Post news RSS Unit Spotlight #2 - The Prowler

Here's another preview of a Fanwars in-game unit that you will be able to play with very soon! ;)

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The Prowler : The Conclave of Horizon’s Elusive Walker

Faction: Conclave of Horizon

Unit type: Tier 2 walker

Good versus: Light Vehicles, Infantry

Bad versus: Heavy Vehicles, Heavy Infantry, Aircraft

Where the Alliance and the Order rely on heavier and better armored tanks, the Prowler is far lighter, putting more emphasis on mobility instead. Its twin laser cannons have an extremely high rate of fire and combined with the high speed of its servos make it the master of hit-and-run tactics and key target destruction.

The lighter build of the walker also comes at a cost, the Prowler is relatively frail compared to the Basilisk or the Garm (the Alliance’s and the Order’s main battle tanks respectively) and thus, will not survive a direct encounter against one of them without assistance.

Like all of the Conclave units, the Prowler benefits from the signature “choice upgrade”. Meaning that during the game, a Conclave player can choose one of two upgrades for the Prowler. Once this upgrade is completed the other cannot be chosen anymore.

  • Φ The “Stalker” upgrade increases the Prowler’s attack damage as well as its attack range. This version of the prowler gets better at kiting enemies and killing backline units such as artillery.
  • Ω The “Hunter” upgrade increases the Prowler’s attack damage and HP. This version of the Prowler is better suited for direct combat and holding the frontline during a battle.

On My Way to destroy your base

On my way to destroy your base~

Written by Logue and Antoku.

Voxel model by Logue.


"Elusive" and "Giant Mecha Walker" seem pretty mutually exclusive to me.

I do have a little bit of a problem with the choice upgrades. While on one hand it's cool and gives them a distinct advantage to have to force their opponents on their toes by not being totally sure which upgrades they will pick, this can be frustrating from the opponent's perspective especially when a faction is designed to be based around reacting to tech choices their opponent makes facing up against the Conclave. Keeping it very simply only 2 upgrades to choose from can really help mitigate this, though.

My second problem with this is that these upgrades only do a little bit to make them stand out. I think if you want to go with an idea like this, you need to go all-out. while the two different upgrades can give them a little bit different functionality, it should go as far as to make them fill two completely different roles that fundementally are two different units. So for example, though depending on how early this unit is available this is definitely not suggested, one upgrade could give them stealth, speed, high damage against light units, and the ability to attack air, but lose a lot of health, damage against non-light units and especially against buildings, and making them more expensive, turning them into a mini Stealth Tank, while the other upgrade could make them much beefier, have a lot more damage, have some auto-heal, but drastically reduce their speed and reduced damage against infantry and a slower attack, turning them into a kind of mini Mammoth Tank.

That's just an example. The point is, those two upgrades will not only be used or fundementally different purposes giving a wide range of playstyles, but it also strengthens that advantage that having two distinct options for each unit gives because you have to react to the two different units in fundementally different ways which gives them a window of oppertunity to get something done with these special changes right off the bat but also forces their opponent to have to scout, keeping an eye on which choices they make, and this also always puts a Conclave's opponent on the reactionary end giving Conclave the ability to dictate the pace of the game and which directions it moves in. While some of these ideas are being explored with what you have right now, I think much more drastic unit choices can more heavily influence this kind of gameplay.

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the Prowler isn't a giant mecha, it is quite small and light compared to other's faction main battle tank,

So far we did not had any bad experiences with the tech choice system,

but at the same time, we chose to keep the boost quite small so that no unit start eating the role of others,
and we, as designers, are certainly biased about the playstyle of each factions,

I hope feedback from the beta, when we release it, will allows us to tune the upgrades so that they feel strategicaly different enough and don't eat the gameplay niche of other units.

Early concept had the Omega upgrade grant lifesteal on the Prowler's attack but the engine did not allowed us to have a satisfiying version of it, so we are definitively ready to try cooler effects.

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Antoku Author

We didn't mentioned the Prowler's size in this news but it's definitely not a giant mecha. However one could assume that it's just as big as a single-seat pod with legs.

The faction is not primarily designed to counter enemies' tech choices with upgrades. It's more like a useful gimmick.
What we really didn't want was that specific upgrades become "hard counters". These upgrades are only aimed at mitigating disadvantages that Conclave players might have at certain points so that these players could create other more suited units. Thus, we do not want upgrades that drastically change the units' roles or functionalities.
For example (I know these were just examples but these were good ones), the ability to become faster (the Prowler is already quite fast though), have high damage and be able to attack air is definitely not its role (another unit has these exact same attributes and this role). Upgrading it to a mini Mammoth tank is the absolute opposite of its role and could contribute more to players being confused. Moreover, there is already another unit that is perfectly suited for direct confrontations with slow, big and powerful units. My point is having so many redundant units is generally not a good idea, especially for a faction where versatility is not its forte.

