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  • [C4:AC] Unit System Design

    Unit System brief:

    This is a preliminary set of early game units, using a CIV style system. The objective is to have a variety of military options spread throughout the tech tree, with no one unit being essential or overpowered. Also important is retaining a SMAC feel and making the game more balanced than SMAC, for example just because it's based on SAMC doesn't mean that "Chop'n'drop" should be the ultimate strategy.

    Unit Classes:

    GARRISON: For base defense.

    INFANTRY: Offensive, base busting units.

    ROVER: Powerful mobile attacker units.

    SKIRMISHER: Mobile defensive unit.

    FOIL: A small ship.

    CRUISER: A bigger ship.

    NEEDLEJET: Functions like a CIV fighter/bomber.

    CHOPPER: Functions like a CIV gunship.



    Scout Patrol: 2-1, Garrison. Costs 10.
    +25% Base Defense

    Lightly armed unit, effective for scouting and early garrison duty.


    Synthetical Sentinel: 3-1, Garrison. Costs 20.
    +50% Base Defense.
    Requires Industrial Base.

    Early base defense unit.


    Laser Infantry: 3-1, Infantry. Costs 20.
    +25% Attack vs Garrison units.
    Requires Applied Physics.

    General attack unit.


    Scout Rover: 2-2, Rover. Costs 20.
    -10% Attack vs Bases.
    +25% on flat land.
    30% Retreat Chance.
    Does not receive defensive Bonuses.
    Requires Doctrine:Mobility.

    Light scouting unit.


    Impact Rover: 5-2, Rover. Costs 35.
    -10% Attack vs Bases.
    +25% Attack on flat land.
    30% Retreat Chance.
    Does not receive defensive Bonuses.
    Requires Nonlinear Mathematics and Doctrine:Mobility.

    Powerful mobile combat unit.


    Plasma Sentinels: 4-1, Garrison. Costs 30.
    +50% Base Defense.
    +25% vs Rovers.
    Requires High Energy Chemistry.

    Effective base defense.


    Gatling Troopers: 6-1, Infantry. Costs 45.
    +25% Attack vs Bases.
    +25% vs Rovers.
    +25% vs Infantry.
    Requires Superconductor and High Energy Chemistry.

    Versatile combat unit effective in many roles.


    Missile Infantry: 7-1, Infantry. Costs 40.
    Deals bonus Collateral Damage.
    Does not receive defensive Bonuses.
    Requires Synthetic Fossil Fuels.


    Silksteel Skirmisher: 6-2, Skirmisher. Costs 40.
    -10% Attack vs Bases.
    25% Intercept Chance.
    Requires Silksteel Alloys and Doctrine: Mobility.

    Mobile defensive unit.


    Missile Needlejet: 7-10, Needlejet. Costs 50.

    Powerful flying unit for softening up ground units.


    Missile Interceptor: 7-8, Needlejet. Costs 50.
    -50% damage vs Ground Units and Ships.
    40% Intercept Chance.

    Flying anti-air unit with minimal ability to damage ground targets.


    Scout Foil: 2-4, Foil. Costs 20.
    Requires Doctrine: Flexibility.


    Transport Foil: 3-3, Foil. Costs 30.
    Carries 3 units.
    May not Attack.
    Requires Doctrine: Flexibility and Industrial Base.


    Plasma Skimmer: 4-4, Foil. Costs 30.
    Requires Doctrine: Flexibility and High Energy Chemistry.


    Silksteel Skimmer: 6-4, Foil. Costs 40.
    Requires Silksteel Alloys and Doctrine: Initiative.


    Missile Destroyer: 7-6. Costs 50.
    25% Intercept Chance
    Deals bonus collateral damage.
    Requires Synthetic Fossil Fuels and Doctrine: Initiative.

  • #2
    Special Ability (promotion) Ideas:

    Special Abilities would be implemented using the CIV promotions system, modified to suit our needs. Special abilities would help balance out the military options in the tech tree. The special abilities would be modeled somewhat on the SMAC ones, but with additions or omissions to better fit in the CIV system.
    At the moment it seems like it isn't easily possible to visually represent the special abilities on the unit graphics. A possible substitute for this could be automatically renaming units with the promotion info, for example Missile Infantry with SAM Missiles would be displayed as "(SAM) Missile Infantry", or a Scout Rover with a Laser Turret would become "(LT) Scout Rover". Unlike in CIV we could do this, since the number of special abilities on each unit is limited to 1 or 2.

