Less micro more strategy

Since time began, RTS's have focused on micro and clickspeed over strategy. Simple and fast beats intricate and tactical every time. OpenRA could help boost overall strategy.

Discussion about the game and its default mods.
Demigan
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Less micro more strategy

Post by Demigan »

The RTS genre has many good things going for it, but something that gets on my nerves is that every single RTS is dominated by micro and the need for clickspeed, often artificially boosted for no reason at all. There's nothing wrong with having games that rely on clickspeed and micro just like there's nothing wrong with twitch-shooters in FPS's, but having a broader selection of methods to play a game competitively helps boost the genre as a whole.

Here's an example in the C&C universe: When starting a new game you are asked to ASAP deploy your MCV, click on the first building, wait for it to complete so you can deploy it, then click on the second building that you probably already know you are going to build, wait for it to complete so you can deploy it etc. The focus isn't on the strategy of positioning and layout which are practically secondary, but on the speed with which you can select and deploy these things, in other words your most important tasks are using the UI. Being adept at using the UI is not something I would consider important for most games.
So why not simply allow players to queue their buildings and their placements?
Example: You order the game to build a powerplant, you get the option (not required) to place where this building will be build if it finishes so you don't have to do that after it finishes. The moment you've queued the powerplant the tech option for building Baracks and refinery open up, and you can immediately select them to be build and where they'll be build. As you do that the tech options that these unlock will also open up for you to place down.

You basically queue the micro that you would have to do anyway, but allow the player to unburden himself. OpenRA has already done some steps in this direction, but it still only allows players to build buildings they have unlocked with tech upgrades.


Air and land bridges:
With Tiberian Sun on the horizon I would also like a micro-reducing method that I always felt missing in that game. You can use APC's, subterranean APC's and carryalls to get your troops around, but you have to do everything by hand. Select every unit, order them into the transport (or order the transport to pick it up), then select said transport vehicle and let it go to it's destination where you have to select it and order it to let go (exception: Carryall). If you want to pick up more you have to send it back and repeat the process.

Tiberian Sun already had a waypoint system, you could expand that system to include air and land bridges. Example:
I place a pickup zone marker and a zone dropoff marker which I link together. I select one or more transport vehicles and give a move-order on either zone.
Now any unit I place into the pickup zone (and is compatible) will automatically be loaded and dropped off at the drop-off zone. That means you don't need to build 1 carryall for every unit you are trying to airlift somehwere or that you can move large quantities of units without risking RSI from managing the UI just to do something as simple as telling a driver or pilot "this is the pickup zone, that is the dropoff zone, do your job".

Basically what I'm trying to shave off here are systems that would be as ridiculous as having to select the Harvester, tell it what it should harvest, select it once it's done, select it and order it to return and then repeat that process ad infinitum to maintain your economy.

SirCake
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by SirCake »

Hi Demigan,

while those features sound interesting they also raise a lot of what-if questions that would have to be answered before implementation.

There are some RTS which focus on macro over micro like planetary annihilation and grey goo. However RA and TD and even D2K come from a background where groups of small units to fulfill a mission often are more important than build orders or mass transportation.
So they do the bare minimum to enable "base building " only.

One tip I have for you: you can mass-load transportation units in OpenRA by using the alt-key.

SirCake
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by SirCake »

And if you are enjoying strategy more than micro under pressure you can also go to turn based strategy like " into the breach" (which is very hard at first but good).

Demigan
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Demigan »

You are assuming that mass-transport automatically means macro gameplay. And I have several points I'm trying to solve:

1: RTS's have the same capacity for strategy as turn-based games, yet no game developer really employs them. Even Macro games are basically clickspeed and managing your UI that gets your strategy done.
2: Clickspeed is the name of the game even though it doesn't need to be, regardless of micro or macro gameplay. Whenever timing is present it's either do it ASAP like your early build queue's or it's about selecting and moving a particular unit when they are too damaged. The strategy you are employing is secondary to the speed with which you can pull it off.

