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RTS "World in Conflict" From a Design Perspective 57

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the chance-for-a-comeback dept.
Game Designer Manveer Heir has another installment of his "Design Lesson 101" series where he takes a look at a game from a designer's standpoint and attempts to learn something in the process. In this installment he takes a look at the RTS, World in Conflict that has an interesting twist on resource management. "World in Conflict has a simple resource management system. The player is given a fixed amount of resources to obtain units with. Shortly after you requisition units, they are air-dropped into the game, eliminating the need for building bases. Immediately, this leads to a unit-centric, tactical feel to the entire game. [...] When a unit dies, however, the resources that were allocated to obtain the unit are not lost forever. Instead, what World in Conflict does is return the resources to the player. Not immediately, however. Instead, the resources trickle back in over time. Your resources aren't constrained by how well or poor you are doing in the game (at least not constrained for very long). By doing this, World in Conflict avoids the snowball effect that exists in many real-time strategy games."
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RTS "World in Conflict" From a Design Perspective

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  • Long games (Score:3, Insightful)

    by menace3society (768451) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @03:09PM (#23658045)
    That seems like it would lead to long-drawn out games where one side, and then the other, manage to grab temporary advantage, only to be pushed back to a state of near-equilibrium. Even good tactical thinking isn't really rewarded, as a stunning tactical victory can't be leveraged into anything other than a fleeting advantage.

    I haven't played the game, FWIW, but that's what I imagine a game with those constraints would be like.
    • Agreed, most of the strategy in RTS is money management. If you can't "save" for an upgrade or "save" for a huge army at once (assuming there's no pop cap, which annoys me) then there goes the strategy. Now all you are left with is picking a set amount of units to attack with (chances are you want 50/50 air-ground right..?).

      So it's more about guessing what your opponent has, and playing the game of paper rock scissors...
      • Re:Long games (Score:4, Informative)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @03:52PM (#23658823) Journal
        The only reason that this is the case is because the RTS genre as a whole treats units as unlimited and expendable, which doesn't reflect the real world in any way, due to the actual time it takes to recruit, equip, and train a soldier.

        As for paper/rock/scissors, you could you know, scout, do a little recon, figure out what the enemy is doing, rather than just trying to zerg rush/footy rush/chariot rush/insert early unit rush, whatever. I'm frankly bored with rush-style RTS games that are 100% about resource management, and not at all about actual tactics.

        This sounds more like a "Myth-style" small unit tactics game, with a resource-managing strategic element.
        • Re:Long games (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Serious Lemur (1236978) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @06:25PM (#23661269)

          I thought the zerg rush was HOW you scouted?

          Seriously though, in Brood War (regular Starcraft too to a regular extent), yes, resources make a huge difference, and so does scouting, but in the higher-level circuits, your ability to scout, manage resources, even use tactics and strategy is to some level moot, because everyone is at roughly the same skill in that regard - it's a finite game with predetermined maps that both players know intimately and a limited unit selection that both players know intimately. All the possible strategies have been played out hundreds of times, and most good players are excellent at spending the minimum of resources required to keep very good tabs on their opponents' movement.

          Instead, what matters is your multitasking ability, how well you can micro goons and zealots versus hydras and lings while you produce more units, mine, expand, drop your opponent's base, and storm the workers at his expo against his ability to micro hydras and lings versus your goons and zealots, mine, expand twice (zerg, after all), muta the workers at your main base, and send speedlings to rape an expo.

          Brood War is admittedly on the simpler side of RTS', but that isn't the real reason for the devolution of strategy and tactics into a speed contest - the problem is that it's been played SO much by SO many people (there's an international pro circuit, for chrissakes) that nearly everything has been tried before. Yes, there's a new strategy once in a while (recently we got 1 rax/expo/early armory for terran) but it's impossible to keep your strategies secret, because even if they're not scouted and figured out in realtime, an innovation only works until one of your opponents not only watches the replay, learns your strategy, and prepares counters, but PUBLICIZES it so that everyone else can counter it. This just happens faster on the pro circuit, where thousands of people watch every game and analyze the bejeezus out of it.

