Just as the Fabricators are the aberrant detritus of advanced construction methods, the Dendrites are remnants of high-technology networking protocols – a physical and logical worm infecting the processors and hardware of broken-down machinery. A distributed tapeworm growing in the corpses of dead and dying planets.
While Fabricators tend to break off from decaying networks and hide, building and programming their own little fiefdoms, Dendrites are essentially the diametric opposite, finding some degree of consciousness in the consensus of hundreds of networked processors. All Dendrite colonies are centered around one or more Axons. An Axon a machine given the burden of processing for the consensus mind of the colony. An Axon is more slave than Overmind, being forced to do the drudge work of helping keep in order the collective thoughts of the distributed Dendrite organism. Axons, too, are replaceable: if destroyed, their processing tasks can be handled by other Dendrites until new Axons can be brought online.
If there is a true heart to the Dendrite collective it is the Imbuer, specialized equipment designed primarily to interface with and usurp machine AI to add other rogue mechanicals to the consensus of their colony. Equipped with an array of manipulator limbs and other interface equipment, the most direct method of control is often for the Dendrite Imbuer to attach to an existing mechanical and either reprogram it to accept instructions from its colony or to simply excise the machine’s processing system and replace it wholesale.
In terms of visual design, I plan for the Dendrites to look somewhat reminiscent of the Machines in the Matrix movies: all tendrils, pincers, black metal restless motion and spidery limbs. Dendrites are more numerous and fragile than their Fabricatos counterparts, more focused on subversion and dominance than the survival of individual members/units.
Gameplay as a Dendrite will focus on preserving and upgrading the Axon, which is less mobile than the Fabricator and has no weapons of its own. However, the nature of the distributed system means that the Dendrite consciousness is harder to kill.
- Imbuers are special-purpose Dendrites tasked with bringing new machines into the consensus. They serve as the host and manufacturer of a nanite swarm that is able to reprogram and re-configure a wide variety of civilian and municipal machines and computer equipment to suit Dendrite needs – they’re able to ‘convert’ enemies. Imbuers can be upgraded with a variety of auras and abilities that are valuable to Dendrite combat operations. Imbuers are highly specialized equipment, and deemed vital to the Dendrite cause. The loss of an Imbuer is a major setback to Dendrite operations.
- Assemblers are general purpose construction machines, that serve as mobile manufacturing for roving Dendrite swarms. Assemblers are not factories in a traditional sense, and reconfigure their own components to perform specialized functions. That is, Assemblers physically assemble themselves into Dendrite units or structures. Thus, the Assembler is the literal building block upon which Dendrite-driven tech is built.
- Drone Controllers are highly versatile units responsible for handling the minute-by-minute operatiosn of the Dendrites’ plentiful but weak manufactured drone units. They can switch between the production of Shock Drones and Harbinger Drones, allowing a large percentage of the Dendrite army to shift purpose at relatively short notice. However, if a Drone Controller is killed, all of its associated Drones immediately die as well, and Drones cost Energy to build, meaning that to be assured of continuous production, a Drone Controller has to be fed a stream of Energy.
- The Receptor is the harvester unit for the Dendrites. They do not need to drop off resources at a storage facility, and simply harvest continually in-place. Upgrades can allow them to attack enemy units and move more quickly. Receptors have little tactical value and are mostly a liability that must be defended. However, Receptors do have the ability to temporarily scramble the electronics of attacking units, rendering them disabled for a brief period. It’s scarcely enough to defend itself, but this System Scrambler synergizes well with many other Dendrite units and abilities.
Dendrites Units – Tier 2
- Concussors are the soldier ants of a Dendrite hive. They use sonic shockwaves to shake apart enemies. The generators used to emit these concussive blasts are Energy-intensive, and a Concussor’s damage decreases as its Energy is spent.
- Needlers are a specialized Dendrite anti-armor unit. They are slow and fragile, but have incredible attack range and do tremendous damage to hardened targets. They are also the primary anti-air unit in the Dendrite’s arsenal.
- Shock Drones are the first available Drone unit to Drone Controllers. While low, their HP and damage are phenomenal for their cost, and they make an excellent damage sink. Shock Drones are also virtually immune to damage from electric-based weapons like the Absorber’s Cascade Inhibitor. Shock Drones explode upon death, dealing damage to the health and Energy of enemy units.
