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Offline General Helstrom

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« on: September 27, 2005, 05:01:47 PM »
Well, obviously, the high-tech PHP-based real-time engine we had planned didn't come through. We switched to a system of manual processing in a bit of a hurry, which was not as good as it could have been, although it did suffice quite nicely for the task at hand. The method of reporting and processing battles is probably the most significant change we will implement in the next campaign, so it seems prudent to start a round of discussion on that!

Personally, I quite liked the system we ended up with, I just wish it could have been automated. Why? For some reason, round-based processing seemed more strategic to me than the real-time engine we were originally planning. It was certainly a bonus for the team - we could "freeze" the campaign for a day or so while we did the tally, using that time to evaluate the current standings and devise new modifiers and conditions for the next round. For the participants too, I think the division in rounds provided a clear window in which to operate, and forced a number of tactical decisions - when do we post? - that would otherwise be moot.

What I didn't like was the completely open algorythm. The master mathematicians in the Middenland camp certainly have my respect - Rorrak even designed an application that allowed him to keep track of the scores, sometimes more accurately than the team! Being completely aware of current standings allowed the Middenlanders to plan with a great deal of efficiency, which offset their smaller number of participants considerably. I greatly enjoyed reading the crude estimates on other faction forums, and comparing them to Rorrak's "current standings" thread.

However, I don't feel that is the way it should have been. We should have had a hidden algorythm that, per round, accounted for member participation (it was simply too much work to sort that out manually every round). It would have allowed us to use more subtle modifiers and checks, integrating them into the story rather than presenting them as a formula. Control rates and the weight of that round's submitted results would then have to be presented to the participant in a more abstract form; again, this is only practical with an automated engine.

Another unforseen problem occurred when one faction broke through to a location where two others had been fighing; with both its rivals having five-figure control rates, the third party had little chance to contest the location. Rather than introduce huge silly modifiers, tinkering under the hood could have allowed the team to account to for such eventualities.


***


So, all in all, I liked the essentials of the report/process system, but I feel that a hidden algorythm could have yielded a more fluid and less predictable campaign - more war-like, if you will :)


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Offline HoS

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2005, 05:46:12 PM »
True, but I think both have their merits. The thing when we attacked The Uneasy was silly, so really, we should not have even run into that.

It worked well in my opinion, but the real-time method would have been cool.
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Offline towishimp

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2005, 04:04:35 PM »
I agree with GH.  I think the round-based system definitely added another level to the planning.  Real-time might have been fun, too, but I liked the planning aspect of the rounds system.  We could wait and see what happened, then frantically plan the next round.  It also took off the pressure to play at certain times.  For example, in a real-time system, I might look and see one of my side's locations about to fall and be compelled to try to play a battle right away.  With the turn system, I could play battles whenever it was convenient/possible for me.  
 
I definitely think the points should have been secret.  I tip my hat to the Middenlanders for breaking the system, but I agree with GH that it would have been better if there was no system to break in the first place.
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Offline Midaski

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2005, 10:09:01 PM »
I've been reading the comments and actually wanted to make some observations, but there were bits I thought about saying in various threads, and lots of bits that seemed to then relate to other bits. :?:  

So I am just going to ramble in this one ..............


Quote from: towishimp

I definitely think the points should have been secret.  I tip my hat to the Middenlanders for breaking the system, but I agree with GH that it would have been better if there was no system to break in the first place.


Did we 'break' the system - I am not sure what was meant there.

There was a points structure - varying at different times with modifiers - and a battle report forum where EVERYONE could see what was being posted.
Thus the points being scored and where they were being allocated was plainly available to everyone.

We may have been lucky in that we had someone clever like Rorrak who could tot up all the scores in a chart that was regularly updated - we knew most days exactly what the scores were, and we watched the 'players' to see who had posted and who had games in hand.

To be honest this was probably the most enjoyable part of the whole campaign ............ I have withdrawal symptoms from not logging on and discussing with our faction regulars what had happened, what was likely to happen, and trying to second guess what the other factions were likely to do.
{I can probably go back and pinpoint when we lost it ...............}

The talk of the campaign engine rather concerns me in fact.

