Rock Paper Scissors

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Deserath

Sergeant Knight
WB
Stay with me on this one...

Now in RTS games they mostly have a R P S system to where a certain unit type will crush another.
Did this really apply in real life?
Sorry if this seems a little vague, if needed I'll expand.
 

Captured Joe

Marquis
Not as much as it does in games like Age Of Empires II (or III), or Empire Earth.
It's just to balace units more.

But games like the Total War series are, in my opinion, closer to real-life. But there too is a lot of balancing going on.
 
I'm no expert, but to me it seems to be mostly an invention to make games easy to balance. Under certain conditions, some units have clear advantages against certain other types of units, but under other conditions, it might just as well be the reverse. Examples from the second world war era: A well-hidden anti-tank gun might be able to take out several enemy tanks, but if a tank catches a platoon of anti-tank guns on the move, the latter doesn't have much to respond with. A well-timed artillery barrage might be utterly devastating to infantry, but if the infantry gets close enough to assault the artillery positions, the tables are turned.
 
I don't think swords really have much advantage over spears if the latter are wielded by skilled soldiers. And cavalry does not necessarily rape everything that isn't pikemen.

Archers can both be effective and useless depending on circumstances.
 

Corvus

Master Knight
M&B
I think you really need to think about the fighters rather than what they were equipped with, especially if you look into ancient warfare. The majority of soldiers in say, Roman Republican times, were not professional soldiers. Think of the bit in '300' when Leonidas asks the soldiers they meet on the way to war "what is your profession?" and they answer blacksmith etc. They might be strong men, but they were not particularly skilled fighters. They probably couldn't pull off elaborate sword faints, they probably just knew and had drilled for a few hours on some basic techniques. They were also unlikely to have spent much time in combat, known the experience of another man attempting to end your life with a big bit of metal. One also needs to question the desire he has to be in that position. Is he ideologically behind his leader, there out of a sense of duty, a sense of shame at not going to war, perhaps for the money?

The reason I would question all these things is because I think it is very hard for anyone of our generation to appreciate what it is like to line up facing an enemy army, thousands of men, across a battlefield, and to be driven into them, literally to be within touching distance. War hasn't been like that for quite a long time now, and very few of us have even experienced modern warfare. Imagine being put in that situation, and you are likely to be little worse off than the majority of the men standing there. You might not have waved a sword around quite so much, or had to live such an outdoors or physical life, but you are probably far better fed than them, and you probably have more knowledge of battle than them even, because of your interest in history.

So, in essence, on your battlefield you have a few hundred, or a few thousand, terrified, reluctant men. It's going to take quite a lot to make them go anywhere near the opposition. Once they get to within 10 metres, the fear is really going to hit, they're going to be even harder to drive forwards. The only reason you might eventually clash, having stood there for ages shouting and not going anywhere, is because you have one or two complete nutters with no sense of self preservation, or who are drunk, or who are really psyched for this, or have experience of this. If you charge at them, unless you're unlucky, the guy opposite you is probably going to wet himself, and at the least he will forget all the sword/lance/spear/shield training he's ever had.
My point? In this type of battle, I think it mattered very little what weapon you held, it was a question of training, experience, morale, cause, and having a few psychos on your side to lead the charge.

Obviously when you get into the eras of professional armies, and the nature of killing without having to be toe to toe with your foe is very different, but this is a recognised problem right through to the Napoleonic wars. Two battalions of musket soldiers would literally stand 10 metres apart, inside a barn somewhere, and fire blindly into the smokey room, rather than rush forward and face steel. They'd much rather take their chances with the lottery of musket shot.

So, Rock, Paper, Scissors? Later, possibly. Accurate guns will mow down a line of men running at you with swords. Aircraft will be shot down attempting to cross a heavily anti-aircraft fortified frontier.
The nature of weapon and tactic development was to trump the successful weapons of your opponent. If one takes out the user, weapons do kinda work in a RPS way. But when you put the human back in, so so so many more variables, in my opinion.
(Sorry I can't be bothered to reference what I've said, writing this as procrastination from my dissertation... :razz: )
 

kenski1

Squire
Works in many RTS games, but when it comes to real life it is never that simple in an RTS game if a tank meets a section of soldiers the tank almost always seems to come out on top but in real life conflict it would never be that simple with all the independent variables.
 

Doom Bunny

Knight
Lets take the Napoleonic wars as an example.

Infantry will beat cavalry if the cavalry is unsupported, provided they arent caught off guard or the odds arent to great (Eylau).

Artillery can destroy infantry, but against cavalry it has less effect. It is useless against either unless it is guarded.

Cavalry can beat infantry in certain circumstances, and are more effective against cannon, but as cannon will be guarded their effect is minimal.

Therefore, the triangle system does not work.
 

