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Game rewards turtling too much


kditd
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Hi,

 

I checked out 0AD again recently and was positively impressed. The game has improved by leaps and bounds. I really like your art and music. Congratulations!

 

After a few games against the AI, I started to wonder. I am playing a lot of other RTS games, such as Company of Heroes, Command&Conquer, Sins of a Solar Empire and Starcraft. 0AD seems very different.

Especially, it takes very long until the first combat occurs. For five to ten minutes, players have to build up their bases instead of rush or harrass each other. This makes the first phase of the game seem more like a city builder than a strategy game. 0AD seems to make the player turtle in the beginning until they can steamroll the enemy. Most other RTS games reward early harrassment of the enemy a lot more.

So I tried to analyse the core game mechanics to understand why rushing and harrassing are so difficult in this game and it takes so long to go on the offense. Here are my findings.

  • Soldiers are also workers: This means that when you use your Slingers and Hoplites to go on the attack, you lose resources. While your soldiers are marching to the enemy base (and back hopefully), his soldiers are chopping wood! So you are punished for attacking by losing resources. This is a flaw in the core game mechanics IMHO.
  • Town bell: Workers can be garrisoned automatically. This makes it impossible to successfully harass enemy workers. It is true that he loses resources while he is garrisoned, but so do you - your attacking men aren't working, after all!
  • The only good soldiers in this game are ones that aren't workers, because you don't lose resources when they are fighting. This is a large part of why cavalry is so powerful in this game. They are cheap and you don't lose income when they are away.
  • Defense towers are too cheap and too effective. By the time your men reach the enemy base, his men there will not only outnumber you (because he kept producing units while your army was walking), but any defense towers he has are going to further stack the odds against you.

As a result, the game largely discourages early fighting.

On top of that, the game also discourages expanding. In most RTS games, the player is forced to expand for resources pretty quickly. This means players have to take a risk, leave their starting area and expose themselves, thus inviting the opponent to harrass the expansion and creating "action". In 0AD, however, early expanding is a bad idea.

  • Your starting location contains large amounts of resources, even metal, inviting you to camp in your base during the early game.
  • The expansion building (agora) is very expensive.
  • The build radius from your first agora is large enough for you to reach several tree lines by simply building storage houses which are very cheap.

This encourages players to stay in their starting location for a long time instead of motivating them to expand and thereby become vulnerable.

The result is a very static early game where both players turtle in their base and build walls out of houses instead of expanding and harrassing the enemy.

That seems really lame.

 

 

 

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I disagree completely. Early cavalry raids are absolutely devastating. Very hard ai opponents quickly become trivial when you focus on offense from the beginning. I can easily win in under twenty minutes 1v1 vs the hardest ai, often before the 15 or even ten minute mark, and I'm not even especially good. It's to the point that I'll often purposely play defensively just to challenge myself.

I suggest you build nothing but cavalry until you reach 20 population. Have them hunt until you do. Then start raiding the enemy, focusing on their women. You now have a ton of food from hunting and enough wood to start building houses. Spam women and boom your economy while devastating your enemy. It's totally op unless you have multiple opponents.

Edited by hurleyef
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1 hour ago, kditd said:

I was talking about what happens in the first 5-10 minutes. Cavalry being OP doesn't change the fact that the core game mechanics reward passive play in Phase 1.

I was also talking about the first 5-10 minutes. Played aggressively, that's the whole match vs even the hardest ai.

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Soldiers are Gatherers
I won't be getting much into the heart of the anti-Citizen Soldier arguments because I already got traumatized by that.

You might be working the assumption that you're losing resources because you're using ALL of your soldiers to fight, instead of leaving some to gather resources. Harassers actually hold the initiative because he forces his opponent's units to abandon their work and thereby lose resource-gathering time while he has some leftover gatherers buying that time at home.

If playing against the AI, I can see why towers are effective. But from what I understand, building Towers early on sacrifices an amount of resources and is generally not advisable... especially because they are only static defenses. They're easily taken down by the aggressive players.

Only the Mineral placement is what I can agree to... so do the devs. They're just placing them in there for now.

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Personally I'd prefer to see resources be rate limited rather than boom-bust exhaustion. ie metal and stone could be infinite, but with limited gatherers per node. Well, except for the small nodes which could be exhaustible but without gatherer limits. That way if you need more stone/metal income the only way to get them is to expand. It'd also be nice to have a "tree farm" for gathering unlimited but slower/gatherer limited wood.

