Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Peon killing
Published on June 7, 2006 By Draginol In Real-Time

Years ago, I used to be very "into" RTSs.  I spent countless weekends and weeknights playing Warcraft, Total Annihilation, Starcraft and tons of lesser known RTSs.

And in most of them, particularly the ones with peons, what seperated the top players from the rest was knowledge of a simple game mechanic: Multiplication of resources.  Which translates to - send forces to disrupt the first couple of minutes of production of your enemy and you will win.  We're not talking about "rushing".  What I'm saying is that if you can eliminate even a couple peons getting gold or whatever the resource in question is very early on, it will put them behind the curve for the rest of the game.

When I played competitively, that was always my strategy too.  But as I've gotten older, I don't have the stomach for it.  It's just such a shitty tactic that is only remotely interesting when played against other top players and even then, it all usually boils down to who is most successful in pulling it off.  So I don't do it.

Which means that when I play top players at say Rise of Legends, I usually lose. RoL is a peon game. So a good player will move in with their starting forces and take out a few peons and then move out. The rest is pretty much written barring a really clever move.

Some people object to "rushing".  I don't.  I don't personally rush, but I think rushing is a legitimate tactic and a well designed game will allow players to defend against it.  In Rise of Legends, you can see how many units the the other guy has built early on. So it's pretty obvious when an unskilled player is about to rush.  I had that happen today and wiped the guy out.  One defense canon and a  bunch of purchased forces from neutrals (the guy didn't realize that units acquired at neutral cities don't count as "built" units so I had more forces than he thought).

Other tactics are still key, always know what your enemy is doing.  When someone rushes me, I usually see them gather their force, send them across the map and make sure I have something there to greet them.  Unfortunately, true rushers are usually pretty lame. The rush, having failed, means the opponent is doomed and they typically quit right there.  I never understand those kinds of players, given the pain to get a game going, why end it in 5 minutes?

But like I said, the most effective strategies are the ones that suck the fun out of the game.  I've always loathed the peon mechanic to begin with (no war in history was ever decided by eliminating the civilian population).  In some games, top players will take advantage of glitches in the game such as bad unit AI and such.  RoL does'nt seem to have that issue at least.

So I'll have to contend myself with being mediocre.

Comments (Page 1)
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on Jun 08, 2006
I hear ya Brad; I'm much the same way. The major reason I don't play strategy games in multiplayer mode very much is because I don't particularly care to play against people I don't know, and finding time for even just some of my friends to get together is difficult at best. But the other major factor is that I simply cannot bring myself to use a "cheese" tactic or known exploit, even if not doing so means the other player(s) beats the stuffing out of me--which they usually do. Basically, it's in my nature to be a good sport (both when playing games online as well as real life), and so I often lose as a result. Ah well....
on Jun 08, 2006
im a "serious Gamer" i play for fun not to win, but often times this leaves me "Flawed". but the good thing is that the games i purchase i play over and over again, saving me much cash!
on Jun 08, 2006
the most effective strategies are the ones that suck the fun out of the game.

Honestly, this happens in a lot of different types of games as well. In tabletop RPGs, there's Roleplaying and there's ROLLplaying. Munchkinism is something I personally avoid in RPG groups (not that I've had one in a long while). The tabletop miniature wargame of my preference, HeroClix, is almost strictly polarized into theme players and game players. There's the guy who will only play accurate X-Men line-ups, and then there's the guy with Superman, some Con Artists ("hookers") and a Paramedic to heal him up.

There are game-isms (a term I first heard in the Army) in virtually every game. (In fact, the Army uses it to discuss inaccurate but effective tactics used during war games. It's like in paintball where you could hide in a thorny bush and be protected from the "bullets.") No matter how good the design, a game will really not be able to completely and accurately simulate its source (referenced in your observation about wars and civilian populations).

Personally, I'm a fair game mechanic, but not a very good game player. I enjoy the heck out of games, but I've rarely been above mediocre. Any time that I've pulled above average has been due to having an edge in knowledge over my opponents... which is somewhat satisfying for me, but I'd rather be able to get by on raw talent. Having said all this... I still give you some kudos for deciding not to stoop to what you feel is an unfair and cheesy (and unenjoyable) tactic.
on Jun 08, 2006
The guys that i have a hard time believing are those that say they always have a ready clatch of 4-5 friends that are chomping at the bit to play a MP game to the bitter end with them,

Now there is a completely new breed of geek.
on Jun 08, 2006
I agree guys. Most MP games are best played against other players as even the best AI is flawed. That said there is nothing worse than people using "cheese" tactics. These are the people who obey the letter rather than the spirit of the law. They only gain gratification from victory and not from the thrill of playing. It is a sadly imature mind-set that is unfortunately often seen in those who should be old enough to know better. The problem exsits in FPS as well as RTS where people will exploit weapons and good pings to allow them to win. I think these people feel that everyone should cheese and so don't feel bad about it.

