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The importance of a proper UI for Command & Conquer
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Banshee
Supreme Banshee


Joined: 15 Aug 2002
Location: Brazil

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:50 pm    Post subject:  The importance of a proper UI for Command & Conquer
Subject description: New construction options.... is the key for a better Command & Conquer. Otherwise, unit lost!
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Hello everyone! In the event EA Play at E3, back in june, there was the announcement of the return of the Command & Conquer franchise with the revelation of Command & Conquer: Rivals. It was sold as the future of the Command & Conquer franchise at the time and it was a mobile game that did not deliver the gameplay experience that we are used to deal with the traditional PC real time strategy genre. Due to this approach, it had a terrible reception from most of the hardcore Command & Conquer fans. This week EA has recently announcement a fix for this situation and acknowledged that fans want their C&C experience back with a remaster, which we don't know if it is a remaster or a remake, although the remaster term was used in the announcement. In order to be a remaster, it must be based on Generals or a newer game, since the source code from games that were made before Renegade were lost. Considering that they've jumped to OpenRA and CnCNet communities for help, it will be either a Tiberian Dawn or Red Alert 1 remake (and not a remaster).

Anyway, back to the original subject. Some time after that EA Play event, I had the opportunity to talk to one of the EA developers from Rivals team with a group of C&C community members. I won't reveal his name here (and I hope you respect it for now), unless he request me to reveal it. Probably with the purpose of selling Rivals to us, he was saying that RTS genre is a niche nowadays and that the profit from most of the top RTS games in the market were much lower than the other games. Their idea was to seek popularity for the Command & Conquer franchise from other markets (mobile) and that the simplified gameplay was to make it more intuitive for the newcomers. From what I understood, although this did not seem to be explicitly mentioned, he seemed to think that one of the reasons that RTS games like Command & Conquer did not attract many players compared to MOBAs, FPSs and other genres is that it is complex to play (not intuitive nor accessible) and that real time is a huge burden on cognitive load. It means that people might need to do many delicate decisions with not enough time to properly think about their consequences and they can be heavily penalized on that. This may lead into some stress. If it stress the players too much, it is not fun anymore. I guess that is one of the reasons why many people prefer playing against predictable AI players than playing against other humans, since that it might be more stressful. In order to elaborate his idea, he has pointed out an article written by Nick Yee on Quantic Foundry.

Despite the dark scenario that he mentioned, his dream was to work on PC tradtitional RTS Command & Conquer games and that his hope was to see a strong RTS game release in the market that would motivate publishers to turn their attention and money back into this genre.



Balancing boredom, fun and frustration

The success of games and their genres are certainly connected to their fun factor. Keeping it into simple words would be "how to avoid it from being boring or frustrating to the player". There is a whole science behind it and you can start here if you want more details. But the whole idea is simple and applies to several concepts. One of them is the difficulty of the game: if the game is too easy for the player's skills, it gets boring, tedious. If it is too hard, the player may get frustrated. On both cases, it may lead the player to give up playing the game and that's game over. If it is not boring or frustrating, then it is fun. It is worth to point out that other situations may generate stress, which may lead to frustration as well. So, when designing a game, you should try to apply this idea also to:

- Pace of game/player's actions (no action = boredom; too much action = stress)

- Cost of game/player's actions (no cost = game too easy, boredom; high cost = play everything again... time wasted, frustration)

- Pace of rewards and progression (very fast progress = boredom, nothing else to do in the game; no progress = frustration, waste of time doing the same thing over and over again)

- Bonus of rewards and progression (high bonus = boredom, overpowered abilities makes the game too easy; no bonus = frustration, waste of time)

- Predictability (none = boredom, easy game; very high = frustration, game is unplayable... too hard).

- Pace of Learning (too slow = frustration, game is too hard)

- Cost of learning (very high = frustration, game is too hard)


The article that the EA employee pointed out tries to illustrate this point. The author has received feedback from over 140 thousands players on how much strategic and exciting is a game, following his own definition of that. Don't take the results he obtained into heart, since the meaning of excitement and strategy varies for each people, as well as the way to measure it. Furthermore it is not clear how serious they've taken that poll into consideration, nor the specific game and features taken in mind when providing this feedback. Command & Conquer was included there with many other well known franchises. He identifies a region that he calls Cognitive Threshold where the complexity of the game doesn't allow it to be fun anymore and successfully commercially. The picture below illustrates the feedback they've got:






Cognitive Load on Command & Conquer games

It's not hard to figure out that games like Command & Conquer can be quite intensive in terms of cognitive load. In terms of macromanagement, you are responsible for the whole army, how it develops economically, its growth, its tactics, etc. In the micromanagement side of things, you are responsible for the moves of each unit, organization of unit groups and their formations, and even sometimes even you need to play specific units just as a third person shooter game paying a special attention to its own abilities. If that isn't enough, the current controls requires a considerably high precision and speed on both mouse and keyboards. And we also need to take in mind the complexity of doing all that, learning the rules, learning the units, buildings and their abilities. All in real time.

