MAKING REDLINE: WORLDBUILDING

Last time I wrote an article on developing REDLINE’s visual art design and this week I wanted to take it on step further and look at how we put those design cues onto paper with the creation of REDLINE’s world through its style guide.

One of the challenges we had when making REDLINE was to make it stand out as something unique and apart from the multitude of sci-fi and mobile games out on the market. There are thousands of games out there that feature giant robots blowing each other apart and if REDLINE is to have any amount of success we wanted to look and feel different from the competition.

Worldbuilding – The construction of a world, especially a convincing fictional world for literature, film etc.

To accomplish this one of the very first things we did, before we even typed in a single line of code, was to focus extensively on the world REDLINE takes place in. What would a war in the near future with giant armored robots look like and how could it start? What are efreets exactly and what are they not? Should the they be giant five-story tall behemoths or more like tiny suits of armor like Iron Man? Perhaps maybe something in between?  How do they function and where do they draw their power from? What weapons would they use? How does one pilot one and what do the pilots even look like in uniform?

We wanted to have all these answers and more as we started the game’s development to make sure REDLINE was a cohesive, relatable and engaging setting for our players to enjoy and get lost in. Even though our game is small, we still wanted it to feel big.

WORLDBUILDING 101   

Think of your favorite sci-fi or fantasy movie as those are the ones where the importance of worldbuilding is most clearly evident. What many screenwriters will often do before they write their script is create a kind of “movie bible” about all the information that came before the main story. These bibles can be quite large and often end up bigger than the script itself as they act as a kind of history book and go to guide on how everything should act and look. For example, in 1967 when he was developing Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry wrote a short thirty-one page guide to his show that detailed how the Enterprise was to look and function along with show themes, character guides and even crew allocation. By referring to this guide it allows producers and directors to get a feel for what Star Trek was to look and feel like before a single episode was ever shot and it also allowed for consistency as the show was built.

This is exactly what I set out to make for REDLINE as I saw the value in fleshing out our universe and also in having a document to go back to when creative issues came up.

To do so I simply fired up Google Docs and got to writing out all the little details and backstories that would make up our REDLINE world which I’d like to share some parts of with you down below and how I approached them. This work was some of the earliest done for REDLINE as we were still trying to form what the game would look like as it took shape. One practice that was invaluable for us was looking towards the internet for pictures and examples of what we were striving to make. It’s one thing to try to explain through words how something is supposed to look and function, but it’s another to give a visual representation along with it. Pictures are worth a thousand words and having them as a reference goes a long way towards communicating and sharing your ideas with others. Google Images and even Pintrest are treasure troves of ideas and inspiration that you cna use to help jump start your game’s development, even before you’ve hired a single artist. 

I strongly suggest to anybody developing a game of their own for the first time to start with a strong style guide. It’s much easier to share a well thought out doc with people than to explain ideas face to face or over email. I know without a doubt that early on when the game was in its infancy these style guides were powerful recruitment tools to get other talented individuals to help work on the game and see the potential of what we were trying to. I don’t care if you aim to make the next version of Angry Birds, Zelda or even Frogger, a style guide should be one of the first things you create as it will help cement your ideas and make it so much easier to share them with others. 

REDLINE STYLE GUIDE

EFREETS: “With the smallest Efreet weighing in at 20 tons and the biggest at 80, they are incredibly versatile weapons easily adapted to the vast array of planetary surfaces mankind has encountered through his colonization of deep space. While traditional weapon platforms such as hover tanks can still be found on the battlefield, their inability to traverse extremely rough terrain has regulated them to the rear lines of modern war as garrison units or low-cost escorts. While having “boots on the ground” was a common phrase used in older wars to signify combat was imminent, having “Efreets on the ground” these days has become an expression used to signify victory is close at hand. Efreets have become the modern kings of the battlefield and have worn that crown for almost 100 years.”

“Able to carry a variety of weapons, Efreets can slag nearly anything in their sights, except for another Efreet. The miniaturized cold fusion reactors they run on provide more than enough energy to power an array of lasers, cannons, mini missile pods, plasma accelerator cannons, and electromagnetic rifles to and still have the leftover capacity to power sustain life support, sensors, and boosters. However all this massive power output comes at a cost as Efreets generate a tremendous amount of electromagnetic (EM) build up which can slow their top speeds and interfere with fire control systems. The best Efreet pilots are able to push their machines to the limit by balancing performance with the EM buildup that comes from sustained activity. To combat this side effect, Efreets are equipped with EM dischargers that safely vent excess electromagnetic static and keep the machines running at 100%.”

This was the first attempt to try and write out just what an efreet was supposed to be and how they worked. The idea was they were not natural evolution of the tank as they were still heavily armored fight machines but their versatility and mobility made them much more useful considering the varied harsh environments one would find in space.

Being the first whack at attempting to identify what efreets are it’s interesting to look back at these early ideas and see what stuck and what ended up changing. According to the REDLINE timeline efreets are a relatively new technology on the scene, less than a decade old when the game begins, when originally the idea was they had been around for nearly a century. Some ideas stuck like having them be powered by some kind of super efficient cold fusion reactors while other like the generation of electromagnetic static as a byproduct of that power source were dropped due to gameplay issues.

Also at this stage, we had no actual art for our efreets so instead we looked to the internet for mech designs we liked and wanted to aesthetically follow. Below are some examples of what we had in mind for the look of our efreets. We really wanted that walking tank aesthetic by emphasizing boxy angular armor plating, cockpits over the heads you see on many other mechs, and having exposed weapons and mechanical parts.

 

“Here’s some real world military vehicles that might help in designing styles and to keep the efreets a bit more grounded in reality. A lot of attack helicopters have that rugged look we want. Tons of complex machinery in place to keep them flying yet they have to be armored to survive being fired at. Armored engine vents, cockpits, sensors and weapons everywhere. Give the things arms and legs and they’d look a lot like a mech already.”

