Future of PA Brainstorming: Not Major Engine Changes; But Gameplay, Roles, and Strategic Complexity

Discussion in 'PA: TITANS: General Discussion' started by ledarsi, August 24, 2018.

  1. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    935
    Before launching into a large number of ideas and suggestions, I think it is important to restate how strong the PA engine is, and that at this point adding and refining unit designs and mechanics is likely to be considerably less work than the outstanding Uber devs have done to create this engine for the community.

    That being said, I think I am not alone in my belief that many battles in PA feel... vacant. The future of PA needs to channel Total Annihilation, and Zero K, to focus on delivering compelling gameplay and land battles with strategic importance and weight, rather than bombastic explosions, smashing planets, and gimmicky enormous super units.

    There are other threads that are principally focused on "expansions" or terrain or maps or lobby options or other features, and that's fine. But I think PA's engine is already vastly more than good enough to implement a system of units and mechanics as robust as Zero K's. It is simply a question of gameplay design, unit roles, and the design niches that units are intended to exhibit. PA's system need not be in any way similar to Zero K's, but a similar design process of building and growing out subtle and distinct unit roles and behaviors is called for.


    Fundamentals

    Returning to fundamentals- the land war in PA should be the centerpiece of the game, not super units and not planet smashing. The goal should be that a battle on a single planet be an interesting game. If a battle on a single planet is boring, adding more planets will not help.

    Major fundamental points; bigger planets, slower unit movement, reduced access to "strong" vision such as advanced radar, and less spastic, slower economic progression. If there are performance issues with huge planets then unit speed and distances should just be reduced to make maps bigger in terms of time and granularity.

    Simple experiment; slow down unit movement, shrink most vision and weapon ranges, and abolish Advanced Radar (especially the enormous space variant). Huge radar ranges in particular are a really bad feature that should be either completely removed, or severely changed. My preference is to have radar only work on air and space units, in which case it can keep its range, as long as it doesn't give you actionable targeting information about every land unit and structure for long-range targeting.

    I cannot be the only player who finds PA's economy to be... hyperactive. I don't have an easy fix for this, but it is a significant problem. The best solution I can think of is to just crib notes from Zero K about the economy progression. A \choice like constructing a huge energy generator should be an expensive, intentional strategic choice with short-term weakness and long-term booming. PA's economy is so hyperactive even constructing energy and factories are APM sinks rather than a considered choice.


    Unit & Weapon Interactions

    Complex interactions between units and compositions of units is something Zero K does very well, and I think PA needs to think hard about how to introduce that kind of emergent complexity of battles.

    I think it is important to reiterate that the point is categorically not to focus on micromanagement of a small number of units, but rather that a battle is many small pieces interacting in ways that are somewhat deterministic but too complex to be predictable in advance. For example, auto-skirm AI in Zero K results in a high amount of emergent complexity; a very simplistic automatic behavior used by both sides makes for a complicated and interesting battle.

    There are many types of "combat" units in PA but for the most part they do not feel strategically different from one another. Seldom does an X lose, but if only you had made Y, or used X with maneuver Z, with the same circumstances, you would have won. Doxes and Ants are fundamentally quite similar, and even if some units have more hitpoints or have longer range, they don't fundamentally behave that differently from each other or have a clear battlefield role as distinct from other roles.

    There are any number of ways to differentiate units, but as one hypothetical, suppose the tank-class units such as the Ant had their weight class increased; several times higher cost, several times more firepower and armor. Suppose further tanks had high top speed but slow turn rate and slow turret turn rate. Tank cannons with greater range and damage, with small splash and shot dispersion, but quite slow rate of fire. In battle a unit like the Ant would want to be supported by a more maneuverable and more versatile fighter like the Dox as a front line combatant, and avoid being surrounded by enemy Dox. Or, alternatively, a large group of tanks on the charge would be ideal for cracking a fortified position due to packing a high amount of strength in a small space.

    In brief, in Zero K a mixture of almost any two unit types will function and play radically differently if you swap out one of the types. In PA you will be hard-pressed to find a ground army composition that materially changes how that force is used.


