Level Dynamics

Article written by watchwood
Originally published on 04-12-2004 ; updated on 08-17-2014
Tags: AI, Triggers

In a guide I wrote a while ago, I touched on a wonderful addition to any campaign called level dynamics. In this guide, I plan to go further in-depth in the intricacies of that addition.

Level dynamics are what make a scenario a challenge to players of any skill level. It allows players to enjoy the story and challenge of your work, no matter how good or bad a tactician you are.

The addition of dynamics can be accomplished in 3 ways.

AI Assisted Dynamics

One method of adding dynamics is to use a custom AI. The AI can be written to send a different signal for each Signal condition, you can have the AI activate the trigger chains (more on chains later) itself accordingly to each difficulty level. (I will go into details of what to change for each level later) By using the AI is a good option if you are skilled in custom AI's, and already have a custom AI for your scenario/campaign.

Difficulty Level Condition Method

By using the difficulty level condition, definitely a buggy and delicate method, you can simply have the game automatically detect the difficulty level, and act appropriately. This method is complicated at first, and can take a while to master. There are a few things that you should keep in mind, however. First off, the computer reads the condition is level X or harder. Which means that...

Condition Hardest: Only happens on the hardest difficulty (only without expansion)
Condition Hard: Happens on Hard and Hardest difficulties
Condition Moderate: Activates on Moderate, Hard, and Hardest difficulties
Condition Standard: Goes off on Standard, Moderate, Hard and Hardest difficulties
Condition Easy: Goes off on all difficulty levels

NOTE: I've noticed that there is a bug with the hard difficulty level, and that sometimes it goes off no matter what you have the level set as. But I'll explain the fix.

OK, for the dynamics themselves, there is a simple formula you can use. Observe.

Trigger 0: (on loop off)
Condition 0: Difficulty Level –– Easiest
Effect 0: Deactivate Trigger 1
Effect 1: Deactivate Trigger 2
Effect 2: Deactivate Trigger 3
Effect 3: Deactivate Trigger 4
Effect 4: Activate Trigger chain for Easiest

Trigger 1:
Condition 0: Difficulty Level –– Standard
Effect 0: Deactivate Trigger 0
Effect 1: Deactivate Trigger 2
Effect 2: Deactivate Trigger 3
Effect 3: Deactivate Trigger 4
Effect 4: Activate Easy Trigger Chain

Trigger 2:
Condition 0: Difficulty Level –– Moderate
Effect 0: Deactivate Trigger 0
Effect 1: Deactivate Trigger 1
Effect 2: Deactivate Trigger 3
Effect 2: Deactivate Trigger 4
Effect 3: Activate Moderate Trigger Chain

Trigger 3:
Condition 0: Difficulty Level –– Hard
Effect 0: Deactivate Trigger 0
Effect 1: Deactivate Trigger 1
Effect 2: Deactivate Trigger 2
Effect 3: Deactivate Trigger 4
Effect 4: Activate Hard Trigger Chain

Trigger 4:
Condition 0: Difficulty Level –– Hardest
Effect 0: Deactivate Trigger 0
Effect 1: Deactivate Trigger 1
Effect 2: Deactivate Trigger 2
Effect 3: Deactivate Trigger 3
Effect 4: Activate Hardest Trigger Chain

A little much to absorb at first, I'll admit. It takes some getting used to, but it is a quality method.

Coloured Tents Method

This method is my personal favorite for several reasons. First and foremost, it is simple. All you need is several different coloured tents, one for each difficulty level. This allows for more then the standard 3 levels in the expansion, it prevents the accidental selection of the wrong level, and it is fairly simple for the rookie designer.

What to change for each level

For each level, you should make your project harder or easier, depending on what you make the game's base level as. By base level, I mean what the game is before the dynamics make their changes. For example, on easier levels you should give the player more and stronger units. On harder levels you should give the bad guys more and stronger units. Also, you can change the puzzles/chat of certain units based on the difficulty level. You can change the player's starting resources, his base defenses, and his opponent's defenses.

The trigger chains

Trigger chains are what we use to prevent freezing/crashing caused by too many triggers going off at once. What you do is spread your effects around several triggers. 8-12 effects per trigger is a safe number. Any more is tempting fate. Give each trigger in the chain a short timer (2-3 seconds), and have it activate the next trigger in the chain.

That's it for this guide. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to email them to me at watch_wood [at] hotmail [dot] com. Thanks to Berserker Jerker and AnastasiaKafka who explained the difficulty level condition to me a while ago.