It's time to talk about buildings. Here's a mysterious console before we start, see if you can guess what it is for. The next blog will also be about buildings, and a new building that hasn't been seen before in APB. Anyhow, strap in, because it's a lot of words ahead.
Here's the Premise.
Buildings are very important to the game since right now, most of the maps focus on destroying the entire enemy base in order to win. That might be part of why maps where that isn't the objective are so popular. But, doubtlessly, it's more complicated than that. We've already made changes in the past to make it "easier" to win via this method. A notable change was to make the high-tier tower defenses (Tesla Coil and Gap Generator) no longer required for victory, something we also did with the Ore Silo. Some weapons were given a bonus against the interior of structures, and rocket infantry were given a longe-distance role that doesn't require going inside to damage a building.
Something that also makes buildings very important is their role in giving your team options. One downside of the "kill all buildings" victory condition, and buildings being neccessarily "easy" to kill, is that a team that's losing buildings perhaps loses too many options. Early on, when Supply Trucks were first introduced and many players weren't used to early-game attacks, a lot of teams could find themselves crippled. Your whole team, losing the Refinery in the first three minutes, was effectively mission-killed. Part of that is due to how the economy worked, but it's still a problem. However, we don't want to get rid of that early game rush (no pun intended) you get by pulling off a successful attack, because sitting around in your base for the first five minutes isn't fun either. The worst-case scenario could see both teams without a Refinery, and without a Barracks, unable to accomplish anything while marching basic infantry across the map--- not fun, not able to progress meaningfully. Actually, a real worst-case scenario would be to only have a Service Depot left on each side, but we'll touch on that later.
So it's clear that we need to retain the ability to pull off an early attack, it needs to still give you a sense of accomplishment if you are successful, there needs to still be thought required for balancing your attack vs defense, but losing a building needs to not be worthy of a ragequit or end up in a pure stalemate. Those aren't fun.
Repairing Buildings (Isn't Fun)
There is a lot of yelling about "repair the ____" during a typical match. It's very important, because buildings are important. You don't want to let a couple errant V2 rockets finish it off your War Factory when nobody is looking, or that one act might lose you the game. However, repairing isn't very fun. We've made Technicians able to repair in a set radius, without the need to face a building's weakpoint/MCT, so at least you're not literally staring at a wall for a minute. You know what's more fun than staring at a wall, or looking around nervously while holding your left mouse button? Actually fighting the enemy! If it's a 4v4 game, being the guy stuck repairing is annoying, but it's even annoying when it's 12v12 and everybody else is running around in tanks. Having a Construction Yard lets you do that, which is why the Construction Yard is great! It means nobody needs to stare at walls, although you lose potential repair-given funds.
The crazy conclusion is to let buildings repair themselves, on every map, even without a Construction Yard. Repairing shouldn't be mandatory; you shouldn't need to swap to a Technician and run over to the Power Plant (a useless building to have on a map, but we'll talk about that later) just because it's hovering at 80%. Of course, it needn't be the same in function as the Construction Yard, which needs to somehow provide a superior autorepair, and you should still be able to get money during an attack on your base (perhaps: shoot the bad guys?).
How to Repair Buildings, Then
What we're planning is NPC Technicians that will inhabit your base structures. Regardless of the match size, they'll be there to do the repairing while you focus on actual defense and counterattack. They'll be protected somewhat against being killed by enemy tanks, by virtue of having walls in the way. That's a good reason to bring a buddy with a gun along for the ride in your tank, so that he can go inside and kill all the Technicians! They'll respawn of course, after a while, if the enemy isn't around.
Non-normal structures will not get free NPCs to repair them. If you want to repair defenses, you've got to handle that yourself.
Engineers will still be important for emergency repairs. Pay $500 and you've got five miraculous swings of your legendary wrench, for disarming explosives, quickly topping off a building, or pulling it back from the brink of destruction to full health if you use all five. You know what's not fun? Opening a menu and paying $500 for another Engineer. A solution to that is to allow Engineers to purchase more swings anytime. So it is $500 for the first five, $100 for each additional. This is open to adjustment of course, but the idea is that you can burn through money to save a building and force the enemy to march inside and deal with you.
Technicians are probably not important to buy, but we might keep them around anyway. Possibly as a pay-for character. One of the unfun parts about the Technician is that a team can sit in the basement of the last building, for free, and infinitely re-purchase Technicians. A simple charge of $100 might be enough to make it an interesting choice to become a Technician; then, we can adjust the "repair cash" you get for helping your team's buildings accordingly. In any event they'll stay T1 infantry, always available.
