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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
What Do You Think of Unit Caps?
By Robert Basler on 2015-07-02 10:03:12
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

Traditionally Command & Conquer doesn't have a unit cap (other than C&C4 which we'll ignore because it's awful) so up until this last week I hadn't thought too seriously about a unit cap in Miranda.

I've been replaying Homeworld (Homeworld Remastered) this last week and one thing I had forgotten about that game is that it has hard unit caps. The unit caps are fairly generous, but nevertheless there are caps (only 6 destroyers! can you believe it?) The reason behind the cap I suspect, is because unlike C&C, units carry over from mission to mission and the designers didn't want to make it too easy for the player to steamroll the AI by simply capturing every ship put against her in the earlier missions.

Homeworld's unit cap is per category, so 6 destroyers, 100 fighters, 16 salvage corvettes, etc. They are reasonable limits, but an average player is going to have to work within these limits eventually.

At the moment Miranda doesn't have a unit cap (other than a limit of 16 construction buildings per category which is purely a UI limit) although I always figured I'd need to add an upper limit at some point. Reasons to add a unit cap include:

  • Miranda is more like Homeworld in that players keep their units indefinitely, they aren't given a clean slate before each mission like Command & Conquer.
  • Limits force players to make choices - which are always a good thing.
  • A cap mitigates force-size imbalances between new players and experienced players. Experienced players will have cooler units, but not a crushing numeric advantage.
  • A plague of cheap tanks. A cap would prevent the pathological case of a player creating tens of thousands of units (tanks/superweapons) and using them to annoy other players.
  • Load time after login is directly proportional to the number of units the player has.
  • A player logging in with 10,000 units may cause performance problems for other players on the same server.
  • A cap limits storage/bandwidth costs per-player.

The only really compelling arguments I can come up with against unit caps are:
  • They suck!
  • Command & Conquer doesn't have them.

So what do you think about unit caps in Miranda?

By Dondergod on 2015-07-02 13:41:38
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As long as it is high enough, I'm fine with a limit in units. But it should be high enough, that it is very hard to reach, almost impossible.

What another suggestion is, is the following:
You can create X units normally (f.e.x. 100)
For every unit you create more, you pay 1% more.

So if you have 200 units and you want to make unit 201, you need to pay 201% of the standard costs.

That way players can decide if they want to keep their resources in their pocket, or spend additional resources on a bigger army.
By Lex on 2015-07-06 06:07:37
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Not a huge fan of the increasing cost model. It tends towards slowing down gameplay (one reason free to play games use it so much).

I can think of a few options though:

Ongoing supply costs (bit like in Warcraft) i.e. unit tax. It means that smaller missions are perhaps unprofitable to overstack. This seems similar to the above but I think it's slightly less directly punishing. Also it prevents you spreading out unit type building simply due to cost rather than player choice.

Transportation costs: you can take units but it costs money. Give a certain amount for free. Meaning retaining units after a certain point is more like a discount or choice between resources (i.e. fuel versus metal if those were resources).

Strategic movement: Red Alert/Star Craft/Warcraft gave story reasons why the massive force you amassed was no longer available to you. But in games like Total War/Risk you need to move units about and that takes time. Perhaps your forces are needed to reinforce the area you just took or perhaps they aren't suited to the given environment (temperate equipped troops going into Russia for example).

Ultimately I'd say capping is important in mission to mission terms but less so within one given level/scenario.
By Robert Basler on 2015-07-06 09:25:23
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
The problem with any sort of taxation or price controls is that in a game like Miranda with an economy, there will be some people who are able to amass so much money that that kind of limitation isn't a limitation anymore.

I was reading about a couple of people this week who earn 100,000 World of Warcraft gold a week (or enough for 2 WoW Tokens.) When I quit playing WoW, I think I had 8 gold.

Thank you both for the feedback, I think I'm going to implement a simple unit cap to start (rather than a per-unit-type cap like Homeworld) with a small value (maybe 80 to start) to see how that affects gameplay and then increase it as testing continues.
By Lex on 2015-07-09 06:35:39
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The oversupply of money problem is why WoW has money sinks for various cosmetic and non-essential (but useful) items. The alternative of course is separate currencies (i.e. "food" limits) that perhaps money can influence but only to a certain degree or cap.

The simple cap approach is definitely a reasonable start. I suspect you might find players killing off less useful units in favour of more valued ones once they can afford to (assuming some scale in cost and quality). Whether that is actually a problem or not is a better question though.
By Robert Basler on 2015-07-09 10:23:47
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
Players killing less-useful units is what I would expect, and since when you dispose of a unit you only get a fraction of its original cost back, that also works as a money sink.

The plan is that players will want to use more exotic units as they become available.

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