We also looked at real life military vehicles for some design cues, most noticeably from a lot of attack helicopters as they fit the look we were going for almost exactly. I’ve always loved military aviation growing up and trying to incorporate the engine exhaust from an Apache or the bubble cockpit canopy of a Soviet Hind into the efreets was really fun and worked out well creatively. Inspiration can really come anywhere.

 

SHAPE MEMORY CABLES:  “If you were to open up and efreet or look underneath the heavy armor plating you’d find a sea of shape memory cables that look and act like muscle to provide a wide range of quick movements to efreets while also providing power to critical weapons and systems wires. By altering the electrical current in the cables they quickly contract with great force and will return to their original shape when current becomes normal again.”

We even went so deep into details that we brainstormed the parts that make up and efreet and how they actually function. To explain how they were so nimble and fast we gave them electronic muscles not much different than synthetic ones being devolved today.

INTERNAL FRAME: “Underneath the armor each efreet is built around an internal frame of either FOAM STEEL or ultralight NANOTUBE COMPOSITE ALUMINUM. Foam steel is a porous material that has high strength versus weight and was used on the first efreets chassis’s. The material’s porous nature highly simulates bone and had increased EMS dissipation capabilities. Relatively cheap to make, foam steel was common until the development of nanotube composite aluminum which has the same strength as steel foam but was even lighter. Modern efreets are built with nanotube frames even though they are not as effective at discharging EMS. The increased amount of weapons efreet’s can carry is seen as worth the tradeoff.”

When building our world, sometimes we did not need to look much further than our own for inspiration as it turns out foamed metals is a real world thing that allows manufacturers to create super strong yet super light materials the properties of which are still currently being researched.

UNITED NATIONS OF EARTH: “The UNE is what the US military would look like in the near distant future. Sleek, modern, with a focus on highly sophisticated technology. With all the major world powers having willingly left Earth like the BRIMEA nations or lost it like the former Russian and Chinese nations, the US has stepped up to fill the political and economic void. However, controlling and pacifying the vast population is no easy task since these mass exoduses are still recent and much of the people left in those vacant states are not pleased with their new rulers. Riots and protests are common around the globe which the UNE cannot ignore. As a result the UNE ironically finds itself barely holding on to the Earth itself.”

Of course we needed opposing armies to fight each other if we were going to make a game about a future war. What we tried to come up with was two factions that were based in current events and not necessarily “good” or “bad” but different shades of grey.

In REDLINE, the UNE is an amalgamation of western societies that’s left in charge of an Earth that has seen all its rival powers leave in one way or another. That’s not to say the UNE finds itself in an ideal situation as much of its resources are spent occupying the former territories of those rivals and the people who were left behind. Much like the United States today, the UNE is saddled with occupations of far away lands but on a global scale which was the point as I believe sci-fi is at it’s best when it is more a reflection of the present than the future.

Stylistically, we wanted the UNE to very much be grounded in a near future look and technology. Below are some examples of what pilots and solders within the UNE could look like with a lot of the Army’s future warrior ideas thrown in with fighter pilots and a bit of Call of Duty AW for good measure. 🙂

UNE concepts

 CRIMSON PACT:Also known as the “Red Alliance” the Crimson Pact still has strong roots to their Russian and Chinese heritage despite losing their homelands. Largely made up of Russian and Chinese space colonists, the Crimson Pact is smaller in overall number than the massive Earth based population of the UNE. That’s not necessarily a disadvantage as they don’t suffer from the drain of supporting 9 billion people. In addition the Crimson Pact is relatively rich due to their proximity to the vast resources of the nearby asteroid belt. As a result they can focus much of their resources into maintaining a strong military and in their hurried efforts to terraform Mars.”

With strong ties to both Russia and China the hard part of designing the Crimson Pact was to not go after the low hanging fruit of simply making them future communists and be done with it. Instead, The CPact as we call them, have more in common with the original colonists in North America as they work to make a new home out of an inhospitable one but rich in resources. We wanted to push that astronaut aesthetic by making the Cpact a lot more sci-fi and futuristic when compared to the UNE and looked at astronauts and their spacesuits for much of their look and feel.

EARTH: For REDLINE we looking to develop a kind of “greenpunk” aesthetic. (At least on Earth) The game takes place in 2060, some 40 years from now and although it’s futuristic we don’t want to go full on cyberpunk. High technology intermixed with nature. There will still be big sprawling cities but nothing like Blade Runner or Neo-Tokyo.

Instead of having a dark and gritty sci-fi landscape like so many games and movies have we opted for something a little more open and inviting. “Greenpunk” is an eco friendly take on steam or cyber punk where trees, leaves and wood replace a lot of the technology. I liked greenpunk as a start for building REDLINE’s version of Earth as it put nature on an equal level with technology. Further research on Google lead to a lot of art by a well-known artist named Simon Stålenhag who is great at blending together high technology with scenes of normal everyday life for art that’s familiarly unfamiliar.  A lot of his pieces ended up becoming how we envisioned the Earth of REDLINE in the not so distant future.

WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?

As you can see, having a style guide with some of the examples from above really allowed us to start work on the game with a strong vision of what REDLINE was going to be and made the task of starting a brand new video game from scratch less daunting. But it also helped to create a world that we hope is worth exploring. REDLINE has a history, we’re currently working on its present, and with any luck there is still a lot of story and world left out there to explore in the future as well.

Next time I’ll wrap up this little art series of articles with an in-depth look at what goes into the creation of all the fantastic concept art for REDLINE from start to finish.

Until then, don’t just explore your world, make you own.

 

MAKING REDLINE: ART DESIGN

When I was in high school I took A LOT of art classes. Half my day was spent in drawing class and I loved it. My schedule alternated between art and core classes and drawing became a huge focus in my life with dreams of going to art school after graduation and getting into illustration high on my list of to-dos. But it wasn’t meant to be as I drifted from the art world and ended up in the lucrative world of public education. I don’t regret the choices I make in life, but part of me wishes I had stuck with the art skill tree as many of my friends who did went on to become quite successful and take on all sorts of exciting jobs.

