be awhile, 
though, I've got a pretty full plate right now, but I'll get into it.


> Jens

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