Jump to content
Captain Shrek

A quick and dirty analysis of tactics in video games

Recommended Posts

WHAT ARE TACTICS?


 


Here is some very basic description of what the word Tactics ought to mean in video games.


 


First, I need to explain that I am NOT borrowing the meaning from a dictionary. I am going to take the description from experience. Also, nothing revolutionary is being said here. If you are reading this to get new insights, give up now.


 


Alright.


 


Within most combat engagements, planning is done on two non-exclusive but sufficiently differing ways:


 


1) Long term planning


2) Short term planning


 


The requisites of decision making are typically information regarding your own position and supplies and the enemy’s position and supplies. In rare occasions the enemies movements (plans) are also known. Given this information a manager/general needs to decide how to control the production of supplies, how to expend them and how to move units.


 


Whatever can be expended(used) and produced is a resource.


 


Long term planning typically involves allotment of resources and unit movement. But its salient feature is that it also involves resource production that takes time to be available. This kind of planning is called as strategy.


 


Short term planning is typically limited to resource handling and unit movement in a very restricted area and in most cases as a direct response/preemption to the opponent planning. This is called Tactics. Thus tactics can only allow allotment of available resource. Not all resource types may be available during tactical maneuvers. The ones that are or can be made available are called as tactical resources.


 


Please understand that strategic resources are always being produced and allotted EVEN during tactical maneuvers. But that is by definition considered a part of strategy. Thus tactics always deal withlimited resources.


 


In computer games, the most usual tactical resources are:


 


1) Units


2) "Health"


3) mana / stamina / fury etc indicating a resource to do special actions


4) Choice of weapons and armor


5) Spell's / special ability


6) Stances


7) Potions / grenades/ traps (grouped, but serve differing functions).


8) Time


9) Positioning of units


 


It is not too difficult recognize these obvious resources. Since in video games, you are playing in a semi-rigid scaffold, the job of a good designer is to manage encounters and provide resources to implement combat as targeted towards a requisite group.


 


This brings us to the question as to what is tactical depth.


 


Tactical depth is essentially a measure of how many viable options in terms of the above mentioned resources can one use at any "point of time". The quotes are purposeful, since the concept of point of time differs according to how a game is implemented. In Real Time games without rounds, it is indeed possible to perform more than one option and sometimes unrestrained number of options depending upon the resources available at the same "point of time". This indirectly serves as a measure of TIME spent as resource. In Round Based games the numbers of options one can utilize are hard coded, only to be modified by "free actions" or special conditions. In Turn Based game a similar restriction based on context exists, although it tends to be much tighter. Tactical depth is NOT the number of options that you can perform per unit of time. It is the numbers of options that are available. It is desirable than many such options be there (how many?), since that quantifiably increments the quality of the challenge. The larger the number of such options and more balanced (?!) the number of winning options amongst these determines how well implemented tactics in a game are.


 


There are other issues related with this topic such as:


 


1) How does the flow of time affect the tactical nature of the game?


2) What is the ideal way resources should be allotted by design?


3) What is a balanced tactical depth?


 


that we can discuss later.


Edited by Captain Shrek

"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TACTICS AND RANDOMNESS

 

 

There have been some really severe opinions about randomness in video games from developers recently. Although it makes me concerned that loaded dies are being justified by many, it *is* interesting to consider what role does randomness really play in tactics and what might be the best way of implementing it in video games. 

 

I am assuming that Randomness does not need to be defined in an explicit manner for this discussion and an example would be sufficient. In DnD you roll a D20 for your attack rolls and add your Attack bonus to it. The attack Bonus is the deterministic part and the D20 the random (probabilistic) part.

 

How are tactics affected by randomness?

 

Tactics is (are?) usually allotment of resources and placement of units. If the game is perfectly deterministic, there is typically an optimal path that always maximizes benefit. This means the game become fairly repetitive and/or looses replayability. Randomness essentially adds flavor to the game since, tactics are now based around optimization as before but WITH the consideration of the probabilities.

 

In my mind there are three distinct ways randomness can be incorporated in the game:

 

1) Random numbers have large 'spread' (standard deviation) with respect to (deterministic) modifiers

2) Random numbers have small spread with respect to modifiers

3) Random number have similar spreads compared to deterministic modifiers

 

Let's call the ratio of the spread to modifier as luck/tactics ratio. This nomenclature is highly motivating and it will become apparent as to why eventually.

 

The case 1, is the classic 'level 1- 3' DnD syndrome. Your fighter is level 2 with Attack bonus of +3 (example) and AC of 16. The enemy has attack bonus of +5 (higher CR) and AC of 18. The probability of you hitting him is now ~25%. Him hitting you is ~50%.

 

The problem in such a situation is that the heroes spend most of their time trying to connect hits than actually using tactics to arrange units and planning. This happens due to the obvious fact that luck is MUCH more important than small changes the heroes can make to their modifiers with abilities available at low levels. Modifiers are the only reliable guides to planning for tactics, since the probability of the random effects is beyond control. This is NOT to say that probabilities can NOT be considered in tactics, but rather when their roles supersede tactical deployment by a vast gap, it is CLEARLY bad design. When the game is dominated by luck, probably something is wrong with the luck/tactics ratio. No tactical game should relegate the necessity of tactics to magical and or loaded dies.

 

Case 2, where the luck/tactics ratio is low, is typically required in games where there are a lot of combat encounters. In such games the player needs to advance through a mob of opponents and can NOT afford to save/reload every so often because the randomness threw his game off. Late game DnD is a somewhat fitting example since you still roll a D20 for the Attack roll but your Attack bonus is off the scale. This makes the combat linear since usually there are optimal ways of dealing with enemies with your current skills, which are repetitively or algorithmically used.

 

Case 3 occurs when the luck/tactics ratio is fairly close to one. In such situations, considerations to probabilities are as important to resource allocation and placement as the understanding and comparisons of yours and enemy modifiers. This can be useful when there are small number of encounters and the game has deep tactics. With small number of combat instances, the game needs to really avoid repetitive tactics and that is accomplished via randomness. Since the player has to plan according to what he will roll besides the abilities he has, he starts thinking about alternate and branching scenarios and deploys resources conservatively but not too thriftily since every move may be his last. Such designs tend to be more *tense* (read 'fun') and can be found in games like Bloodbowl and mid level DnD (level 3 - 9/10).

 

Thus:

 

High amount of randomness is always bad. Low or mid level of randomness (as defined by the luck/tactics) ratio is a design choice. It is intriguing to consider that most wargames avoid the 'Tick-Tack-Toe style' low randomness design, for the exact reason provided here. Whether that attests to the case 3 being the ideal way of considering randomness in the game is up to the reader to determine for himself.

Edited by Captain Shrek

"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reserved


"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reserved


"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reserved

lol, there's a time limit to editing posts.

  • Like 1

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How is this "quick" if you're "reserving" (*snide snickering*) the right to make multiple verbose posts? And what's the point of regurgitating your own interpretation of information most of P:E's core audience is already familiar with? Hell, most gamers are familiar with the functional concept of tactics even if they aren't aware of the term or the definition. Most games involve tactics in some form or another.

Edited by AGX-17

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...