Population limitations and army caps.
And the Mother Goo are also limited to 12 overall. And it is the Mama Goo herself, I think, that was the cause for the whole requirement of population cap in the video game in the very first location. Without that limit, the financial growth of the Goo in the late game could grow unattended, in line with their military may, because Proteans and the Mother Goos are fight systems in their own. I d be ready to bet that was at least part of the photo when it came to deciding that there had to be popcap in Grey Goo …
My understanding of video games with unbounded or freeform systems, such as video games with create-your-own-unit systems or endless population, is that the possibility space in these video games tends to wind up being a lot smaller sized than in deckbuilding games or video games with pre-defined options for gamers.
Economic constraints tend to loosen up as a match goes on as players ramp up their earnings, only for gamers to (usually) experience another limitation: the population cap. Many RTS video games have a maximum quantity of things that they can utilize in a game, and that limit is typically described supply cap or population cap. Whichs that Ive been thinking about recently, naturally. For this reason this article.
Ive spent a lot of time ferreting out a bunny path in the previous section, talking in kind of vague terms about the ideas of unbounded experiences versus curated experiences. I will admit this is mainly an individual preference and not strictly anything around which Im attempting to define a formal approach of RTS design.
Im ultimately going to work my way around to talking specifically about population or army limitations in RTS video games, however I kind of have to work my method around to it. Limitations more normally, and hopefully Ill be able to wrap this up with some talk about population or army cap in a bit.
Chess is only one example, but to me its directly illustrative of the concept of a game making sure to ensure a thoroughly crafted experience for the player. That is, a game thats clever about its limits. Whatever about the game is subject to strict limits and controls: the number of pieces the gamer can move each turn, the distance each piece can move, the rules about capturing pieces, et cetera. And yet, Chess is a video game of amazing depth and complexity for all the simplicity and constraints of its guidelines, pieces, and board.
Similar to all things, I believe theres a balance. Warhammer 40Ks system is one I really appreciate, with base systems like Space Marines and Ork Nobs that can be modified with grenades, weapon upgrades, and various other weapons for a price. Many RTS, like the majority of Relics titles, have variations on this system in their games, enabling the player to tweak units as soon as produced to expand their role or enable them to further specialize into it. To me, these are much better experiences because they broaden the gamers options instead of (as appears to me, anecdotally, to happen in more freeform unit-creation systems) contracting them.
But whats the other issue with unbounded army caps? How do those decrease the possibility space? Im glad you asked. My read of that situation is that, in many RTS games, players need to have at least rough parity in their force size and tech level in order to have an opportunity of winning. There are numerous RTS that seem like a race to produce army, and if you fall behind, you stand a great chance of losing the game. C&C Remastered is an excellent example of this, where its possible for gamer A to train a giant army of tanks (or Bikes and Buggies if the player is Nod) prior to the other gamer can scout them, and steamroll Player B with sheer numbers in the first handful of minutes of the match, video game over thats all she composed.
With curated experiences, even ones which give players a great deal of control over the personality of their forces, as in tabletop Warhammer or WarCraft 3, the games designers can spend generous time crafting a variety of tools (systems, gear, spells, et cetera) that can act in a range of unexpected methods. Weve seen the success of these curated game experiences in a range of locations, amongst them WarCraft 3.
While in Command and Conquer games, gamers are often able to develop a many of whatever system they produce a they d like, Grey Goo (which shares much of its DNA with C&C video games) borrows its population cap from StarCraft. Theres a factor for this.
And, as a for circumstances, I am a huge fan of the Command and Conquer series of games which has no difficult unit limit. I d say I like these video games for factors other than their unbounded army size: in fact, here too its the limitations that the majority of interest me. Power, and the prohibitive expense of expanding your economy, has a substantial impact on matches in Command and Conquer video games, tending to keep gamer unit numbers relatively low even if theyre in theory boundless.
For instance, in StarCraft, Zerg gamers may cheat the population cap by transforming Drones into structures, then training more units, then cancelling the buildings consequently recouping their lost drone. Im not sure if that ever takes place in a game, but that flirtation with the video games boundary interests me. Token units, too, like Infested Terrans, the Scarabs produced by Swarm Hosts, and the like, can also assist Zerg show off popcap, at least momentarily. That might be a bit next to the point?
To restate: I see games as mostly defined by the limits they put on the player, defining clear paths. My basic position is that need is the mother of creation: the objective of the video game maker should be to supply players with a toolkit, pre-defined and distinct in such a way that permits unexpected mixes and utilize cases, to direct gamer imagination towards the enjoyable and depth of the gameplay systems.
I have another example in fact. One that may be more fitting to the category at big than Chess. Limitations, especially the limitation of population cap, are vitally essential to the experience that WarCraft 3 is designed to provide.
These unbounded games, which assure to deliver umpteen thousands of alternatives for players, tend to degenerate down anyway into a little handful of popular archetypes for gameplay. This takes place all the time in egalitarian MMORPG video games and in design-your-own unit RTS all the time. This isnt to say that these types of systems cant necessarily work. I am skeptical of them, but Im sure that such systems have cases where they would produce excellent gameplay experiences. As a kid, I loved Earth 2150, a video game that enabled gamers to create their own units. As an adult, I much prefer games which offer a robust curated experience with limits to guide players actions and imagination.
Chess as a Starting Place.
When I came across the viewpoint that population caps are bad for RTS video games, I was a bit stunned. It feels sort of foreign to me, in concept. This, by the method, is why I opened talking about Chess and its tightly created and strictly limited variety of video game pieces and play area, why I segued into speaking about economic limitations.
