I started messing around with unit design a few weeks ago. At this time, the only unit we had locked in was the first capital class unit, the Amoeba. The time to start coding our first combat units was fast approaching so after several unit/combat mechanic designs, I mashed together some ideas to create the first 3 combat units and the first playable race, the Freshwater Eukaryotes:
There were 3 main factors which drove design decisions:
Simple to Implement
At the moment, getting Deepfield out there is our top priority, however, this doesn’t mean we take shortcuts or make decisions which impact the quality of the game. Our goal is to optimise the time to alpha testing, we can do this by implementing simpler units first.
Some of the initial unit designs had mechanics which involved the physics engine, for example, a tether which would join two units together so that they could pull on each other. Mechanics which involved many other systems or complex ones were discarded as options.
Units which were hard to test and/or had a chance to be buggy were also discarded as options; example, units with mind control mechanics.
Unique and Useful
It would be easier and faster to implement different variations of the same ranged or melee unit, however, this would most likely lead to boring and repetitive units. If there are several units which do the same thing, why bother with the weaker versions?
Every unit in Deepfield should be useful in it’s own way. Hopefully this opens up a variety of strategies to the player, this means more depth in the combat and unit systems; something we believe a fun to play RTS should have.
There is a catch here though. The more unique the units get and the more units there are, the harder the game is to balance. That’s fine for now, problem for the future!
Balanced for Mirror Match Up
Speaking about balance, a lot of the initial rounds of testing will only involve one race. If players are all going to be using the same race, it must be somewhat balanced for a mirror match up. We think the easiest way to do this is to have the first few units “rock, paper, scissors” with each other.
With these 3 combat units, the Actino is rock, Toko is scissors and Fronto is paper. The Actino has physical damage reflect which punishes the fragile but fast hitting tentacles which the Toko has. Those fast hitting, alkaline tentacles are great at taking down the tanky Fronto which needs to get in range before it can consume a unit, the Fronto is also weak to alkaline attacks. Lastly, the Fronto will consume an Actino before it even has a chance to do damage since they’re both melee ranged, the Acino is susceptible to acidic damage so it will be digested quickly.
All of the units are based on real organisms which can be found in freshwater lakes and rivers, just like the Amoeba. As you can imagine, it wasn’t too hard coming up with the name “Freshwater Eukaryotes”.
The Freshwater Eukaryotes will probably be the only race representing Earth biology. We want to give ourselves as much freedom as possible coming up with interesting unit mechanics without straying too far from reality (I laugh as I write this because it doesn’t make much sense), so yes, there will probably be a race (or two) of alien micro organisms coming in the future!
Development wise, we’re more than half way through implementing the units. Once we they’re done, 0.2.0 release will be just around the corner which means we’re close to our first play testing session; MUCH EXCITE!