    Note: Special abilities would cost energy, with the cost being a percentage of the hammer cost of the unit. The cost would be listed when you hover over the promotion icon. Not enough energy? No special ability. It would only be possible to add a special ability to a unit if it is in friendly territory. Units would only be able to take 1 special ability, or 2 post-Neural Grafting. It will be possible to reset the special abilities, but you lose the energy invested (and may incur an additional fee). At present CIV doesn't support this but it would be a fairly easy SDK modification.

    Sample Special Abilities:

    Laser Turret (Applied Physics)
    +1 Strength.
    Rover, Skirmisher and Foil.
    Cost = 0.5EC

    Additional Firepower. (particularly useful to turn scout rovers into real combat units)


    Nerve Gas Pods (High Energy Chemistry)
    Deals collateral damage, kills population when attacking bases (1 per attack).
    Infantry, Rover, Chopper.
    Cost = 0.5EC

    Enhances weapons with lethal nervegas, counts as an atrocity.


    Impact Battery (Nonlinear Mathematics and Polymorphic Software)
    +1 Strength
    Bonus Collateral Damage.
    Infantry.
    Cost = 0.75EC.

    Upgrades firepower of infantry.


    COMM Jammer (Advanced Subatomic Theory)
    +50% Defense vs Rovers.
    Garrison, Infantry, Skirmisher.
    Cost = 0.75EC.

    Defensive promotion effective against rovers.


    SAM Missiles (Doctrine: Air Power)
    +1 Intercept.
    +50% vs Choppers.
    Infantry, Garrison, Cruisers.
    Cost = 0.5EC

    Adds basic anti-air capabilities to units, or enhances existing anti-air.


    Bomb Pods (Doctrine: Airpower)
    Bonus Collateral Damage.
    Needlejets.
    Cost = 0.5EC

    Turns needlejets into moderately effective bombers.


    AAA Tracking (Advanced Military Algorithms)
    -50% damage from aircraft.
    Adds +25% Intercept Chance (if the unit can intercept).
    Cost = 0.75EC
    Garrison, Skirmisher, Foil, Cruiser.

    Improves defense and offense vs aircraft.


    Gatling Turret (Superconductor)
    +1 Strength.
    +1 Intercept.
    Cost = 0.75EC
    Rovers, Skirmishers and Foils.

    Rapidfire weapon also effective at targeting aircraft.


    Hydrofoils (Doctrine: Initiative)
    Increases naval movement by +1.
    Foils.

    Comment


    • #3
      A quick look at the balance. Obviously it needs lots of play testing and there is probably scope for more early units, but lets see if there are any glaring holes.

      Synthetical Sentinels vs Laser Infantry vs Scout Rovers.

      These 3 units are available from the starting techs. Synthetical Sentinels are the only unit capable of holding their own against higher tier units - but even then, only on base defense duty.
      The Laser Infantry is highly effective against scout patrols and can kill Sentinels in the open, although it is vulnerable to being counter-attacked. With significant tech investment the Laser Infantry can be upgraded with an Impact Battery, making it a more effective combat unit.
      Finally the Scout Rover has reasonably good odds (of not dying) when attacking str 3 units in the open. However against bases it is unable to kill even scout Patrols (although 2 Scout Rovers could probably kill 1 SP). It can be upgraded with a Laser Turret to turn it into a real combat unit, capable of effectively killing stuff in the open.


      The next tier of Units: Plasma Garrison and Impact Rover.

      It would be wrong for the ubiquitous Impact Rover to not play a major role. In fact it is so powerful that it pretty much dominates the battle field. It is not entirely capable of taking down Synthetical Sentinels, having only str 4.5 vs bases. However when massed the retreat chance allows them to effectively capture bases. Fighting in the open the Impact Rover can take down later units and itís longevity can be increased with a laser turret, bringing it up to strength 6.
      The Bane of the Impact Rover is the Plasma Sentinel, which provides an indomitable base defense and can counter-attack with some effectiveness.


