Design a Tactics Game.

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Trau
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Design a Tactics Game.

Post by Trau »

I'm very much interesting in the theory of developing and understanding good games, and I'll use this thread as a basis for which people with similar interests may engage in heated argument ( :P ) over the theories of games and what makes them fun and engaging.

Along the way, I would be neither be surprised nor disappointed if an actual game, or proto-game came of this discussion.

So let's get down to business of exploring the process by going the process, shall we?

Here is what I require of a game, just to have a basic framework we can work around. These requirements are not immutable, they are just a start, to spark discussion.

It should be a game of the Tactics genre. It should encourage deep thought. Its system should be simple enough to be played without a computer. It should have little enough bookkeeping so it can be played without a computer. It should allow players to express their personalities in many different but viable play styles.

If that doesn't spur discussion, and great if it does, let me present you this question. Should the tactics game be square-based or hex-based? Since this is a Wesnoth forum, I'll argue on the side of squares.

It is easier for people to think in squares. Most board games, noticeably Chess, are based on squares. It's easier for people to think in squares. More importantly, squares allow a tactics game to take advantage of positioning. We are familiar with the concepts of front, back, and sides, and we know, almost instinctively, that you get an advantage for hitting people from the back or sides. These could be incorporated into a game to make positioning of units intensely important, and though we might not think much of it, incredibly easy. It is easier to count distances with squares because the more squares there are, the greater the distance. And in a non-computerized game, simplicity is king.
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Post by Velensk »

You are mistaken in a way. Most tactical war game are based on hexagons. This is speaking as a wargamer and a person who meets with wargamers I'd estimate that about 90% of all wargames that are grid based use hexes. Most common games use squares but not war games, even the simple ones tend to use hexes.
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irrevenant
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Re: Design a Tactics Game.

Post by irrevenant »

Trau wrote:It's easier for people to think in squares. More importantly, squares allow a tactics game to take advantage of positioning. We are familiar with the concepts of front, back, and sides, and we know, almost instinctively, that you get an advantage for hitting people from the back or sides.
This concept translates to hexes. Many games consider the 3 rear hexes "behind", for example.
Trau wrote:It is easier to count distances with squares because the more squares there are, the greater the distance. And in a non-computerized game, simplicity is king.
Surely the more hexes there are, the greater the distance, too? And hexes make it easier because you can draw a straight line in 6 directions rather than 4.
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Post by Blarumyrran »

an interesting feature i see totally missing in wesnoth is having all terrains as something unique (instead of just mp cost & def %), a la all units are invisible in caves due to lack of light, in swamp non-swimming units could have (100%-units_defence_percentage_on_swamp) percentage to sink (lose all movement points for the turn), forests&bridges can burn down when receiving fire damage (and would grow back in some 6 turns), snow & ice terrain deal some 3 cold damage per turn... would be cool if someone made such a mod for wesnoth too.
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Post by Dveman115 »

Hmm...I recall a few games like this...let me think...as yes, have a look at

http://www.vassalengine.org/community/index.php

Its not an engine, but you can get tons of minis for it and design your own game withe the minis. It has support for hexes and squares to, depending on what game you Download.
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Re: Design a Tactics Game.

Post by Jetrel »

Trau wrote:It is easier for people to think in squares. It's easier for people to think in squares.
:? I don't buy that. I don't see how it's any easier to think in squares than in hexes or triangles.

What makes it easier to think in squares?
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Post by Lorbi »

I find it a lot more easier to imagine to movement of any given chesspiece on the board than the movement of any wesnothunit on hexes.

Maybe this is just me but i really think it is easier to split any movement
in a sum of 4(2) directions than in a sum of 6(3) directions.
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Post by Kestenvarn »

Sure it's simpler to communicate with only four directions, but thinking...?

:hmm:
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Post by turin »

Right angles do seem more intuitive for some reason than 60 degree angles.
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Post by VS »

turin wrote:more intuitive for some reason
-> orthogonality

Vector space bases are orthogonal for the reason they are the minimal "data volume" needed. I guess that's why we perceive 90° as nice.
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Post by Dave »

Squares are not 'better' or 'worse' than hexes. They are simply a different option in designing a tiled game field. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Squares are probably slightly more visually attractive, and less alien to non-gamers. They have the substantial disadvantage, however, of how to handle diagonals. This isn't a disadvantage in all games, but is in many.

Since movement in chess, for instance, is completely abstract in the first place, diagonals are probably a virtue, since they allow an extra 'dimension' of movement.

However, most 'tactics' games don't have such abstract movement concepts. Leaving you with three main choices as a game designer:

- allow movement along diagonals. This has the disadvantage of making it too easy for units to get places. In some cases one can move what looks like a very long way if one is moving along diagonals. Even if there are many obstacles scattered in the way of one's movement, they are usually not a hindrance unless they form a continuous line, since one can simply choose the right diagonals to move along. Zone of Control is close to being a must. This option is what the Civilization series of games use.
- disallow movement along diagonals. This makes it very difficult for units to move around. Unit's movement seems kinda awkward, really. This actually seems the most common option in tactics-type games. It's what Warsong used, and it's what Gladius and La Pucelle Tactics (and I think Disgaea) use.
- allow movement along diagonals but at a penalty. I have never seen this used in turn-based games. It would probably end up rather complicated.

