Considering game development and am in need of advice

By on May 14, 2010 12:48:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


Join Date 05/2007

I'm thinking about making a TBS game, and thought this would be the place to ask if I had a workable concept.  If anyone's up for reading six pages of game outline, I would very much appreciate the constructive criticism.  Thank you in advance.

Note: I'm aware that it's pretty much long, backbreaking work from here on out.  I'm pretty sure I can tackle it as a hobby and not worry too much about finishing quickly.  I was fortunate enough to take some computer programming courses years ago, so I have a good idea of what programming entails, but managing anything borderline-professional will take a lot of reasearch.


Chibi Wars (Working title) has three resources: Gold, Food (supplies?  Two different resources?) and Mana.  Gold is spent on buildings and recruits, while mana is spent on spells.  Bad things happen to places with no supplies.


Buildings can produce mana, supplies, or gold.  They can also improve the troop training capabilities of the province they’re built in, or provide static defenses.  Provinces have a limited amount of space for buildings.  If you want a province to have the highest-end troops or extremely high mana production, it probably won’t be able to support itself.  If adjacent provinces have roads, they can share supplies as necessary and movement between the two is quicker.


Provinces are comprised of populations, which have a few stats: number, loyalty, and civilization.  Number stays small; two-three hundred for the largest provinces (maybe less?).  Number determines productivity, and decreases appropriately when you recruit troops.   Loyalty influences productivity and edicts.  A particularly low loyalty prevents recruitment, and can cause uprisings and evacuations.  Populations have a base loyalty to each faction, so demons and undead will have to do some serious oppressing to get anything out of their people.  Civilization influences buildings, troops and edicts available.  Populations also like (or dislike) other populations, which can affect loyalty and maybe cause infighting.  Some populations, such as shapeshifters and ninjas (Though I don’t think “ninja” is an ethnicity, so bad example), can be hidden or disguised as different populations.  


There can be more than one type of population in a single province.  Standard humans, for example, are split into male and female populations for recruitment purposes.  There can also be mixed-race provinces.  Different populations have different effects, and the population type determines the type of units you can recruit.  Generally, the larger the population being recruited from, the better the troops.  You’ll get better soldiers picking twenty from a large city than drafting every male in a town of forty.


Note: Maybe do a system more similar to Elemental, dividing up the map into tiles (or maybe points of interest) instead of provinces?  Would make more sense with the building-based construction system, but might be bothersome and would definitely be harder to code.  Provinces and building-based upgrades were never a problem for Shogun: Total War.




Combat takes place on a simple 2D map, with a scattering of obstacles if any and viewed from the side.  Units fight in real-time, but the player’s control is limited.  In a single-player campaign they can control spellcasting, and may be able to order troops to break their standard AI with a basic “move” command.  Standard troops require commanders to lead them, and commanders can only lead so many troops.  Morale is influenced by any number of things, and determines combat effectiveness and retreating.  When building an army, players can position their troops as they like and (maybe) give them a basic approach to the battle.  Alternatively, army-wide tactics (retreat when damaged etc) could be commander-based while general movements could be squad-based.




Edicts are the primary method of manipulating populations.  All edicts temporarily decrease their subjects’ loyalty (some more than others) to prevent them being abused, except for Charity which can cost gold and increase loyalty.  Some edicts also require a military presence.  Note that loyalty will regress to the base over time.



-Charity: Can be aimed at increasing loyalty or civilization.  Costs gold.  If aimed at civilizing, decreases the loyalty of less-than-civilized populations and requires a military presence.  In the grand scheme of things, the loyalty increase is only good for smaller disputes.

-Emigrate: Sends part of a population to the world map to settle down in a different province.

-Oppress:  Increases loyalty while decreasing base loyalty (to a point), depending on military presence.  Decreases population (not too much) depending on loyalty shift.  Alternatively, loyalty could be increased automatically by military presences.

-Patrol: Flushes hidden units/populations out into the open depending on military presence, and increases heat.

-Raid: Pillages and plunders, decreasing population (not too much unless you’re specifically trying to) and increasing gold based on military presence.  Can be aimed at getting more gold, decreasing civilization or exterminating one or more populations.

-Sacrifice: Decreases population, increases mana.   Maximum sacrifice depends on military presence.




You can get mana through certain buildings, or by sacrificing population.  No research for spells: if you have the mana, you can cast the spell.  Some spells can be cast on the world map, and others during battles.  Battle magic is devastating, but too expensive to spam for even a magic-based player.  During auto-battles, the player can permit a certain amount of mana to be used by the AI, that they will only use if they see fit.  You might need a mage in the army to use spells on the battlefield.  Every faction has its own spellbook, though not all spells are unique to a single faction.  Spells can play a large part in one’s grand strategy, but need support from rank-and-file troops for best effect.  Overland spells may or may not be limited to one a turn.