      Moving up: Gatling Infantry, Missile Infantry, Needlejets and Silksteel Skirmisher.

      The game takes a turn towards offense, with two powerful infantry units.
      The Gatling Infantry can take on pretty much all earlier units. It is however fairly expensive for it's strength.
      The Missile Infantry is less effective on defense but is cheaper with strong offense, especially against stacks. Overall it is a strong, effective unit with straightforward tech prerequisites, but if you beeline straight to it you'll have no other offense options until you get it.
      A little later come the Needlejets which do an excellent job of softening up ground targets. Needlejets have ample counters in their own area of the tech tree. They can also be shot down by mobile units upgraded with a Gatling Turret or the Silksteel Skirmisher. AAA tracking tends to neutralize needlejets quite effectively.
      The Silksteel Skirmisher has extensive tech requirements, but provides options for the builders. It is not so useful without special abilities, but these should be quite affordable for the average builder and the Skirmisher can take a wide range of abilities making it effective in many roles. Also since it is a skirmisher it is not vulnerable to anti-rover abilities, making it more effective than might be expected.


      Notes on the Differences between CIV(C4:AC) and SMAC:
      In SMAC you can design units using whatever parts are on hand, and units have separate A/D stats. You can for example use Plasma Sentinels to defend your bases, and recon rovers to counter-attack against impact rovers.
      In CIV the strength is used for both attack and defense (something I generally agree with). What this means is you can still get somewhat effective combat units, for example the Plasma Sentinel is now capable of being used as a counter-attacking unit. This means the player (still) doesn't have to research everything to get a functional military.
      What makes a unit an offense or defense unit depends mainly on it's abilities and possible promotions.

      Generally, I much prefer the CIV system over the SMAC system and I personally don't favor reproducing the SMAC system.

      A word on the antiair system:
      I feel that the CIV system is pretty bad.
      I also feel the SMAC system is pretty bad.

      I tend to think the CIV system is MUCH more balanced though, as such I favor using it with minor modifications. These modifications would include:
      1) Air units can take special abilities and earn EXP.
      2) Anti-air units can intercept multiple air units in a turn.

      It may make sense to make more changes too.


      And the siege system:
      In SMAC units always deal collateral damage on attack (except against targets in bases), and there are artillery units which can attack with impunity (unless there are other artillery, in which case they duel).
      In CIV units do not deal collateral damage on attack, unless they are special collateral units, in which case they deal collateral to a limited number of target units.
      Also in CIV siege units can bombard down the defensive bonuses of cities.

      I generally think the CIV system is more balanced. What may be acceptable is a compromise where all units deal a limited amount of collateral on attack, with special units, or units with certain special abilities, doing much more collateral.
      I'm not sure how I feel about bombarding away city defenses, for now I'd favor leaving it out, unless play testing indicates it's needed for balance.

      Comment


      • #4
        Okay not to spam or anything, just to show that adding this SDK stuff isn't a problem or a maybe or anything, it's dead simple for the right people.

        The promotion costs money.



        And now it's grayed out due to lack of money. Also because it's a stack it counts the cost for all 3 units, like upgrades do.



        Moving outside of borders causes the promotion buttons to vanish (another thing very easy to change).


        So don't feel TOO limited by how things currently work .

        Comment


        • #5
          This is very interesting, Blake!

          Here are my immediate comments:

          Reducing the weapon/armor/movement design of SMAC/X to the strength/movement design of Civ4, does not seem like a big gameplay and balance change to me. Civ4 introduces unit classes and makes it possible to balance specific combats (i.e. chariot attacking axeman). The defense rating (=strength on defense) of a unit can be adjusted by terrain features as well. To me, this looks like the weapon/armor/movement design is still present in Civ4, even though it is applied a bit differently.

          I don't quite understand your EC cost of special abilities. Is this a "per turn" cost or a fixed cost?