    Scouting and Artillery

    Reduced access to strategic vision / huge area-of-effect detection will mean you need to place actual forces in key locations to detect enemies and keep those areas clear. Scouts or very small combat forces are most effective for this job.

    Indirect fire weapons such as artillery should have tremendous, strategic range, but significant drawbacks that make them unusable as direct combat weapon. Currently, weapons like Pelters are astonishingly accurate, and do not really have strategic range. That, plus the ease of access to radar detection at distance means despite their description and visual appearance, they don't really behave like true artillery, but more like a turret.

    Suppose for the sake of argument Pelters and other artillery had its range doubled, and its shot dispersion increased so dramatically that it cannot even consistently hit a specific building. Against a large group of units or structures, you should hit something.

    Weapon inaccuracy in general should be pretty common, to a greater or lesser extent for different units, and I know for a fact the engine can already implement inaccurate fire.

    In general artillery should be an aggressive weapon, requiring scouting and offensive target selection, and not just accurately fire at anything in range until it is gone like a base defense turret with extended range. Granted, certain types of artillery like cruise missiles might be very accurate, and pay for the privilege with resource cost or other drawbacks. But typical shell artillery like Pelters should be very inaccurate, intended to splash rounds against large forces and bases from extreme distances.


    Space Mechanics

    I think space as a whole and space units should be completely overhauled. As it now stands, space units are essentially just a second air layer. Spacecraft are small, speedy, numerous, and annoying to manage. Space management is mostly a means to an end of facilitating or blocking planet smashing or interplanetary missiles/artillery, rather than a primary mode of gameplay.

    I propose that the entire orbital layer be redesigned to be space ships, more in line with naval vessels than aircraft. Spaceships should be huge, expensive, powerful assets, and it makes more sense for these to be major investments due to their strategic importance of traveling between planets, than surface super units.

    Further, airplanes should all be made into "suborbital" planes; essentially they should be able to fight in both the surface and space environments. A plane launched from the surface can fly up into space and fight a spaceship, and conversely a plane launched from a spaceship can fly down to the surface and bomb something.

    Early game orbital is restricted to a T1 poor unit cannon; one-way and does not create an additional controllable orbital unit in space like a single-unit transport. The obvious move is to send a constructor and build on-site, resulting in a surface war.

    Midgame, space ships should be constructed in orbit at an orbital shipyard. Ships are the only units that can travel independently between planet orbits, and can never land. They are extremely large, expensive, and tough individual units, but are vulnerable to anti-ship missiles fired from the surface, other ships (i.e. destroyers / battleships), or aircraft. Space carriers (aircraft) and assault ships (land units) are integral for staging surface warfare from orbit, but are vulnerable to more combat-oriented ships and should be escorted as part of a fleet.

    And late game the players are using celestial bodies themselves as weapons, including using Halleys and massed interplanetary missiles and artillery. When an enemy world is too heavily defended for any conventional attack to be practical, hit it with a planet. It's the only way to be sure.


    Conclusion

    I feel like Zero K has done the most to advance the Total Annihilation gameplay of any of TA's family of games, and that PA has the best engine ever for creating a TA-style game. However the current selection of PA units and mechanics and the way they interact feels like Total Annihilation with a hyperactive economy, poor unit diversity, and great emphasis placed on Krogoths and superweapons (i.e. planet smashing). Those aren't the things that made TA great, and virtually all matches in any TA-style game are decided long before those things can ever be constructed.

    Would it be possible to take a step back, and revisit some fundamental features of PA like radar? How space combat is basically the same as air combat, but for some reason on a different layer? Or how the combat units are just not that different from one another?

    If it would be possible to fuse the gameplay and mechanics innovation of Zero K with the engine of PA, that truly would be the greatest TA-style game ever created.
    tatsujb, Remy561, stuart98 and 4 others like this.
  2. emarkus

    emarkus Active Member

    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    140
    This is exactly what the mod Planetary Obliteration brings: Slower units, slower eco, less radar vision. And this is the part of the mod that I dont like. But, if we have fast transportation units, then it would be ok. And multi unit transports, as Absolute Annihilation provides...