As the leader of an indie game studio, you wear many hats and one of the ones I have enjoyed wearing the most is my art design ball cap. (Yes it’s a ball cap) It’s like the art design job I always dreamed I wanted to have back in high school but instead of working on the composition for a single picture I’m composing an entire game. It’s been a fun and creative challenge and a great learning experience considering it’s still rather new to me.

What is visual design?

Think of your favorite video game be it Mario Kart, Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto or even Pac-Man. Now describe how it looks in one or two sentences. If you can, then the game’s designers did a good job of developing its visual style., or simple the way the game looks and feels to the player.

Take for example, Mario games which are made to look like playable cartoons with bright and colorful characters made with lots of rounded shapes and living in cutesy environments. This makes sense as Mario games are made to have a vast appeal to a large audience of gamers of all ages. The violence isn’t graphic either and is limited to some stray fireballs or boot stomping. Everybody knows and everybody loves Mario in large part to its recognizable visual design. Why do you think Nintendo likes to slap Mario’s brand on every game genre imaginable? Mario Party, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, Mario Kart, Mario Paint etc.

Now look at a game on the complete other side of the spectrum such as the Dark Souls series. If you are unfamiliar with Dark Souls, it’s a popular game franchise that caters to the most hardcore of hardcore players. It’s a dreary fantasy survival game where death and a game over screen lurks behind every corner. Dying over and over again is key to understanding and overcoming the deadly game world inhabited by dragons, skeletons, and the spirits of other lost souls hellbent on restlessly killing the player. To help convey and build up that constant sense of dread the game’s visual style is centered around cold and gritty muddled colors, deep shadows, and narrow corridors within dark dungeons where escape seems impossible. The game looks scary even on pause.

Super Mario Sunshine and Dark Souls 3

Now imagine if these two games swapped nothing but art styles and Mario became the dark and gritty game while Dark Souls transformed into a Saturday morning cartoon. I don’t know how appealing a Mario Brother’s game would be if bloodthirsty half dead goomba’s charged out at Mario out from a rusty green sewer pipe to devour him limb from limb. Well actually that sounds awesome but at that point are you really playing a Mario game anymore? Who would play that game and would it sell as well as what players are used to?  Conversely, I doubt Dark Souls would find the audience and success it has if happy skeleton clowns charged at you with candy canes and lollipops. The point is,  visual design goes a long way to identifying what a game is supposed to be and is one of the first things that needs to be decided upon when designing a game. It’s sets the stage for everything else that follows.

Going green with Greenpunk

When we first began designing REDLINE one of the first things I did was to look at other sci-fi games similar to ours. A common theme around sci-fi and robot based games in general is to follow the Dark Souls approach and make them realistic and gritty. Many of them look very industrial and militaristic which does makes sense if your game is built around giant robots as the main appeal. But often that is all those games have going for them visually and as a result  too many “robot” games end up looking similar as they tend to blend together. You’ve seen and played one, you’ve seen and played them all.

Illustration by Simon Stålenhag.

To combat those preconceived expectations we wanted REDLINE to stand out right from the start and so made a conscious decision from the beginning to go in an opposite direction. Granted, in a futuristic robot based war game like ours, there needs to be some amount of grit, going the Mario route wouldn’t fare well, but there is also room to try something different. In designing REDLINE we borrowed heavily from an aesthetic known as “greenpunk” in which nature goes hand in hand with technology. Examples of the aesthetic we worked for can be seen in the work of artist Simon Stålenhag and even the movie, Reel Steel where advanced technology blends in with modern scenery and imagery to create something vaguely familiar yet new. It’s a unique look that’s appealing and stands out from those tried and repeated sci-fi tropes that have become all too common today.

Concept art for Reel Steel

In REDLINE, battles will take place as equally in high tech futuristic cities as they will in the wide open desert plains and forested mountains of the wilderness. There will be advanced weaponry to use and equip your efreets with but also tried and true cannons and missiles little different from what militaries use today.  Even though the game takes place roughly 40 year from now, we want it to feel in some aspects that parts of it could happen today. This design philosophy also lends itself to a colorful palette of warm colors, open sprawling spaces and upbeat music designed to wrap around the player like a warm blanket. It’s small choices like this we hope gets players interested and continue to keep playing as the game grows over time.

Next week I’ll be back to talk about and explain how we further created the visual language for REDLINE through the creation and implementation of style guides. A kind of visual bible our artists use to help build the world of the near distant future. Until then may you rediscover old dreams made anew.

 

MAKING REDLINE: WEAPONS PART TWO

Last week I wrote about the different types of weapons in REDLINE, their sub classes, and how they function in the game. You can read about all the game’s weapons in the article here.

Today I want to talk about REDLINE’s weapons again, but how they function outside of gameplay and work in customization instead. It’s been a long winding road to get our weapons to the point where they are now and to explain it properly I have to go pretty far back. Back to the very first days of REDLINE. development.

When we first had the idea for REDLINE, it was a given from the start that the efreets would be player customizable. I mean, what’s the appeal of a mech combat game if you can’t equip your units with specific weapon load outs? Of course we would have lasers and big huge cannons along with volleys of swarming missiles that players could take into battle and blow each other up with. The difficulty came in how would we handle the equipping of weapons in the game. For you see, not all weapons are created equal.

Some of the weapons in REDLINE are just better than others. They do more damage, have longer range, fire faster, or have special abilities that set them above the rest. In order to create a balanced game however there has to be a way to make those weapons a little less powerful with drawbacks so they end up becoming a bit more fair. There are ways we can do that naturally by making the most powerful weapons a bit more rare than the others so simple scarcity becomes a drawback. We also built a system into the game called electromagnetic static (EMS) that is generated whenever weapons are fired. As an efreet’s EMS levels build from sustained fire, penalties acrew that slow down movement, make shots inaccurate or can even lead to an efreet powering off for a turn. What that means is although a heavy particle canon does a crap ton of damage, it also hurts you a little every time you fire it. You gotta take the good with the bad.

