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Join date : 2017-01-29

PostSubject: About formations   Thu Jun 01, 2017 2:38 am


Here a few ideas about formations and grouping.

  1. The formation's action panel:
    Let's call 'action panel' the 3x3 box on the bottom of the screen, where you can change unit's attitude, repair a building, etc.
    When a group of mixed units is selected, the last line of the action panel is replaced with two 'rotate group' buttons, and any ability button (powers, spells) is lost.
    On the other hand, when a group of same units is selected, this unit's ability buttons are not lost, but the 'rotate group' button are not available (because they share the same slots as the two first abilities). This is indeed a flaw.

    Any selected group (or any selected group whose number reaches a given limit (4-6?)) would have the following 1x3 bottom line on its action panel: slot 1 & 2 for 'rotate group', and slot 3 for the "most representative ability in the group", if any. An alternate choice would be "the most useful ability in the group", but how to decide which one?
    This way, a mixed group of:
    - dwarfs and siege machines would display the 'Drink Brew' button;
    - 6 wraiths and 8 dread knights would display the 'Morph to Doom Knight' button;
    - dark infantry and spiders would display the 'Sacrifice' button;
    - ancient and basic wisps would display the 'Merge' button;
    - wights and skeletons would display... well, how to choose this one?

    As a note, the 'rotate group' buttons seems to work well (and are thus useful) if you end the sequence with a formation order. That is, for example: left-left-square.

  2. The formation's unit panel:
    It's the 32-army points window where you find all the selected units, in three sizes (1, 2, or 4 squares/army points (AP)).
    In vanilla game, when a selected group (either a temporary group or a defined one) looses units, this unit panel is rearranged (larger sizes on top), and you may forget what units it consisted originally of. At worst, you end with a last surviving unit, and it may be hard to reconstitute the original group. This is less a concern (or not a concern at all) with the temporary group, when you didn't save it with CTRL-n. It's more so when you carefully arranged a mixed group by hand, saving it and recalling it at will.

    For saved groups only: grouped units are memorized until the group is re-defined (through CTRL key). Then, dead ones are not removed from the unit panel, and the panel is not re-arranged. Dead units are displayed in a non-ambiguous way, either a greyed-out picture (model already in files, I think) or the normal, coloured picture unchecked in some way. The purpose of this is to greatly speed up the management time when you want to reform the full group.

    Example: a dwarven "cavalry" squadron consisting of 8 griffons (Gr) and 16 Khazrimi guards (K).
    It's displayed as:
    After a skirmish, it becomes:
    because 2 griffons and 2 guards were slain.
    Suggested way would be:

    where '*' is a greyed-out picture of the dead unit.

  3. The grouping algorithm:
    Currently, it seems that only the Combat score (and perhaps the range of attack/spell?) is taken into consideration when units are arranged inside a chosen formation. Sometimes, it's handy, sometimes not.
    It doesn't look that the attitude setting interfere with the formation setting. However, units on a defensive stance could be arranged another way than units on aggressive stance are.

    Among criteria, the XP level of a unit, and it's health status could be checked as well. The purpose of this would be to spread the XP gain and the damage taken more evenly between front line units in a defensive stance. For example, badly wounded units would be retired to the second or third line, instead of being randomly assigned a position according to its Combat score. Higher level units would be likewise moved backwards to not endanger themselves and to give other units the opportunity to level up on their turn. This should add one level of complexity in the algorithm (which I don't know). For instance, if the Combat bonus a higher level unit gains from its level is not taken into consideration when Combat scores are compared, veteran units would be randomly mixed with green troops, instead of being on the front line. On another setting, veteran units would be explicitly moved backwards to leave green troops on the front line, but not as backwards as poor combat units (ranged troops).
    In aggressive or stand firm stances, this system would not be used.

  4. The Fallback bug (?):
    It's a bug with the newest attitudes (v1.03.25).
    Units with the Fallback attitude will loose their formations when they attack. The AI file forgets to move them back to their original position, as if the Fallback stance was deemed incompatible with a formation setting. Or rather, it seams being derived form the Aggressive attitude rather than the Defensive one. Then I would ask: which one is the more useful in game? (or should we have both Fallback Defensive and Fallback Offensive attitudes?)

    Units with the Fallback attitude/stance return in their formation once the threat is over (acting as if in the Defensive stance).
    When the Fallback condition is met, they leave the formation and return to their base (should they be removed from the original group selection?)

  5. Group's attitude and units' attitudes:
    Currently, when units are selected, the unit panel display either one attitude icon or none. One icon means that every units in the group are set on the same attitude, while none icon means either they are all set to Standard (default) attitude, or at least one of them is set to a different attitude than the others (hence,there is no shared attitude). In the later case, when you want to assign a few units a special attitude, it's a micro-management that may take some time. Like wise, when you set a formation to the Stand ground attitude and then you want to quickly respond to an attack, charging _without_ letting your frail units moving out of position, its a nightmare without the Pause key (or using several group hotkeys for the same formation).