    About "Unit & Weapon Interactions":

    I agree. I know what you mean. I dont know zero-K, but i know Absolute Annihilation. There are some heave tanks or bots, that are slow and durable. There is a artillery tank which only costs 300 metal and is very vulnerable. I would love two new bots and two new tanks. Water and Air is already fine. Dont make it too complex. I cant handle see and air in Absolute Annihilation, due to its complexity. Maybe just one air units that does light area damage. Also thinking about EMP stuff, but that would touch engine mechanics,...

    Weappon inaccuracy in common is needed. I agree. As long as there are still accurate versions. If I am fighting a dox spammer army, then i dont care the pelter's inaccuracy. Pelter is at f****n t1 layer, so it shouln't too accurate. Think about cannons in early ages in human history.

    Moreover, thats a huge difference to Absolute Annihilation: It maybe should be possible to accidently hurt ones own units.

    Btw, i love orbital solar energy generation :)

    And thanks for your important post.
  3. manlebtnureinmal

    manlebtnureinmal Active Member

    Messages:
    134
    Likes Received:
    126
    While I admit I'm still unsure on my stance on the rest of your post, I'd like to point out something notable about these two paragraphs.

    Unit speed and big planets are already a big issue. Right now, the maximum planet radius is 1300. Planets of 1300 radius take an extremely large toll on computational resources already, but the most common complaints on 1300 radius planets is how absolutely boring they are to play.

    Once planetary radius gets large enough, land units become too slow to be effective, and games devolve into a small handful of units:
    1. Air spam
    2. Ares/Holkins
    3. Unit Cannons
    4. Nukes

    The longer it takes to traverse the gap between ones own base and the opponent, the less land actually matters, and the easier it is to spam lategame superunits. This actually accomplishes the opposite of what you desire.

    This could indeed be offset by slower economic progression, but I believe that the change in pace would be unwelcome by large portions of the PA community.

    My best advice would be to aim for these changes in a balance overhaul mod. Ematarkus has pointed out that Stuart98's Planetary Obliteration already seeks to accomplish some of these goals; it is a terribly unpopular mod due to its long download time and massive amount of undocumented changes.

    ______

    PA is not Zero-K, and it already has its established community; any massive balance/unit overhaul would have to deal with potential community backlash.

    Interestingly enough, while lower tiers of play often feature "planet smashing action", superweapons, and all sorts of other nonsense, higher tier play tends to be much more focused on T2 units.

    I think one of PA's biggest problems is how it's marketed. It's marketed around the gimmicks of multi-planet systems and smashing planets into each other. In truth, most high-level play avoids multi-planet systems (almost completely eschewing Orbital production as a side effect) due to the inherent issue of planets basically being moving islands.

    If you talk to the more entrenched PA community, most of them will tell you that multiplanet is only worth playing with Shared Armies on, and that Shared Armies is a really crappy experience unless there's good communication (usually *voice comms*) between the team. As a result, it is rare to see the more experienced PA community play multiplanet systems.

    EDIT: While I disagree heavily with some of your points, and believe that many other points are best reserved for their own mods, I will agree that unit diversity is a thing that PA really suffers from. I believe that the vast majority of the entrenched PA community is also aware of this issue with the game.
    Last edited: August 24, 2018
    netpyxa and nateious like this.
  4. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    935
    Agreed that the hyperactive economy means there is relatively less time before superunits and orbital endgame weapons come into play. Making maps larger without dealing with the extremely hyperactive economy at the same time would have the reverse effect. I am aware of the performance issues with making planets too large, and consequently shrinking unit move speed and distances is a more pragmatic solution to create temporal separation. And, of course, if you create temporal separation you also need to make it productive to invest time in aggression and player interaction rather than passive macro/teching. Use of a T1 unit cannon for intra-planet raiding and constructor transportation could also be a good method to allow early game interaction at long distances.


