20 July 2015

Game design thoughts - A drone-centric sci-fi game...

Delta Vector recent post got me thinking... Enough that I'll write it down in a post rather than just making a reply to his.

One of the newer GZG drones, armed with missiles... Pictures from manufacture's website.

So starting with these specific ideas (just a few of the one in Delta Vector post, go and read it, in fact while you're at it, go and read all his "game design" posts)...
  • In an EW-dominated battlefield, an unhackable human (with a gun aimed via a Mk.1 eyeball which can't be fooled by EW chicanery) still has an important place;
  • Remotes are powerful, but can be jammed and have vulnerable operators, vulnerable to EMP;
  • Hackers act like "wizards" who can hack (...) robots (...);
  • Combined arms might be a balance of robotic and conventional humans, rather than the armour-infantry meaning it has today; 
And adding a few of my own (whithout much of a structure, brainstorming here)...

  • I envision a skirmish game pitting half a dozen to a dozen individually based miniatures against a similarly sized force;
  • Can't be bothered to invent an original background at this point, so I'll go with "cops and robbers": the game pit a high-tech SWAT-ish police unit against a gang of criminals (in a dystopian near-future Asian megacity);
  • Miniatures can be either drone (remotely operated) or human;
  • Human can be either shooter (a regular "fighting" miniature) or controller (controlling remotes and hacking stuff);
  • Drones can have several different locomotion modes each with his own pros and con (flyer can do pop-up attacks but are more lightly armored; tracked drones are slower but ignore difficult terrain; etc.)
  • The cops faction has comparatively fewer humans and more drones (1/3 humans, 2/3 drones?), the mob relies more on warm bodies but has a more limited access to drones (2/3 humans, 1/3 drones);
  • Mob drones are cruder/re-purposed/hacked and have more random performances;
  • Drones:
"French police intervention unit takes positions while a drone flies outside windows of a building where a man is entrenched with his children (...)" Picture found on Google, the blog it came from seems to be malfunctioning.
    • Faster, tougher ("tank"-tough, you need heavy-weapons or a lot of luck to damage/destroy them) and carry heavier weapons (mostly-AP MG, anti-drone EMP-gun, AoE missiles);
    • Hackable and vulnerable to EMP;
    • Activated by a pool of orders (à la Infinity) owned by the controller to whom they belong;
    • A controller can use all his orders to activate a single drone multiple times, to activate multiple drones or to conduct hacking attacks;
    • If the controller is pinned/killed/out of range (see "control radius" and "relays" hereunder), the drones can't be activated;
  • Humans:
    • Slower (but can climb, and go places most drones can't), weaker and limited to lighter weapons (purely AP assault rifle/SMG/PDW);
    • Invulnerable to hacking and EMP;
    • Own (small, just one?) orders pool they can use only on themselves;
    • Independent from a controller;
  • To activate a drone, or to hack one, it has to be in range of the controller doing the activating/hacking:
    • A controller has a base "control radius"
    • Specialized drones (unarmed?) can be used to extend that radius: if the unit to be activated/hacked is within the control radius of the relay and the relay itself within the control radius of the controller, the activation/hacking is possible;
    • Chains of several relays between a controller and the unit to be activated/hacked are also possible; 
  • Hacking works has an no LOS attack (but see "range" above) using different stats ("hacking" vs "system" instead of "shooting" vs "armour" or something) but otherwise identical to physical attacks;
  • A human taking physical damage goes from being "OK" (no effect) to "pinned" (can do nothing but try to rally, may get some "to the ground" bonus against shooting) then to "killed" (removed from game; heavier damage can skip the "pinned" step), a "pinned" human can use his activation to rally and go back from "pinned" to "OK";
  • A drone taking physical damage goes from "OK" to "damaged" (cannot activate) to "destroyed" (removed from from game; heavier damage can skip the "damaged" step), the drone controller can use an activation to try to repair the drone and get it back from "damaged" to "OK";
  • A drone being hacked goes from "OK" to "frozen" (cannot activate) to "hacked" (controlled by the enemy, very successful hacking can skip the "frozen" step), the drone (original) controller can use an activation to try to reboot the drone and get it back from "frozen" to "OK", once it's controlled by the enemy, it needs to be hacked back by it's original controller;
  • A drone cannot be "damaged" and "frozen": if it's "frozen" and takes damage it's "destroyed" (it's unable to self-repair and thus more vulnerable to damage), if it's "damaged" and gets hacked it becomes "controlled" (the initial damage makes the hacking easier, and the hacking somehow repair the damage; handwaving but I want to avoid multiple markers on a mini: a drone is either "OK" - no marker -, "damaged", "frozen", "controlled" or off the table);
  • Hackable terrain:
Controller hacking a junction box and provoking an EMP surge... Screencap from Watch Dogs by Ubisoft.

    • Several types: gaz-thing (can be made to explode - physical attack - when hacked), power-thing (can be made to produce an EMP surge when hacked),  relay-thing (can be co-opted in the controller network when hacked);

    • Each hackable terrain comes a standardized counter (with type symbol, can be modeled);
GZG Junction Boxes, an alternative to "power-thing" counters! They've also got vents for "gaz-things" and aerials for "relay-things"... Pictures from manufacture's website.

    • Each player provides a given fixed numbers of those before the game begins;
    • Both players pool they terrain elements;
    • They take turn deploying them (not within a certain distance of each other, not within a certain distance of the table edge) until they're all on a table;
    • Then the players deploy their squad/gang and start playing (think placing asteroids in X-Wing Miniatures);
    • To be hacked, a piece of terrain needs to be within range of the controller (possibly through relays), just like a drone;
That's all I have...

1 comment:

  1. I came here from Delta Vector. You cover the hacker and bot thing fairly well. I think hacking needs to be LOS using coherent beam access; the tempest access concept is not hardened. The only other way would be to have high energy radio blasters with modulated frequencies to send glitch or overwrite commands and to have ultrasensitve directional parabolic microphones to listen. I think if you include predictive AI you can set up proper timing for getting hardware into position.

    Maybe have microdrones deployed (not modeled physically) to create a sense net and convey read and write commands. These might not be hardened because they are too small or fragile.