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Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack

 
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Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/26/2005 9:24:33 AM   
mtemple

 

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I'm not sure how much anyone is interested in what a game designer is thinking when putting a game together, but there are some subtleties to IOE that I hope will be discovered. Since I'm the psychotic nutcase who designed and programmed IOE, I thought I'd try writing some notes on various elements of the game so people could try some tactics that might not be obvious at first glance. Most of these discussions can be tried out with the free IOE: Ril'Cerat, though the advanced CRACK and ELITE unit types only will appear in the full game and might make for a deeper experience. It is assumed that you have either read the manual or viewed the tutorials available as a separate download, and thus are familiar with the basic concepts of selecting units and giving them orders.

This first discussion deals with a game element that has been mentioned in some reviews as being a bit difficult to grasp; the artillery or "Mortar" unit. I start with this because it is one of the fundamental reasons I believe IOE will not play like almost any other RTS out there. Of course, since I started designing games, I don't have as much time to play them (a tragic irony), so there may be one or two games I have missed that have this feature.

The Mortar unit is the only type that has a minimum range: 6 squares. Units closer than this minimum cannot be attacked, and since mortars cannot see 6 squares in distance, they are virtually useless without another unit to act as a spotter. The mortar's max range is 40 squares, and it can attack anything within that distance that can be seen by a friendly unit. It is the only unit type that can attack units it cannot see directly. I felt this "indirect fire" capability was a crucial element that was missing from other RTS's. I implemented this as a unit type (as opposed to off-board naval gunfire or the like) because I wanted players to be able to implement defensive countermeasures including counter-battery fire (fire aimed at destroying artillery units).

In my training as a Marine Officer, it became apparent early on that all tactical movement was focused on keeping your Marines spread out. It was precisely because of indirect fire that this had to be constantly on everyone's mind, and I wanted this same mental pressure to be on players of IOE. You should notice right away that helpless, panicked feeling you get when enemy artillery is walking in on you from some unseen firing position. Large, awkward formations of massed units a la Warcraft, will be immediately rewarded with massive casualties. This is much like conditions you'd find on the modern battlefield. Small, quick groups are much better adapted to survival in these conditions.

One suggested method for employing your mortar units is to use the unit grouping feature to assign your mortar a group number that can be quickly recalled later. Do this by selecting the mortar, and then holding down the control key while choosing a number from 0 to 9. I usually use zero for my mortars. In this way, when friendly units spot an enemy, you can bring "arty" raining down on them quickly by hitting the group number (zero for me) to select your mortar, and then either O (one shot), S (salvo of three shots), or A (continuous fire until stopped, retargeted, or out of supplies). Using the grouping feature keeps you from having to change the map view to go find your mortar when you need to fire quickly.

The resultant barrage will be noisy and devastating, as each shell plasters the square it hits and all eight adjacent squares. The more advanced Veteran, Crack, and Elite mortars will fire two, three and four shells at once respectively, which will totally pulverize large formations and buildings.

It is important to note that mortars require 2 supply units for each shell fired, so be sure to have your buildings set to automatically retrieve supplies (auto supply) to keep these hungry monsters fed.

With a little practice, you will become adept at this tactic (referred to as "Call for fire" in the military). You should try to master this as soon as you have access to mortar units as it will get you the high "kill ratios" necessary to discourage large formations that might otherwise prove devastating. In multi-player games, it will force your opponents to out maneuver you to have a chance of defeating you.

In the next article, I'll discuss ways to defend yourself from artillery. In the mean time, feel free to ask questions about anything I have mentioned here. I will try to respond as quickly as my ludicrous schedule allows!


_____________________________

Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"
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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/26/2005 6:45:30 PM   
mlmckeown


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The mortar attacks during a multiplayer attack is a
little different then most RTS games. The other players
has to take the time to figure where its coming from.

When attacking use ground and air units, then a mortar
attack to crush the ground troops. Looking forward to
getting the full version.

I need to work on my friends ... to get the demo and
have them check it out ...

(in reply to mtemple)
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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/26/2005 7:23:17 PM   
mtemple

 

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Exactly! In fact, it might be wise to dedicate a small team exclusively to the artillery suppression mission. I'll talk more about defending against artillery in the next piece.


_____________________________

Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

(in reply to mtemple)
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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/29/2005 2:28:55 AM   
Odi


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38 years since I enlisted. Maybe too long ago for me to figure appropriate tactics for one of the supply scenerios in the retail version.:(

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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/29/2005 3:41:29 AM   
mtemple

 

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Hmmm. Well, it may not be that. I'm by no means a perfect game designer and it has been said that a couple of the missions might be too difficult. Which mission are you referring to? Maybe I can just make sure you understand what I was thinking and the solution might be clearer.

