For the last...well, let's just call it a “long time” for the sake of both of us, we've been showing you renders, screenshots, and concept art nearly exclusively. I've written a little bit about our gameplay mechanics in dev journals and such, but there really hasn't been an explanation of how much Dawn of Victory is actually going to change things in Sins. This is slightly ironic, as our goal for the project is more to bring new gameplay than to have a bunch of models: I know I've seen a lot of supposed “total conversions” for a variety of games that ended up being a bunch of models pulled off other sites from a popular IP and with no gameplay changes beyond the utterly superficial. We don't want to do this.
So starting today, I'll be writing one journal per day for the week about things we've either done or plan to do for the first release of Dawn of Victory, but all of them will be discussions of how gameplay will work, nothing else. Hopefully, this will catch me up to our artists. Today's discussion is going to be a general one: what makes DoV different from base Sins?
The answer is: enough to make it feel like a brand new game. We have taken influences from a variety of titles, from Petroglyph's Empire at War (the game on which we first started the mod) to Big Huge Games' Rise of Nations. Sins of a Solar Empire, as we all know was a cross between 4X and RTS, but this approach doesn't work too well when applied to our vision of Dawn of Victory. We will be cutting out a majority of the 4X elements to suite a more military oriented game. This doesn't mean you won't manage empire-building: however, it does mean that existing mechanics will be retooled into more military specific roles, new mechanics, research, and structures will be focused on combat and strategy, and players will usually start with more than one planet under their control.
For example, take the Planetary Defense Base, available only to the Soviet side. Here, corvettes are spawned in at regular intervals (though if you don't want to drain your supply, you can turn them off) rather than built directly. Another structure available to all factions is the Communications Center, which performs a similar role: calling in units from afar. This allows players to feel like they are a commander in a struggle much larger than their own: they can requisition fleets from “elsewhere” as needed. This mechanic was inspired by Empire at War, where larger starbases would call in small ships like the patrol cruisers regularly.
Planets are vital
One of the larger retools is how planets are managed and taken. Planets in Dawn of Victory maps are scarce: taking a planet is a difficult but rewarding endeavor, and losing a planet is a major setback. Dropships now both 'damage' and colonize planets through troop invasions with (unlike the base game) chances below 100% of success. Even if not successful, invasions may lead to allegiance drops, planetary revolts, income drops, and so forth. Troopships must be refilled after each usage at the Planetary Defense Base or Orbital Barracks, so players cannot wait a short time and try again. Planets have larger radiuses allowing more strategic static weapon positioning and minefields can be deployed to force an enemy to go where you want them to go.
The final thing that you'll definitely notice off the bat is how damage in Dawn of Victory is taken. Ships have four main attributes: hull, armor, plating, and power.
Hull represents the underlying structure of the ship. Ships in Dawn of Victory often have very weak hulls: they regenerate quite quickly though, as crew of a ship tend to put “fix leaking atmosphere” near the top of their priority list. A ship's hull has no mitigation (see below) and therefore 300 hull points will fall much faster than 300 armor points.
Armor represents the general strength of the armor of the ship. It should not be confused with the “armor points” of the base game and functions like Sins' “shields” attribute. This takes the majority of the ship's damage but unlike Sins it regenerates slowly or not at all. Targeting opponents' resupply and repair ships will doom them, and lone capital ships can no longer plow through five planets' worth of local militia and come out without a scratch on the other side. As in Sins, armor is fitted to repel certain kinds of attacks, and some warheads will do more damage against some ships than others.
Plating represents the electric reactive armor fitted on all ships in Dawn of Victory. This plating helps dissipate enemy warheads before they hit the hull: this translates to a percentage shaved off the amount of damage taken by the armor depending on the rating. Higher is always better and plating can be upgraded through the research tree. Plating also becomes proportionally less effective when fired on from multiple targets, as opposed to the increasing effectiveness in vanilla Sins of a Solar Empire.
Power is a percentage representing how much energy is available to perform certain tasks. Unlike base Sins, it is always between 0 and 100, and abilities therefore take a certain percentage of the power total rather than an arbitrary number.
See you tomorrow for our next discussion: the largest, most fierce ships in every commander's arsenal, capital ships.