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Auto-classifying Soldiers


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#1 Sowelu

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 02:09 AM

Yeah, so I've been working at this idea for a couple years now but never had a game project to implement it in. I'm probably insane for suggesting it here but every time I get >30 soldiers in any X-Com game, this issue really ticks me off, and I want someone, anyone to fix it :P Maybe it's better suited for a bigger game (in numbers of soldiers), but I think it should be very scalable.

I'll suggest that one of the hardest (or at least most boring) parts of X-Com, later in the game, is just managing your troops. Personally I just end up largely ignoring it; it's easier to deal with mismatched armor, equipment, whatever than it is to click through menus for half an hour and make a big detailed roster on paper. And managing things across multiple bases? Ugh... Half my men get ignored. And it's such a shoddy hack that players have to put letters in a soldier's name to keep track of what they're good at, and re-equip them from scratch every time!

(You can tell I've got a bone to pick here.)

I've got some pretty well developed ideas to fix that. They might replace the rank system or might not, could be done either way. But the short version is, the player defines what stat ranges make a "standard footsoldier" or "elite sniper" or "demolitions expert", and the game not only displays that label by the soldier's name, but can use a defined equipment set to outfit each classification without user intervention.

You'd have a menu or something for defining these classes, and could say "Sniper is anyone with firing accuracy > 70. Guard is anyone with reaction > 45. Footsoldier is anyone with firing accuracy > 60 and time units > 60. Demolitions is anyone with strength > 40. Grunt is anyone who doesn't fall under any other category." (It checks them in order, if a soldier qualifies for more than one.) Then, define some archetypical set of equipment for each class. Instead of trying to remember which Bob is your expert sniper, you'll see on the roster "Bob Smith - Expert Sniper. Bob Green - Grunt." You could probably even just say something like this base has 3 snipers, 8 footsoldiers, 6 grunts and leave out names unless the player wants them.

You could set up a craft so that it has 1 C.O., 2 snipers, 5 footsoldiers... And if one of your rifle jockeys gets injured or killed on a mission, it could automatically replace him with another soldier who fits the same class once you're back at base. Makes it a lot easier to handle multiple crafts and bases that way.

Of course, you can revise your definitions of these classes as the game goes on... so if your standards rise, you can make sure you have good soldiers, and if you get new weaponry you can make sure EVERYONE is up to date with the click of a couple buttons.

You'd probably want meta-classes too, that people can be a member in more than one... like say, anyone with throwing accuracy > 75 and who has the strength gets an extra couple grenades. Set up an "extra ammo" metaclass, so you can click a button to outfit everyone with extra clips for a long mission. If there was a medical skill, you could require that at least two people on a ship have it higher than 50.

Your best soldiers would probably always simply go by name. They're your *best* soldiers, after all, and you should recognize them. They're like special agents. Player can always turn classes on and off, even on a per-soldier basis... reclassify at will, give unique equipment, whatever. In missions, you'd see all soldier names (as well as class). And I'd presume that if this was used, the game would come with some preset classes for the player to use if they want.

And I'm sure this is going a bit far for an X-Com project, but you could use this as a replacement for the rank system. If there was a leadership stat (presumably it would be like a group bravery as well as giving bonuses to shooting and stuff), then you could make ranks another metaclass that's mostly just dependant on leadership.

Oh, and in case anyone reading this far still has the wrong idea, "class" just means some category that their stats fall into. It isn't like some D&D thing, it doesn't determine the way they were created. It has NO GAME EFFECT aside from sorting your soldiers in a way that you can actually read.

So...insane, yea? I originally did have this in mind for games with a lot more soldiers, but it was supposed to be extremely scalable. If you had squads like X-Com Apocalypse, you could define squads like you define classes, and load your ship with one stealth, two light support and two assault squads. Scales all the way up to batallions and regiments across multiple ships but I doubt that fits in with X-Com.


Whee!

#2 Paladin

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 07:31 AM

Hmmm, interesting concepts you have here...
I especially like the auto-classifying of rookies.
At the VERY least, we need to be able to define classes and assign soldiers to them...