The key, as mentioned above, is to find some friends to game with but this is difficult if you also work. Perhaps, as we age, there will be larger groups of more mature gamers around to enjoy games with.. as long as the young 'un don't drive us all around. I have found one FPS clan called The Older Gamer who only admit over 25s and have some of their own servers.

Anyway, enough rambling.....

...and darn those pesky kids!
on Jun 08, 2006
It is possible to achieve “perfection” in nearly any game. Given (or with enough data to deduce or reverse-engineer) the formulas that make up the mechanics of the game, you can devise the “perfect strategy”. Since it is tested, tried, and true, all games, after a while, become somewhat boring. It is true, from a pure efficiency standpoint that there are only certain strategies that are effective. This is true of all games, due to the mechanics that make up the game. Tactics that are “effective” “cheesy” or that “play the system” win out. Applying the same tactic is not fun, however, no matter how optimal and efficient; no matter how many times it allows you to win. As a gamer, I always try to play through a game (the first time) just by my gut instinct, by the seat of my pants, and change and optimize my strategies as I go. After my first few games, I tend to have gathered enough raw data to start putting together the game mechanics (this is something that I really enjoy by the way, figuring out how a game works, and finding the most efficient and effective ways to perform) and even deduce some of the basic formulas. It turns into fine points about the cost/benefit ratio to generate a value, and comparing that to other options. However, always running by this “formula” is tiresome, and due to a lack of balance and a very complete knowledge of the mechanics as well as environment of the game, there is only ever one effective strategy. It is the real world, where many inefficiencies appear, it's a game, which has so few variables, which is so simplified that you can indeed reduce it to numbers, and create the “perfect solution”.

The unfortunate thing is that winning and having fun don't always go hand in hand. While there's only one perfect way to win, there are very many ways to have fun. Playing only one way does get boring after all. We all need to try new things, do the “wow did you see what I just did? Isn't that cool!” factor. It's not fun when you're no longer experimenting, when you know everything there is to know.

We all need variety and novelty. Why do expansion packs sell? They bring new content to the same-ol' good stuff. They bring in something we all need, something new. I think, Draginol, that you're just tired of the same old thing. Perhaps some RTS will come along that finally breaks us of this resource management formula, but you won't really find me holding my breath. That said, you might want to check out Star Wars: Empire at War's galactic conquest mode. Credits are generated by buildings and by owning planets, you don't actually ever mine resources. Construction is performed across all maps, and when two fleets or armies collide, you go into a tactical battle that never requires you to build a single peon.

What makes a good game? Many have debated this topic. Eye candy? Yes it does. Gameplay? Yes. Storyline? Yes. Bells & whistles? Yes. But why? It is our desire for something new, if only slightly that drives us to pick up another copy of that some ol' RTS formula. That's what brings gamers to pick up Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when we've played tons of RPGS, it's because we're looking for something novel, and something cool. Where does this novelty have to be? It doesn't have to be in any specific place. An easier UI, new flashy eye candy that hasn't been done before, maybe game mechanics that haven't been thought of (bullet time everyone? FPS standard now-a-days, it's hard to believe it was once a brand new idea). One of the reasons why I like the 4X genre is because there are just so many different ways to do it. Everything from SM's civilization series, to galactic civilization's II, to the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and even little gem titles like advanced wars (Game boy advanced) [perhaps not strictly speaking, 4X] that make this genre so diverse. Each of these games are 4X, but they do it in their own way, have their own depth. What your sick of is a flaw in the RTS system, one that's been sickly and dying for a long time now, and needs a major overhaul. Perhaps a revolution is on the horizon that will make RTSes as diverse as their 4X strategy brothers, but until then, all we can do is play the games we have.

When we're tired, we take a little break, so we can come back (perhaps in a few years), to have some more fun with something we know we love, and who knows, maybe even a few new developments in the field will make us fall in love with the genre all over again.
on Jun 08, 2006
Reading this thread brought back wonderful Starcraft memories, not that I ever dabbled in multiplayer of course, but I'm still familiar with the cheese of peon killing (or SCV's). I really should dig that game out again... I hunger for battle.