Visible daily reports and activity, a lull to evaluate, before the next stage made the whole thing compelling.
The concept of totally hidden battle reporting, where 'our' faction would just see a result without any idea of how, why or who, would devalue things I feel.

Afterall - a general or a 'war council' would have its messengers and spies. They would be evaluating information on enemy troop movements, reports of attacks on certain locations, and they would also be trying to second guess what would happen next.

I do not know how involved the discussions were on the Talabecland and Stirland forums -{I keep meaning to go in and have a read now it's all over, oh the joy of mod powers, - but haven't found the time yet.. :wink: }, but if you ever get to see our forum you will find ours were fairly involved - we had new threads for tactics, actions and standings for each round.... :!:

We debated long and hard over where Helblaster Cisse and Episteme would attack, or where Demonslayer would stick his massacres..  :wink:

We also discussed propaganda - I deliberately started and fuelled discussions to try and make you guys think certain  things - and not just the other factions, some of our propaganda was aimed at the Campaign Team........
I/we tried to whinge quietly or loudly where possible, to try and influence things, and I was surprised there was so little of it from the other factions.
Bearing in mind my general demeanour on the site, I was quite surprised at some of the reaction to my 'propagandering' ...............

I even got a bit annoyed when people actually started to take it too seriously, and couldn't seem to see we were trying to wind you up .... maybe it actually worked too well, I am still a bit unsure why the Stirland contribution just seemed to die away. :?:

Random thoughts

The campaign literature was brilliant - I hope the promise of a collation that we could print out in 'booklet form' is fulfilled.
I would like to have a copy in with all my other Warhammer books, and some other copies I could wave around elsewhere in the 'community'.


Eventually I started playing lots of games. When the concept came up I was generally playing 2 games every 3 weeks. When the campaign started I expected to improve slightly, but suspected I would not contribute many games - it was one of the reasons I got so involved in our faction forum - if I could not play the games I could help with info gathering and suggestions etc.
Then I do think a slightly more zealous enthusiasm crept in and more effort was made to make the time to game, and my enthusiasm spilled over to my 'circle' and the last couple of weekends we had some cracking sessions - 2 games going on side by side - and much banter and simple good fun, and I think my mate enjoyed revisiting his Empire army, which he hadn't played with for a year, and his son had a crack at it after seeing his dad play 3 or 4 times, and a bit of rivalry as to who could design the better army from the campaign lists. My son played more time during the campaign than he had done in the last year.

I would suggest next time we have 2 or 4 factions - there was this 2 v 1 thing that happened and did make for some difficulties.
The way things were no-one was going to progress trying to fight on 2 fronts.
We realised it - I think the Talas did too - Stirland seemed to blast straight in everywhere they could.


Faction numbers are really irrelevant - it is battles count that was important.
We did some analysis, but I am not sure how accurate it was, with regard to number of members and how many battles each posted, and the strength of results.
We were concerned that we had the most members, but the lowest average of games played.
The Talas for example had a very small membership, but a few dedicated gamers who managed several games a round.

Timing memo:
The time of year our campaign took place, ie summer holidays, had a profound effect on the number of games I believe. It was noticeable at the end of the campaign when schools/colleges started the battle count dropped off from several players.

Ok I've rambled on .................... overall I would have to say I enjoyed  it all immensely, even though there were times when it all got just too intense, and I spent way too much time on it and on here on it.

Having said all that I will probably not actively take part in the next one - I did not feel comfortable at times with being a Mod and participating - I could not for example use the "see all posts since your last visit" facility. :wink:
In reality the tactical options were fairly limited - each faction had a limited number of 'contact locations' and to my mind, and again you can see what we said in our forum, guessing what our opposition would do next was not too hard, but I was still conscious sometimes that if I was right too much, the wrong conclusions would be drawn.

The things I sacrifice for my duty ................

