Gazz

Recruiting soldiers and other personnel

76 posts in this topic

Over the years, various games have featured quite diverse recruitment mechanisms and I have no problem with coming up with more of my own as well. =)

I'm mostly talking about soldiers here but the same applies to scientists and engineers, assuming they have an individual skill level at all.

1. Soldiers as wares

This is the bare-bones minimalistic approach that was used in X-Com 1+2 and the Xenonauts alpha builds.

You buy nondescript "Soldier, 7 pieces" for a constant price.

The obvious advantage: it's easy to code and there is no real point in imposing a limit.

It's not very exciting, though, and leads to the annoying "hire & fire" routine from X-Com where you would hire 20 soldiers and only keep the 2 whose stats didn't suck completely.

So while basically the easiest system to operate for the player, it leads to a boring chore of weeding out the most useless candidates.

No fun.

2. The recruitment pool

That is how X-Com Apocalypse, Jagged Alliance, UFO-ET, and many other games handled it.

The player is offered a selection of personnel and can see their stats before hiring them.

2a. The infinite pool
The visible size of the pool is limited to maybe 10 soldiers. Whenever you recruit one, another soldier with random stats is added instantly.
There is no advantage over
1.
.
The player would just hire / fire until he gets all "good" soldiers, making all the effort spent in creating a more advanced recruiting system
pointless
.
2b. The limited pool
If the pool is only refilled / added to every day. (or whatever time frame)
The player has to
manage
these limited (manpower) resources.
Instead of buidling a small team with only the most excellent recruits, he might opt to
use
the training system and hire some of the clumsy recruits, too.
That makes the game's training system more valuable
and
allows the player some leeway in his team-building strategy.
Beats the drudgery of hire / fire any day.

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3. Game progression and usefulness of rookies

One problem with all squad-level games is hiring recruits at an advanced stage of the game.

They are just too useless.

This leads to the feeling of having to reload when any of the experienced troopers snuffs it. The loss just hurts too much when it takes months of game time to train a replacement trooper to a "useful" level of skill.

I suggest:

At certain "milestones" in the game, an invisible starting skill bonus is applied to new recruits.

The best place to put those would be research entries.

You research Stainless Steel Kitchen Knives and all newly recruited soldiers get the list of bonus skill points that is defined with the research item.

The official reasoning could be, that an organisation, that offer prestigeous (and damn cool!) weapons like Stainless Steel Kitchen Knives, is bound to attract recruits of a higher caliber.

One advantage for the game would be, that fluff research items like "Alien Entertainment" can still have a small bonus for the player - and could even lead to a research item like "Advanced Evaluation Scan" which offers a sizable bonus.

It is always difficult to model the "soft" sciences and this would offer a way to bring them into the game while being limited to a very specific bit of code... the one where the stats of new recruits are assigned.

The end result is that losses in the late game still hurt but losing half a team to a lucky alien grenade is no longer a game ending event.

You could always hire "improved" recruits that would take a few weeks tops to get up to speed.

This can be combined with any recruitment system.

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You could also combine the two options.

Have an infinite pool of raw recruits for when you just need to bulk out your numbers and a limited set of head hunted specialists.

Have the specialists refreshed monthly and be more expensive.

They could have better starting stats, already have some training or be higher ranks than rookie to make it worth thinking about.

Nothing too overpowering though, just a head start.

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4. Bottom of the barrel

This is an alternative to the absolute limit on new recruits, replacing it with a system of dimnishing returns.

Every day that passes, the "recruit quality" value increases by 1. It is capped at +5.

Everytime you hire a recruit, RQ is reduced by 1. This is capped at -10.

Whenever new recruits are hired or added to the pool, RQ is added to their stats.

(all numbers used here are completely arbitrary, of course)

If you fight successfully, with your soldiers keeping their heads down and covering each other, you won't be needing a lot of replacements.

Word gets out and your outfit "starts attracting higher quality recruits".

However, if you're in the habit of hiring 10 recruits every day as cannon fodder, you're only getting those that are too slow or stupid to find important reasons to be elsewhere.

You end up scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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5. Using your staff

One problem of all X-Com derivate games is that the player is very lonely, fighting a one-man war against the alien invasion.

There is never any kind of staff to do anything useful for the player.

Recruiting would offer a chance to... show a little support.

In a basic implementation you'd have one personnel officer and could task him with finding better recruits for you.

Let's say you can tell him to find "good" or "only the best" recruits.

(that could be expanded to scientists / engineers if they have any personal stats at all)

When given the order, he disappears from the screen and x days later (depending on the difficulty of the task), he returns with a number of good (or a smaller number of "best") recruits who have been added to the recruitment pool.