          Starcraft 2 is coming out soon, so for a while it'll be about the strategy and tactics again. But if that game's even remotely as popular as Brood War (and considering how huge its fanbase is BEFORE RELEASE, it will be), within six months (definitely a year) everything will have been played out again already, and we'll be spending our time working on clicking faster in more places again.

          That response was longer than I meant it to be (can you tell I have a rather low speed compared to most starcraft players at the know-everything level?), but the point was, don't fool yourself into thinking that where the game gets interesting is the balance between the units. That's only true at the very low levels and on the varnished surface of the high levels - below that, it's just which Korean teenager can click faster.

          • It's too bad that nobody has figured out how to make an RTS with the strategic depth of chess or go. You'd think that there is no a priori reason that it should be impossible.
            • You can't do it without either an identical or a random distribution of resources. The trick is that strategic depth derives from the equal viability of several strategic options, but most games rely on a Warhammer-type system where each side has specific weaknesses and specialties, and consequently only one good strategy.

              I think if someone put half the effort that goes into some of these turn-based/tabletop WW2 sims into a realistic RTS, it would be fantastic.
            • by Daengbo (523424)
              Ummm ... the RT in RTS?
            • The main reason chess is so strategically intense is that it is so unlike a real war situation. Moving one piece at a time, arbitrary movement rules, attacker-always-wins capturing, set beginning formations...these are things that tend to create a very unrealistic situation, but also one that is very strategy-dependent. If you remove every semblance of tactics, strategy becomes key.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by KDR_11k (778916)
        1. In WiC you CANNOT have both air and ground. It's a class based team game, one player goes air, the other tanks, another AA/arty/repair and a fourth infantry (each class can have multiple players of course but lacking a class or two is usually fatal). Well, okay, you can play the special 1v1 or 2v2 mode but that's really not the point of the game.
        2. If your units die you lose almost nothing, if your tanks did run into heavy air, well, make new ones and get some AA support next time!
        3. You always have a sh
    • Re:Long games (Score:4, Informative)

      by CogDissident (951207) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @03:28PM (#23658413)
      Actually, it just means that it slowly fluctuates back and forth, until the side with skill manages to entrench. The rate at which you get resources back is fastest when you've got a lot to regain, and slowest when you've already spent most of it. And there is a lot to be said for having a defensive position in that game. Defensive positions can make it very hard for them to knock you out of your position.

      So it penalizes you for sucking at the game, but gives you a chance to shift focus midway through and come at them with other tactics.
    • I disagree. In other games, you have a small army of resource-gathering minions building a fairly constant resouce pool. In this game, the units and trickle-back replace these minions. Like other games, if you run out of resources, you have to wait until they are built up again before buyin more units. If the time for the unit resources to 'trickle back' is reasonably long, then the player would have to resort to replacing units a handful at a time. Since the player who is sustaining losses is denied
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A problem shared with most RTS games is that effective defense is almost impossible, in spite of the belief of Klausewitz (and others) that the defensive position is the stronger. Overwhelming defenders with hordes is a very poor strategy. Think of Thermopylae, Khe Sanh, or any place on the Western front in the first World War. Truly overwhelming firepower along with a lot of artillery and a demoralized opponent were necessary to gain even a few hundred yards.
        • by DerWulf (782458)
          in C&C generals (especially with the expansion or the shock wave mod) defense is quite viable, IF you manage to find the right time to go over to offense.
    • by ensignyu (417022)
      You actually get "tactical aid" points that accumulate based on how many capture points you own and some other factors. These let you fire things ranging from artillery strikes to tactical nukes, which can have a big effect on the gameplay, although you're right, the game is pretty drawn out typically.
    • by rousecj7 (1020319)
      I will agree that part of the glory of the single-player RTS is stockpiling resources until you can steamroll your opponent, there's an interesting multi-player angle that should be considered.

      If the emphasis of gameplay is on combat, then the static resource pile can be construed as a way to force focus away from resource management and towards combat. I almost never play multi-player for the simple fact that I am a "conservative turtle" style of player. And as such, "zerging" makes my soul weep. Wit
      • by 4D6963 (933028) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:04PM (#23659995)

        There's certainly an argument to be made that resource management is a good 75% of war.