Due to the cost of structures and the restricted advantages of structure multiples, base sizes tend to be relatively constrained in their general number of structures: youre basically developing as little as you can get away with … or rather, as much as you can get away with, which isnt too much provided how you have to focus on pumping out units to keep up with your opponent.
In games which have population caps, typically there are structures or systems the player need to produce in order to increase the variety of systems they can field. Farms for Humans in WarCraft, Supply Depots for Terrans in StarCraft, Houses in Age of Empires video games, etc. Houses tend to be a great way to rate army expansion, to set a little a handbrake on the speed and expense efficiency of producing a big army. WarCraft 3 and Company of Heroes have their own handbrakes too: With WarCraft 3, Upkeep lowers Gold income per worker at 2 various supply cutoffs, and with Company of Heroes, Manpower income is reduced as population increases.
To me, the most intriguing things happens at the limits. Is there a total amount of resource which can be collected? What happens when that total is reached? Are there an overall number of structures that may be constructed, of units that may be produced? What tricks can the gamer use, if any, to dabble those limitations?
Even population-unbounded RTS Ashes of the Singularity has a pacing system like this in its Quanta resource. The player should invest Quanta to do things like upgrade system armor and damage, to increase population cap, and to activate support/global weapons. Its an actually flexible system made fascinating, again, by the restricted earnings of Quanta relative to what players wish to spend that resource on.
Another problem is unbounded limitations on number of video game entities. There are some video games which make this work, such as Command and Conquer, however to me its always a knifes edge of suitable. Many units in RTS games are balanced specifically, at least in part, around their cost and their population.
The following post, unless otherwise kept in mind, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.The thoughts and viewpoints expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its moms and dad business
Super systems can take up to approximately 35% of the population cap of a players army. That way, at max army sizes, players can anticipate some kind of parity or rough equivalence, even with an incredibly system in play (this may be a case for an incredibly system over a very weapon, by the method. Well talk about that some other time possibly?).
Its a tough mark to strike, but for all that its the one I feel is best for which to goal.
Now, the above can take place in bounded and in unbounded games in regards to population cap. The rate limiters of popcap structures can help with lessening this (and its one factor I tend to advocate games with more determined rates of growth in basic, to assist guarantee that its not too simple for one gamer to fall catastrophically behind by mishap). Extrapolating out down the length of the match, this situation can get significantly bad as gameplay length boosts, if population is unbounded. Along the course of a match, the possibility space tends to degenerate down to army size as the main choosing element. If thats the goal for a game, I suppose that is great, however to me, it seems like it is typically more interesting to have gamers discover, all else being equivalent, more intriguing actions to take versus their opponents, and reactions to actions their opponent has taken against them.
Whether this is a deck of cards or units as you d integrate in Steel Division or Warhammer 40K or Magic the Gathering, or this is a factions system list and hero choices and the possibility area made readily available by on-map stores in WarCraft 3, or undoubtedly the carefully crafted environment of (again) Chess, I truly strongly think that these crafted experiences provide the most space for gamers to be successful and discover/uncover/create fascinating interactions.
Naturally, all RTS have heaps of constraints as well. Earnings (which is generally severely restricted in the early phases of gameplay) forces players to pick what percentage of their resources will go towards broadening their capability to produce more resources (harvesters), what percent will go towards expanding their ability to spend resources efficiently (production) and what percent will go towards defenses or military. From this we see the principle of gamers turtling or eco expanding or hurrying: every method in an RTS comes straight from the limitations enforced upon players by any provided video games economy and each individual gamers reaction to those limitations.
In spite of not having farm structures, there are 3 elements that associate highly with popcap/max supply in Grey Goo: turrets, very units, and the Goo factions key systems, Mother Goos and Proteans. The human faction in Grey Goo can construct channels and turrets to expand their base and safeguard it, and on some maps this enabled them to wall up practically endlessly, producing a nut that was nearly impossible to crack open. Tying turret numbers to population cap permitted for a fast fix that bounded human defenses as offset against their ability to field an army.
To me, most games are specified by the limitations they place on their gamers, the confines they supply their players to work within. The number of pieces is directly related to the dimensions of the play space, the video game board.
Check out the original post here: https://waywardstrategy.com/2020/10/02/the-strange-flexibility-of-boundaries-population-and-other-limits-in-strategy-games/.
So whats the point?
What do you think? Do you have your own ideas on borders, or the lack thereof, in RTS games? I d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
Im not sure if that ever takes place in a video game, but that flirtation with the video games border interests me. Many RTS video games have an optimum amount of things that they can utilize in a game, and that limit is frequently described supply cap or population cap. C&C Remastered is a terrific example of this, where its possible for gamer A to train a giant army of tanks (or Bikes and Buggies if the player is Nod) before the other gamer can search them, and steamroll Player B with large numbers in the very first handful of minutes of the match, video game over thats all she composed.
The card video game of War, and tic-tac-toe, are restricted to the point where theres no genuine depth to these games. And its the large gray area in between that, and “unbounded” (which by the method video games tend to not reach in the very first location) where we have space for argument and design and a large variety of video games that individuals of all tastes can delight in.
Thanks for reading.
Now, on the other side, theres clearly a maximum amount of limitations past which things arent enjoyable anymore either. The gameplay systems, such as they are, of Rock, Paper, Scissors are quickly tired of their interest, simply as an actually baseline example. The card game of War, and tic-tac-toe, are limited to the point where theres no genuine depth to these games. Plainly, theres such a thing as too numerous limits. And its the huge gray area between that, and “unbounded” (which by the way games tend to not reach in the first location) where we have space for dispute and design and a huge range of games that people of all tastes can take pleasure in.