On the other hand, the little extra-managment required to assign soldiers to crafts is the difference between managing a 3000 men army, and small teams of highly customised Commandos...
I fear the game would lose it's flavor if it's too automated IMHO. ^_^

Edited by Paladin, 10 September 2004 - 12:26 PM.

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#3 centurion

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 11:30 AM

Umm, I don't like the idea of auto-managing your troops too much :unsure: ; I mean, you can just issue your orders and never take a glance on a soldier's stats? This is something I associate with much, much larger groups of people than those in UFO. However, the ability to have standard loadouts does make sense to me; it could speed up the initial equipment of the rookies. And the title of the thread gave me an idea: what if you could specify minimal values for the rookies, for a proportional cost? That is, you could say "I only want rookies with firing accuracy at least 50 accuracy" and pay 40000/ for each recruit (of course, this kind of thing is n/a to a recruitment pool system).
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#4 Paladin

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 12:29 PM

Hmmm, VERY interesting idea here...
We SHOULD be able to select soldiers based on firing accuracy PRIOR to employment (for a price ^_^).
It's especially easy to verify with a firing range, or a weightlifting test, or a throwing accuracy test... etc.

I like that! :D
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#5 Snakeman

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 12:55 PM

First I gotta say that anything that helps streamline a particular process and let's me get down to business blowing up aliens has got to be a good thing.

I like the notion that I could set up my "wants" for each class type I specify for a soldier by single stat or by multiple stats (X TUs, X Stamina, X Bravery, X Firing Accuracy etc.), equip that class so that (unless I manually change soldier's personal equipment as things advance - I still don't mind doing that, but it sure got tedious with X-COM), those things become sort of saved. Then, as long as I had enough living quarters for the base I'm hiring them for, I could just buy the max number of soldiers I need there and let the game sort out who gets sacked for me (although I should point out, I think we should still sack soldiers manually----in case we didn't have a template made for rookie fodder :) and maybe you do still want a throw-away soldier type)

I would like to also add that with regard to raising hiring criteria by stats later on for your troops, the system shouldn't put any soldiers that you previously had in that sack list (maybe your still training them up). This is probably the only reason I can think of why I wouldn't want the system to sack soldiers automatically, I might have some vets that don't quite meet that new criteria I may have set.

One other point on equipment. If I gave each "grunt" class as an example two grenades and two proximities and saved it, if the item is something that's on the market and at a good price (or if we dont' care much what they're going for, we simply need it when we need it), the system gets what it can on that market (money permiting) and equips your soldier as you specified when it comes in. In this same way, if its a piece of equipment you can manufacture or find on the battlefield, the same method should apply for equipping automatically. (engineers should generate a list of what needs manufacturing an get busy - with researchers I understand the need to decide for myself what parts of the tree to go with first, but with engineers I hate having any idle. I think the AI should make them work based on what we put in a kind of "base needs X for stores" and "base needs X for profit" - with the second you could set up an autosell thing there).

Given the way we're so used to X-COM for those who've been playing it though, I still see a need to have that equip screen come up just before battle just to be sure everyone's got something on them (and if its there too, rearranging their placement on the ship so you can have whoever you want wherever you want in the pecking order to leave the ship - I think these positions should also be "remembered" by the game as long as its between "same class" of ship i.e. Skyranger to Skyranger).

Edited by Snakeman, 10 September 2004 - 01:02 PM.


#6 Paladin

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 01:56 PM

Well, classifying soldiers need not necessarily to be automatic, but it should be there, at the very least each soldier remenbering their equipment is a must, even pre-V1.0, We'll never say it enough (although I think it's already supposed to be so ^_^)
And yes, an equipping screen at the start of a mission is always welcome, especially if we can see the total weight effects...
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#7 Snakeman

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 02:10 PM

Exactly, plus you may decide at the last minute, you want a different guy shouldering that blaster launcher. Thing is, whenever something is altered to a soldier equipment-wise, it should stay that way unless changed.

