Total War Type Battles

To Grid or not to Grid

By on August 27, 2009 6:00:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

RavenX

Join Date 10/2008
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I'm gonna guess the battle field and unit placement will be handled in grids and units formations will be standardized. I think though it would be far cooler if the battles were more free form like the Total War series does them. This would be amazing. How you position your troops and spread your lines could make a huge difference on the outcome of battle. Troops designed to stand and defend could be spread in a line that is two or three flanks deep depending on how many men you have available. Mounted units could charge in wedge formation instead of as a square all the time. I love games like this but it gets lame telling a unit to attack and the men you have left in that unit attack the same way again and again. Look at a game called Elven Legacy to see what I mean. I thought this game would be more of a Fantasy Version of Total War when I first saw it but sadly even though the battles look cool it's standard unit attack unit in the same way. Formations count for nothing...

By eliminating the Grid type battle field you free up your units to much better control and strategy can stand a lot more use in combat. A weaker force can out match a stronger force by using better formations and using the terrain to it's advantage instead of "I click on this unit and it attacks in the same formation every time". Thoughts?

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August 27, 2009 6:14:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well i have also always wanted a fantasy type Total War. But i think WoM is not meant to be that. I hope though that WoM well still have sufficient depth to the battle tactics. Example, taking into account terrain and unit facing as well as morale and fatigue.

If you want to try a fantasy themed (emphasis on themed only) Total War i recall there was a Lord of the Rings mod for total War.

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August 27, 2009 6:45:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There are LOTR mods for both RTW and M2TW if you are interested.

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August 27, 2009 2:03:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think the resources that are needed for a TW clone are better invested in correcting everything the TW games fail at: namely, everything but the battles. 

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August 27, 2009 4:25:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I wonder how much time would need to be spent on the AI in a gridless combat system to make it challenging or intelligent?  The battles have always been the best part of TW games, but the AI has always sucked.  We've all killed full-stack enemy armies, over and over, using the same tactics and lost seven guys (particularly bad in Rome).  They left tactical combat aside in GalCiv2 because making the AI not suck would have been difficult and I imagine the MoM/HoMM style combat they've got is much easier from this perspective.

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August 27, 2009 9:42:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

An AI for the grid system seen in screenshots thus far is much easier to make than in Total War games.

Hell, even Empire: Total War fairly sub-par battle AI, and it had a dedicated team devoted to nothing but the AI.

As much as I would love a fantasy total war game, this is not that game.

 

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August 28, 2009 2:50:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

IMHO:

Oh my god, please don't do this. Total War battles are incredible boring. Sure nice to look at, but thats all to it.

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August 28, 2009 7:22:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I really liked the total war style battles. At least in RTW the only one I played. But they did tend to get excessively long and dull eventually. But I think that is a common problem for tactical battles in general.

The other big issue is the AI sucking. I think this compounds the first problem because it comes to the point where you're thinking "OMG I'm so tired of fighting this huge stack of enemy armies. The same strategy I used last time will work this time but it took me 30min to do the battle and I don't want to go through it all over agian when I already know how to win. And yet if I choose auto resolve I will lose. What to do? What to do?"

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August 31, 2009 1:31:48 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would rather have a challenging battle AI on a grid system then an incompenent AI on a free map system. grid battle systems can work great too.

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August 31, 2009 4:13:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

it cert looks like it's grid all the way, though I will agree with someone above in that I've been waiting for a "fantasy" Total War for some time.  Closest I got was Mark of Chaos, etc, with Warhammer.  But a Fantasy Total War type RTS portion of the game, especially with moddable terrain and a few thousand units, and wizards, dragons able to do insane damage? Yes plz.

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August 31, 2009 4:16:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Bootss1,
I would rather have a challenging battle AI on a grid system then an incompenent AI on a free map system. grid battle systems can work great too.

QFT.  While I would love a free-form map system, I wouldn't want it at the cost of the battle AI being less capable.  If I were forced to choose, I'd go with whatever helps make the AI better. 

 

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August 31, 2009 4:38:56 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Frankly no AI that I've ever come across, except in chess, can do squat against a slightly better than average human.  Without cheating that is.

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August 31, 2009 9:50:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

true, but usually that seems to be because they were developing a flashy game instead of making an AI that won't trip over it's own laces

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September 4, 2009 4:26:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

For what it's worth, my vote goes for the grids/turn-based battles.