    PA does not in any way have to copy Zero K in terms of the roles and units that are created. However the basic concept of having diverse unit roles and emergent unit interactions should be incorporated, with whatever roles the PA devs and community think to create. I used artillery as an example for the simple reason that its role is pretty unambiguous. There are a lot of interesting ways to implement artillery, but they all share in common that they behave like an offensive strategic weapon and not a cannon that targets specific enemies at intermediate range like a tank cannon.


    Economy is an enormously complicated topic that will require a lot of problem solving. But for a start, suppose there were a T2 and a T3 energy plant which was exponentially more expensive as a structure, but actually more efficient than the T1 energy plant. Fewer actions are required to build them, and constructing these large energy facilities is a strategic choice with a short-term cost and a long-term benefit.

    Although I think overdrive is a brilliant mechanic, it is not the only possible way to do diminishing returns for compact macro. Diminishing returns instead of accelerating returns are important both as an anti-snowball mechanic, and also to force aggressive expansion to increase efficiency, creating border friction and conflict at the fringes. A less prolific passive macro game will increase conflict between players as the battle over metal spots becomes much more intense, and justifying a much larger resource investment to destroy or secure even a small number of patches.

    edit: in simple terms, the first, most basic, and primitive emotion of playing TA, SupCom, Zero-K, etc. is insatiable mex hunger, and I just don't feel it in PA, as resources are very quickly incredibly abundant for both sides, requiring little investment in time or resources, and making it very difficult to justify expensive and time-consuming raiding or major battles just for mexes. It's important for mexes to be cheap, but that doesn't mean you should be booming in four minutes without having fought any battles yet.
    Last edited: August 24, 2018
    tatsujb and icycalm like this.
  5. lulamae

    lulamae Planetary Moderator

    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    305
    I do not understand what you mean by "hyperactive economy". Please explain.
  6. manlebtnureinmal

    manlebtnureinmal Active Member

    Messages:
    134
    Likes Received:
    126
    This statement is already half true. We have a T2 energy plant that is more efficient than the T1 energy plant, but is expensive enough that some better players continue to build T1 into the lategame in order to get more consistent eco ramping.

    What maps are you playing on? In ranked 1v1 maps, I would find it hard to describe the eco situation at 4 minutes as "booming". The only maps that allow players to achieve relatively high economies by 4 minutes in are metal-rich team game maps, such as Wadiya or Stykades. This type of map is definitely very popular amongst the experienced PA community, but is not necessarily considered to be the "proper" way to play.

    He means that power plants are small and cheap, and that one must constantly continue making them.

    EDIT: Besides the notes about poor unit diversity, it really does seem to me that your main objective is just to slow the pace of PA down. Slow down the eco growth, slow down the units, slow down the tech, etc. Besides the fact that rushing into T2 by 6-7 minutes is mandatory, I don't believe that PA necessarily has pacing issues. Your ideas are good ideas for an overhaul mod, of course, but I don't think the core game needs to have its pace so radically shifted at this point in the game's lifespan. We already have an established community, and the people playing the game now play it because they enjoy the existing pace of games.
    stormingkiwi, river39, n00n and 2 others like this.
  7. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    935
    I can see why you would think I am suggesting to slow down the pace of the game, but that is not entirely correct if I could refine that argument slightly.

    In the early game I would say yes, the progression toward midgame abundance should be much, much slower. PA has largely eliminated the early game raid/expand/defend/tech dichotomy because you literally have the resources to do everything as quickly as you can APM those things into existence. By the time you are likely to have encountered the enemy you have the tools to do everything, with a large army of constructors, ground and air forces, defenses, radar, maybe even T2 if you push it slightly. This means serious, committed early aggression in PA is just not a good idea; maybe a little bit of expenditure on some bots to go "attack" but that's a small side show compared to a single-minded focus on macro towards bigger scale weaponry.

    However, where I think this is not correct, is that slowing down economic progression is not the same thing as slowing down pacing. We can suppose two players with permanently fixed income would build units and fight, and the pace of that game would not be affected by the fact that their income is not increasing. The rate of change in the increase is the problem because it is so fast there isn't enough time for the preceding game state to have interesting things happen and eventually stabilize.