The screening criteria for soldiers is more for streamlining the hiring/sacking process the way I view it. That way it isn't like the first X-COM where one has to look at every single individual soldier's stats at every base to see if they cut the mustard.

Hmm, just had another thought on soldier placement on ships. If there's still a soldier screen for viewing stats and dishing out armor, perhaps if they're already assigned to a craft, you could use the soldier screen instead to be the one where you assign specific placements onboard.

Firgure its probably better to do it there than having yet another task to do on the pre-battlescape equip screen.

#8 Paladin

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 02:13 PM

My thoughts exactly ^_^
"You're just jealous because the voices in my head only talk to me."

"I only think this stuff up ..
then I have to write it down so it doesn't corrupt the rest of my brain.. "

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#9 Sowelu

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 02:30 PM

Just to argue for auto-classifying soldiers in light of the reasons against it that've been given...

My feelings have always been that X-Com is meant to use more soldiers than most players do. I mean, I can't be the only person who has half rookies by endgame, can I? Yes, it's important to manage small groups of commandos, but by the end of the game, you ARE moving away from that. If you have eight bases that all had soldiers in them, you should be running your organization like an army, and I don't really see a reason why you wouldn't want to do that. You'll always retain your most elite guys as commandos, but tedium shouldn't prevent you from doing army-style, more frequent operations if you want.

There's nothing that would stop someone from looking at their soldiers' stats in a system like this, and I know I'd be checking out my first 30 or so soldiers a lot... and I'd check out all my soldiers at the start of each mission most likely. The key is that when you're crewing your fourth soldier-carrying ship, training up rookies into good base defenders, you don't have to spend an hour messing with them. Heck, if you already have a commander, shouldn't there be someone in-game keeping track of the little squaddies running around? And if you can manage crew this easy, soldiers in your second and onward base don't have to be remanded to guard duty, you could send out recruits to keep capturing small UFOs (except with personal armor and plasma weapons...hee hee.) Not waste your high-up commandos.

This isn't designed to make your soldiers any less elite and unique. It was probably a bad idea to suggest ever hiding the soldiers' names. And when the game does something like replace a wounded soldier on a ship, it should at least notify the player who they're being replaced with, stuff like that.

It's not like the player would ever be forced to use this system at all; I just feel that by the time you have a commander, it's just way too tedious to train up anyone but your absolute best soldiers without a system like this. That makes my rookies feel sad and unloved. My colonels don't like it either, because I end up risking them when I should be using other guys.


Re: specifying soldiers' minimum stats... I ought to suggest that your recruits are already probably veterans of other armed forces and have been tested before. A firing accuracy of 50 is still nothing to sneeze at by civilian standards! Well, ok, maybe they're not all that great but still. And it -would- be a nice feature, but obsoleted by the superior recruiting pool. (Oh, hey! If classes were used, people in the recruiting pool could list what class they'd fall into as well... and you could specify classes that just don't even show up, like the "Wimp" class of bravery < 30.)

Oh, and about attaching equipment to soldiers... Would it be possible to give a soldier non-equipped stuff as well, like attach four spare clips and four 'nades to him back at base? That way, if you transfer him, his supplies would come too. And if your base runs low on ammo, it would tell you as soon as your soldiers begin to run out of their personal stockpiles. Eh, maybe not necessary when you can just put more clips onboard your Skyranger, but still... Plus give each soldier a small footlocker that only stores 'their' equipment. Solves full-stores problems when transferring.

#10 Snakeman

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 03:06 PM

I definitely agree with your last sentiment there with regards to transfers and such. Stuff you give a soldier should go with him wherever he goes* (and I feel should not be counted towards base stores if you consider this "footlocker" approach) Plus when you have base defense missions, troop armorment should be tapped from those lockers first, then stores etc. (Or not. Thing is with that is I don't want an item limit for that mission type like we are saddled with for transports. But I digress heh)

* 1 exception. If I sack a trooper who's been fully equipped. Unlike X-COM, if he's fired, he should leave his stuff behind. No more forgetting that I fired a dude and didn't get his armor back - D'OH! Anyway, that stuff should go back into the equipment pool for anyone else.

