Of all the features I’ve ever been excited about in a forthcoming game, Red Alert’s “Skirmish Mode” ranks number one.  The idea of being able to play multiplayer C&C – of which I was a humongous fan – against the computer… frankly, I dreamt about it.  And when it came around, it didn’t dissapoint either.  Skirmish modes and bots are slightly less important nowadays that it’s so easy to get games online, but back then I could only host a LAN party once a week, and needed something to do the other six days.

Anyway, today I put the Skirmish mode into Frozen Synapse.  We have a big single player with a big story, but of course people are going to want to design their own games against the AI easily.  Here’s the Skirmish Generator screen (click to enbiggen):

Please note that the layout is not final – these are simply programmer art windows.

This allows you to set up pretty much any Extermination match you can think of.  A couple of notes:

– Our AI is infinitely scalable.  For the single player, and by default in the Skirmish Generator, it is set at “Level 2” which tends to get turns calculated in about 5 – 20 seconds – we’ve found that to be an acceptable wait for most people on most computers.  However, if you’re running some kind of super computer from the future or are very patient you can crank it up to 5, which may take a few minutes on modern hardware to run.

– You can choose to have the units deployed near each other (“Situation”) or at opposite ends of the map for a more traditional form.

– There’s a little indicator at the bottom which warns you if you’re setting up a match your computer may have trouble with.  Get many more than 16 units and AI calcs are extremely slow, and very very large maps can have similar problems.  But I wanted to make it available anyway – so we just warn you if we think you’re going to have problems.

So that’s all pretty cool, but I actually wanted to go further and give players control over the map generator.  Here’s the map generator screen:

Map generators tend to be highly eccentric things which only work the exact way the developer has set them up – and of course the “default” settings are what I think gives the best FS experience.  However, my map generator is pretty good and by changing most of those numbers within the limits you’ll get very different but still very playable maps.  The headline settings are:

– “Stop zone side”: Set this low and you’ll get completely dense maps, like the inside of a massive office block.  Set it large and you’ll get something more akin to a village, with lots of open space.

– “Max zone side”: You can get massively bigger rooms by increasing this.

– “Outside wall delete chance”: Crank this up and you’ll have a much more “ruined” feel to the map, with lots of free standing walls and half destroyed buildings.

I hope some players have some fun making different map gens for different experiences.

With this kind of stuff, players will always want to share their settings, so I’ve made it as easy as possible to do that.  Click on “Share These Settings” and you get a piece of text which you can copy and paste to a forum or an email:

If someone wants to try your settings, all they have to do is load up FS and paste the text into a box – easy as that, no messing around with files.

Finally, here’s a map produced by the newly-tuned map generator:

At the top is a “Regenerate” button which allows you to keep generating maps with your given settings until you see something you like.

Let me know what you guys think.

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5 Responses to “Skirmish”

  1. Decho:

    Looks very exciting, and skirmish has and always will be important to me. I loved it in Red Alert too 🙂

  2. Ramsar:

    Awesome news! Can you also use these map generator settings to generate maps to play against other human players?

  3. Pete:

    Sounds fantastic. I love the way you guys are thinking about this: “what else might the player want to do?”

  4. subedii:

    Pretty cool. Can the map generator be set to generate symmetrical maps as well? With players starting off equally at opposite ends?

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