Sometimes games can create reasonably interesting rules out of diagonals. For instance, I've seen games where most melee attacks can only take place non-diagonally -- i.e. in four directions. However, certain long melee weapons, such as spears, allow attacks along diagonals. I think this adds a reasonably interesting set of tactics.

I think it'd be interesting to have a game where some units can move diagonally and some can't. For instance, skirmishing units might be able to move along diagonals, but regular units can't. I think that'd allow some interesting dynamics.

I think though that hexes are better if one just wants a straight-forward game which doesn't involve trying to exploit the artefacts of the tiling system. Really a lot of the tactics in Civilization, for instance, revolve around exploiting how the tiling system works.

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Post by Jetrel »

Dave wrote:- allow movement along diagonals but at a penalty. I have never seen this used in turn-based games. It would probably end up rather complicated.
I've seen it used twice, at least. And actually it's extremely simple - you just make travelling on the diagonal cost 1.5 moves, rather than 1. It works best when most units have several moves per turn, rather than one move (where it obviously breaks down). You also need fractional variance in terrain movement costs.

This was used in Realmz (mac/pc RPG), and in C-evo (a pc civilization clone).
Dave wrote:Sometimes games can create reasonably interesting rules out of diagonals. For instance, I've seen games where most melee attacks can only take place non-diagonally -- i.e. in four directions. However, certain long melee weapons, such as spears, allow attacks along diagonals. I think this adds a reasonably interesting set of tactics.

I think it'd be interesting to have a game where some units can move diagonally and some can't. For instance, skirmishing units might be able to move along diagonals, but regular units can't. I think that'd allow some interesting dynamics.
This is not "interesting", it's just strange, in a bad way. And it's exactly for the reason you give as follows - there's no reason for its existence, except to exploit the nature of the tiling system. Furthermore, it's extremely bad that it's so binary - that some units are completely unable to attack in a certain direction, and others are fully able. That reeks of potential exploitation right there.
Dave wrote:I think though that hexes are better if one just wants a straight-forward game which doesn't involve trying to exploit the artefacts of the tiling system. Really a lot of the tactics in Civilization, for instance, revolve around exploiting how the tiling system works.
Agreed.
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Post by SteinZvergin »

Jetryl wrote:
Dave wrote:Sometimes games can create reasonably interesting rules out of diagonals. For instance, I've seen games where most melee attacks can only take place non-diagonally -- i.e. in four directions. However, certain long melee weapons, such as spears, allow attacks along diagonals. I think this adds a reasonably interesting set of tactics.

I think it'd be interesting to have a game where some units can move diagonally and some can't. For instance, skirmishing units might be able to move along diagonals, but regular units can't. I think that'd allow some interesting dynamics.
This is not "interesting", it's just strange, in a bad way. And it's exactly for the reason you give as follows - there's no reason for its existence, except to exploit the nature of the tiling system. Furthermore, it's extremely bad that it's so binary - that some units are completely unable to attack in a certain direction, and others are fully able. That reeks of potential exploitation right there.
What about chess? The "exploitation" of which units can move/attack diagonally is a huge part of the strategy of the game, and in a very simple way allows for differentiation of offensive capabilities moreso than something numerical (e.g. Wesnoth- An Orcish Warlord is stronger than an Elvish Fighter not because the orc can attack in any way the elf can't, but because its stats are stronger, that is to say, because its numbers are larger). I think the various differentiations in unit types that allow such exploitation are key to an interesting game (and yes, I like chess way more than checkers).

One more thing- I think squares are simpler, in board games, because without squares you can't have straight edges to the board, so you wind up with weird cut-off parts. that means that most conventional and old-fashioned board games are based off of squares because most boards are either squares or rectangles to begin with. That being said, I'd rather play Panzer Blitz than Chess any day of the week, because of the realism. Hexes are more realistic, I think, because of absolute distance. People (or cars, or tanks, or horses, etc.) don't travel diagonally, they travel forwards, or backwards. Side to side or diagonal travel is really uncommon unless you're in a marching band and you always have to face the same way. So it's a lot more realistic, spatially speaking, to deal with hexagons, because when youi're figuring distance the hexagon is much closer to a circle, the only true measure of absolute distance. Put in game terms, if your Panzer's cannon has a range of 1 space, and i space is about an inch, pieces on the board that your panzer can attack will be, for the most part, about one inch away.
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Post by Dave »

Jetryl wrote:
Dave wrote:- allow movement along diagonals but at a penalty. I have never seen this used in turn-based games. It would probably end up rather complicated.
I've seen it used twice, at least. And actually it's extremely simple - you just make travelling on the diagonal cost 1.5 moves, rather than 1.
Yes, this is the most natural way to do it. It's not that difficult computationally. I think it's just difficult for a human to understand, and could still result in strange artefacts. For instance, having just 1 movement point left, you could still move horizontally but not diagonally.

