Home Forums Development Ideas for more tactical battles?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 17 total)
  • Author
  • #4815


    I have a feeling that I made this thread before, but if I did, I can’t find it.

    Anyway, I was wondering how it could be possible to increase the tactical aspect of this game beyond dancing your keeper around and hoping that your minions do damage.

    Positioning Units
    Given the nature of the game, I think that the most positional control over one’s minions that one could expect to have would be to split them into several teams, and then position the teams by controlling the leader. It’s not really feasible to have control over individual units, and anticipating how the AI will operate while controlling your team leader is just part of the game. Think about it like minions in a MOBA game. While they are little humanoid characters, they’re following simple orders like robots. Of course, what I’m saying goes out the window if you were planning on adding RTS-style mouse control, but I get the feeling that would never be the case.

    Continuing with this idea, it’s not good game design if the game can be exploited by the player so that tedious repetition of some simple action ends up being the most optimal strategy. In the context of positioning, that means that the player shouldn’t be able to make 12 different teams so that he can have optimum control over all of 12 of his minions at the expense of having to switch between all of them on each turn. Some sort of team limit (like 2, 3 or 4), and team size limit (like maybe 6-12, depending on the type and level of the team leader) should be enforced. Perhaps there could be some turn penalty for gaining and releasing control of a team leader.

    Each team could be allowed to adopt one of several formations. Some Examples:

    • Skirmish Line:Units spread in a reverse-arrowhead formation with 1-2 tiles in between each of them. Appropriate for battlefield combat when you want to approach the enemy with a concave formation (think RTS games… where the concave beats the convex). The team leader is in the middle of the skirmish line, and the team members at the end of the list go on the flanks
    • Single File: Useful for dungeon-combat. Team members trace the team leader’s steps. The team members align themselves in the precise order that they are positioned in the UI. This allows the player to make strategic decisions regarding the order of his minions (e.g., alternating between warriors and spellcasters, or putting support units at the back)
    • MeleeThe existing behaviour. Units cluster around the team leader in a ball

    Each formation could be orthogonally modulated by an team-wide pre-order (fight at will, keep-moving, retreat to base at x% damage, etc).

    Giving orders to individual team members
    One interesting mechanic that this game has is that you can’t see your entire team when you are a team leader. I think that visual (or audible) proximity could be further exploited in order to develop the tactical aspect of the game. Besides issuing formations, issuing orders would also be the primary tactical decision that a team leader could make. Such orders (which are essentially a special class of spells) might involve ordering one team-member to preferentially support another team-mate, to attack a certain enemy, or to retreat. It’s important to note that these orders are game actions themselves; you are not issuing these orders as the player, but as the team leader. Consequently, you won’t be able to issue a certain order unless the team leader, the team member, and the relationship therebetween fulfils certain criteria.

    The team leader would play a vital role in keeping certain combinations of units functional on the battlefield. Tactically, game play would revolve around positioning your team leader so that he can cast spells and give orders while keeping him out of harm’s way so that the team doesn’t fall apart.

    • This topic was modified 2 years ago by  owen.
    • This topic was modified 2 years ago by  owen.

    Team tactics have been on my list forever. Probably not as complex as you describe, but for example assigning roles to members (for example healer, archer – they would try to stay behind), and simple orders like stay, attack, etc.

    I’m also probably going to add an optional full control mode, where you get to make moves for all team members.



    I worry that a full-control mode might slow down the action too much. (It might not; sometimes the action in single-character roguelikes can be very slow if there is a complicated situation.)



    Team tactics have been on my list forever. Probably not as complex as you describe, but for example assigning roles to members (for example healer, archer – they would try to stay behind), and simple orders like stay, attack, etc.

    Thought about this topic again as I was playing today when an orc shaman healed me. I think this kind of automatic action defined by role synergizes with the rogue-like control scheme. As you say, whatever team-tactics there are should primarily be role-based.

    Made me think, what if, in the team assignment screen, BEFORE the battle starts, instead of just assigning teams as a list of units with one leader, you could assign a team as as tree of units in a hierarchical chain of command.


    – Trees allow you to issue orders recursively; during the battle, this means orders can be given QUICKLY, so that the game doesn’t drag. It should allow the player to affect the battle without giving him explicit, RTS-style control, which would violate the rogue-like paradigm (that I prefer).

    – As a corollary, most of the “team strategy” is performed, declaratively, BEFORE you embark on your mission (or, if you’re defending, as soon as you notice that you’re being attacked).

