It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I tend to work in cycles, I guess, writing for a while then switching to working on game design projects, with a smattering of actually playing games in between these things. I’m attempting to improve on that, but the frustrating truth of the matter is that I’m not as consistent with any of these things as I like to be.
That being said, for the past month or so I’ve been hard at work trying to get SCRAP feature complete. And along those lines, I’ve completed another minor milestone: 2 more units are in the game. These units are high-tier, some of the latest units that can be unlocked for use. SCRAP, however, doesn’t quite work like most RTS when it comes to high tier units.
Since my last update, I’ve actually released a number of patches, so this will attempt to hit some of the other content I’ve added while focusing on the latest patch.
High Level – Core Changes
SCRAP is intended to be a low-resource game, but some of the changes in December made it so that the Scrap resource was too common. Players and I also determined that the Energy resource was too plentiful, so I made a number of changes to those systems.
First, Power Nodes transfer energy far more slowly: units only gain energy once a second now, which means that units’ energy is recharged far more slowly than it used to be. Also, more units require energy now than did previously, so Energy itself feels more scarce than it was before.
I also reduced the amount of extant on-map Scrap resource, changing the balance of harvesting. Now, armies can go out and kill neutral structures for a quick Scrap infusion, with harvester units taking more of a backseat role providing a consistent trickle of income over time. Some players from testing done earlier this year prefer to focus on killing buildings first to get a quick economic boost from Scrap pickups, providing players a new strategy in the early game.
A new unit/objective has been added: the Mobile Battery. These units are like mobile Power Nodes, gaining Energy over time to share to allies. They’re neutral units placed around the map, and when killed, will respawn under the control of the player who killed them. Also, they have Energy Armor, which means that while they have energy, damage is directed towards that instead of at their health.
Mobile Batteries have a number of uses and implications which it might be a little overly boring to go into here. But, in short:
- They can be used to go back to a friendly base, suck up the energy from it and return to combat to recharge units without retreating your army
- Enemy Mobile Batteries can be harassed by anti-air units – attacking the Mobile Battery reduced the amount of Energy it has to provide to allies
- Mobile Batteries drop Data (the game’s victory resource) when they’re killed by a player who’s not the owner (this is to avoid abuse by ‘farming’ data from a friendly Mobile Battery). This means that killing your opponent’s Mobile Batteries gives you control over the unit and provides a little bump towards winning the match.
I’ve increased the health of units and buildings substantially: approximately 25% across the board. This is to make the game feel more tactical, more WarCraft 3-esque than StarCraft-esque. I want units to live longer in general, to allow players more time to attempt to retreat from combat, or recycle units that are about to die, et cetera. This is an ongoing process, as the latest patch notes will demonstrate.
When units die, they turn into a Burning Wreck, which will decay into Scrap resource after a fixed time. While burning however, the resources are not harvestable (though you can still attack them if you don’t want your enemies to get them). Until recently, the Burning Wreck effect lasted for about 2 minutes. My community told me this was too long, that games tend to not last long enough for this timer to make sense. As a result, the Burning Wreck effect now only lasts 45 seconds.
The Dendrites faction has had a fairly substantial rework since the last patch. Almost no one could be persuaded to use a summoned, temporary unit I’d had in the original game: the Current. Assemblers (the unit in the faction that transforms into all buildings and all units) could summon batches of Currents, which always were either way too strong or way too weak. Regardless, Current were the least-used unit in the game, and I wanted to address that.
Additionally, the Harbinger unit was intended to be a harassment tool: cheap, fast anti-ground fighters, the Harbinger has one of the best damage-per-cost ratios in the game, but they were seen as virtually useless by most Dendrites players and hardly ever gotten (there was a time when they were the primary tool of Dendrites players, but balancing them, as with Currents, felt like a seesaw between them being absolutely useless and hilariously overpowered)
In pursuit of balancing and redirecting the use of these units, I introduced a new unit: the Drone Controller. These flying units spend Energy and Resources to produce a constant trickle of either Harbingers or Shock Drones (the Current got renamed) – it’s like the Protoss Carrier from StarCraft, only it’s a tier 1 unit and can pick what minor units it summons. Many core players are still skeptical/not inclined to make use of the tool, but I feel it’s a very positive direction for the faction as a whole and future balancing efforts will be directed towards the Drone Controller as the method for managing cannon fodder type units.
The Concussor, the Dendrites faction’s front line combatant, has also been tweaked slightly. In its initial incarnation, the Current exploded upon death, dealing Energy and HP damage to enemy units. This was… hard to balance, and didn’t suit the new Shock Drone unit. So, I kept the idea, but transferred it to the Concussor. These units now do the same damage they did before, but are faster, slightly more fragile in comparison to other units than before, they’re smaller – allowing them to bunch up better – and now explode upon death, dealing damage to enemies in an “f you!” which makes them dangerous alive or dead. Testing hasn’t concluded whether they’re in a good place or not, but I’m hopeful.
- Drone Controller changes:
- They now produce 1 additional Shock Drone or 1 additional Harbinger Drone.
- The Drone Controller is a work in progress. Switching to this unit from the previous model was a big change for the game, and getting their stats pinned down has been a process of refining.
