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Re: Command structure?

On 02.02.2004 12:53, Dave Fancella wrote:
> 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.  :)

Seems to be the case for CF, too, yes ;-)

> 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.
> 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.

Indeed. To some extent the current AI even works this way. In the first
pass there's a "general" who identifies objectives (shops, basically) and
prioritizes them, roughly estimates the firepower required to successfully
attack or defend them, and finally assigns units to the objectives based on
those numbers.
After that the "lieutenant" takes over and takes care of selecting
destinations and targets for individual units. You will have noticed that
doesn't automatically make the AI smart :)

This two-tiered approach can certainly be abstracted further, presumably
with nice results. Initially, I wanted to have an AI with at least a
basic understanding of spheres of influence (and I still do), but at
that time when I was mainly interested in getting a quick and not
completely horrible result this turned out to be more work than I was
willing to invest. Since then I've been mainly patching the most
annoying problems with the computer player, but the basic design has
never changed substantially. (actually it's about the third complete
rewrite already, but much of the first attempts has never made it
out of its closet)

> > 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.

I know neither Civil War nor Caesar nor Ogre, but I get the idea (I think).
Generally, the concept of command structure is much more widespread in
RTS games than in turn-based ones. And in most RTS games it seems to
boil down to who can dump the bigger heap of units on his opponent (which
BTW is similar in A&A and, of course, its great-grandfather Risk). IMO,
to counter this effect you must not neglect tactical options completely,
ie. you must not abstract too much.

> 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.

Agreed. A good AI is prerequisite to command structure. And, as I said
before, even if that particular idea does not work out, the game will
still benefit from all improvements to the AI. Me likee ;-)

> 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.

Keep us posted.