Another way we also tried to balance weapons is through their size. Efreets come in three sizes, light, medium and heavy and originally weapons did too.

It doesn’t make sense for example, that a light and nimble Rabbit efreet should be able to carry a massive 150 mm cannon, so each efreet was designed to have different weapon bays that can only hold weapons of a certain size and type. Doing this eliminates the possibility of overpowered weapons on efreets they weren’t designed to be on and gave us more options to balance out the game’s weapons by designing around that.

 

 

To illustrate, let’s look at that 25 ton Rabbit efreet and see what kind of weapons it could carry.

Above is an early prototype of the efreet hanger bay where players can equip efreets before battle. On the left are the collected weapon cards a player has collected through play and on the right is the selected efreet with its open weapon bays shown as colored hexes. In this early mock-up the blue hexes are cannon bays while the red ones are for missiles weapons, yellow is for pilots and green is for camouflage. To equip an efreet all a player had to do was swipe an appropriate weapon into an open bay and the weapon would be installed.

It’s also worth nothing that in this system heavy weapons take up three weapon slots, medium weapons take two and the smallest weapons eat up one slot each. The more powerful weapons end up becoming harder to carry than the smaller, lighter and less damaging ones.

You can see in the animation above that the 120 mm cannon card takes up two spaces when equipped as it was a medium-sized weapon and a one slot machine gun in the right and left sides of the efreet. Had the player wanted they could have instead opted to equip a heavy three slot weapon in that same space or three smaller one slot weapons like a machine gun. With this system a player a player had a lot of choices not only in the weapons an efreet could bring into battle, but in the different combinations of them as well. Would it be best to equip the biggest weapons available or instead cram as many smaller ones onto your efreet’s frame as it could handle?

I liked this system but it had one major drawback. The weapons you equipped onto an efreet wouldn’t appear on them visually. It would be simply too cumbersome to design the efreets to have duplicates of weapon models crammed into a space designed for a single one. What that meant is that when you played REDLINE, the efreets would always have a standardized look to them regardless of what weapons were equipped onto them. A 150 mm cannon would look no different on the model than a machine gun. Or four machine guns crammed onto an arm would look no different than if a cannon was equipped. It wasn’t the most elegant system if we gave the player a ton of options for customizing your efreet and it looked the same as everybody else’s, camo not withstanding, but it was simple and fast to implement.

However, a lot of people suggested early on that we should design the game with actual interchangeable weapon models so when you equipped an efreet with a weapon it actually showed up on it in-game. A novel concept and a no brainer to be sure, but being a small indie game and studio, that was the LAST thing I wanted for REDLINE. At the time adding another 100 or so 3D models for the game was a taunting task. It wasn’t in our time frame or budget to say the least, and would add another layer of complexity to an already complex mobile game.

But it would hella cool……

As time progressed and we further refined the game’s development it became more and more apparent that NOT putting in weapon specific models  would be a mistake. A lot of other games did this already and fairly or not, we would be judged side by side with them. On top of that we wanted the game’s weapons to be special and desirable, as they were our form of loot, and how exciting can a weapon really be if it was just basically stats? And adding in weapon specific models would add a lot of extra work in the form of development hours and would require a reworking of our customization system as well. Both substantial undertakings.

But screw it! Go BIG or go home right?

Well, we decided to go big which is why I’m proud to announce today that REDLINE will feature new interchangeable weapon models!

Now when you equip a weapon it will actually show up on the model AND in battle so players can show off all the cool weapons they’ve collected and truly make each efreet their own.

Below you can see an example of some of the different weapon models we’ve created for the game that players can earn and equip. This is just a small sample of the variety of cannons, mag rifles, riot guns, lasers and particle cannons we’ve made so far.

And here is what they look like when equipped onto a UNE Tigercat. And they look awesome.

As you can see, the efreets really benefit from being fully customizable as they not only look cool with the different weapons attached, but gameplay is improved as a player can now actually see what an opponent is bringing into battle and vice versa.

This wasn’t easy to implement though and required additional changes to our mech hanger system. Now that weapons had actual models we had to make sure each weapon was modular and could fit on every efreet and not look out-of-place. That meant a few small changes had to be made to the physical efreet designs but that was a fairly simple change to make. No, the problem came from the old weapon system’s feature that allowed players to stack smaller weapons into large weapon bays. Now that weapon changes are actually displayed on an efreet we would be unable to have multiple smaller weapons stack and still look proper visually. Certain weapons would be too large for some spaces or leave no room for additional smaller weapons so we had to go back and redesign how weapons and efreets interacted with each other.

Under our new weapon customization system weapons still come in three sizes, small, medium and large. And efreet weapon bays are still classified by weapon type; energy, cannon or missile. But, and here’s the change, weapon bays can only accept weapons of a specific size instead of a combination of sizes. For example, a large missile bay in the new system can be equipped with a large missile only and cannot be loaded up with smaller missile systems or a combination of the two.

While this new system does limit some of the customization options for the player as opposed to the original design, this is a much simpler system that still leaves a large variety of choices for players in the hanger bay. The choices of what you take into battle are still plentiful, especially when you consider each weapon bay on an efreet has three different weapon classes to equip, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Remember from last week’s article that missiles come in standard missile, rocket or short-range swarm varieties.

And did I mention just how cool the different weapons look?

We think players are going to love collecting, equipping and using all the different weapons in available in REDLINE. Part of the fun in the game is discovering what weapon combinations work best with others and on what efreet. As you play the game more weapons will become available and that will open up new possibilities and strategies you can take to the battlefield to test and refine. And you can do it in style with truly custom efreets sporting the latest weapon models and camouflage. Pretty sweet right?

