Tuesday, May 8, 2012


It's been awhile since I wrote a design thoughts essay post. I've been intending on writing this one since before it implemented and sequentially changed. So, without further boilerplate:


A maneuver, in the context of a World skirmish of course, is an action invoked by the commander, used to change between formations and locations in a specified manner. The intent was that a maneuver would be used to quickly change between formations in combat situations. The end result and implementation were a bit more complicated.

Let us define the exact details of the maneuver in the Skirmish context. A maneuver consists of 4 stages, a windup (channeling, which can be broken, and an associated buff state), initiation (which triggers class specific actions), advancement (moving to the target location, which can also trigger class specific actions), and finalization (reaching the target location, also triggers class actions). Notice an awful amount of detail hooks there. Each class specifies how it behaves for each maneuver. A shieldman may conclude a maneuver with a shield slam. An archer may lead a maneuver with a volley of covering fire. The commander may provide a group buff while advancing. Furthermore, the commander will have multiple maneuvers, so each differing kind can have different per-class hooks.

Except, that's rather massively complicated. The first maneuver we made is a simple 'Charge' maneuver; run at the enemy and engage rapidly. If we make a second maneuver that is similar, should it have entirely different class actions? Nah, let's categorize maneuvers. Now, all 'Charge' maneuvers share the same actions. This lets the commander upgrade the maneuver without forcing us to re-implement all the maneuver-actions. We could make a 'Charge 2' (for lack of a better name atm) that winds up faster and provides a speed increase while running, but now it otherwise acts exactly like 'Charge 1'.

So now we can run at things and have new class differentiation points. Yay! What about other kinds of maneuvers? A coordinated retreat is kind of like a Charge, except away instead of toward, so the implementation there is easy. We make a new maneuver category to change class actions and it works without problem. A slow pressure advancement works similarly. After that we created a 'Hold' or 'Stand your ground' maneuver command. This one was different, in that there's no movement phase, and the ending triggers are different, but it still works. The same logic can be used to make a maneuver that just tries to get the formation back in order quickly.

So 5 maneuver types; Charge, Advance, Retreat, Hold, Reform. They almost perfectly correspond to the 5 formation movement modes (Charge, Advance, Defend, Retreat, Hold), which is cause for thought. Should maneuvers replace formation movement entirely? We concluded that no; maneuvers are a specific command with costs and benefits associated with. It would be silly to run with a charging sprint as your default move command. Sometimes you just move.

Implementation took a bit of effort but there was nothing terribly interesting to report about it. We've had the maneuvers in place and working for a few weeks now, so they've been used enough to know that Charging is Fun, Advancing is useful, Hold has potential but the current scenarios do not require it, retreat is occasionally necessary and the only reasonable way to extricate a group from combat, and reform is... well, a little less interesting, but it COULD be with more maneuver-actions by class.

A success? Well, sort of. Remember that part above where I said that a maneuver is a method of transiting between formations? Turns out we never did that, but we always have to specify the target formation anyway. So, why is this part ignored?

My opinion now is that the original concept was flawed, because it was based on a different pace of combat than the game actually exhibits. If you imagine a combat where units stay rigidly in formation, there is very little motion, and slight positioning different matter tremendously, then special methods to adjust inside a formation are relevant. This was in part the original concept. What we have now, however, is a massively more fluid, dynamic, and mostly chaotic combat engine. Is this good? The chaos is kind of enjoyable when you're the cause of it (which may be why Charge-ing is Fun :) ). With retreat/reform you can manage the chaos inside your group enough to not be bogged down. Advancing does a reasonable job of slowly pushing forward with a more organized wall. I think it works! Let's keep it. But what do we do about the maneuver definition?

Meh. Delete it.

We'll see how it plays without formation swapping; I bet it'll work fine.

Next essay I'll talk about Consciousness, or more specifically, lack thereof, as a game mechanic.

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