Opening Pandora's Box (Macro Usage Discussion)

Discussion about the game and its default mods.
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Orb
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Opening Pandora's Box (Macro Usage Discussion)

Post by Orb » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:27 am

Hello all!

There was about 600+ messages on discord the last couple days regarding the usage of Macros, and I feel this is something that should be discussed with the community as a whole, and not just the subset that reads the competitive channel on discord.

I would like to note upfront that if this turns into childish bickering like it did on the discord, I will be deleting/locking/whatever this thread, so please keep this civil.

For those uninitiated, Macro's (which I will be distinguishing from macro, as in micro vs macro, by capitalizing), are basically 1 button presses that activate multiple presses in a sequence. You can delay the button presses as well. For a relevant example, I can queue up 3 rifleman, 1 rocket, 3 rifleman, 1 rocket, 3 rifleman, 1 rocket, with 1 click on my mouse.

As competition racks up in RAGL, several Master's players have already been exploring Macros (Of Note: Gatekeeper, Lorrydriver). While both players deny that Macro's are tangibly useful, the recent explosion of interest in the topic will result in high Macro usage in RAGL regardless. The RAGL organizers are already making plans to ban Macro's from the tournament.

And that's where we are now. I believe this topic has a few different discussion points associated with it, as you can't tackle the entire topic at once. I'm going to number them as follows, and if you could reference what discussion point you're referencing, that would help a lot.

1. Macros are not useful, and therefore should not be banned.
This was definitely the most talked about topic. The big thing here is first, is unit production part of the "macro skill" people talk about, and does having a Macro help with that. Gatekeeper said that his unit production still fell apart even though he had a macro, but that's just anecdotal evidence.

2. Macro Ban Enforcement (The Honor System)
It is possible to slow down Macro's enough to be indistinguishable from normal human input. No matter how hard we try, there will never be a perfect enforcement system. Assuming we ban Macros, this could potentially put honest players at a disadvantage.

3. Other Solutions
If Macros are useful, then maybe the game could be changed so they're less useful. The easiest solution would be a repeat queue added to the game. This kind of solution is attractive if we don't consider unit production part of the "macro skill".
Last edited by Orb on Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Orb
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Post by Orb » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:30 am

My own opinion on 1 was summed up nicely by Blackened on discord:
Imagine if you will this scenario:
For you the game runs like it currently does, you hold shift you click on the icon on the hud and 5 units queue. Now for the sake of argument your opponent does not have that feature. They need to hold or f1, f2, f3, or click those key's 5 times to get 5 units queued. Their other option is of course to click the unit in the hud 5 times.

In the beginnings both players are even. There isn't a whole lot going on and they can spend all the neccessary apm on filling those queues. But now the game is tranisitioning towards the mid game, the orginal queues are running out. You can shift queue the necessary amount to hold you over and get right back to the battle, placing buildings, moving armies, retreating etc. You're opponent is trying to do the same thing but while you have 13 clicks to queue 45 rifles and 15 rockets (Shift+riflemanx3+rocketsx1+riflemanx3+rocketsx1+riflemanx3+rocketsx1) your opponent has to alternate between holding f1 and f2 down (which is actually less clicks but be honest, getting a perfect 15 rifles and 5 rockets holding those keys down is neigh impossible) OR they need to press those keys 60 times. That is a lot more effort in maintaining that queue and they can't really control their units/build refs/etc while doing so.

this is just a rough example but I think you can clearly see how there is a disadvantage to one player.
As for 3., you can probably already tell I'm heavily in favor of a repeat queue. All streaming economy games have it that I know of, and I don't think queuing lots of units is an inherently "interesting" or "engaging" skill.

CatGirls420
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Post by CatGirls420 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:45 am

Point # 1.) Macros are useful, and here's why:

-It reduces the amount of time it takes to complete a set of actions, and over the course of a battle, milliseconds turn into seconds, seconds turn into minutes, and eventually yields an unfair advantage. Unless, of course, everyone uses macro's.

I guess that's pretty much it. It's a huge time saving advantage that other players don't have, or choose not to have.

But if everyone uses macros......it becomes silly. The gameplay becomes almost pointless. It's almost like, "are you playing the game, or is the game playing you?"

I mean call me old fashioned, but if macro-users came into classic RA, they would get their asses handed back to them on a silver platter tenfold. I come from classic RA days, where we didn't have fancy queues and a-moves. We had to press "build unit" for each and every unit, and anything, as well as micro each individual unit or groups of units.

You kids have it way too easy these days.

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anjew
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Post by anjew » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:01 am

At an engine level, this will probably never be stopped and it shouldn't. As mentioned in the github issue: "I see this being worth too much effort for what is virtually a non-problem, let alone the possibility of false positives (lag spikes sending all orders or just straight up actually being fast)."

