So… work is underway on our new game. I’ve called it “Battledroid” for now (ahem), a name which may or may not stay. I quite like it. So by way of warning, there now follows a wall of text explaining everything.
What is Battledroid?
Battledroid is a massively multiplayer asynchronous online war fought over the blasted and war-torn landscapes of Earth in the not entirely distant future a few centuries from now. At war are various ultracorporations (whom we shall call “factions”), who vie for control of territory in order to boost their own manufacturing capabilities. Everybody who is sensible has left for more peaceful pastures in the rest of the Solar System, leaving the wars to be fought by giant armies of autonomous battledroids.
These battledroids are entirely autonomous; there aren’t any people nearby to tell them what to do. Once they’re placed, they do what they want to do. Mostly that’s destroying enemy battledroids.
The gameplay consists of designing armies of battledroids and simulating battles against existing deployed armies that already occupy a territory. Really big armies, with hundreds of battledroids on each side. The defender has the advantage of choosing the best strategical terrain; the attacker has the advantage of being able to change their army repeatedly to probe for weakness in the defence. Once an attacker is certain that a particular deployment will defeat the defending army for a particular territory, the army is actually deployed and the battle is fought (well, the simulation is verified as correct) and if the verification proves true then the attacker takes the territory from the defender, and has a certain amount of realtime in which to deploy a new defending army (it will otherwise default to the original attack plan). If the attack fails then the defender remains in position, unchanged.
The defender has the option of reconfiguring the standing the army in any territory they possess at any time; however the redeployment only goes live after a certain amount of time has elapsed, which means that attackers can still attack the previous defence for a certain time period.
You’ve probably got a furrowed crease across your brow at this point. So… you don’t actually control the robots?
The outcome of a battle depends entirely upon which combination of battledroids you have in your army, where you place them initially, and how you tweak their AI parameters (each robot’s parameters can be tweaked to make it behave in subtly different ways). A battle is absolutely, 100% deterministic and repeatable; given the definitions of two armies and the terrain, the battle will always play out in exactly the same way, and the same army will always win.
What you end up with is a game which involves you quickly trying to develop armies that will win against incumbent armies. You need to be quick at developing armies, because a) you’re not the only person trying to attack b) you’ve got to expand as fast as possible and c) your own territories are likewise going to be constantly under attack and you’re fighting a war of attrition. You need to become adept at recognising defensive patterns and what sort of offensive armies will defeat them faster; you may need to cut your simulated battles short if you’re certain you’ll win from that point onwards and submit them early to the verifier, and risk actually losing and wasting the time.
The game is therefore a bit of a mash up in style between the grand scale attacks of Revenge of the Titans, the close quarters blasting and destruction of Droid Assault, and the completely hands-off approach to wargaming in Cliffski’s Gratuitous Space Battles, all wrapped up in a huge metagame of warring factions and territorial conquests.
When you create a Batteldroid account, you’re creating an identity associated with a Faction. The Factions are basically the megacorporations that now rule the Earth; each Faction has access to a specific set of battledroids (the ones that they make), and there is a small subset of these droids which are available in limited numbers which can be used by anyone to build armies of any size, based on a “points value per unit”, like in traditional tabletop wargames.
Every other piece of territory you conquer will give you access to an extra unit of a specific type of droid which you will be able to include in any armies you attack with or place in defence (and which may or may not be associated with your faction). Furthermore, you will receive extra bonus droids from your faction depending on the total amount of territory you possess in their name; and also even more bonus droids depending on the size of your largest contiguous piece of territory. And there are even more bonuses based on your entire faction’s total territory holding and largest contiguous piece of territory. Each faction has its own lists of droids.
Because we’re making our game free-to-play, we can also encourage people to accelerate their acquisition of interesting or cool robots by crossing our palms with silver. Because the robots are points-valued like all other robots, you won’t be paying to win; but you will be paying to open more interesting strategies and use cooler weapons on your enemies. Some battledroids will only be available in this manner. Some will not be available for purchase for any amount of money. It’s a little bit like actually collecting lead miniatures in the aforementioned tabletop wargames we used to play when we had seemingly infinite time, space, and patience.
The exact way we work all this out has yet to be properly determined. We may abstract it all behind the notion of “gold” or somesuch.
Where Are We Up To?
Right now I’m at the latter stages of the first cut of the battle simulator verifier itself. This is completely nonvisual I’m afraid so there’s absolutely nothing to see. It will simply simulate battles as fast as it can without any graphics and say who won. We can attach it later to the graphics engine in the game client so you can actually watch the battles; otherwise, this bit is going to live on our servers.
Riven has just started work on terrain generation. We’ve got the entire of planet Earth to make terrain for to fight on so he’s more or less got a completely open specification about what sort of terrain you’ll be fighting over. I’m hoping for a very wide range of territories eventually, ranging all the way from polar through temperate forests, mountains, and jungle to deserts, from wild to urban, and outside, inside, and underground environments.
Chaz and Alli are still busy on Ultratron so there’s no graphics whatsoever done yet.
We’re planning to blog on progress every week until we reach the point where we run out of money, and then we’re going to come begging. This is our development diary.
We love getting feedback. If you’ve got any thoughts about what you’ve read so far, fire away. The only thought I’m not interested in hearing is, “Why can’t we control the robots like in a RTS?”. This is what the game is.