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Boarding and ship capturing revamp!

March 20, 2017 - General
Boarding and ship capturing revamp!
Boarding is one of the most anticipated features in our game and we didn’t take it lightly when designing the new system. A lot was expected from boarding and we had to design it to fit the already existing GUI, our past design decisions and community expectations. The feature also had to be fun and rewarding if done¬†properly, but not too exploitative as it was in SPG2, so we’ve focused on designing boarding as a supplementary feature that can, but isn’t required to, be a core feature and gameplay element of certain players’ experience and game path. It had to be complex in its preparation and mechanics but fairly simple and intuitive at first impression and player interaction.

 

In SPG2 we had a very bare interface with very little choice between actions. With the new boarding design our goal was to expand upon one of our strongest game-design and game-mechanic influences and that is “The Commander’s Choice”, or the aspect of player decision-making in the game. We wanted to provide an interface where it is up to the player to decide what to do next and have their actions bear some weight. In the current iteration of the system, every progression point matters and it is up to you to recognize the tactical possibilities of boarding a ship and utilize them in a way that you want to.

 

We had a few different ideas that would require a total break from the game with a very large “mini-game”, but we thought that some of our players, including ourselves, wouldn’t be inclined to board as much as they could in the newer iteration of the design where the game isn’t paused and the boarding expands upon in-game tactical decisions rather than shutting them off like a paused mini-game would. The minor downside of the current iteration was that we had to keep the attention of the player somewhere along the lines of the current one, and we already had a lot of information on screen: usable items, skills, energy management, radar, speed status, HP status, shield status, battery energy level, heavy weapon reload and all of the information regarding enemy ships. So our decision was¬†to take over the already existing layer of attention and temporarily replace it with boarding information while boarding is active. At first we thought of using the field of attention where equipment and skills were located but we’ve decided to take over the radar and energy management instead.

 

In the new design every button press matters, your troops get more tired as they traverse more rooms of the ship and there is a meaningful choice in each room between utilizing its potential(Pillage action) or advancing forward(Advance action) to other rooms you’ve planned to get to or ultimately go for the Command Bridge to take control of the ship(Capture action). In some situations it is best to pull your troops to conserve their readiness for other ships that are a more immediate problem(Retreat action). The effect of utilizing currently-boarded rooms is instant and provides immediate gameplay advantage but it requires a certain amount of effort from your troops, so it is up to the player to manage resources and conduct their boarding commands based on their past experiences and future battle plans.

 

When you reach the Command Bridge of a ship, its crew will fight more fiercely and more often than not there is a certain uncertainty, a chance to capture the ship instead of having a definite 100% chance of capture as it was in SPG2. As you gain in-game prowess, it will become trivial to capture ships a few classes below yours but it will become increasingly difficult to capture the ones above or of your class. Your boarding ability is heavily influenced by your troop management and your character/faction priorities. The system also simulates combat in a fairly fair way for both the player and the NPC as your success depends on a variety of factors. It can be compared to trading-card games where there is an element of preparation and tactic while utilizing a fair amount of luck to keep it more engaging.


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More info on HUD Interface and boarding mechanics can be viewed in the Trooper tab located in the Ship menu.

We didn’t like the cannon-fodder effect we had achieved in SPG2 where troopers meant nothing and you just stacked them like numbers with a predetermined expiration(death) date, so we’ve come up with a system where we value their lives but still keep the possibility and mystery of a good old space stereotype: the “red-supporting-crewman-is-here-to-die-in-this-episode” feeling. We have devised a mechanic which treats your troopers as a group that you are working on improving and care about their well-being as it is mutually beneficial. The Readiness level is also directly visible in the context menu when attempting boarding, represented by the four ranking “arrows” that deplete as your troopers get more tired. You can also look up their readiness level in the Trooper tab.



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Context menu with readiness shown directly by 4 “rank-arrows” design

As you continuously board ships, your troopers become increasingly tired and their readiness is drastically reduced. You can improve this aspect with a variety of bonuses, some of them permanent and some temporary, like after your troops rest.

 

In SPG2 boarding was fairly simple and it was easy to exploit the mechanic of refilling troops while the ship is waiting for you dazzling around. We removed that mechanic entirely but we liked that there was a bonus when you reach a safe point where your troopers can rest for a while, so we re-thought and created a new mechanic based on visiting stations and planets. The new mechanic provides a resting bonus on your visits as your troopers enjoy the benefits of the station/planet, and are more eager to get into the fight next time.

 

SPG2 featured the towing of the ship towards the nearest station or planet and you had 2 choices: you could sell it or keep it and use it for yourself. In SPGW this is not nearly enough as you are now building towards becoming one of the Warlords in Gemini. So the system was expanded and features options to improve your fleet directly by restoring the ship and making it serve under your command, or scrapping it for valuable materials to build the ships that you want. There is even an option to conduct research in your production plant on the ship to unlock the construction of the boarded ship at Concordia.

 




We hope that you will like our new boarding system and we are eager to hear your feedback on the Steam forums.

 

Until the next time,

 

Matej Novosel – Scripter and Game designer – LGM Games

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