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Report RSS Alux3D Dev Log #2: From "Ethernet" to "Frontline"

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So... the basic idea for Alux was to take the features from ROTC: Ethernet that gamers universally liked (the zone/spawn mechanics that make up the Ethernet game mode), pair them with the movement and combat mechanics of a tactical shooter like Counter-Strike (instead of the byzantine mechanics of ROTC: Ethernet's CATs) and add the ability to manifest not just infantry, but all kinds of different structures and units (using both conventional and sci-fi weapons) to add another layer of tactical depth and experimentation to the game.

Sounded simple enough, so I forked ROTC: Ethernet into the Alux Ethernet Prototype to get an idea how a game like that would play. Here's a short video of me finishing a round by myself, occasionally playing "against" bots:

The basic idea seemed promising, so I grabbed the Torque3D-MIT engine and started work on Alux3D with the intention of adding an Ethernet game mode as soon as possible.

But when the time to start on the Ethernet mode came, a number of problems with it had become apparent:

  • Large zones make it nearly impossible to advance because once they're white (contested), they will remain white most of the time, preventing either team to build any cover for their infantry units.
  • Small zones turn gameplay into a game of "run around and touch the zone".
  • The zones look completely out of place in natural environments.
  • The abstract rules that govern the zones confuse players not familiar with ROTC: Ethernet.

The first problem is most problematic, because it can only be solved by drastically reducing the importance of cover, which would turn the game back into an arena shooter.
So I went back to the drawing board, trying to come up with a new game mode that has all the important elements of the Ethernet mode but has none of its problems. These important elements are:

  1. Each team has territory on which it can create new units.
  2. The size of a team's territory can increase or decrease.
  3. Territory size can only be increased by defeating the other team in the place where the two territories meet.

The third element is the most important one because it's Ethernet's main difference to other territory-based game modes. But in addition to these three elements, the new game mode must also...

  • ... allow territory to be gained (or lost) in small increments.
  • ... work in every possible environment (from desert to jungle to abstract).
  • ... follow "natural" rules (at least by sci-fi standards) -> be easy to understand.

So here's what I've come up with so far:
A team's territory is called soil and made up of small metallic hexagons that cover the ground.
A hexagon automatically tries to build new hexagons around itself to expand its team's soil, but it can not work on building a new hexagon in a place where a hexagon of the opposing team already exists or is being built.Sounds more complicated than it actually is. Here's a short clip to clarify:

Once one team's soil is in contact with the other team's soil, the only way for it to expand farther is to destroy the soil that is blocking its way.

There will be multiple ways to destroy soil, but they way shown in this next clip, having infantry throw lots of overpowered little grenades that magically only damage the other team's soil, will not be among them. The grenades are just a quick hack to show how destroying enemy soil anywhere except where it meets your own soil is possible but will only temporarily punch holes into the other team's territory without expanding yours.

I'm currently calling this new mode Frontline. The technical implementation of the soil hexagons is still lacking optimized networking & collision/render geometry and of course they still look pretty crappy, but IMHO, conceptually, it fulfills the requirements mentioned above.

If anything about the new game mode is unclear or you have already spotted conceptual flaws in its design, feel free to post comments.

Thanks for reading/watching :)

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