Large-scale battles
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 9:39 am    Post subject: Large-scale battles Reply with quote

Has anyone put any thought into supporting large-scale battles using a mud, with huge armies maneuvering across a battlefield?

My initial thoughts would be to have such battles take place in a separate location to the rest of the game - almost like a sub-game, I suppose, spanning over a large coordinate-based terrain map.

I'm also thinking of representing each 'unit' of soldiers much like a single mob (cosmetically they would appear different, with their own messages and attacks and such) - treating each soldier as a separate entity would be a complete spam-fest and result in far more calculations than are really necessary.

It might also work well if designed as a two-step thing (rather like the Total War games, or that Warhammer campaign game (can't remember the name, but it worked much the same way, with players playing a standard wargame when their armies met on the board)) - allow the armies to move a short distance across the terrain every turn (which could be an hour, a day, or something else), and then zoom in to a real-time battle sequence when two armies collide (although that could cause problems if one or both players were offline). Actually if you did it this way, you could have the 'battle' thing accessable as web-based game which interacted with the mud.

Controlling large armies might be tricky, unless each player controlled a single unit - actually that'd probably be fun! On the other hand, it might also work well if the units were NPC-controlled, with the player representing the general who gives the orders - that'd perhaps provide a more realistic feel, although I'm not sure if it would be as fun.

Of course I wouldn't want to miss out on seiges and the like - allowing armies to build (and defend) fortifications, having units construct catapults and battering rams, and so on.
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Falconer



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 16
Location: Paris

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll respond in full when I've got a bit more time. For now, however, I'd strongly recommend taking a look at AD&D's Birthright Campaign - a highly interesting model that combines the typical experience of PCs with holdings, rulership and mass combat.
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Delerak



Joined: 17 May 2005
Posts: 49
Location: Tampa

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm really looking forward to getting into the code on my mud for large scale battles. Epic battles are always fun in books/movies/games, so why not muds? From the muds I've played, I've never really seen it done and done good, there's always issues whether it's the mud crashing or the NPCs just not working right (for the unit idea).

I've always imagined a great amount of time going into a code to produce something spectacular, something where the system goes like this:
Player Characters would be given certain Armies that they can use, for example.

Player A has an Army of 4,000 men. He has 1,000 Archers, 1,000 Infantry, 1,000 Cavalry, 500 Mercenaries, and 500 Medics.

Now whether the Army would be 1 NPC or a collection, I'm not so sure on, but te geist of the battle would consist of first, finding a battlefield, afterall, an Army must march before it reaches it's destination.

So maybe when the Player wants to go find something to fight (talking in a total Hack n Slash environment, not RPI) let's say he has to march his Army there.

March Army East
You give the order for the Army to begin marching eastward.

And thus they begin marching let's say through A Forest. And they reach Plains.

Plains are always a suitable location for a battle, so here more commands open up to the Player, such as

Divide Units, Cavalry Charge, Infantry Charge, Retreat, Flank Enemy Left, Flank Enemy Right -- And the possibilites are endless here.

Anyways the messages that you receive in combat could all be well thought out, with lots of gruesome details to ensue as each player pits their wits against each other in a chess match of epic proportions, you know what you could even have them able to buy more men for their Army, Buy seige weapons, Buy their own castles, I tell you what this just keeps souding better and better, I really wish someone would tackle a mud based around large scale battles.. I hope my mud can get something coded soon. Either way, this is just how I see it from strictly a players point of view, some of the above concepts I know are possible, and some I'm not sure about.

Regards,
-D
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Delerak



Joined: 17 May 2005
Posts: 49
Location: Tampa

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know what I just thought of some more stuff, certain Units like lets say
Mercenaries would get certain bonuses like Cunning Tactics, making a mercenary suitable for fighting archers, but against lets say Heavy Infantry they would scatter and flee because Mercs aren't good at fighting professional soldiers, I don't know, just rambling now.. But it would be really interesting to have it involve true strategy on the players part instead of just kill kill kill, bash bash bash.

-D
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Player Characters would be given certain Armies that they can use, for example.

Player A has an Army of 4,000 men. He has 1,000 Archers, 1,000 Infantry, 1,000 Cavalry, 500 Mercenaries, and 500 Medics.


Are you talking about allowing people to select specifically how many of each troop they wanted, or having predefined units of a specific size?

Quote:
March Army East
You give the order for the Army to begin marching eastward.

And thus they begin marching let's say through A Forest. And they reach Plains.