Anyway, the same tactic can be used in turn based games. The build up period at the beginning of a GC2 game helps to soften it, but its still possible to crank out fighters and go colony ship/scout killing early on. (Not over the whole map obviously, but enough to soften up your neighbours and get a good start).
on Jun 08, 2006
You've got two games mixed up there, Muppet, it's "I long for battle". "I hunger" comes from an old arcade console called Sinistar.

on Jun 08, 2006
I say if you can get away with it in the game, then its fair play! Good strategy players can overcome impossible odds. As mentioned, cheese tactics like rushing is a fair way to play the game, which if resisted successfully, has many strong drawbacks. That's why I love the rush option in a game. If you choose to rush, you better have a backup plan if it does not succeed. If you play a game that has the rush tactic, you better prepare your defenses for it. I like having the rush in the game because it adds to the number of strategies you have to be aware of and prepare for. It also adds to the frantic pace of the first few moments of the game when you don't know what is going to occur. I love that feeling.


on Jun 08, 2006
Well, when i play a RTS game, i never do that type of strategy i find it pretty lame and only people that can't play a full scale war do it and its mostly so they win and that just takes out the fun in a Strategy game.

I play it because i love playing it, but most people play it to win at all costs, as fast as possible and for some reason people think the faster you win, the better you are and the points don't seem to matter, thats why i never play RTS games with other players now, i just play with my mom now and then, she is bloody good at them.

Its like when i play Star Trek Armada with her, she is always the Federation because of their good guy style and their average shields and armour strength and she is good on what ship class to use and stuff like that and if she gets a good plan set up, I get virtually slaughtered. lol

Now i love losing when its to a well planned assault, but when its in the first few minutes by 'Peons' i just get bored because its only players that just want to win do it and it just puts me off big time.

I know for a fact if it came down to a full scale battle i would win hands down, but hey i never play online now, i have been totally put off of it forever.
on Jun 08, 2006
You know you're young when your mom plays RTS games and is really good at them 8D

Cheese tactics have really ruined the online gaming experience, and make the "ladders" completely worthless as evaluations of a given player's skill. It's too bad that in the competitions, the cash and prizes go to the person who wins, at all costs.
on Jun 08, 2006

I say if you can get away with it in the game, then its fair play! Good strategy players can overcome impossible odds. As mentioned, cheese tactics like rushing is a fair way to play the game, which if resisted successfully, has many strong drawbacks. That's why I love the rush option in a game. If you choose to rush, you better have a backup plan if it does not succeed. If you play a game that has the rush tactic, you better prepare your defenses for it. I like having the rush in the game because it adds to the number of strategies you have to be aware of and prepare for. It also adds to the frantic pace of the first few moments of the game when you don't know what is going to occur. I love that feeling.

I think pretty much any tactic is "legitimate".  The question is whether it provides a "fun" experience.  I didn't mention this but I was ranked in the top 10 in Starcraft for human (terrans) in the game during the beta.  And I can tell you one of the first tactics to take was always to go and take a few marines and take out a couple of enemy peons (zergs were particularly vulnerable) early on.  It's not rushing in the sense some peple think of it as you're not doing a full on game ending attack. The mechanic is to slow down their production at the start of the game. The build time to get more peons to mine the crystals is what the killer was.  Take out 2 peons and you lose a minute's worth of production which multiplies out.

In Warcraft 3, until they patched it, the trick was to know which "Creep" had the special treasure and in particular the one that gave your hero experience.  Hence, the top players were the ones who knew a given map very well already and could go around and cherry pick the creeps.

In both cases, they take the fun out of the game for the other player.  The other guy doesn't get to develop their strategy.

Last night I had a great game of RoL.  Took over an hour to complete and it was back and forth.  I could have gone into his base and killed a few peons (or he could have probably tried to do the same to me) but we didn't and it was a game that could have gone either way (well except I took advantage of a weak game feature -- one of the Vinco heroes has a power that makes a group of units invincible for a FULL minute which is total cheese but it's not realistic to not use one of your heroes main powers late game).

on Jun 08, 2006
That is why we had a rule that Harvesters were off limits in C&C. (I didn't really play Warcraft or Warcraft 2 much, but Peons were off-limits in those games as well.) The games lasted longer and were rather fun. The original C&C had many ways to win, where as Red Alert really toned down on all of the unconventional methods of victory. (I pretty much quit playing RTS's after Red Alert.)
on Jun 08, 2006
There are ways to invite a foolish attack, even on higher levels of difficulty. I tricked an AI enemy into attacking me. He had a lot of allies, so it would be difficult for me to attack him in the conventional manner without going to war with everyone else. I built up a large number of inexpensivie medium sized ships with relatively low attack and defense capabitlities, and sent them near his border. At the same time, I saved up a great deal of money and designed a much more powerful version of the ship, but did not build any. He sent that "I see what you're doing message" and then the "I am going to rid the world of you" message. I sent the order to upgrade all those ships to the much more powerful version, which only took a week since I owned nearby planets. By the time he got into my vicinity, he experienced what I would like to call an "oh sh*t" moment, and I promptly wipe him off the face of the map, and remained friends with the other AI players who had allied with him.
on Jun 08, 2006
Things like tower rushing are what really annoy me. When has somone been able to build a sentry tower or what have you in someone elses base without them knowning...
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