- Harbinger Drones are a combined scout and harassment unit produced by Drone Controllers. They have a fast fire rate, making swarms of Harbingers deadly, but they do so little damage per shot that hardened targets can shrug them off with relative ease. Harbingers can only attack ground targets.
- Axon: the core of any Dendrite colony, Axons are responsible for producing Assemblers, which in turn produce all Dendrite units. Axons also get benefits from the buildings built next to them, and gain abilities such as Recycling allied units, Scanner Sweeps that reveal areas of the map, and the ability to generate shielding for nearby allies.
- Consensus Buffer: this building is required for all other Dendrite structures to be built, and as such is a critical lynchpin in the Dendrite economy. It allows its attached Axon to produce Assemblers more quickly, and contains a variety of core upgrades for Dendrite colonies
- Consensus Repeater: this building allows the high tech Imbuer to be built and allows players to specialize their Imbuers in a conversion or a support role. Consensus Repeaters allow limited Energy generation for Drone Controllers
- Recycling Center: This building allows its attached Axon to Recycle allied units and structures from anywhere on the map. It also unlocks the Needler unit, and contains economic upgrades for the Dendrites
- Surveillance Circut: This buildings allows its attached Axon to Scanner Sweep anywhere on the map. It allows Drone Controllers to build Harbinger Drones, and contains utility upgrades for Dendrites
- Tier 3
- Quantum Core: this structure allows all Axons on the map to emit the Warden Effect, putting personal shields on all non-Drone Dendrite units. It contains Quantum tech upgrades and units, specializing on combat control and disruption abilities
- Nanotech Core: this structure provides all Axons with the ability to maintain a fleet of Drones. It contains Nanotech upgrades and units, specializing in combat support and sheer numbers of units.
- The Dampener Core generates the Dampener Aura, which reduces enemy move and attack speed. The Dampener Aura stacks multiple times on enemy units, and can be upgraded to reduce attack damage as well
- The Defender Core maintains a fleet of Shock Drones and can be upgraded to also deal continuous splash damage to enemies
- The Warden Core generates the Warden Effect, which provides personal shields to non-Drone Dendrite units, and allows them limited regeneration over time.
Tier 3 Units – Nanotech
Nanotech armies are the largest in the game, and this tech branch emphasizes army support as well. Vulnerable to splash damage and Energy theft, Nanotech can deal tremendous damage if left unchecked.
- The Shepherd is a support unit for the Dendrites faction. It speeds up Drone production for allied units, boosts Drone attack speed, and itself deals additional damage depending on the number of nearby allied Shock Drones.
- Glial Drones are an additional Drone type for Drone Controllers, that can be built alongside other Drones. They are able to heal any unit which has been buffed by the Warden Effect, and can damage enemy units who have Energy while stealing Energy to supply to allies.
- The Peacekeeper is the Dendrite’s ultimate weapon on the Nanotech branch. Peacekeepers simply prevent nearby enemy units from attacking entirely (but not from using abilities or other passive effects). Additionally, the Peacekeeper can stun enemy units to set them up to be converted by Imbuers. Peacekeepers have no Energy and cannot be silenced or converted; you just have to keep out of their effect’s range.
Tier 3 Units – Quantum
Quantum Dendrites focus on limiting their opponent’s ability to fight back: reducing the effectiveness of enemy forces and setting them up for conversion or elimination. Quantum struggles to do high-powered DPS, and if caught unawares can be decimated before their potency ramps up sufficiently.
- The Suppressor is a flying support unit. Its attacks apply the Dampener Effect on its attack target and other nearby units. the Dampener Effect is a debuff that stacks on enemy units, reducing their attack speed and movement speed over time, and which can be upgraded to reduce their attack damage as well. Suppressors are useful in tipping combat encounters in the favor of Dendrite armies.
- Vespers are flying area control units for the Dendrites faction. They use Energy to attack, dealing moderate damage in a wide area. Their attack silences enemy targets, and removes stacks of the Dampener debuff in order to deal bonus damage. Vespers are fragile, but are stealthed while immobile.
- Terminals are Energy-dependent zone-control units that require considerable set-up time. Terminals build and care for installations of powerful defensive turrets, which take considerable time to build and die if the Terminal moves too far from them. Additionally, the Terminal steals Energy from enemy units and uses its Energy to boost the attack speed of its turrets. The Terminal itself deals no damage – its attack simply drains Energy from nearby enemies in a small area