Plains are always a suitable location for a battle, so here more commands open up to the Player, such as

Divide Units, Cavalry Charge, Infantry Charge, Retreat, Flank Enemy Left, Flank Enemy Right -- And the possibilites are endless here.


Nice idea, although I'd be tempted to vary the tactics based on unit type - some (such as cavalry) would indeed be better on the plain, but others might be better in the forest, perhaps even having the option to lay traps and ambush the opposing army.

Quote:
you could even have them able to buy more men for their Army, Buy seige weapons, Buy their own castles


Could do - I guess you could even make it the main focus of the mud, with players controlling and training units rather than individual characters.

Quote:
You know what I just thought of some more stuff, certain Units like lets say Mercenaries would get certain bonuses like Cunning Tactics


Nice idea - that would fit perfectly with my Talent system, too (sort of like skills, but they're boolean). I could just assign a series of talents which are unit-based rather than individual-specific, allowing players to customise their own units.
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Grem



Joined: 15 May 2005
Posts: 36
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 2:11 am    Post subject: Epic Permana Armies Reply with quote

Im utilizing an 'army' system in my MUD. Players can have up to 100 units serving them at once. Units are displayed to players in the same room in this format:

Grem is standing next to you, escorted by 35 Sarpanian rogues, 20 leather-clad archers, 5 Nightclaw riders, and 40 Gunswic soldiers.


Each unit has one special 'move' which they randomly utilize during combat. Rogues can backstab, archers can fire at a distance, riders have a bash attack, and soldiers have a typical slice attack. Units are expendable 'shields' to the player.

Players can opt to 'engage' combat, which allows them to take damage while in combat. If they do not engage, only the units will take damage from the mob (as the player stands at a distance at commands units). Players can engage and disengage at will, although sometimes it is possible to fail disengagement.

Monsters can also have armies. It's quite epic for a single player to conquer a mob that has an army of 100 other units. The player must hack through all units before reaching the general, and slaying him.
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Kelson



Joined: 18 May 2005
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Location: SC

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been trying to solve a similar issue primarily related to the monster-group invasion plans. For example, the orc dens raiding the town would involve dozens/hundreds of combatants.

It doesn't make sense for the player to try to tell everyone under their control how to fight. It would be fun and it would be nigh impossible. Instead, I think it'd be a good solution to start introducing a command structure to the army as it grew past a dozen where the player only gave orders to (initially simple-minded) NPCs who would then relay it to their dozen or so subordinates and so forth (or just simulated, of course, by giving the msg to all the mobs). These would also pass information up to the player to let them know how things were going.

Of course, the player is still rather limited in their information processing in such a system unless their on the front lines. In addition to the verbal reports, it might be useful to give the player the ability to spectate their entire army by switching to an area map that shows (with some perhaps dynamically generated key) the player's army spread (they can't all be in one room), battle locations, etc.

Kelson

PS) Nice forum
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to clarify, by 'unit' I was really referring to a 'military unit' (i.e., a homogenous organisation, such as a battalion). The large-scale battles I envisioned would typically involve tens of thousands of soldiers, so obviously each mob couldn't be handled individually. This is why I was looking into the idea of representing an entire unit as if it were one highly-specialised mob.
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Traithe



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 50

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is going to be a pretty large part of Etherea - in addition to the standard ground-based strategic army warfare, there will also be space battles; I'm thinking that depending on scale, they will switch interfaces, i.e. an individual player can either a) use the code to fly his ship and attack others individually, or b) in the case of a fleet commander, move to a "strategic view" and give orders for individual ships or wings to execute.

Anyway, no real specific implementation ideas there yet, so I'll post more about them once I get to that stage of the code design.
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 11:49 pm    Post subject: Possibility Reply with quote

Here's an idea, fairly complete (I think), if not elaborately detailed. Take parts of it as you like, whatever seems interesting to discuss.


While it's certainly possible to do very complicated things in terms of large scale combat, I see the most common goal as being the following:
A) Simple to use (good UI).
B) Epic in feel (different from really tough mobs).
C) Elaborate in strategy.
D) Multiplayer in orientation (especially for RP muds, having many players on one 'side').
E) Do all this with limited code (no rewriting Massive).


One possible solution is to take a page straight out of Plutarch's Life of Alexander, in style and substance.


First, the units themselves can be basic mobs. They have to be stylized (KaVir showed me a nice example of this today), at the very least, and have very nice, exciting messages.
'Onwards to victory,' the troops shout!
The soldiers cheer as they raise their pikes into the air.
etc...
Further, little details are nice, such as spawning a new unit if part of the force routs, and having it flee. Offering significant differences in combat messages should be considered essential.


