What would you like to see in games?

Yeah - Gazillionaire! I’m trying to register that (you still can!) and the other two games, but they use PayPal which won’t let you live in another country and use MasterCard in $US. That’s a ripper fun game. Interstellar Travellers 1 & 2 (Stormcloud) are similar but not as amusing. Fun, though.

I’m a big fan of masters of defence! Those freeze towers are the best, get 2 of them in a crossfire, and then a few slow but high-damage towers to shoot them when they are frozen. Thats my tactic anyway.

I love when the freeze towers get to Level 5 and literally stop everything from moving. Freeze towers are the only way to do a perfect run, me thinks.

Yeh, I also go for quantity > quality but up until you get good freeze towers, you need 4-5 towers just to keep up with the pace. The level 5 air towers are cool too, the projectiles they shoot look great and when youve got about 10 of them pounding away at the enemy it makes a great sound!

I’ll also go with graphics over gameplay. I’m an old-school gamer and some of my favorite games have been mentioned already.

Civ 1, Civ 2, Railroad Tycoon, Covert Action, Pharaoh, Tropico, Geneforge, Oasis, Tradewinds 2, Tradewinds Legends, Tropix, Simcity 1-3, Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, Weird Worlds, Jones in the Fast Lane, Caesar series, Colonization, Darklands, Imperialism, Master of Magic, Master of Orion, Galactic Civilizations 2, Oregon Trail, Where is Carmen San Diego, are just some examples. They aren’t visual stunners even in their day, but they all are replayable. The fact some are 15 years old says something.

Games that require an iron man mindset. I don’t want to sit for six hours straight to beat a level. I’m a casual player who plays a game for a bit, then plays something else. I want save points, a game that is fairly easy to learn, and most importantly, doesn’t frustrate me.

Real time strategy. These are great if you are 14 and have nothing else to do, and can sit for hours clicking mindlessly, but I like to sit and contemplate my next move. I also have real life concerns to attend to. If the doorbell rings, I’d like to be able to answer it without dying.

Copy protection. It’s more and more intrusive and is to the point where it can actually cause system problems. I bought the game. Let me play it in a convenient manner. It’s pretty sad when I buy something out of the box and it doesn’t work and the manufacturer themselves say it’s the protection they made. Besides, copy protection doesn’t work. I once “previewed” a game that was out for less than three hours. They spent thousands and some kid cracked it in an hour. Good job. I’ll admit that I try before I buy, but I will buy if it is good, if for no other reason than to encourage good games.

Those annoying banner screens that load before you can play advertising the game company, the manufacturer, some guy’s dog, and who knows what else, especially when you can’t click past them. Let me play already! At the very least, put a progress bar to let me know the game is loading. This is a big plus for Kudos. I start the game and bam, it puts me right on a title screen where I can get down to business.

Expansion packs. I’m looking at you EA games with your “The Sims 2: You people will buy anything” mentality. I love simulation games, but the last expansion pack, Family Fun, really annoyed me. They put a few items that would have best been served as a download and called it an expansion. An expansion to me is expanded game play with items thrown in as a bonus. This really soured me.

Sexual themes. It seems like this is on the upswing and I don’t like it. I’m an adult and know these things go on, but I really don’t want graphic portrayals of this. I am a bit more prudish than most, but I don’t want to censor it, I’d just like an option to turn it off, or better yet, have it start teen friendly, and put an option to turn it on, much like Kudos with the Same sex option turned off initially. Incidentally I did turn it on, but that was my choice. The Sims is similar. It allows same sex relations, but you as the player have to initiate them.

Graphic violence. Again, I play games to relax, not to see disturbing imagery.

Rigidly defined mission and scenario games. Note that most of the games I play have free form modes. I like to play my way with open ended objectives. This is another reason I like simulations as opposed to RPGs or tactical games.

