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Just getting back into Tiberian Sun. First time trying multiplayer + thoughts on "useless" units, Fog of War/Shroud, and other match settings.


Ren117
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Warning! Incoming Wall-of-Text Detected!

I played Tiberian Sun when I was a small child. I was born in 93 so it was one of the first games I remember really getting lost in before the age of ten. It was definitely the atmosphere that drew me in, as well as playing with what seemed like animated toy soldiers being a totally killer experience for a child. 

Multiplayer was never something I tried. I may not have had a stable enough internet connection back then. I definitely would have gotten stomped by the older players though so it's cool with me that I missed out on it and just enjoyed the atmosphere.

Fast forward all these years, however, and I'm once again interested in the game. The campaigns are great and I love playing through them, but now it's the multiplayer experience that's drawing me in. Nothing beats testing one's wits against other human beings, and I truly want to connect with Tiberian Sun in a way I haven't before.

I've played a few matches now. I did a couple on Tiers of Sorrow as GDI against a Nod player and got thrashed completely. And revisiting that map with AI, I couldn't figure out how I would actually beat a Nod player as GDI given the limitations. I also played and won against someone far worse than me (a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one...) and although I was destroyed in a 2v2, my last ditch rush was effective enough to allow my teammate to win. 

Right now it's the OG Westwood maps I'm most interested in mastering right now. Some say they aren't balanced right resource wise, etc. etc., but I'm not sure I totally agree with that point-of-view. The main reason being that I don't think asymmetric maps are inherently imbalanced in games, provided the player mindset is right regarding the need to adopt strategies that compensate for one's starting position. 

Anywho, there's some thoughts I have that I'd like to share and if possible get some other opinions on. 

I guess I'll start with whether or not there are any "useless" units. 

I don't have the experience of many long-term multiplayer folks here yet, but I can tell you that I really hope that isn't true. I love Eugen's Wargame series, where micro-ing combined arms forces is pretty much a necessity unless you want to get totally thrashed. Now, base building/rush type RTS games typically aren't too big on combined arms, and the earlier ones even less so, so it wouldn't surprise me if there really are useless units in TS. 

I've watched some CNCNet matches on YT, some on Zoom's channel, and I've read Mole's guide, so I'm aware of all the tactics that players often use, like Carryall's + the Mammoth. And sure, it seems no one really ever uses buggies + Wolverine's. But even Mole's guide said they may be valid in some situations. 

As someone who is primarily playing GDI right now, I may try handicapping myself for a while by deliberately avoiding the strategies that are set in stone so to speak to actually try and win some games by incorporating "useless" units like the Wolverine, Jump Jet Troopers, and the Orca Fighter. Some might say this is a doomed endeavor, but I don't mind getting thrashed under these constraints if it eventually proves that there are some viable strategies that make use of these units. 

For instance, I don't necessarily think the Wolverine would be all that bad on base defense, or by having 2-4 of them accompanying a Titan Rush. With clever teaming selection and micro-ing, one could make quick work of fodder that slips through the Titan cracks or could make use of their speed to send a squad of them past the defenses to hit a critical structure, cause panic, and alleviate some pressure from the main assault by forcing the defender to pull units away. 

Maybe this sounds condescending, but I feel like when someone says there are "useless" units, it really means they haven't taken the time to truly try and figure out in what situations they might actually be useful, or they haven't constrained themselves to using them enough to figure out how to make them effective. I know some long-term player is gonna roll their eyes at me and say "You're just a noob" but I believe that good games like TS usually keep on revealing secrets years into their existence, and that clever players can discover new strategies way down the line. I really like the micro-ing aspect of TS (even though I'm not that good at it yet) and feel that there is a lot of unexplored tactical potential in terms of what sort of teams get built and how they are managed in battles, so I'm going to give it my best shot. 

I guess this is a good place to transition into the next thing I want to talk about, which are the match settings themselves. 

I wonder why players only ever play tech level 10, and also why Fog of War is always turned off? 