Designing the weapons was a challenge and took a lot of trial and error but in the end REDLINE has a deep and visually appealing weapon system which is all we wanted in the first place.

Next week I’ll be back to talk about one of the most enjoyable aspects of REDLINE so far. Developing its art.

Until then may you persist until you finally get it right.

 

MAKING REDLINE: WEAPONS PART ONE

Today is all about the weapons

Weapons in REDLINE come in three categories, energy, cannons, and missiles and originally that was just it. But as we developed the game we wanted to make sure the player had a wide array of options available to them when equipping their efreets for battle and there was a worry that limiting the weapons to only three weapon classes would be too narrowing. Yes, there would still plenty of design space to make pretty much anything we wanted under that very broad weapon umbrella but we also felt it simplified the weapons a bit too much if everything that shot a bullet was “just a cannon”. It just felt too narrow.

As soon as we realized we wanted to open things up a bit more the next logical step was to take the three weapon types and sub divide them into distinct categories. For example, we had already designed the basic weapon necessities early on, your rapid fire machine gun, heavy hitting tank cannon, and long-range sniper rifle. to name a few. Instead of just labeling them all as generic cannons why not take the types of weapon and simply make it into its own class with unique characteristics and attributes for each?

This change gave us the weapon class system that we have today and opened up a lot of extra room for us to create weapons in. Now each weapon type, energy, cannon, missile, will have three specific sub classes that each act and behave differently during play. Not only did this change help us further define how the multitude of weapons in REDLINE will behave but by putting weapons into sub classes, it helps the player grasp exactly what each is designed to do as well just by looking at it. After all, you wouldn’t bring a sniper rifle to a close range knife fight and vice versa.

Now that I’ve explained where the weapon types and classes came from, I’d like to go over each in detail today to show off REDLINE’s complex and intricate weapons system. We’re really proud of it for its simplicity and depth it brings to game play.

 ENERGY

Energy weapons are categorized as any weapon that does not physically fire a projectile, instead shooting out a burst of, well, energy at a target.

As far as REDLINE is concerned, all energy weapons have the following traits in common. Because they fire no projectiles, instead firing large charges of energy produced by their cold fusion reactors, they are not limited by ammunition and can in theory fire indefinitely. However since they are such a drain on an efreet’s cold fusion reactors they generate massive amounts of electromagnetic static (EMS) feedback that can slow down and hamper an efreet’s effectiveness in combat. As a result energy weapons are best used in small doses or on efreets with the capacity to discharge the EMS before it becomes detrimental. Like all the main weapon types, energy weapons come in three classes.

LASER

Using a series of small and finely refined lenses, lasers fire a beam of highly focused energy and are some of the most common weapons found on the futuristic battlefields in REDLINE. With few moving parts lasers are loved by efreet maintenance crews for their simplicity as much as pilots swear by their dependability. Lasers damage a target by burning holes through a target with their powerful beams. Coming in all sizes and ranges lasers are devastating scalpels in the hands of a pilot who can successfully manage the high levels of EMS they generate.

Because of their focused beams, lasers deal consistent, though comparatively low damage, shot after shot, to a single location in combat.

PLASMA CANNONS

Efreet pilots have always loved lasers for their unlimited ammunition but despised them for their low power when compared to weapons of a similar size. Plasma cannons solve this deficiency by running the power from a cold fusion reactor into a large capacitor that stores it and builds it over time like a giant battery. Once full, the capacitor fires out a massive crackling orb of pure energy towards a target with the capability to level anything in its path.

Plasma cannons excel in dealing out massive damage over long ranges. However that power doesn’t come without drawbacks. Plasma cannons generate excessive amounts of EMS and have slow recharge times so shots need to be placed carefully. Sustained fire with a plasma cannon is impossible for most efreets. In addition, because of their large capacitors only certain efreets are able to even equip a plasma cannon in the first place, making them a rare, but feared weapon in combat.

Electromagnetic Displacer (EMD)

Like a giant lightning rod, electromagnetic displacers fire out bolts of EMS at enemies unfortunate enough to get in the range close range required for these weapons. Instead of doing damage, EMDs instead affect a target’s EMS scale by overloading it and causing an efreet’s performance to suffer. High levels of EMS on an efreet can slow movement, make weapons inaccurate, and even cause internal explosions if the levels get out of hand.

CANNONS

Cannon weapons fall into a wide range of variations but all involve the firing of projectiles towards an enemy target. Large and heavy, but with the ability to deal large amounts of damage with low EMS buildup, cannons can fire an array of different ordinances, and are limited only by the amount of ammunition they can carry into battle. Some of the most powerful weapons in REDLINE are cannon weapons.

CANNONS

Traditional guns using explosives to fire a bullet out of a barrel, cannons come in a wide variety of calibers and shapes. From fast firing gatling guns to miniature artillery pieces and everything in-between, cannons can do it all. All cannons however carry a limited amount of ammunition into battle and pilots who aren’t careful can easily run out of shots.

With most cannons firing explosive rounds by default, the damage they can deal in combat varies with each shot. They also tend to fire faster than most weapons with high cycle rates.

MAG RIFLES

Instead of using gunpowder to fire out a projectile, mag rifles instead send a powerful magnetic charge down parallel rails that accelerates a dense solid alloy slug out of the weapon at supersonic speeds. The solid slug exits the mag rifle with such force that it’s able to destroy a target with its kinetic energy alone and has extremely long-range and accuracy.

In REDLINE, mag rifles are some of the longest range weapons in the game. Their magnetic rails also require very little energy to fire which results in very low EMS per shot. They are heavy though and as a result many efreets have a hard time carrying them.

RIOT GUNS

Like a giant beefed up shotgun, efreet riot guns fire a short-range spread of heavy buckshot instead of a single projectile. Useless at long ranges, a well placed riot gun shot can shred nearly any efreet close enough to take the full concentration of the blast.

