Author Topic: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues  (Read 15739 times)

Offline keith.lamothe

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Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« on: July 25, 2013, 04:15:09 PM »
Chris asked me to post this here:

http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2013/07/sneak-peek-at-bionic-dues.html



Our last full game for the year (aka not an expansion pack for an existing game) is called Bionic Dues, and will most likely arrive in October.  We've been working on this for a while, but didn't want to share much until it was further along and we could share some actual graphics, etc.

What is this thing?  It's basically a tactical roguelike (turn-based), although it's not squad-based.  I'll get better at describing the genre of this with time. ;)

No screenshots yet, as there's still loads of pieces that are placeholder, but gradually we're moving pieces into a finalized state.  As with these two:


Those are "Exos," which are basically like legless mechs that hover around.  In the game you play as one of six characters, and you remotely pilot any combination of four Exos pulled from six classes: Assault, Sniper, Science, Siege, Tank, and Brawler.

Story
The premise of the game -- and the genesis of the title -- has to do with these Exos.  You were an ordinary citizen in a futuristic city... that was, naturally, taken over by robots.  As always, right?

People still live in the city and try to go about their business, but frankly it's dangerous with the robots all around, killing people and causing other problems.  But the expense of moving from the city is way more than a regular person can afford.  And the common people can't even afford the bionic implants that would let them better defend themselves from the robots!  Sheesh.

But good ol' corporations have a deal for the citizenry: they'll give you bionic implants for free, so long as you do a tour of duty in the city, trying to wipe out the robots.  (Aka, these are the dues you pay in exchange for your bionics).  The tours of duty range from going on very dangerous missions to the front lines as cannon fodder... or remotely piloting the massive Exos.  Thankfully your aptitude tests placed you in the latter camp, so the danger to your person is negligible.

Except that things are getting worse than ever.  The robots are making some immediate headway against the central command of the humans in the city, and a massive assault force is building for a battle that will wipe out the human presence once and for all.

And, gosh darn it, wouldn't you know it: all of the Exos of the more experienced pilots got wiped out in a recent raid.  Since you're fresh out of training, yours were the only Exos not stored in one of the regular bunkers.  Exos are hardwired to their pilots and can't be transferred without a lengthy and dangerous process.  More Exos are being rapidly manufactured for the other pilots, but for now you're the only thing standing between the city and total annihilation.

Exo Choices


As mentioned further above, when the game starts you get to choose both 1 of 6 characters, and any combination of 4 out of 6 Exo types.  You can run 4 Tanks if you want to, although that would be super hard.  Most of the average-difficulty builds will include a single Science Exo and a single Tank Exo, and then whatever other combinations you wish.

You'll notice that there are two sets of visuals for each of the Exos: one is the "regular" build, which you start the game with.  The second is the "epic" build that you get after certain major events in the game.  The epic versions not only look cooler, but they have more slots for customization, and in some cases whole extra guns.

Exo Customization
As you play, you'll find various "parts" for your Exos.  Some of them are for specific weapons or subsytems, while others are generic enough to be used in lots of subsystems, with varying effects depending on the subsystem.  As with any good roguelike, these things have procedural stats, etc.

The number of slots and weapons varies by type of Exo, and we're still working on the balance for all that.  But typically each Exo has between 2 and 5 fixed guns, each of which can be heavily customized; all have a reactor and propulsion and shields/hull slot; and almost all have some manner of computer slots (the science by far having the most).

You can't do any of this customization while you are in the tactical missions, so you have to plan your loadouts prior to going in.  You do know the general type of the mission as you go in, though, so that helps you choose what in general you want.

City Map
Between missions, you're looking at the city map.  It shows you a matrix of mission nodes that you have already completed, as well as new ones that you can move to.  Which missions you take determines which other parts of the city you gain access to (and which become revealed at all).

This isn't a strategy game, but which missions you choose does have lasting importance.  Missions might weaken your enemy (denying them certain types of robots, destroying specific Boss Bots that will be in the end-of-the-game wave, etc), or they might strengthen you (awesome parts for your exos, upgraded exos in general, etc).

On the city map you can see how the end-of-game forces are looking, and you can also see the current status of your command center.  Every time you fail a mission, your command center takes damage.  Too many missions failed, and it's game over.  But there are certain types of missions that, if you win them, will repair your command center.

There are a fixed number of days that you have to play through before the final attack from the robots will play out against you.  However, there are certain robot command areas that you can attack to get some awesome loot as well accelerating the timetable forward by five days.  So you can control the length of time (in number of days) the game takes as you play, depending on how the situation looks at the time.

