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Can or should 0 AD move past melee meat shield+ dps ranged?


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Can it? Yes: There are plenty of other ancient warfare themed RTS games where melee units are a viable DPS source. There is nothing particularly exotic about 0 AD's pathfinding, or combat model, or unit conventions that would seem to prevent it reaching a similar balance point.
 

Will it? Maybe: For the entire time I have been watching this project develop (which is going on 5 or 6 years now) its design has never strayed from one rigid network of established unit roles and interactions. In order to introduce melee that is useful as more than just a meat shield, without simultaneously rendering ranged units entirely redundant, the developers are going to have to throw out that established counter network and replace it with something new. If the wider community rebels the moment such a thing is even suggested then it will never happen.
 

Should it? Yes: For the sake of both historical authenticity and playstyle diversity, it really must.

As the game currently exists, it is the ranged units that make up the survivable core of any infantry attack force. Melee infantry act as an expendable auxiliary contingent that exists to boost the combat efficiency of the core until it is killed off. I don't want to go too far and say that no ancient militaries worked this way, but it is certainly not how the ancient Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, or Macedonian successor states operated. For them it was the (mostly but not always entirely melee) heavy infantry that made up the survivable core of their armies. Light, usually ranged infantry were the ones deployed as the expendable support auxiliaries, and together with cavalry they usually represented only a small faction of an army's total fighting numbers. The status quo is a huge misrepresentation of these cultures' normal tactics.

Additionally, such tight synergy between ranged and melee is very limiting to a player's creativity and to the operational diversity of different civilizations the game can feature. The game may have civs that claim to specialize in heavy infantry, but they are still locked into the same composition as any other civ. No one is going to boom into melee infantry only, or skip basic ranged infantry upgrades in favor of more melee upgrades, and the game is poorer for not having these options. This is not to say either that the meat shield meta should be removed entirely. It would be interesting if there were actually a few civs where ranged still forms the survivable core of the army, but for the majority not permitting melee heavy infantry to stand on their own is limiting and profoundly anachronistic.

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2 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

3. Come up with a super patch that overhauls unit roles.

This will likely include adding some new units. For example, a Helot Slinger for Sparta. Some kind of slinger for the Romans (probably a merc Balearic Slinger). Moving around availability. Also, hard counter attack bonuses and penalties. Basically ignoring all of the current stats and roles in an effort to start fresh.

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13 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

Some kind of slinger for the Romans (probably a merc Balearic Slinger).

I don't find the Roman roster too exciting so I'd like that. (I always wondered why Romans wouldn't have access to mercs, but I thought maybe they just formed any employed forces into their standardized units?)

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ranged units behavior is to target the closest unit first, so increasing melee dps will change little. Currently, you can manually target enemy ranged units, which requires a lot of clicks, and is surprisingly effective, but for the most part meat shield wins. 

I have advocated for an attack-ground (like siege in AOE2) feature before which uses a player-controlled radius (area damage), and others have called for an "attack-group" discussion to target the units within an area. There is a discussion for these two.

Edited by real_tabasco_sauce
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7 hours ago, ChronA said:

As the game currently exists, it is the ranged units that make up the survivable core of any infantry attack force. Melee infantry act as an expendable auxiliary contingent that exists to boost the combat efficiency of the core until it is killed off. I don't want to go too far and say that no ancient militaries worked this way, but it is certainly not how the ancient Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, or Macedonian successor states operated. For them it was the (mostly but not always entirely melee) heavy infantry that made up the survivable core of their armies. Light, usually ranged infantry were the ones deployed as the expendable support auxiliaries, and together with cavalry they usually represented only a small faction of an army's total fighting numbers. The status quo is a huge misrepresentation of these cultures' normal tactics.

The issue with increasing the damage of melee units is that it makes ranged units redundant. If damage were more or less equal, why would anyone use ranged units? They would have lower armour, be more vulnerable to cavalry, and do no more damage. Ranged units might be useful behind walls, or for kiting, or for attacking elephants and heroes, but for the most part they wouldn't be useful in normal combat.

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13 minutes ago, Nullus said:

The issue with increasing the damage of melee units is that it makes ranged units redundant. If damage were more or less equal, why would anyone use ranged units? They would have lower armour, be more vulnerable to cavalry, and do no more damage. Ranged units might be useful behind walls, or for kiting, or for attacking elephants and heroes, but for the most part they wouldn't be useful in normal combat.

You use ranged units for their range. They can deal damage while not taking any damage, while melee units can't do that. Honestly, if players only use ranged units in specific situations or as a small contingent to back up their melee troops, then I am okay with that since that's how they were used in antiquity anyway. 