 :roll:
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Offline Carlo Chaimo

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2005, 12:12:58 AM »
Quote from: Midaski
Visible daily reports and activity, a lull to evaluate, before the next stage made the whole thing compelling.
The concept of totally hidden battle reporting, where 'our' faction would just see a result without any idea of how, why or who, would devalue things I feel.


Was ours the first online campaign to tally manually? I agree with Midaski that the manual way of doing things while problematic still had some major benefits. So we should definitely keep the option on the table even though it will probably be a hell of a lot more work for the future campaign team :wink:  But, hey, it would mean less programming right?
 

Quote from: Midaski
We also discussed propaganda - I deliberately started and fuelled discussions to try and make you guys think certain  things - and not just the other factions, some of our propaganda was aimed at the Campaign Team........
I/we tried to whinge quietly or loudly where possible, to try and influence things, and I was surprised there was so little of it from the other factions.
Bearing in mind my general demeanour on the site, I was quite surprised at some of the reaction to my 'propagandering' ...............

Bravo!!! :clap:  With your mod powers you should definitely go into our Talabecland forum since you were definitely a topic of conversation.  :wink: That was some brilliant disinformation, and I mean all of this in a laudatory sense as I love psychological warefare (except when it is used by my wife).

I definitely agree with your assertion that we should have an even number of armies. Again, if you use your mod powers you will see in the Talabecland forum that I quickly deduced that this would turn into a game of Risk (the classic boardgame), in which the game is inevitably won by whomever can convince the weakest players to support them, and often by the weakest player who is ignored and pulls out a victory when the super-powers collide. I agree with Rufus that four is the best number. This will still allow for backstabbing and treachery, and will not leave anyone feeling left out and ganged up on.

About mods (like Midaski) not participating or feeling ambivalent about participating, I really feel that this deducts from the pool of solid regular forum members who would really be useful in pumping up the numbers of potential conscientious posters -- in other words, Midaski has noted a problem that I also noted in the thread that I started, ie., that this campaign was very much dominated by a few people. We need to figure out a way to minimalize this effect, and getting more of the senior and regular members involved is a quick and fun solution. I have no answers on how to do this with propriety, but I think that it is important that we do, so that the campaign is not dominated by one, two or three people from each side.
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Offline towishimp

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2005, 01:40:27 AM »
Quote from: Midaski

Quote from: towishimp

I definitely think the points should have been secret.  I tip my hat to the Middenlanders for breaking the system, but I agree with GH that it would have been better if there was no system to break in the first place.


Did we 'break' the system - I am not sure what was meant there.


What I meant was that the Middenlanders seemed to do the best job of figuring out how the system worked, tallying the results, and planning accordingly.  As a contrast, we Stirlanders came up with a plan at the beginning of the round and then went at it.  We tried to change in mid-stream sometimes, but that didn't always work.  I think our sheer numbers of members are what account for this "Stirland blindly attacked everywhere" myth that seems to be blowing around (and which was supported by some of the fluff).  For instance, at one point we decided to leave Middenland be and go after the Talebecs, but there was a diehard contingent determined to fight Middenland.  In spite of all our planning, we looked reckless and maybe a tad arrogant.

As I said before, I also liked the round-based system, for the same reasons Midaski has listed.  I also agree that four factions would be better.  I was one of those Stirland generals who quit fighting toward the end, and the biggest factor was my frustration.  It seemed like no matter how hard we fought, we would always be ganged up on and defeated.  That, and the fact that my few battles (which were rarely the coveted massacres) didn't seem to make much of a difference (compared to those who posted huge wins day after day) made me lose interest.

Overall, I liked the campaign, though.  Some minor tweaks would make a good thing even better.
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Offline Calvin

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2005, 01:56:46 AM »
The next campaign will likely work on a whole different forum system, partly because of the engine. So Midaski (and other regular mods), you’ll have no more access than any other non-team members. ;-)
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Offline Rorrak

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2005, 07:48:20 AM »
Quote from: Midaski

The campaign literature was brilliant

 
Yes indeed it was, simply stunning. Kudo's.
 
Some quick thoughts. I have a meeting in 20 mins so I will come back and elaborate later if I can.
 