        Yup, which is why chess, the mother of all war games, is all about resource management like holding the square the represents a gold mine so that you can buy upgrades for your king and fit your pawns with turrets once you have reached the Industrial Age through upgrades from the library piece, hence why all war games should extensively priviledge those aspects. Oh wait..

        • The interesting thing is that the game you picked is one of the strategy games LEAST like war.
          • by rousecj7 (1020319)
            Don't you know? In war everyone starts with the same number of units, and they all line up in a field across from each other. And they can only move in certain directions.
            • by 4D6963 (933028)

              Don't you know? In war everyone starts with the same number of units, and they all line up in a field across from each other. And they can only move in certain directions.

              The point, you're missing it. Realistically including every trivial aspect of war isn't the point. If you're Napoleon Bonaparte you'll find a game it which you manually have to activate a unit's countermeasures irrelevant, just like finding gold mines or building metal extractors. It's not because chess is unrealistic that it's relevant, it's relevant because it's all about war-like strategy, even if it doesn't look obvious enough for the non-initiated.

              • by DerWulf (782458)
                no it's not. Chess is one of the worst analogies to war because it's a perfect information game. War is all about gathering information to gain the upper hand and of course logistics which boils down to which resources, where, at what time. Chess is a visual puzzle where non of these things factor in.
                • DerWulf is right here, but he hasn't included all the reasons chess is unlike war AND THEREFORE very strategically intense. Yes, in chess you have perfect information, but you also have attacker-always-wins, one-move-per-turn, arbitrary movement rules, pawn ascension, and the whole bit with capturing the king to win. Chess is different from war in nearly every way, which is why it's so strategically intense - war is all about economics, tactics, intelligence, and luck. Of course, "tactics" in modern war
          • by 4D6963 (933028)

            The interesting thing is that the game you picked is one of the strategy games LEAST like war.
            But on the other hand it's the strategy game that takes the most strategy.
            • Yes, which is why your comment was interesting, it seems like the more realistic the game is, the less strategy it actually involved.

              I've talked to a few military types I know since you made that comment, and they've confirmed for me that in their opinions, the simulations they've played that are most like their combat experiences are also the ones that involve the least strategy.

        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          Chess has resource management. The pieces on the field are resources, you can sacrifice them for a tactical advantage or you can play it safe and try not to lose them. In WiC if you lose a "pawn" you just have to wait some time until you can get a new one, in Chess a lost pawn remains lost and you have to weight the advantage gained by the sacrifice against the disadvantage of losing a piece. There are situations where you can sacrifice even the queen and come out ahead.
      • by aliquis (678370)
        To me it more sounds like you aren't very good at playing RTS games so you like to tower yourself and hope the computer can't kill your base until you have lots of resources and a huge army and he have spent most of his units attacking your towers and stuff so you can go attack him and win not by skill but with a superior army due to numbers.

        Which explains why you hate rushes, because you always get owned by them because you can't handle it.

        I may be wrong thought.
        • by rousecj7 (1020319)
          If by "not very good" you mean my style doesn't really get the job done in PVP multiplayer, then sure, I'm horrible at RTS games. But hoping the computer can't kill me before I can roll them? Not so much.
      • You play Terran, don't you? :P

        Seriously, in multiplayer, the way to turtle is to slowly expand your turtle to new areas with more resources and more strategic advantages, but I'm sure you know that.

        The point I thought you were making about the multiplayer angle, however, is the point I'm about to make. Namely, when most RTS games REALLY get interesting is when you're playing with more than one opponent - 2v2, 3v3, free for all, team free-for-all (2v2v2v2), et cetera. Now, not only does the tactical comb

        • by rousecj7 (1020319)
          Eh, Terran, Protoss, either works. I've usually found Protoss base defenses a little lacking though. Bunkers are king.

          I agree with your assessment on traditional multiplayer games and their results, as well as what make this style of MP interesting.
          • I'm a protoss man, but my idea of "defense" is "army so big the opponent can't defeat it". Of course, high templar make that a lot easier...insert drooling here.