Campaigns are a unique series of win-conditions depending on faction.  Many of these win conditions aren’t mutually exclusive, so there is a potential for lasting alliances and more realistic motivations for the factions.  Five or more players are recommended for campaigns.  A Grand Alliance is an alliance-network encompassing every remaining faction, referred to in other such games as an Alliance Victory, and its presence ends the game.  A faction is considered subordinate to another one if they share a border and are one-third weaker, and a faction is considered dominant if it’s over one-third stronger (This doesn’t mean the other faction needs to be subordinate, since 150% as strong translates into 25% weaker).  If a faction manages to win a campaign before game over they will be removed from the game, their provinces will (generally) become very-well defended, and other unique effects will take place.  The other factions continue play.




Note: All names are tentative or outright placeholders.


-Onturia: Based on Arthurian legend.  Every tier of Onturian society is permeated by the ideals of chivalry.  Has the powerful Hero-King and Court Magician, but they’re difficult to replace and their deaths cause crippling morale penalties.  Onturia has powerful elite units, but crappy rank-and-file troops.  Their selection of magic is unique, but restricted due to their chivalric outlook.  Onturia can make use of powerful relics randomly distributed through the world.  Most civilized populations are very fond of Onturia, but take it extremely poorly if it uses its more aggressive edicts; maybe even if they’re not in the province being bullied.

Campaign win conditions: Undead and Vampires eliminated, all relics collected, non-subordinate in Grand Alliance.


Vizzinia: A feudal kingdom controlled by a cutthroat council of high mages.  In times of war, the mages themselves can take to the battlefield with powerful area-of-effect attacks, though their non-supernatural troops are mediocre.  Vizzinia has effective subterfuge units who know how to use gold.  The Vizzinians as a populace are generally discontent, and a prospective leader will need to treat them with kid gloves or do a very thorough job oppressing them.  Vizzinia has the largest spellbook of any faction, and are particularly good at manipulating other magical workings.

Campaign win conditions: Dominant in the Grand Alliance (consider changing)


Kingdom of the Winds: A samurai-inspired civilization that glorifies war.  Their soldiers are great across the board, and some of their high-ranking commanders weave magic into their swordfighting styles.  They have trouble fielding enough firepower to destroy the heavier units without magic.  They’re especially adept at controlling demons, and will sometimes bind demons into their weapons, armor or mounts.  They pay less to summon demons (all infernals?).  Their natives take raiding poorly, but are surprisingly tolerant about being sacrificed for mana.  They lack technical magic, focusing on elementalism and summoning.

Campaign win conditions: Dominant in the Grand Alliance


Colonia: The Most Sacred Dominion of Colonia employs missionaries that can convert other population types into Colonians.  Colonians hate being ruled by a faction other than Colonia, but are otherwise extremely laid-back and decent workers.  Note that populations don’t like being converted thusly, so missionaries are always glad to have an armed escort.  Ease of converting depends on previous loyalty.  Colonia can recruit its powerful Sacred units only if it has a suitable population of Colonians.  Colonia’s magic is restricted to spells that seem suitably holy.

Campaign win conditions: Dominant in the Grand Alliance


Stonemonger’s Guild: A union of dwarves hoping to exercise their market power on the world stage.  Stonemongers can create golems using only gold, allowing them to raise an army without taking such a large hit to their population.  However, dwarf populations are small compared to other races and golems are expensive to make.  Dwarves build tunnels instead of roads.  Tunnels are dark and cramped; ideal fighting conditions for Dwarves.  People can enter and exit tunnels only in mountainous terrain, and are considered hidden while in tunnels.  Various golems act as the core of the Stonemonger fighting force, accompanied by muskets and exotic siege weapons.  Every turn, Stonemongers get (2%?) interest on any leftover gold.  If a Stonemonger province is taken, the conquerors get ((Province’s dwarf population / Stonemonger dwarf population) * 100) percent of the Stonemongers’ gold stocks.  The Stonemongers may be tempting targets, but they’re also fierce defenders.