We need to keep the round based thing it has its own beauty but it doesn't have to be crystal clear like it was. Fog of War can be implemented. This kind of thing should be easy to program and it would also mandate programmatic result entry. I have the seeds of ideas floating around in my head. More on this as those seeds germinate a bit more.
 
For this to work however the players must not know what exactly how the scoring works because smart players will be able to draw parallels between how their reports look and the subsequent results and thus make estimates of the other factions postings. However as Midaski said this kind of thing did sweeten the deal.

Offline Midaski

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2005, 09:20:24 AM »
Quote from: towishimp


  For instance, at one point we decided to leave Middenland be and go after the Talebecs, but there was a diehard contingent determined to fight Middenland.  In spite of all our planning, we looked reckless and maybe a tad arrogant.


That was the good thing about our faction - we discussed our ideas, and set things up so we had a thread that told members what the current strategy was and it did change on a daily basis, and most importantly our generals generally stuck to it - I think we probably had 2/3 cases where battles went where we didn't want them.

Quote from: towishimp

I was one of those Stirland generals who quit fighting toward the end, and the biggest factor was my frustration.  It seemed like no matter how hard we fought, we would always be ganged up on and defeated.  That, and the fact that my few battles (which were rarely the coveted massacres) didn't seem to make much of a difference (compared to those who posted huge wins day after day) made me lose interest.

Following on from my first comment above the Stirland guys certainly initially had the most points available ................
... how you chose to use them decided what happened - to be really cheesy - no 'I'  in T-E-A-M.

We probably had the most participants in terms of numbers who posted A battle - and we considered every battle report, even a no bonus 200pt draw a plus point.
However we encouraged each other to enhance the games with the optional campaign bonuses - a minor of 400 points could easily go to 600 or 700 and make quite a difference.
Someone on our team also made a point of emailing our member list a few times during the campaign, chasing up some interest. That worked quite well too - a few general's appeared with a few odd battles that proved very useful too.

The 'massacre' factor was both annoying and amusing.
I suppose with my gaming ethos, AND the general attitude of this site, I found it hard to imagine someone achieving massacre after massacre.

I would not enjoy playing/winning #x of straight massacres, our group would never put up with someone achieving that, and as an opponent if I didn't LEARN from it and improve - I would expect someone to quit.
Indeed on this site, most members would only be interested in a run of massacres - like 6  :wink: would be useful - at a tournament.

However amusingly one of our members bravely came onto our forum and admitted he had been the victim of a run of said massacres - I think our advice was for him to retire :wink:
However he did in fact make a major contribution later on, when he managed to help the 'freakin idiot' forget to post his 5 massacres before the end of a round ...................... :-D
 :wink:



Quote from: rufus

Midaski wrote:
The time of year our campaign took place, ie summer holidays, had a profound effect on the number of games I believe.  


That's a good point. It would mean a long wait until the next campaign though!

I wasn't suggesting waiting till next summer - as a 'working adult' I was a bit upset that I couldn't play day-in day-out during 'summer holidays'.
A student on hols who can play 2/3 games every day, against poor old me who is lucky to average one a week......... :roll:
 However that is a debate?
Educational Holiday Times will add to the number of results v. a more balanced participation from everybody.


Quote from: calvin
The next campaign will likely work on a whole different forum system, partly because of the engine. So Midaski (and other regular mods), you’ll have no more access than any other non-team members.


Good as then there can be no inferences of advantage........
However I reserve judgement as it would appear that my comments about the tactical discussions have found agreement.
Any new campaign should bear this in mind.
I do feel that if the 'faction generals' can get together and make and implement strategies they should be able to have a substantial bearing.
Towishimp's point about the Stirland camp's possible indiscipline I think makes my case.

As an aside I rather thought I'd try and help on the 'organising side' next time - it did seem that the volunteers' numbers dropped off, and it came down to a core few.
I saw all the 'names' go up early, and purposely took a backward step - I do believe in a 'spread the load' concept and so the more non-mods/admin that came forward the better. If ordinary members feel that they can contribute, in whatever way, it has to be good for the site.