I always assumed that as time progressed we would see a similar evolution as with the FPS genre, where a wide range of games become available and the hybrid games where you can master either one or the other can get you the victory are the best. I assumed that Console RTS's would be the first to solve this since they are limited in their controlscheme and clickspeed. But RTS has gotten stuck in a rut where clickspeed is all. And when you try to suggest something to evolve the genre people will say "go to turn-based". I don't want fcking turn-based, turn-based and RTS are completely different beasts. Yes I want the depth and choices of turn-based but with the moving battlefield of an RTS. But I don't want OpenRA to be that exactly. But since OpenRA isn't going to be copying the remakes that are already there I was hoping that some small steps into a more varied gameplay would be possible. Such as simple features like build queue's that you can actually queue all the time and options to reduce ridiculous amounts of selecting and ordering like when trying to transport troops.

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MustaphaTR
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by MustaphaTR »

Alt-load was removed actually. You need to shift-queue load orders towards each transport to achieve a similar result. More clicking but still less waiting than using normal orders.

lawANDorder
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by lawANDorder »

These are some interesting thoughts, so here are mine (excuse the wall of text, there's a tldr at the botton):
- Real-time-strategy games deeply rely on the concept that the player who does any action, be it ordering units or building things, can get an advantage over the player who is slower. IMO the impact of the latter that you might have experienced - building structures quicker than your opponent - is a consequence of that it is mechanically very easy to get very near to the technically fastest way possible. This is because you can use the production hotkeys to immediately select the finished structure and can only build 2 structures (in RA) at the same time. So in comparison to mechanically challenging RTS games, in OpenRA's RA you can reach the skillcap in the macro-as-fast-up-as-possible-department (disregarding mental skills like not getting distracted) very fast and easily (after a few games focusing on getting there). This is why everyone who knows the hotkeys will, although they might not be good or have not played for a long time, beat you easily. There are no real skill levels you can compete in with other players at your level as near-perfection is achieved far too easily. Once there, experience and gamesense are what matters.

- This focus on near-perfect basebuilding speed also comes at no real cost. While in other games you would likely pay for it with less map awareness or neglected unit production (unless you're really good), you don't really have a trade-off in OpenRA's RA: Due to the far zoom level and small map size (no real need to set jump-to-location-hotkeys, jump-to-base is usually enough) which often means your base and expos are only a few viewport-moves away, you can focus on this while queuing hundreds of units in a calm moment - the latter even without jumping to production buildings. Production too is especially easy to gwt close to perfection as your only challenge is to queue up all the standard units for the rest of the entire game in a calm moment and here and there priority-queue a situation-relevant unit. Not knowing how to do this and the hidden hotkey for it (shift+click / ctrl+click I think) will have the same "perfect-or-poor" impact on your game experience.

- As you noted none of that is related to unit micro - these were all macro (getting economy, production and tech up) topics. I ignored build orders, which too have as in many RTS games a deciding impact if you don't follow the viable options (which are not too many in OpenRA's RA but the game doesn't allow many more). So about micro: let me introduce you to the two main things tou need to do be good at: get your tanks in front of your army to soak damage and crush infantry when there are not too many rocket soldiers. Use the stop hotkey quicker than your opponent does as moving infantry units can't shoot. There is force fire and vehicle movement but the aforementioned two will set you apart from many unenlighted players. There is some more depth in it but again, not knowing these tricks will yet again leave you without chance.

- But even being good at the few micro options will be meaningless if you neglect your macro as there is no upkeep mechanism. Your opponent can just build hordes of units until the map is mined out (which never happens as resources regrow) and simply literally run you over by selecting all their units and issue some attack-move orders. Controlling a huge army is not harder than controlling a few units.

What I'm trying to describe is that what you don't like is the result of a focus on macro rather than micro, that the quality-of-life-features have such an impact that not (ab)using them puts you at a hopelessly disadvantage and that all the things you might be good at - tactic, good decision-making or other meta-skills) are meaningless if you are not playing near-perfect with regard to macro, which is too easy to achieve. You are operating at a level close to perfection from the start with little impactful to none options to balance out or recover from small mistakes. You are in many aspects tied to a fixed meta that leaves little room for creativity, all caused by the assumption that making RTS easier and less micro-centric will allow making it more attractive for slower, less dedicated players.