Campaign win conditions: Grand Alliance member, more gold-per-turn than any other faction


Elysium: The primeval forces of nature, rising up as a counterbalance to civilized expansionism.  Most of its recruits require a forest, and get stat bonuses if fighting in a forest.  Elysium relies on massed weaker units, backed up by Nymphs, and heavy-hitters like treants and elementals.  All summoned Nature creatures, if not bound to any other side (Unbound creatures can be summoned into enemy territory to cause havoc.  Getting them to obey you costs extra Mana), will serve Elysium.  If Elysium wins a campaign early, large numbers of non-hostile combatants will spawn in all Elysium-controlled areas, and all populations’ civilization will gradually decrease.  This can be combated normally through Edicts.

Campaign win conditions: Dominates all civilized factions (not including elves, if they end up counting as civilized), subordinate to no-one (No Grand Alliance necessary)


Illulieliu: Basic Wood Elves, existing in harmony with nature.  Masters of guerilla warfare and ranged attacks, and can move extremely quickly through forested provinces.  Illuleiliu is somewhat primitive, and lacks high-quality weapons, armor and strongholds, relying instead on skill and caution.  Their spellbook is shamanic in nature, with effective spells for manipulating the environment, conjuring spirits (including a form of undead) and binding forest powers to their service.  They can also employ shamans in combat to slow and weaken enemies.  Illulieliu has difficulty with enemies they can’t wear down or retreat from.

Campaign win conditions: Over (default average forested provinces + (total provinces / number of factions)) provinces must be forested, and non-subordinate in the Grand Alliance.  Alternatively, Illulieliu wins with Elysium if they survive to it.


Far Realm: C’thulhu ahoy.  Units from the Far Realm spread insanity in their wake, and simply being next to an insane province is a threat.  An insane populace doesn’t produce, and obeys the Far Realm without regard for its own safety.  Eldritch monstrosities are extremely powerful, but can only exist in areas with a suitable amount of insanity.  Lesser eldritch creatures tend to be stealthy and adept at spreading insanity.  Captured provinces will be extremely unhappy with Far Realm rule, but only for the (probably few) turns they remain sane.  All summoned eldritch creatures (if other factions can even do so), if not bound to any other side, serve the Far Realm.  If the Far Realm wins a campaign early, all Far Realm provinces will have a single Eldritch Monstrosity as powerful as the insanity can afford, and all provinces will slowly increase in insanity.

Campaign win conditions: At least 50% of world population is insane.


Devils: The devils have two dominant styles.  Hordes of powerful melee infantry thunder across the land while more subtle devils pave the way by manipulating the other factions.  The devils require a Portal Key to field any respectable army (details not yet provided), but in the standard campaign they start with the key.  If they were hypothetically not to start with the key, they’d be playing the subtle game for quite a bit trying to get it and hit harder once they do.  Devils have no bonuses defending even the strongest of fortresses, but who needs defense?  They may have something to gain from employing ranged attackers from other races, but they’ll probably have low morale.  The devils’ sizes combined with their penchant for offense means their supply lines are vulnerable.  All summoned infernals not bound to any other side are under the devils’ control.

Campaign win conditions: Last faction standing.  Devils don’t share.


Undead: In the Undead realm, spirits stay in their corpses.  Generally the resulting undead will wander about aimlessly, but will attack any enemies they see.  Certain undead can be given the ability to impose their will on others through magic or ritual killing; these masters are the Undead realm’s commanders.  Any unit killed by an undead becomes one in a couple of combat rounds.  Undead retain all their abilities from life, but are significantly weaker unless made a master.  If the Undead realm wins a campaign early, all the realm’s undead get the stats of masters, and a master will occasionally spawn in another player’s province at random.

Campaign win conditions: World population is less than two thirds of what it started as. 


Barony of Dunkelheit: Vampires.  Their standard troops are somewhat crappy, but their higher-rank fighters are an amalgam of old horror movies and have a wide range of nasty effects.  The vampires themselves can lead armies at night (the feature isn’t 100% unique, but pretty rare), and most of their high-class units will get bonuses at night.  Vampires are also effective stealth units, capable of turning other units into vampires abilities-intact.  However, they really can’t fight in daylight.  Various abominations will spill out of the Barony’s borders and cause misery for surrounding lands, but unlike other nations they have no control over these creatures and they can’t actually take provinces (they can, of course, soften them up).  The Barony starts off hated by populations, but base loyalty increases the more they’re oppressed/the longer they’re under a military presence.  They go back to detesting you if the province is ever taken away, though.  If the Barony wins the campaign early, their provinces become extremely well-defended and the nasties start flowing out of them at an increased rate.

Campaign win conditions: Cast Utterdark (name change probably needed; plunges all their provinces into darkness) and go twenty turns without losing a province.  Really, the Barony just wants to be left alone and continue with its evil experiments.