Games that make you “unlock” things. Simcity 4 is a good example. You have to build in a certain sequence to get a larger fire station. If I have an island for example, I can provide complete coverage with a single large fire station in the center of town. Why should I have to tediously build four small ones in the corners, wait for a certain population, then tear them down, and rezone my town center? Let me build it my way already. Very frustrating.

Games that “phone home” without permission. When I play a game, I often shut the internet down for security. Many games now try to access the internet for updates, which is understandable, or to get me to a website to buy other items, which is not acceptable to me. Let me access the net as I see fit.

Auto-updating. This is a trend that I’m seeing and I especially don’t like it. As I said, I don’t like a game phoning home without permission, but I especially don’t like auto-updates. Firefox is a good example of why. Firefox updated by itself, which is the default behavior. After doing so, many of my extensions broke. Within a week they were mostly fixed, but I didn’t appreciate losing functionality. There is also the spectre of having a buggy update causing crashes.

Phew! This is obviously a topic that generates passion for me. Hopefully this gives people some insight.

Very interesting post, and I agree with you on many things. I do, however, enjoy RTS games, I find them very addictive, although the newer ones with their whizzy 3D graphics are dire because you can’t zoom out and get a proper veiw of the battlefiled, which is very frustrating.
I totally agree on the loading screen logo nonsense too, You probably realise all this ‘runs best on our brand video cards’ is total lies. The companies literally write a check for that logo to be added to the games, and the contract stipulates that it cannot be skippable. As if there arent enough adverts in real life!

Just as long as they don’t repeat the Geforce FX series…

It’s not like I’m gonna change my video card any time soon; I’ve already got it good enough for now…

Could not agree more. Excellent post overall, hardly anything to add! Wow, the most complete vivid resume of the game deficiencies I’ve seen so far :exclamation:


That’s what I want to see in games :wink: but I like fancy graphics to, helps with immersion in my view. Hence the reason I obviously prefer SimCity 4 over SimCity.

sim city 4 was sluggish though, especiallywith a REALLY big city. I miss the arcologies too ;(

If you had a decent PC it weren’t bad. I still like graphics though. It’s what attracted me to Sim City back when I had a crap 386sx and dreamed of being able to play the likes of Sim City 2000 but couldn’t. The description one guy gave in a documentary. Saying once he’d set everything up, after a few hours of playing he feel asleep at the PC. When he woke, his once small town had grown to a huge city. He could see all the sky scrappers, the business’ etc. You can’t get that feeling with a text based system or a Happy Shopper graphics system.

It’s the same reason I feel in love with A-Train. My first proper PC game that actually would run on my 386sx, while everyone else had 486s and Pentiums. Watching my trains driving around like a mini railway track. I preferred it much more than Sid Meier’s Railroads. Unfortunately the Jap’s didn’t see fit to release the later versions of A-Train to Europe :frowning:

I’ve now got the urge to go play Capitalism 2 :slight_smile:

Actually, it was Eddy’s post that got me acquainted with Kudos. I was doing a weird complex Google search (plenty of OR & () ) in relation to issues that bother me, or fascinate me in games. I was searching for a web page that would summarize my views on the faults and prospect of the gaming industry, and perhaps suggest some nice game. So I landed on Eddy’s post :astonished: , became interested in Kudos and consequently bought it. :slight_smile:

That was less than two weeks ago, and I’m already addicted to the game :blush: . I want to stress the importance of a forum for an indie game, a forum that attracts immediate attention and convince the visitor that the game and it’s support is genuine, and fill one with enough enthusiasm to try the demo and buy the game…

Well, I’m glad you enjoyed my post on it. Now cliffski, about my cut…

Storyline is the most important thing for me. Not graphics. Not gameplay. It’s the story. I may be an old-school gamer, who aquired the love for storylines because of reading far too many books, but, yes, I do care about having a reason to fight. (Even with games that have no storyline, like Tetris, I find I have more fun playing them when I ‘add in’ a story)

Without a purpose to play, without any real reason why you are there in the game world, then why play? Why risk your time and your life saving them? Many games do have stories, but they seem “tacked on”, and people don’t really care about them. The emhpasis is on the gameplay, or the graphics. “Here is some annoying background on the Alien Dudes, and how we started the conflict, but who cares? Just do genocide of the aliens, and have fun kiddios!”

