Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are we making the game too complicated for limited returns?

One of the things we were first told when we started working on this mod from the community was that this project would fail.  That was the general decision that others told us, that we were reaching for too much considering that neither Doug or I had ever officially worked on a mod before, at least not as a team with the end goal of having something for others to use and play.  We were not part of any moding communities, we were not modelers or animators, we were just 2 guys with a dream.

One of the things we noticed right from the beginning was that EA was pretty damn dumb when it came to weapon types.  You had GDI/NOD/Scrin all sharing the same 5 weapon types and out of the 5 types 3 were dealing with infantry!  I mean they had Flamethrowers count as grenade type damage, what the heck?

Back then you had GUN - GRENADE - SNIPER - CANNON - ROCKET.

There was also only 2 types of health / armor setup.  You had your HP with it's armor % value based on the armor type and you had Scrin Shields which was basically just a 2nd HP bar with it's own armor %.  Once you got though the shields HP you would then move on to the units actual HP.   And if the unit survived for a few minutes the Shield would come back a full power.

But EA did have enough foresight to code for a more grander scheme.  You see they also coded into the shield code what % of damage could be given to the shield HP/Armor% and what % of damage would then bleed though to the regular HP/Armor%.  However they simply coded it so that no damage would bleed though and shields would always take 100% damage first, and really can you blame them?  I mean they only had 5 weapon types, why bother with the complications and mess with that stuff with only 5 types, and 3 of those types were set to minimum damage from an enemy.

Our system as many of you know is a lot more complicated than that.  With the discovery of this bleed though effect we've been looking at how it can be used for different effects.  For example Scrin Shields will now always stop energy weapons (Lance / Beam / Laser / Rail / Sonic) but only take a lot of damage from Sonic / Rail and Lance.  Laser and Beam will only deal 50% damage to shields as the shields are designed to block this.  Same with Fire weapons, fire weapons will be 100% absorbed with no bleed though but only a % of them will actually weaken the sheilds.  Scrin Shields are awsome.  They will really have to be cut though before the units take damage, it just makes since.

However we can then use this same shield idea for adaptive armor.  Say you have UC mecha, these mecha are designed so that they have extra armor plates put on their inner armored shells to help protect them.  They also gain physical shields to carry around to again help protect them.  We can use this bleed though effect to show that some of the damage is getting though to the main armored unit while the outer armor is doing it's job of protecting the unit as best as it can.  Kenetic damage can have a 25% bleedthough, heat based would have 100% as the extra armor just doesn't do anything to stop inner damage from fire on AW units.  Grenades can have a 40% bleed though instead of the normal 25, showing that grenades have a blast effect that can have shrapnel get into the gears.  Beam and Laser weapons have to get 100% though the outer armor because thats why they have that damn shield, to block the incoming shot.  However once though the armor completely it only takes 1 or 2 more shots from a beam or laser to kill the unit.

Also we can take the weapons and really customize them for specific enemies.  GDI has sonic weapons, they are the only force that do.  Right now Sonic Weapons are an annoyance, they slow down the movement and fire rate of enemy units without actually doing much damage.  Now we plan on setting it up so that any lightly armored or biological unit type that gets hit by a sonic weapon is actually going to take the full blunt blast of the weapon (100% damage on the HP Armor level) where medium armor and up only takes 20 or 10% of that same damage.  This makes it a great weapon against light units.  However Scrin is made up of all biological units, so against the Scrin with GDI if you want to really put the hurt on them you will go with units with Sonic weapons.  (NOD will have a similar effect with fire based units, however the fire weapons need to get past the shields first where the sonic weapons will tear though shields.  Then again Fire is also useful against AW, so you see where there is a trade off).

Is this making the game overly complicated?  I don't think so but it does pose a challenge when it comes to trying to come up with a description system that accurately gives the player the info that they need to understand how this unit is to be used.  Thats the hardest part of all this and the thing we keep returning to.  As we progress these things have to stay clear / clean / and true to the unit so I guess only time will tell if we have figured out a truly clean design for descriptions and for helping the player tell what the unit they are buying actually can do and what it can deal with.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What makes each faction unique?

First, I apologize for not posting recently.  I have family staying at the house and that takes away from mod-work time.

So, with that out of the way, what does make each faction in the game unique?  Is it just the units?  Or is it the ability to use certain tactics better with certain factions?  Or is it the way that faction produces and uses the economy?  I would say all 3 myself.

Doug and I have been working on some more slight changes and tweaks as we move forward and this is what we're currently looking at.

GDI Faction -
-Produces cash from infantry squads
-Has the SDI for direct reinforcement capability or deep strike capability
-SDI and Mk4 units grow stronger and deal more damage the weaker they get, becoming better at dealing with the current threat against them.

NOD Faction -
-Produces cash from harvesters
-Has stealth for surprise attacks
-Hit-and-Run capable units gain a major speed boost after attacking allowing for quick guerrilla tactics.

Scrin Faction -
-Scrin harvesters die after 5 minutes, once dead they spawn a blue tiberium field at their location.  A new harvester will spawn at the refinery when they die.
-Scrin units that have shields will have their shields re-form after 2X their build timer has passed unless it is a capitol ship in which case it's a direct 1-to-1 reform time.

- UC Big Tray expansion units produce cash through drops.
- UC have unique defenses, working much like a 2nd commander where you simply place the structure down and the structure will produce it's own defensive mecha that will work like a counter-attack force to any enemy attack, meeting the enemy in the field and attacking there instead of at the base.

Now obviously these things are subject to change but we're going to try UC this way in the next release and see how it go's moving the extra cash generators from the powerplants to the big trays.  Maybe it works great, maybe not, but we won't know until we try.

From the looks of it you can see how each side is different.  GDI has a more forward approach and needs to use everything in it's arsenal to reach maximum performance output.  However if it does it can really bring the power to bear against its enemies.

NOD with its stealth and hit-and-run units can really choose when and where it will engage an enemy.  And with each base producing stealth from the power plants it can hide a huge force and you won't even know what your walking into.

Scrin is an assault force, with a massively powerful air and ground presence they can not be ignored.  With regenerating shields you have to be sure to kill them and not just leave them wounded otherwise they can be very difficult to deal with.  And finally with their harvesters generating their own fields they can literally make a lot more cash from a single field than a normal player could.

Finally you have UC.  With their unique defensive force setup you will be able to focus on attacking an enemy and have less to worry about with base defense.  And with the Big Trays producing cash the more you expand the more you make.  Its a pretty straight forward design but one with a lot of potential.

As always if you have a question or opinion please share it.