    Effective macro in PA means your resourcing will be prodigious very quickly. All the reagents to do this are cheap and construct quickly; mexes, energy, factories, and constructors. Having more mexes and energy means you get more factories and constructors which means you can build more mexes and energy, and then more factories and more constructors, etc. You never feel broke, or that you have to throttle your production of... anything.

    By contrast, in TA and SupCom, booming economy actually has drawbacks. You can lose by doing it too much or at the wrong time. Going for an early Singularity Reactor in Zero K is honestly a bad move most of the time; too large an investment, too long a timeframe, you're probably going to lose before it pays off. But in PA you basically APM out as many energy plants as you can and there's no real consequence to doing so. You have more than enough resources to build more resourcing and get even more. The biggest bottleneck is actually your hand speed, hence why the economy in PA is "hyperactive."

    TA or ZK on Comet Catcher (flat map with abundant metal spots) is a very close analogy to PA, but the experience couldn't be more different, especially for the first 5-10 minutes. PA as currently designed has such incredible yields so quickly that the early game territory claiming skirmish period is over before it has even begun. The smooth upscaling of raiding and skirmishing to increasingly larger and more intense battles over territory, until eventually there is a climactic enormous and decisive battle, doesn't really happen.

    Early game in TA/SupCom/ZK is characterized by scarcity and risk, trying (with mixed results) to expand resourcing and stop your opponent from doing the same. But if scaling up resourcing is so quick and consumes so little actual landmass, the time it takes to raid doesn't even make sense any more and instead by the time your troops arrive the enemy dwarfs your raiders and you would have been better off investing that time and money in macro yourself.

    So early game, yes, macro needs to be slowed down. Then we proceed to midgame, which PA has a pretty decent handle on, although greater unit diversity would make big battles far more interesting. Diminishing returns come in at this point to force players to spend enormous sums on armies to fight, rather than macro, macro, tech, tech, fastest-possible-superweapon. Diminishing economic returns mean you have a reason to go take it from the enemy rather than passively build in your own little garden until you win.

    And then after an hour or so of armies battling over territory, it becomes viable to gamble a big spend alongside your (weakened) conventional forces to create a late game superweapon. The superweapons are the ultimate last resort to resolve a stalemate that cannot be solved by any other method after everything else has been tried.

    There is a lot to discuss concerning the economy, but in simple terms yields are so high so fast in PA that not enough can happen in the time before big macro and game enders can be created. Macro is low-risk and highly productive, tech is powerful and requires relatively few concessions in terms of unprotected areas or weakened conventional forces.
  8. icycalm

    icycalm Post Master General

    Messages:
    951
    Likes Received:
    722
    ledarsi's analyses are fantastic and I hope PAINC is paying attention to them.

    My only gripe is that he sometimes confuses strategy with tactics. Almost all of his suggestions are tactical, and the thread should therefore be renamed. He is basically asking for SupCom's and Zero-K's tactical depth to be injected into PA, and that's indeed what must happen (including the deeper radar options in SupCom that haven't been mentioned yet).

    The multiplanet and planet-smashing features, on the other hand, are not by any means "gimmicks" as people have called them. They are indeed strategic elements and what enabls PA to have far more scope for strategy (at least on larger systems) than any other RTS ever. So those should be expanded too, of course, and it is these features that will provide the "write-home" bullet points that Marshall says PA needs to attract the average player. The average player will not be attracted by increasing tactical depth. Tactical depth is what retains the hardcore player, and especially the 1v1 crowd.

    So we need both.
    stormingkiwi and wpmarshall like this.
  9. icycalm

    icycalm Post Master General

    Messages:
    951
    Likes Received:
    722
    Of course almost all the economy stuff falls under strategy.
  10. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    935
    There is a really tightly interconnected relationship between "tactics" and "strategy" because the construction of a strategy is always founded in what is possible and what is not, what situation or context is advantageous, and what is disadvantageous. The invention of the M1 Garand semiautomatic rifle in WW2 completely changed doctrine all the way up to the theatre level because the basic building block of the army had different basic features.