I'll come back to tech level later, but Fog of War I understand a little bit more. 

It's a bit strange that there is both a black shroud and fog of war. If it were up to me, I'd have the whole map revealed (they are the same maps we are going to be playing over and over and over again, after all...) while utilizing the fog of war. 

Here's how I see it. Without fog of war, scouting is kinda lame. You scout their base once and you can see their troop movements for the rest of the game as well as all over the map, even without having any eyes in the region. 

It makes sense that scouting their base would allow you to pinpoint structure locations, but having fog of war without shroud would mean that scout units are immediately more effective because you can't see what your enemy is building, and therefore don't know how to counter it. You therefore have to keep trying to scout their base in order to get an idea of what's going on, and that means having to use things like JJ Troopers, Wolverines, Buggies, and even APCs more just to try and keep eyes on the field. And if you decide to not have a scout unit or two patrolling the flanks on the map, well you might be in for a nasty surprise assault. 

This introduces an element of luck/chance into the game, but also forces players to really have to respond in real time rather than constantly trying to use the same tactics over and over (like Caryall + Mammoth). This is something the Wargame's do very well. Scouts are pretty much required always. And if you lose your scouts, that's bad news for your team. But I find in TibSun, scouting is an early game tactic that isn't very important past the first couple minutes, and I find that to be a bit of a shame. 

Removing shroud but keeping Fog of War would radically improve the experience, IMO. You'd have more incentive to utilize waypoint patrols throughout the map in order to find out what's headed your way, and if you don't, well then you can't use your bombers to soften up that Titan assault before it's at your base! And so there is real incentive with FOW to keep building a scout unit or two and sending them out on patrols and to find out what kind of force the enemy is massing at their base. 

Maybe you say to me, "Well that's what makes Nod great. You can scout their base but they can still stealth their structures." 

True, it's a Nod advantage. But it's still an advantage even with FOW as even with eyes on their base you still can't see what's going on, and that's definitely spooky for the opposing player. 

Now own to why players always play tech level 10? 

Well, why? 

It's not that I'm opposed to tech level 10 games. But I don't necessarily see that as the "right" way to play, or even the most "pro." Reducing the tech level even by one would mean that players need to develop different strategies for winning. 

From a micro, tactical standpoint, the Carryall + Mammoth, 1shot Disruptor move, etc. are pretty neat. They definitely take some good reflexes to execute effectively. But from a strategic standpoint, I find it a little disappointing that most of the time this is what players resort to on tech level 10.

Simply drop the game down a tech level, however, and what new strategies will you be forced to develop in order to win? You could still Carryall disruptors, but players can expect that and get good at watching out for it and countering it. Besides, you could always drop the game down another tech level and once again see what new strategies one would need to win, etc. 

Of course, I don't think a tech level 1 game would be all that fun. It would just be infantry spamming and who could micro their infantry better. But I do think it would be interesting to experiment with competitive matches that are on lower tech levels, and I wonder if in TS's earlier days when there were many more players if there was much more variety of matches that people played? Variety is the spice of life, after all, and if you can't win consistently on every tech level, have you truly mastered the game? 

And then there's the superweapons on tech level 10, which I just find annoying. 

I get the notion that what the superweapons are for in most RTS games is to prevent turtle tactics from ruining the game or to be well-timed enough to save you when a huge assault has come your way. But TS is already a very difficult game to turtle in effectively given that you need to expand to more Tiberium and doing so without any unit support almost certainly means the opposition can annihilate your harvesters and hurt your economy and therefore out produce you until they have enough units to break through even a heavily fortified base. 

And perhaps the thing I find most unfortunate of all is that there is virtually no incentive to build pretty bases with walls, pavement, and the like. I think pavement is somewhat useful, but it's very hard to find the time in a match to really commit to a defensive strategy that involves well thought out walls, gates, etc, when all that time + money could be spent on units/micro-ing the battles. 