Following on from that I also think we have identified some very useful responsible members who can be encouraged to greater enterprise.
 :wink:



Quote from: Carlo Chaimo

you should definitely go into our Talabecland forum since you were definitely a topic of conversation.  That was some brilliant disinformation.


Well that was hopefully the plan - Towishimp mentioned 'low point' battles. At some stage we discussed posting those in a round as 'distractions', to try and convince you we were going to do 'X'.
We also decided we would not survive if it was us getting attacked on two fronts, so we did all we could to keep Udo's at the forefront, and let Kaltenbach fade into obscurity ...................

There was never an alliance - but despite our furious denials, we were quite happy to let the Stirlanders think there was. We felt they were the biggest threat, and set out to disrupt them in any way we could.
 :wink:

Quote from: Rorrak


For this to work however the players must not know what exactly how the scoring works because smart players will be able to draw parallels between how their reports look and the subsequent results and thus make estimates of the other factions postings.

However as Midaski said this kind of thing did sweeten the deal.


Next debate  :?:

Is a campaign just about playing games - to a theme - and just enjoying those games, ...............

or is it about playing enjoyable games as part of an overall grand bigger "game". :?:

GW are always producing 'new' ways of having a 'different' hopefully enjoyable game; ie Lustria, Knightly Order 'traits'.

The problem with an online campaign is you cannot control everything - most notably the results of battles.
A faction could probably work out its likely average points score per round, but look at the round variations in our small campaign :!:

The off table tactics are as much a part of the campaign as the actual games, and being able to 'measure' what is happening is the only real way you can then develop strategies.
Knowing how points are scored and awarded was an important factor in The Ostermark -
- just look at the number of discussions we had about who had what battles and potential points left to post in a round, and what scores we should allocate where .................
 
The most effective part of Rorrak's Standings threads was the list of opposition forum players and what they posted.
We watched individually the enemy 'big hitters' and the number of battles reported against the number of days in the round, so that we would know on the last day that player 'X' potentially had 2 more battles to post at 'Y' number of points.
It sounds like we were by far the biggest anoraks in our faction.
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Offline Midaski

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2005, 12:13:37 PM »
I've just been reading some of the Tala forum........ :wink:

Joey and his honeymoon  :clap:  nothing like interrupting a campaign with something trivial ................. amazing

Helblaster immortalised in my sig .................. :lol:

and that round he failed to post 7200 - 9000 points - Kaltenbach will never know how close it was to real trouble .....................
 :wink:
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Offline Rorrak

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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2005, 12:44:04 PM »
Quote

Another unforseen problem occurred when one faction broke through to a location where two others had been fighing; with both its rivals having five-figure control rates, the third party had little chance to contest the location. Rather than introduce huge silly modifiers, tinkering under the hood could have allowed the team to account to for such eventualities.


Yup. I've been thinking about the solution. I have some ideas but dont really like them because they are flawed.

1). Normalize the CR. Subtract the lowest factions CR from the other factions ignoring 0's. Lots of Drawbacks here.

2). CR Decays. Each round all the previous rounds lose 1/3 (or 1/4) of their origional contribution, so after 3 rounds (or 4) what a faction did in a location has no more influence. This would require tracking of each rounds scores but easy to do programatically.
Decay rates could stagger. 50%,25%,25% or 10%,25%,65% and could be different per territory.

This solution also has drawbacks but seems to be a better basic idea.

Offline towishimp

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2005, 04:52:15 PM »
Quote from: Midaski

Next debate  :?:  
 
.......
 
 
The off table tactics are as much a part of the campaign as the actual games, and being able to 'measure' what is happening is the only real way you can then develop strategies.
Knowing how points are scored and awarded was an important factor in The Ostermark -  
- just look at the number of discussions we had about who had what battles and potential points left to post in a round, and what scores we should allocate where .................
 
