2019 update and way-ahead

I really need to start providing updates for my mod on more than a yearly basis. But… I guess that’s where I’ve been for the past 12-14 months or so. I guess we have a bit of catch up to do, don’t we?

This has been a big year for SCRAP in terms of mechanics. Both of the game’s factions got major mechanical overhauls, the game’s win condition was changed, the game got a new map, and I added a 1-player mode so that players can practice and learn the game against AI of varying difficulties. Oh, and I almost forgot: two wonderful artists provided concept art for several of the game’s units, which a phenomenal 3D modeler turned into actual models that are now in the game! That’s right, SCRAP has some custom unit models now. You’ll get to see them below.

And lastly, I’ll go into my plans for 2020, which include a tutorial/campaign and a possible third faction

Fabricators

The first big change I want to talk about is the ground-up redesign of the Fabricator’s faction. Last year, I did this with the Dendrites, who had a lot of units that players just didn’t use. With the Fabricators, the issue was different. From the beginning, I had planned for the Fabricator unit to be a single choke point through which players had to funnel all of their actions. Fabricators built every building, trained every unit, and had almost ALL of the faction’s special abilities.

Players didn’t like that. And, more importantly (sorry players!) it was a balance nightmare. The Fabricator was required in fights, which meant that unless Fabricator players moved their army around in a giant deathball, they were just going to lose. And that wasn’t fun for anyone. Also, a core of my design philosophy for RTS is that you should always have stuff happening in multiple areas of the map, which requires you to have a presence all over the map to be successful. And Fabricators just couldn’t do that.

So, we come to our redesign. Now, the Fabricator does a lot less than it used to. The only building it produces now is the Construction Hub, which is the new core structure for Fabricator faction bases. ConHubs, as I like to call them, do all of the primary construction work for the faction, which frees up the Fabricator to roam the map and not have to constantly stop what it’s doing to advance down the tech tree. It was like a mechanical sigh of relief, an opened up what used to be a major choke point in game flow.

Additionally, there are now 3 units that can train units. The Fabricator itself is still a mobile unit factory, but it passes off 2 of its key units to new subordinates: the Foreman and the Demolition Rig.

Foreman

There used to be a unit called the Relay, and it was kind of stupid.

Sorry past me, the Foreman is a lot better. Relays had 2 different buffs: one that increased move speed, and one that decreased incoming damage for units. Players just stuck 2 of them with their army, and that was that. There was no real thinking behind it: either you knew what you were doing, and had those advantages, or you didn’t know, and you lost out. Ah well, lesson learned.

The Foreman is very different. For one thing, it takes some of the pressure off of it’s momma Fabricator:

  • Foremen are now the drop-off point for resources. Initially, this was also a part of the Fabricator’s job, and it made things messy with worker management. Things are much cleaner now
  • Foremen train workers. This allows players to set up multiple independent harvesting/raiding teams much more easily than before.
  • Foremen heal. This provides a better system for mobile healing, and introduces tactical utility to this otherwise resource-focused unit.
  • Foremen build turrets. They can also Build ConHubs
  • Overall, Foremen and Scrappers have much better synergy and present a cohesive and interesting pairing for harvesting and skirmishing against ground targets than the old system. I’m quite excited by how it works now

The Demolition Rig

There was a unit called the Recycler, and it was actually pretty cool if you can trust me as a biased source. The unit that replaces it, however, is much, much cooler. And it’s also more thematic, which is a big plus.

Recyclers were support casters: they dropped land mines, built turrets, healed nearby units, and well, basically they were a lot like Foreman. But, when it made sense to re-purpose the faction a bit, I had some pieces left over. Namely? Minelaying, recycling, and a big ol’ gap in the Fabricator faction’s ability to quickly tear down enemy structures.

And from there the Demo Rig was a shoo-in.

Demo Rigs are a new support unit that’s very in keeping with the philosophy of the Fabricator faction: they’re heavy, they’re slow, and they’re delightfully stompy. They have also taken on the responsibility for training the Fabricator’s glass-cannon damage specialist, the Excavator (which used to be called the Junkslinger)

With the implementation of the ConHub, the Foreman, and the Demolition Rig, the Fabricator faction works a whole lot better and makes a lot more sense to play. They now can put pressure on multiple areas of the map while still maintaining their on-the-go philosophy for unit production, and have less of a binary divide between dominating and being utterly crushed.

Map redo!

I’ll admit, the last map looked a sight better than this one. I’m still not done tinkering with the new map, so I haven’t done a Doodad pass to make it look more like an actual place. I really kind of prefer representational map design in RTS, even with more symmetrical battlegrounds.

Designing a map around factions with mobile production and no real concept of a ‘home base’ is, as it turns out, a little harder than I’d initially thought. In the previous map, players had the feeling of running around a circle, which was unsatisfying and not what I’d intended.

The new map has more of a web-like layout, with each base location accessible from a variety of directions. There’s still more of a left/right (or top/bottom, depending on player choices) split than I want, but players are definitely more free to pursue a variety of paths around the map and I think I’m heading in a good direction overall.

Victory!

The original win condition worked like this: each player gained victory points (called Data) for each base they controlled. Each player was constantly moving towards victory, at a rate dependent on their # of VPs. It was entirely possible to just turtle up (or run from your opponent) and wait them out, and matches often ended in the middle of battles or other anticlimactic ways.

