Chairman Yang

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  1. Episode 326: State of the RTS

    I think the traditional RTS is an evolutionary dead end, design- and sales-wise. I expect a steady stream of indie RTSes until the end of time, but I doubt the genre will ever again see major investment or success. The core problem is that other subgenres take aspects of the RTS and improve upon them. Enjoy base-building? Play tower defense or city builders like Anno. Enjoy team play and micromanagement? Play DOTA or a DOTA-like. Enjoy high-level strategizing with lots of detail and complexity? Play a Paradox grand strategy game or Total War. Enjoy pure tactical decision-making? Play any of the growing, high-quality horde of turn-based games, whether electronic, card, or board versions. What's left for the traditional RTS? All I can think of is the need for rapid attention-switching, which, to be honest, isn't all that fun. I think a lot of people agree with me on that point, and I think that's the fundamental reason why the genre is going to be on life support forever. (By the way, I think traditional adventure games are in a very similar boat. After a brief flowering a few years ago led by Wadjet Eye, Telltale-style adventures, "walking simulators", and conversation-rich RPGs have undercut most of the reason for traditional adventures to exist.)
  2. Project SSDC; Action-Strategy Hybrid Early Alpha

    Seems interesting; I tend to like games that combine strategy layers with smaller-scale combat. Let me know if you need a playtester!
  3. [Dev Log] Victors & Vanquished: Dynamic Grand Strategy

    WARNING: Ugly placeholder/temporary graphics ahead! Large-scale strategy games have always had an uneasy relationship with nitty-gritty tactical combat. If the combat's too lengthy, it can bog down the larger strategic gameplay or else make players want to just Auto-Resolve it away (this is a problem for some Total War players). If it's simple, shallow, or overly automated, a potentially valuable and interesting aspect of gameplay is neglected (Civilization, Europa Universalis, and Crusader Kings are all amazing games that fall into this category). With V&V, I wanted to solve this design challenge. How could I make a game with large-scale, epic strategy that also had meaningful tactical combat? Tactical combat that was deep and interesting, but somehow didn't slow down the strategic gameplay layer too much? This development log (and many more on the same topic, I expect) will document my attempts to "square the circle". My basic approach to V&V's combat was the following: 1. Create logical, transparent, and easy-to-grasp mechanics. Interesting and challenging tactical decisions should result from simple mechanics interacting in complex ways. Hearthstone does a great job with this, as do many modern board games. Any depth the game has isn't meaningful if players can't process it or perceive it; well-designed game mechanics avoid this problem. 2. Every battle should require careful planning, clever improvisation, and deep understanding of the enemy's army as well as your own. There shouldn't be any meaningless "trash" battles, and even important battles should usually resolve quickly. The player shouldn't be spending lots of time in lopsided battles with little or no tactical thought involved. Every battle should be either important, interesting, or not in the game. No two fights should be the same, or allow repeating the same tactics over and over. Rather than many small, insignificant decisions in each battle, the player should make a few key decisions with large impact. 3. If a battlefield tactic worked in actual history, it should be usable and viable in V&V. From Mongol-style hit-and-run horse archery, to disciplined shield wall soldiers like the Spartans, to medieval European cavalry charges, V&V's combat should model many historical strategies. All of these are easier said than done--but not impossible, I think. Some design decisions can fulfill two or three of these simultaneously. Let's go through two of the many ways V&V attempts to address these combat goals: V&V allows a massive degree of army customization. You have five basic troop types: light infantry, heavy infantry, ranged, cavalry, and "special". Within this structure, you can modify your troops' equipment and special training to simulate virtually any army from history. Want to make a Mongol warrior? Modify your cavalry to use fast horses with lots of endurance, equip your troops with composite longbows and light armour, and use your unit training slots to give your unit abilities like Parting Shot, Feigned Retreat, and Live Off The Land. Want to make a Spartan-style phalanx? Change your heavy infantry to use a large Hoplite shield and long spears, then use your training slots for the Shield Wall, Hold The Line, and Band of Brothers abilities. You can mix-and-match equipment and abilities to create entirely new soldiers as well. Enemy armies constantly make interesting combinations of characteristics for their troops, yielding a large number of unique and interesting combat scenarios. You'll have to adapt your own tactics constantly. Equipment is not just a set of stats with different attack numbers; each weapon has special characteristics that can fundamentally change your tactics. Some examples: spears have reach and can strike first in melee; maces are particularly good at bypassing armor; large two-handed swords can disrupt enemy formations; curved scimitars can slash lightly-armored foes; longbows can outrange the enemy and deliver massive penetrative power; crossbows require little training and can be used effectively by green peasant troops; lances can inflict bonus damage when used from the back of a charging warhorse. V&V simulates the psychology of warfare. Morale is a critical part of combat. Like in history, battles are usually won by destroying the enemy's will to fight rather than killing every troop on the field (although this can certainly happen as well). How does it work in V&V, specifically? Simple: each unit has a Morale value. It can go down in many ways, but mostly by being attacked, flanked, surrounded, or if allied units in the army start running (panic is infectious). You can also use a unit's turn to Rally, which can restore some Morale. The lower a unit's Morale, the higher the chance that they'll break and try to run. That's it. The mechanics are simple, but can lead to fascinating tactical situations. For example: if you're outmatched by an enemy, but they have a faltering unit with low Morale, maybe you can target that unit, make it flee, and spread panic among the enemy ranks. Remember, each unit that flees can cause other units to flee, and trigger a chain reaction that will win you the battle. Or maybe you're facing a strong, defensive formation of elite enemy troops who have high Morale. Rather than attacking head-on, you can use your weak units to flank and then surround that unit, causing it to gradually lose heart without making your own weak units fight. I have a lot more to say about the design of V&V's combat (I've barely touched on special abilities received from training, or the effects of terrain and weather, and attrition, and much more), but I'll leave things there for now!
  4. [Dev Log] Victors & Vanquished: Dynamic Grand Strategy