There is a good game series out there called Knights of the Old Republic, that has this emphasis on story that I care about. Based in Star Wars, taking place 4000 years before the movie, only two games came out: KOTOR and TSL. The third in the series may or may not come out, I do not know, but I really would like to order it, because of my previous examples with KOTOR and TSL (TSL especially).

To avoid spoilers: KOTOR takes place in a galaxy where civil war is taking place, and, as a grunt (male or female, you can choose the gender) working for the Republic, you rise in power, training as a Jedi with the main goal of defeating Darth Malak, a dangerous Sith Lord who wants to destroy the Republic. The background information on how Malak turned to the dark side is interesting…A race called the Mandalorians appeared and attempted to take over the Republic. The Jedi Council were worried that this was a trap, that it was covering up and hiding the “true threat”, and so did not respond. Many Jedi saw that the Jedi Council as being arragont and not caring about the worlds being burnt, so Malak joined up with a group of splinter Jedi, led by Revan, who left to battle against the Mandalorians, to save the Republic. The Republic was saved, and honored Malak as a war hero…only to see Malak betray the Republic, falling to the Dark Side. Malak became Revan’s appericante, and later, took over him after Revan was killed.

You decide if you want to embrace the path of Light and good, or if you want to fall, and become a Dark Jedi looking out for yourself.

You travel through many different worlds, all of which being affected in some way by Darth Malak’s regin of terror: Taris (a planet being held under blockade by Malak’s troops looking for a very important Jedi), Mannan (a planet that claims total neturality in the war between the Republic and the Sith Empire, so they can go and sell medpacks to both sides and be filthy rich), and Korriban (place of the Sith Academcy where Force Users go in order to join up with the Sith…and where, in the course of the game, you can go and join too, learning more about the Sith enemy you face).

There is a very interesting and key twist in the story that allows you to pique your attention, as well as two endings (a Light Side and a Dark Side ending). Overall, it is a good game, taking place in the Star Wars-universe, and having the feel of the OT.

TSL takes place 5 years after the events in KOTOR. One the neat things about it is that you could easily transfer the events that happened in KOTOR over to TSL, by selecting the gender and the alignment of the previous character in KOTOR. Events that happen here has an effect in the past game can have an effect on what happens in TSL, providing a feel that your choices have meaning in the world…

One the interesting things about TSL is how it embraces somewhat un-Star Warsy feel, to be a more gritty and dark setting, sort of like ESB. The Republic is in shambles, after lots of resources has been spent, defeating Darth Malak. You are a Jedi Knight that was exiled, kicked out of the Jedi Order because you followed Revan and Malak to the Mandalorian Wars. You were also stripped of your power to feel the Force, and wandered, alone and lost. Meanwhile, the Jedi Order is now nowhere to be found, as a new Sith Order is being created, one that strike from shadows, and use conspiracies to kill off the remaining Jedi. The Sith Order is now hunting you, beliving you to be the “Last of the Jedi”.

You then get taught by a teacher named Kreia, a Jedi Master who embraces neither the Light Side nor the Dark Side, seeing problems with either. Kreia wants to teach you, to help you restore your connections to the Force, as well as to defeat the Sith Order and any other enemies that are hunting you down. You soon get to learn that the Jedi Masters has hid a secret from you, a secret that would explain why you really was kicked out of the Jedi Order, as well as a list of where all the Jedi Masters are located. In what I see as pretty remarkable, you are then given a choice: Find all the Jedi Masters, and call them for a new conclave where you can unite the Jedi Order and prepare for a strike against the Sith…or Kill off the Jedi Masters, wanting revenge for the crime of stripping you from the Force.

