Scouting mechanic

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Scouting mechanic

Postby elliotbay » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:16 am

I've been doing some thinking about a game mechanic that doesn't have the player having unlimited vision and control over all his units on the field, meaning the player must make use of scouts and runners for the most part. I read through both game threads, and I don't think this was adequately addressed. This is just in the thought experiment stage, but I'd like some input on whether anyone thinks this kind of game could be fun. Of course, I'm using Erfworld mechanics as a basis.

Each unit can only see what's in his own hex, meaning a view of the board that only includes what you can see now would look very boring. One could have an interface that allows the player to look back at all the previous turns, presuming that when a speaking unit returns, he tells you everthing that happened to him, essentially merging what they know about the dealings of the previous turn. Units could then be given simple orders, like "go there, and come back." If the unit comes back, they say what they saw (if they can speak) and what battles they participated in. Of course, if they lost the battle (or somehow Turned), they would never come back. The player also have an overall view, which fills in the map as best it can with the current information, turning spaces we don't know as much about various shades of gray. Following is an example (with reduced move, to reduce my work), in a spoiler tag for your scrolling pleasure.

Spoiler: show
This is the beginning of the turn. A scout had returned the previous turn, after running away from an enemy on the other side of the field.
Image

We have ordered one of our scouts to see if anybody is out ambushing us from the side Nobody is.
Image

We have ordered our other scout to look at the hex directly below the remembered enemy, and then come back. Since that scout didn't have enough move (has 4, needed 6) to do that in one turn, we expect him to come back next turn to tell us what he saw
Image

We moved ourselves to the space in front just to check it out
Image

We ended our turn. All the information we had from previous turns became stale. Also, we can't give commands to any unit except ourself, because there's no way to communicate with them
Image

We moved back to our original square, which now has the scouter that we sent away the previous turn, having already expended its 2 move to return. Now he can tell us what he saw, and we can tell both of them what to do.
Image

We probably would couple this view with a turn-by-turn account, which may or may not have shades of gray.


This core mechanic could be altered by magic items or spells, of course. Essentially, if a warlord has an eyebook, the player can directly control him, because the warlord will tell him what he saw, and the player might give new orders. Thinkagrams would perform the same function, but for one turn. Hats and bats might only work one way. The turn before the first turn of the example above could have had a bat getting killed by that enemy.

One problem here is player communication. There's a reason talking is a free action in D&D. One could have players randomly assigned to sides, so the players don't know who is whom, and trust them not to talk about it, but that seems doomed to failure, especially because one would want people to be excited enough about your game to talk about it while they're not taking their turn. One could instead just assume that each overlord has a direct link to all others. This takes away one aspect of the messenger mechanic, but I'm not sure if it could be helped.

The other issue to tackle is how to tell warlords what to do. If we were doing a GM'd game, then you could just give English instructions to all your warlords, and the GM would take the warlords' moves. This solution is easiest for the players, but creates a lot of work for the GM, and may result in him having to make strategic decisions against himself. Alternately, you could provide several different AI scripts, and even allow user-submitted ones for your warlords. This, of course, means that the player has complete control over the warlord's personality, which is probably okay. This game would have more to do with strategy than internal politics. I'm sure if the game became at all popular, there would be lots of well-vetted AI scripts available for warlords.


Okay, I think that's it for me, for now. Thoughts? Feelings? Ad hominem attacks?
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby cib » Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:25 pm

Nice thinking and also nice diagrams =)

I have also thought about these things, but I didn't come up with a solution yet. Yours looks pretty interesting.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby Rizban » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:20 pm

I like it, but it would be a nightmare to GM without some sort of program handling it all for you, especially if you have 3 or more players who post more than once a day. Just thinking about making all those images for every move makes me very leery about implementing a system like this.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby elliotbay » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:48 am

Indeed. When I said GM'd system, I meant still aided by a computer program. I figured the system could simply give the GM, in sequence, the orders and views of one specific warlord. It would still be a pain, but not as much as if you actually had to make the images. Yikes!
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby Rizban » Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:16 am

Like I said, I really like the system. Throw together a working program that handles it for you, and I'd be all over this for when I GM certain types of games.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby lathomas64 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:12 am

I like the idea too. Imagining amusing ways to do the same type of thing with a 3d game in first person view.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby Rizban » Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:58 am

The only issue I see with this is that it's not exactly Erfworld's mechanic. I can't find the comic right off hand, but I'm almost 100% sure that Scout is a special ability, and what it sees is sent back to the unit's side each turn without need for him to return.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby elliotbay » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:35 am

I used "scout" as a generic term here. Those were just standard warlords I was sending out; nobody with a special ability. I suggested that maybe we had found out about the dude in the first picture from an actual scouting unit (eg bat), but absent those, I think that is the actual Erfworld mechanic.

I'm considering prototyping a GM'd version of this to try out in the next month or so, but I think that can really only work in the small scale, and I'm picturing large scales, especially if I want to flesh this out with different unit types, stacks, etc. I'm really wondering if anybody else thinks that designing a system that incorporates (writing and) assigning AIs to units could be fun.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby Rizban » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:40 am

Sounds like a blast to me. I'd be willing to help out if I have the time. Depends a lot on how you choose to go about making it too.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby elliotbay » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:07 am

Oops, I meant to ask if anyone thinks the system itself (including user-created AIs) could be fun for players. Designing has its own troubles and rewards, and part of that's seeing what might be fun. Of course, there's only so much you can do in the theoretical, and at some point you have to just try it out.

Anyway, I'd probably be using Game Gardens, simply because I don't know of any other open-source framework for online games. If I go all out with the AI route, we'll have to design, implement, and document a domain-specific language, and we can cross that bridge if/when we come to it.
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Re: Scouting mechanic

Postby Rizban » Sun Nov 01, 2009 6:54 pm

You can always try some sort of framework on Sourceforge.net.
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