Franbo

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September 4, 2009 8:18:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One merit of your post that hasn't yet been discussed is the strategic use of formations.  There's no reason grid-based combat can't use formations.  Like you suggested you could easily have offensive and defensive "stances" Such as wedge and line formation.  I think one thing ETW did well was give you lots of different formation options.  They weren't always implemented well, and I'll be the first to admit that I didn't use or even understand all of them, but I'd imagine giving a unit of Calvary +1 offense and -1 defense when using the wedge formation isn't a totally unreasonable addition to a turn-based combat system.

 

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September 4, 2009 11:36:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I personally find that grid based system actually entail greater strategy than free form maps.  The only time I've ever had even a minor challenges on a free form map was with Warhammer Mark of Chaos--- and even then it was only because each scenario was carefully choreographed. 

I expect that WOM battles will always be fresh because of the diversity of units that we will encounter from battle to battle--- forcing you to reinvent new strategies each time.  In the Total War Series, you generally always faught against the same group of soldiers each fight in roughly the same formation, and the inevitable break-the-side-flanks and envelop strategy would ensue,  I don't think we'll have to worry about WOM battles getting dull, seeing as how MOM battles are still pretty fresh to me over a decade later.

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September 4, 2009 1:20:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I personally find that grid based system actually entail greater strategy than free form maps.

I don't agree. I think the strategy required is just very different. And I think grid-based combat tends to be even more predictable than free-map combat. Take HoMM, for example, or King's Bounty. After playing any of those games for a couple weeks, I can predict exactly where each enemy unit will move and what it will do - with an accuracy rate of 95% or even higher. And when you know what's going to happen to such an extent, it's pretty easy to figure out what you should do. And it provides you with a huge advantage over the AI, which generally has no clue what your next moves are going to be.

People often complain about how easy it is to defeat equal or greater opponents in Total War games while taking minimal casualties yourself... But I actually think that's a greater problem in games like HoMM and King's Bounty. To take HoMM specifically, I could utterly annihilate enemy armies three times the size of mine with a superior hero and take almost no losses! And if you know what you're doing, you almost never have to adjust your strategy mid-match. For all but the handful of end-game battles, I could plan out at the first round exactly where every troop on the field (mine and the enemies) would go and what it would do - and pretty much the only times I made a mistake was due to the RNG producing extreme values.

Compare this to games with free-field combat like Total War, or even RTSs (even though the latter, at least, isn't a perfect analogy). I could often predict the overall flow of battles in these games, but never to the same precision as in grid-based combat. The result is that I have to deal with the unexpected much more often, and I have to reevaluate my strategy on some level, even if it's just in the details. Maybe I didn't expect those charging troops to break through my defensive line and didn't prepare adequately for it, for example. Or maybe the terrain is such that my normal strategy isn't quite applicable or results in something playing out differently than I expected. 

Sure, there is strategy involved in mapping out the exact course of a battle, and in particular determining how to influence it in a way to minimize your losses. But there is just as much strategy in free-field combat where you can't always determine exactly what's going to happen or how it's going to happen - you have to adjust for the unforeseen or unexpected more often, and that is simply another kind of strategy. Personally, I enjoy both kinds. However, Brad Wardell has gotten it into my head that we'll have combat like the Battle of Five Armies in the Hobbit, and the Battle of Dagorland at the end of the 2nd Age in Middle-Earth. Watching such battles play out in a free-field combat system would be far more engaging and aesthetically pleasing than in a grid-based system. The biggest reason for this is probably that in free-field combat, everything is happening all at once - it feels real, while in grid-based combat the armies just stand there staring at each other most of the time...

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September 4, 2009 1:47:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One vote for hex based grids and turn based battles.  I have always been fond of hex based grids in computer games.  It gives a bit more of an organic feel and brings me back to the PnP days.

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September 4, 2009 11:16:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Agreed pigeon, although I take on 3x my size armies in the TW games on a pretty regular basis.  Attack is a little difficult with those numbers, but defense is a breeze.  Especially Rome, god those wardogs are cheesy...

 

Grids can work nicely, but one thing you have to get away from is these cramped, simplistic settings.  The biggest limitation in them is that they're always so damn small.  When you actually have terrain between you and the enemy, and by terrain I mean terrain that means a damn, you can set up a defensive line at a favorable position.  Even with grids, it could be a thousand times better than combat in the HoMM series just by having a decent fucking map.  Brush, trees, the occasional river, slopes, rock versus grass, it should all play an effect, and you should never be starting a couple moves from each other.  It should take a move or two just to get the archers within range, and they should be able to shoot at targets three or four moves away, so being ranged isn't just a different attack mechanic.

