August 2015 blog archive

This page contains all the blog posts from august 2015. To read the most recent blog posts, click here.

30/08 - 2 years of HD3

Work on HD3 started in september 2013. The game went into alpha during early august 2014. With the recent patch, which contained the flagship updates, the last of the planned gameplay related updates was completed. For the forseeable future, i'll be working on supporting mechanics.

This doesn't mean that all gameplay mechanics are in - there are more things i'd like to add, but at one point i have to draw the line and start working towards something that can be released. Future updates will add new things such as a drafting gameplay mode. Currently, the explore/missions/campaign element of the game isn't in yet, either, which is another relatively large aspect.

The first thing i'll likely work on is an account system. Accounts in HD3 will be used primarily for uploading and downloading savegames to a database, so that players can synchronize their progress between different devices.
Originally i had planned a couple online-only gameplay mechanics (raid bosses, arenas), but i'm looking into changing this so that no account or internet connection is needed for this. As such, HD3 won't have any 'proper' multiplayer content at first, but that might change in the future. There is likely going to be something similar to the 'daily challenge' in HDX, but in HD3 this will fall under 'events'. Events will be more varied than just challenges involving custom AI decks, and will likely include the raid boss and arena ideas (adjusted so that these work for single player). An account will not be needed to access this content, but since these things are generated by a server, players will still need an internet connection to download the content.

Other supporting mechanics will include a proper local savegame setup (which is needed before uploading savegame data can be implemented). I also need to have a look at how the various editable elements of the flagships will be unlocked. A tutorial, help files, and other elements for new players is a part of this as well. On top of all this there are still a few issues with AI that i hope to sort out.

Once all these things are in, the game should be ready to enter the beta phase. I don't have a fixed date in mind as to when this should happen - it'll take as much time as needed.

23/08 - new flagship system

The flagship system currently has a serious problem : the score of a ship configuration, which is used to determine (and cap) the ship's powerlevel, is in several cases not capable of doing just that. This has to do with two elements. On one hand, there are abilities which can be given a score when they're all by themselves, but when two or more of them are present on the ship, the actual power boost they grant the ship is far more complex to calculate properly. Secondly, there are abilities whose effect is simply too hard to predict - these are abilities that depend on the situation on the board, and while it's possible to come up with suitable averages, board situations can be extremely varied.
The flagship system also wasn't complete yet, since flagships are supposed to grant a combat boost while in play. Technically, this adds to the power level of a flagship, and would make the scoring system even more complex.

I tried a few new formulae, but the end result was always a very complex system which would be difficult to maintain or update, and no guarantee that all overpowered flagship setups would be caught, and scored properly. After a while, it looked like the only solution was to drastically reduce the number of available abilities.

Instead, i decided to come up with a new system. While this new system does reduce the number of possible setups, it completely does away with any scoring system, and instead takes into account player progress or achievements in-game to unlock ships and abilities.
In this new setup, the choice of ship matters - no longer is the ship itself just an image. Ships now come with a starting attack/defense amount, a card cost, as well as either a 'strong vs race' or 'resist race' passive. The base or source ship you choose as flagship now matters. The starting stats and cost are all based on the original card. So if you choose a Vector, you get a cheap ship with stats matching a fighter class ship. If you choose a Hiraga instead, you'll get a battleship-size flagship with a matching cardcost. Since cardcosts can no longer be edited, the 'assemble' passive no longer matters for flagships, and will no longer appear. Cardcost can no longer be edited either, but serves to balance the starting cost of the card, and it does a better job at balancing that aspect than the score system did. Attack and defense can be edited, but in limited fasion. The flagship editing screen will have two slots, each with 3 options : +0/+5, +1/+3, +2/+0 attack/defense.

Abilities are limited to 4 classes (passive, played, automatic, activated), and of each class, only one ability is allowed. The list of available abilities in each class depends primarily on the race of the chosen ship (and in some cases, on the ship class : no more 'fast' on battleships for instance).

The next patch will contain this system, but everything will be unlocked : all non-legendary ships can be chosen, and all abilities for all races will be present. The plan is that players start out with only one ship per race unlocked, and only the combat boost aspect will be editable. As players progress through the game, they'll unlock the other ships and abilities.

16/08 - final mercenaries update

This week's HD3 update included a few more mercenary bosses as well as some changes to the background systems for this game mode, which should make it easier to add more bosses in the future. With this update, i consider the entire mercenary feature complete, at least mechanically. Content-wise there's obviously still plenty to do, but most of that stuff will be for the beta stage of HD3.