In general terms of boredom/fun/frustration, micromanagement is more frustrating than macromanagement, because the rewards achieved with micromanagement actions is close to none while macromanagement are much more of a game changer, having stronger effects in the battle. Not to mention that micromanagement usually demands more efforts from the player, they are also more repetitive and predictable on some cases.

It is really in the nature of real time strategy games to be tough in terms of cognition load, however, there are ways to tone it down without dumbing down the game if a proper user interface is used. And this is why I've tried to emphasize it in the last CNCNZ roundtable discussion.



How user interface (UI) can reduce Cognitive Load in Command & Conquer

There are several initiatives that can be done to reduce the cognitive load of these games by emphasizing macromanagement over micromanagement or rescheduling the time to take certain decisions by redistributing them, reducing the stress to the player. Also, reducing the required precision and effort to issue orders/commands. And many of them may take into account a better user interface:


- Use attack-move as the default move order. If you need to move without attacking the enemies, use something like Ctrl + click: It's clear that most of the times that you'll send a group of units to some place, you'll want them to attack anything in their way as long as it doesn't divert them from their path. Unless your units are harvesters, MCVs and engineers. Those demand special treatment by simply moving and ignoring everything around them.  This should reduce micromanagement considerably when attacking enemies.

- Let groups be as accessible in the user interface as superweapons or special powers: Display them in the left side to make the group selection task easier. Let units or buildings to be added by drag and dropping them into the groups and orders to be issued in the same way. This reduce efforts to manage groups and requirements for precision and efforts.

- Allow the addition of factories into groups, so each unit made on that factory automatically joins the group that the factory belongs to. This should help the moments that you want to reinforce your attacking force with little to no effort. It's another attitude to reduce micromanagement.

- Automatic addition of created units/buildings into groups. Most units would be added to a defense group if their factories doesn't belong to another group, but some others like harvesters, MCVs, engineers requires a special treatment, probably deserving their own group.

- Addition of units from specific factories to specific groups. I.e.: imagine that you have a barracks and you want to add light infantry to a scout group while adding other infantry types should join the defense group. So, drag the drop the light infantry icon from that factory to the group that is set to scout.

- Allow the use of pre-fabricated scripts to determine the standard behavior of group, i.e. you can set a certain group to have a certain behavior… like setting group 1 to act defensively prioritizing units that are more dangerous to buildings or having a group 2 that destroys enemy buildings with artillery while other units protect these artillery, etc.

- Allow any construction/unit to be queued. Unit queues that showed up since Tiberian Sun are a great mechanism to reduce unnecessary micromanagement to build them everytime you noticed that the previous unit was constructed. This is one of the improvements related to rescheduling the time to take decisions. However, future Command & Conquer games could also allow buildings to be queued as well in advance, regardless of how much money the player has at the time. In this case, as you order a building to be constructed, drag and drop it to the position that you want it to be built. The building will be constructed as soon as the building time is over (and all money is spent for its cost) and there is no enemy unit in its position. If the user wants to replace it before its built, simply drag and drop the building to somewhere else.

- Buttons and commands to add or remove priority from a specific unit type from the group. I.e.: if you want to prioritize the artillery from your group over other units to ensure that other units will focus on their survival, you'd have to associate the artillery with this command, perhaps by dragging and dropping it or using a keyboard hotkey. Units with smaller priority will be in the front lines to conserve units with higher priority. That's prioritizing macromanagement over micromanagement.

- Display, over each tiberium field, the amount of harvesters assigned to it and the amount of credits currently available on them. It's something that already exists on some Starcraft games and that it helps the user to manage its resources.

- Allow users to click on Tiberium fields to define the maximum amount of harvesters on them. It should be an easy tool to define the priority of a tiberium field over others. It worth mentioning that it should have a default behavior in case the user doesn't bother to mess with it. Dragging and dropping tiberium fields to the add or remove priority command mentioned above would also have an effect on future harvesters interaction with that tiberium field.

- Display, over each allied refinery, the amount of harvesters expected to feed it with tiberium and the amount of cash generated per minute by that refinery. It should help users to identify overloaded and underused refineries.

