advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

It may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but I would like help finding direction before I begin modding

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Midnight_Carnival
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advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

Hello.
I am someone who has not modded anything really before, let alone Open RA. I would like to start by making an Open RA Red Alert mod intended to make for more strategic multiplayer games amongst family and friends.

This is normally the kind of thread which attracts a lot of comments like “what have you actually done? Have you considered how ambitious your project is, do you know what this will entail?” and of course “Don't expect anyone to make this for you! If you have done something, then sure, someone might collaborate or contribute, but don't expect someone to just do this all for you for free – people who have the skills and time to do this have their own projects already...”
To circumvent this, I think I need to be very specific about what I am asking for help with right now.

Naturally I would be delighted by anyone giving advice, donating images and code etc... but that is not what I am asking for help with here.

I would like to make a mod which involves 1) altering the properties of existing RA units and structures and 2) adding my own new RA units and structures (making alterations to the Ais as needed”. Apart from the technical difficulties (yes, I have a fairly good idea of how much work I am getting myself into and how difficult this is – which is why I am not asking for contributions or opening with “how do I...?” questions) the biggest challenge I anticipate is to do with balancing the sides.

Red Alert (original) was unbalanced, the Soviets are overpowered and the Allies are sneaky and more mobile. It worked because there wasn't a “best” side to play as, it was dependant on your style and how cleverly you used your resources.
Open RA Red Alert has been re(un)balanced differently in order to (I theorise) make for better multiplayer games, faster pace and everything adjusted so that sides don't have advantages the other can't counter.
Modding the Open RA version in order to make a more strategic game would very easily make the gameplay either completely unbalanced (if you want to win just play as X side) or it would balance it, which in my opinion would make the game boring and less like Red Alert.

In another game I would think it better to first make the changes and then balance them – here I am not so sure. I would like to ask for advice on and discuss options for changes which would not “ruin” this game first and then see about how I can actually implement them, if I need to tweak those again, so be it. I feel that I need direction re what to do before I can begin the difficult process of learning to mod and create suitable graphics because this will allow me to prioritise better and know what I need to learn. Just making stuff and then trying to get it to work might not help.
I'm basing this off something I created (but wasn't satisfied with) a while back using red maximus or something on my other RA but ORA gives me much more freedom to create and adapt.

Ok, so I want the gameplay to be more cumbersome and what you build when to be a strategic choice, not just an arms race. I don't want to have it so there are equivelents for each unit or structure on the Allied and Soviet side, but rather – in the spirit of the original RA – that things remain unbalanced but still work in a mongoose and cobra way.

Midnight_Carnival
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

<...continued...>

On the Allied sides, I want to make the light tanks faster and cheaper with higher rate of fire, a more swarm like unit, rather than a stepping stone to medium tanks,
I want medium tanks to be slightly faster and do more damage,
I want artillery to have a longer range with heavier area damage, but be weaker (very short sight range, so not suitable for front lines)
Then most of the units would be the same except I am toying with the idea of adding a Hurricane fighter-bomber with bomb ground attack and AA gun air attack, otherwise similar to soviet Yak, but slightly slower and perhaps slightly tougher (not sure how historically accurate that is).

With the Allied buildings, I want to add a magazine which you need to build medium tanks and artillery (with radar dome) as well as maybe turrets and cruisers
I would like to add a computer facility for all the chrono stuff and gap stuff and then give the Allies a hydro power plant which can only be built on water, but is very cheap and produces slightly more power than the normal power plant.
I want to add a defensive structure, a mortar, which would be fairly quick and cheap to build, have a long range and do ok damage but have a very long reload time and shoot like the cruiser, as in it would be difficult to hit moving ground units.
I might also make the AA guns have a faster rate of fire.
With the naval units I'd mostly leave them the same, only I'd increase the range and damage on gunboats and cruisers, but give them a slower rate of fire.