    – Lists of units have a complexity of O(n), where n is the number of units per team. Trees have an complexity of O(exp(n)). So, there’s potential for a LOT of strategy here, particularly if you code the game so that certain units work well together, or certain items (e.g., staff carried by a subordinate) have a synergistic effect on a certain unit (i.e., a team leader).

    – It’s more fun to arrange your units in a hierarchy than to just dump them in a list.


    Rules, in decreasing importance. (Rule 1 is necessary, Rule 2 might not be necessary, but it’s more an implementation strategy to make units act naturally, and Rule 3 is not necessary if you don’t want to overload the player)

    1. By default, a subordinate (i.e., child unit) will attempt to FOLLOW his IMMEDIATE superior (i.e., his parent unit), UNLESS the parent gives an order to move somewhere on the map.

    Thus, if you are the keeper, and you have two legendary minions with their own squads of 3 greenskins, you can simply divide your forces in half with two attack orders. Otherwise, everyone will just follow you, because the rule to follow will cascade down the chain of command.

    2. A unit will preferentially AID mates (i.e., heal, remove poison, cure burns, target attackers of the mate, attack targets of the mate) in the following (recursive) order:
    – parent
    – all siblings of parent
    – all subchildren siblings of parent
    – if parent is team-leader, then done, else recurse with parent of parent.

    In other words, a little group of 3-4 sibling units will act as a “fire-team,” preferring to aid heal their captain and squaddies, but they will not neglect anyone else in the team. However, they WON’T abandon their immediate leader (rule 1) in order to aid someone else (e.g., if a team-mate in need is halfway across the map).

    3. (Optional: this might overload the player) When you arrange your team, you precisely specify the roles. For example, a wolf could be the subordinate of an orc, and the wolf could have a role of scout, attack, and defend keeper, in that order.

    (Optional: this just might not work well) The number of subordinates that a unit can control is dependent on its experience level (except for the keeper, who can control infinitely many units). The rule is as follows:

    The sum of the experience levels of a unit’s subordinates must not exceed the experience level of the superior unit. However, with each level of indirection, the experience score that counts is halved. So, if an legendary humanoid controls an orc, and the orc controls a level 2 raven, then the raven counts 2 towards the orc, but only 1 towards the legendary humanoid.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  owen.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  owen.

    I’ve thought about such a hierarchy, but not only for battles, but more for dungeon management. So it would also be used for assigning tasks (assign a leader to something -> whole team does it).

    For battles, if you want to get more tactical, I think the best bet is still full control of every team member.

    The problem with the whole idea is that it could be UI hell, not only to implement, but also for the players to understand. Are there even any games that have something similar?



    I’ve thought about such a hierarchy, but not only for battles, but more for dungeon management. So it would also be used for assigning tasks (assign a leader to something -> whole team does it).

    I could think of instances where that would be useful. I just wonder what would happen if a minion is involved in two such hierarchies.

    Say hierarchy A is led by a goblin, hierarchy B is led by an ogre, and both of these creatures have the same two orcs under their command. If you activate hierarchy A (by pressing some button on the UI, say), then the goblin and both orcs start crafting. If you then activate hierarchy B, it clobbers the orders for both orcs so that they start training with the ogre (while the goblin keeps crafting on his own). Basically, it’s just a convenience feature that lets you quickly switch between established task brigades.

    For battles, if you want to get more tactical, I think the best bet is still full control of every team member.

    It really depends on what you consider to be “best.” For example, in Starcraft, your ability to micromanage units is a resource. Any unit will perform as good better when micromanaged than it would if it were left to the AI, so it’s up to the player to know how best to budget his micromanagement, because he can only control one unit (or one group of units) at any single instant. Similarly, in KeeperRL, any unit controlled by the player will perform better than the AI would, but as it is now, you can only control one unit per tic. So it’s up to the player to determine how he should budget his control. A lot of people (mostly people who don’t play multiplayer games, IMO) don’t see it that way, and these are the same people who think starcraft is just a button mashing contest, but if you consider human-input to be a resource, then you appreciate the game in a new way. (Of course, the AI-input has to be reasonably predictable otherwise it’s just not fun).

    The problem with the whole idea is that it could be UI hell, not only to implement,

    I can’t imagine expecting a player to input orders turn-by-turn for a team of 20 minions. You have to have SOME way to speed things up or you’d be making the game a lot less mechanically enjoyable, in my opinion.

    but also for the players to understand. Are there even any games that have something similar?