- Display, over each allied factory, an icon of whatever is being built by it. It should help the user and their allies to be informed about the current activity of that factory. Click at the factory to quickly access its build options if the factory belongs to you, which is something helpful for games with multiples factories.





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And there is much more improvements in terms of user interface that could be done to improve the overall experience of Command & Conquer games and makes them more accessible to the horde.

So, what do you think of this article? What do you think of these ideas? Would you recommend anything to developers of Rivals and the upcoming Command & Conquer PC game? Share your thoughts here with us.

Key Words: #News #CommandAndConquerRivals #CommandAndConquer #OpenRA 

Last edited by Banshee on Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:25 pm; edited 10 times in total

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Holy_Master
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Joined: 21 Jul 2004
Location: Thailand

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A-Move - I never seen anyone complain about A-move other than satire about how easy some one can win the game by simply use A-Move command... to change this function is beyond necessary IMO.... I still prefer to keep it as it is like TW and Ra3 even MoBA still keep this command I can't see why this need to change... except most unit in game able to moving fire like Halowars , Or Supreme commander.

High APM require can easily fix by simply make each unit hader to kill off enough to give room for player to control/react it's no need to dump down other mechanic...

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OmegaBolt
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Location: York, England

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RA2 does let you select control groups from its bar at the bottom. And nobody uses it becauses its way easier and quicker just to press the number. A bunch of clutter on the left side of the screen seems annoying to me, would have to be toggleable.
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Mechacaseal
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Joined: 29 Aug 2015

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting they say starcraft 2 is more exciting than C&C. C&C build time is faster than Starcraft 2 thus you can perform attacks faster in C&C than starcraft 2. If you watch starcraft 2 replays its common practice for people to skip the first few minutes of the match because its so slow. But that's only if yo ucompare it to old C&C games. The new ones EA made are slower like starcraft 2.

Last edited by Mechacaseal on Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:28 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Banshee
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Joined: 15 Aug 2002
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Holy_Master: I think your idea is flawed when you have skirmishes with many units on at least one of the sides. But my focus on this post was the user interface rather than game balance.

@OmegaBolt: That's because you are taking into account people who only uses mouse and keyboard (no pens or fingers) and the fact that the unit group system is not as advanced as what I suggested here.

@ShortBus (Mechacaseal): It's true and this is one of the many reasons why I emphasize on my post that the data collected by them shouldn't be taken into heart.

PS: I've edited my post to answer all the other posts.

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Holland
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Joined: 31 May 2017

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banshee can i make you a requesr to put your stuff out on this topic

https://forums.cncnet.org/topic/9114-q1-is-there-anything-sacred-you-would-advise-not-to-change-in-remaster/?page=4

For i dont know if Jim will check this forum

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Banshee
Supreme Banshee


Joined: 15 Aug 2002
Location: Brazil

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Holland: I won't do that for several reasons:

1) This post isn't targeted exclusively to Jim Vessella's next C&C game (check the keywords at the bottom of the first post if you need more information)

2) This isn't necessarily a request either. It was also posted to open people's mind when designing mods and RTS games.

3) A post as big as this one and not objective won't receive attention in a topic with a bunch of posts and many of them with contradicting it. (Some people don't want UI changed at all there)


Nothing personal. However, I won't prevent anyone from doing it or posting the ideas promoted at this post there. If you guys agree with it and want to place some pressure on EA, go ahead and post there. He seems to be really reading the posts there.

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Holland
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Joined: 31 May 2017

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banshee wrote:
@Holland: I won't do that for several reasons:

1) This post isn't targeted exclusively to Jim Vessella's next C&C game (check the keywords at the bottom of the first post if you need more information)

2) This isn't necessarily a request either. It was also posted to open people's mind when designing mods and RTS games.

3) A post as big as this one and not objective won't receive attention in a topic with a bunch of posts and many of them with contradicting it. (Some people don't want UI changed at all there)


Nothing personal. However, I won't prevent anyone from doing it or posting the ideas promoted at this post there. If you guys agree with it and want to place some pressure on EA, go ahead and post there. He seems to be really reading the posts there.


Dude you are so cool xD i will copy some of your post then. Ty

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TAK02
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Location: It was Damascus.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:25 am    Post subject: Re: The importance of a proper UI for Command & Conquer Reply with quote

Banshee wrote:
Allow the addition of factories into groups, so each unit made on that factory automatically joins the group that the factory belongs to. This should help the moments that you want to reinforce your attacking force with little to no effort. It's another attitude to reduce micromanagement.

You can do this in Emperor: Battle for Dune.
One thing to note is different from RA2/YR however is that the factory is not selected with the units of a team/group, so you cannot change the factory's rally point on the fly.
While in RA2/YR/TS/FS, factories are indeed seleted with the rest of the team,  but fail at auto-recruitment.