- Drone Controllers can control Drones from a longer range, making them less likely to be directly involved in combat
- Shock Drones now attack every 2 seconds (from every 2.5)
- Testing has shown that Dendrite DPS was overall too low. This, coupled with low usage rates of Drone Controllers, led me to add a bit more oomph to their units
- Assembler changes:
- Assemblers now cost 200 (from 210) and have 380 HP (from 350). The Assembler is one of the key units for this faction, and having them be too expensive or too easy to kill can really hurt a Dendrite player in terms of pacing and frustration
- Assembler Arc Field now properly hits 5 targets (up from 3). Arc Field now does 20 damage per hit (up from 15) – Arc Field is a little used ability, and I’m trying to make it more attractive. Also, as air units become more common, Dendrites need more Anti-Air options besides Needlers. Groups of Assemblers can be a good deterrent to air units in a pinch.
- New unit: the Vesper. A crowd control artillery that silences enemy units and deals moderate DPS over a moderate area
- The Vesper is the new unit I’m most excited about. It’s cloaked unless moving (even while attacking) and silences enemies much like the Fabricator’s Censor unit.
- The Vesper is fragile, meaning its stealth is an important defense, but the big seller for this unit is the silence. As it attacks, the silence duration is increased, meaning even after the Vesper retreats its effects can linger.
- Also, Vespers consume stacks of the Dampener debuff to deal bonus damage. Many Dendrites units can provide stacks of this debuff: the Suppressor unit, the Dampener Core structure, even Imbuers can be upgraded to provide this aura. While the Vesper means you won’t see the effects of Dampener be as consistent (it decreases enemy move and attack speed, and can be upgraded to also reduce enemy attack damage) the damage can really add up if you consistently apply Dampener stacks, and Vespers empowered this way can melt bunched up enemy troops
- Needlers now have 13 range (from 14)
- The Needler is the core unit in many Dendrite compositions and I’m trying to make it less of a ‘no duh’ unit to make and use.
- Suppressors now cost 3 popcap (from 4)
- This was a part of an effort to make Dendrite compositions feel easier to make. Aside from their ability to apply Dampener to their attack target and other nearby units, they do decent DPS from a good range.
The Fabricators have taken a back-seat to the Dendrites in player estimation for a long time now, and I’ve been attempting to address that by making their army more up-front dangerous, forcing the Dendrites to actually make use of their faction’s abilities to gain the edge on Fabricator armies.
Additionally, most players feel that the only viable way to play Fabricators is to ‘death ball’ which is precisely what I don’t want to have happen. Therefore, I’ve done a number of stats tweaks on Fabricator faction units to make them individually more intimidating:
- The Censor unit is useful: it stops almost every other unit and structure in the game from being able to apply abilities, buffs, debuffs, etc. It stops harvesters from harvesting, turns off the passive effects of buildings, and can generally make a nuisance of itself. It’s also a detector unit, important vs Fabricators to detect their explosive charges before your army walks across a field of them and sustains massive damage. But players weren’t using them, because they were easy to kill, and their effect ended upon their death. So, I gave them a new ability where they EMPed nearby enemy units when they die, persisting their silence effect after their death for a handful of seconds.
- It was determined that, without a Fabricator around to tip the scales, Fabricator armies just didn’t have the oomph to take out comparable Dendrite forces. So, I severely increased the HP of Fabricators across the board, which should increase the parity of armies that meet without the actual Fabricator unit there to tip the scales. You’ll see some of that in the current patch.
- The Absorber, which I mentioned in my previous patch notes, has had its ability reversed. Initially, it had a force field, and did bonus damage when the shield was dropped/the unit had taken enough damage to get rid of the force field. I changed this to giving it energy, and having it do bonus damage, and move faster, while it still has energy. This provides incentives for enemies to attack Absorbers (the previous incarnation made them more dangerous when attacked, which meant that they weren’t able to properly function as damage soaks because it was better to leave them until glass cannon type units had been dealt with) and also makes the game’s mechanics more consistent – Absorbers have Energy Armor, which means they take damage to their Energy pool when attacked.
- Version 1 of the Tips system is in the game. This should help acclimate new players to some of the game’s systems.
- I’m hoping this will help acclimate new players into the game. Now, when players launch into the game, on-screen tips will tell them about each unit and system, one at a time, as well as issuing objectives for the player. It’s all able to be ignored and bypassed, but I’m hoping that it’s helpful to new players who might otherwise play and be overwhelmed or confused by what’s going on.
- More tips will be coming in the future, and current tips only work for the Fabricators faction
- If you don’t want tips, set “I don’t want tips” in the dropdown before the match starts.
- New unit: The Flechette. This is a hit-and-run burst damage specialist. You need a Scrap Foundry to build them
- The Flechette is a single-target damage specialist. A flying hit and run attacker purpose built to get in, blow something up, then get out.
- Flechettes slowly build up a stockpile of Flechette Missiles within themselves over time, and release their entire magazine on nearby enemy units all at once, taking a long time to reload. They can build, and release, missiles one at a time, but their over-time DPS is insignificant compared to their burst damage. Additionally, each missile costs Energy to build, and when the Flechette is out of Energy it moves much more slowly.
- One Flechette can deal decent damage to a unit, but they work better in packs of 3-4, though you have to pay a lot of Energy and sacrifice consistent DPS to be able to use large groups of them.
- I see the Flechette used in groups to pick off key units or buildings, then retreat to recharge.
- Flechettes are created by building, then upgrading, a Censor
- Unit survivability increases
- Absorbers now have 680 health (from 580)
- Recyclers now have 740 health (from 575)
- Switchers now have 525 health (from 365)
- Scrappers now have 350 health (from 325)