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Fast TBS (was Rapid4X)

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  • Brandon J. Van Every
    Warning: this is getting pretty long... From: John Ludlow [mailto:johnludlow_uk@yahoo.co.uk] ... If someone could come up with a serialized dramatic structure
    Message 1 of 136 , Oct 31, 2003
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      Warning: this is getting pretty long...

      From: John Ludlow [mailto:johnludlow_uk@...]
      >
      > First point: You watched Band Of Brothers (10x1hr episodes)? Many
      > consider this a long film, though ostensibly it's actually a short
      > series.
      >
      > Do you watch that all in one go? Or in bursts of 1 or 2 episodes?

      If someone could come up with a serialized dramatic structure for 4X
      TBS, that would be fine. In essence, "open ended levels" that connect
      seamlessly to one another. But that is not how 4X TBS has traditionally
      been structured. It has been one big boring glob.

      Actually, this is an interesting idea to pursue for Rapid4X. I think it
      would require some technologies for measuring the current state of the
      gameboard. If those metrics can be KISS, then a 10 episode structre
      becomes a fairly simple script, just fulfilling the metrics. Some
      points in a game are already readily identifiable, such as when you make
      contact with your first opponent, completely explore your 1st continent,
      or conquer your first opponent. So then you'd want to control the
      dramatic experience between these moments.

      > Now, perhaps in a 4X game you have similar break points. Set
      > yourself short-term objectives (say each takes an hour), and stop and
      > save when you finish one.

      No, this does not work. This is like asking the audience of a TV show
      to imagine what's supposed to be interesting even though the show is
      boring them. We as game designers have to take control of the dramatic
      structure. It's not credible to dump this problem in the player's lap
      and expect them to exercise self-discipline about having a good time.

      > > Making a 4X TBS game take 5 hours or even 3 hours instead of 8, 16,
      > > or
      > > 24 hours still demonstrates a marked concern with the passage of
      > > time.
      >
      > Yes, but what's your point? If you see the fact that 4X games take a
      > long time as the main problem, fair enough. I don't see it as
      > anything like the main problem with 4X games - the genre has worse
      > issues than that.

      Game designers who are not conscious of the usage of time allow all
      sorts of boring fatty shit to creep into their games. Same with
      filmmakers. In games and film, you have to CUT DOWN THE INESSENTIAL.
      Keep it exciting.

      > If you're gonna do an epic battle or war, it'll take time, unless you
      > make it zip by at such a speed that the player doesn't get to see
      > much of it (again, see Rise Of Nations).

      The speed of animation, the number of battles you're actually going to
      allow the player to perceive, is definitely one of the design
      considerations when budgeting how long a turn is going to take. For
      this reason I'm vehemently opposed to regarding TBS as "a low
      performance genre." That said, you save a lot of time just animating
      units in parallel instead of one by one.

      > Hehe... I'm only saying that what we are now discussing seems to be
      > a subset of the 4X genre - a 4X game which takes less time. I.e:
      > the universe in a lunch-hour. This is different to games like Civ
      > and SMAC and MOO, whose objective is different.

      No, you have assumed a lunch hour and I do not. I assume 8 hours or
      less, which is *far* less than the 16..24 hours current 4X TBS titles
      generally take. At least, that's how long they take *me*. I think
      about what I'm doing. I have a friend of mine who "blitz" played SMAC,
      he'd just move move move move move. He'd do pretty well at the
      beginning, but he always bogged down in midgame and got lost because he
      never thought about or mastered the intricacies of the game.

      Actually, it would behoove me to try his playstyle just for sake of
      study. It might teach me some things about what would be best to
      eliminate, and what playstyles might be augmented with the UI to save
      time. I think I'll try "shitting out a victory" with Freeciv. To be
      honest I haven't played it yet, even though I'm attempting to port it to
      C# .NET DirectX.

      > > > But how much do you need to think about plot when making a 4X?
      > >
      > > What do you need to keep people intersted in watching a slasher
      > > film? You are in a large sense asking the wrong question.
      >
      > Someone said once that there are no wrong questions. But anyway...

      How much is a number? It's a badly formed question, it has no inherent
      answerability.

      > Could you do it the other way round? Rapid 4X's will, I think, never
      > be anything more than a sub-genre of 4X, or maybe of RTS (like RoN).

      *SUB*-genre? One of my career goals is to take over the 4X TBS genre
      and put tedious games like Civ into the dust. My ambition is for Rapid
      4X to *be* the genre. Same fun, takes 5 hours instead of 24.

      > Ok, we should look at why 4X's work in the first place, and what (if
      > anything) a Rapid 4X will lose from that.

      Ok.

      > I personally think that
      > 4X's can have a longer play-time than most games because it's
      > an on-going thing, and what you're depicting is the rise and fall of
      > empires. RoN loses some of that because, at the end of the day, it's
      > still an RTS. It's really just an Age Of Empires clone, though a fun
      > one.
      >
      > Are you planning on making a similar game,

      Nope. You're the one who brought up the "lunch hour" idea, and that has
      never ever been one of my design goals. My target has been 5 hours for
      a couple of years now. Truthfully, I dream of 3, but even 5 sounds
      highly optimistic at this point. I'll be happy if I consistently
      achieve 8.

