Codename Battledroid

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?

That’s right.

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.

The Metagame

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.

Feedback

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.

 

32 thoughts on 'Codename Battledroid'

  1. This sounds so awesome! Can’t wait to play it. My only concern is that players who spend a huge amount of time online will have a big advantage over the ones with average times. But I guess that’s true for many online games.

    1. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, people who are time rich and money poor are going to have a certain sort of advantage in any game. We’re going to allow people who are money rich and time poor to at least get their fill of interesting stuff by paying for it.

    1. Alpha testing more like. We’re investigating all sorts of ways to get funded. Releasing playable alpha as soon as is feasible is something we’re keen on this time.

  2. Hi!
    I would love this kind of games, (I spent a LOT of tome on your previous games, a LOT). But I don’t like in app purchases. I would prefer to pay for the full versions of the game than knowing that I enjoy a unbalanced game that will frustrate me to have me pay more. I have something like 150 paid games on my phone and tablet, and none with IAP.
    Will there be a package to pay for the whole package to enjoy the game to it’s full potential?

    Yours,
    Guillaume.

    1. Well, here’s the thing. You’ll be able to buy a “Full Version” game which basically buys you a large pile of different battledroids at a special rate. The battledroids are basically tiny bits of DLC.

      But you won’t have to buy anything at all. You can just play the game strategically to have anything you want in it. The game will not be unbalanced in any way whether you’ve paid for interesting robots or not; all battledroids are rated for points value in an army.

      It’s basically like tabletop wargaming.

      1. Sounds good to me.

        I am glad that your games are available on Linux steam. Keep up the good work.

        Guillaume.

  3. i konw this is an mmo,
    but i simply must ask…

    CAN WE EXPECT A SINGLE PAYER COMPONENT…

    quality sp games are just too rare…need more of em

    1. Yes, you’ll be able to play offline on random maps against random armies of any size and complexity with battledroids that you’ve bought. You’ll also be able to play offline against any armies and territories you have encountered online.

      And we want to do a “tutorial” series of missions where you battle through increasingly complex armies. It all depends on how much money and time we have. A Kickstarter is possibly in the offing…

      1. what is the level of complexity we can expect from the game?? scale of 1 to 10
        1-childish casual gamer level and 10-ultra hardcore gamer level

        how many types of robots can we expect??

        is there a scoring system??

        thats for the questions…and now here are my suggestions…

        1. can we have a 4x(expand explore etc) type of campaign….where we give the robots very few instructions here and there…and they grow and expand on their own…this, along with some interactivity between bots should make for unpredictable scenarios ala dwarf fortress…
        on that note are u possibly willing to go along the RTS route on the single player component.. something like warhammer 40k series….
        i think with ur art style and gameplay, an rts-ish game would be really good….IF…u nail it right!!

        1. im sorry i forgot to mention the STRESS on “””RTS-””ISH”””””

          and some rpg elements would be cool….just saying..

          1. regarding free to play…. not an issue as such…
            but i would any day, always prefer normal games…

            i would suggest u properly think it out as free to play games are gradually but surely losing popularity….again “GRADUALLY”…

            1. You might think they are but I know that they’re not :) Besides we have all sorts of options open to us as to how to implement it.

          2. It’s going to be a 10 in depth but hopefully a 1 in user interface. The UI is the most critical part of the game – we have to make its depth accessible in a simple way.

            We’ll be constantly adding robots to each of the factions, and maybe making new factions every now and again. I’m hoping for ultimately hundreds of different sorts of robots. Just the basic robot hardware totals 840 different combinations, and that excludes the brains, of which there are currently 256 types. In theory that’s 215,040 different robots if we created one for every single possible parameter variation. And that excludes the special editions, where we have 128 different combinations of special abilities and no less than 14 completely arbitrary buffs/nerfs for every parameter of the droid’s stats… so there’s a pretty unlimited number of designs we can draw from, we’ll just need to do as many as we can and keep adding them!

            There isn’t a scoring system as such though while I was sat on the porcelain throne this morning I had a little think about naming individual robots, and collecting stats on how they performed in every successful battle they’ve been in (kills:deaths etc). That’d be fun for stats nerds :) And we can collect stats for individual accounts as well.

            What we won’t be doing is a 4X campaign of any sort. The world is the world – it’s there for the taking but you’re in command of when and where and there won’t be any getting away from that – that’s what the game is all about.

            We’re definitely not doing an RTS. Everyone else makes RTSes. We’re not going to.