Likewise if a trooper is transferred to a base that has a Skyranger and he had previously been on a Skyranger at the old one, he should get his shotgun position that you gave him. Otherwise give him a new one if someone else occupies it (that is if it was the point of the transfer if not base defense).

About having more soldiers to use than I might possibly utilize. I feel the more the merrier, I just want an easy way to manage them all. And on the point of being warned that a soldier's equipment might be running out, I think we can avoid these messages (I'm assuming they'd be popups like the after mission reports saying "not enough stuff to equip x, y, z".

Instead I think the engineers ought to be used to better effect as mentioned. If what you mean by auto-equipping soldiers means you can give them something even if its not available yet (the item could be shaded gray or something to differentiate that), the AI could kick the engineers in the backside for you and fulfill your orders (secondary objective should be "making your base a profit" and autoselling).

I figure that's a more amenable way to rid the game of any annoying progress reports that many might not even consider that important. I mean, if your out of something that's generally procurable on the standard market i.e. rifles, rifle clips, pistols, & pistol clips...Why not have just one message (if you have any at all) saying what your out of and how many you need, then just click ok to authorize.

Otherwise if your rolling in dough, perhaps an "auto-buy" should be considered too. Thing there is, in the early game money is tight, so in this way I'd suppose its better to manually buy what you need (if your not building it).

#11 Sowelu

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 03:46 PM

I'd love an auto-buy (or at least a screen that tells you what you need to buy and lets you OK the transaction). "Outfitting troops to spec requires purchase of 1 rifle, 12 clips, 4 grenades. Authorize this transaction?" seems *very* in-character. Makes me feel a lot more like a commander than buying a jillion clips just so I can stop paying attention!

#12 Snakeman

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Posted 11 September 2004 - 12:54 PM

Exactly Sowelu. I think if we can set our own standard for what troops are outfitted with, and sort of marry that with our procurement needs on the market, I think its very feasible then to institute an auto-buy feature (it could be an on/off thing too if your funds are tight so you could do that manually if desired. Later when you have more money to burn, turn that sucker back on heh)

The more I think about it, the more I dig this feature. One other thing I was thinking about with regard to this is, whatever does get procured automatically via auto-buy (or even manufacturing/salvage), and relating to the stores of the base here too...The system shouldn't go too wild with your spending. I think it only should go so far as to maybe get enough stuff to reequip your men at least twice more...then anything extra could be recognized by your auto-sell feature and liquidate that for you.

When you get down to the level of having just enough to equip for the last time, the procurement/manufacuring/diverting of salvaged stuff could kick in, spreading out to arm those who need it (as well as those waiting for the grayed out stuff not available yet on their template).

In this way you can also kind of streamline what's kept in stores at your bases and maximize storage availability. So really I believe that with the procurment stuff we set, should ultimately determine what's being spent where. If you feel that your spending too much, reequip those templates so your men are carrying less stuff, then the auto-buying/selling and manufacturing can adjust accordingly to our changing needs.

edit: I forgot one thing that's probably important here too that might be something the auto-sell feature should ignore, and that should be anything the game recognizes as something you haven't researched yet. Until you specify who could carry the new artifiact, the system should attempt to keep 1 sample of everything that needs researching still.

I should also note just to clarify on the auto-buying thing. Its mainly meant for items, not engineers, scientists or soldiers. Can't risk having said systems hire/sack folks you'd want a watchful eye on. Although for argument's sake, since we've been discussing soldier templating, you could theoretically apply that to the other workers i.e. only auto-hire said scientists/engineers with a minimum skill of X (if its anything like Apoc was).

Edited by Snakeman, 11 September 2004 - 01:10 PM.