I think delenda est's incremental expansion mechanism is more in the right direction. That way you only need to build an expensive CC to capture enemy eco structures or to prevent your own from being captured (or maybe to create territory pressure). Maybe even make fortresses fully independent as a cheaper and more flexible forward base.

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22 minutes ago, aeonios said:

Personally I'd prefer to see resources be rate limited rather than boom-bust exhaustion.

RoN had this. And it was better than what we have currently IMO.

I don’t know much about singleplayer, but in multiplayer, rushes tend to occur at 5 minutes on average. And it is rather hard to even survive if you are not prepared to fight off 20 cavalry on average.

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14 hours ago, kditd said:

Especially, it takes very long until the first combat occurs. For five to ten minutes, players have to build up their bases instead of rush or harrass each other. This makes the first phase of the game seem more like a city builder than a strategy game. 0AD seems to make the player turtle in the beginning until they can steamroll the enemy. Most other RTS games reward early harrassment of the enemy a lot more.

So I tried to analyse the core game mechanics to understand why rushing and harrassing are so difficult in this game and it takes so long to go on the offense. Here are my findings.

  • Soldiers are also workers: This means that when you use your Slingers and Hoplites to go on the attack, you lose resources. While your soldiers are marching to the enemy base (and back hopefully), his soldiers are chopping wood! So you are punished for attacking by losing resources. This is a flaw in the core game mechanics IMHO.
  • Town bell: Workers can be garrisoned automatically. This makes it impossible to successfully harass enemy workers. It is true that he loses resources while he is garrisoned, but so do you - your attacking men aren't working, after all!
  • The only good soldiers in this game are ones that aren't workers, because you don't lose resources when they are fighting. This is a large part of why cavalry is so powerful in this game. They are cheap and you don't lose income when they are away.
  • Defense towers are too cheap and too effective. By the time your men reach the enemy base, his men there will not only outnumber you (because he kept producing units while your army was walking), but any defense towers he has are going to further stack the odds against you.

As a result, the game largely discourages early fighting.

I personally don't really agree with that. An unbalanced multiplayer game can last as little as 5 min, and even games with opponents with matching skill-levels rarely last more than 30 min (correct me if I'm wrong). The most fun MP games though, IMO can last anywhere from 30 min to an hour (even more), but much more than that becomes tedious if no-one has a clear upper hand.

0AD is a very beautiful game with a lot of details that easily go unnoticed, and the true depth and beauty of the game can never be appreciated in 10 min matches. If anything, a slightly bigger focus on city-building and economy would be ideal, so that 0AD won't be just another classic RTS, that's fun for a while, but becomes boring and repetitive after many plays. Overly streamlining, simplifying or speeding up the game would only be "beneficial" to obsessive MP-gaming, which is one of the things that actually killed classic-RTS in the first place (for most people at least). 0AD finally adds a little more depth, or at least the potential for adding more depth to a genre that has otherwise been considered to have become a relatively stale one.

I don't think most people want the game to be more like Company of Heroes, Command&Conquer, Sins of a Solar Empire and Starcraft. I think most people just want to build an epic "little" historical kingdom with an epic "little" historical army, and fight epic "little" (not necessarily historical) battles of survival and conquest. Not send 4 guys over to the enemy at min 3, kill some of his women and claim victory...

 

14 hours ago, kditd said:

On top of that, the game also discourages expanding. In most RTS games, the player is forced to expand for resources pretty quickly. This means players have to take a risk, leave their starting area and expose themselves, thus inviting the opponent to harrass the expansion and creating "action". In 0AD, however, early expanding is a bad idea.

  • Your starting location contains large amounts of resources, even metal, inviting you to camp in your base during the early game.
  • The expansion building (agora) is very expensive.
  • The build radius from your first agora is large enough for you to reach several tree lines by simply building storage houses which are very cheap.

This encourages players to stay in their starting location for a long time instead of motivating them to expand and thereby become vulnerable.

The result is a very static early game where both players turtle in their base and build walls out of houses instead of expanding and harrassing the enemy.

That seems really lame.