I still tend to think if you are that concerned about this it'd be better to just use hexes. (Or staggered rectangles, which are the same in gameplay terms but may look more attractive graphically).
Jetryl wrote: This was used in Realmz (mac/pc RPG), and in C-evo (a pc civilization clone).
Interesting. I haven't played either of those games. How does it work in C-evo? In the Civilization series, units typically have either 1 or 2 movement points. They may be able to move further on roads and so forth, but on regular terrain it's just 1 or 2. Does it work the same in C-evo?
Jetryl wrote: This is not "interesting", it's just strange, in a bad way. And it's exactly for the reason you give as follows - there's no reason for its existence, except to exploit the nature of the tiling system. Furthermore, it's extremely bad that it's so binary - that some units are completely unable to attack in a certain direction, and others are fully able. That reeks of potential exploitation right there.
But, this highlights the difference between two approaches to making a game. Some go for the more 'real' approach. Trying to avoid any kind of exploitation etc. Some try to make a virtue out of the artefacts of the tiling system. Making that a large part of the strategy. As SteinZvergin pointed out, chess is such a game.

Other games try to minimize the artefacts of the tiling system as much as possible. Wesnoth leans toward this approach. Neither approach is better or worse, just different.

As an example of such difference in approaches, related to turns instead of tiles, in Civilization 1 through 3, cities generated a certain amount of production ('shields') each turn. Shields were dedicated to the current project. If a project was finished on a turn, excess shields were wasted.

This meant that there was a lot of strategy in allocating cities to building units with appropriate costs. For instance, a 5 shield a turn city was great for producing a 10 shield cost unit. A 7 shield a turn city was no better at producing a 10 shield cost unit, but was great at producing a 20 shield cost unit. There was a great deal of tactical maneuvering in choosing which city built what.

In Civilization 4 they changed the rules: if your city had excess shields after completing one project, any remaining shields would be carried over to the next project. An improvement? Perhaps. It removes the artefacts surrounding optimizing production for shield costs. On the other hand, one can argue it removes an entire set of tactical management of cities. Now one is much more free to simply get any city to produce any unit. I'm not sure which way is better. I would likely go with the latter approach if I was designing a game from scratch, but I must admit I did somewhat enjoy the mathematical analysis required in Civilization 3.

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Post by Trau »

So if nobody minds me being a self-appointed discussion director, it seems like the question to discuss next is how to reconcile the conscious act of designing a game with the need for realism to anchor the game in intuition, so that the rules are easy to learn (I hope I'm not misrepresenting Dave's or Jetryl's points right now).

Personally, I believe the better way to look at designing a game is to exploit the abstracts and make them benefit the game, given no game could perfectly simulate real life, because, after all, what people are looking for in a game is an entertaining set of rules that will challenge them, mind or body (in this case, mind), and arguably, the most realistic game we can make won't even fulfill that requirement, or, in the case that a realistic game could do that, wouldn't it theoretically be even cooler if we amended the rules of realism to enhance its fun?

In the extreme examples, realism can be incredibly boring. Take hoplite warfare. You line up a bunch of guys in phalanx formation, and have them march over to the other line of guys in phalanx formation, and they duke it out. This was hoplite warfare for what, centuries? World War I trench warfare was nearly the same thing, because reality created a scenario where the defensive capacities of armies always far outweighed their offensive capabilities, the war was stalemated over years.

This is not to say, however, that it's wise to create abstract games with complex, unintuitive rules. Even chess had basic reality paradigms, the pawn was the lowliest, least useful piece, the queen and king were the highest and strongest pieces, etc.

In reconciling realism with abstract, however, I think it's realism that should get the short end of the stick. And then again, that's not to say that reality and abstract are always at odds. There are many very elegant solutions to reconcile the two.

Let's take Wesnoth. Have you ever been in a scenario where your lone Paladin is right in the thick of a huge pile of Walking Corpses (Heir to the Throne, anyone?). The corpses proceed to dogpile the paladin and, one after another, up to ten or so of the poor saps get mown down.

On the one hand, it is kind of abstract for th is paladin to take over 20 swings at the enemies in this situation, where in the same turn if he were merely dueling someone, he would have only dealt 4 swings (or was the holy sword 5?), if turns all represent the same space of time.

But then again, this mowing down of all the walking corpses could simulate the paladin being so powerful as to simply strike down whoever came into reach, and his rampage ended when no more walking corpses came into reach. Or, if we consider a turn to be a space of time, that would simulate all the corpses attacking the paladin in the same instant, who cuts them down with wide arcs that hit multiple corpses per swing.
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