Alien Commander v2.0

Posted by unknownworlds 12 years ago

Hey everyone,

I feel like a lot of low-level unit balance (weapons, lifeforms, upgrades, etc.) had been pretty good, but it’s been clear that there’s a problem with the alien meta-game that I want to address. So there are some big alien Commander changes coming shortly, in Build 205.

First of all, here are the design goals for the Alien Commander.

Alien Commander design goals

The Alien Commander is a “gardener” – he interacts directly with the environment (not individual players) to create optimal conditions for growth. He should be “misting” areas, building “walls” and occasionally brushing off intruders. He helps establish the dominance of one species over another. The weeds are marines.

He’s not telling his team what to do – he’s giving them information and providing the best conditions he can and letting them choose their location, lifeform and tactics.

  • Aim for a very different, almost soothing experience (not “disconnected”, but the comm isn’t the bottleneck to team progress)
  • No direct healing, buffs, orders or anything “given” to a player or group of players (too much like marine and aliens move too fast to work well)
  • No direct damage
  • Can still react to enemy and make choices that affect players (research, structure choice/placement) but players on the ground are left to their own devices to handle situations
  • Aim for the most possible asymmetry and depth

In addition, the following problems are present in current game:

Problems (in Build 204)

  • There is no downside to alien aggression (especially in early game)
  • The alien commander doesn’t have many options
  • Too much depends on the make-or-break hive #2
  • Many of you have been asking for the Gorge to build more

What set of changes could address all of these? It dawned on me that an alien structure model where all the alien structures naturally grew over time might solve all these problems! Here’s the summary of that change, followed by the detailed version.

Solution – Alien structures mature

  • Most alien structures take longer to build than in 204.
  • Gorges can help all build structures, not with their “e” key but with his heal spray (including Hive)
  • 2 Hives no longer needed to unlock Tier 2 weapons, and 3 for Tier 3 weapons.
  • Now Hives can evolve Augmentation which does the same thing.
  • All built alien structures now “mature” over time. They start off approximately 20% weaker than in Build 204 and over time, they grow to approximately 20% tougher than they are in Build 204. The amount of time it takes, and the starting and ending health/armor varies by structure.
  • When a structure becomes fully mature, it is granted new capabilities.
  • The alien commander can speed the maturation process though a new ability called Nutrient Mist. This replaces Catalyze. Mist can affect more than one target at a time: affects everything in 3 meter radius.
  • There is no more “research” on the alien side: everything is an “evolution”. So if you lose a structure that had evolved an ability, and then rebuild that structure, you need to re-evolve it.
  • Aliens no longer have a free choice of initial upgrade category (Crag/Shift/Shade) – it is now an evolution on the hive.
  • There is a new Cyst ability called Rupture, which is triggered by the Alien commander for pres. It destroys the Cyst and splashes infestation on nearby enemy targets.
  • Flare and Fury have been removed.
  • Drifters only appear at base Hive for free – they appear before you log in.
  • New hives don’t get free Drifters – you must create them if desired.
  • So Aliens expand more slowly by default. They can expand faster with 1 or more Gorges working in concert with the commander. Aliens are vulnerable where they are building. Gorges really must be protected.
  • As a result of upgrades being more costly for the alien team, they no longer cost pres for aliens.

What are the (hopeful) results of this?

  • Alien base feels alive…because it really is.
  • Creates more asymmetry between the sides. In fact, I can’t think of an RTS that has ever done this.
  • Many more choices for alien commander. Constantly thinking about which structures are most important and the timing of their maturity.
  • Marines also have more interesting options in that they can take the current maturity level of structures into account. Hit the near Mature Harvester, or try to pick off the farther newborn one?
  • Aliens can expand across the map and get more lifeforms and eggs, without unlocking new upgrades. Gives a choice for those paths. It also means aliens have to choose whether to choose an upgrade path for their initial Hive or not (they can skip if they want, to gain more territory).
  • Alien comms have much more to do and think about. They don’t have to wait too long to build Hive. They have many more options to them – as they can go for earlier versions of Mature structures without waiting for 2nd Hive. They could even get tier 3 alien abilities with only 2 hives.
  • Should encourage pre-building hive area sometimes, before dropping hive. Or building it up at the same time.
  • Aliens may have extra hives for just eggs and infestation. Although they may have less evolution choices generally as well.
  • Makes early alien game weaker, and late-game stronger.

Fully detailed design is here. We just started playtesting tihs but are hoping to release this in Build 205. Feedback is appreciated but please…read through this entirely and reflect a bit before commenting critically.

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