Something you need to keep in mind is that refills are probably going away, too.
How to Repair Units, Then
If refills are going away, how do you heal infantry? Well you could certainly use a Medic, since that's fairly immediate and will also put out any fires. The other option is to just wait around a bit. While you're waiting around, you'll first fall off radar as we've already discussed. Assuming you're keeping out of combat, you'll also start to automatically heal at a very slow rate. It's not fun to need to run back to your base, and it's not fun to need to find a creative way to kill yourself to force a respawn. It's more fun to reward a player for surviving and let him heal up to some degree.
This doesn't mean you duck behind a corner and find yourself at full health suddenly. This isn't a HALO style full shield recharge out of nowhere. You'll get a trickle of health the way Volkov does. A Medic has several advantages, because he can stop any kind of damage effects (burning), and will work during combat. This does however mean that we've finally solved the issue of refilling in the middle of combat.
I may as well discuss repairing vehicles. The Service Depot is not going to be a normal building anymore. Like the Ore Silo, it will not be required for usual victory, and likewise will not come with NPC repairmen. The Mechanic will remain a great option, and be a great ride-along buddy for your tank of choice while still providing the slow self-repair if you're the driver.
The Power Plant (Isn't Fun)
So while we're on the topic of repairs, making things interesting, and changes to buildings, how about that Power Plant? The Power Plant is a pretty interesting building because having it does not give your team any boon. Similar to the Radar Dome not being required for radar, your base naturally just gets power. The Power Plant is just a liability. That's not fun, is it? We're aiming to give every building some kind of actual useful purpose and a reason to be happy to see it.
For the Power Plant, this wasn't an easy thing to figure out. What does a Power Plant do? Well, it helps you maintain healthy building operation, that's obvious. In the old C&C games, low power meant your whole base would slowly take damage. Constructing buildings would also go much slower. Other than that, it lets you get the better defenses. How can we capture some of that function, but spin it in a positive manner that lets the player get interactive with the Power Plant in a positive fashion? It's not like a War Factory where you can walk up to it and order something.
Power Plants will connect to the repair system. Pretty literally, actually. Power Plants will provide a way for players to maintain their buildings, base-wide, from a central master control terminal. Pretend you're Scotty or something, and be the most useful Engineer ever as you repair every building your team has from one convenient station. The NPC Tech team won't use this, and the Golden Wrench won't transfer. It's also not as effective as being a Technician at the building's own MCT, and it's not a particularly secure place, but on a large map with spaced out buildings it might be an interesting location to stay at rather than trying to sprint across the base to whatever building is under attack while Hinds surely blast at you.
Crippling a building won't leave you as bad off as in the past, and all will do something if you have them. abilties will be taken away if it dies, leaving the attacker (assuming they have theirs) with a distinct advantage but without crippling a team that loses a building. Every normal building will have some useful ability beyond what you're used to, like the maintenance thing the Power Plant has. Let's use the Barracks as an example. In the past, having a Barracks gave your team the ability "If you lose the Barracks, you can only build free soldiers." That's underwhelming and makes having a Barracks almost a bad thing.
We've made a change since then. Basic infantry are always available. A Barracks grants higher tech infantry if it is kept alive. The special ability a Barracks will also confer is the ability to remotely purchase infantry. You can see why that would be a great advantage to have a Barracks both present on the map and alive, now. Imagine you're heading to attack the enemy with a truckload of Kapitans and you see Medium Tanks rolling out-- well, have a couple guys swap to RPGs in the field. Maybe you're the Medium Tank guys, and managed to retreat to safety; perhaps you'd like to buy a Mechanic without running back to base?
That sounds pretty overpowered, but it won't be quite so nice as it initially sounds. The idea is to let you call in a small, temporary arsenal to some point on the map. It's not instant, it's got a cooldown timer, and the enemy could destroy it (possibly take control of it?). It also requires a clear area and obviously won't work in a cave.
New Medium Tank & Attack Sub
Also, we're working on a new Medium Tank and Soviet submarine. The old one Med doesn't look that great, especially with the new camera. Our existing sub is also ancient and with naval making a return, it's nice to have. Kane000 made these. Click the thumbnails for larger versions.
We've also got some new map assets, as well as a couple new maps in development. One of the maps is a remake of Keep Off the Grass created with a newer aesthetic and newer technique that will be great for people who love tanks, and another is a version of Raraku so you can have fun with the redone naval mechanics. I'm also working on a map that is perhaps best described as "sideways" with a focus on infantry combat. Here's a little something ChopBam was working on to play with lighting and some of the props:
Next Time: Building Powers