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Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense

 
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Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/22/2005 9:57:24 AM   
mtemple

 

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In the first installment, I discussed ways to employ artillery. So before anyone gets the idea that artillery is invincible, I thought I would talk about how it can be defeated, or at least neutralized. I have already seen it written elsewhere that IOE is all about discovering that long range artillery is "the key to everything", and while you must always keep it in mind, it is far from omnipotent.

The discussion here will focus on the idea of suppression, which is really just developing a strategy to counter a specific threat. This concept does not apply solely to artillery as we'll see later. In IOE, it will often be wise to dedicate a unit or two to the suppression mission, and the most obvious choice for this in the case of artillery suppression, would be air units because they are not vulnerable to artillery and can move quickly to locate firing units.

Though it might seem like artillery can hit the entire board, the actual range of artillery is only 40 squares. And it is important to remember that artillery must be at least six squares away from a target to fire, which makes artillery units particularly vulnerable to close assault by ground units. When an artillery round comes in on your position, use an air unit to back-track along the path of the incoming round until that nasty mortar or rocket launcher is located. You can then use your own artillery to attack or "suppress" the offending unit. While you could use the air unit to do the killing, unless it is an advanced unit or you have a group of fighters, you may find that too much damage is done in the time it takes the air unit to neutralize the target.

In the early missions of IOE, this tactic will usually prove sufficient, but as you might guess, the enemy will start to counter this strategy by placing engineer units near the artillery units to defend against air attack. Engineers (or sappers) are primarily for building bases, but they are also the only ground units which can attack air units. And they are very effective as one or two, especially at the higher experience levels, can make short work of fighters. So ultimately, your suppression team should be capable of a dual role. They must be able to suppress both the artillery AND the anti-aircraft units that guard them. Alternatively, you could have separate teams dedicated to suppressing each type of unit.

This dual suppression mission will probably still start out with the fighter back-tracking the artillery fire to it's source, but then it should probably back off before the anti-aircraft fire can carve it up since it has accomplished the mission of locating the firing unit. Then a follow-on team, probably of ground units loaded on a transport, should land nearby to move in for the kill. Since the engineers cannot attack ground units, this team should try to move quickly inside the artillery unit's minimum range. If defending ground units are also present, then grunts should take advantage of their superior sight range (six squares) to act as spotters for friendly artillery. Any high ground nearby should be used as a vantage point to prevent line-of-sight obstruction by intervening obstacles.

There is one other advantage which fighters have over ground units that could be of particular use in the suppression mission. Fighters can mask themselves from the view of ground units on low terrain by hovering over trees or cliffs. This represents the ability of helicopters to "terrain mask" by using ground obstacles as barriers to vision, and then popping up occasionally to take quick looks at enemy positions. Use the "hold" command to make sure your fighters don't move themselves out of cover while your attention is elsewhere. This "terrain masking" will not work against units on high ground, or if an enemy air unit is present to act as a spotter for the ground units.

It is my hope that players will develop other methods of conducting suppression such that they might be able to throttle me if we ever met in a multi-player game. In this event, I would have met one of my primary design goals of making the game responsive to the employment of a wide range of tactics that may not have been envisioned beforehand.


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Mark Temple
Enemy Technology
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"
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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/22/2005 2:29:33 PM   
Burzmali

 

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Why does that seem like a whole lot of micromanagement to eliminate a single unit... Any reason why an arty piece firing doesn't reveal it's location? It would seem easy enough for the defending arty to determine the location of the attacking arty simply by watching the trajectory of the incoming missile. Also, no point defense weapons? We have Patriot missiles now, and with lasers et al, it should be at least feasible for there to be units capable of shooting down arty projectiles.

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/22/2005 6:22:49 PM   
mtemple

 

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Micromangement? Hmmm, I guess some could look at it that way. But just about all current infantry tactics are built around dealing with the artillery (and air attack) threat, so I had hoped bringing in this element would add to the realism and justification of the maneuver warfare doctrine. Artillery has been called "king of the battlefield" since WWI because something like 80% of casualties were caused by it. So it is not intended to be simply an annoyance but a central tactical influence.