#13 Paladin

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Posted 13 September 2004 - 06:54 AM

Great ideas, I sincerely hope thay make it through in the final game ^_^
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then I have to write it down so it doesn't corrupt the rest of my brain.. "

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There is another which states that this has already happened.
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#14 sir_schwick

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 09:53 PM

I like the spirit and here is my synopsis:

Personal Loadouts:
Each soldiers could be assigned a personal loadout in the soldier screen. This can include equipment you do or do not own. If the equipment is not avaliable at departure time, you will be given the option of replacing it for that mission. Each pre-mission you can still change the loadout for that mission.

Inventory Goals
For buyable or manufacturable items you can set the amount you want in base or craft storage. That means if you go below the set goal, you would be asked if you wanted to replenish or manufacture needed supplies.

#15 Snakeman

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 12:32 AM

I like the spirit and here is my synopsis:

Personal Loadouts:
Each soldiers could be assigned a personal loadout in the soldier screen.  This can include equipment you do or do not own.  If the equipment is not avaliable at departure time, you will be given the option of replacing it for that mission.  Each pre-mission you can still change the loadout for that mission.


This was my line of thinking as well. Elements like personal equipping or placement on ships (if you wanted a standard placement that is) could be done from the Soldier Screen. On the angle of equipping men with items not researched yet, it could be grayed out or just have an outline representation on the equip screen for whichever slot you assigned it to be, yet the system would recognize that when it does finally become available to use (you'd see the detailed graphic if it was), it then gets diverted to their "footlocker" so to speak that stays with them with everything else. Likewise this would be the place to take stuff out of their personal stash if you were doing it manually.

If you wanted to automate this later on in the game when you've got many more men to manage, simply readjust or redefine the original template he represents and it spreads out to change every soldier who fits that same one (probably could be a yes/no prompt here...maybe you've given individualized stuff out to each so much so that you don't want them all redone yet until more research has been accomplished for instance).

Agreed on the last minute "pre-mission" overview, just to determine if tweaks are needed to their inventory before debarking the ship. I can't speak for every X-COM player's style, but I know I get siked up just before the battle at this stage so I don't mind clicking 15-20+ times through the soldier screen to be sure everyone's armed with something. Sometimes its at this stage, just before battle looking over everything that tells me whether or not I made a smart choice in landing at that crashsite in the first place. In any case, if my clicking finger gives out right around then, I hope I can still save at this point and jump back in later.

Inventory Goals
For buyable or manufacturable items you can set the amount you want in base or craft storage.  That means if you go below the set goal, you would be asked if you wanted to replenish or manufacture needed supplies.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


With you there too. Ship storage is probably the most important aspect, with base stores management a close second. Aspects not touched on much in this topic which are probably more tertiary are what equipment like ship/vehicle components and exterior armorment to include weapons need budgeting for. Not unlike equipping soldiers there really (perhaps you have 3 Avengers, each armed differently...give them templates too).

I'm also a fan of the idea of setting caps, be it overall money (amounts not to dip below i.e. factoring in for instance, your total bases' maintance costs), items to keep where (ship/vehicle or base). Anything the game recognizes as surplus goods can sell off for you to stay above those maintenance/payroll amounts. Early game, money is extremely tight, so I forsee this becoming fairly important to some who for whatever reason won't be the most observant to seemgly (lets face it) mundane activities in some areas. Advanced players will quickly adapt and possibly come to love being able to streamline many activities, but it won't just help them out, it may even draw in many casual gamers as well.

Besides, with any luck, and presuming too that advanced players might actutally like doing much of this themselves if I'm totally wrong about this ^_^ investigate which areas could do with an off switch for the automated stuff. Perhaps it can be broken down by category to ween people onto the concept...i.e. Base Management (primarily stores/dealing with the market, and probably including alocation of research/engineering tasks/training-which-isn't-of-the-monthly-affair), Ship/Vehicle Management, & Soldier (and/or "Other") Unit Management automation options.

Edited by Snakeman, 14 December 2004 - 12:41 AM.


#16 kafros

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 08:56 AM

I will set forth an example:

Master Of Orion II was (and in my opinion IS) a very good game. Maybe the best part of the game (after research) is MANAGEMENT. You had to manage almost everything, and you could set some things in "automated mode".