The new win condition is still a work in progress, but is now SLIGHTLY better than it was. Now. whoever owns the fewest bases loses VPs at a rate dependent on how many more bases their opponent owns. If players own the same number of bases, nobody loses VPs. This way, players have more control over the rate at which their opponent moves toward defeat.

Additionally, there are ways to gain back lost VPs. Killing some units and structures nets you additional VPs, which lets you stave off defeat to catch back up to your enemy. I plan on introducing more of a “VP economy” this next year.

Into the Future

I’m not done yet! There’s still a lot to do. This year, my biggest goal is to build a 1-3 mission campaign for SCRAP which introduces players to some of the basics of gameplay.

On top of that, I’m VERY close to finishing the core content: I have 2 units left, and one upgrade, before the current content is feature-complete. There are a couple of things I’m planning on fixing up (like a resurrection ability for one faction, that currently doesn’t work very predictably).

Last but not least, there might be a new faction on the way. They’re currently called The Locusts, and they’re going to be as different to the existing factions as those factions are from one another. Locust players will have to manage up to 4 Swarmships, which train units, but only when attached to a base location. Mobile, Swarmships will be devilish attack vessels that can be individually customized in a variety of configurations. Bases not hosting a Swarmship can be secured with a Beacon. Beacons will be very easy to kill, and not able to do nearly the amount of things that a deployed Swarmship is capable of.

But, more on those guys in the following months.

Looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks!

3 thoughts on “2019 update and way-ahead

  1. Interesting.
    I have to say, I liked the idea of the relay having two different auras, but I can see how having multiple unit builders is in line with your goal of multiple points of interest. Though I wonder; would’ve it been possible to rework the relay’s buffs so that they stacked, but it was too much of a hassle to have four of them with every army?
    For some reason I’d really like to see Dendrite matches especially using the nanotech branch. I just like the idea of free units, especially with all the synergy you’ve put into them. Do shock drones still speed up resource collection, cause that was a great idea.
    I’m really excited for the third faction. Part of it is because I like biological forces and part of it is because I’m excited for what mechanics you could put in. With the dendrites being swarmy, I wonder if you could make the Locust feel reasonably tough, but still biological? Maybe they get bonuses from healing, like the fabricator tech. I’ve thought that, since numerical armor is better against low damage high rof attacks, and health is proportional, maybe there would be a way to make healing good against low rof high damage attacks. Also, I’ve liked the idea of upgradable goo spreaders, like creep. I know you want the players to be moving back and forth from base to battlefield, but maybe you could repurpose it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your interest in SCRAP!

      That’s actually how the auras worked initially: The Relay had a move speed aura and a defense aura. Up to 2 Relays could provide a stacking bonus to the Aura they were generating (e.g. units could get 2 stacking move speed bonuses and 2 stacking defense bonuses). The idea was that the interest in these auras lay not in the auras themselves, but in the requirement that your popcap-generating unit was with your army and was therefore vulnerable. I think it was a good idea in theory but in practice it didn’t lead to very many interesting choices or situations in the context of the gameplay.

      Foremen, who replaced the Relay, have a heal aura and can place turrets and train units. These abilities lead to a lot more strategic flexibility, since they act like mobile self-reinforcing ‘bases’ and allow Fabricator armies to split up into multiple component parts that are able to function without their parent Fabricator present.

      Shock Drones no longer speed up the mining rate of Receptors (used to be called Reclaimers). It was interesting (up to 3 Shock Drones could be used to speed up Reclaimer speed) but very hard to teach players. Now, Shock Drones are a higher tier unit than they used to be and it would be more of a late-game thing than something useful as a strategic consideration at any stage of the game.

      I was inspired in part by the Harvester/Carryall dynamic from the Dune games: You can use harvesters without Carryalls, but Carryalls greatly reduce travel time to improve income rate. So you can harass Carryalls and/or harvesters as different parts of your opponents’ resource system

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  2. The idea of having multiple base building/ drop off units definitely fits with your goals better.
    As for the shock drone/ concussors, perhaps there would be a way (now that you have a modeler) to establish some sort of look that indicates they’re useful in the economy. Kind of like how tiberium using units have bright green crystals on them. The idea of combining economic and combat functions into a single unit really seems in line with this project, and (if I’m honest) I’d like to see some economic complexity. Though with all the combat abilities, silencing, tech paths and multiple bases, it might be a little much.
    Related to the Locust, one idea I’ve had is how to get an rts style total war going, but make it somewhat of a misunderstanding, is to play up the different biologies of the humans and insectoid aliens. If all the aliens’ stuff is organic, then they might be confused about the difference between a robot and a human. Taking apart the first would probably be seen as an interesting example of how smart and curious the wildlife are, while the latter… less so. That or the aliens try to heal a sick human, but, due to us not having super biology it all goes down the tubes.
    Have you heard of Age of Wonders Planetfall? Its a turn based strategy game with turn based tactical battles, and one of the factions are spittle dripping psionic bugs. Only, according to the lore, they were enslaved by the former human government and their hivemind was destroyed; now that said government has fallen, they have techs related to either beating the crap out of the other (human) factions, or reconciling with them. I think it’s real standout lore that takes a familiar trope and changes it.

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