How to Combine RTS & FPS (Part 3)

19 July, 2023

Cover image of How to Combine RTS & FPS (Part 3)

Dear Silica Community, 

This week we're back with the final part of the challenges faced in combining RTS and FPS. 

Gameplay challenges

One of the main challenges, in particular, was at the beginning of the game (and it is still a challenge). When you start a game in Strategy mode, especially in the large maps, which can be 6x6 km in size, and the two teams start on opposite ends, then there's a lot of ground to cover. When running around as a soldier, it can be frustrating getting across that large of a distance. Sure, you can get in a vehicle, explore, and get into combat. But when you die, you spawn back at HQ. 

At that point, you'd have to make your way back, and if there's no vehicle around, you'd have to go on foot or just wait. So Dram introduced teleportation as part of the lore as well. So the way teleportation works is that you can teleport to any point on the map as long as your units can see it. The further away you are from the source, the greater the uncertainty radius. So, if you decide to teleport one km away, there is a 100-meter uncertainty radius.

Day & night cycle

Dram decided to implement a day and night cycle because it just felt natural and also because he wanted to create a certain advantage for the aliens during the night. Humans have an advantage during the day, and aliens have an advantage during the night. Dram made it so that the day constitutes roughly 60-70% of the time, and the night takes up the rest. Basically, the night cycle is accelerated because players were complaining that it was taking too long. It's more interesting during the day, but the night makes it more interesting for the aliens because they can see further and they can hide better in the shadows.

Ultimately, it came down to two factors - gameplay and effect! The feeling when you see the sun rising in the distance and you also get a feeling of time passing.

A great example would be the satisfying feeling when there's a big battle happening, and it goes from day into night. You're still fighting, and you manage to push off the enemy. As the enemy retreats, and you see the sun starting to rise, you feel a sense of relief like "Okay, I survived the first day. Moving on". Another thing that the day & night cycle influences are certain gameplay strategies. Specifically with regard to the sun's location. If you attack with the sun to your back, it will be much harder for the opposing players to attack you because it's difficult to see against the sun. The sun is strong intentionally because it's a gameplay mechanic Dram thought would add more progression and immersion in Baltarus.

Ammunition challenges

Dram wanted to differentiate it because he values realism, but he didn't want to go overboard because it would become a mod of Arma.

He wanted to reduce what was needed for logistics. If limited ammunition and fuel were added, players might find themselves in a situation where a vehicle might be going toward the enemy, and at some point, it runs out of fuel. So now you either have to send it back to base or bring some canisters to refill. The same goes for ammunition. And it can be 6km back in the worst case.

Opting for unlimited ammunition was a natural choice. Another main reason for this decision was the actual scale of the game. It's more fun to shoot at something and be shot at without the worry of running out of ammo. That's the feeling that Dram was going for, making it fun without going overboard with realism.

Commander vs. Infantry challenges

From an infantry perspective, communication would be the most important thing. Right now, there's a chat system and pinging, with plans to add VOIP in the future.

From the Commander's perspective, giving orders to units is very fluid, and it was a natural outcome of combining the two together.

 Commander AI

There are several challenges when it comes to making an AI Commander. Dram didn't want to use behavior trees because you're limited to what's in the behavior tree. Instead, he decided to adopt a more priority-based system, which evaluates the battlefield and creates a list based on distance, importance, and other factors. Once these "situation reports" are compiled, they need to be evaluated, starting with the highest priority, and going downwards.

One of the biggest problems with this system, according to Dram, is that it starts working only when you have everything done. Otherwise, soldiers will get orders to attack the enemy, leaving no one to defend the base. But this was one problem with the solution that Dram chose. Another solution would be machine learning. However, Dram decided to avoid it because it's not an easy thing to do, and it would require a large amount of data that would hinder performance. So there was no need to do that, at least not for now, and so Dram went with this priority-based system which is relatively easy to evaluate.

And that's all from Dram's interview and presentation. If you haven't watched the full video, you can check it out below:  

We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of Dram's presentation, and that you may have learned something interesting from it.

Stay tuned for this week's update, which should be coming out soon, and we'll see you on Baltarus!