    I can only talk about squad-based strategies like XCOM, for I haven’t played either Gnomoria or DORF FORT for longer than a couple hours. Over the past 12 years, I’ve played the original DOS XCOM, XCOM-Apocalypse, the new XCOM remake, Xenonauts, Jagged Alliance 2, Frozen Synapse, and a few other unmentionable XCOM knockoffs here and there. I’ve probably logged over 1000 hours on all of these games combined. I can make two general points:

    1. These games become quite tedious when you have more than 6 units per squad. It no longer feels like you’re making decisive tactical decisions, but rather like herding sheep, especially when you have to find that last alien. I think the people who designed these games realized this too, because they came up with partial workarounds:

      • In Jagged Alliance 2, combat was turn-based like in XCOM, but if there were no enemies in the immediate vicinity, you could control your squad in real-time. This was nice because it allowed the game to seamlessly interconvert between an RPG and a squad-based tactics game. It also meant that you didn’t have to spend 15 minutes moving your squad unit-by-unit and turn-by-turn just to hunt down the last enemy; you could just move your squad as one blob in real time
      • XCOM Apocalypse allowed you either to play the game in real-time mode (with unlimited pausing) or in turn-based mode, although you couldn’t switch between the two once a battle started. You could also organize your squad (of up to 36 units) into six fireteams (each with a maximum of 6 units). This game, too, had commands for moving fireteams en bloc.
      • Xenonauts, while turn-based like XCOM, afforded the player the ability to move multiple units simultaneously. This was most welcome in the hunt-the-last-alien down situation, because it would speed the game up by an order of magnitude over the original XCOM
    2. 2. The more fine-grained control the player has, the more of an advantage he has. I made an analogy to Starcraft, but in terms of squad-based shooters, the reason is more specific: when you let the player pop in and out of enemy range with great precision, you give the player great potential reward for little risk. You make the safe play easy and rewarding.

      • In DOS XCOM, you could move square-by-square. Because any team-mate could attack any enemy in squad siight, the best strategy (without resorting to mind control) was to have a team of high-level snipers sit at the back of the map while a scout inched his way up the field. Any enemy that was spotted would usually die in a hail of sniper fire. Rinse and repeat for each alien
      • New XCOM and Xenonauts rectified that in different ways. Xenonauts didn’t have squad sight (at least not in some of the alpha versions; can’t remember if they kept it for the final game). New XCOM, on the other hand, forced players to move in chunks. You get two movement actions per turn, at ten-or-so squares per movement action, instead of 60 time units worth of movement.
      • However, even that wasn’t enough. The designers of new XCOM realized that some players would just move one or two squares per turn so that they would always be in an optimal position when spotting an enemy. The game designers compensated by adding many more timed missions that forced the player to move up the field quickly; in other words, making him take risks.
      • The designer of Xenonauts mentioned on the forum that the air-combat portion (which, like XCOM Apocalypse, was real-time with unlimited pausing) suffered from “fidgetiness;” essentially, by pausing every tenth of a second, you could greatly multiply the effective strength of your aircraft. In the sequel that he is designing, Xenonauts 2, control over the air combat will be more chunky.
      • Frozen Synapse (and TASTEE: Lethal Tactics) force both players to input squad orders, simultaneously, in 5-second chunks. Consequently, the computer stands a much better chance against the player because there is more guesswork. I think I wrote at length about this before, but it’s still true :p
    3. Finally, this is my opinion, but I think it is FAR easier to make an AI to play a game like Hearthstone, Magic the Gathering, Final Fantasy, or Pokemon than it is to make one that plays XCOM, Starcraft, or Chess. That is, when you throw the element of position on a two-dimensional grid into the combat game, things get unbelievably more complicated, especially when the game can change completely if you step one tile too far. In this regard new XCOM was a little closer to Final Fantasy or pokemon than the old XCOM was, because the new XCOM had symmetrical vision while the old XCOM didn’t, and there’s far less concealment in the new XCOM. Consequently, it feels like you’re engaged in a lot more FF-style slugfests in new XCOM than in the DOS version.

    So, all of this was going through my head when I wrote the proposal about the tree hierarchy. The best way to keep the game mechanically enjoyable, in my opinion, is to layer multiple unit control over the traditional roguelike control. The tree hierarchy just follows naturally from that if the player also accepts that human-inputs are a resource like they are in Starcraft.

    Someone on the Steam Forums recently suggested adding custom keybinds so that units could be controlled with QWEASDZXC, thereby allowing the game to be played entirely with mouse-in-hand. Not a bad idea, and it would mesh with an order-as-spell system as I’d proposed in the OP of this thread.



    Now having said all THAT, I could be completely wrong, and maybe an RTS system would be just fine.

