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Rob Zacny

Episode 205: A Final Unity

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Strong episode, perhaps the best balance of asking tough questions about a game that the panel has clearly loved in the past. I was especially struck by Mr. Uzelac's observation that the puzzle-like nature of a strategy game falls away when the mechanics tilt in favor of sudden shifts and chaotic behavior. That's an approach other designers seem less willing to use, and I can understand why. The usual chaos mechanic is highly random combat effects, and I don't want to play a strategy game that's all down to coin flips. In this case, the supply mechanic can let a single unit debuff an entire front, and so, you can very clearly see that it isn't cruel fate (or computer cheating) that's ruined your plans.

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sclpls   

Fantastic episode, I could have easily listened to another hour of the conversation. It was really interesting that most of the game design came into place from wanting to represent lines of battle, rather than supply.I hope whatever future designs they come up with will be better suited for multiplayer just because the game plays quickly enough that it is ideal for multiplayer in many ways...

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Codicier   

Good episode and I'm glad to know UoC did great on steam, though would have loved some exact figures on sales. It so hard to judge what size the strategy game community actually is at times. I don't think increased visibility is the only reason games get more sales on steam though. For me at least there's considerable value in buying from a big vendor who already has my details.

Just a little side question for Rob: do you guys give Developers a heads up on the sort of topics you are going to ask them about before a podcast? or do you try & keep things more informal?

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hexgrid   

The question of designing scenarios, and how to avoid making them simple puzzles came up.

My experience in that regard is that it all comes down to how many useful options the player has at their disposal; Bruce was more or less on the money when he said that you have to work harder to make something a puzzle.

A puzzle scenario is one in which you have *apparent* decisions to make, but each decision has only one right choice. It's a spectrum, obviously; but the fewer "right" decisions the player can make, the more a scenario becomes a puzzle rather than a strategic challenge. Tomislav's point contained two ways of moving things away from the puzzle end of the spectrum; increased complexity, and instability with some randomness.

Instability with randomness means that sometimes what would have been the right answer normally wasn't the right answer this time, or what ought to have been totally wrong (I think it was Julian who's been known to say "Sometimes Pickett's charge has to work, if the dice come up just right." or something to that effect) happens to be right this time. There was a whole 3MA episode about luck in games, IIRC.

Increased complexity is a classic way of shifting a scenario away from the puzzle end of of the spectrum; more moving parts means more options for the players (including the AI), and as long as multiple options are viable at any given time, the scenario won't feel like a puzzle. "Take the bridge." is far more of a puzzle at the brigade level than it is at the platoon or section level.

If you want to make a scenario into a puzzle, you have to find and eliminate options. If there are two bridges, one of them has to be impassable or a trap. You need to add apparent options that are lethal, either immediately or by taking something from the player that they will need later in order to win (perhaps time if it's a timed scenario, perhaps bogging down a crucial unit, or perhaps giving the enemy time to perform some action). You probably want to add a honeypot or two; something the player will *want* to capture, but which will wind up squandering enough resources that they can't beat the scenario if they take the honeypot.

Setting up a scenario in which there is a a single path to victory that isn't obvious takes significantly more effort than just building a scenario.

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Codicier   

Can anyone recommend a few good ww2 eastern front documentaries? Getting back into playing UoC has really got me interested in the era again but i'm sadly a little ignorant of where i should start.

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