    The Zero-K Glaive and the PA Dox are superficially similar units, having sort of similar appearances/sizes, and apparent purposes. But their performance is completely different due to some pretty subtle differences, most importantly the common prevalence of inaccurate weapons that are sort of ineffective against fast-moving targets like the Glaive giving the Glaive greatly superior overall survivability despite having much less HP than a Dox. Likewise, its short-range, high-DPS weapon makes it an effective raider since it can kill defenseless targets much more quickly than a Dox, but will immediately die against defenses with superior range, even extremely weak defenses like missile towers, although naturally that drawback can be overcome to some extent with overwhelming numbers if that is your strategy. Except antiswarm weapons will absolutely crush even overwhelming numbers of Glaives due to their extremely rapid spray of inaccurate bullets, so if you are being aggressive with large groups of this role there are certain places the enemy can cheaply make extremely impractical to attack. One side is in a fast-moving, squishy, aggressive posture, spending a lot of resources on units. The other is in a defensive, macro posture, spending a lot of resources on economy and defenses, and this interaction results from the basic characteristics and interactions of just a handful of units, where a different unit type would completely change the dynamic of that match.


    I am not suggesting PA should copy the Glaive, only that the introduction of this kind of subtle features and interactions add up to make a very strategically different picture on the large scale, which has great effect on the strategic choice of when to build it, how many to build, and where to send them, in addition to its more obvious effect on tactical concerns like "I have X, they have Y, how do I best win this fight? Hard commit? Kite? Retreat? Split attack?"

    The PA devs have done the hard part of making the engine and the skeleton of having functional units with weapons traversing the environment, and shooting at each other. Refining the interactions of these units to create interesting emergent behaviors is much easier from an engineering standpoint.


    Perhaps it would be better to couch this discussion in the terms of micromanagement and macromanagement. Unit micro is manual control of one unit or a small number of units- and in tactics-focused games is a good thing, in strategy-focused games is not. However macro-scale control of armies and large groups of units depends greatly on the underlying properties and traits of those units, even (or even especially) in games where players are not micromanaging one or a mere handful of units, but rather a large force of many independently moving parts.

    Returning to the example of the basic bot; Dox vs Glaive, Auto-kite essentially automates the tactical micromanagement of ensuring the bots in battle are constantly running around and fighting at a good distance. The strategic decision of where to send them on the map is still left up to the player.

    Perhaps PA's vision for the Dox is not a lightweight raider; maybe it is a slow-moving musketeer infantry concept. That could work too, so could many other concepts. But if you pick one, then how does that change how that unit works compared to other units such as the Slammer or the Ant? What is its function as distinct from other units? Is this unit supposed to stand in small groups to defend a fixed position such as to protect an artillery firebase from counterattack as it besieges a base? How does it change how it performs against different opposition, such as raiders, or turrets? What contexts make this unit advantageous in battle so that on a strategic level I want to make certain confrontations happen and try to avoid others?
    Last edited: August 25, 2018
    tatsujb and sardaukar666 like this.
  11. lulamae

    lulamae Planetary Moderator

    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    305
    That is an issue of map design, not game design. The multiplayer games I played in recently only have 3-4 metal spots at your spawn points and all remaining metal spots lead you directly towards your nearest enemy


    I have to wonder about the gaming conditions that you play in that lead you to feel this way. I virtually never feel this way in the games I play and it doesn't show in the economies of the upper-level players whose games I spectate.

    The closest that I get to feeling that way is during Waidhofer's special 6FFA with 5x econ rate. But that is very much the exception.
  12. Corgiarmy

    Corgiarmy Active Member

    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    197
    PA Inc has to be aware that any changes to game play might cause issues with other game type. PA's game play varies depending on the game type more so than other RTS games that I have played. For example, I remember when t2 was more expensive which allowed for slower progression towards the mid game but the problem was 1v1 players complained that t2 wasn't feasible in matches. Plenty of these matches never progressed and some ended with each player having 10 to 15 t1 factories pushing ants and air towards each other until one player out macro-ed the other.