Archonsod

Marquis
M&BWBWF&S
The problem is the number of battles decided by the actual troops can probably be counted on one hand. Generally speaking battles aren't won or lost because your bunch of blokes with swords were better than the other guy's, they're lost because it started raining at an inconvenient moment, or an inconvenient bout of mass dysentery breaking out the night before, or because you forgot to recon that nice big forest that would be ideal for a sneaky flank attack, or simply because some wag spent last night telling ghost stories around the campfire and now all your men are ready to leg it if someone so much as shouts boo.

None of which makes for particularly compelling gameplay.
 

xenoargh

Grandmaster Knight
Short answer:  RPS creates fun.  It has nothing to do with how things actually worked.

<puts on game-designer hat, steps on soapbox>

What little we know suggests pretty strongly that while there were various counters to things, there wasn't anything like RPS mechanics in the real world of medieval war. 

So why are games dealing with this period so oriented towards a RPS model? 

The issue is pretty simple; while games are amazingly complex at this point in history, they still aren't the real world at all, by design. 

One of the big issues that game designers need to always be aware of is that the customer's expectation of Fun is predicated on the concept of "fairness" and "balance".  Both of these words are in quotes, because they don't have mathematical definitions; while many people, including a lot of game designers who should know better, have attempted to offer a definition of what a "fair" game is, and what "balance" means, the fact of the matter is that both things are the result of a lot of complex interactions that aren't amenable to clear definition.

More to the point, mathematical "balance" is often not equivalent to the customer's experience.  I always know I'm dealing with a wanna-be but inexperienced game designer when they think that the math is everything they need to look at; this is a simplistic trap.

For example, take the power of a tank vs. infantry equipped with anti-tank weapons in a modern FPS. 

The tank has to have some special powers that the infantry may not have, or the illusion of realism is broken entirely; for example, the tank must have armor that doesn't take much if any damage from the infantry's small arms fire.  The tank is equipped with a cannon that fires something that is very likely to kill the infantry on a successful hit, and it's very likely to be equipped with one or more machine-gun equivalents.

The art of "balance" is to arrive at an outcome where if X attack the tank in Y terrain, they have a good probability of defeating it with their anti-tank weapons, however they operate.  This creates a sense of "fairness" for players; the tank doesn't just win every fight, nor is every terrain safe for it.  This is Fun, in a nutshell; people are OK with one thing being terrifically powerful, so long as it has a counter that works reliably.

The question of balance rests on Z; the probability of this outcome occurring in terrain Y, as opposed to other terrains.

This immediately makes this simple question of balance take on much higher-order complexity; if Z is predicated on terrain, then level-design is now a factor.

All of this stuff is ultimately quantifiable, but it's too complicated to analyze efficiently; the number of factors, while still well-short of the real world, is still quite huge.  Hence the age-old pattern for FPS games featuring this mechanic, where they study outcomes and adjust balance accordingly.  Today's FPS games gather quite a lot of user data points, and of course during design and beta, playtesters can provide both data and information, as in "tanks suck" or "AT guns don't kill tanks enough, buff plz".

This happens in the real world of military hardware all the time, too; despite rigorous testing of military equipment during the procurement process to simulate all sorts of harsh conditions, practically no service weapons remain un-modified over the course of their lifetime as a system; people find all sorts of little flaws and either correct them in the field or, if the flaws are significant, complain very loudly.  Nobody likes carrying around a machine-gun that may blow up in one's face, like the Chauchat occasionally did.

The concept of RPS balance (which I'm a very big fan of, within some caveats- Blood and Steel is a fairly explicit example of this design concept) is pretty much a whole-cloth invention that arrived in the wargaming scene when people went from trying to construct scenario battles (re-simulating the battle of Waterloo, for example) to attempting the early stages of game balance of this complex genre. 

It was realized really early (back in the 1970s) that statistically-similar outcomes could arrive from systems that operated along certain lines of balance; a unit of artillery might produce results that one would associate with "artillery" in terms of field use for the period simulated if its end results fell into certain patterns. 

Then the game designers started to use this stuff, which was basically some statistical studies, to construct balanced scenarios, where both sides had a reasonable shot to win battles. 

This proved very popular with customers; they wanted to build novel scenarios and explore tactical situations, but they also wanted some certainty in terms of outcomes; for example, "if I rush that unit of swordsmen with my heavy cav, chances are that we will inflict casualties on a 4:1 ratio and have a significant chance of causing a Rout test".  Using this model of design, what we think of as RPS balance ideas slowly became prevalent, and continue to have a very healthy impact on game design. 

But make no mistake; this isn't reality. 