Powerful but extremely short ranged, riot guns are also good at landing critical hits on an enemy as the wide-spread of its small projectiles have a knack at getting through the joints of armor plating and smashing sensors.

MISSILES

Missiles are powerful weapon systems that fire a spread of rocket powered projectiles. With a large variety of warheads, ranges, payloads, and guidance systems, missiles are some of the most versatile weapons in REDLINE. Once fired, all missile weapons fire a volley at an enemy and although some may hit their target, others may not, which gives missiles the largest damage spread in the game.

MISSILES

With smaller warheads to make room for more propellant, long-range missiles have the range to hit targets at far distances. Their guidance systems give them good accuracy and combined with their large volume of fire per shot always guarantees the target will be hit. In addition missiles can be outfitted with a large variety of warheads and payloads to give them added versatility on the battlefield.

ROCKETS

Sacrificing bulky guidance seekers and maneuvering systems for smaller projectiles in favor of sheer numbers, “dumb fire” rockets are simple point and shoot weapons. With massive amounts of firepower behind the trigger, a well placed salvo of rockets can lay waste to any target.

With their large volume of fire, the largest in the game, rockets are tricky weapons to use as their inaccuracy is hard for most pilots to deal with. However for those pilots that can overcome those drawbacks, rockets are deadly weapons. If any of them hit.

SWARM

Miniaturized to fit in the smallest missile racks, swarm rockets carry only minimal propellant and payload which handcuffs their range and damage. They make up for this however with highly sophisticated guidance systems that make swarm missiles some of the most accurate weapons in the game.

While most missiles have a large amount of variance in the damage dealt, since not all missiles are guaranteed to hit their target, swarm missiles always hit.

 

I hope you can see that we’ve put a lot of thought into the different types of weapons you’ll be able to use in the REDLINE universe. We wanted to make sure there would never be one “best” weapon type that dominates the others. Hopefully with this wide array players will be able to try out all sorts of different combinations and setups to find which weapons work best for their play style. Or just to have some fun trying out new strategies and new tactics.

Next week, I’ll be going into greater detail on how REDLINE’s weapons work and function in-game.

Until then, keep your weapons hot but safeties on. 🙂

 

MAKING REDLINE: GAMING INFLUENCES

We all grow up gamers.

Some of us just grow out of it over time.

If you ever watch little kids play, they are constantly making up games to play with themselves and friends. My daughter is four and a half and I always get a kick watching her play games with her friends. And when she plays, she prefers the classics, games like, “Don’t Step On the Hot Lava”, “The Copycat Game”, “Freeze Tag”, “Pokemon Go.”

But what’s even more entertaining than watching her play games is asking her to explain them to me. It’s a real hoot to hear her justifications on what is or isn’t lava, which is usually everything I’m currently standing on at the moment. A lot of times though she’ll make up her own games which are usually variations or combinations of other games she likes to play. As she’s grown up it’s been fun to see those influences from one favorite game bleed into another as she becomes more sophisticated and her games develop more complexity and depth.

That holds true for all of us still as the games we enjoy today were influenced by the games we grew up playing. REDLINE is no different. I’ve been a gamer most of my life and a lot of little pieces from my favorite games have had a huge impact on REDLINE’s development and design. So for today I thought it’d be fun to go back and look over eight of my favorite games of all time in a semi particular order and how they influenced REDLINE.

8. HALO 2

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Although I’m a Playstation man through and through, I have to give my respect to Microsoft and the Halo franchise as a whole for its great games and story. Halo 2 may have been the only one I’ve played and beat all the way through, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a fan.

While the games themselves are fast paced, frantic, and fun, the Halo lore is what always sucked me in. The story of a near future humanity fighting back a collation of zealot alien zealous invaders is unique and really cool. A lot like the Star Wars movies, you can tell the Halo games take place in a dirty “lived in universe” where the humans are holding on for dear existence when the first game begins. Before the first game even begins, events such as the fall of Reach, the creation of the Spartan program, artificial intelligence, faster than light travel, the Covenant’s invasion and the halo rings themselves all weigh heavily on the story. And it’s an awesome story with great heroes, righteous villains, cool technology and heavy themes persistent throughout. Hell, even the game’s commercials are dripping in atmosphere and I love them all.

Image result for halo 2 spaceREDLINE influences: Even though it’s just a “mobile game” I wanted to make sure REDLINE had an engaging story and world of its own for players to dive into when they first download the game. Games like Halo prove there is more to shooting the bad guys when you have a quality story to go with the experience. I’m a big fan of sci-fi but feel a lot can come off as generic as the same themes and tropes are used over and over again. With that in mind, I set out to make REDLINE’s world a little different by imagining a near distant future where the nations of the world could plausibly end up in a giant space war. We live in exciting times as we are all witnessing a second space race of sorts as large companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are competing with national space agencies to open up the final frontier for profit as well as science. Already, there are asteroid mining companies being formed as the participants of the next gold rush are ready to stake their claim to the richness of space. And where there are valuable resources to be had, history sadly tell us conflict isn’t far away. REDLINE takes place in that future, where war in space has divided humanity into two factions, the United Nations of Earth (UNE) and the coalition of Mars’ forces, the Crimson Pact.

If you’d like to know more about the creation of the efreets, or the Solar War that created the UNE and Crimson Pact, or why Phobos got nuked you can read up on REDLINE’s back story here.

7. TEKKEN

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Growing up in the Dueker household, Tekken was an institution. The BEST fighting series of all time, Tekken has been around since the very first one showed up in arcades in 1994. One of the first 3D fighting games, Tekken started off with a simple four button control layout with each button responsive to a limb on your fighter and a high, mid, low attack system that makes the game a lot like a high-speed game of rock, paper scissors. As the series grew, each new version further refined the gameplay into the fighting masterpiece it is now. Tekken 3 added sidestepping which allowed the player to dodge incoming attacks by simply stepping out of the way and finally made fights take place in three dimensions instead a flat 2D plane. In 4 and 5 the levels became more important as walls and different ground heights added strategy to movement. Tekken 6 added a comeback mechanic called the rage meter that enabled players low on life to do extra damage in a fit of red glowy rage. Additions continue in the newest version with Tekken 7’s flashy super moves called rage arts. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring notice to the game’s crazy cast of unique fighters which include a dancing panda bear, Jackie Chan impostor, tiger masked wrestler and a tentacled space ninja.