Can't we just ask for an improved/remade Xanadu engine we can mod easily? #Tongue

EDIT:
Banshee wrote:
That's because you are taking into account people who only uses mouse and keyboard (no pens or fingers) and the fact that the unit group system is not as advanced as what I suggested here.

While it'd be nice, sort of a different experience I can attest to, it'd still feel out of place, with mouse and keyboard hitting closer to home.
In short: proper touchsupport is nice for RTSs to try out one in a while, but then never again. But that's just me.

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G-E
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Joined: 09 Feb 2015

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Their idea was to seek popularity for the Command & Conquer franchise from other markets (mobile) and that the simplified gameplay was to make it more intuitive for the newcomers.

Chasing the wrong market, or at least chasing the disloyal market of casual players that couldn't care less about your franchise. The best games, the most enduring games, were not the easy ones. You don't build a cult following when just anyone can join the club.

Quote:
From what I understood, although this did not seem to be explicitly mentioned, he seemed to think that one of the reasons that RTS games like Command & Conquer did not attract many players compared to MOBAs, FPSs and other genres is that it is complex to play (not intuitive nor accessible) and that real time is a huge burden on cognitive load.

I've seen many terrible interfaces, and I've helped develop a few gui projects myself, but I always found the best programs have made the most repetitive tasks the most intuitive, rather than trying to make absolutely every obscure and rarely needed feature intuitive. Think of it like Mortal Kombat, you could thoroughly enjoy the game without ever knowing any Fatality/Babality etc codes.

Quote:
It means that people might need to do many delicate decisions with not enough time to properly think about their consequences and they can be heavily penalized on that. This may lead into some stress. If it stress the players too much, it is not fun anymore. I guess that the reason many people prefer playing against predictable AI players than playing against other humans, since that it might be more stressful. In order to elaborate his idea, he has pointed out an article written by Nick Yee on Quantic Foundry.

This is a byproduct of improper balancing decisions, when you make every action into a life or death decision, it makes the game feel unfair, there always has to be hope. When a game allows you to recover from near defeat, or mitigate the results of a mistake, that's when you hook people. Pretending this is the fault of the humans playing is idiotic. Even if you make the case that some people are below the necessary threshold of cognition to handle this recovery, it can be solved by adding a bit of randomness, where a player can also get lucky, and they get to learn incrementally.

The secret to a long standing franchise is players have to keep growing into it, once they stop growing within the game, it becomes boring. Rigidity of game play, strict versus calculations between unit types, and other mathematically derived balance is objectively wrong. Humans need the element of bravery and deception, the sense that everything is a mutli-factor event that could be altered by even small actoins.

...

This is why in Scorched Earth I've taken the decision to tune player vs AI to be ideally difficult against 3-4, but within that, each map also adds varying levels of economic difficulty, higher or slower pace, and so on. With the option of playing water or purely land maps there is even more variety to move the cognition threshold, players can opt to remove an entire line of thinking from the gameplay if they choose, or they can choose maps that have minimal naval attack vectors to get practice.

In effect, although I always recommend playing Brutal, the game itself will have a dozen levels of difficulty based on other choices made by the player, and each level helps a player achieve that narrow victory they can learn from. As long as they are able to make the game harder as their skill improves, they will always enjoy coming back.
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G-E
General


Joined: 09 Feb 2015

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wanted to keep my interface suggestion separate, someone can crosspost if they like it.

There was an old DOS game called Centurion, not a remarkable game in that it was like Risk, but with the element of formation combat scenes, it created a very interesting game. See attached video for reference.




So I was thinking about how this can be applied to C&C, and I think using the grouping keys it would be fantastically simple.

Let's say the game has 3-4 possible formation types, you could have unit limits within the formation, or keep it unlimited, I don't think it would be a problem either way. Then you as a player select 5 units to be the frontline, another 10 to be ranged/melee units, and another bunch of higher tier rearguard or backup units, in the same way you would group teams. then you select all of them, after which you could ctrl-right click and choose formation followed by a selecting a rally point.

In this way you could create complex and relatively ideal formations against whatever is attacking you. It would be up to you to change formation in the heat of battle, likely you wouldn't, but if there was a floating beacon o fsome kind above the formation that you could easily right-click to choose a new formation style, that would be the least intrusive requiring no hotkeys while being entirely obvious you have a formation. The formation could also be disbanded with any of the standard Guard/Stop commands.

....

