Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More on Engagement, Threat, and leading to Formations

After this last TOAST we came to some conclusions about the engagement and threat mechanics from last post.

First, the relationship between engagement threat and damage threat. Balancing the lines between these two is a tricky thing! One we think will be simpler if the current maximum of the two is used, rather than the sumation. This lets us balance 'tank' unit threat versus 'nuke' unit threat without having to account for the nuker engagement, and the tank damage.

Second, adding a health modifier to engagement threat. Wounded or weakened targets are more desirable to be attacked. At least by smart enemies. This could be implemented by modifying engagement threat magnitude based on current health. However, I think this aspect needs to be kept separate from the engagement itself. A bit more detail here:

Consider a line of attackers and defenders, the defenders being equal in threat. The units will tend to disperse along the line evenly because of this. Say the attackers nukers focus their efforts on one section of the wall. The defender there weakens, and the attackers then focus on this section of the wall, breaching the line at a weak point. A good mechanic! Also, something for the player to counter by adjusting the formations, or by using some sort of temporary boost on the weakened area.

Now, I do NOT think that this should be baked into engagement threat. I think this factor should be managed by the enemy, since its an AI decision, more than a gameplay mechanic. Doing so lets us make stupid enemies that behave more boringly and predictably. These types of AIs are crucial for teaching and making the game fun! If enemies are smart, we have a problem with the player... isn't. Undoubtedly in the long run we'll need NPCs to behave differently. Scouts may partially ignore engagement threat, for example. These effects needs to be applied in the threat-response logic, rather than the threat logic itself. Moving on!

Third, threat thresholds. Without a threashold to change current targets, pingponging is way too easy. It's a common practice for good reason. WoW has a 10% threshold for melee and 30% for ranged. Seems like a good place to start.

Fourth, engagement range decay must be greater than 0. There was some mathematical reason I had for this, but I can't remember the details. I remember that the gradient of the engagement threat must point outwards, even if the value is fairly small. I'll pull a Fermat here and say I'll show why later.

Fifth, morale modifications to engagement. This seems like an obvious way to tie in morale to formation effectiveness. When tank units get less happy their engagement threat goes down. This has a side effect of balancing out incoming damage, but is dangerous beyond a certain level. Let morale drop too low, and the line disintegrates immediately.

And lastly, pondering formations. Engagement encourages flanking. The more radii the cover the enemy, the slower they become and their weaknesses increase as they become more surrounded. It just works.

I like it.
Commander design next time.

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