    In that case, I’d just suggest the following:

    1. Use the mouse and keyboard to PLAN orders (e.g., move, attack, cast spell, etc), but not to EXECUTE orders.
    2. Advance time by one turn FOR ALL UNITS when the user presses space or some other button easily accessible by the left hand.
    3. Basically, this means that time is advanced in slices of one turn at a time. If a unit has a speed of 0.80, then he’s going to move four squares every time you press the space bar five times. Really similar to how it works now, except that time is not advanced in proportion to how fast the unit under control can move (which is how it seems to work)

    Therefore, if you want to move really fast, box your entire team, right click at some point on the map, and then just hold down the space key until they all get there. Or if there is a tree-hierarchy, just click the team leader and his minions will automatically follow him.

    I’ll try to refine this idea some more…

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  owen.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  owen.

    I can’t imagine expecting a player to input orders turn-by-turn for a team of 20 minions. You have to have SOME way to speed things up or you’d be making the game a lot less mechanically enjoyable, in my opinion.

    To be clear, the default setting would be to control one unit. Then for the key 10-20 turns of a battle you would switch to full control. I have to implement and test how it plays of course, but looking at turn-based strategies, it should be quite playable.


    Bas Testerink

    I’m planning on adjusting the tactical A.I. as a hobby, which is the main reason why I bought the game last Friday. My initial plan is to implement some basic commands that the teamleader can issue: ‘charge’ (go forward and attack on sight), ‘follow’ (current behavior) and ‘stay’ (stay at the current location). This way you can for instance set up your archers at a distance, place some heavy hitters ahead and send an expendible creature to lure an enemy to you. A next step would be some basic formations.

    However, I still need to get things compiling (Ubuntu 16.04, the clang and Docker steps gave some errors that I still need to figure out).


    Great! Feel free to email me if you need any help with compiling or implementation (miki@keeperrl.com). The docker solution is something that someone else submitted, and I can’t say if it works or not.



    I’m not great of a programmer (a little modding via python is all I do) so AI behavior is beyond my talents. But some ideas toward tactics:

    I very much like that one is only able to command one creature at a time. It is something that makes the game unique.
    A possibility to command several units while controlling only one can be seen in the Mount’n’Blade series or MechWarrior 4: You play one character, who is able to shout predefined commands towards his companions, like “Group one, form line” or “Archers, hold position”. Your companions try to execute those orders as best as they can. A similar solution might work here as well. It would, as above, require to assign a role to each creature, a dropdown with the options scout/melee/archer/support would be enough – or just delete the slot for ranged weapon and give your minions only one weapon: then the choice is made by equipment, and the scout role (bat, raven, wolf) as well as the support role would be given by class (keeper, orc shaman, vampire). For the use of equipment, I’m just about to start another thread 🙂
    Some orders fitting for the game are already implemented in the field “activity” (scout cavern, scout outdoor). Non-military activities don’t need to be given that way.

    More orders:
    “seek and destroy” outdoor and indoor to part scouting from fighting
    “form lines” simple two-lines formation: melee units first line, archers and support second line. Melees charge at 2 or 3 tiles range.
    “form circle” melee units and archers outer ring, support units inner ring
    “hold position” like ambush but with formation instead of cover, and melees do not charge
    “take prisoners” attack with blunt weapons, those without use bare hands

    These are mostly the orders I missed up to now during oversea missions in campaign mode. In my homebase I have been quite satisfied so far with the option I already had 🙂



    There’s a very similar game to KeeperRL’s adventurer mode (just mentioning it though I’m pretty sure you already know it), the Stone Soup Dungeon Crawl – yes I do love ASCII games. You play a single charakter, who is, depending on class, religion, spells able to summon or convert companions. It offers the button t for talk / shout (that btw makes noise and compromises sneak attacks), which opens the following options:
    – attack new target
    – retreat
    – wait here
    – stop attacking
    – follow me

    could work here too.

    Another order I found missing the last plays was to send single units of my expedition corps safely home, but allowing that has to be considered well for it might make the game too easy.



    ‘charge’ (go forward and attack on sight),
    ‘follow’ (current behavior) and
    ‘stay’ (stay at the current location)…

    This sounds really interesting.

    I’d also like to ask for a unit to stay at a fixed position relative to me (provided they are fast enough to keep up). This will let me create a formation for my units. It would use the same User Interface as just telling them to stay at a fixed location but they would also move along with me. (I’d like that flexibility and control without using a formation editor).

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by  Keeperman.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by  Keeperman.

    That’s a pretty cool way of creating a formation without the need of any extra UI.




    I love playing with ideas. This game is so rich with potential that I can’t help myself. I think it triggers some sort of pleasure centre in my brain somewhere 🙂

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 17 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.