Welcome back to another state of the game! I really wanted to have a snapshot build out, but I hit some nasty bugs that took a bit longer to fix than I thought. So anyway, instead I thought I could talk about my design plans for the generators since I am reversing my position.
If you didn’t know, generators actually used to be in the game, but several months ago I had convinced myself that they, from a design perspective, were not really helping anything and only made the building process more confusing. Some community members argued that having a third required part (legs and cockpit being the other 2) helped with build diversity and overall aesthetics of the builds. I agreed with them, but I felt the confusion it added was out weighing the benefits.
Well I am here to explain why I am reversing my position and hopefully shed some light on my design process.
Generators, while adding another part to the mix, actually imposed more limitations on to a build. Now, a player would have had to worry about weight AND energy both being under budget. I had already removed total part counts as a limitation, so I didn’t see why I needed another limitation. I figured, weight alone would be sufficient to allow the builds to be balanced. I could balance weight, as a negative, against any single positive or combination of positive attributes. So, say Weapon A does really high damage but has a long reload. I could technically have Weapon B do the same damage AND have a faster reload, as long as it had more weight (thus limiting the other parts you could use).
I still believe this to be the case. Weight will always be the primary balancing tool I have. With the huge variety of build combinations weight is the only tool that could shape the WHOLE build. Every other stat only balances that one part.
This worked out really well, until the AI started building this:
That is a heavily armored tank that can hold up to 14 heavy shotguns. Now, this in general is not horrible and could have been fixed with different balance tweaks and weight changes. But, what it did make me realize is I needed another way to help shape overall builds. Just having weight wasn’t going to be enough.
Enter the Energy System
So here are the design goals I wanted to solve with the energy system:
- Help shape overall builds to prevent (or more curtail) extreme ‘min/maxing’ of the stats
- Give some kind of tangible payoff for the extra complexity
- Give the system enough depth to encourage experimentation
So the idea of just having generators in the game alone does not really solve this issue. At that point, you would just be trading weight for energy and it’s back to square one with the drawback of being more complex. The fact that any generator could be used in any build farther cemented that generators would not be the solution. Plus, the generator could be destroyed, which would either break the fiction (why can I move and shoot with no power) or would cause bad gameplay (HEY! I can’t move or shoot!).
Enter legs as the primary energy generators. Legs can be destroyed, but then you are dead, so it solves that question. Plus, the leg type fundamentally is the most defining aspect of a build right now, since they determine your total weight limits. Having them as the primary energy generator really helps solidify that each leg type has it’s strengths and weaknesses and gives them a bit of personality. Also, if you want to alter this, you can by trading some weight for energy through the use of a generator. So right off the bat, the wall O’Shotguns is solved by making high weight legs have lower energy output and making shotguns have a slightly higher energy consumption.
The tangible payoff
So, now we need a good fun reward to balance the extra complexity of the building process. Since the legs are central to the whole energy system, I felt it was natural to focus the benefit on the legs. Since one of the primary tradeoffs as you choose different legs is speed, I felt it would be appropriate to have something that could actually improve that tradeoff. So, since it is possible to generate more energy than you need, I channel that extra energy into a speed bonus on the legs, much the same way as I do if you don’t use all the weight limit.
That is a great reward to the building process, but it’s not big enough. Also, it creates the question of what happens to the bonus if the generator is destroyed?
This question lead me to a damage feedback system for the legs. If a generator is destroyed, the energy it contributed into the energy system is lost, causing any bonuses from that excess energy to be lost. But what if the generator was not providing excess energy, but also ‘critical’ energy. If the energy levels fall below the ‘required’ amounts, then the legs start to get a negative movement penalty, up to a max of 25%. This gives an additional strategic play to gameplay, allowing you aim for and destroy a players generator to make them easier to hit! The legs themselves will also get a progressive damage state system. As they lose health, they will also contribute to a negative movement penalty of up to 25%. This means a damaged set of legs and a blow up generator can cause up to a 50% movement penalty.
So now that the other two points are taken care of, it’s time to solve the issue of depth. Just slapping on a generator and going to battle will work, but there needs to be something there that will make you want to spend time tweaking to get it just perfect. Enter the heat system!
The heat system is the counter to the energy. Everything can produce heat, some parts more than others. Legs and generators produce a lot of heat. But heat alone doesn’t do anything, so we need something else. So I created a Heat Damage Threshold. This is the amount of heat a part can withstand until it essentially catches fire and starts to take damage. Now I made it so heat will also spread, so heat generated in one part affects the surrounding parts. Also, heat is a new damage type, so something like flamethrowers can do low damage but high heat damage, which allows different strategies and play styles. Since heat can now do damage, it’s important that it has a counter. This is easily done with ‘cooling’ parts, or parts that generate negative heat. These would be things that range from radiators, cooling fans, heat sinks, or even limited use fire extinguishers.
Also with the heat system in place, all the data is there to support thermal vision auxiliary parts. And of course, level design can influence heat levels, both through ambient air temperature and weather affects, like rain. So it might be a good idea to leave your flamethrower at home when it’s raining out!
As you can see, this was more than just adding in a new part. I try to think of how everything plays together and how each system can be interconnected and balanced against other factors. I hope this gives you a little more insight into my design and development process! Check back next week for more updates!
P.S. If you want to discuss this topic, head over to the forum and let your voice be heard!