In The Game
Time to introduce another player unit - Mast. She's a classic support unit with 2 passive abilities. She might not do anything too flashy but it’s a great chance to talk about a couple of the game mechanics in HOPE and how the Mast cell integrates with them.
Mast’s first ability is support - any neutrophil units (introduced in an earlier post) that are within range when this power is active will have their attack speed increased, making them more potent in attack and even able to take down units that are usually quite resistant to them (like gram positive bacteria). You can see the effects below (though this is subject to change based on playtesting).
From a game design perspective, what we’re trying to do is offer players choices around what combinations of units they want to use, and offering them benefits for trying different things.
It also means that even though the Mast cell can’t attack itself, it can have an offensive impact.
Mast’s second ability is ‘Heal’. This will give health back to the player. Players have a health bar that will go down over time as long as there are enemy units around. The purpose of this health bar is to make it clear to players that they should always be on the offensive, because even though this is an RTS, it’s not one where you take your time and build a strong base before making your move. So Mast cells are useful if you’re taking a beating on your health and need to get some back.
Mast's appearance in the game was inspired by the fact that in real life mast cells have a 'granular' appearance, as you can see from the image below (ignore the purple colour, that's due to the dye used to stain the cells).
These granules are actually compounds which help mediate the inflammation process - you'll know this process well from when you cut yourself and see the wound go swollen and red - that's inflammation. Inflammation (among other things) allows recruitment of other immune cells to the site and is one of the first steps in defending the body against invasion from foreign particles.
So given Mast cells' early part in the defence process they fit the role of 'watcher and monitor' well, which is why we decided to make the granules in the cell faces watching everywhere. It's also why the cell has such a large visibility radius in the fog of war.
Mast cells also play a core role in allergies as they release their inflammation mediators in response to allergens. We haven't factored this into the game yet but it just goes to show how fascinating and complicated the human immune system is!
Thanks for reading, we'll be back soon with another dev log post.