    Also "commit early aggression in PA is not a good idea" again depends on the game. Its bad advise for two team or 1v1 game. If there are more than two teams or a FFA then the player must be more diplomatic about engaging an enemy early as the player does not want to be warring on too many fronts, but this is more about player strategy than PA game play mechanics.
    wpmarshall likes this.
  13. lulamae

    lulamae Planetary Moderator

    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    305
    Agreed. Sometimes it's best to not draw attention to yourself.... :)
  14. icycalm

    icycalm Post Master General

    Messages:
    951
    Likes Received:
    722
    Everything in the universe is connected to everything else. That doesn't mean that strategy and tactics are not distinct categories that ought to be analyzed separately. That's why we have two words for them: because they are not the same thing. Of course they are related, but it's neither possible nor even desirable to analyze everything at the same time, so we must keep the categories clear of each other in our minds, for the most part, until the time has come to analyze their connections in precisely the points where such analysis is warranted (and those points are the exception rather than the rule).

    There is basically no argument against understanding what these terms really mean. They are not interchangeable, as pretty much every PA player I've ever talked to thinks they are.

    Also, micro=tactics and macro=strategy. And the reason strategy does not involve micromanagement is because strategic decisions, by their very nature, are not made under tight time constraints. When a king is considering whether to upgrade his castle or not, that's not a choice that needs to be made with minutes, let alone seconds. He can take some days, if not weeks and months, to make it -- and ALL genuinely strategic decisions are of this kind.

    In a 20-minute PA 1v1 there are almost no strategic decisions involved. It's pretty much a single extended engagement, which means that it's pretty much pure tactics.

    In a 1-hour multiplanet 4v4 there might be 5 or 10 such decisions. (What planets do we go to? What bases do we attack first? And so on.)

    In a 3-hour Insomnia Clan War involving 8 planets and 6 clans, there are dozens of such decisions to be made.

    The above is not debatable. It is the bare minimum of understanding of these terms required to productively participate in the conversation.
    Last edited: August 25, 2018
  15. icycalm

    icycalm Post Master General

    Messages:
    951
    Likes Received:
    722
    That's also why the traditionally heavy strategy games like Civilization have been traditionally turn-based: because strategic decisions are never made in a time-scale of minutes or seconds. Therefore, real-time mechanics are not required for them.

    ANY decision in PA that must be made within seconds or even minutes is not really strategic, it's tactical. And that's why you NEED the game to last multiple hours in order to allow for a considerable strategic dimension to develop. And that's why you NEED huge multiplanet systems and lots of players and units, in order to allow lengthy games to develop.

    None of the above is refuted by finding exceptions to it, like your "M1 Garand rifle". An exception is just an exception, it proves nothing besides the existence of a rule. And the rule is what I just explained here. Theories are made on rules. A theory made on exceptions would be useless most of the time.
  16. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    935
    I don't think we are disagreeing here. I agree that you need time for low-level combats to happen. Although obviously this is a real time strategy game. Strategic decisions do need to be made with some time constraints, but it isn't like shot-dodging micro or macro APM efficiency; making the change in strategy later is just a different strategic choice.

    The fact that Glaives are fast-moving, kill defenseless mexes and constructors in seconds, and die to turrets, strongly affects both the tactical decisions (i.e. charging antiswarm tower; bad tactical decision) and the strategic decisions to put on heavy raiding pressure and position glaives around the map to block mex expansion. The characteristics of the unit heavily determine how it is used both tactically and strategically.

    What we want to avoid is heavy APM micromanagement; so if indeed we were to implement a mechanic requiring that a unit constantly be moving then that behavior should be automatic. Dodging shots is not an interesting decision and requires intense APM from the player to do with a large quantity of units, and in several locations. The auto-kite AI doesn't even need to be very good; if target is out of range, get closer, if target is too close, run away, if target is within desired distance, run sideways and stay at desired distance. No manually activated special abilities or demands that individual units be micromanaged.

    But a broad line of skirmishers using auto-skirm getting run over and broken in half by an attacking tight group of tanks, with skirmishers running away in every direction, is an interesting behavior that results from pretty straightforward design features of those two unit types.