Thanks,


_____________________________

Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

(in reply to mtemple)
Post #: 5
RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/31/2005 2:51:39 PM   
Burzmali

 

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From: Boston
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Unfortunately, in order to keep tabs on mortars, they need to be assign 1-2 to a team, but since assualt units can only have up to 9 units on a team, this means that you quickly run out of teams. Even in the demo I could barely keep an assualt organized, forcing me to resort to the old "I have more guns than you, I win" strategy, which lets you win almost any RTS sadly...

(in reply to mtemple)
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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 3/31/2005 6:30:13 PM   
mtemple

 

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In IOERil'Cerat, I was careful not to let the scenarios get too difficult, as the consensus in the industry is that games tend to be too hard. But in the full IOE, there are at least a few missions where you simply will not have enough units available to overwhelm the enemy. Later scanarios especially will be geared to test your maneuver/coordination ability, and thus keeping the number of units available low is part of the design to try to ensure the interface will allow smooth control of your team. In addition, some missions do not even give you enough units to destroy the enemy. The goal in these cases is something other than annihillation, such as delay, or evading intercept.

The thinking with the control groups was that if you assign two of the 10 groups to artillery, one to transports, and maybe one for fighters, you would still have 6 for assault teams, giving you 54 assault units! But if you're saying this still is not enough, maybe I'll have to look at that.

If you are a very advanced player who is a veteran of many RTS games, there is the possibility that the campaign game may not be enough of a challenge. So I will have some separate scenario maps available for the "Custom Game" mode in IOE to push you a bit. But overall, I didn't want IOE to frustrate the less experienced until they had a chance to get a feel.

_____________________________

Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

(in reply to Burzmali)
Post #: 7
RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 4/1/2005 3:05:10 PM   
Burzmali

 

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Grouping more that 1 or 2 artillery units in the same group eliminates their tactical use. It's hard to supress the enemy if all your artillery is firing at the same spot. Other than that, those 54 assualt unit better be in units of 9 of the same type. It is no fun ordering a group to do something and have half the units far outdistance the rest. If there a command for moving in formation that I missed?

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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 4/1/2005 6:42:32 PM   
mtemple

 

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Yes, you are correct about the artillery as you need to be able to target independently. As for the formations, if you start a group within 8 squares of each other they will attempt to hold that formation; at least they will re-form when they stop. The thing that messes that up is intervening terrain, which is just like real life. I am trying to come up with a good system whereby units will re-orient in the same formation to face a target they are attacking. But of course, all of this works best on open ground.

As for the unit groupings, crushers are the only type that move slowly at the lower experience levels, so you can safely group the other ground types and still have cohesive movement. The Cannons will slow down in their advanced levels, and thus should be grouped with Crushers when they reach that point. You might even toy with grouping a couple of fighters together with fast ground units as long as you move only in short hops, since the fighters will always get there first. But the fighters can "terrain mask" (I'll talk about this later), and this is difficult to take advantage of in groups. You really need to control individually to use this.

Overall, I agree that one can always use more groupings! I've added that to my notes, but I'm not sure how difficult it would be to add this to the current game.


_____________________________

Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

(in reply to Burzmali)
Post #: 9
RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 4/4/2005 4:33:03 AM   
Burzmali

 

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Well, first off, a cap of 9 units to a group is a little low, even increasing it to 12 would be an improvement. Even in the demo I ran into times I just wanted even on the screen to move, and it is an utter hassle to select nine, move them, and rinse wash repeat. Second, groups need an option to move at the rate of the slowest unit, forcing a player to micromanage units for movement is no good. If you really want artillery to be useful, I should be able to assign 2 arty pieces, a couple of light scout units and a couple of heavier defense units to a group and have the move as a group. When they are told to attack, the arty fires while the other hold position. If you want, you can micromanage the scout units to act as spotters, so be it, but they shouldn't go running off when they're arty pieces should be atacking long range.

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RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 4/4/2005 6:13:19 AM   
mtemple

 

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Those are all good ideas. But I wonder if simply increasing the number of groups would cure many of these issues? The reason I ask is that screwing with the AI is a textbook lesson in the law of unintended consquences. It requires A LOT of playtesting before I dare release anything with altered AI.

As an aside, it's too bad I wasn't able to get feedback this good when I was in beta. Ah well, II of the Enemy is certainly going to benefit greatly from all of this. But I will take a close look at what things can be added right now without too much danger of breaking things!

Thanks,


_____________________________

Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

(in reply to mtemple)
Post #: 11
RE: Designer's Notes #1 - Artillery in the Attack - 4/5/2005 12:21:04 AM   
Burzmali

 

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I doubt it would cure all the problems, but I could write a disertation on unsolvable problems with RTS games

As for feedback, don't worry. games in these parts always seem to be for "computer gamers" with the empathsis the "gamer" with not quite enough of the "computer", at least in my opinion, so I seem to be in the minority around here when it comes to complaining about things

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