There are also twists along the way, and of course, I have not added in spoilers for KOTOR and TSL, so it does sound a bit breif. But both games have the ability for players to choose and manlipuate the story as you see fit. You have the ability for sidequests, as well as the possiblity of affecting the galactic politics, able to choose between two factions on most planets, having the ability to choose whatever side you so desire.

As I like the story, everything in the game immersives you into the world, so it feels real and that you have an emotional attachment to the world. This is what I desire in the game…not great graphics, not uber guns…but a memorable experience, of learning something new.

How about things I don’t want to see in a game?

Graphics that you can not see- or do not show up well (you’ve seen the games with the graphics and you can’t tell if it’s a dog or a person?) - They don’t have to be the 3-d high tech (and half of those are crap) but something easily recognizable that look like someone spent a little bit of time making them

Games that run on real time - If I wanted to wait 9 months for a baby, I’d have one myself (Fish Tycoon is kind of fun except for that)- I’d rather be able to run a game as quickly or slowly as I’d like

Games that have no storyline or point - One of my favorites was Simon the Sorceror, ever play? now that was fun!

“Real world” games that have no sense of how the real world works - I’d love to see one of those Diner Dash games redone as Office Assistant… let’s see you answer the phone, greet those at the front desk, file papers, sort mail, and type a memo at the same time!!

Games that make you stop the fun play and grind till you can get to a level where you can again do something useful

On the flip-side, I love games that are customizable. From the face and features, to clothes, to adding mods to make them more personal and interesting. I love the ability to shop in Maple Story and Fate to not only give me more powers, but to make me look nice.

Something I’ve enjoyed in several games, again Maple Story, but also Adventure Quest, is that the games are free, but you CAN purchase additional items to help your character along, or to upgrade to more areas, etc. I’ve spent more on Maple Story than any other game I’ve played (I think I’m at about $250 for clothes, powers, pets, etc… yes I have a job but no life LOL) - I think a simple free game would be great, then marketing Mod packs for sale at a whopping $5 a pop would be just fun!

I also like playing games like Final Fantasy and Fable where your choices affect who you are and the outcome of the game. I was never so shocked as when after talking to the townspeople in Final Fantasy, not helping the girl find her kitten, and I cant’ remember the rest… that I was brought (god this has been ages ago, forgive me if I screw up all the details) to the King and the townspeople had to tell about me… and my decisions made a difference in how I was treated!

Last on my mind, but not least is AutoSave. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disconnected, or had a problem and was so happy that Autosave took care of my game!

I’ll throw in my 2p, despite the thread being quiet a while =)

AI, Difficulty & Challenge: This is gameplay!

I think the consensus in this thread is that ‘gameplay’ is one of the most important, if not the most important, aspect of a game. I agree with this. We recognise ‘good gameplay’ when we see it in action, but it is something that I’ve never actually seen quantified - there doesn’t seem to be an agreement on one formula for good gameplay. Regardless i’m not put off by challenges so this is my attempt =).

I believe that when we refer to ‘gameplay’ what we are refering to the sense of achievement and gratification we get from fufilling a task and being rewarded for it. This action/reward (positive renforcement) is common to things outside of gaming too - I’m guessing this action/reward thing governs a lot of things we do. Back to gaming though. Example: In SimCity you build your city to a certain population level (the task) and you unlock some new building (the reward). Another example: In Democracy 2 you have to balance the desires of the liberals against combating crime (the task) if you achieve this satisfactorally then your approval bar starts getting greener (the reward). A final example: In Team Fortress 2 playing as a sniper you try and land a headshot on your opponents (the task) when you achieve this they explode into gratifying chunks of gore (the reward).

All these games are different but they still have the action/reward thing - the gameplay. But what makes good gameplay? I’d speculate that the ratio of difficulty to reward is important. I’d also speculate that the optimal difficulty/reward ratio is attained when the satisfaction of actually beating the challenge itself is the greatest reward - at least in the context of ‘puzzle’ type games, like grand strategy games or sim/tycoon games.