    THE ART OF POLITICS Politics--the art of getting your country to do what you want--is a major part of Victors & Vanquished. Most strategy games assume you have absolute power over your nation. For V&V, I wanted the game to reflect the reality of ruling and internal politics: the need to use political maneuvers, persuasion, coercion, compromise, underhanded tactics, bribery, or sheer brutality to make things go your way. At the heart of this political system are Political Factions. Want to declare war, make peace, build great works of architecture, impose new taxes, reform your military, change your government, develop your economy, or do virtually any significant action? You'll need to gain at least some support from these Factions (represented by Political Power, which you gain--or lose--each turn). Here's what a piece of what the Politics screen currently looks like (it's still a work-in-progress, has placeholder graphics, is pre-alpha, and so on and so forth): The more Influence the faction has, and the better the Relations you have with that faction, the more Political Power you get. On the other hand, these factions can turn against you and subtract Political Power from you each round. You can deal with this in many different ways. You can try to improve relations with the faction (by doing things they like, bribing them, or offering to increase their influence in your country, for example) or you can try to undermine their power, so even if they hate you, they can't do much about it. Managing your internal politics is critical to being able to act freely, without fear of being deposed or having to face internal revolts. But your enemies' internal politics can be exploited for your benefit! For example, imagine an enemy country with a powerful Merchant faction. To please that faction, the enemy country will have to keep trade and commerce flowing. One approach you could take is to target the enemy's trade routes; that'll anger their Merchant faction and cause serious problems for their ruler. Or consider a country with a powerful, pacifist Clergy faction. Knowing that the country will be under pressure to maintain peace, you can get away with maneuvers that would cause a normal country to declare war on you. The specific Political Factions in your country will depend on many things, but primarily your government type. Generally, you will have at least two or three factions to manage, although circumstances can mean many more. There are many more government types in V&V, all with dramatic differences from each other, but here are some examples: Theocracies will typically have powerful Clergy factions guided by the dictates of their religion. Since each religion can be radically different, the actions that can make any given Clergy faction happy (or unhappy) can also vary wildly. Tribal Confederations will have to manage the competing interests of Clan factions that they've absorbed through conquest or diplomacy. They can often be kept happy by successful conquests and raids. Monarchies will have to deal with the Nobility. The Peasantry is usually weak, but can be inflamed to action if they're oppressed or neglected too long. Democracies must contend with the mercurial and unpredictable Common People. They can easily be led astray by demagogues and populists, but get them on your side, and your power may be great.
  5. [Dev Log] Victors & Vanquished: Dynamic Grand Strategy

    Glad you're interested! Let me know if there's any specific area you'd like me to talk about. And of course, the game is early enough that any suggestions (even broad ones) you guys have would be extremely useful.
  6. [Dev Log] Victors & Vanquished: Dynamic Grand Strategy

