Hello everyone! After about a year of active development (over 2 years since I wrote out the thought experiment that led to the mod) I released S.C.R.A.P. Public Alpha live on the Blizzard Arcade on July 1, 2017. It’s really gratifying to have people actually play S.C.R.A.P. in uncontrolled conditions, and to receive their feedback in real time, and deeply exciting to finally have released the mod, an actual product able to be consumed.
S.C.R.A.P. launched its public alpha on July 1, 2017. It’s currently on the Europe and Americas regions on the Battle.Net Arcade (available through StarCraft 2’s free Arcade Edition). It has an active little Discord community of about 30 people (and growing) and players who give it a chance have seemed to enjoy it. Since launch, I have responded to player feedback by releasing 10 balance and quality-of-life patches, though the rate of fixing has recently dropped off as I focus on longer term changes and additions.
The Countdown To Live
The mod went live at 11PM Eastern, June 30th. I’d been updating it all week, trying to polish off some of the worst rough edges, and finally went live a little earlier than intended in order to get some games in with a couple of players who had either been helping me with private testing, or were waiting
As this was the first game I’ve ever made that I’ve taken far enough to publish, I had spent the week prior to launch in equal measures of excitement and anxiety. I tweaked and re-tweaked the game, trying to correct bugs where I could and perfect the game play as much as I was able, in the hopes that I would release a product that people would find interesting and engaging. I had little idea of what to expect, and released a tremendous amount of nervous energy trying to polish SCRAP for release.
A Brief Description
SCRAP is a standalone game designed using StarCraft 2’s Galaxy Editor tool. While the game uses StarCraft 2’s assets, the rules are completely unique. SCRAP takes place on a planet that has been abandoned by the beings that lived there, a hurried evacuation that resulted in the equivalent of ‘leaving the oven on’ – many of the society’s automated workers were left running to fulfill functions that were no longer needed, inanely completing their assigned tasks until they broke down.
In the game, players take the role of either a Fabricator (an automated construction robot whose programming has evolved over centuries of neglect, giving it rudimentary self-preservation) or a Dendrite colony (Dendrites represent a group of networked AI struggling to expand the reach of their collective). The players are competing in this abandoned city, trying to control the area’s scarce supply of 3 vital resources: Data, Scrap Metal, and Energy.
Scrap Metal is the game’s basic resource, and is needed to build units and structures. Energy is a supplemental resource, used for special abilities and to boost the combat properties of many units. Data is the game’s victory resource, and represents these machines striving for sentience. Whatever can become sentient can become the world’s apex predator, or find a way to escape the dying planet entirely.
The game is focused on small scale, tactical battles, and resource gathering. It has a shallow tech tree enabling the players to spend little time building up and more time contesting objectives.
I was surprised and gratified to get a decent little community of repeat players in the days after I went live. I set up a Discord server and, since launch, have garnered tons of advice that has helped me to improve the mod’s understandability and game play. One of the biggest things I learned is that, by and large, players seem to think SCRAP is fun after they learn it, but learning the game in the first place can be a real uphill battle.
In response to new players’ confusion, I have started building in an active tips system, that guides players through some of the basics. It’s still in its early stages, but throughout the next couple of months I hope to flesh it out and refine it.
The early weeks of the mod were busy ones for me. It quickly became clear that there were some issues I needed to address: namely, rushes. Some highly efficient players were doing things that I hadn’t thought of, which resulted in the need to rethink how some of the game worked. Figuring out how to handle faction balance and game pacing issues was eye-opening and deeply interesting to me.
Between July 1st and August 18, I released about 10 patches for the game, including a mix of balance tweaks and laying the groundwork for my active tips system (described above).
On August 18, I released a major patch that I think lays the groundwork for the game to move forward in a big way. It introduces a series of changes that I think will vastly improve how the game is played. Let’s take a look.
SCRAP launched with “Creep Camps” – hidden cadres of hostile units tucked in corners around the map. Intended originally as being an additional source for Scrap, the game’s main resource, Creeps have been largely ignored and avoided in almost every match played to date. So, I changed how they work to make them more attractive targets. First off, now all Creep Camps drop a pickup that adds to a player’s Data store. So, Creep Camps now help you meet the game’s Victory Condition.
Additionally, Creeps used to take ~2 1/2 minutes to decay into resources after they died, and those resources would need to be harvested by workers. That was inefficient and led to players completely forgetting about the delayed benefit garnered by killing Creeps. Now, when Creeps die, they drop an item that instantly provides the player with resources. This is a small economic boost, independent from resource harvesting and allows the player’s army to directly improve their economy. I anticipate this having a big impact on how player’s approach the map – Creeping can help improve your short-term economic position, and your long-term prospects for winning a match.
One of the most confusing aspects of SCRAP for new players is the Burning Wreck mechanic. Here’s how it worked, prior to patch .10: when a unit died, it effectively respawned as a ‘burning wreck’ with 40% of the original unit’s health. If you look at the above screenshot, you will see several units that are on fire – they have the Burning Wreck effect applied.
Unfortunately, this was really confusing to new players. They’d see a unit die, only to seemingly be brought ‘back to life.’ This was consistently a confusing and frustrating event for new players, and the visual of the unit being on fire was insufficient to communicate that it had, in fact, died.
The new system is much more straightforward: when a unit dies, it immediately explodes into a Scrap pile. And now, that Scrap pile becomes a Burning Wreck, and cannot be harvested until the fire has died down. Hopefully this change will go a long way to eliminating player confusion about the Burning Wreck system.
The next change is in response to the observations of the veteran players in the SCRAP community. They’d noted that harvesters are very high-value targets in the game: effectively, that harvesters and harvesting become the core aspect of the game. And while I do want the acquisition of resources to be important to SCRAP, I don’t want the game to be mono-maniacally focused on harvesting and gathering.
In a mirror move to the change I made to Creep Camps, I have changed how neutral buildings work (see above screenshot). In previous versions of the mod, when a building died it would explode into Scrap that then had to be harvested by workers. Now, approximately 40% of the value of the resources dropped by a neutral structure is in the form of Scrap pickups, which can be scooped up by any nearby ground unit. This means that an army out contesting the map is able to generate resources as well, sharing the burden with harvesters. This makes the game more about army manipulation, and reduces the importance of harvesters. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this impacts how players approach the game!
Alongside these changes, I have made the first minor expansion of my fledgling tips system. Almost every time a new player tries the game, they spend a couple of minutes fiddling around with the controls, often remarking that they have no idea what anything they’re looking at is, or does. So, I’ve found a way to gently guide them in the right direction.
First and foremost: when a player loads into a match now, their initial builder unit is automatically selected for them, and the Generator (central base structure) button starts flashing, indicating they should click on it. A number of tips (see below screenshot) are also generated as they build their initial structures, though I don’t think many players would stop to read them in-match.
I have a clear path laid out ahead of me. Or, rather, two paths that I am attempting to navigate at once. First, I am adding 8 units and 2 structures to each faction, representing the high-tier or high-powered units. Right now, SCRAP doesn’t have many unit options for an RTS, and many of the game’s more interesting mechanics (like Energy) will come into their full potential with the addition of the new units.
Secondly, I am working on implementing a slew of features for new players. The tips system is rapidly being expanded – I’m improving this system with virtually each patch. Also, I am implementing a dynamic single player to the game: if the game detects that one of the players is an AI, it will load the map with enemies that the player must defeat before the AI’s Data bar fills.
In the very short term, I am implementing a spectator mode in support of an upcoming tournament, and refining the map to make competitive games more interesting.
I’d be honored if you’d give SCRAP a try and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading.