This is a complicated theory, because it exercises a new set of criteria for victory that would not be normally available. These additional conditions and their corresponding strategic exploits are the subject of great fascination on my part. Namely, it seems like this mode of gameplay was SPECIFICALLY CONCEIVED with the intent that one was to come up with newer, cleverer ways to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It’s a lot like billiards. The commander is the 8 ball. Don’t miss the 8 ball. Take good care of the 8 ball.
This gameplay adjustment works on unit-based RTS games, not tech-based. In a tech-based (see Age of Empires) game, you can’t put THAT high a price on a single unit. Your civilization has endured time and trial not because of extensive resources spent on combat-ready units, but spent on technology and other required items for advancing the civilization. These games focus on combat as a crescendo, whereas, in unit-based RTS games, building combat-ready units happens fast, and becomes parallel to survival and success. Techs are around, but they’re not focal to the advancement of the game. Dawn of War is different in that it can maintain a healthy and diverse unit population while also weighing in a good amount of techs to research to improve units and one’s economy. In a tech-based game, great stretches of time pass before the first real engagement of any worth takes place, but in a unit-based game, confrontation is immediate and fully necessary for territory control and resources (gained, see economy). So, I draw a line here: Dawn of War will be the relative middle-ground between these two opposing forces. It seems logical enough to classify it this way, considering there are still tech tiers to be researched through, but they are not at the absolute center of activity and gameplay.
There are multiple reasons for Dawn of War’s success as an RTS, but mostly because of the correct initial equation = keeping balance between these two distinguished classes of RTS yet having enough to differentiate. Running the Ultimate Apocalypse Mod v. 1.73, the equation is only improved; adding deeper levels of unit-specific customizations, and much more involved conditions for achieving victory. The AI was also dramatically changed, and performs very well in skirmishes. All of that should be said, clearly, the game is at the top of a short list of sensational RTS games. Dawn of War (henceforth UA) is classic fun with the right configuration settings popped on (or off). All my skirmishes are 2 victory conditions: annihilate (destroy all structures capable of unit production = win) or assassinate (Kill enemy commander = win).
Which brings us back home: the assassinate victory condition. Truly, a ton of fun fort players. It’s a lot like the great ancestor to all these games, chess, in that you’ve got just 1 piece that can’t be put in danger, EVER. He just can’t die. If he dies, you lose.
I have actually never tested the AI’s ability to manage their commander on the assassinate victory condition.
I’ve played a zillion matches with annihilate, and killed commanders all the while. But this next time will be different. Because the AI is going to get a pre-built commander right from the get-go, and I wonder what it’s programmed to do with that. Will it use the commander to snag territory from me early? Will it cripple its own economy in order to cache in on the upgrades first-thing?
I will have an articulate post about how that goes, as soon as I’ve collected enough data to be satisfied of its eventual integrity.
For now, I offer some game theory and conjecture: since my commander can’t help my economy, he really has very little use in UA. He’s going to sit around for a while not getting into trouble, while my economy gets going, and then once I have a few hundred requisition laying around, I’ll buy some upgrades for him. That could EASILY take the first 10 minutes of the game to get him up to level 4 with all items upgraded. AI is in my base at the 5 minute mark almost every single time EXCEPT when they play Necrons. Then I don’t see them until it’s already too late.
I’ll be developing a build order much the same way I have it down now. But it’s the actual combat gameplay that worries me. Sure the commander has a HUD icon that will tell me if he’s in trouble, but it’s the having him out and about that worries me. He has no build function, so I can’t use him to help me in any other way than to have him go out and fight shit. Which he can be good at, but if he gets mobbed or runs into something of consequence, we’re going to have a big problem.
Commanders are hard to kill, but easily within the realm of possibility on your average game. I lose my primary commander at least once a game, which now, I can’t do. Can’t just build him again if he houses the central consciousness behind my entire civilization…
Well folks… I’m going to go try my hand at UA again after a long respite with Forged Alliance. Mainly, I need to get refocused on this core game, because it so clearly illustrates the RTS genre, and is a great tool for teaching. Jacqueline is going to come over Saturday night, and we’re going head-first into UA. If she’s going to learn, it had better be with the best.
Like I said, here ends part 1. Stay tuned for more.