Adding a few new bosses generally involves creating new abilities, both for the boss cards themselves and for the combat boosts they use. Some of these abilities are specific to bosses, and would be too powerful when given to regular cards, but most of these abilities do end up getting added to the custom card and boost generators. On top of that, new boosts are also added to the custom boss generator to increase the variety in generated bosses.
In the end, a lot of systems in HD3 are thus affected when new mercenary bosses are added, and all these things need to be tested.

Testing bosses happens both manually and automatic. The manual part is simply me playing several duels against the new boss to make sure all new abilities work and to see if the general balance is suitable. A small number of duels generally isn't enough to get balance worked out in detail, however, so i do expect bosses to need more adjustments in the future. Automatic testing involves letting the AI control the deck that plays against the boss. The advantage here is that this works much faster compared to manual testing, and by giving the AI randomly generated decks, a larger number of board configurations end up being generated. Automatic testing has brought to light a number of issues with the AI, some of which are related to the fact that the AI never before had to deal with these kinds of duels and simply wasn't prepared for some of the effects that the combat boosts of bosses can produce. Example : some custom boss configurations can result in the opponents gaining two ships when a player launches a ship. When the AI notices that its opponent gains more ships than the AI does, when it plays a new ship, it might start thinking that playing a ship is a wrong decision. Thus the AI postpones playing ships (usually smaller ones) until it has collected enough energy to play a larger one, but by then the AI might already have lost a lot of base HP.

Even though the mechanics related to mercenary bosses and cards are finalized, there's one more update coming up, containing a new flagship system. Once that's complete, i'll probably start on database and account related stuff.

09/08 - Custom and filler bosses

In the latest HD3 update i added a custom mercenary boss generator, which was then used to create filler bosses for all possible mercenary cards that didn't have a boss yet. All mercenary cards themselves are also available from the card drop system (or from hiring random mercenaries).

The long-term plan is that custom bosses are only available when players select the custom boss option, either for a single race, or for a random race. At the same time, all mercenary cards will have a proper, unique boss. Players will start out with only a few bosses per race available to them, and as they defeat this starting set of bosses at certain levels, more bosses will unlock, which in turn need to be defeated to unlock even more bosses, and so on. Over time, players can thus unlock all bosses this way. Since i don't expect to be able to have a proper boss for every mercenary card, this system can technically only be implemented once all bosses are in. A second problem is that this means that all mercenary cards, tied to bosses that are not available, can only be gotten by playing the custom boss option.
Making all remaining bosses available by replacing them with custom bosses allows me to implement this system sooner, and then i can gradually replace the filler bosses with proper ones.

Custom bosses themselves still need some work. They rely on the boosts that have been created for proper bosses, since the boss generator will use the components of these proper boosts to create random ones. I'm currently adding several new bosses, which introduce a couple new abilities and boost components. The abilities will be added to the regular custom card generator, and the new boost components to the custom boss generator. Thus, as more proper bosses are added, the custom boss option will offer more and more different options.

02/08 - Droprates

There's still some work to be done on mercenaries (both the bosses and the cards), but since the related gamemode is also the final one before beta, i also looked into battle presets and droprates.

Battle presets simply allow to store various settings on the battle setup screen.

Droprates currently affect 5 things : cards, boosts, mercenary cards, boost tokens, and mercenary tokens. For Single Duel and Unpredictable, there's a default card droprate of 20% upon victory. This can be increased by the card source settings (when using custom cards, for instance) or when choosing a generated instead of premade deck. This amount will however go down if the difficulty level of the AI opponent is lower than the level of the player.
If players win, and don't gain a card, half of the card droprate is used to determine if the player wins a combat boost. If that doesn't happen either, the same droprate is then used to see if the number of boost gained tokens (of which player gets a few every win) will be doubled.
Mercenary tokens can also be gotten from Single Duel games, if the AI fielded a mercenary and the player managed to defeat it. Else, these can only be gotten from the Mercenaries game mode. Mercenary cards have a droprate of X*X / 22500, where X is the level of the boss. So if you defeat the boss at level 150, you have 100% chance to win a card. At a difficulty level of 106, you'll have about 50% chance to win a card and at level 75, there's 25% chance. If players dont win a card, they will always receive some tokens, and the amount gained goes up with the difficulty level of the boss.