I would mostly agree with this, so would many others. I think the build radius from your first CC is ok as it is though, the main issue is that the precious resources are literally in front of the door. Because those cozy little square field are also built right next to the CC, there is very little risk involved in farming as well. If the fields were rectangular (larger), and farms were a pre-requisite for building them (maybe a penalty for farming in the town centre), you'd have to build them further out, and think more carefully about where to place them and how to defend them. A whole new level of strategy and tactics right there. Would also benefit raiding..

 

12 hours ago, sphyrth said:

Soldiers are Gatherers
I won't be getting much into the heart of the anti-Citizen Soldier arguments because I already got traumatized by that.

lol! But seriously though, we just need some regular villagers for economy only. The civilian aspect of the game is lacking, and it would offer an awesome opportunity to showcase more of civilization's culture. Maybe even selectively ranking villagers:  peasant ⟶ artisan ⟶ aristocrat, with different specialities... Citizen soldiers should remain, but they should be more supplemental than being the main economy unit. I think most people would agree with this (?)

 

11 hours ago, aeonios said:

Personally I'd prefer to see resources be rate limited rather than boom-bust exhaustion. ie metal and stone could be infinite, but with limited gatherers per node. Well, except for the small nodes which could be exhaustible but without gatherer limits. That way if you need more stone/metal income the only way to get them is to expand. It'd also be nice to have a "tree farm" for gathering unlimited but slower/gatherer limited wood.

I think delenda est's incremental expansion mechanism is more in the right direction. That way you only need to build an expensive CC to capture enemy eco structures or to prevent your own from being captured (or maybe to create territory pressure). Maybe even make fortresses fully independent as a cheaper and more flexible forward base.

Yes to all of that...

It would be really nice to assign workers to worksites, rather than resources... e.g. build a lumber camp, assign workers to the lumber camp instead of the trees themselves. Now gather rates are tied specifically to the lumber camp, tree density within its radius, and the amount of workers assigned, instead of being determined by the distance each and every individual worker has to move between the resource and dropsite and how efficiently they move. This would remove the most annoying type of microing in my opinion, and allows players to focus on other more fun parts of the game including base building and military manoeuvres. There could be two options at the lumber camp: 1) clear forest, (large one-time income of wood leading to total deforestation within the lumber camp radius),  2) slow & steady trickle (forest management, forest regenerates at the same rate it's being gathered, bringing in a slow but constant trickle of wood). Also, keep it simple, by giving lumber camps a large radius.    

Build a mine (only one slot per ore), assign workers to the mine, resource rate of the mine is limited by how many workers are assigned. Alluvial deposits can provide a modest one-time income of stone or metal, not too far the original CC, but definitely further than mines are now. Larger deposits mined from pit or shaft mines outside of the starting territory could provide a permanent trickle of metal, once again, with an income rate determined by how many workers are assigned to the mine (and not by how efficiently or not workers move around the obstruction box of the stone or metal deposit). This would be a great incentive to expand.

I'm not very technical, but this could mean that menial economy tasks could be represented by "simple" animation-loops tied to the work-site (especially for mines), and potentially help improve performance as paths don't need to be constantly calculated (?).   

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22 minutes ago, Sundiata said:

Yes to all of that...

It would be really nice to assign workers to worksites, rather than resources... e.g. build a lumber camp, assign workers to the lumber camp instead of the trees themselves. Now gather rates are tied specifically to the lumber camp, tree density within its radius, and the amount of workers assigned, instead of being determined by the distance each and every individual worker has to move between the resource and dropsite and how efficiently they move. This would remove the most annoying type of microing in my opinion, and allows players to focus on other more fun parts of the game including base building and military manoeuvres. There could be two options at the lumber camp: 1) clear forest, (large one-time income of wood leading to total deforestation within the lumber camp radius),  2) slow & steady trickle (forest management, forest regenerates at the same rate it's being gathered, bringing in a slow but constant trickle of wood). Also, keep it simple, by giving lumber camps a large radius.    

Build a mine (only one slot per ore), assign workers to the mine, resource rate of the mine is limited by how many workers are assigned. Alluvial deposits can provide a modest one-time income of stone or metal, not too far the original CC, but definitely further than mines are now. Larger deposits mined from pit or shaft mines outside of the starting territory could provide a permanent trickle of metal, once again, with an income rate determined by how many workers are assigned to the mine (and not by how efficiently or not workers move around the obstruction box of the stone or metal deposit). This would be a great incentive to expand.