    Each time a group is selected or recalled (thus having selection circles drawn on the screen), an 'attitude flag' is set.
    First time the selected group is assigned an attitude, only those selected units which are on the default attitude (Standard or Defensive?) are set to the new attitude, and the flag is reset.
    Thus, second time same selected group is assigned an attitude, all selected units are set to the new attitude.
    The system applies only to the current selection in the unit panel.

    For instance,
    - select 2 pet units and set them to Aggressive;
    - select the general and set it to Fallback 25%;
    - select the front line and set it to Stand ground;
    - select some spellcasters and set them to Defensive;
    - select the entire group and set it _once_ to Magic defensive.
    It's the last line which would benefit from present suggestion: you wouldn't have to either select the group and individually deselect as many units as you don't want to change their attitude, or to manually build a subgroup to assign it the last attitude.

    Then, the need for a true 'group attitude' becomes perhaps desirable. The suggestion above may lead to it, but the ultimate purpose of it would be when you have a mixed formation on a Stand ground attitude, then you suddenly want some units charge from behind (and return to position when it's over). If you know, it would be like some mixed formation in BFME when shield+cavalry mixed formation would have a shield infantry in front line to endure arrows and closing infantry, while the cavalry would stand ground behind them until they can charge once (in this case, as it's a special attack, they quickly return to formation before charging again and again).

    In short, each defined group (CTRL-n) would have a group attitude that would supersede its units' individual attitudes. This group's attitude would be taken into consideration, if needed, by the grouping algorithm, as said in above point. One of the attitudes (Standard?) would mean: "release all units from the group attitude and let individual attitudes rule". This way, it would be simple to order a mixed group to charge the enemy in a smarter way, or spellcasters to launch their offensive spells while a few of their do not (to be ready for summons or their defensive spell).

    The latter suggestion (group attitude) could be mixed with the former (double assignation to really change all the units' individual attitudes).
    I hope I am meaningful with this one...

  6. Formation bonuses:
    In WBC3, there is no flanking or rear bonuses, but still, formation could provide some little bonuses, at the cost of, say, speed or attack speed (because the units have to take attention to their neighbours). As I guess there might be balance concerns, the bonuses could be on the same scale or less than the weather bonuses.

    Defensive circle: +1 Armor, +1 Resistance (high combat units are already at the periphery), -2 Speed, less attack speed;
    Square: +1 Combat for infantry, -1 Speed, less attack speed;
    Coin/Wing: +1 Combat & +1 Speed for cavalry and fliers, -1 Speed for infantry (no attack speed penalty, as it is considered a charge manoeuvre);
    Skirmish: the spacing-up already protects somewhat against splashing attacks (but only as far as the units stand their ground), -1 Speed;
    Others: already benefit/suffer from the positioning of units, -(1-2) Speed (no penalty for Column)

    Well, that's the idea.
    Alternatively, the bonuses/penalties could be more important but then applied proportionally to the formation's strength, that is a 32-AP group would impair/protect more than a 4-AP group (other said, 2 griffons in Coin formation wouldn't benefit as much as if they were 16 of them in the Coin).
    Moreover, other benefits could be explored such as a little Ignore Armour or Ignore Damage bonus, to reflect the formation's impact/pushing force and the fact that it can be something (slightly) different than multiple 1vs1 encounters to death.

  7. Supergroups:
    Well, not really. It appears that the CTRL key is not used when a unit/subgroup/group is selected.
    Once a selection is made (or a group recalled), the MAJ key may be used to add more units to this current selection, but only up to the 32-AP limit! (as if you were forming a group to be saved).

    The CTRL key could be used the same way as the MAJ key is, the difference being that added units wouldn't show on the unit panel (and thus wouldn't count against the 32-AP limit), although selection circles would still be drawn. Then, if the pathfinding problem is solved, the relative distance between all selected units would be roughly kept, so that you could move 2 or 3 saved group together (without m...ixing them in the process), or 1 saved group and a few peripheral auxiliary units.

    For instance,

    - position a recon unit in front of a already prepared (recalled) 32-AP phalanx;
    - position some flanking units besides;
    - position a few support troops behind;
    - select the phalanx;
    - press CTRL key and select (drawing selection boxes, or clicking on each individual) the recon unit, the flankers and the support, together or (more probably) in sequence
    - release CTRL key (only the phalanx is displayed in the unit panel but all the selected units appear on the map with their selection circle)
    - click on the Move or Attack button and then click on a location on the map.
    This system wouldn't be activated if another key is hit after CTRL.

  8. Pathfinding:
    It's perhaps the most offending flaw in vanilla game, as far as formations are concerned. Simply put, when  the move/attack order aims too far, the formation breaks and reform at the final destination. Yet, formation doesn't break when the move is a short one. It's not a matter of putting slow and fast units together.

    Study the possibility to have a long move split into several intermediate, shorter moves and see if the formation breaks less. I mean a system more handy than current waypoints.
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