Blog: Dynamic map formulation in RTS video games

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One thing I repeatedly esteem to peek in an RTS is when its game maps, or a minimal of portions of them, are ready to conform over time in response to the actions gamers salvage. To a lesser extent, I also abilities seeing maps which swap over time with out player input, to force gamers to adapt to changing instances and risk profiles, nonetheless I feel that has much less of a solid case in competitive video games.

In loads of RTS video games, especially many of the the classic franchises, game maps are largely static. They’ll just change into denuded of sources (treasure trees) over time, which opens up new motion suggestions to concentrate on enemy holdings, nonetheless in most instances here is no longer a fundamental tactical consideration during top matches in those video games.

There are ways and strategy video games, nonetheless, the put the map itself is involving to be modified by gamers in a range of systems: opening up new assault paths or closing them off, changing which areas of the map gamers care about and are looking out for to contest, or eliminating suggestions from gamers in particular geographic areas. 

A screenshot from the Steam model of Z which shows what cliffs peek treasure. The blue tank at the pause of the list is capturing cliffs to waste them so that it can crawl by means of. 

The oldest game the put I order seeing what I’m calling a ‘dynamic map’ is Z, the retro tactical robot game by Bitmap Brothers. In that game, there are cliffs which block traversal by objects (look screenshot above). Infantry can salvage down the cliffs by throwing grenades at them, which for certain depletes the runt offer of those precious raise-ups. Tanks could well additionally fire on cliffs to waste them. The presence of destructible cliffs won’t possess had an outsized impact on the game’s function, nonetheless it undoubtedly undoubtedly did on my creativeness as a kid.

Some Extra Examples

Relic’s RTS video games are extra most sleek examples of video games with dynamic map formulation. In Morning time of Battle 2 and Company of Heroes 2, some greater tier objects are able to crushing terrain and quilt underfoot or below tread, and some weapons hit laborious adequate to salvage craters that could well themselves present quilt. Additionally, in these video games, when autos die they proceed to be in the back of on the map and could well just also be extinct as quilt or destroyed fully. Over time in these video games, the map devolves into something else, devoid of quilt for infantry, covered in craters and the smoking wrecks of tanks and halftracks.

Noteworthy objects, treasure the Carnifex, are ready to crush map formulation by strolling by means of them 

While no longer considered ranked multiplayer to any extent further, Company of Heroes 2 also launched with weather outcomes on the game map, the put at irregular intervals blizzards would occur, freezing water, developing snow drifts which would perchance perchance well decelerate infantry, and developing antagonistic environments the put infantry would die with out salvage entry to to a heat source. Some weapons, reminiscent of flamethrowers, could well soften the snow. This wasn’t so worthy pushed by player action, nonetheless did force attention-grabbing reactions from gamers in relation to making ready for the blizzards and the plan the game worked for the length of and even after them. Clearly it wasn’t a widely standard gadget, because it ended up being faraway from the multiplayer abilities. 

Additionally in Company of Heroes 2, explosives and some weapons are ready to waste ice below troops and tanks, instantly killing them by submerging them in the frigid water under. This on occasion has a dramatic enact in chilly weather maps, to boot to to changing how objects are compelled to switch while on ice (to steer clear of holes in the ice). I possess for the length of blizzards, ice could well re-freeze as successfully, developing a cadence of changes as ice became destroyed and re-frozen.

Tanks breaking by means of the ice in Company of Heroes 2 is one of my favourite examples of dynamic map interactions 

Supreme Commander has a somewhat assorted salvage on this: In SupCom, when objects die, they crawl away in the back of a shatter which would perchance perchance also be salvaged for sources, seeding the sites of battles with precious earnings for whomever reclaims it. This would not swap the map itself as worthy, nonetheless does swap how gamers have interaction with the map and which formulation of it goes to just be essentially the most essential to defend or contest.

Company of Heroes video games, and now Iron Harvest, possess a identical thought in that after objects die they topple either the weapon they’re crewing, or a weapon they’re carrying that then some other infantry squad can acceptable. This enables for both tactical flexibility (since gamers are ready to function squad kinds on the flit) and a switch of sources from one player to the different, for the reason that weapons all label sources and a player can function a tool paid for by their opponent at no label. Surely, C&C 3 does this as successfully with some autos dropping wrecks which would perchance perchance also be re-crewed by engineers for easy accessibility to a new unit. 