Oh, I should have mentioned that normally each mission (won or lost) advances time by a day.

(The above epic/regular Sniper Exos are actual in-game resolution.  However, they are not quite finalized as the lights have not been added to them yet.  The Assault Bot way up top actually has the final lighting applied.)

Tactical Roguelike
Most of the gameplay takes place in a straight-top-down view inside of various buildings in the city.  There are a variety of flavors of missions that emphasize different aspects of your general skills.

In other words, it's not like Valley 1 where there were a bunch of crazy missions that all broke the general rules, strung together by free-exploration bits that worked by the general rules.  The missions themselves here are the general rules, but each mission type might be best suited to specific types of Exos or customization.

You control one Exo at a time, and can switch between any of your four living Exos at any time.  When an Exo gets destroyed, it is out of the mission and you must switch to a different Exo immediately.  But after the mission, all your Exos are back even if they were destroyed (yay repairmen!).

You also don't have to faff around with things like ammo collection or what have you, but during missions you do have a fixed amount of ammo for your big guns in particular.  Precisely how much depends on how you've customized your weapons, your reactor, etc, on each Exo.  So there's a definite principle of scarcity here during missions (and there are some ways you can get a refill on ammo in some missions, if you find the right thing), but it's not encouraging hoarding between missions.

The combat here is something we are still balancing, but the general idea is that your Exos (except the Tank) are mostly pretty fragile.  You want to deal devastating force before the robots in a given area are alerted, then move forward to the next area, etc.  This is not remotely possible all the time, but you want to do it as much as possible.  There are also various environmental things that you can do in order to whittle down the enemies you will have to face in an area you want to cross, etc.

Exploration
I'm not sure how people will view exploration here compared to most roguelikes.  There is exploration in the individual missions (though we are still experimenting with exactly how much there should be, via mapgen), and then there is also AI-War-galaxy-map-style exploration in the City View.  And of course the contents of the missions themselves are procedural, as well as the loot.  I think it's a cool amount of exploration, but it's not a sandbox.

(RaptorBot, at the stage of having been inked -- so post-sketch phase -- but not yet colored/textured, and not yet lit or animated.  All in all it takes a pipeline of 5 artists for each robot or Exo, and I'm super excited about the results.)

Hilarity
The robots in the game range from incredibly-stupid-and-buggy to run-away-now-frightening.  The lowest form of grunt robot in the game is literally called the DumBot.  It always misses its first shot at you, no matter what (Storm Troopers much?).  Some of the others are hilariously stupid and ineffective as well, and their debuffs are referred to as bugs.

This actually serves as a nice contrast from things like the Boss Bots (of various sorts), the higher-quality variants of each general bot class, and the standalone scary bots like RaptorBot or DiamondBot.  Maybe that's why Storm Troopers are such bad shots: because then Darth Vader seems even more imposing.

Anyway, we thought it was really fun and funny to mix in deliberately-bad robot AI with frighteningly-effective robots.  And even the DumBots are not without peril, because if you let them whittle you down that's Bad... and if you step into a room with a few dozen of them, that's still Really Bad.  Unless you're packing a couple of plasma siege cannons, in which case it's back to Really Funny.  But now you're out that ammo, and I hope you don't need it later in this mission.

Subject To Change
There are a lot of holes in my explanation above, because I didn't want to talk about things that I felt were most likely to change: specific weapons or skills, what the heck the reactor and the computer systems do, the differences between the Exos, the breakdown of the various bots, and so on.

And even with the things that I did talk about, we're still in the middle-prototyping stage on these things, and tuning them and testing them heavily, as well as straight-out still implementing them.  So things may change before you get your hands on it.  But we have hit a point where I was comfortable enough with the design and the current alpha implementation to share at least this; Keith and I are both super excited about this game.
(Much-enlarged view of the Epic Brawler Exo, prior to lighting or animating, but after everything else.)

Schedule
Right now the expectation is that we'll be ready for private alpha with players by the end of August, and then into public beta by mid-September at the latest.  And to 1.0 by mid-October.  All of that is tentative at the moment, but things are proceeding well.

Also on our schedule for the rest of the year:
- Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura (Expansion 1) beta next weekish, 1.0 by the end of August.
- AI War Expansion 6 in lateish October (full release) with a beta in September sometime.
- Skyward Collapse Expansion 2 in November or December, with a beta a month or so prior to that.