They can't really ban players and even if they could the punishment far outweighs the crime. Also precedence of banning Macro using players is not an argument when just as many professional competitive gaming companies don't ban the use of Macros.

At a competitive level, RAGL is free to make whatever decisions they see fit, they are a private entity.
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CatGirls420
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Post by CatGirls420 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:08 am

Since when does professional gaming not ban macros? This is news to me.

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WhoCares
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Post by WhoCares » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:41 am

People are thinking that macro are just usefull on the build order but you can have more programable action or combination of action that can start to be usefull in game but is the time needed to invent and developing those set of macro is worth it ?

example of other macro :

Auto retreat (to use in the middle of an battle you want to avoid/escape):

Press L :

*Create bookmark 2; select all unit in screen; jump to bookmark 1(retreat point); click (move command); jump back to bookmark 2.*

That might not sound as a powerfull example of macro but it allows you (in theory) to do a retreat call in 1 button with ofc a retreat point previously chosen and set. Could save more unit than regular action if used proprely. (need someone to test it, it's just and idea i had right now, i'm curious if it would actually work.)

Well thought and well developped macro can be op i think.

The day i have a new mouse like mmorpg one with thousand buttons and a external soft to program set of actions, I think i'll try to create and invent as much macros as i can and make an example video out of it to demonstrate all the possibilities my little brain can come up with.

My own opinion on the matter, opponent can have a 35" monitor, a kick ass mouse and be full of macros ... it does not make a difference regarding my own mistakes. I lose game because i make mistakes not because my opponenent has better tools. Maybe when i will have lorrydriver skill it will start to matter to me. In the meantime i don't care.

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Post by SirCake » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:22 am

Macros wouldn't be a problem if RA wasn't a game where in almost any situation you want the same exact units.
Also it is hard to tackle, so I'd just allow it for everyone and put up How-To tutorials. (So 1) )

3) Queueing up any special infantry in the production tab is a real hassle, since not having 50 or more units in the queue at any time can lose you the game. Not building anything is far worse than building the wrong things.
The extension of the ctrl-rmb modifier to cancel everything in the queue, not just the current stack could help. Or the addition of a crtl-lmb modifier to queue a unit in front of the queue and resetting the currently building unit.
I'm not a fan of the repeat-queue since it would make production even more brain-dead than it is already.

Personally I'm not using macros, but I find spamming F1 and F2 while adding some special infantry with mouse clicks to the queue quite helpful. Not as reliable as queueing 100 infantry, but more flexible. :)

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Clockwork
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Post by Clockwork » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:39 am

I use a macro for my infantry queue. I'm now dependant on it so I cannot change it from 5-2 to anything else. An advantage to people who don't as they can work dynamically.

I would understand peoples frustrations on macro's if it weren't for the fact they aren't locked behind a paywall. You don't need a fancy keyboard or mouse to have one. You can get any keyboard macro program off the interwebs for Mac and Windows.

What's unfair is I can put it on my mouse button which is blocked behind a paywall. Are we gonna ban high tier peripherals now?

I use a 27 inch monitor with 144hz refresh rate. I remember LawAndOrder saying I have such a big advantage because of this compared to his small screen. Are we gonna have to ban this too?

I use a Cloud2 Surround sound headset which means I can hear a pin drop in anything. This gives me an advantage because I can hear everything and there are a lot of global sounds in RA. Are we gonna have to ban this too?

This has opened a big can of worms and the only solution I can see right now for all the above is join or stew.

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Post by CatGirls420 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:56 am

Well, to have any real measure of skill, all players would need to be in the same exact situation. Same type of computer power, same screen, same peripherals, same everything. Otherwise, it does in fact depend *slightly* on who has better hardware. But only slightly.

There should be a RAGL sub division, where if people want to show true skill, instead of exploiting the many imbalanced things about openra, then here's an easy way:

One faction. Everyone has access to a very small amount of the same units; infantry, vehicles, ships, air, ect.

Or, something like a novelty map, the no-faction divide maps, minus those cancerous spam rulesets.

I mean, I've had my mouse die on me at vital moments, because i use a wirless battery-powered mouse. "Hey I just beat you catgirls!" okay cool, my mouse kept dying "haha hurr durr thats just an excuse" no, you're an idiot, and you should feel ashamed of yourself.

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Post by netnazgul » Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:40 pm

Just to reiterate it here from discord discussions.

I'm against any action past "we don't encourage it" from a technical point of view because there is zero options to detect, control and block macros behaviour and it will lead to false accusations from players; more, there is no problem to add a bit of delay to the macro so that any APM spike becomes negligible.

And I agree with Happy (and SirCake) on the point this stuff really isn't that unreachable, as there are utility tools like USB Overdrive for MacOS or a plethora of tools for Windows (https://lifehacker.com/5883003/the-best ... or-windows). Every decent mouse/keyboard manufacturer makes their own specific tools as well. So pretty much anyone can quite easily set up a macro for himself and feel whether it helps a lot.

