Wayward Strategist

Some thoughts about the power system in Remnants

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One of my primary goals in designing my first StarCraft 2 mod, currently operating under the name ‘Remnants‘ is to encourage players to maintain an awareness and force presence in multiple areas of the map. And while I am working on implementing a variety of methods for encouraging this behavior, one of the primary systems for this is how I’m planning to implement my secondary ‘Power’ or Energy resource.

Many units in the mod will have Energy reserves: a higher percentage than what you see in StarCraft. Many of these units use Energy as a form of ammunition, and have various bonuses that either decrease as they expend Energy, or are removed once Energy is depleted. For instance, the Constructors’ Junkslinger unit loses energy with each attack, and when their remaining Energy is below the cost of a single attack, their range and attack rate are reduced. Junkslingers, therefore, do not become useless when their ‘ammunition’ is depleted, but do less damage and are significantly harder to keep safe. As another example, the Dendrite’s Concussor unit has an area attack, whose damage decreases as its energy reserves decrease. With no Energy, the Concussor can still attack, but its damage output will be 40% of what it would be with its Energy reserves full.

Tactical Implications of Unit Energy Reserves

Very, very few units in the game generate their own Energy. Energy comes to units through the Power system. On the Remnants game map, there will be 4 -6 Generators, which will serve as base locations for the players. Generators will in turn power 4 -6 Power Nodes each, and it is these Power Nodes that replenish units’ depleted Energy reserves.

This system is intended to serve several purposes. First and foremost, units without energy are less useful than units with energy. My intent is for it to be a viable option for players to pursue a strategy of stealing or detonating (Feedback) the energy reserves of their opponents units to cripple their armies, leading to withdrawal of enemy forces or to facilitate a more sure victory in combat. It is my intent that this design will lead to battles that are as much about stealing Energy from one’s opponent as they are about outright destroying enemy units. Once playtesting begins, to the extent that I am able to get players to test the mod, balancing the system will center around this intended outcome.

Also, as in Company of Heroes, being pushed off the field/retreating is intended to be a real possibility, as units return to base locations to receive repairs (some buildings will have repair capabilities, though some units will as well) and Energy. The intent of this design is to provide alternatives to simply killing enemy units, and to (as in Company of Heroes 2) to allow one player to monopolize on their opponents time in-base to act unopposed on the map for a brief time.

A Description of the Current Implementation of the Power System

In the Company of Heroes games, players use their units to capture points on the map which provide a trickle of resources. These points can all be contested at any point in the game, and removing an opponent’s control of a resource point is still a win, even if the player doesn’t themselves manage to gain control of that point. It is this constant back-and-forth tug of war over map territory that informs the current implementation of the Power System.

The Power System in Remnants includes 3 parts at this time: the Control Node, the Generator, and the Power Nodes. Each of the 4-6 base locations on the map has 1 Control Node, 1 Generator and either 4 or 6 Power Nodes. Base locations with 6 Power Nodes are more valuable, and are located in more exposed map territory, to encourage harassment and contesting.

Before gaining access to the base location’s Energy reserves, the player must place a unit next to the Control Node to secure it. As long as the player has at least one unit or structure adjacent to the Control Node, they own all structures in the associated base: the Power Nodes, the Generator, and all structures built on the Power Nodes. If the player moves all units away from the Control Node, or all of the units guarding the node die, the base location and all of its associated structures will revert to neutral. In short: whichever player controls a Control Node owns all structures in the associated base.

Additionally, the Generator provides power to the Power Nodes and any structures built on them. If at any point a Generator is destroyed, all Power Nodes  will stop gaining or providing Energy, and all structures built on these Power Nodes will stop functioning. That is, all upgrades being researched will cease, and all unit types unlocked by the structure will become unavailable until the Generator is rebuilt.

Players, then, have to constantly defend Control Nodes, and be aware of enemies attempting to destroy their bases’ Generators. Since all structures can be sold, players who take ownership of enemy Control Nodes can convert their enemy’s infrastructure into cash.

One final note regarding the Power system. Power Nodes serve as the bases for all structures, and provide Energy to units. But, they cannot do both at the same time. If they are powering a structure, they have no spare reserves to pass on to units. This, accompanied by the limited build space available at each base, makes the control of multiple bases essential to climbing the tech tree: You want to have enough Energy for your units, and enough building slots to expand to. It’s intended to be a delicate balance, and fighting over the limited Energy reserves of these Power Nodes is intended to be essential for success.

As a summary, since I’m not convinced of my ability to describe this accurately: The player must keep at least one unit next to a Control Node in order to maintain ownership of its associated Generator, which provides Power to Power Nodes, which in turn serve as both building locations, and to recharge unit Energy reserves (but not both at the same time). Enemies can destroy the Generator or the guards of the Control Node to disrupt base functionality, and can take control of a whole base location by capturing the Control Node for themselves. The final map will have 4 to six base locations, which means at least 4 Control Nodes, each with an associated Generator. Some Generators will have 4 Power Nodes, and some will have 6.

The Power System has no direct relationship with the Scrap resource. Unlike in StarCraft, Scrap deposits will not necessarily be located in close proximity with bases/Power sources. Players will have to scour the map in search of Scrap locations, but Generator locations will be visible on the minimap from the game start. Control Nodes, however, will have to be scouted out.

An Alternate, and Perhaps Simpler Model

I am very close to completing the Power System as described above. As I have worked on it, I have noted a number of challenges with its implementation. Namely, Power Nodes currently generate energy even if not owned by a player, and even if their associated Generator is destroyed. Implementing these requirements is proving to be a challenge, as StarCraft does not seem set up to support the criteria of “being owned by a player” as a requirement or validator for abilities or behaviors.

This got me thinking about the overall complexity of the Power System, and led me to wonder if there might not be a simpler solution. Removing the Control Node from the equation would achieve that goal: it’s one less thing (per base) for the player to have to keep track of, would free up units for combat, and would simplify implementation.

However, removing the Control Node (and all that it implies) would remove the possibility of battles over base ownership, which I feel has the potential to be very interesting.

Under this variant of the system, all Generators would start out as wrecks, thereby preventing Power Nodes from generating Energy. Generator Wrecks would have to be rebuilt, thereby bringing the base location back on line under the control of the player. Otherwise, the system would remain the same. The only real difference would be the removal of the Control Node and the ability to contest control of a base location.

Feedback?

I have put a lot of work into the Power System and the Scrap System for Remnants: they are two of the most complete aspects of the game at this point. It has been my thought that the game’s core systems need to be in place before I get to far into building on the game’s factions, as the core systems’ implementation has a cascading effect on faction design and balance. The presence of the Control Node and its effect on bases has a lot of mechanical overhead, much of which has already been implemented.

I am very interested in getting feedback from anyone interested in sharing it. Do you like the idea of being able to take control of your opponents’ bases and sell their buildings? Do you feel like the system would be stronger without the overhead of having to constantly defend your bases from being taken over or taken offline?

Thanks for your time.

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