I was also thinking of engineers on both sides able to detect cloaked units and mines

On the Soviet sides, I want to change things in complimentary ways.
I would like to add an electronics facility (which eats power) which any kind of rocket/missile or tesla unit or sturcture needs. You'd also need radar for mobile flak (which I'd possibly slow down a bit and make weaker).
You'd need a machine shop (also heavy on power) for the heavy tanks (instead of the repair bay), the mammoth tank, V2, all aircraft and subs.
Similar to RA2, the soviets would have the option to build a very expensive and slow to build nuclear power plant which would solve all their power problems, but it would be very weak and explode like 5 demo trucks. I was thinking that perhaps the Allied spy could cause a melt-down on infiltrating it.

With the units, I would consider removing the MAD tank and perhaps the demo truck, as well as adding a banshee which would be a rocket launcher pretty similar to the GDI one, only quite weak (needs electronics facility) and a patrol boat (built at sub pen) which is non-cloaked and weak with fairly pitiful attack but can deploy devastating sea mines (cloaked).
As with the Allied artillery, the V2 would be given a much longer range and very heavy damage over a wider area (it could probably kill buildings like barracks or power plant in 1 shot and if used on the front line would certainly destroy itself) but I would increase the time it took to get ready and give in a ridiculously slow rate of fire, I'd also make it much slower. My idea was that it would make building GAP generators a good idea if you are playing as Allied. V2s wouldn't be able to snipe out your whole base.
Heavy tanks would be tougher and slower and mammoth tanks would be all round better.

The result I am looking for would be a slower paced more strategic game which many would find frustrating but which makes the tech-tree less linear and offers more options.

I'm eager to hear any suggestions and opinions (apart from that the game is fine as is and I shouldn't even consider modding it) but especially any related to how I could balance things better in my newer version. Disregarding practical limitations set by my unfamiliarity with coding and making graphics yet, any ideas for things I should include or leave out are welcome, as well as degrees to which I should change things. If you have new units or structures to suggest that is also welcome (although, naturally don't count on me to make them for you in a hurry if you want to use them yourself since I am learning the ropes right now).

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Punsho
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Punsho »

Heya, you seem you're pretty new when in comes to making games. I'd like to clear a few things up.

This subgenre of rts games is not very familly friendly. You have to get intimate with game dynamics & mechanics in order to play at a decent level, those who have more experience / knowledge with this genre or the game itself will simply win, overwhelmingly. There isn't much one can do but invest a ton of time and "git gud"

You contradict yourself a ton here. I don't want to be disrespectful but you seem to not understand what balance means, at all, and have very little knowledge about how openra ra works. I find it hard to describe how hard most of your statements are contradicting eachother, but I see what you want to do. OpenRA is currently assymetrically balanced, both factions have different units that have varied strenghts and weaknesses. You seem to want more assymetry, you feel like it's not enough. You also want units to be much more devastating.That may just be your taste, in that case it's fine, but I think it goes much deeper. In short you barelly know the balnace and mechanics of openra and the original thus making incorrect conclusions about what makes them great and what are their downfalls. There isn't really much more I can write about it. You just need to spend much more time playing and analysing. It's as simple as that.

Midnight_Carnival
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

Thank you Punsho your your lifestyle advice and for taking time to show me that this community is interested in putting people in their place from the get go. When I need advice on why I suck at playing Red Alert I will come straight to you.

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netnazgul
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by netnazgul »

Hello.

A lot of things you mention doesn't take much engine knowledge to implement, requiring only YAML tweaks. Most of the stuff is even doable with a map modification over the OpenRA RA; doing changes directly in mod YAML files is easier, but with a mapmod it's much easier to involve other people in testing.

Can't comment much on the actual "I want this or that" stuff without repeating Punsho; also it's hard [for me] to envision how the stuff would work with that setting without trying it.