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5 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

You use ranged units for their range. They can deal damage while not taking any damage, while melee units can't do that. Honestly, if players only use ranged units in specific situations or as a small contingent to back up their melee troops, then I am okay with that since that's how they were used in antiquity anyway. 

The problem is that they wouldn't be useful as auxiliaries to the melee troops except if they had higher damage, since their lower armour gives them a disadvantage. If there were weapon switching, then they could be useful, since they could attack first at range and then join a melee fight. However, with equal damage, they would only be useful in very specific situations.

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51 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

You use ranged units for their range.

That is hard with the current movement speed / unit range ratio.

6 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

3. Come up with a super patch that overhauls unit roles.

s/unit roles/everything

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1 hour ago, Nullus said:

The problem is that they wouldn't be useful as auxiliaries to the melee troops except if they had higher damage, since their lower armour gives them a disadvantage. If there were weapon switching, then they could be useful, since they could attack first at range and then join a melee fight. However, with equal damage, they would only be useful in very specific situations.

There is one thing they do which melee units cannot do: you cannot commit all melee units to battle at the same time because melee units need to almost be next to units, their availability for fighting is restricted to the battle line, so they spend more time manuevering. Ranged units may be commited in much higher numbers simultaneously if positioned well. They do not have to move until threatened directly or there is nothing left to shoot. This gives them and also their counters different roles than pure melee infantry.

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17 minutes ago, Outis said:

There is one thing they do which melee units cannot do: you cannot commit all melee units to battle at the same time because melee units need to almost be next to units, their availability for fighting is restricted to the battle line, so they spend more time manuevering. Ranged units may be commited in much higher numbers simultaneously if positioned well. They do not have to move until threatened directly or there is nothing left to shoot. This gives them and also their counters different roles than pure melee infantry.

Yes, this is one potential role for them. However, in practicality, I've never been able to get this to work. The ranged units have to stay close to a melee force, otherwise cavalry can destroy them.

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47 minutes ago, Nullus said:

Yes, this is one potential role for them. However, in practicality, I've never been able to get this to work. The ranged units have to stay close to a melee force, otherwise cavalry can destroy them.

Yes, if ranged infantry stray away from melee infantry, they are hunted by fast units. And this does not contradict the statement that they have a different role than melee infantry. I think the question to tackle here is: in most ancient armies, melee infantry was the main force, and ranged infantry and cavalry were supporting melee infantry or having specific roles. And then, there were some armies which relied on particular tactics involving large number of ranged units (Han) or cavalry (maybe Scythians some day? :)). How to make sure all are viable strategies?

 

8 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

This will likely include adding some new units. For example, a Helot Slinger for Sparta. Some kind of slinger for the Romans (probably a merc Balearic Slinger). Moving around availability. Also, hard counter attack bonuses and penalties. Basically ignoring all of the current stats and roles in an effort to start fresh.

I guess hard counter attack bonuses are necessary to implement this. But please please please, do not give huge multipliers in such a way that unit x rips unit y apart but barely scratches the armor of unit z. And please keep them realistic (spears hurt cavalry because they are longer than other melee weapons and can reach the rider) and/or historical (elephants were defeated by javelins in most accounts).

What would really be great also is:

1) Have bonuses to formations. Scattered infantry are vulnerable to cavalry charges. Clustered formations are vulnerable to missiles. Hoplites were well protected from both melee and ranged attack because they locked shields together. Pike phalanx was only effective in formation. Roman Testudo formation was almost impervious missiles.

2) Have aura effect. Camels and elephants need stench aura which prevents or weakens cavalry charges. Elephants need fear aura which weakens enemy attack. Chariots need trample.

I think most of these are present in DE. 

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49 minutes ago, Outis said:

Yes, if ranged infantry stray away from melee infantry, they are hunted by fast units. And this does not contradict the statement that they have a different role than melee infantry. I think the question to tackle here is: in most ancient armies, melee infantry was the main force, and ranged infantry and cavalry were supporting melee infantry or having specific roles. And then, there were some armies which relied on particular tactics involving large number of ranged units (Han) or cavalry (maybe Scythians some day? :)). How to make sure all are viable strategies?

I'm not sure how ancient armies used ranged troops, although I agree that it would be best to keep the game as close to reality as possible. However, what I meant was that since ranged units have to stay with melee units for protection, they can't stay in one place and fire at enemies, they have to keep manoeuvring as well. If they were to stay in one place and fire, the melee troops would have to stay with them, which would make the melee troops ineffectual. Since players don't want that, and since melee troops would have equal damage and higher armor, armies would end up being made of nothing but melee troops, since ranged troops would have less armor and equal damage, and have to stay with the melee troops anyway. I might be wrong; if there's some way to avoid making ranged troops useless, I would like to have melee damage increased.