  4. I have been a long-time fan of puppygames, there aren’t many developers (indie or AAA) who are willing to make games that do not assume their players are idiots and can’t handle actual difficulty in their games. That being said, whether it’s pay-to-win or pay-to-completely-enjoy-all-the-features, it’s something I am just not interested in. I hope that you guys do well and make enough money off your in-game fee system so that you guys can return to making games which I have no problem throwing money at. For now however, you’ve lost one customer (hopefully temporarily).

    See you next time,
    Mark P.

    1. Still seems to be a misunderstanding about this point: it is free. You can support us by buying a bit of DLC for it, or just playing it.

      1. Also we’re probably going to do a “$20 version” which unlocks all the robots for single-player play. That’d probably make everyone else happy.

  5. When you say designing the armies, do you also mean that we can customize the robots (visually, that is)? Are the battles only “you won, you lost” or do they also play out?

    1. You get to choose 2 colours for your robots. Everything else is specific to each exact type of robot – paintscheme, patterning, chassis, drive unit, etc. You get to specify exactly where each one starts in the battle, and you have a whole bunch of easily tweaked sliders and checkboxes to adjust the robot’s AI parameters.

      You play out the battles spectacularly in the client simulator, complete with explosions, zaps, particles galore, etc. When you think you’re certain to win, you submit your army to the server. It will either be rejected immediately (if someone else got in there first and won it), or it’ll be queued and played through at high speed on the server until it finds out who the victor is.

      1. Is there a penalty to losing as the attacker? If not I fear the best strategy may be just to spam the server with random armies as you’ll get lucky sometimes. With enough people doing that it’ll be pointless in finely crafting an army to a given situation as by the time you’ve worked it out you’ll have been beaten by a random spammer.

        1. There is no penalty for losing. Spamming is very unlikely to work as you can only queue one army against one territory at a time, and therefore you will likely squander the opportunity.

          There are clear advantages and disadvantages depending on which side you’re on:

          The defender gets to choose the territory they start out on (each unit they put down marks an exclusion zone around it preventing attackers from being placed there). They therefore get the best pick of the strategically best locations, for example behind cover in buildings. I also anticipate that the basic game will eventually include turrets, mines, and barricades, which the defender will make good use of. And finally the defence is likely to be declared the winner in the event that the attack has not succeeded after some arbitrary time limit (say, 5 minutes).

          The attacker gets to try many, many different combinations of army. They know exactly where the enemy is and what the enemy’s capabilities and programming is. They have time on their side.

          It’ll be really interesting to see how this evolves.

      2. Would you consider adding a notice that displays while you’re watching or prepping a battle to let you know the territory’s already been taken, so that a player doesn’t spend all that time only to find out someone else got to it 10 minutes ago? Then they would be able to keep watching the battle play out or just cancel and try another territory.

        1. Absolutely! You will be informed of territory changes in realtime and any that concern you will be immediately visible. If a territory you are currently simulating suddenly changes the simulation instantly becomes invalid; we’d stop the sim in that situation and tell you.

          I imagine in due course we’ll have features like “watch this territory” where you can stick markers on territories that do not directly concern you and be notified of events concerning them as well.

  6. Any information you can give us about what platforms or devices this game will be available on? I enjoyed playing them on PC, but will there be alternatives?

    Thanks.

    1. If we make a pile of money, I suppose we could make Android clients as well. Otherwise it’ll be initially for Windows, Mac and Linux as per, usual. Some web based administration tools and apps might make an appearance. It really all does just depend on whether it’s popular or not.

  7. *gets in line to be first for alpha* I’ll test for free! =D where do I click? *tap tap tap* I own your whole catalog; huge fan =) So glad to see you guys on Steam; kudos to the entire team on all your work.

  8. Between this and Mew-Genics, I think my gaming soul is sold for a few months… years…

  9. Hey Caspian,
    One Question, You said that the simulation gets run non visually, nut you also said that we got to see all the bangs and whizzes and crashes.
    Do we see the battles?
    Thanks Cas,

    Sam

    1. s’rite, that’s the whole point! You watch the simulation in realtime with all the fancy graphics and sound effects we can muster. The server doesn’t need to see all that, and runs the simulation at about 200x its normal speed to determine the outcome of the battle. Your risk is basically time versus probability: how long do you watch a battle for to determine whether it’s going to go in your favour before you submit it to the server, which then locks it and halts your visual sim whilst it’s verified.

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