And yes, there is currently counter-battery radar that can look at the trajectory of incoming rounds in order to locate the source, but there is currently no weapon system capable of intercepting the shell. And then there is the smoke plume when the weapon fires that has been of concern for giving away the firing position of wire guided weapons like the Dragon and Tow which require the operator to continue aiming until impact. The slower round in IOE was intended as an analogy to this so that the player could back-track to the target without adding the mental load of another weapon system that might contribute to micromanagement. I had hoped this would be simpler.

Also, it is very reasonable to assume that there might be a system in the future capable of locating and intercepting an incoming round. But I also think it's reasonable to expect that artillery rounds would be improved as well with either stealth capability, faster muzzle velocity or possibly guidance to alter the trajectory. In any case, from a game design perspective, I couldn't see adding a unit type that could simply neutralize the artillery, since eliminating the artillery altogether would probably be simpler.

I know that some will find all of this simply annoying, but I wanted to try a different spin on RTS play such that it would not simply be the same as everything else out there. I hope that some will find it interesting and worthwhile.


< Message edited by mtemple -- 4/22/2005 7:00:44 PM >


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

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/22/2005 7:33:19 PM   
Burzmali

 

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One might argue that being able to track an artillery round back with an air unit demostrates that the stealth capacity of the projectile isn't that great, but that is a arguement for another day .

The problem with micromanagement is that you can only do so much of it. In an RTS, the more I have to micromanage, the less of the battlefield I can deal with. This was explified in early games where if you told your units to attack a target, after they kill that target, they would stand around dumbly waiting to be killed. Now, in a multiplayer game, if I can force my opponent to perform more micromanagement than I, I have the tactical edge. So, in this case, I set up 3 or 4 artillery units around the map aimed at my opponent's base, then I rush with my infantry. Now once the artillery beings firing, my opponent is forced to divide his attention between my rush and my multiple artillery locations. If I am willing to sacrifice the artillery, I only have to worry about my rush.

This isn't exactly a new problem with RTS games, but it seems that forcing someone to manually hunt down a unit to return fire isn't helping the situation.

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/22/2005 8:22:52 PM   
mtemple

 

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Yes, that's a good point and it seems like a sound tactical approach. I guess I just don't see any alternative to having to hunt down the artillery pieces other than eliminating them from the game. It seems like having a unit type that can shoot down their shells would amount to the same thing. But there are cases when you would not want to be slowed down by conducting suppression, which you may have been alluding to.

To counter the tactics you put forth, I might try to make sure you had to deal with my artillery in the same way such that your rush had to be very careful to void bunching up. But this leads to my point about a basic weakness of the artillery that I'm not sure if you intended to expose with your comments, which is that it has quite a long "decision loop". Thus, it does not arrive quickly where it is needed. This means my counter to your tactic can be rendered ineffective with aggressive offense and good maneuver. If you are maintaining good discipline in your "rush", meaning small, agile groups that don't stop too often or bunch up, you may not even need to be overly concerned about my artillery as it should often arrive too late to hurt you. This is the essence of maneuver warfare: quick moves by small groups as opposed to large lumbering formations. It is also meant to be a central difference from other RTS's.

I think there are many instances where suppression of artillery is not necessary, especially in the offense. I hope this would encourage players to go on the offensive early and often, and to maintain the initiative. Because once your buildings are located and you are in a defensive posture, you really have only a couple of options: suppress that artillery, or run away and try to build somewhere else.


_____________________________

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

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/22/2005 8:32:19 PM   
mtemple

 

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BTW, you are quite correct that the subject of the future of artillery and countermeasures is a totally wide open discussion!