    • by vertinox (846076)
      I haven't played the game, FWIW, but that's what I imagine a game with those constraints would be like.

      Base building as it is with RTS games is outdated and mostly tedious since most build orders will be used by most players eventually regardless of possible counter strategies and so on.

      I haven't played they game either but I've noticed a shift in recent RTS games from moving away form resources gathering to other types of game play mechanics.

      Personally, I think the Total War point based system works or a m
      • by aliquis (678370)
        In wc3 I usually don't build all buildings, but then I mostly play RT. I focus on what I want and may eventuelly change units if I see one which fits the situation much better. So our bases will be different. But in a good RTS/game I guess people should counter things all the time, and/or maybe even have armies with a lot of different units and micro them well to get the biggest advantages from each of them. In such a game you will indeed want to have all buildings.

        So yes, buildings should be easy to get an
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          Buildings are your tech level. While a long game should reach a point where each player has every building it should not be possible to just plop them down early and has to be weighted against the units you could buy for the money NOW. If your buildings are so cheap that the player can just make them without a second thought, why not merge them into the main building? Teching must be a conscious choice with advantages and disadvantages, no-brainers in RTSes (things you'll do every game no matter what the si
          • by aliquis (678370)
            But in wc3 they are already so cheap that there are no reason to not build them if you need the unit, sort of. Heavy air may be an exception. I usually end up with three of whatever unit building I use because I sometimes forget to make units the whole time so I just pump new ones every now and then.
            • by KDR_11k (778916)
              That's why I like the repeat button some games have, it never forgets to make more stuff.
    • Re:Long games (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mad Dog Manley (93208) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @10:14PM (#23663341)
      That seems like it would lead to long-drawn out games where one side, and then the other, manage to grab temporary advantage, only to be pushed back to a state of near-equilibrium.

      Multiplayer WiC is amazing. The games are not long and drawn out. In fact, it is the opposite. Combat starts in as little as 15 seconds after the game begins, and the maximum round time on an official server is 20 minutes. As the game progresses, Tactical Aid points are awarded for kills and achieving objectives. These result in increasingly significant strategic attacks available, up to and including carpet bombing and nuclear weapons, which can end a round in minutes if used properly.

  • The single player campaign is fun and really keeps you going through the game till the end. The multiplayer mode on the other hand isn't as much fun, maybe i'm not very good at this game, but it felt like i was constantly losing my units because the opponent had the right type of unit (helicopters) to destroy my tanks for example. A good team would have players helping each other but that rarely is the case, a game shouldnt relay too much on the teamwork aspect even though that is what most online games se
    • by aliquis (678370)
      I like huge strategical advantages from building the correct units (see c&c generals zero hour for example), but I still like it if a supposedly bad unit can still win in the hands of a skilled player.
    • by KDR_11k (778916)
      it felt like i was constantly losing my units because the opponent had the right type of unit (helicopters) to destroy my tanks for example.

      Scream at your air or support player to give you some fucking AA already. They love not doing that (especially the supports, they love their heavy arty) but you might just get lucky. Also on your part make sure to not outrun your AA cover and target enemy heavy AA first, not their tanks. Your tanks suck at dealing damage, leave that job to the air player. You just kill
  • ... was way over-rated. The story/cutscenecs in single player are alright, the graphics are good, but the mechanics and art direction of the units are stale and the scale of the art/units is way too small. That and they ripped off company of heroes with squads entering buildings and they didn't even do a good job of copying CoH. Companoy of heroes is probably the best RTS released in recent memory.

    World in conflict is just way too simple an RTS. It's a game for graphics whores, great graphics, decent a
    • by Zironic (1112127)
      Because, I don't know, Red Alert 2 didn't have squads entering buildings 6 years before CoH did.

      Personally I think Warcraft 3 is still the most enjoyable RTS for me, mostly becasue of custom maps though.
      • by Jack9 (11421)
        And before that Herzog Zwei and before that Dune2.

        The biggest differences in RTS games are how many "Factories" are optimal, dictating the "type" of strategies that work. Always incorporating economics and the concept of "counters" and tiers.