As stated by Logue, we didn't have any bad feedback/experience with this system. Each upgrades has its use and we didn't notice any upgrades that have always been chosen instead of others for now.

We took your constructive feedback into consideration however I'd recommend to play the mod first.
The first release might come very soon anyway. ;)

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TL;DR at bottom.

As I was just providing examples, units that overlap with my examples are irrelevant. That can be worked out as it'd go on. It was just to get across the idea that having an upgrade system that only provides minor differences to the player has many player fantasy and design problems. This isn't to say that it is bad. Like most things, there's simply advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider.

For fantasy problems: The player gets to a point where they feel like a system like this is just something that keeps them on-par with other factions instead of feeling like a unique mechanic that gives the player more options to work with, due to over-optimization by the player base (See: SC2 with Larva Injects) and if it's not handled carefully. While also having much more subtle differences makes the player feel like they have to memorize statistics more, meaning it's harder for them to learn the system. Having broad bold distinctions between units gives the player a clear view of what their options are at a glance and puts the focus directly on how they can customize the options to fit their playstyle instead of having to learn statistics and the basics of the system to then get to playstyle.

For Design Problems:

1. This system ultimately makes it very difficult for opposing players to get a good idea of what they are up against when fighting Conclave, because the differences are subtle and hard to read at a glance.

2. You never want to just straight-up give the player more damage or health without also providing a disadvantage for it or making it some kind of decision the player has to make (See: SC/WC 3-tiered Damage & Armor upgrades) because this also leads to the dreaded over-optimization problem mentioned before. This is because ultimately with the choices being that simple but subtle you end up with players that are confused and frustrated because they don't know what is stronger and think they are losing games because of it, and other players that want to dictate what others should use because they think they know what the strongest over-all option is, and those losing-players listening to them even though it's not the best option to make the game funner for them because they are desperate to win more games. By providing disadvantages instead of making players think on what is the strongest option you make them think on what they are willing to give up for certain advantages, meaning they tool things more to their playstyle and what they are comfortable with and it is harder to argue for what is stronger because ultimately the disadvantages come up to what the player finds to actually be a disadvantage or not (See: Don't Starve's Sanity / Nightmare Fuel balance. Some players think being insane more often than not is better, others think having more control over when you are or not insane is better, others still think that being sane as much as possible is best and only ever going insane when you absolutely need Nightmare Fuel).

3. When you set up a mechanic like this, players tend to want the most optimized options and not what they think will actually be fun. By for example providing very clearly different roles as options for upgrades, they still want what is most optimized but because the options would be so clearly distinct and different from each other what becomes the most optimized is a lot more gray and so players have to decide on their own what is more optimized to them, which in theory would be what is ultimately more fun for them.

Ultimately, my argument is about obscuring optimization and making the player make harder and more complex decisions to figure out their own play style and how those options fit in them, which this idea kinda fails at both but has its own advantages in its own way. It's just some food for thought, something to think about.

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I believe that the flat attack and defense bonus as it is in WC/SC is not an issue.

The issue lies in the visibility of the upgrade, Tiberium Wars had the same flat damage boost with the railgun upgrade.
But it did not felt bad because you could clearly see that the opponent had something you did not have.

We made sure to add visible markers that the unit has been upgraded.

The other reason that I like the flat boost is because it allows tier 1 and tier 2 unit to stay relevant in the late game without having them broken in the early game,
something that I feel c&c often fails at, for exemple once you have mammoth tanks you pretty much don't have any reason to make other ground units.

On the side of fantasy, I can only agree with you, one of the upgrade will always be more powerful and thus be chosen more often, but that is a problem that exist even for basic upgrades,
to keep with the SC analogy the building HP upgrade is never used because it is suboptimal.

But that will be our job to make them as close as we can, and right now with only a handfull of player having tested the game we don't have enough feedback to know if it needs changes and where they are needed.

I also fear that having a malus comming with the upgrade has some issues,
First, it does not really feel like an upgrade, if you upgrade something it should not perform worse.

Second, adding a drawback also add a new constraint of timing, good player already time their attacks at the second their bonus becomes active, but now it will actively punish player that don't, if you have to recall in emergency and suddenly your upgrade goes online and halves the speed of your tanks you were punished for making the upgrade, even if in this match it was the good decision...

I'd rather have the option to switch between those modes on a unit per unit level rather than a global upgrade, if it comes with a drawback. or at least something like the US "battle plans" in generals.

Though, you raised many good issue that I did not thought about before, and I will keep in mind what you said.

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