TLDR: In my opinion the bad experience you describe is a consequence of what you whish: less influence of your explicit actions on your results but more reliance on quality-of-life-features. Once these QoL replaced most of what have been your options to be better at as your opponent, the deciding factor is abusing them effectively - which leaves little skill-levels -, executing a fixed meta (yes it can change when the game changes but is otherwise pretty stagnant) flawlessly (buildorders, economy) and knowing maps.

For TS carryalls, they are at least at the moment designed in a way that lets you queue multiple transport runs without deselecting them and act autonomously then. Nobody can say yet if this will be fun or what impact this has on gameplay.

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Punsho
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Punsho »

Sounds like you want to play an autobattler, you should check out the genre

I mostly agree with lawANDorder, ora ra is mostly about strategy. You don't need more than 30 apm to beat top players as mirco and macro aren't very demanding. Although it is true that you need quick reactions and without it you won't go far. But that can be fixed by slowing down the game which is already in control of the user

PS. Having perfect timing for placing structures is not really important. Unless you are delaying more than 2 seconds that is

SirCake
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by SirCake »

@Demigan another tipp: CnC remastered Tiberian Dawn GDI campaign is fairly strategic. Most missions definitely not winnable with standard buildorders and unitspam.

Demigan
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Demigan »

Punsho wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 12:06 pm
Sounds like you want to play an autobattler, you should check out the genre

I mostly agree with lawANDorder, ora ra is mostly about strategy. You don't need more than 30 apm to beat top players as mirco and macro aren't very demanding. Although it is true that you need quick reactions and without it you won't go far. But that can be fixed by slowing down the game which is already in control of the user

PS. Having perfect timing for placing structures is not really important. Unless you are delaying more than 2 seconds that is
Let's use this as a perfect example for how hard the RTS playerbase can understand even the concept of evolving the RTS genre.

You say that I want an autobattler so let's put that to the test:

I asked for a way to queue buildings and their placement, including buildings that aren't unlocked yet but would be if you place a building. You still have to select the same amount of buildings and place all of them. The only thing that really changes is that during a period that you can spend building your base you don't have to babysit the buildqueue. All it has done is change when you have to pay attention to it. This gives the player time to spend elsewhere, such as where exactly to place these buildings. There's as much automation here as using the shift key to queue move and attack orders.

I also suggested air and land bridges. Like I said in the OP these are just a slightly advanced version of the existing waypoint system. The goal of these things is a QOL that allows players to have more strategies. A GDI player could have a tiny airbridge up or down a cliffside that could save a lot of driving around, or a NOD/GDI player could use their respective APC's in a landbridge to get infantry across water, tiberian fields or other terrain features. This is comparable to other already existing features. I have heard precious few people complain about the attack-move that is now a permanent fixture in RTS's because having to manually stop units in order for them to attack units in range is unrealistic, immersion-breaking and just a way to boost micro for no reason. The latest C&C games even allowed for the distinction between attack-move where only ground units and defenses were attacked and a siege-move where enemy structures were targeted as well. Similarly many modern games allow players to set unit behaviour such as Hold Fire, Return Fire, Fire At Will and Attack Everything. Besides other behaviours such as Hold Position, Move towards an enemy when attacked and he's out of range, Move away when attacked by something and you are out of range. There's also buttons that have been added like Scatter. All of these are QOL additions that make the games better as they allow for better control of your units without the player having to babysit all their actions.

As for Micro, despite me constantly having to point out that Micro-heavy games is no problem at all and should be there, the problem I have is that they are the only RTS gametype out there. Even games like Men of War that have much deeper strategies are micro heavy when you get down to it. And they do not have to be.
Creating a Micro-heavy game is easy. For example we could remove the attack-move again, which increases the Micro needed to manage your game. You could also remove the AI control over Harvesters so that the player has to manually order the Harvester to move to the Tiberium and return. Hey we could now remove order queue's, so that you can't create a few harvest cycles for your Harvester but have to select and order him for each individual task it has to do during a harvesting run.
At this point, why don't we remove units automatically engaging enemies in their range when the unit has no other orders? It's a lot more micro-heavy if you have to be aware when your units spot an enemy and you have to manually order them to attack each and every unit.

