The Time-keeping System

Initially I went with the idea of simultaneous turn-based (“we go”, as opposed to “I go, then you go”), where units of both players move at the same time. Both players plan their moves, then comes a resolution phase where planned actions of both your units and enemy units are performed at the same time.

As time went by, I moved on to planning other things in the game, like the fact that the game I’m using this system for is combat between squads: 12 units at most on each side. I realized things will become too chaotic with this set up.

Why do I want 12 units in the first place? Its part of the story. The game takes place during a war.

Simultaneous turn-based may work fine for combat between groups composed of 1-3 people, but at 12 which I wanted, it may become more stress than excitement for the player at that point.

Simultaneous turn-based also has a problem if done wrong: say for example you want your troops to move near the enemy. You’re basing your decision based on where the enemy is now, but remember the opponent may choose to move his troops. By the time your troops get there, his troops may be somewhere else.

You may find yourself in a situation where you are chasing after the enemy who keeps on moving away from you, because output is delayed from player input (i.e. planning phase and resolution phase). Your opponent may even feel the same frustration!

I had several ideas to address this. You could have a follow command in addition to the usual move command. You could shorten the duration of the resolution phase (though duration of attack animations have to be addressed). You could shrink the map where the fight takes place.

And yet with all the things I could think of, I still couldn’t address the 12-man issue. With 12 versus 12, localized fights could occur. What I mean is, at worst, it could simply end up having 12 duels happening at the same time (1 unit of each side fighting each other).

And in that situation, I believe it will be hard to keep track of things going on in the resolution phase. Imagine you have to dart your eyes between 12 fights occurring at the same time! Even worse, duelling participants may switch “partners” in the midst of battle, as the need arises. That may cause further difficulty in keeping track of things.

Of course that situation wouldn’t happen all the time, but even, say, having the fight separate into two fights, I believe, can get hard to keep track of.

But as you could note, this is all conjecture from me. Could there be a sweet spot somewhere? Who knows.

Frozen Synapse does a wonderful job in this area. All the problems I mentioned actually make for some pretty exciting fights in Frozen Synapse. Part of the fun there is anticipating your enemy’s actions.

However I found out early on that units in that game attack automatically as long as an enemy is in their range (a pie shape, as in their field of vision). The developers could afford to implement things that way since all units are ranged attackers.

In my game however, there are melee units. You could think of Frozen Synapse as a tactical tower vs tower game. If towers could move.

Dueling Blades, an upcoming Facebook game by developers in the Unity game engine community, is also simultaneous turn-based. And might I say its rather genius to utilize simultaneous turn-based for a Facebook game cause its a perfect fit. Simultaneous turn-based still counts as an asynchronous (i.e. non real-time) game, and those types of games work well in the Facebook environment.

Their set up, as you could guess, is to make it duels only. One unit versus one other unit, no more than that (so far). So much of my problems don’t apply to them.

Right now, I’m content with resorting back to a traditional turn-based system. I’ve had tons of fun playing Fallout 2, so I know a turn-based system can still be fun if done right.

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