The point on non-ideal queue management UI is also valid, this issue has been there for some years.

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avalach21
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Post by avalach21 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm

I mean the point of the game is to outsmart your opponent with a better strategy.

The whole point of OpenRA has been to refine the mechanics and interface of Red Alert so to enhance the player's ability to quickly and efficiently control their armies.

Adding in hotkeys and queueing up units were enhancements added in over the original game to streamline the player's ability to build up their armies while they can dedicate their focus to commanding their armies & conquering their enemies.

The game's focus should be on your ability to outsmart your opponent with a better strategy, not on who can mash hotkeys and spam click their mouse button faster.

If we are all ok with hotkeys for unit production and unit queueing, then I don't see why macros should be an issue. It is just further pursuing this same end goal.

As already mentioned, it will be near impossible to enforce any sort of ban or restriction on macros, so it's best for everyone to just accept them as a reality. Maybe if players begin to find a certain macro to be particularly useful (for example someone mentioned potentially setting up a macro to have your units retreat to a certain coordinate) then we can even discuss adding it into the game as a built in function.

I mean aircraft units already have a "retreat" function set to a hot key, this isn't game breaking in any kind of way... it's generally useful but if you just use the button without paying attention or doing some level of micro babysitting, you will find them flying through enemy bases or over a group of enemy rocket soldiers and getting shot down. In the same way Macros have their use but there will certainly still be a need to micro units properly, deciding when and where to attack, where to place your units etc. as well as to make proper macro decisions about where and when to expand, what counters to build, when to tech etc. Macros can't make these decisions for you and to me these are the core dynamics of the game.

I personally don't use macros when playing OpenRA but it is interesting to think of ways that they could be used. Honestly rather than having a stance of macros are discouraged, I think they should be encouraged and perhaps even have a public guide on how to set them up and some examples of particularly useful ones so that everyone has an opportunity to use them if they wish.
Last edited by avalach21 on Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Smitty
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Post by Smitty » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:46 pm

If you look at me as a player, macro has always been a problem for me. It wasn’t uncommon for me to float 7-10k after the first big fight. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t get the same grief that Gatekeeper does as I tended to float as bad if not worse. I guess Floatkeeper just rolls off the tongue better.

The only difference I can point to from 2017 to how I’ve played this year is that I’ve cleaned up the macro. Floating still happens but it’s not every two or three games like it was. I’ve put a lot more focus into it and my play has made a huge jump because of it.


So I think it’s a natural reaction from me to be perturbed at the emergence of third-party macros. The main issue that I struggled with as a player can be taken care of with a single button press. I finally climbed to the mountain top, looked around and saw that there was a goddamn ski lift up here.

I’ve seen several arguments of ‘it doesn’t add an advantage’ and I have strongly disagree there. You can say that queuing up a bunch of infantry is easy, but just look at the OpenRA player base. For whatever reason people really suck at this. I suck at this. Lorrydriver and Barf are the only two players that have consistent macro over the course of say 20 games. All the rest of us are prone to fuckups.

I don’t think that a third-party macro will necessarily help over the course of a series, but over 20, 50 or 100 games, whatever number; you will eventually win a game you otherwise wouldn’t have if you use a third-party macro. I wholeheartedly believe that.

To me ‘banning’ third party macros and putting everyone on the honor system is the way to go. Sure you can lower the APM to get around it. If you have the commands spaced out with a delay there’s a chance you’ll need to place a building while it’s going and then all of a sudden you’ve queued up 30 power plants and 15 barracks. Or you could just lower the macro to queue 10-5 instead of 100-50 which is still three button presses faster but will leave you vulnerable to macro mistakes. I think this is better than allowing folks to go along with one button that does 30+ commands and starts dinner for you.
"Do not trust the balance tzars (Smitty, Orb). They are making the changes either for the wrong reasons, for no reason at all, or just because they can and it makes them feel good." - Alex Jones

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ZxGanon
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Post by ZxGanon » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:32 pm

Macro´s in theory make actions easier which is basically cheating.

Which means Im against the usage of macro´s.

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Re: Opening Pandora's Box (Macro Usage Discussion)

Post by Matt » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:29 am

Orb wrote: basically 1 button presses that activate multiple presses in a sequence. You can delay the button presses as well. For a relevant example, I can queue up 3 rifleman, 1 rocket, 3 rifleman, 1 rocket, 3 rifleman, 1 rocket, with 1 click on my mouse.
That doesn't sound too useful or that much of an advantage to me, more like a convenience function. I also think it belongs to gaming nowadays. There are mouse and keyboard vendors which have it inbuilt in their drivers and hardware: http://www.tomshardware.de/Roccat-Isku- ... 852-6.html

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Post by SirCake » Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:14 am

@developers: I would also like to customize the ammount queued with one shift click (like 3 or 4 per click). Can you move this to the settings file? Is it already possible?

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