Company of Heroes 2 goes farther with this than some other game I’m able to order of (including C&C3) with de-crewed tanks being ready to be captured by other gamers. Since tanks are so unheard of and dear, scoring one off of an opponent is a fundamental function. 

I order these dropped weapons and crew weapons and tanks to be ‘dynamic map formulation’ in precisely the same manner that I order boring objects in Supreme Commander to be such: they’re free sources that occur in locations on the map that are the final result of wrestle between gamers, that could well profit either player/team and place off those areas of the map to alter into temporarily tactically or strategically crucial, to direct nothing of boring autos turning into quilt for infantry in these video games. 

I indubitably indubitably treasure Supreme Commander’s plan, and possess utilized a identical gadget in my non-public game project: SCRAP mod. In SCRAP, when objects die, they decay into sources after spending 3 minutes as a burning shatter, giving gamers time to jockey for management of those sources sooner than indubitably being ready to mine them.

When objects treasure the Aeon Illuminate’s Czar die, they salvage obstacles to unit motion that are also precious sources of earnings for either player, developing an dwelling of high label on the map that did no longer previously exist 

Even StarCraft 2 and Gray Goo possess dipped their toe a chunk into maps that could well evolve over time with the addition of rocks that block certain map salvage entry to capabilities; and, in StarCraft 2’s case, pillars which shall be destroyed to dam off salvage entry to to areas of the map with particles that could well itself be destroyed to launch up the trek again. 

Going into Component about ‘Terrain’ 

In most instances, implementations of dynamic map formulation are basically desirous about how objects traverse the game dwelling. Destructible bridges are a appropriate instance of this – in loads of of the Uncover and Triumph over video games, Engineers are able to re-building bridges by coming into a chosen structure at either conclude of the bridge.

Also in most instances, the majority of actions gamers can salvage is to raise acknowledged dynamic map formulation from the game. There is hundreds of crushing and burning and demolishing that goes on, and no longer hundreds of rising or shoring up.

Builder objects in Earth 2150 can modify map terrain to place bridges, partitions, ditches, and further. 

I have to observe out here: I’m namely using the timeframe “dynamic map formulation” as an different of “dynamic terrain” attributable to in nearly no case is the true terrain of the map ready to be modified. If there’s an impassable cliff, it stays a cliff during a match. In dissimilarity, a ‘dynamic map component’ is in some systems equivalent to a player-produced structure: it be something that could well no longer switch, which would perchance perchance also be destroyed, nonetheless in the case of a dynamic map component it also serves some tactical cause in the game nonetheless could well just also be utilized by either/any player. Alternately, such ‘map formulation’ could well just be an indirect (to me, it be crucial that the response be indirect!) outcomes of player action: a boring car turning actual into a shatter, or a heavy assault leaving a crater, that salvage of thing.

Why is it crucial to me that dynamic map formulation be created because the final result of indirect action? That’s a truly appropriate search details from. I order, indirectly, it be attributable to at that point both/all gamers have to react to the changing battlefield as against having the gamers put collectively a changing battlefield to force their opponent to react in uncover to take care of. I wrote some time ago about classes of action in strategy gaming, and I feel that strategy video games possess tended to possess a adequate quantity of preparatory actions in them (e.g. actions that gamers manufacture up over time in uncover to present themselves an eventual leg up in the game) and game maps in particular remain reasonably static over the course of any competitive multiplayer match, except dynamic map formulation are point to. Adding reactive formulation to the map, to me, is a certain thing. Gotta abet gamers on their toes.

Some video games, reminiscent of Earth 2150 and, extra lately, Zero-Okay, pause enable for a extra free-salvage modification of terrain itself: making mountains, bridging chasms, digging ditches, that salvage of thing.

In Zero-Okay, terrain manipulation could well just also be a reasonably expansive deal 

While indubitably intelligent, I’m no longer fully convinced that competitive strategy video games are repeatedly made greater by offering gamers with unlimited freedom to modify the terrain of a map. In Earth 2150, as an illustration, I hardly ever if ever made exercise of the terrain modification instruments for any cause.

Pointless to direct, Earth 2150 is indubitably an instance of ‘kitchen sink’ function: gamers function their very enjoy objects, the game has a ‘list in list’ mode the put the player can gape a pair of areas of the map simultaneously, there’s a gadget for digging and involving objects spherical in underground tunnels on a separate layer of the map… the listing goes on. Zero-Okay is also the RTS that I’m able to order of which takes terrain modification most severely. There are tactical and strategic formulation to the game’s terrain management gadget that keenness me, although I possess not played worthy of the game yet.

