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Why should ranged units be forced to attack closest units?


BreakfastBurrito_007
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In previous alphas the idea that units always attack the closest enemy has not been debated much, because recent alphas were about ranged vs ranged balance, for example: "slingers op" of a23. and "archers op" of a24. In these previous alphas, melee units did not matter as much as they do in a25. The gameplay balancing has gotten better, and more complicated since those alphas.

In my opinion, this tendency of the ranged units to shoot the closest enemy results in some balancing issues that are not due to any units particular stats. And if we were able to choose our targets, then the options increase for the player and there are more opportunities for skill to succeed.

My main question is: what part of the game would break if ranged units were able to shoot other units besides the closest enemies?

I welcome debate, but I don't welcome slander.

Edited by BreakfastBurrito_007
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@hyperion @Player of 0AD

I agree that performance issues are a primary concern. I was thinking rather than having a filter or smart unit behavior, the ranged units would attack the units closest to where their last target was when they killed it. 

So if a player wanted to attack a particular group of units, he would just choose one, and then the ones next to it would be the next targets. A player could still target the closest enemies by attack-clicking a closer enemy.

If the ranged units are given no order, but are simply set still next to enemies (using "h") then they could default to shooting closest enemies.

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4 minutes ago, alre said:

it could lend to overkill

Do you think it would be too much overkill to make it a worthwhile option? Going by the average 0ad army size, it would probably be a lot of overkill on the first and second volleys, but after that not so much, since the "targeted group" would expand out from where the first attack was.

@alre do you agree that it would be beneficial to gameplay?

 

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it depends on how the algorithm works. if it just searches for the closest unit to the last one killed, that would be the same unit for all your shooters, and after that one, still another unique target, and so on. otherwise we could make things more complicate, but with a computational expense (how else?).

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23 hours ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

My main question is: what part of the game would break if ranged units were able to shoot other units besides the closest enemies?

I think that shooting the closest unit is something related to a kind of survival instinct for the human being. A unit shoots the nearest enemy because it is seen as the biggest threat at the moment. When a unit is not forced to do something in 0ad it will stick to the last order you gave him. When this order is gone, it will take his own "initiative". For example, when a unit definitely cuts a tree it will move to the nearest tree near him: you didn't gave him that order, he deliberately decides to cut the closest tree because it is the one that requires less effort in distance terms. What I'm saying is that if you give a specific order to a unit that unit will go against his own nature and do even things that will bring him to death or suicide. If you don't the unit will try to preserve himself (which ultimately is eliminating the biggest threat). A 0ad unit doesn't reasonate for the long term good in a battle, but for the short term one (his own life instant by instant).  

In addition, I will copy and paste some reflections I already did under the thread "Magnetic pikemen".

I think that this feature would lower the original importance of melee units, which is in fact creating a shield for the shots of the enemy ranged units unless they don't actually reach an enemy unit (at that point their main purpose is: kill). Whouldn't letting ranged unit decide what unit shoot by default lead to armies composed by only ranged units?

And as I already suggested, I think that a solution to this "problem" could be a simple shortcut: when you press that shortcut while having selected a group of units (archers as shown in the image below) the game allows you to select a zone (the zone should obviously have a maximum size), which is represented by the red area in the image (in which there are the enemy slingers). Then your archers will target first all the enemy units who are in the area (in this case the slingers). Then when the area is cleaned up they will return to focus of the nearest unit available. Obviously the opponent is able to move his slingers out of the zone in order to protect them, so I think that this shortcut could bring to a new nice micro skill. 

1398097441_Immagine2021-08-24213112.png.6befca45cd861e52912df6d9243d2b88.thumb.png.a035711090bc898eeb962520abfca3b8.png

Edited by Jofursloft
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1 minute ago, Jofursloft said:

I think that this feature would lower the original importance of melee units, which is in fact creating a shield for the shots of the enemy ranged units unless they don't actually reach an enemy unit (at that point their main purpose is: kill). Whouldn't letting ranged unit decide what unit shoot by default lead to armies composed by only ranged units?

In 0ad right now infantry battles are decided by which side kills the other's melee first. This means that the melee units that tank the most damage are the most useful, like pikemen. The feature like you mentioned in "magnetic pikemen" would be great as long as it did not did not cause perfomance problems (I don't know if it would or not). 

There are still ways pikes could act as a meat shield rather than a meat magnet:

Ranged units could follow close to pikemen so that they can mooch off of the armor of the pikemen since they would most likely be in the same "targeting-box". In this situation, ranged units are in a location more vulnerable to higher dps melee units like swords. 

The main goals of the changes are to allow more player choice and make the natural behavior of 0ad units less overbearing.

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24 minutes ago, Jofursloft said:

I think that shooting the closest unit is something related to a kind of survival instinct for the human being

I thought about this, and also your concern about melee units being less important due to their meat-shield role becoming less automatic.