And that's what's going on with us!

Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline madcow

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2013, 07:43:32 PM »
This sounds pretty sweet, are there plans to have system targeting/damage? (Aka, I want to shoot out his plasma cannon - or crap my exo only has its pistol shooter left and I need to take these guys out).

PS: Why must you come out with games faster than I can play them :(

Offline x4000

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2013, 09:15:13 PM »
Turns out I can post from my phone, since I'm still logged in now. Am mobile and my laptop did not have my forum login, hence the request for Keith to post the op.

Glad it sounds good! In terms of system damage, there is no plan for that, since combat with any one enemy does not last that long. If you are engaged that long with one enemy, probably something is wrong. More than anything else, this is a game of maneuver.

We are still working on all that, so that may change. But currently that's how things are going. And you can do the equivalent of systems damage when you consider which bots in a room you attack, etc.

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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2013, 10:24:24 PM »
I thought you'd said we'd have system damage for the player unit(s), though.  But I guess that was a few weeks ago ;)
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Offline Shrugging Khan

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2013, 07:07:53 AM »
Come on, with that many parts it'd be a shame not to have system damage for the player!
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Offline x4000

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2013, 08:59:44 AM »
Ah, for the player, sure. But he was asking about targeting enemy subsystems, which we'd never talked about. And honestly I had forgot about the targeting of player subsystems, but I'm in now way opposed to it.
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Offline madcow

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2013, 10:55:08 AM »
Hey player system damage is cool too!

Is the way switching exos around work similar to something like hero academy where you have a set number of moves for your team and can use them all on one guy, or split them up between your team?

Offline x4000

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2013, 11:32:06 AM »
Have not played hero academy, but exactly on the speculation there. You basically have a certain number of action points, and you can use them on any combination of your guys. Switching guys will probably take one ap. Movement generally takes 1 ap, but can be less if you have propulsion system upgrades (it's a float). Attacks often take more than 1 ap, particularly for bigger guns. And things like machine guns take 1 (or whatever) ap per shot, but unload into an enemy multiple rounds at a time at the moment.
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Offline madcow

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2013, 11:49:46 AM »
Yep, that's basically hero academy style except with an extra cost to switch active heroes.  Sounds good!

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2013, 11:51:20 AM »
I've played Hero Academy.  This is very different :)  The shared AP thing is there but that's about the only point of true similarity.
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Offline KDR_11k

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2013, 12:15:06 PM »
So it's like Trine or Pokemon Rumble where you have only one active character but can switch it out in-place? Or are they all physically present on the map?

Having everybody be a glass cannon and the player's chief weapon be surprise sounds a bit like a turn based Hotline Miami.

Offline madcow

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2013, 12:26:57 PM »
Oh, I was making the hero academy comparison for how turn movement worked, not gameplay in general btw.

Offline doctorfrog

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2013, 05:19:54 PM »
I'm trying to assimilate that post! This game sounds very intriguing! I really enjoy roguelikes and turn-based combat games and would definitely like to be involved in the beta once you start looking for testers.

Judging from the description, though, it sounds like it has some roguelike elements in common with something like ADOM, but perhaps has more in common with XCOM or Jagged Alliance? That is, you have an overmap with missions, there is an overarching goal of self-improvement, skills-honing, and weapons-gathering, and the bulk of the gameplay takes place in turn-based tactical battles? With a big boss battle that you're building towards (~Valley 2). Sprinkle in a little bit of Space Hulk, maybe? Those are the bells that are ringing for me.

So naturally I just have ALL THESE QUESTIONS! But I will restrict myself to these two:

  • Do the individual missions take place on a single screen, multiple screens? Assuming that missions are procedurally generated, do they have multiple levels, like roguelike dungeons? (See ADOM with its overmap and individual dungeon areas.)
  • What sort of variety do you have planned for the missions?

I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if this game should be positioned as a roguelike or as a turn-based tactical combat game. Two very different audience expectations.

Offline x4000

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2013, 05:48:52 PM »
Cheers!
Quote
"Do the individual missions take place on a single screen, multiple screens?"

It's a single map, but something that has a view that pans and zooms and so forth.  Like AI War or Skyward.
Quote
"Assuming that missions are procedurally generated, do they have multiple levels, like roguelike dungeons? (See ADOM with its overmap and individual dungeon areas.)"

No, each mission itself is like a single level of a roguelike dungeon.  Think of the entire city like a roguelike dungeon, and a mission as a (variant size/difficulty) floor.  That's how we've been thinking of it as we created it, actually.