Diplomacy is, for the most part, kept bare-bones.  Nations can trade gold, provinces and troops (Lending troops is also an option), sign non-aggression pacts and form alliances (temporary or otherwise).  Alliances can walk their troops across common borders and share supplies as if they were one faction.  Civilized factions suffer morale penalties for breaking non-aggression pacts and alliances.  Diplomacy with AI opens a dialogue window allowing for bartering, while diplomacy with human players is just a matter of sending offers to appear on the start-of-turn report (assuming it ends up PBEM-only).  There won’t be any diplomacy score; AI will evaluate offers purely based on self-interest.  However, you can manipulate the diplomacy system using subterfuge (see below).




Subterfuge, unlike diplomacy, is based on specific units.  Some units can hide themselves on the world map and sneak into other provinces, and some of those can do other subterfuge-based things in enemy provinces.      Subterfuge-based actions include:


-Convert: Attempt to convert an enemy unit.  Effectiveness depends on willpower and associated population loyalty (base loyalty?).  Conversion (at the agent’s choice) may cause the unit to evacuate, or remain there undercover.  Different units convert in different ways.  If conversion fails, may go to…

-Assassinate: Attempt to kill a single enemy unit.  The assassin may have to fight the unit alone or with varying numbers of guards instead of succeeding automatically, depending on various factors.

-Incite: Decrease loyalty.

-Sabotage: Destroy buildings.

-Kill Population: Self-explanatory.

-Make a Deal: Perform some under-the-table diplomacy with a commander.  With this, you can make a commander behave against orders or even make a somewhat-skewed diplomatic agreement without their player’s consent.  Using this for diplomacy is obviously dangerous, since the other player will know exactly who’s benefiting.  This can be used to frame a different faction, but making deals on behalf of an unaffiliated faction is significantly more difficult.  Auto-succeeds on converted commanders, and is still easier than converting (unless you want to frame).  Like convert, effectiveness is based on willpower and loyalty.


Not all units who can do one of the above can do all of the above.  Career assassins, for example, probably will only be able to assassinate or sabotage, and maybe also kill population.  Also note that some units are simply better than others at subterfuge.


When performing subterfuge, an invisible (?) statistic called the province’s heat will increase.  As heat goes up, invisible populations and units become easier to find and future acts of subterfuge (like, say, leaving the province) become harder.  This mainly applies to the actual unit performing the subterfuge, but has a somewhat lesser effect on all attempted subterfuge.  Heat will decrease over time.


The main way of flushing out concealed units and populations is the Patrol edict.  Catching most hidden people is quite easy with a respectable force, but abusing Patrol is dangerous due to loyalty decreases.  It’s important that anti-subterfuge measures can’t be spammed, so if oppression-based factions can still keep up a steady chain of patrols it will need to be looked at.  Pre-emptive patrolling under certain circumstances should still be useful, though.  Patrol also increases the province’s heat somewhat.

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May 14, 2010 1:11:09 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

To be honest it sounds similar to most TBS games with a few differences.  I like the unique Win condition per faction - coupled with some decent unique Units and it'll open up replayability, however I think it'll prove quite difficult to balance out.  Using provinces instead of a tile map for games like Shogun and Rome worked pretty well, however it also leads to fairly boring moments as well because once you've played through the game, the map is always the same and there are a few places in the Rome map where it's a slog through the enemy to get to the next real point.  I personally prefer the generated maps of Civilisation; keeps the exploration of the Early Game regardless of how many times you've played through.

The idea of not being able to Control troops is an interesting one, especially for a TBS, how are you expecting the battles to play out exactly?  I didn't see where/if you described them in detail, however I imagined something similar to a mix up between Black and White 2 and the Majesty series.  What are you planning as the hooks for the player during these battles, and what sort of scale are we looking at?  The lack of a deeper diplomacy system is going to place quite a lot of focus on combat as a means of expanding ones empire in the mid-late stages of the game, so it needs to work fairly well.

I do like the inclusion of Stealth though, my favourite use of this was easily Imperium Galactica II (one of my personal favourite games of all time).  Games like the Total War series don't really place enough emphasis on it's usefullness; with a max level Agent in IGII you could cripple an enemy's planetary defences before a battle or steal Intelligence to gain the location of their units/turrents and they became invaluable in the End Game if used correctly.

Overall it's a decent outline, with a few elements that need to be covered in more detail before I can really say if it's decent or not and it sounds like a few mechanics might still be up in the air, so to speak.  My suggestion, and I'm only really still learning the basics of game development myself, is to prototype up a basic version of what you want to take place to see if it's fun.  It might very well read like a solid TBS Game, but the only real way to know if the mechanics mesh well is to sit down with it.

