February 2015 blog archive

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

22/02 - Global auras

A while ago i started working out an idea for a new game mode. The difficulty of the AI's deck in this game mode was controlled by elements that would be displayed on the board, since these weren't constant, and having them on the board would allow the player to see them (as players would not be told in advance). Instead of just showing text, i wanted somekind of object that was actually part of the game, also because some of these difficulty settings could react to things that happened during the duel. That's when i came up with a new type of card, called global aura. Technically i could have used boosts, since boosts in their current form are capable of doing many of the things i needed for this game mode, but boosts have been designed to only work for the human player - the AI can't use these in any form. It wouldn't be impossible extend the boost system to the AI, but this would need a fairly complex boost generation system, and boosts were not capable of doing some of the more complex things this game mode required.

Global auras are a new type of card that sit on the game board, and while there, it can provide an effect, usually in the form of a trigger or automatic ability. These cards would still work in other game modes, but they would be fairly limited (players can only have one active at a time by default). Creating a new cardtype (next to ships, structures and actions), is actually a very complex thing - almost every aspect of the game would have to be adjusted. Changes would range from updating the deck editor to support a 4th card type, to deck generators that need to be capable of determining a good ratio of global auras versus the other card types. And all this for something that's likely only going to play a small role in default duels. Changing the combat boosts system so that it could work for AI controlled players would actually be less work, but there were some requirements that didn't work with boosts, but would work with cards (which a global aura is).

Instead of adding a new card type, i made global auras simply a new subclass of action. When such an action is played, it creates a global aura in play. Since no new cardtype was created, deck generators and the custom card generator only needed minor updates to support global auras. The auras also offer both more power and more flexibility than boosts. Nothing special needed to happen for the AI for it to be able to use global auras, either, unlike the idea where the AI was going to use boosts.

The original idea was to only add global auras to the custom card generator. In the current phase of the game, i didn't want to add brand new cards, create images for them, etc, as that would greatly slow down other work. But there actually are existing cards that can easily be turned into global auras, without this affecting the core cardset all that much. HDx had unique actions, one for each race. I removed the 'unique' rarity category and turned these actions into elites, with slightly different abilities. These cards make perfect candidates to be the first global auras in HD3.

Global auras are limited to one per player, if that player were to play another one from their hand, the old one would simply be replaced. This is a balancing matter since there won't be many counters. It's easy to add an action that says 'remove opponent's global aura', but i think it will be very unlikely that players will end up using these, due to the powerlevel of the average global aura. Global auras are not intended to be overly powerful, but one can still build a deck around them. They are primarily support cards that provide small benefits, but they can do so continuously, for as long as they remain in play (unlike regular actions, which have a one-time effect), so their power ends up getting spread out over time.
Such rules are there to be broken however (for the AI), and the game mode that resulted in the creation of global auras will be an exception. Here, the AI will have multiple auras, since that game mode is centered around the unique behaviour of these cards. I'm also looking into a deckmod that adds several randomly generated global auras to a deck (these will start off in play right away).

The most recent patch contains the basics to make global auras work. The random deck generator can include these, and the custom card generator is already capable of creating plenty of varied global auras. The (previously) unique actions from the current races have been turned into global auras as well. But this is only the first step of all the stuff, related to global auras, that's planned.

15/02 - Flagship patch

The patch with the flagship updates has been released. The changes are mostly behind the scenes and don't impact how flagships are edited, but there are some things that players might notice. While working on these updates, i reviewed the list of abilities and their scores, and all of these things have been adjusted. Another change is that abilities with multiple variable races (f.i. an ability that generates energy of two or three races, and these races themselves can be changed) received an extra check to make sure that the chosen races are different from each other. Finally, the flagship editor will now also try to keep track of the total length of all the text of the abilities on the card popup. If there's too much text, the flagship setup won't be considered valid. This is mainly done for aesthetic reasons, but if this ends up affecting the number of valid flagship setups i can easily remove this check again.

With these updates, i consider the flagship feature of HD3 complete, mechanically, except for the flagship image selection. Players can choose any image of non-legendary ship card that they have collected once or more, but in the alpha all cards in the game are unlocked by default. To allow players to choose card images, there needs to be an image browser, which in turn requires a seperate screen. For now, i'm avoiding adding in new screens until i have decided whether or not to change the look of the UI (which might also solve several performance issues).