Image result for tekken 7 screenshots mid resolutionREDLINE influences: Tekken has always had the stigma of being a button masher, and in truth it can be as new players can pull off some really crazy moves by accident. That reputation is unfair as the combat is insanely deep with most fighters having well over 100 individual moves. Matches are as much about timing and position as they are about kicks and punches. It’s important for all games to be accessible to newer players while having enough meat on the bone to keep them playing and learning. With REDLINE’s simple swipe to move combat system, the game is simple enough for even my 4-year-old to play while the depth is patiently waiting to be discovered through playing.

6. JAGGED ALLIANCE 2

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X-Com may be the more popular squad based tactics game, and rightfully so, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the criminally underplayed JA2. This game is AH-MAZE-ING!

In Jagged Alliance 2, players lead a squad of mercenary soldiers of fortune in an insurgency to overthrow the rule of the evil Queen Deidranna from the sleepy South American nation of Arulco. Played in a set isometric view, JA2 takes a lot of what made the original X-Com’s great and amplified everything into what really ended up being a tactical sandbox game where players had total freedom to do anything they liked. Combat was deep as the game’s mercs could crouch, crawl, sneak, and climb past enemies. There was a ton of weapons and armor to find, upgrade, and equip along with additional useful gear like wire cutters, C4, night vision goggles and even sunglasses. Battles could be a simple search and destroy, base assault, town defense or even a good old-fashioned bug hunt on the sci-fi setting. There were hidden mercs to find to your team, resource management on the world map played an important factor and the game’s randomness meant no two playthroughs were alike. If an enemy base was too hard to assault during the day, you could sneak in at night, lay some landmines near a guard tower then retreat to attack again the next day and watch as enemies blew themselves running out when the alarm sounded. And the game was hard as hell to boot.

Image result for jagged alliance 2REDLINE influences: One of X-Com’s greatest appeals is in being able to name the soldiers in your squad and like a deadly game of Oregon Trail, watch them grow only to die a horrible death. JA2 takes this deceptively simple idea to an entirely different dimension by giving each merc in the game their own distinct personality. Many of the mercs in the game have relationships with one another, be it through marriage, friendship or straight up beef that runs so deep a few refuse to even work together. Some have special skills like night stalking while others are cowardly and have phobias. Half the fun in the game is hearing your squad squabble with each other when a mission goes horribly awry as the dialogue is hilarious. In REDLINE,  players will be able to equip individual pilots into their efreets and from day one, I wanted them to follow in JA2’s footsteps with each having their own distinct personality and quirks that come out in combat through their speech. Helping players build a connection to your game is crucial if you want to build something enduring.

5. RIFTS

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Although I dabbled in Dungeons and Dragon, Palladium Books’ Rifts was always my pen and paper RPG of choice. Let’s just say I spent many a Friday night in high school battling my fair share of giant robots and other dimensional beings. Rifts is famous for being a kind of smorgasbord of RPG genre’s all mashed up into one game as the game incorporates fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk, and futuristic gaming tropes effortlessly. Set in apocalyptic future where a violent nuclear exchange tore open dormant leylines of magical energy called rifts and flooded the Earth with monsters, the game’s rules allow for the creation of any kind of character you can imagine. In Rifts, super powered drug addicts mingle side by side with magicians, dragons, physics, mutant dogs, vampires, neo neo-nazis and even gods. It’s bat-shit crazy role-playing and I loved it and the world Palladium created for it all.

Image result for rifts rpgREDLINE influences: What I did not love about Rifts was its combat system. Like most pen and paper RPG’s a simple battle could end up taking all night as the game becomes a never-ending series of dice rolls. Dice rolls to see who acts first. Dice rolls to land a punch. Dice rolls to dodge that punch. Then finally dice rolls to see where the punch landed. Calling it a cumbersome would be doing a disservice to the word cumbersome. I remember hating combat in Rifts so much that I spent a whole two weeks designing my own hybrid system which was a mix of other games I’ve played to make battles run smoothly. It was challenging taking two very different game concepts and merging them into one, and although I tried my high school best, it still ended up as a labyrinth of game rules and dice rolls.

It’s funny looking back now to see how my go at Rifts game design bit me with the game design bug and how even early on, I identified the drawbacks of unneeded complexity as my arch nemesis. A dragon I hope to have slayed in REDLINE.

4. BATTLETECH

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My first and biggest gaming love will always be Battletech. It was the first hobby game I ever played and from the start I was hooked. I mean, what’s not to love about giant robots blowing the crap outta each other with missiles and laser cannons? I remember after having it played it with friends that my brothers and I begged our father to take us down to the local comic book hole in the wall to buy a copy of the basic set immediately as we needed our fix of robot crack. The game’s combat system was fairly simple and allowed you to move around the map to find cover, shoot, and take damage easily. Playing was a blast and few things are as satisfying as landing a critical hit on your opponent’s ammo storage to destroy a mech through a catastrophic internal explosion  On top of that the game had an intricate mech construction system that allowed players to design their own units through a myriad of mathematical formulas, right down to engine size and back armor.  If I spent half the time on my calculator doing math homework over designing Battletech mechs in school, I’m pretty sure I’d have a respectable theorem named after me by now.

