We've teamed up with Ironclad Games Producer Blair Fraser to highlight their work on Sins of a Dark Age. Up today is Hero Development!
We've teamed up with the team at Ironclad Games to bring you an ongoing developer blog series on Sins of a Dark Age! From the creators of the unique 4X / RTS title, Sins of a Solar Empire, Sins of a Dark Age is another visionary hybrid game that blends the RTS and MOBA genres to create an entirely new experience.
So in the spirit of documenting their unique development process, read on for issue #2 of our Sins of a Dark Age dev journals with Producer Blair Fraser!
In this second round development blog I'll be diving into some more behind-the-scenes information for our upcoming Sins of a Dark Age hybrid MOBA-RTS for PC. As with Sins of a Solar Empire, we constantly iterate on design. Luckily a hybrid game allows us to draw a lot of influence from different genres during the iteration process. Sometimes ideas work just fine integrated the way a player of a given genre expects it…. but sometimes it doesn't, so we need to constantly implement, play , implement, and play. The previous ZAM blog entry and our Questions of the Week show this evolution well. This week's entry will do the same.
First, here is a quick overview of the gameplay. Players can choose to play as a Commander (which operates similar to classical RTS games) or to play as a Hero (as in a standard MOBA game). The two teams of Commanders (with their powerful Commander abilities and army of units) and the Heroes (with their own unique powers) are tasked with working together to destroy the enemy keep (in the most common mode). Killing enemies earns them experience and gold to level up and buy more powerful equipment respectively. The blend of these two genres allows us to change up the fundamental gameplay and present new mechanics and unique experiences.
Last time we focused on a lot of Commander-specific details, so this time it seems only appropriate to speak more about Hero development.
We've been experimenting for a while now with a unique teleport/recall mechanic for Heroes. When you run out of health or mana, it's really not that fun to run back to your healing well to recover. Most MOBA style games provide some method of getting back easier. Our idea was to allow for you right click the teleport button which would take you back. Left clicking it would allow you to teleport to a captured control point on the map. While this allowed you to quickly get to the front line it introduces a few problems. The two most important ones are as follows:
First, if you waste your cooldown on the teleport to teleport forward, it's still not fun to run back if you take a lot of damage shortly after. Psychologically (based on test feedback) it seems more acceptable to make players run forward than to run back healthless. Given that, it seems more desirable to keep the teleport as more of a permanent recall with no cooldown and to just not allow teleporting forward without forcing the player to make some sort of investment (ability selection or item buying). The second main issue is that the ability to teleport forward means that enemy heroes are back at the front line sooner or able to more easily reinforce a given position. While it's cool that they acquired a strategic control point to enable them to earn this advantage, it's not cool that it tends to prolong the game. Thus, it was removed. One final note that I'll probably talk about more in a future blog; we are looking at providing Commanders with a method of recalling their army for healing / mana regen as well for a variety of reasons.
The second topic I want to talk about regarding Hero development is the relationship between melee Heroes and Commander armies. Implicitly melee combat requires the Hero to move close to the enemy army. While they have methods for dealing with the incoming damage and they can dish it back out there is a problem that doesn't allow for a scalable solution. The enemy army can simply move to surround the Hero so he is either trapped or not trapped (binary). While he can beat down a fair number of army units, the fact he can't retreat or reposition at all usually means he is going to be gradually beat to death in the most frustrating way possible. Some of our melee Heroes have inherent ways to escape (e.g. the Berserker's leap) but it's not possible to design them all like this.
Our solution is a multi-part solution that involves changes to collision (Hero can slip through smaller gaps in these situations), items that can be bought and most importantly, shifts in the Commander's unit count and incentives that make this a less desirable strategy. It's already getting better but it highlights an interesting side effect of blending the two genres. It's pretty difficult to perform a true 'immobilizing' surround in most MOBA style games and in classical RTS games surrounds are common but the loss of control and the unit itself is far less penalizing and frustrating than it is when your high value and 'only' unit is surrounded and beat down. Finally, I personally feel that a surround is a viable Commander strategy - the goal is to simply make it less easy to do. It should be a skillful, difficult maneuver such that if it the enemy Heroes are caught in it the response is more "nice move :P" as opposed to "screw this! >:(" followed by a rage quit.
As always, we'd love your comments and feedback. We are never locked in stone, we are extremely flexible and we love to iterate so while we hope to go to beta soon, don't feel it's too late to make a suggestion.
A lot more is happening on both the Commander and Hero front so I'll likely cover a bit of both next time. Thanks for reading!