Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Gratuitous Tank Battles, and designing units

One of my gripes with standard Tower Defense gamesĀ  is the lack of control over upgrades of towers. The decision the player has is basically ‘upgrade a tower, or build a new one’. I think that’s a little limited. gamers these days are happy to look at a choice of ten guns in an FPS, and choose the one whose weight / accuracy / rate of fire / ammo suits their playing style. I think we should at least give the player those sorts of choices when they pick their turrets in GTB.

A problem that Gratuitous Space Battles had, was the huge range of different weapons, and no hints as to what one is best for any particular situation. All the stats were there, but comparing them in the initial (1.0) release of the game was tricky. later patches fixed this, but it was still a bit overwhelming. Add in the extra DLC weapons and there are even more.

One of the ways I’m fixing this in Gratuitous Tank Battles is by sharing weapons across classes. Another is augmentations.

In GSB you had cruiser guns, frigate guns and fighter guns. GTB has large, medium and small units (mech/tank/turret) plus infantry. The difference is, a lot of the guns are interchangeable this time. So a fast gatling laser, for example, might be mountable on a medium or heavy tank, mech or turret. There are suddenly a LOT less overall choices to keep track of.

The second feature is augmentations. These are like little mini-bonuses to a component. One of them is a range-booster augmentation. This could be applied to ANY weapon. So you can combine it with missiles to get long range missiles, or with a ballistic weapon to get a long range cannon. Again, this means a lot less choices to suddenly spam you with, but still a lot of interesting combinations.

Some units have 2 augmentation slots, some 1, many have none.

I think this system works very well, it solves a lot of the design issues I had with GSB, and I wish I’d thought of it before. It’s similar to the ‘perks’ in Call of Duty, which is pretty much what made me consider it.

Hopefully this moves GTB towards the holy grail of strategy games which is ‘quick to learn, lifetime to master’. GSB was more ‘lifetime to learn’.

See… I do listen to gamers opinions :D Tell me what you think. Is this a good move? If not, why not? :D

16 thoughts on Gratuitous Tank Battles, and designing units

  1. Sounds good from what I can tell :) Sort of like a RPG system where you can tack on various perks on your character.

    Btw, are you looking for beta testers before you release? I’m a fellow game developer with a fair amount of love for tower defense games. I also have not played GSB, or at least not for more than 30 minutes, so I might come from a different background compared to your other testers who I presume have more experience with your games :)

  2. As ever, your willingness to listen to criticism and adapt your designs to suit does you credit, Cliffski. As somebody who loves the setting of GSB a little more than GTB (though I’m a huge fan of tower defence), I do sort of wish your games had come out in the opposite order, but I suppose I’ll live ;)

    But yes, very much looking forward to Gratuitous Tank Battles – good luck with the rest of the development process!

  3. Star Ruler has a very similar sort of setup, which is very awesome. You can build some crazy combinations of weapons. =D

    Lets say you put a railgun on a ship. And you can attach a booster component to the railgun. This improves the railgun in some way depending on what booster component you have attached to it. For example:

    Rack Mount: turns it into a gatling type weapon and can hugely improve the fire rate of weapons at the cost of ammo consumption

    Coolant System: reduces weapon cooldown at the cost of energy consumption

    Targeting Sensors: boosts weapon range

    Bulkhead: improves durability of weapon so it takes more damage before being destroyed

  4. I definitely love the sound of this. The weapons on GSB were quite overwhelming when you first start and honestly even after a couple of dozen hours of playing I’d basically found a few weapons I liked and stuck with those. Trying to experiment and try out others was just a bit confusing and hard to fully find what the differences were. This sounds like it’ll really help, as will simply the fact that you’ve realised it was a problem in GSB and want to fix it.

  5. one gripe i had when playing gsb for the first time was that I didn’t have much understanding of how much power 6 was etc until I had compared all available options, will we see something a little easier to read this time round? maybe a bar demonstrating how good compared to all guns that power is?

  6. Agreed with the “sounds elegant” comment, and agreed with GSB’s item selection being a little overwhelming. Reducing the need for small/med/large variants for EACH unit type is a huge step forward.

    Ditto augments. Although a much simpler game with regard to customization, SPAZ just dispenses with sizes altogether and auto-assigns weaponry based on the slot. You simply right-click to choose from your available technology and it determines whether it’s going to be a turret or an emplacement, and what type based on the slot size and type. It really is just much simpler to keep track of.

  7. Will there augmentations affect the look of the turret/tank or walker, because a small annoyance I have with games such as rts and td’s is the fact that i can buy a super awesome weapon range increaser…. but there’s no way to see this awesome investment, i want to see my purchase on the thing I want to also be able to see how the hell the enemy is blowing me up with ease, are they using this augmentation or another and if anything does level up please make it look different xDtheres my two cents!

  8. A good design choice. However, how will this affect the length of time to design a unit? Must every weapon be individually modded? Can modded weapon designs be saved for quick distribution? Are weapon mods visible on the weapon? Will comparing weapon stats take longer?

  9. From a learning point of view, I think this is a great move. My only worry is that it makes everything a bit too generic. Take a game like torchlight, where half the fun is figuring out which equipment you want to use. If said equipment was equally applicable across all classes and with more D&D styling (chest armour, chest armour +1, etc.) it becomes less interesting.

    I want to know that I can equip ultramegacanons on a mech that I can’t put on a tank for example, that will make the experience more fun for me.

  10. Sounds great, this is a feature that I’d have loved to see in GSB. I don’t play COD but it’s very similar to the ‘endorsements’ system in Monday Night Combat. I’m a total customisation nerd, so this looks to be right up my street.

    May I just say I’m already massively looking forward to GTB. If only you’d consider porting it to Xbox Live ;)
    (yeah, I know it’ll never happen, but the Xbox arcade is seriously in need of some good strategy titles)

  11. Yup, I bought that game the minute it came out. It looks lovely, although there is a lack of variety after a while, I thought.

  12. Really looking fwd to GTB. The idea of augs has a lot of good things going for it. Please definitely go with the tower defense/offense gamemodes: I’ll snap this game up as soon as it comes out just for that.

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