Quote
"What sort of variety do you have planned for the missions?"

We have 22 defined at the moment, and that's likely exactly what it will be at 1.0.  A single number like that is kind of vague, though.  Is 22 a lot or a little?  In some respects it sounds like a lot, but it's not like 22 game modes (capture the flag, deathmatch, etc).  These are kind of the intersection of objectives plus ways to play.  Here are some example ones:

Common missions (aim for mix of 40 so far)
----------------------------------------------------------

Office building missions: Slightly above average number of loot closets, that are only accessible if you are able to lockpick. Ends at reactor.  But also has a moderate reward at the end.

Hacker missions: Slightly above average number of loot rooms behind doors that must be hacked, that are only accessible if you are a good hacker. Ends at reactor.  But also has a moderate reward at the end.

Destruction missions: Lots of destructible walls with branching paths.  The non-destructible paths are always much harder, while the destructible paths are easier and have better loot. Ends at reactor.

Hostage missions: There are several locations with hostage somethings -- cryo pods? -- you must save at least 75% of them or you lose.  Robots will choose to cap the hostages if you tip them off too soon.  You get more rewards for every hostage you save.  The mission ends when all the hostages are dead or saved.  You can interact with a hostage cryo pod to warp it out like you warp your exos in and out.

Firefight missions: These are kind of a cage match with some moderately strong enemies.  Some cover for you, but not a ton.  And no long and winding hallways.  Kind of a roadblock’s big brother.  Moderate rewards for winning, and also there tend to be a few loot closets and hacker loot rooms around the periphery.  However, when all the robots are destroyed, the mission ends immediately.  So you have to go for the loot while being harassed if you want to get the loot (or use stealth, etc).

Uncommon missions (70 total so far)
----------------------------------------------------------

Armory missions: Looting the armory in these gives you a ton of awesome weapons-related parts that are of unusual rarity compared to the loot closets in most missions. 8 of these.

Science Station missions: Looting the science station in these gives you a ton of awesome computer-related parts that are of unusual rarity compared to the loot closets in most missions. 8 of these.

Parts Fab missions: Looting the parts fabricator in these gives you a ton of awesome general parts that are of unusual rarity compared to the loot closets in most missions. 6 of these.

Shieldworks missions: Looting the shieldworks station in these gives you a ton of awesome shield-specific parts that are of unusual rarity compared to the loot closets in most missions. 4 of these.

Reactor Fab missions: Looting the reactor fabricator in these gives you a ton of awesome reactor-specific parts that are of unusual rarity compared to the loot closets in most missions. 4 of these.

Propulsion Lab missions: Looting the propulsion lab in these gives you a ton of awesome propulsion-specific parts that are of unusual rarity compared to the loot closets in most missions. 4 of these.

Salvage missions: If you already have a lost home base section, that is immediately repaired when you win one of these.  Otherwise it gives you one piece of really rare loot.  These would be kind of “general missions” like the armory, most likely. 10 of these.

Blockade missions: Small mission by comparison to most.  Gives very little loot by most standards, but is quick and easy and usually at highly-connected junction points. 5 of these.

Assassination missions: Fairly small missions, but with an epic fight against a boss robot in there somewhere.  Excellent reward for killing the boss.  These are also minibosses that would show up in the final mission, and if you kill them they aren’t in the end of the mission.  5 of these total.

Fuel depot missions: Move in and lay charges by a big fuel depot chamber at the end.  Moderate reward for success.  Also destroys every mission adjacent to that node on the meta map.  Gives no rewards for those missions, but does cause training grounds/assassination/factory/etc losses, and won’t destroy rare nodes (can’t seed next to them).  3 of these total.

Training ground missions: There are a bunch of robots in here (200ish) all in a few different rooms.  Your job is to break in and destroy as many as possible before you die.  Each one you destroy reduces the robots in the final confrontation by one.  Extra loot bonus if you win.  5 of these total.

Factory missions: Destroying these helps keep that general type of bot out of missions in general, as well as reducing their numbers in the final confrontation. 8 of these.





All of that subject to change, and some of it is probably pretty unclear since it was Keith's and my notes for ourselves, given knowledge we didn't share yet.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 10:45:49 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Aquohn

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Re: Sneak Peek At Bionic Dues
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2013, 10:38:31 PM »
Whoo! Another Arcen Game! This sounds awesome! I can't wait to start alpha-testing!
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Or is that "to kill"?  Hmm.