July 2015 blog archive

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

26/07 - Adding mercenaries to decks

The latest HD3 update allows to add a single mercenary card to one's deck. This card gets placed on top of the deck, after the opening hand has been drawn, so it becomes the first card a player will draw in the duel. Since players can only add one mercenary per game, adding it to a random spot in the deck would make it too much a subject of chance to draw the card.

The deck of the AI (only in the default single duel mode) will also get one random mercenary card. The system that currently makes sure this happens is very simple : it looks at the base of the AI, and then replaces a random ship in the AI's deck with a mercenary of that race. Once more mercenaries are in, this will be changed : a random ship in the AI's deck is selected, and is then replaced by its mercenary variant. This setup makes sure that the original theme of the deck remains intact. For this to work however, plenty more mercenaries need to be added to the game.
The presence of a single mercenary in the AI's deck will be tied to the droprate of mercenary tokens. If the AI plays this mercenary, and the player can defeat it, the player will get some tokens (which are otherwise only obtainable in the mercenary bosses game mode).

The plan for the next update is to add more mercenary cards and bosses, but i'll also look into a couple other things, such as droprates and finalizing the game over screen. Since the mercenaries game mode is the last one planned before beta, i'll also activate preset saving in the battle setup screen.

19/07 - Generating Mercenary cards

The mercenary screen, where players can browse their collected mercenary cards, also allows players to hire additional ones, or modify existing ones. Both these functions require the game to be able to generate a random mercenary. Unlike boost and card generation, mercenary generation is fairly simple. A mercenary card is for the most part hardcoded, and based on the original version of this card. The screenshot below shows the original Vector and Nagato cards alongside their mercenary variant.


In the above screenshot, the mercenaries don't have the variable, randomly chosen part yet. The mercenary generator is reponsible for creating this part. Currently there are only 19 different choices (and some of them come with different values), but more are planned in the future. The current set of mercenary upgrades are for the most part based on the passives currently in the game. Future upgrades will include modifying the races or abilities on cards.
Below is a screenshot showing several different upgrades for the mercenaries based on the Vector and Nagato cards.


Modifying a mercenary is simply the process of changing the random upgrade into another one. The cost of this operation depends on the rarity of the mercenary.


12/07 - Mercenaries update

The update containing the Mercenaries game mode was released a couple days ago. There are currently 10 mercenary bosses available for testing purposes. All of the bosses can be battled up to difficulty level 100. Unlocking of higher difficulties isn't in yet as the focus is on testing the overal mechanics of this new game mode, which does introduce a fair bit of new stuff to the game. I also like to get an idea of how difficult these bosses truly are, but proper balancing will be a long-term goal in any case.

More bosses will likely be added before the game goes into beta, but for the next update, the focus is on adding in the mercenary cards and related mechanics. Similar to combat boosts, there will be a screen where players can browse their collected mercenaries and choose which one they'd like to use in the upcoming duel.
A mercenary card can only be used once, but the game will only treat it as used if it actually enters play. So if you add such a card to a deck, but don't end up playing it, the card won't be removed from your collection. Defeating bosses is a way to get mercenary cards, but one will need to battle bosses at high difficulties to get a proper card droprate. If a boss is defeated, and it doesn't drop a card, players will instead receive 'mercenary tokens', which can be used to create a random mercenary card, similar to how boost tokens can be used to create random boosts. For the time being, these two kinds of tokens will remain different items - i did consider having only one token (or currency) in the game, but this is something that needs to be decided later (since there are a few more items planned that players can collect).
Mercenary tokens can probably also be used to modify the mercenary, but i haven't decided that either. The plan is that a mercenary card is made up out of two elements basically. First there's the ship card itself, which is essentially a stronger version of the original card the mercenary is based on, and second, there's a randomly selected modifier. An 'armored' mercenary could have a bonus to resist, stacking with any resist the original card had, etc. If modification is available, it's only the random part of the card that can be changed.

The above will all take a bit of work, but once that's done, from the point of view of the game, a mercenary is just a regular ship card. It will take up a spot in a player's deck, which means that if you have a deck with 60 cards, a random card will be replaced. I'm considering adding the mercenary to the player's opening hand. This is an all-or-nothing scenario, since the card will get added to the deck after a player accepts their opening hand - mechanically it will be difficult to add the card while a player can still change their opening hand. If that were possible, there's a chance that the mercenary ends up in a player's opening hand, but since players can currently request a new hand of 3 cards indefinately, if someone wants a mercenary in their opening hand, they'll just request new opening hands until that's the case. While i might change the opening hand mechanic, i think it's probably more interesting to add the mercenary to the opening hand right away (which means players can have a starting hand of 8 cards). After all, there will only be one such card in a deck, which drastically lowers the odds of drawing one.