I are inclined to be extra in desire (for my share) of game systems that are clearly defined and constrained, while mute permitting for deep and refined interactions between objects. I are inclined to be a chunk cautious of extra freeform systems, including ‘function your enjoy objects’ form systems in video games. I to find that it be generally easy to to find ‘optimal’ builds in those systems that indubitably possess a smaller series of viable builds/ideas than video games with pre-defined systems and likewise that they’re also indirectly too worthy complexity purchasing for too runt depth, with the added risk of that complexity indubitably adversarial emergent gameplay the put it be making an are trying to foster it as an different.

I would take to be 1000% certain here: I’m no longer asserting that I’m against pudgy terrain manipulation in RTS video games. I’m excellent asserting that I’m skeptical of it and possess yet to be convinced either manner. I could well just document back once I salvage extra hours into Zero-Okay as to the implications of that possess.

While admittedly extra binary, I are inclined to take things treasure how bridges work in (most) C&C video games. They’ll just also be destroyed by objects (killing something else on the collapsing bridge) and rebuilt by an Engineer going into the bridge’s linked management tower. This affords both player hundreds of dispute over when, and the plan, bridges exist on a game map. One thing treasure bridges or destructible constructions/other terrain objects (treasure quilt in DOW2) to me feels loads extra interactive and easy to grok to me than something extra nebulous treasure extra same outdated terrain manipulation. 


I’m a reasonably expansive proponent of clarity in relation to game systems (you would possibly want to perchance well perchance to find this laborious to possess while you possess played my non-public mod project, nonetheless I digress). And, to me, concrete objects on the map treasure constructions, rock to masks troops in the back of, trenches… these are things that a player can realize and justify clearly. The lip of a crater will defend your troops from incoming fire; holing up in a building will pause the same. Surroundings the building alight to forestall the enemy from using it or to waste a bunch of enemies holed up inner, successfully… that’s a reasonably certain interaction too. 


Wrapping it Up

There is surely instances which would perchance perchance also be made both in desire of, and in opposition to, both what I’m calling “dynamic map formulation,” “dynamic terrain,” and frail static RTS maps. 

Competitive purists: those that largely play Age of Empires 2 or StarCraft 2, are inclined to esteem the somewhat runt rough edges that maps present that salvage in the manner of the expression of their skill and competitive force. There is no longer worthy in a Brood Battle map that’s going to debris with a player’s expectations of how assorted encounters are going to head, as an illustration, or the weather of the map that are going to topic over the course of a match.


In Uncover and Triumph over Remastered, nonetheless, the presence of Tiberium on the map can possess some impact (here is extra just in Tiberian Solar, the put Tiberium regenerates sooner and could well just also be extra lethal). Within the older video games, gamers will possess to never possess worthy technique to manipulate the put Tiberium is, nonetheless because the maps certain out of Tiberium, they change into worthy safer for infantry to traverse, which will possess some impact on the growth of a particular person match.

So, to me, the excellent con for dynamic map formulation is that they’ll just no longer fit into the game in step with the total function targets. Though again: even StarCraft 2 has managed to to find runt expressions of this salvage of thing in the salvage of destructible particles.

Indirectly, I order it be a expansive thing to possess dynamic formulation on the game map, whether it be as easy as rocks that block paths, which shall be destroyed to launch them up, or whether it be extra complicated treasure defensive instruments that could well encourage either player, and be destroyed by talents (treasure grenades). When the map responds to player action, it creates emergent depth in the game by giving the gamers new areas of the map to fight over (whether it be for sources, or for true weapons of battle to purchase from their opponent), or developing new systems to react on certain areas of the map by eliminating or including defensive suggestions, or new approaches to going by means of their opponents. 

On moderate, I feel treasure it’d be appropriate for maps in RTS video games to feel extra treasure a residing web website and much less treasure a static game board. They settle on to evolve in step with player actions, with crashing helicopters digging up turf, constructions burning down, partitions crumbling as photos or autos crawl by means of them. I indirectly treasure this for mechanical/systems reasons, nonetheless I have faith about it is a ways also frosty visually.

What pause you watched referring to the topic of dynamic map formulation? Ought to mute maps be extra static, treasure in StarCraft, or will possess to they evolve extra treasure in Relic’s RTS? Is extra freeform terrain manipulation treasure Zero-Okay or Earth 2150 greater, or going too a ways?

Thanks for reading.

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