Master of Orion 3 SUCKS!!! Although it has much better graphics and sounds, and a WONDERFUL intro video, it simply sucks! Why? Because it is FULLY AUTOMATED!!!! You can end a game just by clicking the button "Next turn". Production, manufacture, civil management, research, all is automated.

Definitely, MOO3 lacked in this part: Management. The player should manage everything by himself, and if he wants, he may automate some (or even all) task, but JUST WHEN HE WANTS!!!

It's the key to success IMVHO! ^_^

#17 sir_schwick

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 10:15 AM

You set inventory goals yourself, but any monkey could be trained to buy/sell to that level. You still have control, just do not have to do what your inventory sargeant(Tatyana Milev in my current game) should be doing.

#18 Snakeman

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 08:17 PM

Definitely, MOO3 lacked in this part: Management. The player should manage everything by himself, and if he wants, he may automate some (or even all) task, but JUST WHEN HE WANTS!!!

It's the key to success IMVHO!


Ditto. I'm all in favor of some new features definitely, but not necessarily at the expense of what worked before. I think in the context of this discussion anyway, a bridge between manually doing things, and automation is worth looking into.

#19 hairy

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 06:26 AM

Some great ideas here. Just thought I'd throw some more possibilities out there to see what people think:

How about setting up 'templates' for a particular loadout. eg. 1 rifle, 10 clips, 2 'nades and a set of armour for a 'rifleman' template; 1 pistol 10 clips, a med-kit and a set of armour for a 'medic' template. The player could also design his/her own templates according to this preference.

You could extend the idea to buying / manufacture. Eg. buy 10x 'rifleman' loadout or something like that.

#20 Snakeman

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 11:02 PM

Yep, that's essentially all part of the concept of auto-equipping in general. The idea would incorporate not only weapons, items and position placement on transports (or perhaps even choosing spots in your base to "guard", so that every defense mission that occurs, you can count on Rocky spawning in the upper level of the Large Radar complex), but also what armor they wear.

If Rocky was also meant as one of your template variants, recruitment would take into account soldiers who meet or slightly exceed the stat levels for it, que up those men to likewise get his same armor type, and any weapons and equipment that Rocky has.

Presumably as well, later on when you get a Psi complex, I'd imagine you'd factor in Rocky's Template ™ to include his Psi Defense rating, which could mean as well that those other Rocky's who don't have that rating or who've surpassed it, they could either be sacked automatically, or you get a prompt asking you if you want them gone. (The thought here being that even though the others' Psi Defense is lacking, everything else still matches pretty darn well to the original template - still darn useful as fodder I'd say).

Edited by Snakeman, 23 June 2005 - 11:07 PM.


#21 azmodean

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 08:52 AM

I'm just playing through x-com again, and getting to the point where sacking troops is starting to be a pain. Some might like an auto-sack option, but if it were available, I'd set it to ask me what I want to do with any troops who don't fit into a template, possibly with the reason listed. "bravery too low for any template" I know the first thing I do with all my new soldiers is go through and sack all the ones with bravery 10. Especially at first some lack of accuracy is ok (that's what auto-fire is for!), but low bravery is always bad.

If you think about it this is an extention to the existing system, you already establish a template for each craft, which is refilled from the base stores when they return. This just applies it to the soldiers and the base instead of (in addition to?) the craft. I'd be very happy if you could just equip each soldier once and click on a "lock" button, which would mean they would re-equip themselves each time they were at base and their loadout doesn't match the saved one. The template idea would certainly be even more streamlined (for me at least, I tend to have over half of the squad outfitted as "riflemen", rifle, extra clip, grenade, prox. grenade, so the rifleman template would do most of the work.)

#22 Exo2000

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 09:15 AM

Some fast-equip templates and personal equipment would be very useful. Also, possibly in V1+, sniper weaponry, etc.

Perhaps a "View Range" stat, modified by what a soldier is wearing? (Ie, the equipment in the helmet of the Power Armour can extend a soldier's vision with digital image enhancement, etc.)
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