Second, combat itself should be changed. That is, units don't go down from HP loss or whatever not, but from depletions in available soldiers, ammunition, and morale. I'll ignore ammunition for now. Soldiers can be kept as a counter, and depleted accordingly (along the lines of the Total War series), while morale can be done with bizarre equations. One way is to adapt Lancaster models to take both into account - I've done this in a research paper on hoplite warfare, and it does pretty well. However, it does require changing the paradigm, since including both morale and soldiers (much less ammunition and whatever else) moves away from the standard "decreasing hitpoints" concept.


Third, flanking and placement. These are, in this model, connected. While you could, in theory, restrict the number of units per room (or area, for coordinate-based systems), I don't like this solution. Nor do I like merging units who happen to be in the same room. Rather, I think the development of flanking would force players to balance between a concentrated offensive force and a distributed defensive one without resorting to any artificial restrictions. Thus, to an extent, the spam problem is solved (though I imagine that some players would use large, concentrated attacking forces to flood-spam the other player off the server).


Fourth, and most important to this model, the player's role. An army, notably, consists of many units. Thus, user interfaces are hard. This is where Alexander really comes into play. If you recall your Plutarch, Alexander is generally displayed as fighting in the forefront, directing his troops himself - so much so that, his presence at a site of contention frequently changes the tide of battle. At the very least, communication is difficult in epic battles, as shown in Parmenio's attempts to recall Alexander at the Battle of Gaugamela. Now, why does this matter?
An alternative to the frequently discussed floating-camera general perspective is, of course, the first-person perspective. A character's generalship allows him to boost the morale of all the troops in the room (or area, for coordinate-based worlds). More importantly, he can give them direct orders, such as "charge" or what not. Otherwise, they rely on their AI to decide how best to fight (which, I imagine, often resorts to the "flee" tactic). So, you'll have generals riding back and forth along long battle lines, reinforcing hotspots with their rallying cries and ordering troops into battle!
Now, throw in some messengers (perhaps?), and more players, and you've practically got Tolkien's description of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Further, by offering charisma-type generalship skills, in addition to combat skills, you create a wide variety of generals within an army. Some might be great leaders, rallying troops at crucial points along the line and giving them much needed bonuses. Some might be great soldiers, personally leading elite cavalry in critical charges against the enemy position. And some might just be clever generals, who could organize the players (so they can better organize the army).
Skill and experience become huge factors (as they should be), allowing clever players, or players who can see the big picture, to perform as better generals. It rewards practice (if you survive, mwahaha) and strategy rather than "who has the larger army?" Plus, a good archer character could totally snipe the enemy general and devastate his army. Very Happy


In the end, what you have is an epic battle raged between groups of players and their (hopefully huge) armies, without lots of spam and with realistic limitations in command structure. Players would (probably) form their own hierarchies as the situation demanded, and specialize during the course of battle. For each player, the battle would feel especially epic, since they can only visualize part of it. Throw in some personality traits (personal ties to units?), especially for the elite units, and you have what I imagine would be a lot of fun, good for roleplay and hack'n'slash alike.


It doesn't even require AI at the soldier level! Razz
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Delerak



Joined: 17 May 2005
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Location: Tampa

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an awesome system layout Spaz.
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danke.
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cron0s



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 2:15 am    Post subject: Re: Possibility Reply with quote

Spazmatic wrote:

While it's certainly possible to do very complicated things in terms of large scale combat, I see the most common goal as being the following:
A) Simple to use (good UI).
B) Epic in feel (different from really tough mobs).
C) Elaborate in strategy.
D) Multiplayer in orientation (especially for RP muds, having many players on one 'side').
E) Do all this with limited code (no rewriting Massive).


I used to play a mud that did this quite well, although I have never really been satisfied with any warfare implementation I have seen in any mud. But anyway, their system was similar to the one you describe...

Military units were treated as a special mob/object. However they only interacted with other military units, not with ordinary mobs or players. Each unit could consist of any number of soldiers, though I think there may have been a minimum unit size of 5 or something.

The soldiers were originally spawned in a barracks, and had to be assembled into a unit before they could be commanded. This was fairly time consuming, and took longer the larger the unit you were assembling. A player could only command 1 unit at a time, and only units they had assembled themselves. This meant planning in advance which players would command troops was very important.

The mud was room based, and within each room you could have any number of units. Each unit could have a 'facing' which basically modified the engagement formulae and was supposed to allow for flanking and other tactics.