But I feel that on lower tech levels, there might once again be more incentive to rethink defensive strategies, and maybe even more incentive to try and build cooler looking bases. It would make sense that if you know superweapons are on the field you're going to be mad-dashing to try and annihilate the opponent before they annihilate you, but once again, why is tech level 10 the only tech level people ever play on? 

Well, I'm tired of typing so I'll stop here. 

I'd be interested to hear your opinions on some of these thoughts, and who knows, maybe we'll match up sometime soon!

Happy harvesting!

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Great to hear you are enjoying your TS experience. :)

To summarise some of my feelings on this matter (and I imagine, the feeling of most pro players on here), there ARE indeed quite a few 'useless' units in TS. As you rightly point out, when we say 'useless' here, we mean 'useless in a competitive multiplayer setting'. The reason is normally because they are not very cost effective. Either they cost too much, they have relatively weak attack/defense, or there is another unit that does the same job a whole lot better. 

A good example would be the cyborg. In most circumstances, you're better spending the money on infantry. When we move up to the wolverine and attack buggy, they are not completely without use. However, when you are playing competitively, the advantages those units bring are so limited that you are better off spending the money on something more useful. Normally a JJ (GDI), or maybe an orca/harpy if it's scouting your are trying to do. 

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Also, I completely agree with you on the lack of incentive to make a nicely designed base (though this doesn't seem to stop the modders...).

On the subject of useless units and buildings, Laser Fence is definitely up there. Many years ago I did some extensive testing on laser fence in conjunction with stealth to try and 'trap' landing units and kill them, but it's just too costly really, and subject to too many variables to be worth the investment. It's a shame really as there are so many elements to the core game that could be improved with relatively little effort.

Edited by Mole40k
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On the 'Vet/Balance' maps, the useless units such as cyborg, medic, wolverine, stealth tank, pavement, laser fence, obelisk, upgrade center, are all a bit less useless and bit more usable in competitive games.

https://github.com/HumbleTS/Balance-Veteran-Patch/wiki/Balance-Veteran-Summary

Outside of those maps (on vanilla) they are all complete trash 99% of situations.

Edited by Humble
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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)
On 2/14/2022 at 3:22 AM, Mole40k said:

Also, I completely agree with you on the lack of incentive to make a nicely designed base (though this doesn't seem to stop the modders...).

On the subject of useless units and buildings, Laser Fence is definitely up there. Many years ago I did some extensive testing on laser fence in conjunction with stealth to try and 'trap' landing units and kill them, but it's just too costly really, and subject to too many variables to be worth the investment. It's a shame really as there are so many elements to the core game that could be improved with relatively little effort.

Thanks for the replies (and for not being mean to a new player!). 

I've since played a lot of multiplayer and can now see why there's very little reason to build things like wolverines in a multiplayer match. You definitely don't have time and are better off getting something with more attacking/stopping power like Titans. 

That being said, I truly wish walls/pavement could be tweaked to make them easier/quicker to lay down as well as make them more useful. Then we might actually see base building have a role in competitive multiplayer matches! But I guess that's for the remaster of this game, if/when they ever get around to making it.

Also, TY for writing that guide. It was helpful in getting me somewhat up to speed in multi. The rest is up to me!

Edited by Ren117
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On 2/14/2022 at 2:20 PM, Humble said:

On the 'Vet/Balance' maps, the useless units such as cyborg, medic, wolverine, stealth tank, pavement, laser fence, obelisk, upgrade center, are all a bit less useless and bit more usable in competitive games.

https://github.com/HumbleTS/Balance-Veteran-Patch/wiki/Balance-Veteran-Summary

Outside of those maps (on vanilla) they are all complete trash 99% of situations.

Oh wow, those vet balance changes are something else! Can't believe I didn't read thru this yet. Thanks for the link.

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This guy is 100% not being honest. After playing with him online the other day , it is totally evident. My first thought is that it was Humble trying to namehide, and low and behold, here he is to reply.

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