I think it is worth noting though that there are other types of reward that may be more gratifying to certain gamers than others. If your target audience are teenagers, then I’m guessing the adrenaline rush from horror or shooty type games is a better reward than a sense of satisfaction. There are probably others too that I’m not thinking of.

This does raise the issue of difficulty being a subjective thing though. Some gamers are quicker on the mouse, some better at planning, some better at visual puzzles and so on. If a game is too difficult then the satifaction of beating it is somewhat diluted by the frustration experianced along the way, conversely if it’s too easy then there is no sense of achievement. This means that the difficulty/reward ratio changes from player to player. Perfect gameplay for somebody who is really good at a certain type of game is different from somebody who has never played before - assuming that they play on the same difficulty level.

I feel that good AI design gets around this problem though. If you make a game such that its difficuly scales to the ability of the player then you can attain the perfect difficulty/reward ratio regardless of who is playing. I’ve got an idea of how this could be done - I’d warn though that it is slighty maths heavy, may already have been done, may be total rubbish! I’ve put it at the bottom of the post anyway if you want to look at it.

Also branching AI that could take several different actions in the under the same conditions is, in my opinion, good too, because it keeps you thinking and provides a fresh experiance each time you play.

Fake Edit: Re-reading that it all seems a little… philosphical.


Another thing I look for in games is a good sense of immersion. Kind of escapism I suppose. I think it’s a common thing among gamers that when we play a game we really enjoy we can become caught up in it. Have you ever looked up from your game to you clock and think “What just happened to the last ‘n’ hours!?”. I think games can provide immersion in one of two ways. Audio/Visual immersion or mental immersion. You can achieve Audio/Visiual immersion through ultra-realistic graphics and realisitic sounds. Lots of games strive to achieve this - like Crysis or MS Flight Sims, though there is a limit as to what you can practically do, unless you’re in Star Trek and have a holodeck to hand or have some enourmous theme park simulator on pivoting armatures. You can also achieve this through a kind of iconic representation; by using ‘cartoon’ representations of objects and people, audio cues and so on, you can provide the gamer with enough information visually that they will instinctively let their imaginations fill in the gaps. My personally favorite however is ‘mental immersion’. Some games require a level of concentration and planning that your attention is entirely devoted to the game, such that you don’t register the reality of the images on the screen and what’s going on around you. Or maybe that’s just me! In any case I enjoy games that require that level of thought.

Practical Things:

In addition to all the above, the core elements of the game, there are practical issues. Invasive copy protection is a no-no as far as I’m concerned. I’m not opposed to copy protection in principle; I understand the need to protect intellectual property, but I’m opposed to having changes imposed upon my operating system or other software/hardware I run. My biggest personal dislike is for unfinished software! Lots of game developers (thankfully not this one) release games before they’ve ironed out major bugs. I understand that producing a game for the PC platform has many more QA/validation issues than releasing a game for a console, but still some developers attempts are pathetic. Finally, distrubution. Digital distrubution is the way forward as far as I’m concerned, I dont want to have to trek all the way through town to find a shop that sells the game I’m looking for. Much better to just download it.

The geeky bit:

What I was saying before about AI that adapts to the player. I’m pretty ignorant as far as AI programming is concerned, I’ve not actually seen any AI source code, so my points are only based on observations I’ve made in-game, as it were. I’ve not seen any overt adaptive AI in action (or if I have I’ve not noticed!).

Am I correct in assuming that, in general, AI in games tends to follow a structured script? For example in an ‘Age of Empires’ type game, it’ll follow a routine that begins with building structures/units in a set order at a rate determined by the difficulty level, with a script having been written for each scenario? I’m assuming that there must be at least some conditional/reactive element, but how far does that go? Are most AI routines in games fairly linear? How far can you go with making conditional AI functions before they get too complex or unpredicatble?