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

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/23/2005 2:02:45 AM   
Burzmali

 

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Well, in general, most RTS combats take place around one side's base so if you are the aggressor, your artillery will always be able to find fairly static targets. As long as you have a few units with decent viewing ranges, you can be attacking the back of an enemies base with your artillery while your assualt units charge the front. I haven't tried, but can you force fire artillery? I seems like you should be able to target fixed emplacements (like portals)with artillery from far outside an enemy base..

< Message edited by Burzmali -- 4/23/2005 2:05:11 AM >

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/23/2005 2:23:12 AM   
mtemple

 

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Exactly. Thus, the advantage goes to the bold. That is, the first one to seize the initiative and successfully force the opponent into a defensive posture. And that's the way I intended it.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "force-fire". Do you mean fire at buildings through the fog-of-war even without spotters present? The answer to this is no. Artillery must always fire at a square that can be seen by a friendly unit. You could well argue that this is a bit unrealistic since buildings can't move and artillery should be able to fire at old coordinates, with or without a spotter. But the distances involved are a bit distorted (as you may have noticed by the relative unit sizes) and would most likely be measured in tens of miles. Hitting a point target over those distances through an atmosphere with no spotter could still be a dicey thing. But even if you don't buy that, the decision was really a game-play one. I wanted to reward players who are able to successfully position spotter units since it can be an arduous task.


_____________________________

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 #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/23/2005 6:49:45 PM   
Burzmali

 

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Well, anyway you cut it, it comes back to micromanage. The question is, is artillery an effective strategy because it represents using a combined force to multiply the strength of your attack, or because, since your opponent is a single person, it divides his attention enough to give you an advantage?

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/24/2005 5:21:36 AM   
mtemple

 

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A very good point. And I would say that both are legitimate objectives in warfare, going all the way back to Sun Tsu. In going after Saddam in Iraq, and knowing that he used a Soviet style centralized command and control system, one of the main elements of our strategy was to give him too many things to do such that he could not possibly employ his forces effectively (nothing you don't know I'm sure).

Now, I'm assuming you are not saying that IOE's interface is so bad that you can't possibly hope to command your forces effectively. At least, I never read that as your point, as that would be another discussion entirely, and also a legitimate one. Instead, I understand you to mean that as a player, you are only one person and that hunting artillery is one task too many to add to your decision loop.

Since there isn't any good way in a single player game for you to delegate tasks to subordinates like you would in a real military organization, I just had to make a decision about how much to require of the player. If you're saying that it's too much, or more importantly, that it just isn't any fun, then I have to accept your judgement on that, since you are the customer and have the final word. My effort here was only to give you some insight into what sort of experience I was trying to create.


_____________________________

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 #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/24/2005 5:09:32 PM   
Burzmali

 

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No, I'm not implying that the interface is bad, it has it's downsides (max 9 units selected at a time ) but in terms of micromanagement, it's no worst off then any other game. The only point I was trying to make, is that in multiplayer games, use of artillery as I described above will result in people losing matches not because they weren't prepared for an attack, but because his attention was divided by a couple of throwaway units his opponent threw around the map. If I lose a match to a better opponent, or because of bad luck, or even because I made an error at a critical juncture, that's ok, but when I start losing matches because the game won't let me handle my forces effiecently, that takes a toll on my enjoyment of the game.

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/24/2005 5:55:47 PM   
mtemple

 

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So are you saying the game would be more enjoyable without the artillery?

_____________________________

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 #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 4/25/2005 1:07:44 AM   
Burzmali

 

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No, I am saying that having features that increase micromanagement for one side of a battle but not the other without sufficent cost are questionable. I'd have a problem with "hacker" units that force your opponent to press the 'x' key every 5 seconds or loose a portal load.

Every game has the this to some extent, I just prefer games that don't encourage proliferation of 'micromanagement' warfare.

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RE: Designer's Notes #2 - Suppression in the Defense - 5/5/2005 8:43:48 AM   
Chris SI


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Hey Mark, Chris from SI, didn't know 'I' was now connected to Matrix.

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