In reality, the fechtbuchs rated spears as being superior to swords, in one-on-one fighting between opponents who were evenly matched otherwise, and there are a lot of indicators that strongly suggest that until plate armors arrived on the scene, spears were the prevalent arm on medieval battlefields for men fighting on foot.  This makes a lot of sense, really; spears are both cheap and can sometimes pierce maille. 

But it undermines games, especially games trying to appeal to Joe Gamer, because customer expectations are that swords are awesome and that spears should suck.

The way that this balance is constructed is intended to create Fun, not necessarily create Reality, basically; Reality often gets bent, broken and mangled as balance is constructed.  Just how it is.
 

Swadius 2.0

Grandmaster Knight
Corvus said:
The reason I would question all these things is because I think it is very hard for anyone of our generation to appreciate what it is like to line up facing an enemy army, thousands of men, across a battlefield, and to be driven into them, literally to be within touching distance. War hasn't been like that for quite a long time now, and very few of us have even experienced modern warfare. Imagine being put in that situation, and you are likely to be little worse off than the majority of the men standing there. You might not have waved a sword around quite so much, or had to live such an outdoors or physical life, but you are probably far better fed than them, and you probably have more knowledge of battle than them even, because of your interest in history.

Major battles in the days of sword and shield were pretty sparse. Most of it was maneuvering and raiding than outright seeking the enemy out and fighting them. It wasn't until the widespread use of muskets that the infrustructure and organization behind the army made it feasible and more economical to seek out the opposing army and defeat it.

As for few of us experiencing modern warfare, not many people back then experienced warfae either. Soldiers need a mass of civilians behind them to support them, and even in cases of emergency where men have to be conscripted en masse, there are still many that are left at home to keep the economy afloat. If anything, I think the number of people who participate in warfare has increased. Due to the increase of efficiency, fewer people are needed to tend to the basics meaning people are able to focus on other aspects of their life, and during times of desperation, the government can draft masses of people without fears of crippling their economy.

Obviously when you get into the eras of professional armies, and the nature of killing without having to be toe to toe with your foe is very different, but this is a recognised problem right through to the Napoleonic wars. Two battalions of musket soldiers would literally stand 10 metres apart, inside a barn somewhere, and fire blindly into the smokey room, rather than rush forward and face steel. They'd much rather take their chances with the lottery of musket shot.

So, Rock, Paper, Scissors? Later, possibly. Accurate guns will mow down a line of men running at you with swords. Aircraft will be shot down attempting to cross a heavily anti-aircraft fortified frontier.
The nature of weapon and tactic development was to trump the successful weapons of your opponent. If one takes out the user, weapons do kinda work in a RPS way. But when you put the human back in, so so so many more variables, in my opinion.
(Sorry I can't be bothered to reference what I've said, writing this as procrastination from my dissertation... :razz: )

I think it's correct to say that there series of weapons aimed at nullifying other weapons, but this doesn't complete the criteria for rock paper scissors. One of the standing features of RPS is that it's circular, of which modern warfare isn't. There are weapons out there where the nearest counter to them aren't all that effective, and in many respects, the most effective counters to many weapons are the same weapons themselves.
 

Deserath

Sergeant Knight
WB
All some interesting points and articulated very well. Thanks for the quick and quality responses.
 

Devercia

Grandmaster Knight
WB
I would also point out that Total War's tendency to separate unit by weapon is also not historical. Formations might have a dominant configuration, but there were always at least a handful of skirmishers, shield bearers, pole-arms and such mixed in. This was true long before it became standardized(such as in a tercio) as adhoc irregulars would adopt specialized roles. Often this was not only because it was effective, but also because irregular roles were sometimes all that were available to a given man. Sometimes such roles simply suited him better than the standard.

  The effectiveness of combined arms in the large scale was also true in the small scale. It is as true today as it was back then.
 

Devercia

Grandmaster Knight
WB
Have it. No it didn't. Soldiers within units were still cookie cutters with exception to the captain, musician and standard bearer.

What did you really mean? Or did they do something radical within the past....3 years?
 
Composite formations were indeed common. See the Persians who conquered an empire with a lot of small, composite units of archers, spearmen and javelinmen supported by cavalry on the flanks.
 

Lazyman

Knight
Devercia said:
Have it. No it didn't. Soldiers within units were still cookie cutters with exception to the captain, musician and standard bearer.

What did you really mean? Or did they do something radical within the past....3 years?

We use a separate EDU for multiplayer.
 

NacroxNicke

Sergeant Knight at Arms
Bumping...

The less R P S game that I have played are tactical wargames like Close Combat or Combat Mission, but those are like that because of the period settled in (ww2), and the importance of terrain and stuff.

So basically without external factors you transform the thing in RPS, but adding the factors like terrain and stuff it transforms in tactics

PD: I just realized that the last post was from two months ago, my bad.
 
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