Mechanical Parity in Remnants Faction Design

One thing that I tend to take issue with in RTS design is the concept of the “easy” or “beginner” faction, or when factions have drastically different requirements in terms of mechanical complexity or demand. Ideally, for balanced multiplayer, all players would be taking roughly the same amount of actions over the course of a match regardless of what faction they’re playing.

In many games, though, this doesn’t quite work out. For a very long time in StarCraft 2, the common wisdom was that Zerg players had to have a higher APM (roughly around 30% increase over the average for a player’s skill level) to compete successfully in the game. This was mostly driven by the Zerg’s batch production mechanic and the Inject Larva ability of the Zerg Queen, as well as the Creep mechanic, which requires players to place large numbers of Creep Tumors to spread the unique Zerg terrain around the map.

Whether this is a fair assessment or not, I have long felt that the Brotherhood of Nod in C&C 3 is in a similar position, with their units requiring more micromanagement, and benefiting more from it, than GDI or Scrin units in general, making the Brotherhood of Nod more of an ‘advanced’ or skill based faction than the other two in the game. However, I’m not a Nod player and I may be oversimplifying the mechanics of the other two factions with this assessment. Please, feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m way off here.

One growing concern I’ve had as I’ve worked on Remnants is the relative complexity of the Constructors and Dendrites factions. Both factions have a similar number of structures (Dendrites have 1 more structure) and upgrades (Constructors have 3 more upgrades), though due to the consolidated nature of the Constructor’s economic model and unit production model, the Dendrites have a much larger number of moving parts.

For Constructors, all unit and structure production, as well as resource drop-off and much of the faction’s area damage, is passed through the medium of the Constructor itself. This is meant to be a disadvantage of the faction: every thing the Constructor does is an opportunity cost. Fighting alongside its army? That means that resource harvesting will take longer as Scrappers have to trail from Scrap deposits up to the front lines in order to drop off resources. Building a structure? Well, then the Constructor can’t be off supporting its army with AoE nastiness.

But it seems that this is also an advantage: an APM advantage. Dendrites have to build Assemblers to build structures, and Imbuers to build units, both of which are consumed in the process. They also have a higher population cap, which means they’ll have more units running around in the mid to late game. Both of these are intended to be advantages: the Dendrites can build multiple structures at once, and upgrade their army into more possible units, but this comes at a cost of mechanical demand, e.g. the player has more things to manage and must spend more time managing them.

I’ve been stuck on this problem for a while, and I think I’ve finally come across a decent solution.

For a long time now I’ve planned to forgo the StarCraft/WarCraft convention of “farm” or “house” structures that must be built to increase the population capacity of the race or faction. Each player was simply going to start with the full capacity of their race unlocked, and would be constrained by resources only as they expanded their economy and army size.

For now, at least, I’m backing off on this for the Constructor faction. Now, the Constructors are going to get an Overlord type unit which I’m tentatively calling the Relay. This unit will increase the population cap of the Constructors, additionally having tactical use by providing auras to friendly units. This will increase the mechanical burden of the Constructors slightly and will hopefully work to balance out their economic complexity/burden relative to the Dendrites. It also has the added bonus of providing the Constructors with more status effects.

Thanks for reading! I’m still working on polishing the Power system for the game and building out the unit designs I mentioned in previous articles but I hope to have something playable with tier 1 units, upgrades, and structures by the new year. This, of course, depends on my available time to work on the mod, and the technical challenges I encounter on the way.

I very much look forward to getting Remnants out there and getting feedback on the early stages of gameplay. In the meantime, if you haven’t, consider downloading the free StarCraft 2 ‘Starter Edition’ which gives you access to multiplayer and the Arcade 🙂

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