Sunday, July 29, 2012

Making changes while adding vs getting it all in there and then working on it

There are two general ways of dealing with a project like ours.  The first is to try and keep everything balanced and working properly as we move on in the design, constantly changing small things to try and make the overall experience feel good while continuing to show improvement.  The second is to get as much work done as possible and then go back once everything is done and tweak then.

Each method has it's advantage and disadvantage.  When we originally started working on the mod we followed the latter design focus, we were just trying to get it all in.  This led to the Xenoforce 9C mod, a version that while popular was not very well done.  It did have SEED and AW and UC in the game, but the game was fundamentally missing some important parts.  Upon inspection it was determined that we simply could not go back and tweak the choices we had made, that the problems were too severe.

Hench why we have gone to the former way of doing things, trying to tweak the game as we go.  The upside to this is every release should be balanced out.  The downside is that every release takes longer as each one needs to be balanced.  In the end what we're looking at doing now is a complete rebalancing where we take all things into consideration.  This is important due to some of the new ideas that Doug has come up with, most importantly being the "armor resistance" design.  This change is very very cool and will help give the units that have it just the edge they need.  Basically what it comes down to is the armor will degrade as used and once fully degraded the unit takes extra damage.  This degrading can not be repaired or fixed, but over time the armor will come back to normal.  The idea is that a unit in battle once pulled out will get field repairs or maybe the pilot will become re-energized and will once again be able to act quicker making their units more protected in the field.

While I know everyone wants the next version to come out yesterday and they want their seed and robotech too all I can say is that this change, along with all the other modifications should lead to a much more interesting game.  Faster battles, important units actually having a greater roll in the field, rolls being more transparent, and each faction having it's own special way to either help offset the cost of their units or having their own way of making additional funds in the field.   It will be worth the wait, and it will be quite cool to see happen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Would both holy trinities work together?

The holy trinity of a RTS has always been a Rock-Paper-Scissors deal, or Infantry - Vehicles - Aircraft type deal.  The holy trinity of a MMO though always gos Tank-DPS-Healer.  No matter how many times a game maker tries these basic designs keep seeping back in.  There are many successful RTS developers that have easily moved beyond the R-P-S design and added in a much more dynamic and fluid system giving players many choices.

MMO's on the other hand have had a seriously difficult time doing so.  Some new ones have forgone this and embraced the trinity quite well, a recent one that did this was Star Wars : The Old Republic (not a bad game btw if anyone cares).  One that has tried to escape it that just came out was The Secret World which I have not tried but have heard mixed reviews on how successful it was at this.

Why am I bringing this up?  Doug and I have been talking about re-balancing the mod.  Some may say "what, again? Just put the damn new units in then go back and look at it!"  To those people I say "sorry, sucks to think that way."  You see we want each release to be properly balanced and with each release we're getting closer to what we want to see out of this game. But each time we do something it seems other "cracks" in the design appear that make us go "mmmmmm".

In this case though the design issues we've found have NOTHING to do with the actual way the game factions work or how they are implemented.  Instead it comes down to the units themselves.  You see when I designed the formula for units value/cost/damage output there were a few things that I left out that at the time didn't seem to matter much.  But as things continue to evolve my original design flaws are becoming apparent.

What this all boils down to is a redesign of a different scale.  I am working on a new unit formula for designing the units for the game right now while Doug works on the more refined changes from a faction design level.

And with that comes the holy trinity of Tank/DPS/Healer or in our case Offensive/Assault/Repair/Utility.

A unit classified as Offensive would be the typical Meat Shield of an MMO.  These units are designed to take a hit and keep on going.  If you need a unit that can survive the onslaught of enemy fire it's an Offensive force.

An Assault classified unit is a unit that specializes in dealing a lot of damage and they typically have greater range.  However assault units are not the toughest units out there and can quite quickly die if not properly supported.

A Repair classified unit is a normal unit (if there is such a thing) that also has the ability to heal others.

Finally if a unit does not fall into one of the other 3 classifications it ends up as a Utility unit.  This isn't always a bad thing.  Utility units typically have other "powers" or "features" going on that help them keep a role in their army.

An example for Gundam players would be as follows.  An RGM 79 would be an Offensive unit as it is ment to be used on the front line.  As such it would get a "bonus" to its health to allow it to fill such a roll.  A GM Sniper or Guntank however would fall in the Assault Class.  A Guntank however through the course of the game would change classifications to become a Repair class after certain upgrades are met.

This is just an idea and not even a fully fleshed out idea here.  But it's one to think about as we go forward.  This kind of classification mixed in with our other design would allow players at a glance to instantly see what kind of units and how they actually would function on the battlefield at a glance.  If I'm looking at the following....

GM 79  -  Offensive Troop
GM Sniper - Assault Elite Support
Guntank - Assault Heavy Support
Powered GM - Offensive Fast Attack

I know that my GM79's are going to be the cheap front line units that have the least features, that the GM Sniper is going to be a very effective but expensive damage dealing unit, the Guntank is going to be a slower but more heavily armored alternative to the GM Sniper, and the Powered GM is going to be a more expensive but much faster option to the GM79.  And you know what, I'd be right.  What are your thoughts?