Progress Update on Expansion
Caption: Pax East 2015 Live Stream of Defense and Retrieve Modes
Game Mode Summary
Currently, there are 3 PvE modes we're working on, code named Defense, Retrieve, and Assault. In Defense, AI enemies are tasked with attacking your base and will come down some number of lanes. This game mode is somewhat similar to what we see in MOBAs. In each lane, enemies have set up forward encampments in the form of resource harvesting drills. To prevent enemies from respawning in these lanes, players must destroy the drills. Once destroyed, the drill will release any harvested materials that the player can bring back to home base. Each time resources are brought back to base, the base is healed, overall defense gets stronger, and friendly reinforcements are called. Once all resources are brought back, the base's defenses are restored and is now strong enough to defend itself with your help. Gameplay revolves around managing enemy population in each lane, keeping initial turret defenses and friendlies alive, and defending the base from enemies that sneak past your line of defense.
In Retrieve, AI airships form a convoy that is on the run after stealing resources from you. You are tasked with destroying resource barge carriers and taking barges back to your own capture points. If the AI manages to bring any resource barge to their capture point at the end of the map, you lose. Gameplay revolves around keeping pace with the enemy by either killing, disabling, or taking advantage of the terrain to cut the enemy convoy off with the help of things like secret passages. We're currently building more intermediate pieces of feedback into this game mode. Some of the ideas we're playing with is refineries along the way that the convoy will stop at and steal even more resource barges. This will help convoys slow down and allow players to keep pace as well as breakup the mode in distinct stages.
Assault is the newest game mode that we're currently prototyping. This time, the player is on the offensive and is deep within enemy territory. You'll need to destroy enemy outposts before finally reaching the enemy base. Currently, we're experimenting with a more open map layout with randomly placed outposts and bases. You can either follow friendly ships to the next objective, or use the map to guide yourself out of danger if there are any patrolling enemies nearby. Additional friendly ships are called after each outpost is destroyed that will hopefully aid in your efforts in taking down the final base.
Game Mode Progress
The development of the game modes is still firmly in prototype. The basic objectives of the modes work, but we haven't added ways for players to gauge how well they are doing. We're also current doing more AI director work to accommodate some of the secondary objectives we're designing. Eventually, we want the resources to have a lot more meaning, the objectives to have more variation, and the modes to have a lot more replay value, strategic imperative, and tie-in with world progression. Right now, we have a lot of the basics and the framework working, but a lot more work has to be done to make the modes much more engaging. There are also a number of more general issues that we're tackling as well, such as how AI handles narrower spaces (AI needs to be able to handle narrow spaces so we can give terrain more tactical opportunities), more gun varieties (this is a fun one), more nuanced enemy tactical choices (so we can create more of a sense of engagement at different points in a play-through). So far, we have been testing and iterating on the game modes primarily ourselves, occasionally with the help of CAs and Mods at shows such as Pax. The reason why we have not opened testing up to our KS backers and pre-order players is because we want to fix what we find to be obvious and get the game to a state where their inputs would be more meaningful. And we are getting a lot closer.
AI Director and AI Enemies
Over the past year, we've spent a lot of time on getting the AI Director off the ground and the AI enemies to behave in not only a reasonable fashion, but a strategic one as well. This was no small feat for us. Just the AI work alone was close to making Guns of Icarus all over again. It was only a few months ago when enemy planes would group suicide into the side of mountains and airships would spin around in circles. Now, the AI crewmen have been whipped into shape. Enemy airships could perform some dogfighting maneuvers, and planes now feel much more threatening. We started with adding a special weapon for the Arashi boss (think lightning), and now we're adding special weapons to all bosses. The AI Director is now doing a better job measuring tension, and we've made it more flexible and parameterized for more situations. Now the one issue that we need to tackle is for AI enemies to navigate narrow spaces better so we can have more flexibility with map design.
We're planning to have three main types of progression that players can partake in: player progression, faction progression, and world progression. Player progression will happen regardless of what faction you decide to join and will mainly unlock skill upgrade points—it's very similar to our Skirmish player leveling, which is all based on matches played. Faction progression is obviously tied to joining factions. Matches you play for your faction will determine your status within a faction. Changing factions all the time will impact the speed at which you progress. Therefore, playing in streaks for a faction helps—the longer the better. In faction progression, you will unlock faction themed cosmetics, guns, and ships. You'll definitely be able to play all 6 factions. Finally, world progression. World progression is how well your faction is doing in the world in terms of territories attacking/defending. The main interface for PvE will be a world map that will depict the current state of the world. Think of board games like Risk or Small World, and each faction being a player. Playing matches for your faction, succeeding in either defending or attacking locations, will help your faction move ahead in world progression. We're planning for each location to have specific resources. Controlling these locations will harvest these resources for your faction. Each faction will have different resources requirements to trigger various game states like Wars or other events. Major events like War will be an opportunity to galvanize the community to play matches to reach a climax where we'll create new Guns of Icarus lore and history together. When a major event has ended, expect to have resource requirements and other stats changed slightly to represent an ever shifting world. Currently, we are doing a lot of the ground work still to build the progression systems. This is a big project itself, so it has taken us quite a while. We also need a lot of UI and art to bring this to life, and that's still in the early stages of design as well. Art Every one of the 6 factions would have unique planes, ships, and bosses. Some of which have already been brought to light. Very soon, we'll be able to unveil the entire array of enemies in the game.
ArtEvery faction has it's own culture, ethos, and attire as well. All the character outfits are being worked on as well.