I'm not very technical, but this could mean that menial economy tasks could be represented by "simple" animation-loops tied to the work-site (especially for mines), and potentially help improve performance as paths don't need to be constantly calculated (?).   

That sort of abstraction isn't really necessary. Farms are already limited to a few workers each (4 or 5, I'm not really sure), so a similar thing could be done for stone and metal. For wood I was thinking of just having a "forest" that you could build for a fixed cost in food, that would work just like farms but for wood. Replacing map trees or using a special combination resource producer/resource depot would be overly complicated. Same for stone and metal, we don't have the infra for building special resource extractors, but we do have the infra for limiting the number of workers that can be actively gathering a resource at the same time (like farms).

 

26 minutes ago, Sundiata said:

I personally don't really agree with that. An unbalanced multiplayer game can last as little as 5 min, and even games with opponents with matching skill-levels rarely last more than 30 min (correct me if I'm wrong). The most fun MP games though, IMO can last anywhere from 30 min to an hour (even more), but much more than that becomes tedious if no-one has a clear upper hand.

Game length and balance are not really correlated. The best RTS I ever played was Zero-K, and the average game length was around 20 minutes. It had rate-limited resources with incremental expansion and strong territorialism, and strong role-based unit balance so unit choice was very important. There was basically constant action from minute zero, lots of potential for back-and-forth and comebacks, a good balance between eco and unit micro, and the balance between factions (although technically there were no strict factions) was very good. 30 minutes to an hour is a long freaking game. If anything I think 0ad could use some mechanics to speed things up, like a super cheap dedicated worker class and higher pop/cost housing density.

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16 hours ago, kditd said:

After a few games against the AI, I started to wonder. I am playing a lot of other RTS games, such as Company of Heroes, Command&Conquer, Sins of a Solar Empire and Starcraft. 0AD seems very different.

Especially, it takes very long until the first combat occurs. For five to ten minutes, players have to build up their bases instead of rush or harrass each other. This makes the first phase of the game seem more like a city builder than a strategy game. 0AD seems to make the player turtle in the beginning until they can steamroll the enemy. Most other RTS games reward early harrassment of the enemy a lot more.

Um, for Sins of a Solar Empire, it is nearly impossible to rush, especially if you choose anything besides TEC Rebels (since you don't care for pirates), or Vasari Loyalists (because they have general buffs for all ships). I mean, Sins is a fairly slow game, even slower than 0 AD because of the fact that you need to first fight over every planet that you need to colonise (or destroy ships that can bombard the surface). 

0 AD also doesn't reward turtling that much because of the way resources and territory are handled. If you turtle too much, then your enemies are going to easily be able to siege you out some way because of the dynamic economy pulling you down. You need to kind of "rush" to get that territory like in other strategy games. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I personally enjoy turtling against an overwhelming enemy oftentimes because of the epic last stand kind of feel, but I am starting to think that turtling is kind of OP in most situations (aka when you are getting attacked by a normal army, not 100 very hard ais). I think what makes it so OP is that it is practically impossible to capture town centers unless you have a monstrous amount of soldiers if there are soldiers garrisoned in there. Which means that if you get everyone to hide inside of the town center, then your enemy's push going to be defeated unless they either have a laggily big army or siege engines (which might get killed by the arrows before they can unpack), good luck getting any capture points on a town center with units in it to regenerate capture points really fast and shoot arrows everywhere killing your units before they can even get close to capturing it. This may be because I do not use a lot of siege engines, but even then the above example is *without walls*. I suggest some kind of better siege mechanic, where the player can turtle but their units could get starved out like in real ancient sieges. A way to fix this could be adding in where units consume food (which I think would be good for much more then fixing this, as it just makes sense and means you need to have good farming infrastructure to keep your army fed), and do like delenda est does where farms can be constructed outside of your city borders with a debuff to gathering from them if they are built inside.