Another interesting UI element could be the option of also selecting enemy combatants as a group that you wish your team to attack. Just like selecting your own with shift-click or perhaps a two-button drag box over them, give the enemy team a designation that would also hover over them like your formation beacon, one that would be dissolved if more than 50% of the units were destroyed, or if the units scattered too far apart. Then you could select an army of your own to attack on that beacon, whereupon they would hunt down all the included units, regardless of other targets around.

This would solve one of the major issues of target priority, where a unit that will retaliate will attack even some irrelevant lowly unit that will make no difference in the battle. It would also prevent units from chasing units that leave the area for repairs or retreat (removing them from the grouping)...

....

These are the kinds of UI elements that won't clutter the HUD, which ultimately is what most people complain about when they hate interfaces. When situational awareness is top priority obscuring the field of battle is the worst thing to do.
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^Rampastein
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:23 pm    Post subject: Re: The importance of a proper UI for Command & Conquer Reply with quote

I agree with the first post and the general idea of improving the UI, but there's some details that the first post misses.

Banshee wrote:
- Use attack-move as the default move order. If you need to move without attacking the enemies, use something like Ctrl + click: It's clear that most of the times that you'll send a group of units to some place, you'll want them to attack anything in their way as long as it doesn't divert them from their path. Unless your units are harvesters, MCVs and engineers. Those demand special treatment by simply moving and ignoring everything around them.  This should reduce micromanagement considerably when attacking enemies.

In addition to unarmed units, there's many units in classic C&C that simply cannot fire while moving, like the Nod and Allied artilleries in TD/RA1 and the Soviet V2. I think C&C3's stance system provided a nice amount of options for this behaviour; the default behaviour for those units could be that they move to their place while ignoring enemies, but you could also have them stop and engage enemies automatically by putting them on aggressive stance.

I know many TD/RA/TS players dislike the idea of automatic attack-move because it makes a large part of the micromanagement unnecessary and so makes the game need less "skill". I also personally really enjoy micromanagement and I'd really consider it before implementing automatic attack-move in for example DTA. But for a new C&C game I still think having automatic attack move is worth it for making the game more accessible. Other features such as unit special abilities (or even being able to dodge non-homing projectiles like in TD and RA1) can be implemented to give the gameplay more depth and restore the usefulness of micromanagement without making excessive micromanagement strictly necessary unless you want to compete with the best players.

Banshee wrote:
- Let groups be as accessible in the user interface as superweapons or special powers: Display them in the left side to make the group selection task easier. Let units or buildings to be added by drag and dropping them into the groups and orders to be issued in the same way. This reduce efforts to manage groups and requirements for precision and efforts.


I agree with OmegaBolt here, this could be a good default but there should be an option to disable it for players who don't need it.

Banshee wrote:
That's because you are taking into account people who only uses mouse and keyboard (no pens or fingers) and the fact that the unit group system is not as advanced as what I suggested here.


The game should ideally have a customized UI for each platform, if it supports multiple platforms. I wonder if a multi-platform RTS is even viable unless there's separate versions for different platforms; it's likely that the control scheme on tablets and especially phones needs to be so much simpler that the gameplay itself also needs to be dumbed down compared to the desktop version. In other words, a RTS game that gave just enough cognitive load on a tablet would likely be way too easy to play on a desktop, while a RTS that gives just the right amount of cognitive load on a desktop would be too difficult to play on a tablet.

Banshee wrote:
- Allow the addition of factories into groups, so each unit made on that factory automatically joins the group that the factory belongs to.

Not a bad idea.

Banshee wrote:
- Automatic addition of created units/buildings into groups. Most units would be added to a defense group if their factories doesn't belong to another group, but some others like harvesters, MCVs, engineers requires a special treatment, probably deserving their own group.

- Addition of units from specific factories to specific groups. I.e.: imagine that you have a barracks and you want to add light infantry to a scout group while adding other infantry types should join the defense group. So, drag the drop the light infantry icon from that factory to the group that is set to scout.


I feel these features (with the group UI on the side as you suggested) might clutter up the UI so that the group functionality seems actually more scary for newcomers than it actually is. But they could be useful as optional advanced features.

I also can't see myself needing either of those as an experienced C&C player, but I recognize that people who like don't like micromanagement as much could like such features.

Quote:
- Allow the use of pre-fabricated scripts to determine the standard behavior of group

- Allow any construction/unit to be queued

- Buttons and commands to add or remove priority from a specific unit type from the group


I think there are all decent ideas. I feel unit priority and behaviour settings (they could even be combined into one feature) would also nicely complement stances and formations like what C&C3 had already.

Quote:
- Display, over each tiberium field, the amount of harvesters assigned to it and the amount of credits currently available on them.