 

It may be nice for making the combat go faster, but it's bloody useless for actually having tactics.

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September 5, 2009 12:49:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

He! he! Just to add my 2 cents on the debate about grid based/turn based versus free form/real time maps. Both modes are capable of providing greath depth in strategy.

However, when i compare TW games versus MoM, TW wins hands down in terms of strategic depth. Flanking manouvers, higher ground advantages, morale, fatigue, cavalry charges, defensive formations. All provides excellent tactical depth when compared to the simple combat mechanics of MoM.

Of course, MoM is real old and today there is a host of grid based/turn based tactical games that have vastly improved on the formula. Good examples for references are Final Fantasy Tactics and Fantasy Wars.

But as mentioned one of the biggest problems with grid based/turn based systems is its predictability. A vast majority of the time i actually feel like i am playing chess. Constantly pre calculating my moves and the opponents moves.

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September 8, 2009 7:20:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

isn't stardock going to comment about all this?  I'm just wondering what stardock is planning.

Personally, I'd love to see a free-map type battle system, with varied terrain that can drasticly change the face of a battle.

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September 9, 2009 11:39:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting SavageBananaMan34,
I think the resources that are needed for a TW clone are better invested in correcting everything the TW games fail at: namely, everything but the battles. 

ROFLMAO

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September 10, 2009 6:43:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

isn't stardock going to comment about all this? I'm just wondering what stardock is planning.

Well, they can't comment on everything off course, and I guess their first priority at the moment is to get the beta done. Once the beta is out, we'll probably get a lot more information and the discussion on features like this will really start heating up...

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September 10, 2009 2:41:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I honestly think that TW style battles have no place in elemental. They just take too long to play out and slows the game down way too much for the flow of a 4X strat game.  I say this also having purchased every TW game ever made and playing them a ton. I find them fun, but it just does not fit for this game type.

One of the big problems in TW battles are organzing your units and getting them to move in formation. It's more annoying then anything, I feel I spend most of the time micromanaging the frontage of my formation moving slighty left so that the whole mass of troops doesnt breakdown via a misclick. When that happens I then have to pause the game, and then click /drag out each unit to go where it is supposed to be.

I keep hearing elemental combat will be similar to xcom. What I can guess from that is that units will have a bunch of actions points they can use per turn, and you'll be able to move and attack at varying costs to your AP on the unit. A game like this is best played on a grid.

If they want to include formations, that will probably be included in some type of stacking bonus. It could just be you research say 'turtle shell' formation for your guys and then you click it on as an ability and they get +5 def -3 movment or something. Or it could just be simple ajacency bonus, every unit standing next to the attacker gives it +1 attack, or somethign like that.

A real time battle system would just not fit this game.

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September 10, 2009 9:09:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A real time battle system would just not fit this game.

You said that so matter-of-factly that I almost agreed with you for a moment!

I think TW-style tactical combat (with actual pathfinding, though) would be amazing in this game. I get such a visceral feeling even thinking about watching my enemy's hordes slamming into my godlike channeler and the light show and human rain that would follow Or that "Oh shit oh shit oh shit!" moment watching your enemy's dragon marching inexorably towards your own forces... Mmmm.

I just can't imagine getting that same feeling in a grid-based combat system. Especially if only one or two units are actually doing anything at any given time. The result of that is pretty flat... It stops feeling like battle and starts feeling like futuristic chess. Which can be fun, of course - I do enjoy grid-based combat, but for Elemental I'd rather have that visceral feeling I get in TW-like combat.

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September 12, 2009 5:22:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If combat happened simultaneously after turn end, and was managed across the board, you'd have no slow down from a total war style system.  Whatever preset commands you've chosen and what the management AI would be doing could be supplemented by interference, and what you didn't get around to personally would work itself out.

 

I can't imagine having enough combat going on simultaneously that I'd be taxed by managing even a significantly truncated system that only spent around five minutes on the battle phase.  Most of TW combat is after all just watching, you've got maybe a minutes worth of necessary mouse action for commanding your thirty minute battle between thousands of men.

 

I'd probably prefer a grid myself, just for sake of simplicity in management and control, but it's not for the sake of flow.  I'm envisioning a game where units have thrown weapons they unleash before a charge to render the enemy shield formation useless by weighing down the shields with soft copper shafted spears stuck in them.  It would be all kinds of badass for tactical complexity, and it would take hours to do that five minutes when you had three or four large scale invasion forces throwing themselves at fortified installations.  Obviously I know I'll never get such a game unless I make it myself.

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