That would help creating the impression that the player has a staff to begin with and that these people are actually doing something useful.

It is important that this is not just some automatic feature but that the player "delegates" a task and has a degree of control over what he asks for.

It would also be a nice touch if those soldiers would be recruited automatically without going through the pool. (provided there is sufficient cash)

Probably at a higher price, too. Some kind of ahh... incentive. =)

Effectively, this would supply a small number of good recruits at a very slow pace.

Enough to counter the occasional death but not enough for human wave tactics with universal soldier types.

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You could also combine the two options.

Have an infinite pool of raw recruits for when you just need to bulk out your numbers and a limited set of head hunted specialists.

See 5. =)

Two birds with one stone...

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Not perfectly sure, but I think the one that was decided on was 2a (might have been 2b though). Rotating pool of a dozen or so, so you can see their stats. Hire one, and a new one gets loaded in (might have been a time delay though).

Getting improved recruits was brought up alot though. Kept getting shot down. Don't particularly care myself, since its a good motivator to not get people killed all the time. I like the progression, and its not like Xenonauts will be quite like UFO:AfterX where new troopers halfway through the game are pretty much useless.

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That said though, having some kind of recruit stat boosting would be useful.

Probably not the barrel one. It penalises you for bulking out new bases. The result of it would be suggesting that you hire a couple every few [time period].

5 just sounds weird. I like the option 2 series due to being able to see what I'm getting. Very useful.

Edit: Why is my name red?

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Don't particularly care myself, since its a good motivator to not get people killed all the time. I like the progression, and its not like Xenonauts will be quite like UFO:AfterX where new troopers halfway through the game are pretty much useless.

I just like to look at an issue from all sides, even if that means that some suggestions contradict each other.

They are all just possibilities. =P

We don't know much about the final pace of the game vs training / skillups.

Such a progression adjustment would allow a bit more freedom to make the game more deadly without crippling any attempt of playing an Iron Man mode.

Edit: Why is my name red?

Doood! You're a moderator.

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Aye, I know.

It would be helpful, especially if the alien weapons have more than one tier.

One related question does come up. Chris mentioned waay back about scrapping the whole training idea due to it being, well, not that effective.

Would be good to get an update on that.

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Well, there have been a boatload of "training" ideas but many are so detailed and involved that I don't see them going live in a game that is intentionally less fiddly than JA.

One approach that I can see working with the scope of Xenonauts is this one.

All the training course trees with their successive assignments or derived abilities go into the shredder and are replaced with an automated system that the player can influence but never has to touch if he doesn't care enough.

That's fully casual player compatible while still leaving plenty of room for tweaking for those who like to.

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But you could also just flat-out cut training completely and not worry about it.

The one you suggested is so hands off, not having it wouldn't have much of an overall effect game-wise.

That's why I'm asking about it. Having a clearer idea of whether there is training or not would be very helpful for later discussions.

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*shrug*

Any "modern" system that doesn't instantly scare off the console kids has to have a hands-off mode.

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For training, it's not planned to be a full blown system any more. The micromanagement seems to be a waste of time to me. Instead, with the Drill Sergeant (or whoever we have on the Personnel screen) will have an option to put new recruits through basic training. This will take 10 days and cost $10,000 per recruit (or something) give them a few points of accuracy and a promotion to Corporal. It is not possible for anyone already promoted to Corporal.

There won't be any further training courses, other than that one. Things like doing an autopsy on an alien will give a global +5% damage to that alien type, or something to that effect. Only the research is needed, rather than any micromanagement. I think that's definitely the best way to run the training.

In terms of soldier recruitment, I think the eventual solution we decided on was having a pool of recruits to choose from, which would be replenished as you hire people from it. The soldiers available would change slowly with time, even if no recruits were hired. Excessive recruiting would cause a drop in the quality of recruits.

The process would be a bit more personal with the Drill Sergeant talking to you about candidates he can requisition etc. Maybe there can be a button to autohire the 'best' X recruits (you provide the number) for people who don't care about micromanagement, where it just hires the recruits with the highest number of total stats automatically, without ranking the stats in order of usefulness.

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Given that the recruits are drawn from all over the world, will losing a section of the world to the aliens prevent soldiers of that nationality/military appearing, or would it be handwaved with calling them exiles and partisans fighting to free their homeland?

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I don't even think we'll bother to explain that. I think anyone who criticises the final game for being unrealistic in that regard is possibly expecting a little too much from us :)

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If your country is under alien control, it may in fact make you want to join the Xenonauts even more!