Core thing that you miss from your theorycrafting is how production works, as this has much greater impact on game pace than individual units or buildings. For example you can compare current RA mod production (%% bonus for additional production facilities) with TD mod production (independent production queue for each facility) - these are entirely different and make TD scaling much faster. Another example is D2K mod which has more production tiers and facility upgrades, thus considerably decreasing the speed of acquiring high-tech gameplay. You can also force the strategic choice of players with branching upgrades/techtrees (something that Generals implement) where you take a development path that either cannot be changed or will take considerable time/resources to do so.

Speaking of resources, economy is another core factor for how the game is played. How much time it takes to accumulate resources, how much time and resources is spent on different targets is crucial.

All in all, I'd say you need to start from core things and then only think about various units you'd want in the game, otherwise it won't do much difference and your mod will be just same stuff with units swap.

Midnight_Carnival
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

Thank you very much.

I get that this is a tough ask - I mean asking for help of this kind before making anything is kind of a bit like asking for help with hue and saturation levels in an image before even starting the image - so any opinion other than "that's dumb, you're dumb" is valued.
Core thing that you miss from your theorycrafting is how production works, as this has much greater impact on game pace than individual units or buildings. For example you can compare current RA mod production (%% bonus for additional production facilities) with TD mod production (independent production queue for each facility) - these are entirely different and make TD scaling much faster. Another example is D2K mod which has more production tiers and facility upgrades, thus considerably decreasing the speed of acquiring high-tech gameplay. You can also force the strategic choice of players with branching upgrades/techtrees (something that Generals implement) where you take a development path that either cannot be changed or will take considerable time/resources to do so.
Could you expand on this a little please?

Midnight_Carnival
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

...
sorry, quick new guy question.
Is this the place only and specifically for people working on official mods which they plan to share as part of the OpenRA canon thing?
If so I am sorry, I was not trying to contribute to the game as a whole or make something I wanted everyone to use.
I was asking for guidance with a personal project.
Feel free to move this thread to discussion or wherever if this is not supposed to be here.

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WhoCares
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by WhoCares »

"How" and "how fast" you get stuff is more important than -How you use stuff-.

You can adapt and improve your usage of units to a certain point. production is always down to maths and kinda written in stone by your design. Someone understanding the production/economy mechanism will always have a better advantage. That would be a very important aspect to consider in your mod.

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netnazgul
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by netnazgul »

Midnight_Carnival wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 9:09 am
...
sorry, quick new guy question.
Is this the place only and specifically for people working on official mods which they plan to share as part of the OpenRA canon thing?
If so I am sorry, I was not trying to contribute to the game as a whole or make something I wanted everyone to use.
I was asking for guidance with a personal project.
Feel free to move this thread to discussion or wherever if this is not supposed to be here.
Not at all, this is exactly the place to discuss any modifications related to OpenRA project, foremost including "third-party" mods (as opposed to "official" - included in release package - mods, which are TD, RA, D2K (also sometimes called "Gen1 mods") and TS (Gen2 mod)). Another place, less structured and more fast-paced, can be official Discord server.
Midnight_Carnival wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 9:00 am
Could you expand on this a little please?
Not really sure what's to expand here, also WhoCares pinpointed it as well. You were talking about the pace of the game and making it more "strategic" (whatever that means, as you don't really elaborate), but then only touch unit design when discussing specifics. Yet, unit design itself has less impact on the game pace than economy part.

Midnight_Carnival
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

WhoCares wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 9:14 am
"How" and "how fast" you get stuff is more important than -How you use stuff-.

You can adapt and improve your usage of units to a certain point. production is always down to maths and kinda written in stone by your design. Someone understanding the production/economy mechanism will always have a better advantage. That would be a very important aspect to consider in your mod.
:lol: Thanks, now I am understanding the kind of reactions I am getting (mostly people seem to be saying "don't do it!").

Ok, so I am not a competitive person, I don't care who is better than who or how often I win or if making my mod would give me an edge over other players.
Think of it as me saying " I want to mod RA so it has pokemon and fluffy unicorns in" - most people won't want to know anything about that, which I respect. The issue for me is not whether ORA needs these changes or whether players will like them and my mod will become popular, it is how I can make this work in my mod which I will play and maybe I might occasionally be able to beg or bully a friend or family member into playing with me.