      Actually, the name "Rapid 4X" worries me because people easily mistake
      it for RTS. Best to use "TBS" rather than "4X," it's more important to
      affirm that the game is turn-based than that it's 4X. People can figure
      out if a TBS is 4X easily enough. Ok, new working name: "Fast TBS."
      Acronym is FTBS, which probably won't get confused for FPS? I don't
      want to do "Rapid TBS" because that would be RTBS, which would be
      constantly confused for RTS. I don't want "Quick TBS" because "Quick"
      tends to imply MacOS APIs. I guess there's the non-conflictual word
      "Speedy," but I can't say that word with a straight face. I suppose
      "Short TBS" would be a reasonable statement of intents, but I don't want
      people to think short == incomplete.

      FTBS is good enough for now. If anyone can think of better, let me
      know.

      > Also, the UI should be able recognise shapes, rather than points.
      > What I mean by that is that supposing a city has numerous outposts
      > which form its defence. Supposing you wanted to upgrade them across
      > one border (maybe you expect an attack from that direction, orhave
      > special plans for the region, but didn't have enough cash for a
      > blanket upgrade, whatever), how would you do it?
      >
      > Currently, you might have to select each one in turn. Or you might
      > be able to drag-select. Or you might be able to set an auto-upgrade
      > going (represented in SMAC by the Formers). Using an auto-upgrade
      > wouldn't allow you to select a border, though. But then if you're
      > really anti-micromanagement, who cares?

      This is one of those places where you have to make tradeoffs between
      player control and playability. If you allow detailed player control,
      then the game is going to turn into an elaborate paint program and not
      be terribly playable. There should probably be an arena in which the
      player does indeed have picky control. But it shouldn't be everything
      in the game, or even a lot of the game. Maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the game at
      most, with the rest being ever-abstracting, hierarchical decisions.

      So again, you have to decide how much time you have to play the game, to
      decide what you're going to keep and what you're going to throw out.
      There just may not be enough time in the game for picky fort borders.
      As a concrete example, I thought the picky fort borders in Call To Power
      II were kinda stupid. Sure they give some Cold War feel, but do you
      really have time for this mumbo jumbo?

      > I've just realised why this didn't work. When the battle is over and
      > the day is won (yada yada yada...) the force is disbanded, but the
      > troops/ships just drop back into the force pool wherever you leave
      > them. This makes it hard to keep track of where you have well-
      > defended systems and where your weak-points are.

      Well, you'd need to specify both offensive and defensive priorities.
      The computer tries to fulfil the constraints, tiebreakers are used if
      the constraints can't be fulfilled. Player specifies whether to lean
      more towards offense or defense.

      > Logistical problems, as in making sure there are enough transports,
      > that kind of thing? Yeah, agreed.
      >
      > Or deciding where the forces come from, which garrisons are emptied
      > in order to provide the troops?

      Both. The human is in charge of stating the priorities, not moving the
      units around.

      > Yeah, I can see that. Would the computer automatically reconfigure
      > the economy to be on more of a war footing?

      No. The player specifies budget priorities, and has to live with the
      consequences. But the computer could pop up an Advisor that says they
      don't have enough materials for war. Could pop up Advisors any time the
      computer doesn't have info for making a decision, really. Advisors
      could get really annoying! Definitely want some intelligent ways to
      tell them to shut up, like "don't bother me for a few turns" rather than
      "don't bother me ever again."

      > Okaaay... I can see the reasoning for it, but I think you kind of
      > have to keep reminding the player that these are 3,000 /people/ he's
      > sending off to war. I remember playing MOO2, and I kept getting this
      > messagebox "XYZ has invaded planet ABC. 3 gazillion people are
      > dead". "Get outta my damn way, stupid messagebox!" was my response.
      > Somehow, I don't think that's what I should be thinking having just
      > been told that 3 gazillion people have died.

      A question for the dramatic arts. I agree that popup dialogues are a
      bad medium of communication, they're almost always annoying. I think
      cinematic explosions would be best.


      Cheers, www.indiegamedesign.com
      Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

      20% of the world is real.
      80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
    • gameproducer@aol.com
      I enjoy and have written articles for Gignews.Com and GameDev.Net (andtheir chat room). Also, I look at 3Dcafe.com and dperry.com. Roger E Pedersen (973)
      Message 136 of 136 , Nov 23, 2003
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        I enjoy and have written articles for Gignews.Com and GameDev.Net (andtheir
        chat room).
        Also, I look at 3Dcafe.com and dperry.com.

        Roger E Pedersen
        (973) 716-0194
        (845) 623-8463
        Best-Selling Game Design Book Author "Game Design Foundations" Wordware Publ.


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