I don't think you guys get it because you think that a turn-based strategy is somehow the same as a low-clickspeed high-strategy RTS I'm asking for or that the tactics you need in the campaign are a good substitute for wanting RTS games with more strategy overall (and because this point doesn't seem to come across: That means adding new RTS games with this focus, not removing existing games). But what should be clear for non-indoctrinated people is that most additions to the RTS genre that have helped it evolve slightly removed some need for clickspeed, the attack-move being the most obvious example. Since the remasters already have the full experience of the old games, OpenRA should be focussing on a more evolved experience, adding elements of higher strategy and choice to the game.

Demigan
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Demigan »

SirCake wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:13 pm
@Demigan another tipp: CnC remastered Tiberian Dawn GDI campaign is fairly strategic. Most missions definitely not winnable with standard buildorders and unitspam.
How is this in any way, shape or form a good solution compared to having RTS games focused far more on strategy than clickspeed? It's like saying "you are asking for an MMO FPS? Well you could go play the campaign there's hundreds of enemies to shoot there". They are not the same. "Oh you want sex with someone? Just mastrubate". Yeah I'll prefer one over the other thank you very much.

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Punsho
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Punsho »

I understand where you are coming from, but that is a misleading way to look at RTS. There's always a balance to be struck. It's never black and white. Just because a feature reduces the need for quick reaction time or babysitting it doesn't mean that its disadvantages don't have to be considered. Most of your reasoning can be applied regardless of how little micro a game has, and the logical endpoint is a turn based strategy game. If you spot such reasoning I don't think you should apply it, especially if you don't want to make ORA mods into a turn based games

As for queuing building placements the macro mechanics of ORA are not designed with it in mind. There are a lot of factors that can disrupt the system in a very annoying fashion. For example getting one of your buildings killed, if it provided prerequisites then the whole queue is ruined. Or what if an enemy or even a teammate blocks one of the queued buildings? Then the queue is ruined. What if you want to insert buildings in your queue? You'll have to requeue everything. And because of how ORA works you'll be often requeueing. In the end you'll still end up needing to babysit the system, that is not going away. And most importantly how will UI look like? I already see a ton of problems with implementing it.

Let's not forget that because queueing will be the most optimal play everyone who wants to play competitively will be forced to do it. And I don't think that it's worth doing due to the unwanted bagage it brings

As for land bridges I don't have much to say. How would it work exactly? The UI, the keyboard shortcuts and the exact logic units would need to do? etc

SirCake
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by SirCake »

Well Demigan,
just stop lamenting and git gud then, if you can't click fast enough RTS obviously is not for you.

Demigan
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Demigan »

Punsho wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:25 am
I understand where you are coming from, but that is a misleading way to look at RTS. There's always a balance to be struck. It's never black and white. Just because a feature reduces the need for quick reaction time or babysitting it doesn't mean that its disadvantages don't have to be considered. Most of your reasoning can be applied regardless of how little micro a game has, and the logical endpoint is a turn based strategy game. If you spot such reasoning I don't think you should apply it, especially if you don't want to make ORA mods into a turn based games
The logical endpoint is not a turn-based strategy game. The logical endpoint is a game where strategy and tactics would be more important than the ability to select and move units.

And the thing about that balance to be struck is exactly my point: Currently every RTS game has a balance on the clickspeed side of the scale. It's comparable to having a twitch arena shooter but not having any Milsim shooters, or the million-and-one types of shooters inbetween that combine the two in varying ways. Unreal Tournament is the twitch shooter while good old Renegade was an arcade tactical shooter in many ways, with Renegade-X now focussing far more on mechanical capabilities than Renegade did. All these games have a varying focus on what gun mechanics make you good at the game. RTS's don't have that, clickspeed is king. Where are the RTS games that do not rely on it?
If we had those missing RTS game styles, then you would see the same rise in RTS games as the FPS genre had, with thirteen games a dozen.
As for queuing building placements the macro mechanics of ORA are not designed with it in mind. There are a lot of factors that can disrupt the system in a very annoying fashion. For example getting one of your buildings killed, if it provided prerequisites then the whole queue is ruined. Or what if an enemy or even a teammate blocks one of the queued buildings? Then the queue is ruined. What if you want to insert buildings in your queue? You'll have to requeue everything. And because of how ORA works you'll be often requeueing. In the end you'll still end up needing to babysit the system, that is not going away. And most importantly how will UI look like? I already see a ton of problems with implementing it.
This is a nice whataboutism, but irrelevant. If one of your buildings is getting killed then the queue's are deleted. This is no different than your last Barracks being destroyed deleting the infantry queue's you had, or if your techplant is taken out that the relevant techs can be canceled. And you could also disallow friendly units to occupy the building template you've placed, or you could simply prevent placement until the unit moves. These are simple solutions to a problem you are trying to build up, but why are you trying to build that problem up?