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For training, it's not planned to be a full blown system any more. The micromanagement seems to be a waste of time to me. Instead, with the Drill Sergeant (or whoever we have on the Personnel screen) will have an option to put new recruits through basic training. This will take 10 days and cost $10,000 per recruit (or something) give them a few points of accuracy and a promotion to Corporal. It is not possible for anyone already promoted to Corporal.

There won't be any further training courses, other than that one. Things like doing an autopsy on an alien will give a global +5% damage to that alien type, or something to that effect. Only the research is needed, rather than any micromanagement. I think that's definitely the best way to run the training.

That makes me sad. I liked Gazz's idea of a 'badge' or 'training course' system where you could train specific soldiers in specific things, like a Sniper course or a Night Combat course. Oh well:(

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There won't be any further training courses, other than that one.

That's sad and it means that something like "training" might as well not exist in the game.

Why not add those "couple point of accuracy" and the corporal rank to new recruits to begin with...?

I figured that a system like this would at least have a decent chance because it's basically integrated with normal advancement and always gives the player a choice without enforcing any micromanagement.

Yeh, I know it's hard to tell sometimes but I can be a bit stubborn.

Little bit.

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Later on in the game you could just make the ability to hire corporals? they essentially cost $10,000 more (or whatever) and are a few points more accurate. That removes the intermediate training thing.

You could even explain it by having the same person in both forms. In corporal form he costs more and takes a week to arrive, and has better stats, in rookie form he arrives the next day, but is terrible!

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Depends if the troops can used while they're training, in mission or just in BaseD.

While it doesn't add much overall, from a game-story point of view its pretty nice. Throw newly requisitioned troops into combat, or put them through a basic familiarisation course in the various things the Xenonauts have learned (and showing off various 'trophies').

To add an extra value, could have rookies be exempt from the autopsy bonus stuff too.

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I understand not wanting to make something too micromanagementy, and though I don't think training or the lack thereof is going to be the difference between a good game and a bad game, my personal view is that having a training system of some sort would be beneficial, but it would need to be more than a single course that improves a new recruit to corporal with a small bonus. If there is going to be a training system at all then make it a training system. If there isn't going to be a system then take it out completely.

As Gazz is continually emphasising :) having a training system that allows some micromanagement but doesn't enforce such, i.e the player can ignore training completely or it has an "auto" setting where the system takes care of it all, is probably the best way to go. So that those who want to get right into it and tailor their soldiers to their own idea of what will make a good squad can do so, those who don't care can let the system do it for them, and those that want a challenge can train no-one and go through the game with basic soldiers who only improve through doing things - something for everyone.

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Personally I'm quite content with the system Chris has laid out. The simpler system wins. However I will propose that training raise a rookies skill by 5% of your accumulated combat knowledge.

So early on in the game you've only had 2 successful landings. You pass this info onto the new recruits and they get a tiny boost. Late game you've taken out 3 bases and god knows how many landings and they get a larger boost from greater knowledge being passed to them. I need to check how exp works really but I think thats enough to get my idea across. You could tie it to the current score for simplicity sake. The more successful missions you have the better the training. When you start to fail training goes downhill. Either the cost or the training time could vary depending on the amount of information being passed to the recruit.

Oh and the training could just pick between any of the attributes, just one or all of them, and spread the awarded points out equally. So you could end up with slightly better aim or you could have an all rounder etc etc.

Edited by Tweakd

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Interesting idea Tweaked, as a simple system it could work really well. One possible change I would suggest might be having the bonus for new recruits based on the accumulated field experience of your other troops rather than results themselves, so if you have 3 guys that survive every battle but otherwise all recruits you get an average boost, but if your whole team has survived all game somehow and then one guy dies, his replacement gets a much bigger boost. Obviously those are both fairly extreme but it might keep a reasonable balance - and that is what it is really all about .. contrary to popular opinion it is not the hokey pokey

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Well the purpose of the 'basic training' in the system I laid out above is that it stops you having to go to battle with a complete liability in the team if you are willing to lose him for 10 days and pay the fee. Otherwise you can throw him into the grinder and hope he survives, but the training course is the same as running him on his first mission - just without the time spent by the player, the risk to the soldier himself, or the risk to the other soldiers of having a useless / dangerous companion with them on the mission.

It doesn't fully address the quality of the basic recruits later on in the game, I suppose. That's something I'm still slightly unconvinced we need to address, though.

If we did sort it out, it'd either take the form of gradually bumping up the stats of the recruits as the game advances (probably based on the alien invasion ticker) or increasing the stat gain from the training course as Tweakd suggests. I actually prefer the latter, as it would make more sense in the context of the game, I think...

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