          I tend to lean towards having special abilities and experience based promotions separated. This means that special abilities are decided before the unit is produced and is reflected in the unit cost (minerals). These special abilities may be depicted just like experience based promotions and the number of special abilities should be limited by technologies (e.g. Neural Grafting) and balance issues; hence, I don't see why we cannot apply more than two special abilities to a unit. Additionally, some units may come with free special abilities that may not influence production cost.

          Experience based promotions would do two things: 1) Add a 12.5% strength bonus at each level (and add an extra movement point at the maximum level) and 2) be used to calculate psi combat. I am hoping that we can implement a "global" experience system via civics that can affect all the units of a faction--including the units already produced. Such a global system can add or subtract experience levels.

          Having all units dealing a limited amount of collateral damage sounds good to me. Perhaps 2-5%. Siege units (or artillery units) would deal a lot more collateral damage. Also, I would like to be able to do long range (1-2 squares) bombardment with artillery units--much like how aircraft are handled in Civ4.

          I think the need for bombardment of city defenses rely on the way Civ4 handles city defenses. In SMAC/X we can use probe teams to disable aerospace complexes, perimeter defenses, etc. In Civ4, culture affects city defenses and we have no way of disabling culture. If we allow culture to affect city defenses in the mod, then we need to be able to bombard city defenses; otherwise, I'd say we leave out this specific kind of siege warfare.

          ---

          Edit: Ah, I think I understand how the special ability EC cost would work and it does make sense to spend ECs that way. However, I would still prefer keeping special abilities and experience based promotions separate. This should be possible with the model you present, Blake.

          Even though I may still be inclined to think that special abilities should be applied before production and be reflected in production costs (and unit upgrade costs), I think the EC approach holds a lot of potential and I want to try it out.
          Last edited by Rubin; November 19, 2006, 09:21.

          Comment


          • #6
            Promotions/upgrades costing money? Okay, commerce/energy income must be severely vamped as well then to afford that.

            Have to read through the rest of your post(s) later.
            He who knows others is wise.
            He who knows himself is enlightened.
            -- Lao Tsu

            SMAC(X) Marsscenario

            Comment


            • #7
              Okay energy based upgrades.

              For Morale, I favor simply automatically adding a "promotion" to the unit depending on it's morale level. The Very Green promotion is -20% strength, the Elite promotion is +40% strength. However it would also be possible using the SDK to just directly add that much strength ie "-20% from Morale", the advantage of using promotions is you can very easily add other effects like +1 movement... so the morale "promotions" would be added directely by the game code.


              Now for the Special Abilities - they would use the visible Promotion interface of CIV, as in click on the button, the unit gets the promotion type thing.
              As for the energy cost thing. Think about SMAC. The player could create a nearly unlimited number of unit designs, like there might be 3 different versions of the Plasma Infantry unit, one with COMM another with Trance and a 3rd with AAA. I say it'd be more natural to just train standard plasma garrison unit and then upgrade each specific one with the desired special abilities - I'd also say it'd also make more sense to do that in SMAC rather than spamming up the workshop with dozens of minor variant units.

              So that's where the Energy cost comes in. I think SMAC players are already used to sinking energy into their military. They make shell units and upgrade them with energy all the time. So I see absolutely no reason not to make Special Abilities work like that. When trained, each unit has 1 Special Ability assignable (regardless of exp/morale level), once you get Neural Grafting another special ability can be assigned.
              Assigning the special ability costs energy, it could be anything from a token amount to a significant sum. The pricing scheme can work in any way. For example it'd be pretty easy to make it so the price can vary based on movement for some special abilities.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Blake
                For Morale, I favor simply automatically adding a "promotion" to the unit depending on it's morale level.
                As long as morale level is based on the Civ4 unit experience model, this is exactly how I would prefer morale implemented in the mod.

                Originally posted by Blake
                Now for the Special Abilities - they would use the visible Promotion interface of CIV, as in click on the button, the unit gets the promotion type thing.
                I think I am convinced now! This is good! Combined with an EC cost of the upgrade this should be much easier to implement than my suggestion to have the special abilities applied before production (and influencing production costs). Additionally, it may prove a lot easier to navigate and use in the game, "rather than spamming up the workshop with dozens of minor variant units."

                I see two issues:

                1) Balancing the base mineral and energy output to reflect the increased energy requirements.

