• Supreme Ruler Cold War - Developer Diary #5

    Dev Diary 5 - Theaters & Battlezones

    If you are new to Supreme Ruler or BattleGoat Studios I'll take a moment to say that we we pride ourselves on creating our games with a 'no limits' approach, modelled in a realistic world setting. As such, when playing as one of the larger nations, a player may find themselves in command of literally thousands of military units. As you might imagine, that number can pose some playability challenges.

    When we entered development of Supreme Ruler 2020 we noted requests from our players for improved unit management, less micromanagement and an overall push towards making the game more approachable for new players. This has continued to be one of our biggest design challenges, though we know that we can't please everyone. Some die hard players really wanted a true "military hierarchy system" but our real-time-strategy gameplay and wide-open maps became an obstacle to a formal command structure. Instead for SR2020 we incorporated an improved system of "Battle Groups" that provided an ability for players to create groups of units in excess of the traditional 1-10 'number groups' found in many strategy games. We also enhanced the keyboard commands available to provide orders to your Battle Groups. Players that had experienced both SR2010 and SR2020 appreciated the improvement with orders such as Formation Movement, same-speed travel, etc, but there was still a ways to go...

    That brings us to Supreme Ruler: Cold War. One of the key design changes we've added to help players is the introduction of "Theaters" and "Battlezones". In addition to the traditional country borders within the game, we have divided the world into 21 Theaters and these are then divided into Battlezones. These divisions can span multiples countries and can be assigned priority and individualized rules that your State Department and Defense Ministers can then use to make decisions regarding Troop Deployment, Espionage, and Diplomacy. An example of this would be playing as the United States and making the South East Asia Theater a military priority. In that situation, unassigned military units within the US could be automatically deployed to positions within South East Asia. In this way, you do not have to review all your units, and manually give each an order to move to a specific area in the world. On-Map Notices (see Developer Diary #4) would then provide players with feedback on the events and status of each Theater making it easier to get a grasp on where the current hot spots in the world are and reacting to them.

    Within a given Theater there are many subdivisions called Battlezones which further allow players to assign specific Rules to whatever military units might be stationed there. For instance, continuing with the example of playing as the United States, you could review the Central European Theater, and assign the Battlezones that fall on the borders between Western European and Warsaw Pact forces as High Priority Defensive areas. This would then tell all of the forces that are deployed in the area where your most important positions and front lines are, and direct units to be deployed there to provide good Defensive Strength.

    Theaters can also automate other elements of the game. You can queue up unit fabrication in one area of the world, and then deploy the reserve units into a different theater. Larger lists such as country names in the State Department are also displayed by theater making navigation even easier.

    Theaters and Battlezones are just another way that Supreme Ruler Cold War will allow players to focus more on their higher level goals, allow them to feel less like a local commander and more like a Supreme Ruler.

    by Daxon Flynn / BattleGoat Studios

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Supreme Ruler Cold War - Developer Diary #5 started by battlefella View original post
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. coderbob's Avatar
      I like the idea of the influence system, but that needed to be accompanied by changes to military management. So, the solution they seemed to have come up with is more AI control of your units. From my experience with the previous games, that is a bad idea. I was excited about SR:CW until I read this article. Commanding a superpower at the battalion level is just stupid, and I suspect the AI will cause more harm than good and players will be left to contend with a massive blob of units anyway. No, thanks.
    1. grimmor32's Avatar
      I have to agree this game is great the only thing that keeps me from playing it is the micro managing of the military.
    1. Caesar2008's Avatar
      Perhaps the real question -- which many may have been missing -- is not whether some sort of hierarchal command system is implemented, but rather how that system ultimately uses the units its assigned.

      Either way, there's just no getting around the issue of handing off the units to the AI in a game of this epic scale; the player cannot possibly handle them all, so the computer has to take over to relieve the micromanagement burden. In terms of game realism and enjoyability, it really doesn't matter that much whether an elaborate, HOI-3-style command structure or a more abstracted theater level system like this one is used -- if the AI can't competently manage it, the results will be equally bad.

      What's really needed is a local command AI that receives specific objectives limited to the sector it controls, that is also extremely robust at the tactical level and thus challenges the player at all times. This local AI has to understand its military situation at all times ("Am I winning or losing the battle I'm currently in?", "Do I have the initiative?", "Do I have the units to accomplish the objective?") and react accordingly. It also must use the units it has in a coordinated fashion -- not throwing them away piecemeal, but acting according to a plan -- and scan the terrain it's operating on to identify strong points. In short, it can't do anything stupid or ridiculous, or else it'll turn the player off.

      I realize that designing a robust AI like this is an extremely difficult challenge for even the best programmers, but if anybody can do it, Paradox can. I admit that I would have preferred to see the HOI-3 command structure, but I can certainly live with this theater system...provided the AI can put up a real fight and not bungle the job or simply sit there passively.

      So I'm willing to give this a chance.