05/07 - Mercenary bosses

Over the past week i've added several bosses to the new 'mercenaries' game mode. The upcoming patch will feature one boss per race. Since there's overlap between the cards bosses (within a single race) have in their deck, having one boss per race means that these cards are already there for all bosses, including future ones. Adding the first boss (based on the Vector ship) took a bit of time since there were a fair number of new global aura triggers and effects that had to be added. Several of these will be used in support boosts, which are boosts any boss has access to, so this is the kind of work that only needs to be done once. I'll use the Vector boss as example to show how this game mode currently works.

Every ship card in the game (including legends) is planned to receive a boss, but only non-legend ships will have a collectible mercenary card. The bosses are based on the original cards, but rather loosely, as not every ability on a ship works as well in a boss fight. The mercenary cards themselves, however, will closely resemble the original card. Mercenary cards are not part of the upcoming patch, so the example below only focusses on the boss portion of the vector.

The original vector is a 3/12 fighter with the 'fast' passive, an auto ability that allows it to deal 1 damage to the opposing base, and an acti that disables and damages a ship, at the cost of sacrificing the vector itself.
The boss version (which currently doesn't have a name yet) starts off with 6 attack and 70 defense. Attack and defense go up as the difficulty level rises : the attack and defense at a certain difficulty is 1.01 times the attack and defense of the previous difficulty. Since difficulty goes up in steps of two, the vector has 1% more attack and defense at level 2 compared to level 0. This doesn't seem like much, but at level 50, these values are 1.28 times (ie 1.01 to the 25th power) as large compared to level 0, in other words the vector has 8 attack and 90 defense. At level 100 this becomes 10 attack and 115 defense.
The vector boss also has a few abilities that are always present, and that grow stronger (in a linair fashion) as the difficulty level goes up. The boss will always have the 'draw damage' and 'unwavering' (which now also provides immunity against disable) passives, as well as a few shields. There's also an auto ability that deals damage to the opposing base.
Next to abilities on the boss card itself, there are two sets of combat boosts, each containing 3 boosts. One set is hardcoded per boss (though there will be overlap between bosses), and the second set contains randomly generated support boosts, which primarily serve to counter various player tactics. The second set is not tied to any boss or race, so all bosses can draw boosts from this set, though there's a lot of variation in these boosts. Bosses start off with 1 hardcoded boost at level 0 and gain one more at level 30 and another at 60. The first support boost becomes available at level 20, one more at level 50 and the last one at level 90. While the first set is hardcoded per boss, there are a few things that will often return. There's a new boost trigger/restriction combo that allows me to gradually make a boss fight more difficult as it loses HP. Another boost that many bosses will have is one that spawns support ships.
Finally, each boss has a small deck of cards, drawn from a pool that's the same for all bosses within a single race. The cards in this pool are hardcoded and are based on existing cards. Each boss will have access to a couple energy structures, one or two damage structure, and various support actions. The cards have been seperated in 3 groups, that grow bigger and contain more powerful cards. The difficulty level determines which group of cards the boss will receive as its deck. Structures in these decks will be able to restore themselves a couple times, and actions will return to deck after being played.

The screenshot below shows the card popup of the vector boss at level 0, 50 and 100.

This image shows the 3 hardcoded combat boosts for the boss (note that the stats on these boosts go up as the difficulty level rises, the screenshots were taken on a level 100 boss).

Finally some examples of random support boosts (again these will grow stronger as the difficult level rises, the images show boosts at level 100).

The update with the basics of the mercenaries game mode should be out in the course of next week. The focus is on testing the mechanics of the boss fights and not (yet) so much on the balance between bosses and the overall difficulty level. Even though a 3/12 original vector results in a 10/115 level 100 boss, this doesn't mean a boss based on the hiraga (12/34) will have about 40 attack and 325 defense at level 100. Bigger ships will have more attack and defense than smaller ships, but rarity will likely play a bigger role in this than ship size. The point is that there are easy bosses (such as the vector) since the mercenary cards that players can gain from them won't be too powerful either. More difficult bosses will be tied up with more powerful mercenary cards.