    Thanks, appreciate the interest! I plan to use this dev log to dig into V&V's gameplay mechanics in as much depth as people are interested in. My website ( will also have everything, but I plan to keep this topic updated frequently.
  7. Hey guys! I thought I'd post some stuff about my upcoming game (I'm doing the same thing on TIGSource). It's still relatively early in development, but it's coming along fast. Any suggestions, feedback, comments, etc. would be appreciated. Official site: Victors & Vanquished is a dynamic Grand Strategy game for the PC, driven by a simulation of a complex, procedurally-generated, historical world. (Work-in-progress screenshot of the introductory tutorial scenario) WORLD HISTORY...PROCEDURALLY GENERATED V&V generates a new world each time you start. This world is filled with multitudes of established nations, tribes, and empires, all with a unique set of characteristics, and all interacting with each other and pursuing their own goals. The simulation procedurally generates politics, economics, trade, diplomacy, warfare, technology, culture, religion, and more. It doesn't simply model the history that actually happened; it models underlying historical forces and, each time you begin a game, generates a new history that could have happened. You play as one of these countries, customize it, and guide it to whatever destiny you desire. The game is inspired by the sandbox grand strategy of Europa Universalis 4 and Crusader Kings 2, the deep turn-based tactical battles of Advance Wars, the heavy procedural generation and emergence of Dwarf Fortress, the infinitely varied possibilities of the Cosmic Encounter board game, and the fascinating and complex stories of actual world history. In Victors & Vanquished, you will: Manage Political Factions within your own government. They will have their own desires, grow or decline in power, and change to become your closest friends or bitterest enemies. How well you deal with your country's internal politics will determine whether you can act as a strong leader, become a puppet ruler, or be forcibly deposed and executed. Develop your country's Cultural Values. Each Cultural Value comes with its own ability tree and will let you unlock new abilities or even entire new game mechanics (for example, the "Slavery" Cultural Value will let you enslave your defeated foes, and use them for construction or military fodder). Deal with the rise, fall, and evolution of World Religions. These Religions will dynamically spread, shrink, undergo schisms or reformations, and influence their followers in myriad ways. You can create and customize your own Religion, or embrace one of the procedurally-generated faiths in the simulation. Then, you may attempt to spread your religion--by the word or by the sword. The more it spreads, the stronger its effects. Research unpredictable Technology. In V&V, this isn't merely a static tree with technologies to gradually unlock; it's an unpredictable, dynamic, winding path that will have unforeseen effects and force you adapt your strategy. Customize your Military, and fight to defend your country (or expand your borders). V&V has deep turn-based tactical combat, with logical, transparent, and easy-to-grasp mechanics. Each individual fight is quick to resolve, and won't bog down the gameplay on the strategic level, but will also reward careful planning, clever improvisation, and innovative tactics. Terrain, equipment, training, special unit abilities unlocked by Cultural Values or Religion, and your Military Doctrines will all be important factors. Manage detailed Personality-Driven Diplomacy. Country AIs don't act like purely rational, optimization-driven machines; they have their own desires, flaws, and methods, determined by their Cultural Values, Religions, and internal Politics. The possibilities are endless. Will you play a jungle-based trading nation with expert archers and a faith that espouses pacifism? What about a Mongol-style, brutal steppe people armed with expert camel cavalry and a fanatic religion devoted to slaughter? Perhaps a small isolationist bureaucracy building great monuments and fortresses deep in the inhospitable mountains? Or maybe a knowledge-focused bibliocracy that conquers its invaders by assimilating them into its thriving culture?
  8. Awesome discussion. I wonder why Solomon's first XCOM design (the one that essentially remade the original game) failed. Could it have succeeded by making some judicious cuts and smaller redesigns rather than building a very different game? Don't get me wrong, I love the X-COM we got, even if it has some fundamental differences in the type of appeal it's going for. I'm just curious why a supposedly timeless classic has been so difficult to update. And not just by Solomon, as the long trail of failed XCOM clones will attest.
  9. New people: Read this, say hi.

    Hi youse guys, I decided to register for these forums because I love the Tone Control, Three Moves Ahead, and Idle Thumbs podcasts, and I think the community here might mesh well with my video game tastes. Hmm...what else. * I'm ostensibly Canadian (although I can't appreciate beer or hockey despite many attempts, and despite living here since I was three I haven't adapted at all to the weather) * I'm currently working on a roguelike dynamic grand strategy game for the PC called "Victors and Vanquished". I won't be ready to show it for a few months, but if you like Paradox's grand strategy games, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Advance Wars, permadeath in procedurally-generated worlds, or Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" podcasts, think of a combination of those except ten times better! Well, that's the plan anyways
  10. SMAC's two greatest achievements are the writing quality (great by any standard, not just strategy game standards) and how well it meshes top-notch gameplay mechanics with top-notch theme. It's easy to find great examples of the writing quality. Look up any of the technology blurbs. They are, by turns, thought-provoking and philosophical, vivid in describing characters, laden with keen social commentary, and frequently hilarious. They're also like a condensed "best of" compilation of science fiction ideas and tropes. The game is also packed with examples of amazing mechanics/theme integration. The faction leaders, for instance. Their gameplay modifiers fit perfectly with their personalities, and on top of that, those gameplay mechanics encourage the player to truly feel those personalities in-game, both playing with them and playing against them. Like, Yang's bonuses make his faction truly feel like a human hive...his cities grow faster, and their free Perimeter Defenses disincentivize other factions from nipping his growth in the bud early. That means he tends to sprawl in most games of SMAC I've played. He prefers a police state and a planned economy, but unlike the other factions, can run these with no inefficiency, a result of his brutality. There's more of that for Chairman Yang, and it's like that for each of the factions. That's one example of, like, hundreds of design decisions that are not only great on their own, but even better when considered in conjunction with the game's strong thematics. It's sad, but expected, that SMAC clones aren't going to capture a shred of the greatness of the original, even if they faithfully copy all of the surface elements. Hell, SMAC's own Alien Crossfire expansion pack couldn't capture the greatness of the original, despite piggybacking on top. It was totally competent by normal standards, and really tried hard, but none of the new factions were as well-realized as the originals, and not much of the new mechanical stuff felt integral to the game.