                2) Special Ability limits.

                Ad 2: Let's say we limit the number of special abilities to two (second ability available at Neural Grafting), but at the same time have special abilities that act as weapon upgrades. The impact rover gets the "Laser Turret" special ability, thus effectively turning the impact rover into a gatling rover. This "gatling rover" can never get two special abilities.

                Is it possible to have the "Laser Turret" special ability available to specific units as an extra special ability?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Ad 2: Let's say we limit the number of special abilities to two (second ability available at Neural Grafting), but at the same time have special abilities that act as weapon upgrades. The impact rover gets the "Laser Turret" special ability, thus effectively turning the impact rover into a gatling rover. This "gatling rover" can never get two special abilities.
                  I'm not entirely sure what you're asking here, but earlier in the promotions I had the "Laser Turret" promotion for rovers (and a few other types) which gives +1 Strength, thus upgrading it to a Gatling unit. And then there was also the Gatling Turret which gives +1 Strength and AA ability. It would be undesirable to be able to make a "laser turret + gatling turret" impact rover, it would certainly be possible to add a flag which designates a special ability as a "Turret" and enforce having only 1 Turret promotion on a unit. So you could make a Gatling Turret + COMM Jammer Skirmisher, but not a double-turreted unit.
                  Last edited by Blake; November 19, 2006, 11:28.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Blake

                    I'm not entirely sure what you're asking here [...] it would certainly be possible to add a flag which designates a special ability as a "Turret" and enforce having only 1 Turret promotion on a unit. So you could make a Gatling Turret + COMM Jammer Skirmisher, but not a double-turreted unit.
                    Adding a "Turret" flag is what I had in mind. The "Turret" special ability should not count against the special ability limit. This way, we can use special abilities to reduce the overall number of predesigned units without reducing the unit design options--as well as having special abilities count as "normal" special abilities (as used in SMAC/X).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd actually rather have them count against the limit and add extra ability-like function to the higher tier turrets (ie anti-air on Gatling Turret). So you can choose higher raw power vs better counter-functionality. However making turret class promotions not count against the special ability limit would be possible if this is deemed desirable in play testing.


                      I've also written the SDK code for limiting special abilities to 1/2 rather than based on exp.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've started implemeting the units and promotions in the xml files.

                        I've added a Laser Turret promotion (+25% strength, available with Applied Physics); a Scout Patrol (2 strength, +25% city defense) and a Synthmetal Garrison (3 strength, +50% city defense, available with Industrial Base).

                        The UNITCLASS parameter did not work as I would expect. If the Scout Patrol and the Synthmetal Garrison share UNITCLASS the Synthmetal Garrison replaces the Scout Patrol. Instead it seems that unit classes are determined by the UNICOMBAT_MELEE, UNITCOMBAT_ARCHER, etc. values. However, I don't know how to add new UNITCOMBAT values to go with the new unit classes. Currently, I am using UNITCOMBAT_RECON for garrison units.

                        If I allow the Scout Patrol to be upgraded to the Synthmetal Garrison, I cannot build Scout Patrols once I have researched Industrial Base.

                        The promotion seems to work, but now the promotion information (+25% strength) displays diretcly on the technology instead of just on the promotion icon (which correctly displays on the technology).

                        I'll continue to work on this.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Rubin, a UNITCLASS in CIV is like "Swordsman", with a "Swordsman" "Jaguar" and "Praetorian" all being "Swordsman", so what I really meant was indeed Combat Type. I'll take a look at the XML.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            UnitCombatTypes are found in CIV4BasicInfos.xml.

                            edit:

                            If I allow the Scout Patrol to be upgraded to the Synthmetal Garrison, I cannot build Scout Patrols once I have researched Industrial Base.
                            A unit is removed from the build options once ALL things it can be upgraded to have been researched. So the idea would be to also make it *also* upgrade to Plasma Garrison and Laser Infantry at very least.
                            Last edited by Blake; November 19, 2006, 16:37.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              In the Fall from Heaven mod, units are kept in the build options by making every unit able to upgrade to a unit that has an unreachable prereq.
                              "Cutlery confused Stalin"
                              -BBC news

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