What I’ve been thinking about is writing code for an AI based upon elements taken from control theory and digital signal proccessing, such that it’s performance changes according to how the player is doing. Kind of like a classic tracking control system. For example, thinking about a FPS (because that’s a little easier maybe), you could model the way a user plays in terms of the speed which they move the crosshair over a target, their average concealment in scenery, the rate at which they expened ammuntion and so on. You could take all these variables, which are probably linked, and form a representation of their performance in a matrix of linked equations. With this model of how a user is playing you could code a controller (the AI) to change its response dynamically - for example getting the computer opponents to shoot 80% as efficiently as the player is doing. Basically you include some kind of negative feedback loop, where your feedback gains change according to the current model of the player.

That really is very… wooly. I’m going to have to think about it some more, maybe come up with a simple example based on connect4, peggle or reversi, to demonstrate what I’m getting at. I’ll come back later!

Quite interesting topic and there are some very interesting points.

Here’s my rather long opinion.

What annoys me in modern games?

Improving graphics while leaving the gameplay at the same level. Great graphics have their own place in games, but not in every kind of game…
Sales based on hype level

What would I like to see in games?

Sports games could be better if interaction was not merely based on pressing buttons. Wiimote made some kind of progress in this aspect, but it did not used it properly so far. The same goes for FPS games.

Adventure, action and simulation games could be better if:

there was higher level of freedom to explore the virtual world
more interactions found in real-life were simulated
plots were scripted or randomly generated (thus leaving classic predetermined plot style)
storytelling was more interactive

Many adventure and action games provide quite limited freedom to explore virtual world, and if there is any freedom it’s usually character movement-through-physical-space freedom (like one found in Assassin’s Creed). By allowing higher level of freedom in interaction between player and virtual world, one is allowing player to achieve goals in whichever way player likes (Crayon Physics Deluxe, as very simple game, excels in this field), thus creating unique experience each time one replays the game.

The level of freedom depends on the level of interaction game provides. Adventure games usually provide virtual physical interaction (moving character across the screen, fighting with enemies, unlocking doors, etc.) and variable level of “puzzle interaction” in which you interact with the world by solving puzzles, which is usually done by listening to virtual people in the game or looking at and/or collecting objects (notes, pictures, etc.) (not much different than 80’s “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” puzzle style?). Kudos is basically sandbox adventure game which moves focus away from virtual physical interaction and 3D physical world feedback and focuses on simulating some other kinds of real-life interactions, like socializing with virtual people you have met in your life, building relationships, maintaining your financial status, learning and some other aspects which are typical for one life simulation game.

What’s pity is that very few adventure/action/simulation game realistically simulate interpersonal communication and behavioral aspects of humans, and only one or two games by far used natural language processing as an interaction method to implement these kinds of interaction. Implementing these kinds of interaction would provide more space for creating new, original puzzles. Imagine that instead of just standing close to character and pressing “talk” button on your keyboard, you could define what you want to ask or discuss with character. The way one can construct the message need not to be done using natural language; in contrary, allowing NLP interaction might complicate things, and in many cases better option would be to construct message using smaller message beats. Combine that with freedom to move through time and proper simulation of necessary daily life of non-player characters and you have true replayable open-ended game.

Finally, moving away from predetermined plots to scripted plots or at least providing predetermined plot which can be shaped through interaction. On the other side, for some games it can be relatively easy to randomly create plots - this could probably work with games like 2D text-based CSI game, where plots can be randomly constructed by using information stored in scripts.

I am also really tired of modern games being graphic tour de force lacking any AI and replayability.

Despite have gotten a quad core over clocked top of the line system last year, I find myself playing old DOS games under DOSBOX. Games I am playing are:

(1) AOD = Aces of the Deep (much better sub war simulation than SH3/4 even with the mods); 1994 DOS

(2) SHCE = Silent Hunter Commanders Edition (again better than newer titles); 1997 DOS

(3) 1830 = Positively the best board game port and strategy PC game ever made (Railroads and stock trading); 1994 DOS

(4) RTD = Railroad Tycoon Deluxe (VGA upgrade of the original Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon) by far much better than the PopTop titles RT2/RT3 and way better than the new Sid Meier’s Railroad (total joke); 1994 DOS

(5) Tropico1 = PopTop and Phil Steinmeyer’s best piece of work; very nicely balanced economic title with a novel political layer; 2000 Windows

This is why I was so impressed by Dem1 and Dem2. Very elegant 2D interfaces which in a generic way capture complex systems of relationships and variables. Truely refreshing games with clean and crisp interface.