So my idea IS to make a mod in which the game speed, economy, etc are totally different.
netnazgul wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:55 am
You were talking about the pace of the game and making it more "strategic" (whatever that means, as you don't really elaborate), but then only touch unit design when discussing specifics. Yet, unit design itself has less impact on the game pace than economy part.
I feel (yes, I can tell my opinion won't go down well with many) that with my admittedly limited multiplayer experience, multiplayer RA often comes down to an arms race. I know there might be some who -use for example- mine layers very cleverly in a multiplayer game or people who cunningly flank with rifle infantry, but for the most part it's a lot of racing to out-gun other players.
It is precisely because there is an element which comes down to maths that I want to change things up in my mod.

I want to introduce tech tree forks. I was thinking of doing this by adding expensive, slow to build structures which use a lot of power into the tech tree.
So why in gods name would I want to do that?
I'll explain with the example (subject to revision) of the changes I planned to make with the Soviet sides.

Instead of a repair depot, you'd need a machine shop to build heavy tanks and other heavy units, for telsa coils, etc you'd need an electronics factory. The problem is that I pictured these structures as being similar to the war factory in size, cost and build time (probably will need to tweak that) - size is also a factor, as you would now need even more power plants. So if you are just sitting there on your own, you can do things as and when you like, but against another player you would need to make a choice, am I going for heavy attacking units first or for base defence first.
Elements of such strategy are present in the vanilla Red Alert, but I want to emphasise them more.
Make it more clumsy and harder/slower to play.

As with unicorns and pokemon, I don't expect you to fall in love with me over things I am suggesting in my mod, but I hope this sort of explains why and how to a greater extent.
Also, I don't think I need to add that I am not planning to make this mod because I am unhappy with ORA.
Thank you.

[edit] I should work on how I phrase things as I feel like I am repeating a lot of what I said in the first posts [/edit]

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Graion Dilach
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Graion Dilach »

My suggestion would be to just go and do your things first then look at balance later. Balancing is just bikeshedding on stats and the design matters more.

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Wippie
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Wippie »

I dont think balance will be that important when there is no meta being developed by competitive players. He just wants to create options. Im not sure why you wouldnt give for example Dune or Shattered Paradise a try instead

prawda
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by prawda »

Midnight_Carnival wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 2:45 pm
Ok, so I am not a competitive person, I don't care who is better than who or how often I win or if making my mod would give me an edge over other players.
Think of it as me saying " I want to mod RA so it has pokemon and fluffy unicorns in" - most people won't want to know anything about that, which I respect. The issue for me is not whether ORA needs these changes or whether players will like them and my mod will become popular, it is how I can make this work in my mod which I will play and maybe I might occasionally be able to beg or bully a friend or family member into playing with me.

So my idea IS to make a mod in which the game speed, economy, etc are totally different.
Well, there are different levels of game design. You were talking a lot about "how units do things" as others pointed out correctly already. Then you were told, that there is a higher level (or say more abstract), where you look at "how units", so basically the productionQueue is a big thing here. RTS games differ a lot on this level. There are games that scale exponentially like Total Annihliation/Supreme Commander/Rusted Warfare, there are games that scale more linearly (with a cap) like Starcraft / Warcraft and there are games that scale sublinear like ORA or classic C&C games. I'd call this the economic scaling if looking at production or the warfare scaling if looking at how big armies get etc.
There is something on a similar level of abstraction that has a lot of connections to scaling and this is micro/macro/tactic/strategy game. I think for you it might make sense to zoom out even more, but let's shortly discuss this. Micromanagement is how much you can improve your game by individually moving units around, withdraw single units and order specific units to attack units which are weak vs them. Macro is how much you can improve your game by building a lot of units fast, increasing your production capacities, gathering more ressources, attack from different positions with huge armies, being able to overlook many parts of the map. These 2 aspects depend on APM, the actions per minute, how fast a player can click (meaningful) things. Tactic is basically positioning, understanding when to attack, when to withdraw, which units to put to the front etc., it transitions into strategy when it comes to, what units to build, how to counter your opponent, when/where to scout, tech vs. expand vs. rush and how to make big decisions, which have impact over long time spans. The latter 2 do not depend on how fast you can click, but rather how much you understand the game mechanics and are able to predict your opponent.