The challenge with this is that in classic C&C tiberium isn't only distributed in re-growing fields, but there's also fields that are gone once harvested and might be oddly shaped. The simplest tiberium field is a piece of overlay placed on one tile. And depending on how you harvest them / how much fighting is going on (as cannon hits destroy tiberium), a single large field can be split up in multiple smaller fields as the resources are just overlay on the tiles. This could still be doable (diplay the resource field's credits on each field, and update the display if the field gets split into multiple smaller fields), but it'd be more challenging to get right. If this is implemented, I hope it doesn't come at the cost of simplifying the nice dynamic tiberium fields of the classic games into the boring generic round-field-with-a-single-tree types we mostly had in C&C3.

Banshee wrote:
- Allow users to click on Tiberium fields to define the maximum amount of harvesters on them.


I think it'd be enough if harvesters would just remember which field they last harvested from (and also which refinery they should use). The number of harvesters you have is rarely static, and the amount of harvestable tiberium on fields also varies so assigning a maximum number of harvs to a tibfield could actually increase the amount of management compared to a simpler system based on remembering commands.
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egozi44
Civilian


Joined: 29 Feb 2016

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really liked TW UI cause it was a bit transparent and unlike most people who tell you that bottom bar is the best I liked the right bar (we can actually call it the right mini bar cause in old cnc games the bar was a bit longer)

The bottom UI on big screens will cause your eyes to move down and focus on the units and structures you build instead of the battlefield, the right bar was more close to the middle area and our eyes could easily see what happens while keep moving right and left rather than up and down,

the fact the UI was transparent mini bar meant that it won't hide the entire right area of the screen and we could see a bit through it unlike old Gen or SC bottom bar which hide everything.


Another nice aspect of the UI is how EALA  knew how to make portraits which could tell us more or less what we going to build, what I mean by that is that they were big enough and colorful enough for our eyes to be able to tell them apart from one another (for example see SC UI, even today I can end up mix units and buildings to one another if I'm not touch it for some years while with cnc i can tell right away)

To sum it up, sure it always matter of who get used to what but I really think that the way EALA did the UI of TW was really good for most players, one of the fun aspect of cnc for me always was that it look simple enough to understand yet have it depths once you get to know it better, in games like SC for example you getting thrown into a deep rts that in order to play it with no past experience you need a manual (which the game provides btw)
while I don't know if most people will really get used to TW UI over SC or TT (which mimic SC and most standard rts UI these days) I pretty much got the impression I right from my experience with the c&c community, but go figure xP

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Banshee
Supreme Banshee


Joined: 15 Aug 2002
Location: Brazil

PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@TAK02:

Regarding Emperor: Battle for Dune, you can't compare it with what I'm suggesting here. Some of the ideas I am suggesting relies on others. You can't pick them individually and expect it to be a life savior.

Quote:
In short: proper touchsupport is nice for RTSs to try out one in a while, but then never again. But that's just me.


It depends if we can make it as competitive as mouse and keyboard. Of course that mouse and keyboard offers more precision (in particular, mouse is more precise), but I believe that there are means to make touch as competitive as mouse, specially if the things that I suggested above (and few others that I didn't mention in this post, but I've mentioned at the roundtable discussion) are done.

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@G-E's first post:

1) I agree entirely with your first note.

2) You can't compare Mortal Kombat with the complexity of a RTS game. In a RTS game you are responsible for much more than one unit and you have inumerous tasks... some repetitive micromanagement tasks doesn't offer the same reward for the player as repetitive combos on Mortal Kombat. Intuitive interface is always welcomed, but it is also interesting to the player to replace repetitive tasks that provides little to no reward with tasks that are actually relevant for the outcome of the match. Think about that.

3) I think you either misunderstood what I said or made the wrong association. The message that I wanted to express is that the unpredictability nature of humans makes the game harder and more stressful to play against them than playing against bots. Considering that the game itself is already cognitively intense, such addition to stress may dismotivate some of the players to play under these conditions. Of course that this isn't an exclusivity from the RTS genre nor a conclusion expressed by the EA employee either.

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@G-E interface suggestion post:

1) I think you have underestimated my add and remove priority command features suggestion. The purpose is the same, except that you don't need to choose the front melee units (which ends up being faster to set) and you don't necessarily need to rely on the keyboard, although keyboard could also be used. You'd just need to raise the priority of the other units. Of course that my idea is limited to unit types from the current selection while yours is limited to the current selection, which could allow different unit types to have different roles.

2) Your second idea sounds interesting... but its implementation would be complicated by the scattering conditions. Besides that, one of the things that I was trying to avoid by my set of suggestions is to make the player select and deselect units very often. This is a kind of command that demands precision and speed and it is definitely something bad for other hardware interfaces like touch and pen.


