Hello, speed2 here again, with some more ideas for the gameplay.
We recently released news of our first stretch goal: shattering the map itself. Earthquake cracks would tear across the map, kicking up dust as boulders tumble inwards. Light rays would stream out through the cracks, and then suddenly a whole chunk would just collapse inward, dragging nearby units and buildings down with it. Oceans would suddenly become waterfalls that pour water down into the sun. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the video here where we talk about this feature, and how amazing it is: https://youtu.be/zu2zhxXr79w?t=366
Terrain destruction is a very interesting idea that we have thought about from a variety of angles, and something that’s been suggested often from our community. Let's discuss some options that we've thought about:
Small scale terraforming
Let's start with the small scale. One of the things we've considered is to have deformable terrain. That would mean explosions could leave craters, both on projectile impacts and on the death of units. It would add another bit of realism into our heavily simulated world. While that is true, and it would probably look good after some skirmish, it would cause issues afterwards. The result would be that only one or two battles at some location would be possible, leaving the terrain so deformed the units could no longer pass through. This issue scales with the number of units, more units means more shots and explosions and therefore more deformation. And there are a lot of units in our game. So pretty quickly moving units around would stop being fun.
So while I said it would look good after some skirmish, it probably wouldn't be the case after a bigger battle, suddenly you have explosion craters everywhere, the terrain is deformed a lot and units can't really pass through, or can they? No one would know, as there would be no clear visual indication of this. The map is now a labyrinth that units would get stuck in, except it's also invisible!
Another issue this would cause is that you could make any part of the map impassable, just by shooting it, since the ammo is free, you could shape the map a lot with this. And there is a fantastic reason for everyone to do that - if you dig (an indestructible) trench then the enemy army cant charge into your base, and you can defend with ease.
To summarize, terrain deformation breaks a fundamental promise that RTS games make to the player - that you are able to move your units across the map with ease.
For these reasons we think that small scale terrain deformation is very hard to put into the game, and so we aren't planning on putting it in at the moment.
Massive superweapons and collapsing the map
Now let's talk about large scale destruction - not even deformation anymore but the total collapse of parts of the map!
Hopefully now our decision to set the game on a Dyson sphere makes more sense! Being a hollow artificial structure, it allows us to have weapons so powerful, they destroy not only the enemy but also the very ground they stand on!
In a sense, this is quite different from small-scale deformation, where we dont change parts of the map, but effectively we change the entire map mid game! With the larger scale of destruction what was previously a connected landform can turn into two islands, or a wide open map turns into a narrow chokepoint. It is as if somebody switched the map, and suddenly every player has to adapt their strategies to the new situation.
This kind of destruction would be reserved for the very late stage of the game and we have a couple of ideas on how to approach it.
The straightforward option is to have special units made just for that purpose - they would take a long time to build, but using them would surely lead to victory. Or at least, total carnage.
How much of the map could you blow up? Well, we will see: a small base area, a big base, half of the map...
Weak points on the sphere
Another idea is to have a bit more control over what can and cannot be destroyed and what units can destroy it, by introducing weak structural points on the map. These would be parts of the map where the sphere is weaker and more vulnerable to damage. So a lot of big explosions on that point, and it's gonna collapse. Not the whole thing, but only the area that got damaged a lot.
And now the units that could cause this damage. As mentioned earlier, there can be some expensive giant that just blasts part of the sphere, but alternatively some "smaller" weapons could cause damage as well. Heavy artillery or just a classic nuke type of weapon. Maybe they wouldn’t break the sphere in a single hit, but instead two or three? So these areas with the weak structure would keep track of the damage dealt on them, and if it exceeds some threshold, it will collapse. This way you can take out parts of the map, piece by piece.
And how would these areas be defined? It could be done in the map editor, making it another thing to take into consideration when designing the map. Making it so that blowing part of it could change the dynamic of the game, but not destroy it completely.
Visually this could be represented in different ways. One of the options is a strategic overlay, showing these weak points. Another is to have it always shown with some special texture, highlighting the edges, or blending the classic map texture with parts of the structural texture.
The problem to solve here is on how to give a visual guide to the player - letting them know where structural weak points are, while not distracting from the rest of the map.
Other exciting features
On top of all that, the structure of the sphere might be able to repair itself over time. Shoot it just occasionally and nothing happens, you need to sustain the fire for some time, since it's repairing itself. Take this one step further and it could even close the parts that have already collapsed. Slowly filling the area from the sides until it's closed again.
Doing this would guarantee that our maps remain playable no matter how many super-nukes you drop, it would be broken for some time but eventually repair itself. The repairs don't have to restore the sphere back to its original state either. Maybe the metal layer of the shell is replaced, but the soil and terrain is gone forever, until only a flat, barren mechanical surface remains. If you want to “form” a surprise mountain pass, maybe this is the way to go!
What's more, when a section of the map collapses, the sunlight could be so harsh that it damages units flying over the breach, with the aircraft being burned out of the sky!
Would the damage be one giant crack that randomly spreads across the map? Or would it be a localized region that gets hurt?
We aren’t exactly sure how everything will work at this point, our plan is to get the feature in then start tweaking it until it’s balanced.