What kind of Art Style are you looking at for the game?  Reading your outline I pictured a slightly darker tone than most TBS Games go.

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May 14, 2010 2:16:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The big idea with the economic style is the interplay between different provinces.  Your high-power production provinces need agricultural provinces, and those are inherently more vulnerable.  Spells can be used to break choke points or wreak havoc behind the borders, and war is very much a matter of managing an attack while stopping your nation from falling apart.  A random map generator is something I'd love to do (The Dominions series, which was a major inspiration, did this very well with a province-based map), but it will be a long time until I'm competent enough to do something like that.

The intention is for battles to be much more self-contained than Black and White/Majesty.  After all, they are the centerpiece.  I was picturing a scale of 20 troops a side for the earlier fights, and only swarms like the Undead and (maybe) Elysium would reasonably break 70.  The battles I expect to be quick and chaotic with comparatively low casualties (after all, the low populations mean your troops are hardly expendable), where formations crash against each other and armies interact with one-another interestingly depending on their design.  I would love to program in momentum somehow andGratuitous Space Battles showed how much fun can be had in watching plans play out chaotically.  That coupled with the small army sizes might result in a footbally feel, which is something I wouldn't be at all averse to.  Everything in the game is kept small so small groups have a greater effect without just being so elite that they slaughter hordes, and you can do interesting things to individuals and handfuls of people.  For example, I'd like to see units the undead kill keep their previous unit identity and visibly get up in a couple of combat rounds with green skin and white eyes.

The art style is actually intended as somewhat lighthearted 2D sprites with a healthy range of animation, simply because that's how I know how to draw and they're generally fun to watch.  I was also kind of inspired by Dragon Force, an old Sega Saturn RTS.

Many thanks for the comments.

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May 14, 2010 2:37:21 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

As much as I hate to skim over your concepts, I basically have a catch-all comment to make:

If you think it's a good concept, then it probably is a good enough place to start.  There will be hiccups in your adaptation, with features not working or interacting as you had anticipated.  Above all else, be ready to scrap, change, and build on the various parts of your design.  It's that process, not the concept you started with, that will really determine whether you've got a gem.

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May 14, 2010 2:59:52 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

This could be the final step but,

The Name Needs Some Help.

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May 15, 2010 12:58:41 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

game concepts are a dime a dozen. what matters is implementation.

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May 15, 2010 6:11:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

What would the user interface for edicts be like? Some edicts are troops-related, others are not. That's probably going to be quite confusing.

Otherwise, I don't get your math:

This doesn’t mean the other faction needs to be subordinate, since 150% as strong translates into 25% weaker

150% = 3/2 times stronger, so the converse is 2/3 as strong, so 67% which is 33% weaker? Your figures are not clear.

Also, what is the figure you're using to determine whether one is stronger than another? If it relates to nation strength, then all you have to do in the game is maximize a single figure. This seems a bit simplistic. It's likely the figure wouldn't be an accurate description of any nation strength if rock-paper-scissors like elements are involved. If there's no such element, the game will probably be too simplistic.


You wrote a lot about the lore for the various factions, but I think this is rather unimportant when planning a game or presenting it. This is something that should come later (like Elemental: lore is revealed after the core mechanics).

Your description of combat, resources, user interface and general game mechanics, is too sketchy at this point to focus on lore. For instance, are turns simultaneous or one player at a time? If continuous, are they Dominions-like (orders given thhen processed on hit end turn) or Civ IV MP like (all players play at the same time in real time, but the next turn only happens when all players have hit end turn).

Random maps for a province based game are probably easier to do than interesting tiled maps. However, pretty random province maps may be somewhat harder to achieve.

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May 16, 2010 11:18:32 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The intention was to calculate strength by combined cost of all units and structures (potentially weighed differently) plus something related to income plus a little bit related to existing resources.  It's certainly too early to say how income/expenditure should be weighed compared to infrastructure and troops.  After that (assuming that doesn't turn out so good, which is likely), I'll take a "see what works" approach.

It seems to me that very little of the faction listings have anything to do with lore, mostly outlining the gameplay side of factions.  I do see where you're coming from, though, and nothing is written in stone.  The edicts menu will just be a straight list for a province, with sub-menus for what troops to use, what populations to target etc.  The flavour text should make it very clear which ones require troops.

I will admit, the outline was more for my own benefit than presenting.  I aplogize for the information-skewing this causes.  It will certainly start off PBEM-only, so Dominions-like simultaneous turns are a must.  Also, sorry for the shoddy math.

Many thanks.

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