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@^Rampastein:


Quote:
I know many TD/RA/TS players dislike the idea of automatic attack-move because it makes a large part of the micromanagement unnecessary and so makes the game need less "skill". I also personally really enjoy micromanagement and I'd really consider it before implementing automatic attack-move in for example DTA. But for a new C&C game I still think having automatic attack move is worth it for making the game more accessible. Other features such as unit special abilities (or even being able to dodge non-homing projectiles like in TD and RA1) can be implemented to give the gameplay more depth and restore the usefulness of micromanagement without making excessive micromanagement strictly necessary unless you want to compete with the best players.


As to this and other things you've mentioned, I did not mention anything about player customization. I do not expect that every player would simply accept all my suggestions. So, of course that players should be allowed to customize it and if they decide to play by the old style, they should have that option too. There is no way to determine a generalize cognitive load limit for all players because such thing does not exist.


Quote:
I feel these features (with the group UI on the side as you suggested) might clutter up the UI so that the group functionality seems actually more scary for newcomers than it actually is. But they could be useful as optional advanced features


Optional and some of them could receive some transparency.

Quote:
The challenge with this is that in classic C&C tiberium isn't only distributed in re-growing fields, but there's also fields that are gone once harvested and might be oddly shaped. The simplest tiberium field is a piece of overlay placed on one tile. And depending on how you harvest them / how much fighting is going on (as cannon hits destroy tiberium), a single large field can be split up in multiple smaller fields as the resources are just overlay on the tiles. This could still be doable (diplay the resource field's credits on each field, and update the display if the field gets split into multiple smaller fields), but it'd be more challenging to get right. If this is implemented, I hope it doesn't come at the cost of simplifying the nice dynamic tiberium fields of the classic games into the boring generic round-field-with-a-single-tree types we mostly had in C&C3.


When I mentioned tiberium field... it was definitely not one tile, but I meant the whole tiberium region. Of course that detecting this region may offer challenges, most of them are pre-determined during the map creation. Some others may show up when a harvester explodes or something like that. I think they might be predictable.


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@egozi44:

Quote:
I really liked TW UI cause it was a bit transparent and unlike most people who tell you that bottom bar is the best I liked the right bar (we can actually call it the right mini bar cause in old cnc games the bar was a bit longer)

The bottom UI on big screens will cause your eyes to move down and focus on the units and structures you build instead of the battlefield, the right bar was more close to the middle area and our eyes could easily see what happens while keep moving right and left rather than up and down,

the fact the UI was transparent mini bar meant that it won't hide the entire right area of the screen and we could see a bit through it unlike old Gen or SC bottom bar which hide everything.


Sidebar works better for 16:9 screens because mouse offers a good precision and a sidebar takes less space of the screen than a bottom bar.

I also agree that TW user interface is one of the best (if not the best) user interface I've seen in a Command & Conquer game.

The transparency in the minibar is a good addition to allow a better view of the battlefield, which matters most indeed.

Quote:
To sum it up, sure it always matter of who get used to what but I really think that the way EALA did the UI of TW was really good for most players, one of the fun aspect of cnc for me always was that it look simple enough to understand yet have it depths once you get to know it better, in games like SC for example you getting thrown into a deep rts that in order to play it with no past experience you need a manual (which the game provides btw)


Starcraft is indeed harder to play than C&C and less intuitive. Even the Cognitive Threshold graph in the first post confirms it. A manual helps people to learn, but good tutorial maps are much more helpful. In Starcraft games, your base build mechanics and units are restricted on several stages of the single player campaigns until the player get used to them. And that indeed works better than a manual.

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G-E
General


Joined: 09 Feb 2015

PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banshee wrote:
2) You can't compare Mortal Kombat with the complexity of a RTS game. In a RTS game you are responsible for much more than one unit and you have inumerous tasks... some repetitive micromanagement tasks doesn't offer the same reward for the player as repetitive combos on Mortal Kombat. Intuitive interface is always welcomed, but it is also interesting to the player to replace repetitive tasks that provides little to no reward with tasks that are actually relevant for the outcome of the match. Think about that.

I can compare anything I like thank you Smile

Implicit in my comparison was that of all the fighting games of the genre, most relied on special sequences of moves, like the Noe-Geo games for instance, MK did not. In the case of Street Fighter you had an even larger verity of buttons, but because the special moves were basically consistent, those 6 buttons behaved more like 2 from a cognitive standpoint, with a modifier to power.