When it comes to ability balance, things are not final, of course. As with the AI, i expect that the list of abilities, their scores, and their range of strength values will have to be adjusted over time, to make sure flagships aren't too powerful, or too weak.

What the next HD3 update will contain isn't certain yet. The account related stuff (registering a game client, logging in, etc) is still considered one of the more urgent things, but i might also look into a way to save duels in progress, so that players can continue their fights at a later time.

08/02 - Flagship updates

This week, a new patch containing the RV card set has been released. At this point, more than half of the HDx cards have been added to HD3. Before i add more cards, however, it's time to have another look at the flagship.

Alpha testers have already pointed out how easy it is to create very powerful flagship setups. The plan is that players are allowed to create such setups, but not at low levels. Currently the game is planned to have a hard cap of level 120 and a soft cap of 80. This means that 80 is relatively easily attainable, while 120 will be the goal for the top players. Every level increases the max score a flagship can have, and this score is in turn determined by the attack and defense stats, and the abilities on the flagship. Currently, players start off with 300 points and gain 20 per level. At level 80, this adds up to 1900 points, and at level 120 up to 2700. If players can already create overly powerful flagships with only 300 points, then what will 1900, or even 2700 points bring?

That flagship editing needs balancing is known, and that this will be an ongoing process should be clear as well. With the sheer amount of ability combinations, one can't really expect every combination to be balanced right away. To balance a flagship setup, individual abilities need to be looked at, and there are two aspects that can be changed : the range of values an ability can have (i.e. the ability its strength), and the score as a result of having a certain ability on the flagship.

All abilities in the game come with a range of strength values (though there are abilities with no values). Up until now, this range was used by both the flagship editor and the custom card generator. With the upcoming changes, this will be seperated, so i can edit the flagship values for a certain ability without the custom card generator being affected by this. There are also 4 different formulae to calculate the score of an ability based on its strength (a number of abilities do have their own, unique formula). This setup exists since the original plan was to allow the flagship to have all abilities in the game (several 100s), but it quickly became clear that balancing would be near impossible, and setting up the flagship would be long process due to players having to scroll and choose between so many abilities. Now that the flagship has fewer abilities available (about 80), i might as well give each ability its own formula, making it easier to perform precise per-ability balancing.

When the RV card set was added, i did skip the part where i look over the newly added abilities to see if any should be made available for flagship editing. This was done on purpose as the changes to the flagship editor likely will include a review of the current list of abilities that are available to the flagship.

01/02 - Preparing RV cards

The RV card set is nearing completion. The entire process went a bit faster compared to other races, mainly because the RV set introduces fewer new abilities (36, while it's usually closer to 45 per set). I'm also skipping the part where some of the new abilities get added to the flagship editor, since i'm planning to change a few things and the fewer abilities i have to work with, the faster those updates will be completed. These flagship updates are likely going to be in a seperate patch from the RV card set, however.

There are a lot of changes to the RV cardset compared to the HDx version, but it's mainly small things : a number of cards receive additional low-power abilities, and several abilities have been changed mechanically while not changing their impact on the board much. The RV legend 'Ultranought' has been renamed to 'Archaeon, The Fortress', and it's shipclass is no longer battleship, but titan. The shipclass change mainly matters for the custom card generator.

A few examples of things that have changed :

  • Fuel Tanker : enables neighbours to attack on entry.
  • Archeon : the acti (destroy target ship) is disabled for one turn after use (similar to adelan device)
  • Siege Cruiser : has received the 'Siege' passive, which means that if this ship ever gets disabled, it still does damage to the opposing base.
  • Megalodon : still disables neighbours on entry, but now gets 1 attack for each affected ship. Also gains an acti that gives it 'Overpower' for one turn.
  • Ofbuscation Tower : instead of keeping an opponent from drawing cards completely, this lowers opponent's draw counter by one.

Next to 'Hydra' (attacks all opposing ships during a combat phase), the RV card set also adds the 'Overpower' passive. None of the RV cards actually start out with this passive, but Megalodon can gain it via its acti ability. Overpower allows a ship to do damage to the opposing base during a combat phase, if it manages to destroy its blocker, and still has attack left. Example : a ship with overpower has 10 attack, and is blocked by a ship with 5 defense. During a combat phase, the ship with 5 defense is destroyed, and the remaining 5 attack will be dealt to the opposing base.