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Range troops are already cheaper( comparing pikemen to javelineers) and they are better at collecting resources( the infantry at least) so they are already better that melee troops outside combat. Defensively ranged troops fare much better too since shoot -> garrison-> shoot allows them to poke at atackers and be way more effective than melee troops against the small number of an enemy raid /rush.

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1 hour ago, Outis said:

And then, there were some armies which relied on particular tactics involving large number of ranged units (Han) or cavalry (maybe Scythians some day? :)). 

Actually only the mainland greeks and the latter sucessor armies were cavalry deficient as we have written evidence that the greeks from magna graecia( italiotes and siceliotes) had bigger cavalry cores and these were already used in shock tactics as early as the early classical era, before the rise of the macedonian kingdom.

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7 hours ago, real_tabasco_sauce said:

ranged units behavior is to target the closest unit first, so increasing melee dps will change little. Currently, you can manually target enemy ranged units, which requires a lot of clicks, and is surprisingly effective, but for the most part meat shield wins. 

Alternatively, there could be made a button to reverse the targetting behavior when enabled. When the button is enabled, they target units furthest first, when it's disabled they target closest first.

Edited by Grapjas
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59 minutes ago, PyrrhicVictoryGuy said:

Actually only the mainland greeks and the latter sucessor armies were cavalry deficient as we have written evidence that the greeks from magna graecia( italiotes and siceliotes) had bigger cavalry cores and these were already used in shock tactics as early as the early classical era, before the rise of the macedonian kingdom.

Agreed, there were cavalry formations which were combat efficient. What I want to emphasize is: most ancient armies did not operate cavalry alone to conclude engagements. They needed infantry, boots on the ground, or maybe sandals on the ground in some cases :P. I think the game can reflect that in such a way that most factions cannot pull it out with cavalry alone unless the enemy has a bad army composition or makes a tactical mistake.

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5 minutes ago, Outis said:

Agreed, there were cavalry formations which were combat efficient. What I want to emphasize is: most ancient armies did not operate cavalry alone to conclude engagements. They needed infantry, boots on the ground, or maybe sandals on the ground in some cases :P. I think the game can reflect that in such a way that most factions cannot pull it out with cavalry alone unless the enemy has a bad army composition or makes a tactical mistake.

Although historically these eastern armies were very " anoying" to fight, and in game these factions would be doubly so, not to mention that they would be a one trick  poney, see AOE 3 DE Lakota Confederation.

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A few comments on the discussion so far:

1. I agree that introducing greater player control over ranged target prioritization is one possible solution; whether that be via attack ground, or a new attack stance, or changes to the target selection algorithm, or even adding a new ranged unit type to the unit roster that prioritizes other ranged units over melee. The problem is there are so many different ways to implement that concept that I fear it will an spawn an infinite debate, preventing a consensus ever emerging about which option to pick.

2. Another viable option, alluded to above, is fine tuning unit stats so that e.g. 100% melee decisively beats 50% melee + 50% ranged in an open field, but the mixed composition beats the pure one if there is also a palisade or building wall separating them. However, this option is extremely sensitive to any changes to movement efficiency or changes in tactics (like if players started preemptively walling everywhere on the map so the ranged composition would always have the advantage). As such, this would be a tricky solution to implement and maintain, potentially requiring a lot of very precise testing to fine tune and a lot of cunning competitive proving ahead of each release to prevent major balance failures that would alienate the player base.  

3. It might be instructive to consider how AOE2 successfully tackles this problem: counter cycles. Specifically AOE2 has the skirmisher as a dedicated anti-ranged-ranged infantry unit that performs inefficiently against melee infantry. This means the more optimal a composition is for winning a ranged vs ranged brawl, the harder it will lose if the opponent switches into a melee counter push. Of course there are still problems with this solution. Players can get locked into their composition by upgrades or civ bonuses. The AOE2 skirmisher bonuses against archers are also really mechanically arbitrary and I don't think they have much historical grounding.

In theory, 0AD should be able to do the same thing with cavalry countering ranged and getting countered by melee, except: 1. Not every civ has good cavalry. 2. There is very little to share between infantry and cav in terms of upgrades or infrastructure, so the lock-in problem is much more severe. And 3. melee cavalry effectiveness is even more sensitive to movement obstruction than melee infantry, so the objections to my point 2 above apply equally here... unless you want to build the counter around ranged cavalry, in which case what is left to counter them?

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14 hours ago, Gurken Khan said:

I don't find the Roman roster too exciting so I'd like that. (I always wondered why Romans wouldn't have access to mercs, but I thought maybe they just formed any employed forces into their standardized units?)

I am certain Romans were not above hiring mercs, I believe in the parthian wars they had balearic slingers already to great effect. This was the Triumvirate era though, but I am certain they would have already been using them prior. And I would love to see a slinger in the Roman arsenal.

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