Long time no see! Work goes on at a steady rate as we grind through the monolith of a task that is writing a reactive, fun AI for an RTS.
In the meantime, let’s take a better look at the cornerstone of the project - Regiment Composition System.
Regiment Composition System
Allowing a player to customize his army composition is not really new. Many games implemented it to a certain degree over the years - from simple unlocks in C&C Generals to elaborate deck building in Wargame series.
Regiments follow that tradition and develop it a step further. You can make your army right during the gameplay by composing it from several large building blocks called Task Forces.
The bulk of player’s interface is occupied by the regimental panel. Initially, it looks a bit empty.
That’s because you need to buy a Task Force first. Now it’s more like it.
Your regiment can be composed of up to 3 TFs.
You can see a number of available platoons with their prices listed. You click on an icon, then click on the battlefield - and the platoon will appear in your spawn zone, heading towards the selected position.
As a side note, if a unit is destroyed, it will become available for purchase again - though ordering a badly mauled platoon to retreat for repair & rearm is always a better option as this comes for free.
Each Task Force grants you access to a predefined set of units and tactical support options.
Selecting the first isn't hard. On the other hand, when you pool enough resources to order the next one, there would be quite a few considerations to take into account. Try to build-up the momentum gained by first Task Force and order more of the same? Switch to a completely different track, supplementing heavy armor force with a nimble recon-helicopter team? Try to predict the opponents choice and counter him directly?
That's the essence of the system - building up and growing your force right during the game. Experience system complements this idea. Units in the field earn experience by destroying enemies. As soon as enough is acquired, whole Task Force will receive a level-up.
It's worth noting that this panel doubles as a way to monitor the status of all your units and to quickly select them. As soon as you order a platoon, it's icon will change. Price will be hidden - instead, you'll see a health bar, ammo status, and some important notifications. Double click on an icon will focus the game screen on a selected unit. Handy, isn't it?
Each nation will feature 8-12 Task Forces of varying quality and quantity. In skirmish games, you’ll have an option to choose between strictly national selection of Task Forces, mixing Task Forces from different nations inside NATO/Warsaw Pact blocks or going completely unrestricted and fielding Leopards 2 along with DDR’s T-55AMs.
Task Forces themselves are modeled after real military formations, though we took some artistic license in terms of their exact composition. It’s not entirely without basis. Real-life Task Forces are ad-hoc formations by definition and in the game’s narrative of an active civil war, few formations have the luxury of arriving at the battlefield in 100% fighting order.
Tactical support represents various off-map high-level assets: divisional artillery, air strikes, aerial recon, signal interception, etc.
They’re available on a simple cooldown timer - albeit that timer is quite long to prevent “spamming” off-map assets. Using tactical support requires careful consideration. They’re the trump cards, not casual solutions to every problem.
Oh, another important thing. Experienced players among you may have already thought “hey, I know I can’t really wage battle without critical elements like reconnaissance or anti-air defense, so I can’t really select a Task Force without those, right?”. Actually, you can - thanks to Regimental Assets that are always present.
Regimental assets are a simple, small collection of the most useful platoons: one recon, one anti-air, one motorized infantry. Plus a smoke screen tactical support. They won’t win any fight by themselves, but they are an important force multiplier for the regular Task Forces.
Deployment points are the main currency in the game. You will use them to buy units and new Task Forces.
Task Forces are pretty expensive, but they also increase your income: this way they provide new units to buy AND measures to deploy them.
Income also depends on the total price of units you’ve deployed on the field. More active units you have, higher is upkeep which is displayed by red negative numbers in the screenshot above. That prevents steamrolling, where the side that wins initial engagement will simply gain more and more of an advantage. Upkeep ensures that each game session is a fair fight to the very end.
In other news...
In the months since the original announcement, we’ve come a long way.
Nearly all gameplay systems are essentially in place: terrain effects, Line-of-Sight checks, mechanized infantry modeling, artillery, air-defense, aerial units, etc, etc. Some fine-tuning is required here and there, but that's to be expected.
The visual side of things is constantly improved in small steps along with careful optimization. We want to ensure you won’t need a NASA server cluster and mining-worthy GPU rig to watch hundreds of active units in combat.
The first iteration of AI is nearing completion. So far we’re happy with the architecture we’ve chosen - it allows to define and refine AI behavior with ease.
The actual gameplay video is not that far away, along with an article that takes a look at the intricacies of combat resolution.