        In order of popularity:

        In Starcraft/WC3 single gate, single rax, single hatchery, versus double or triple allows for a large depth of strategy (within limits of the scale).

        In Red Alert and DoW and CoH it's always 1 of each building type. The battles are expected to be m
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          In Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander/Conquest:Frontier Wars it's hyper macro with an assumption of continual creation/death of units and often incorporate a "supply line" concept. Some people love it (there aren't many).

          Most TA (or at least TA-dericative, Balanced Annihilation/Complete Annihilation) games I see are driven by small raid groups avoiding enemy fortifications and destroying his economy... Really not that much macro there.
    • by Sectrish (949413)

      That and they ripped off company of heroes with squads entering buildings and they didn't even do a good job of copying CoH

      Of course, this was also in Ground Control II, the spiritual predecessor to World in Conflict, made by the same company (Massive Entertainment). Yet everyone knows that the CoH makes have managed time travel, so I guess my point is moot. And the fact that WiC is mediocre as a RTS is debatable, but you should really have a look at a game where the non-resource gathering really shined: Ground Control. The very first Ground Control, which appeared somewhere around 2000, is in my mind still the best Real Time

      • by Sectrish (949413)
        Sorry for replying to myself but my brain is a bit fried from exams:

        concering the post to which I originally replied:

        World in conflict is just way too simple an RTS. It's a game for graphics whores, great graphics, decent attempt at a story, boring gameplay.
        (emphasis mine)

        I wish we could take the graphcis (sic) of World in conflict and combine it with RTS gameplay knowhow of Starcraft or supreme commander
        uhh...
        • My point was the game sold on the graphics alone, do you want a modern game to have crappy graphics? I doubt you do either. My point is the gameplay is stale and the people who bought and liked World in conflict will give the message to massive that simple dumbed down gameplay is great, when it isn't.
          • by KDR_11k (778916)
            I played it with all graphics options set to low, it looked pretty mediocre that way but still was fun to play (well, until the frustration over the lacking teamplay set in).
    • Not to slag Company of Heroes, but I played it for many hours, and it has absolutely nothing on World in Conflict. WiC multiplayer games are smooth and enjoyable, fast paced and full of tactical and strategic aspects. Combat starts almost immediately, and there is absolutely zero base building. As a veteran of many, many RTS games over 15+ years, WiC is a breath of fresh air.
  • Broken Reply (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @04:52PM (#23659777)
    I want to reply to a number of posts but when I hit "reply" it just sits there, broken, so I'll try to sum up my thoughts here instead...

    Having played everything from the original Command and Conquer all the way up to and including World In Conflict I can say that WIC is actually a refreshing break from the usual - spend 90% of the mission grinding out a base and building up a huge army and then just rush and clobber your enemy - style RTS.

    The resources you have for building units are just half of the game. There are, in fact, tactical aid points which are awarded to you for accomplishing various objectives. Using these points wisely is almost always a deciding factor in multiplayer games. Players can also switch between different roles - support, infantry, armor, and air. Your team's balance and how you respond to the opposing team's mix definitely requires some good tactics.

    Finally, I think that the ground control style game play is more realistic. Let's be honest, very few real battles are a "Rush the enemy and kill / destroy everything - causalities be damned". Kamikaze missions in WIC don't work. Neither do lone rangers. I think there's more strategy in WIC than in most of the "build crap like crazy and then rush" RTS games. I'm not saying I haven't spent hours enjoying those games - just that this is a new, more realistic, type.
    • by amliebsch (724858)
      I agree. Don't get me wrong, the base-building resource-gathering "simcity" aspect of the whole C&C series and its copycats is fun, I still enjoy it. But this style is a refreshing change and I was glad to see it done with some decent production values. It's more tactical and less strategic. But it's not SO tactical as to be needlessly complicated and unplayable.
    • by aliquis (678370)
      Welcome to the wonderful world of AJAX.
  • capitalism (Score:2, Funny)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774)
    By doing this, World in Conflict avoids the snowball effect that exists in many real-time^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H real-world strategy games.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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