I have also played lots of wargames that are tactical, operational, and grand strategy. What I find to be the most interesting, but uncommon trend is the use of AI agents. So, a game has real chain of command. You may give orders to AI agents which will formulate plans and command units further down the line. There is nothing I know that models the real world and the art of command more effectively than this. (Also, critical to such systems is that there needs to be command propagation delays in the simulation.)

Examples of two companies which have explored this paradigm are:

Panther Games (David O’Connor and Paul Scobel; Australia) in RDOA/HTTR/COTA/BFTB.

Mad Minute Games (Adam Bryant; USA) in CWBR/TC2M.

  • Note: I have been affiliated with both of the above companies and product lines.

Sadly, the use of AI agent, realtime, and play via proxy is not a very popular trend. Wargamers by their very nature are control and micro-management freaks. Although they clamour for war and “realism”, they don’t want truely realistic fog of war and vargeries of command by proxy. In reality, they prefer that their PC games be chess. So, hexes, turns, micro-managing every unit on the map is what excites them. Commanding via AI agents as a form of proxy does not excite them and tends to sell poorly in this niche.

Ah MarkShot, you’ve got my taste in games. Though I also enjoy a broader spectrum as well.

I sometimes daydream about a medieval era game, or Chinese or Japanese civil war game where you play as one single limited-knowledge person. You’d command large battles through proxy orders, delivered by horsemen or some sort of signal, or a combination of both. The commanders down the chain would control the details, and would not even require orders. Your view of the battle could possibly be restricted to a first person viewpoint, and perhaps you and your personal guard could roam as you see fit, perhaps watch the battle from a hillside, but otherwise be informed via scouts.

The various commanders can even have personalities that affect their decisions, and it’d be up to you to select the proper commanders. Maybe there’s a suicidal commander maybe too eager to fight, but is tactically skilled and aggressive. Or a cautious but solid commander who even if told to be aggressive would still be relatively mild. Or a former mercenary horseman who’s excellent leading a small cavalry unit, but doesn’t know what to do with a large force, or with any type of infantry. And perhaps the overall strategy of the army is always in place, edited as you see fit, and managed in the course of battle.

And rather than just fighting battles and being done with it, the game could include the whole campaign details of actually moving an army, considering the logistics, find the enemy and achieving strategic goals. Scouts would find and report on enemy positions and estimate the size and composition of the enemy as well. That information would be time delayed, of course. You could threaten cities rather than confront armies, attack supply lines, work in conjunction with allies (or with the enemy of the enemy).

There can even be high level grand-campaign stuff to manage (not micro-manage though). There could be options regarding army recruitment, funding, diplomacy, defenses, and so on.

Actually, some of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series of games have good proxy and command structures at times. In RTK 10, you can play through the ranks if you wish, starting as a lone officer, doing a single task domestically and controlling a single unit in battle, and going up to a ruler who gives overall orders to each city but controls only one directly. But the game has terrible AI all around, and is flawed in some other ways as well. It’s more of a role-playing game than deep-thinking and challenging strategy game. But it does have some interesting ideas.

Have you looked into Panther Games (published by www.matrixgames.com)?

HTTR - Highway to the Reich

COTA - Conquest of the Agean

BFTB - Battles fromt he Bulge

If you visit the forums, you will find intensive tutorials and strategy guides from yours truly. This series has some of the best realtime/propagation delays/chain of command/command by proxy/no hexes gameplay and AI even seen in PC operational warfare simulation. In fact, I am informed that it is way ahead what is in actual use for training/gaming by the US military.