You could order the unit you were commanding to attack, and units not under command would attack any nearby enemy units automatically. The combat was simply a Diku style autocombat between units, with each unit losing men each round until one was routed. I don't remember the details, but there were modifiers based on whether the unit had a commander, facing etc, but it was mainly about numbers.

Each unit required a certain number of commodities to move each location, depending on its size. The movement speed was also slower the larger the unit. This was one of the best features of the system; with a really large army it could take many hours to march them across the world. This made major military actions rare events that required huge amounts of planning and coordination among players. However it was still relatively easy to use a small number of troops for skirmishing and territorial conflict.
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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Location: Pittsburgh, PA

PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
A player could only command 1 unit at a time, and only units they had assembled themselves. This meant planning in advance which players would command troops was very important.


This is a very feasible system that, as you said, would be great for skirmishing. Unfortunately, I don't think it creates the "epic" feel that, at least for me, is the main goal of a large-scale battle. Many units per "general", players with both general and hero aspects (or both kinds of players, at least), and a sense that it's all a little overwhelming (hopefully not because the UI is horrible) seem to be critical aspects to achieving that goal

Somehow, though, the system you mentioned seems a whole lot simpler and more in tune with a standard Diku system. I could imagine it being a very useful and fairly simple addition to a MUD with kingdom code. It's good to know that someone's tried, though, and produced something quite concrete.
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Cornelius



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spazmatic wrote:
One possible solution is to take a page straight out of Plutarch's Life of Alexander


I want to base my army system more on the Romance of Three Kingdoms/ Dynasty Tactics model. Each commander will only control one unit type, thus unit type {archer, spearmen, swordsmen, pikemen, horsement, etc} could act as a class and a full army would require several commanders each performing their function: a frontline of spearmen, a swordsman core with horsemen on the flanks... I also would like a commander to be able to have a player lieutenant or subcommander that could engage in the actual fighting and also challenge the commanders or subcommanders of opposing armies to personal duels. In Three Kingdoms battles were often won without being fought- they could be won by strategist duelling which was like a human chess game between two strategist commanders setting up their army in formations and begging the opponent to come up with the counterformation, or also battles could be won by personal combat between commanders or subcommanders- I want to leave these options open to players.

this opens up the possibility for dynamic command structure. If you set a bulk limit on a commander's army size based on their leadership skills (Cornelius->bulk = 20) and then allow them to fill up this bulk with any of:
* troops (spearmen 1000 per 1 bulk, horsemen 300 per 1 bulk, elite bodyguards 10 per 1 bulk, etc.)
* subcommanders ( 1 per 5 bulk- but each one carries their own bulk worth of soldiers)
* warmachines (trebuchets 1 per 5 bulk, wartower 1 per 3 bulk, etc.)

Once a commander dedicated himself to a troop type s/he can "buy" discrete bulk units of only that troop type but can also add to the army with subcommanders and warmachines at the cost of more troops. When a sub/commander is eliminated his/her army/division is routed.

As for the actual fighting... I still have a little more thought to give on that, not the unit on unit fighting I am pretty sure what I want to do for that: I would use the quantity of troops to be a basic hitpoint value for the army, warmachines would have no hitpoint worth- the troops assigned to the same army as the warmachine would be considered as guards to the machine- if the troops run out the machine is either confiscated or destroyed by the enemy, also as I stated in another thread when a commander loses his whole army he can supplicate to the enemy commander to be released, engage in a personal duel, or he can even swear service to the victor as a vassal. An army would set up in a formation- that formation would determine the general way in which all the troops in the army would behave and would modify the success, effects and speed of a divisions 'tactic'- divisions in the army use tactics as the army version of skills- once a tactic is initated (as an event) it must be completed before the division subcommader (or army commander) could use another tactic- tactics available would depend on unit type, modifiers such as warmachines available, and the commanders generalship skills. Some tactics can be used in unison for two or more division commanders if the timing is right- unleashing a combo tactic that have have devastating effects on the enemy.

The hard part comes when I have to think about how to have a commander or subcommander fight within the army... I mean- actually engaging in combat with these thousands upon thousands of enemies- anyone have any ideas on this?

I am also unsure whether I would have premade battlefield areas in the game for armies to clash in (vis-a-vis Dynasty Tactics) or if the world map would be suitable, if you read my post in the player-built dungeons thread about using depots and monuments to aid in army combat it makes more sense to use the world map... but maybe if I just throw them into a battlefield with the understanding that the effects of that terrain type exist in the current battle that would solve that problem... any thoughts?
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