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19 minutes ago, Imperator Ferrum Princeps I said:

I personally enjoy turtling against an overwhelming enemy oftentimes because of the epic last stand kind of feel, but I am starting to think that turtling is kind of OP in most situations (aka when you are getting attacked by a normal army, not 100 very hard ais). I think what makes it so OP is that it is practically impossible to capture town centers unless you have a monstrous amount of soldiers if there are soldiers garrisoned in there. Which means that if you get everyone to hide inside of the town center, then your enemy's push going to be defeated unless they either have a laggily big army or siege engines (which might get killed by the arrows before they can unpack), good luck getting any capture points on a town center with units in it to regenerate capture points really fast and shoot arrows everywhere killing your units before they can even get close to capturing it. This may be because I do not use a lot of siege engines, but even then the above example is *without walls*. I suggest some kind of better siege mechanic, where the player can turtle but their units could get starved out like in real ancient sieges. A way to fix this could be adding in where units consume food (which I think would be good for much more then fixing this, as it just makes sense and means you need to have good farming infrastructure to keep your army fed), and do like delenda est does where farms can be constructed outside of your city borders with a debuff to gathering from them if they are built inside.

When using rams or catapults, CCs or walls are no problem.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

The number one impediment to harassing an opponent in early game is that the opponent can just throw 20 units into the town center, and have a virtually indestructible (at that time) shelter, which in turn fires out arrows killing off the enemy. The real reason the fighting takes place after the first five minutes is because without enough resources, a town center is practically invulnerable.

 

In my opinion, the town center should hold no more than ten units.

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Harassing someone early game shouldn't be about destroying the Civic Centre

It's about attacking outlying gatherers and denying the enemy wood or extra berries

The real reason there's no fighting in the first five minutes is that people are reluctant to sacrifice a strong start in economy and don't want to divide their attention.

Edited by Hannibal_Barca
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On 5/5/2018 at 6:53 PM, Sundiata said:

[...]the main issue is that the precious resources are literally in front of the door.

I agree with that. While there should be some resources available close to the base the large stone and metal mines provide to much IMO.

(There is no consensus in the team about that though AFAIK though there could be found a compromise I guess - either reducing the amount of resources the (initial) mines grant or to place them further away from the Cilic Centre - though this will not be easy to do for e.g. all random maps for that will cause interference with Iberian's walls or in-game build walls)

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1 hour ago, FeXoR said:

I agree with that. While there should be some resources available close to the base the large stone and metal mines provide to much IMO.

I guess most here agrees. But IMO, its not worthwhile to bother with the existing ~140 maps. It should be considered for all new scripts.

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Guys one word. "Slaves" without having to mod to get slaves :D Have your soldiers go out and fight,while the slaves and women do the gathering,planting. Slaves cannot fight in wars unless trained at the barracks,and they can remain slaves as long as you don't train them, so there is your economy booming while the soldiers fight problem solved.

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Part of the strategy of the game is the fact that, the more forces you send to battle the less you have for economy, so you must choose opportune moments and whether you want to rush the enemy and ruin their early game, or have a strong early economy. Though the current implementation of citizen soldiers needs improving I must agree, as raiding is kind of impractical when almost the whole enemy gathering force has military grade weapons, though the extreme of soldiers being 100% unable to gather kills the promising citizen soldier concept and informal army historical aspect entirely. In my opinion there should be male villagers ingame that you can "upgrade" into different citizen soldiers with resources and time(similar to how seige engines pack and unpack)(would be even better if it required them to be actually garrisoned in a barracks or stable(makes more sense for cavalry) to work but that might be hard to code) and the citizen soldiers be able to downgrade back to male villagers (same goes for female villagers and the very rare female soldiers). Would give the best of both worlds as it would mean raiding is practical again and the citizen soldier aspect is preserved.

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6 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

Are these 2 mine placements redundant code in each and every script (140 files) or is it in the shared code (1 file)? 

The two starting mines are placed using the “placePlayerBase” function. Its possible to change it to make mines spawn farther away from cc. But it should still be possible to use the current behavior. I suppose an extra distance argument could be provided.

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IMO its fine to have all resource nodes (stone, iron) needed for reaching the last age and building a reasonable base in close proximity to the CC. But they should contain much smaller amount of resources. I've seen many SP games where the initial resources were still not depleted by the end of the (~1h) match.

One should be able to turtle/boom without strictly having to expand but at the same time one should also be strongly encouraged to expand, either to seize other resource nodes or to have enough territory to initiate trade.

Also big +1 for forcing the fields to the perimeters of the base by penalizing gather rates when build close to the CC.

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