If you want your game to be less competitive and more "nice to the family" it might make sense to stay away from apm-heavy features. So the benefit of strong micro- and macrogame should not be too great. Very micro-heavy games are Warcraft and Starcraft, macro-heavy is Age of Empires or the Supreme Commander/Total Annihilation/Rusted Warfare world. How do these games achieve these priorities? In the Starcraft universe the units have a lot of HP and take longer to build, which allows to withdraw them before they die, they often have HP regeneration, which makes withdrawing of individual units more rewarding etc. in the other games though, units are stupid, take long time to turn around and die fast. This makes efforts to save single units often pointless. Units are more like cannon-fodder than valuable pieces. So spending time to save them is wasted time, in AoE you are better off building more units and increasing economy than saving a few. Ok and how to avoid macro-heavy game style? Well, it mostly means that you cannot really increase your production capacities and there are not many angles from which it makes sense to attack. In Warcraft this can be seen more than in starcraft, where expanding is very necessary. But in Wc3 many games end without any expansion build and it is very rare to see 3 expansions running for a player at the same time. Also the benefits of splitting your army are marginal. Mostly you want to win a big fight, where your army as a whole participates.
So now the next question is: Is it possible to reduce both? Yes, sure, if you have weak cannon-fodder units and limited ability to scale at the same time. The fun fact comes now: In ra mod of openRA this is very strongly realized. Scaling of production is very limited, even if you build lots of facilities (7) you only get a speed up of factor 2. Also the units are either cannon-fodder or turn around very slowly like Mammoth. However you still seem to want to go more into that direction:
In the history of RTS a big step in that direction was taken when MOBA games were designed. They took out all units of Wc3 to focus on a single hero unit. You need a lot less APM to play League of Legends on a high level compared to Starcraft. This is because you only control a single units, therefore timing and teamplay becomes more important. Another recent step in that direction are the AutoBattlers like Dota Underlords, Autochess and all other clones of that. There is no Micro- or Macromanagement left. It is only tactics and strategy.

All of this brings me back to what I quoted from you, you want to make a mod, which is not competitive. The big problem is that in RTS the main goal is to destroy the opponent. And this always leads to competitive play. So even though a game might not need APM, thus you only have to learn its mechanics, it is still competitive. Someone who understands a lot more about AutoChess will still crush you and give you a bad experience. So maybe you have to zoom out again and instead of asking "how units" ask yourself "how":
Is the goal of destroying the opponent really a good goal?
Maybe you can reach your game design desires by changing the goal. A very good example is tower defense. Being a mod/map of RTS games, still TD is not really competitive, because you play together to defeat streams of incoming monsters. Sure there are variants where you send monsters to each other, but I guess you get the point. So maybe you need another ultimate purpose of playing your mod than crushing the opponent. Maybe have a look at games like Factorio/Rimworld, where you build things like in RTS, but it's not about crushing your (human) opponent.

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netnazgul
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by netnazgul »

I feel like OP intentions were mainly "A mod to play with family and friends", not "Family-and-friends-oriented mod". So I guess the level of competitiveness should be about the same, but slower paced than current RA mod.

Midnight_Carnival
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Re: advice on (un/)balancing proposed game mod

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

netnazgul wrote:
Thu Mar 12, 2020 5:53 pm
I feel like OP intentions were mainly "A mod to play with family and friends", not "Family-and-friends-oriented mod". So I guess the level of competitiveness should be about the same, but slower paced than current RA mod.
?

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