    Emergent behaviors matter on the strategic level. A strategy focused on mobile artillery being positioned within range of an enemy base depends greatly on the units available to do the jobs required by that strategy, and the roles available to the enemy to stop you and their capabilities. Depending on the units and mechanics of the game that strategic concept could really suck, or might be the only serious way to play it competitively.
    tatsujb likes this.
  17. exterminans

    exterminans Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,881
    Likes Received:
    986
    That is still far more complicated than it sounds. Unit AI for player controlled units is roughly on the level "query units in range, pick first based on hard coded priorities, fire if firing solution exists or advance towards goal/target while avoiding collisions".

    Kiting is only that simple for 1vs1 encounters in an unconstrained open field. Sideways movement conflicts with other units. (Only air units can do that for free.) Well, strife movement is easily made obsolete by forced spread / misses on the attacking weapon.

    Retreating already requires to properly map all threats. Not exactly cheap, and just as easy to exploit as the "pull" maneuver for the opposite direction. Just use a single unit to circle in order to project "threat" from the rear and the target sticks in place.
  18. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    935
    You wouldn't automate behaviors as complex as "retreat" for PA; one day some innovative RTS will do this, but likely not PA. What I suggested above is combat micro only. If there is an enemy close by, engage it, and for certain kinds of units engaging it means staying moving at the best possible speed, for others it means standing stationary at optimal distance and walking directly forward or back to adjust range. If you wanted to attack or retreat the player is going to have to order the units to move somewhere else.

    Kiting is a simple behavior even in a large battle; each unit picks an enemy and engages that target. It makes sense to pick the closest enemy and measure distance to the closest enemy for purposes of deciding whether to move forward or backward (towards or away from that unit). This can easily result in a hundred units engaging in a variety of different sub-engagements in different directions, encirclements, chases, and other phenomena that look more complex than they truly are.

    Sideways, curved, or circular automatic dodging movement is honestly not that complicated. Although you might spend a lot of time developing "optimal" attack behaviors, there really is no need at all for these to be optimal. A hundred "dumb" units each executing simple behaviors adds up to a fairly complicated battlefield picture quite quickly, especially with mixed types.
    tatsujb likes this.
  19. gitaxian

    gitaxian Member

    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    22
    My experience with PA has been the exact opposite, at least for 1v1 gameplay. Early aggression is vital and if you don’t engage in it you’ll almost certainly lose. The opportunity cost of expansion in PA is much lower than in most RTS games, since both fabs and extractors are extremely cheap relative to the metal extractors produce. That means there’s little risk and massive potential reward to sending out a lone fab to grab as many extractors as possible, because if your opponent isn’t keeping pressure on you you’ll just run away with a massive eco advantage.

    PA has the attack/expansion/defense/tech dynamic in 1v1 play. The problem is, somewhat ironically, that PA’s mechanics simply don’t scale well. The main reason is how T2 functions. The first T2 factory gives you not only superior units, but also allows you to triple your metal income without expanding at all by building T2 extractors. Suddenly you no longer need to expand nearly as much and can afford to defend your territory much easer. The early game effectively ends the moment T2 comes online. In your average 1v1 this is balanced by the need for a significant upfront investment in resources, resources you need to protect you from raids and raid the enemy. But the larger the map gets and the more resources teams have access to (which is inherent in shared games since commanders produce resources), the less effective raiding gets, which means more resources to devote to rushing T2, which means the early game gets shorter the bigger the game gets. In a 20 minute 1v1 you might spend 5-10 minutes on early game, but in a 2 hour shared 5v5 there might not even be an early game.

    There are two ways to fix this issue. The first would be to severely nerf or remove T2 eco structures, so that expansion continues to be extremely valuable throughout the game. The second is to follow in the footsteps of Supcom and make T2 extractors easily accessible from T1 without a significant upfront investment, instead relying on the cost the buildings to balance it. Both these options would require rebalancing the entire game around the new economy.

    TL;DR: The way T2 works means the early game gets shorter the larger the match is.
  20. Quitch

    Quitch Post Master General

    Messages:
    5,675
    Likes Received:
    6,032
    PA already has this. They're called teleporters.

    That sounds like an issue with you playing on maps too large for the number of players, or the players being far too passive.

Share This Page