The difference, once again, is the timing. You can spend less time on managing a queue because you don't have to wait for each individual building to be completed before placing it and the next one starting. All disadvantages this system might run into are the same disadvantages you would run into if you do not have this system. So all that the system offers is more freedom on when you choose to spend time on building your base and when you are busy with other things.
Let's not forget that because queueing will be the most optimal play everyone who wants to play competitively will be forced to do it. And I don't think that it's worth doing due to the unwanted bagage it brings
What unwanted baggage? Why would this be a bad thing? Why are you trying to make a problem out of this? It's like saying "oh dear the ability to queue multiple infantry in one go is the competitive way and everyone will be forced to do it". Well yes... And? I don't think there's a lot of people who complain about the ability to queue vehicles and infantry in OpenRA where in the original Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert you could not. So why would queueing buildings suddenly be a disaster with "unwanted baggage"? Again: What unwanted baggage would that be?
As for land bridges I don't have much to say. How would it work exactly? The UI, the keyboard shortcuts and the exact logic units would need to do? etc
Have you seen this button at the top right just below the map screen?

Image

That button is used to build waypoints in Tiberian Sun. Why I have to tell you about this button's existance is a miracle to me, but these landbridges would work almost the exact same. In fact, if you read the OP you would have gotten the explanation already. You place the first "waypoint" and then create a second "waypoint", these are now linked just like normal waypoints would. You can select a transport vehicle and give a move order on this waypoint, which will make it wait near this point.
Any unit that can be carried by this transport unit and is given a move order on this waypoint would go into a cycle: The unit enters the transport (in Caryall's case the Caryall will pick it up, if necessary only when the target is within a certain distance of the waypoint). Then the transport unit will move to the other side and unload the units, after which it will move back.

Dune actually already has a similar system in place, where the transport aircraft can pick up a full Spice Harvester and bring it to the refinery, so a lot of the code is at least partially in the game already.
Last edited by Demigan on Wed Aug 05, 2020 6:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Demigan
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by Demigan »

SirCake wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:49 am
Well Demigan,
just stop lamenting and git gud then, if you can't click fast enough RTS obviously is not for you.
I'm not lamenting about how good I am at clickspeed. Clickspeed is an OK form of RTS gameplay. I am lamenting the fact that RTS's have only clickspeed gameplay as the most important trait players can acquire.

SirCake
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Re: Less micro more strategy

Post by SirCake »

At most sports you'd have to acquire a basic level of fitness to compete. In Badminton for example that would be endurance and quickness, while techniques like drops and smashes are advanced.

I think that could translate to strategy games as clicking fast is basic, hotkey usage, buildorder and map knowledge is advanced. Or something like that.

I'm not sure how a strategy game could work if you didn't have to input commands for each unit individually. The main idea is that you are in charge of everything, so...
Less clickspeed could only work if you delegate commands to others/the AI an thereby lose control over things. Or if the game itself is slower, but that makes the game more boring and opens it up to even more microable situations.

DotA is maybe a bad example, but basically the units get auto generated and auto move and attack into each other and you get to control one unit. DotA surely is a strategic game, but surely not a strategy game.

Also if you introduce more mechanics to "save clicks" like your transport idea that won't do anything, the faster player will still be able to do more in other microable areas. It like a self regulating cycle, it will always run a the same speed in the end.

If you "dumb down " your game (which you don't want if I understand correctly) you can limit the maximum a player can do with his actions. A lower "skill cap". But RTS players want options and complexity and somehow the possible decisions must be fed into the computer, in real time, by clicks... other way out if this is TBS.

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