Do you think a nice way to balance between the two mechanics (1. shooting closest and 2. using your idea, the "targeting-box") would be for ranged units to "panic" at 15% of their total range and ignore the targeting-box so that they can shoot the closest unit?

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30 minutes ago, alre said:

it depends on how the algorithm works. if it just searches for the closest unit to the last one killed, that would be the same unit for all your shooters, and after that one, still another unique target, and so on. otherwise we could make things more complicate, but with a computational expense (how else?).

ok @alre, definitely my idea is too much overkill. I think the best one so far is @Jofursloft's as long as it can be done without performance loss.

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38 minutes ago, Jofursloft said:

I think that this feature would lower the original importance of melee units, which is in fact creating a shield for the shots of the enemy ranged units unless they don't actually reach an enemy unit

If melee unit charging was implemented alongside this, then there would certainly be great ways to use melee beyond the meat shield. I would argue that having both these features would make 0ad combat more fun, more skillful, and more advanced compared to other rts games.

 

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3 minutes ago, Freagarach said:

One might try adding the "Ranged" preferred attack class to ranged units and see how that feels/performs.

I feel like this would be too automatic as well. @Jofursloft's idea is great in my opinion because now there are two ways for melee to be a meat shield: 1 to be in front and stop melee from reaching ranged units, 2 to mix with ranged units and prevent an enemy from isolating them in the "target box".

@wowgetoffyourcellphone @Freagarach does @Jofursloft's idea sound feasible to you?

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3 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

If melee unit charging was implemented alongside this, then there would certainly be great ways to use melee beyond the meat shield. I would argue that having both these features would make 0ad combat more fun, more skillful, and more advanced compared to other rts games.

 

Charging. Standing Ground (aka Brace). Friendly Fire. Flanking. 

Open Order (reduces friendly fire and enemy area damage), Locked Shields (aka Phalanx or Shield Wall; greater armor, slower).

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Some good idea here... just thought I'd point out as an answer to the original question: Targeting the nearest enemy maximizes damage for ranged units because there is less chance of them missing closer targets due to projectile spread and travel time. It is also protective, because for a ranged units focusing on the closes6t units makes it more likely that they will kill melee opponents that are in a position to do damage before they can do too much of it. And for melee, attacking the nearest unit reduces the chance that they will become stuck getting ravaged by the enemy while trying to reach a target that is out of range or behind an obstruction.

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14 minutes ago, ChronA said:

Some good idea here... just thought I'd point out as an answer to the original question: Targeting the nearest enemy maximizes damage for ranged units because there is less chance of them missing closer targets due to projectile spread and travel time. It is also protective, because for a ranged units focusing on the closes6t units makes it more likely that they will kill melee opponents that are in a position to do damage before they can do too much of it. And for melee, attacking the nearest unit reduces the chance that they will become stuck getting ravaged by the enemy while trying to reach a target that is out of range or behind an obstruction.

The ideas posted here are for ranged units. 

To understand the balancing situation I give an example: an army of skirms and pikes against an army of spears and archers.

pikes and spears fight in the middle, and the spears die out first because the skirms are doing a lot more damage to the spears than the archers can do to the pikes. Once the spears die, the pikes and skirms can advance and kill the archers.

Now another scenario with the same units: archers target the skirmishers with their longer range and stop the skirmishers from killing the spears as they did in example 1. Now, the spears kill the remaining pikes because the pikes do not do enough damage on their own to overpower the spears.

In 0ad it is effectively not possible to do example 2 in-game, because ranged units will always target melee first. 

Because of the lack of this option for 0ad players, infantry battles come down to: 1. how much damage a melee unit can take, and 2. how much damage a ranged unit can deal.

Does that make sense @ChronA?

 

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7 hours ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

Does that make sense?

It does. There are a couple of different approaches (off the top of my head) that could be used to change that behavior, not all of which have been discussed yet:

  • Add a preferred target preference against ranged unit to ranged units (or perhaps only to some subset--like archers--so that they become specialized as a ranged superiority unit).
  • Changing the overall damage rate (or directional armor bonuses) of the game such that flanking maneuvers produce a positive increase in damage dealt. Right now if one tries to move ranged units to the enemy flank in order to target the ranged back lines, it appears that the additional damage the suffered + forgone during the maneuver will usually overwhelm the benefit from increased targeting efficiency.
  • Revise the target acquisition algorithm, perhaps to have units first target the lowest HP target already within their attack range.
  • Some sort of attack ground or volley functionality. 
  • etc
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4 hours ago, ChronA said:

attack ground

There is a good discussion going on about attack-ground in the "proposals for formations" discussion

attack ground, as it exists in the video from that forum would seem to be able to re-instate my original idea as a contender:

  • attack ground to shoot target area of enemies
  • after scoring a kill during the attack-ground order, unit breaks the attack ground to automatically look for the next closest unit to target.
  • less overkill than original idea

Another option:

perhaps attack-ground is already enough of a nerf to the ability of ranged units to shoot "beyond visual range" and would satisfy gameplay balance and the concerns about melee units raised by @Jofursloft

 

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