The most effective part of Rorrak's Standings threads was the list of opposition forum players and what they posted.
We watched individually the enemy 'big hitters' and the number of battles reported against the number of days in the round, so that we would know on the last day that player 'X' potentially had 2 more battles to post at 'Y' number of points.
It sounds like we were by far the biggest anoraks in our faction.

 
I agree that the planning was a big part of the fun.  I still think, though, that the players shouldn't know exactly how the scoring works.  In a real campaign, you wouldn't be able to exactly calculate how much progress was being made (spies would get lost/killed, reports might exaggerate, etc).  You should be able to estimate progress next time, but not measure it exactly down to the last point.  That kind of surgical precision is out of place on a Warhammer battlefield/campaign.
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Offline General Helstrom

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Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2005, 08:32:19 AM »
You lot have been busy! Good :-D Time to comment:

- Middenland didn't so much "break" the campaign engine. The system was completely open to all willing to take the time and do the math. The power of this was demonstrated by Middenland's success, especially in the earlier stages when they were fighting against the odds. Similarly, there were quite a few close calls throughout the campaign, mostly the cause of one faction or the other underestimating the control values required. Keeping the planning element of the campaign alive, while at the same time implementing the checks and balances required by a larger scale, will be quite a challenge.

- The campaign forums were moderated only very slightly, so as to allow smack talk and psychological warfare. Except for one instance, this seemed to work quite comfortably. We'll probably need to put a bit more emphasis on forum conduct and "spirit of the game" next time, possibly coupled with a bit more moderation, as the scale increases. On the whole, though, psy-war on the forums added a very nice dimension to the campaign which I'd like to keep.

- The 2-vs-1 that was seen in the first rounds of the campaign, and which we tried to break up with the "Kaltenbach specials", will not be repeated; we'll be implementing more factions next time, and will continue to keep a check on alliance-forming etc.

- Tactically, the next campaign should have a lot more options. A larger number of locations is the easiest fix; in the Ostermark set-up, losing one location was bad, and two was downright catastrophic. As a result, we saw a lot of hard fighting across a generally static front. Although this was tense and in character, we should be looking at a more "sweeping"  battlefield next time around. By increasing the tactical options, we also compensate for some of the loss in strategy that occurs when the engine algorythms are hidden.

- It might be a good idea to implement an opt-in mailing list alongside the faction forums; this will allow any faction to email all of its members through a controlled channel. I wonder how many of Middenland's non-participating members felt spammed by Midaski? ;) Also, although this occured to me only just now, not every faction had an actively participating moderator aboard. There's a difference in the way mods and members get to see people's email addresses. While I don't feel the system was cheated as such, keeping control over the lines of communication is important for the campaign staff.

- Closer to the original topic: I'm still quite endeared to the system of rounds. We will, however, need to come up with a way to provide battlefield intelligence to each faction in a useful, but not too detailed matter - in fact, if we're going to implement a round-by-round equalizer (like we did for the Opening Offensive, ie. modifying each round's scores to provide each faction with equal strength regardless of participation), we will have to come up with something like that, or it just becomes a poker game with blind cards.


So... Lots of good thinking going on here. Keep it up!
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Offline Elieress

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Re: Discussion: The Campaign Engine
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2006, 11:13:33 AM »
A foul act of necromancy, I know, but...

I have a small thought for the next version of the campaign engine.
How about implementing a system that allows people who cannot play several games a week a fair chance to effect the outcome of the conflict?

My thought runs something along the lines of:

only one battle in a given timespan could earn a max of 100 points.

Two battles could be worth up to 140 points.

ten battles up to 300 points.

The idea is that a general who prepares for a decisive battle and plans his attack will only end up with one engagement in a given timeperiod, but will achieve a great deal if he is succesfull...  But a general that fights whatever that comes along at any time, might end up with an enormous amount of battles under his belt, but will not have time to cover as many objectives...

simply put, this will enable people who fight few battles to make a difference, and enable people who fight a lot of battles to still be make a greater effect, but not be the powerhouses that we saw in our last campaign.

Just a thought, and now I will stop reanimating these old bones  :wink:
Elieress... Just an old RPG name that got stuck to most of my online profiles...

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