This is why MK and SF2 had such a cult following, they took alternate approaches to solve the same problem, both were excellent in their own way, and importantly both had a low skill barrier to entry. Like the fighting games a mouse and 4-5 important buttons (or keys) should be all you need to make a great rts interface, very similar to the joystick + 4-6 buttons of the arcades.
Banshee wrote:
3) I think you either misunderstood what I said or made the wrong association. The message that I wanted to express is that the unpredictability nature of humans makes the game harder and more stressful to play against them than playing against bots. Considering that the game itself is already cognitively intense, such addition to stress may dismotivate some of the players to play under these conditions. Of course that this isn't an exclusivity from the RTS genre nor a conclusion expressed by the EA employee either.

Player unpredictability is indeed a huge factor, but I was emphasizing that there are many other factors that increase or decrease difficulty, either by slowing down an attacker to make formulating a response easier, or to remove elements like running out of cash less of a worry. To focus entirely on the player (or even AI) skill level misses that at least half the difficulty is caused by other game elements.
Banshee wrote:
1) I think you have underestimated my add and remove priority command features suggestion. The purpose is the same, except that you don't need to choose the front melee units (which ends up being faster to set) and you don't necessarily need to rely on the keyboard, although keyboard could also be used. You'd just need to raise the priority of the other units. Of course that my idea is limited to unit types from the current selection while yours is limited to the current selection, which could allow different unit types to have different roles.

I understand your idea of manufacturing units that are assigned to their own groupings, but I don't see it being terribly important unless the maps and players involved make the fight so predictable. By this I mean if your base only has 3 routes to the battlefield, then there are 3 crucial points to defend, but what if the map is entirely open or very large? Depending on unit speeds, this might not even make sense to use as you risk leaving weak spots without even more constant micromanaging. Also, does amassing a bunch of units together that can be wiped out by an area weapon make so much sense?

What I was suggesting about formations largely deals with this, it might or might not be less micromanaging intensive, yet avoids many of the pitfalls of leaving units prone, as well as giving them a particular fighting style. Similar to many fps team games like Rainbow Six, where you control your player, but have giving a limited instruction set for the other guys you aren't controlling to at least follow your plan instead of a generic reactionary pose.

I would disagree that the interface and game mechanics would be overly complex, in fact you could make an extremely simple one using a common key and time to divide, a perfect example would be shooter games where 1 key cycles through your weapons. A player could select, hotkey, select, hotkey, select, hotkey, as long as it was done within a particular screen and within a time limit, you wouldn't need to devote more resources to selecting your formation. Further, if each hotkey press made a tooltip popup with your basic formation layout diagram, indicating which slots are filled as you fill them, you could avoid using mouse control for the menu, giving you easy entry and pro level efficiency. Since I'm only talking about 3-5 formations, you could even assign 1 hotkey to each, avoiding slow mouse driven formation selection beyond the actual unit selection. As I imagine it, it shouldn't take more than 4sec to make a formation for someone proficient.

New formations would be started once the player screen moves far away, and I don't see any drawbacks to abandoning the completion of a formation if the player moves off to something more important, that's a player decision and part of the cognitive challange of what to attend to in a fight. But even here, clicking on my flating beacon idea you could return to the formatoin and complete using the same process where you left off, it would be just one more element that has to be auto-deselected when moving away, and player selected when resuming.
Banshee wrote:
2) Your second idea sounds interesting... but its implementation would be complicated by the scattering conditions. Besides that, one of the things that I was trying to avoid by my set of suggestions is to make the player select and deselect units very often. This is a kind of command that demands precision and speed and it is definitely something bad for other hardware interfaces like touch and pen.

Again the conditions could be easily sorted out with settings, it is not that different to how the AI targets the center of the team when doing chronoshift or invulnerability superweapons. There is a notional center to the group, and the game could either allow players too far from that center to be ignored, or ejected from the grouping. I could forsee it being useful that a returning enemy would be re-included in the grouping, but this would be a choice not a necessity.

I think fundamentally if we're going to "advance" the rts genre, these are the kinds of elements that would actually add fun and precision to the mechanics, unlike the addition of extra necessary steps to do an important thing in order to make it harder, which only make something more frustrating and less approachable.

Remember what I said, the key is to make mastering the game a long process, something you can grow into. Making it arduous is just going to make veterans feel they can't progress because they are limited by arbitrary restrictions, not because of their skill/cognitive level. This allows a pro player to skip micromanaging to some degree when there's too much to do, but also give them the freedom to do it if they feel there's tactically space to do so.

What I've suggested would not be required for a novice player to learn, nor would a pro player have to employ it, that's the special sauce. Voluntary and beneficial, not required, even at the higher levels.
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