 

Image result for battletech tabletopREDLINE influences: Obviously Battletech is as huge an influence on REDLINE as it has been on other popular mech games like Titanfall, HAWKEN, and the Front Mission series to name but a few. From the start we were lucky to work with a talented artist named Stephen Huda, who had done design work for Battletech in the past and agreed to design our game’s efreets. Stephen has been a tremendous asset for us in creating the original six efreets and I have no doubt REDLINE would not exist at all if not for his willingness to join the team early on. Besides that, he’s a great guy to work with and constantly knocks it out of the park with his designs. As you read this, he is hard at work on six more units to bring our game’s total of efreets upon release to twelve. Just wait until you see what’s coming up next.

3. MAGIC: THE GATHERING

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If Battletech was my first gaming love, then Magic: The Gathering is my second and most recent. The grand daddy of all collectible card games, I dabbled in Magic back in the 90’s when it first came out, but honestly never understood its rules so didn’t play long. It wasn’t until my step-daughter joined an after-school game club in the 5th grade that I became hooked.

“Are those Magic cards you have? Wow, I used to play that back when I was younger. Wanna play a game?”

Famous last words.

If you haven’t played Magic before please approach with caution as the game should come with a surgeon general’s warning for addictiveness. Despite being over twenty-five years old, the game has changed little over the years, a testament to its solid design. In it players assume the role of two mages who battle each other with a deck of cards that constitutes their spell book. Players take turns drawing cards and building resources to cast ever powerful creatures and spells at each other in fast paced games of immense complexity. There are multiple ways to play and even more strategies to win, such as forcing your opponent to draw their entire deck which is called milling. Like a lot of my favorite games on this list however, playing is only half the fun as a large part of the game revolves around deck building where it’s easy to spend hours finding the right combination of synergistic cards to crush opponents with. Some cards may seem underwhelming at first glance, but can be powerful when used in the right circumstances or with other cards. Indeed, pride is on the line with each match as it’s not only your skill as a player, but ability to build a winning deck that is tested with each game.

Image result for magic the gathering cardsREDLINE influences: The best way I’ve heard someone describe Magic it to imagine it as a game of chess, but one where you can pick your pieces. I love building Magic decks as much as I enjoy playing and have well over twenty sleeved up and ready to go at any time. To add to the game’s complexity, many Magic cards are built around special mechanics that change the game’s rules in special ways. From the start I wanted REDLINE to have a deck building aspect to it of some kind that gave players a deep customization experience built around mechanics and equipment interactions. And we do have a system like that in the form of our weapons and equipment. Depending on the type of load out you choose for each efreet, they will play differently in combat. Some weapons may work best when equipped onto a long-range sniper while others are best used up close and personal. Other types of equipment may combo well with missiles to increase their accuracy while others could increase their rate of fire. At the end of the day, it’s up to the player to design their own efreet load outs and test them in battle to see what works best for them as there is no right or wrong way to fight. Just like in Magic.

 

2. X-WING MINIATURES GAME

Like many fanboys, I LOVE me some Star Wars as I will let my huge box of fully opened action figures attest to. It wasn’t long ago I was introduced to this excellent tabletop game by Fantasy Flight and I fell in love. (I fall in love with games easily I’ve noticed).

X-Wing has players flying squads of generally 3-6 ships against one another in mock space dogfights. Although you may think trying to translate a three-dimensional space battle onto a flat plane would be difficult, the designers at Fantasy Flight have done a great job of making engagements feel like a giant space furball. The movement system is built around anticipating your opponents moves just like in real aerial combat as players plan movement simultaneously. Guessing right can put your X-wing right on a TIE fighter’s six while guessing wrong can see them peel away and fly to safety. Combat is fast paced as players simply move and shoot, move and shoot. Typical battles take only an hour and are easy to set up. On top of that, there is a wide array of customization built-in as the game allows you to build squadrons of iconic Star Wars spaceships with enough modified engines, shields, laser cannons and sensors to make Han Solo jealous. The game is a blast and the miniatures made by Fantasy Flight are top-notch with enough detail to be considered mini models in their own right.


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When I first played X-Wing I couldn’t help but make connections to countless games of Battletech I played growing up. Moving around a map for to find cover and set up opportune shots at plastic enemy models was in my blood. But what made X-Wing so appealing, besides being Star Wars, was just how FAST it played. All the side rules and dice rolls of Battletech were gone, leaving only a stripped down tabletop game that retained all the strategy and tactics of my childhood jam. It’s the simplicity of X-Wing that so many players have found appealing and has led to the games’ growing popularity. X-Wing opened my eyes to the idea that rather complex gaming systems could actually be made to be both fast AND fun. A streamlined combat system is important to REDLINE for numerous reasons, the least of which being that as a mobile title, the game needs to be playable in short spurts. Throughout design we’ve constantly been working to make combat faster while still retaining the depth and strategy to make the game worth playing n the first place. It wasn’t easy, but I think we were able to nail it.

1. HEARTHSTONE

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Hearthstone is quite a phenomenon. Launched only in 2014, the game feels like it’s been around so much longer. An online only collectible card game based on the highly successful Warcraft universe, Hearthstone drew a lot of comparisons to Magic: The Gathering upon release and rightfully so as Magic’s influence on it is readily apparent. In both games, players build decks of creatures and spells to sling at one another as they steadily build the resources to use them. Hearthstone borrowed a lot of mechanics from Magic such as being able to use equippable weapons in battle, having creatures that can attack the turn they are played and even using mana as the power source for spells in combat. Being a digital only game also means Hearthstone can do things Magic can’t. Many of Hearthstone’s mechanics draw the player a random card from the entire game’s catalog, or certain cards that are deemed too powerful can be nerfed easily through downloadable updates. So quick has Hearthstone grown that many see it’s role with Magic being reversed with Blizzard’s cash cow now being seen as the dominant collectible card game of choice for many players as Magic tries to catch up.

Image result for hearthstoneREDLINE influences: What made Hearthstone so successful is how smooth the wizards at Blizzard made the whole thing play. Though Magic games can be played quickly, it’s not uncommon for some close games to stretch out for an hour or more. In Hearthstone, it’s hard to have a single game go for ten minutes. Magic is the deeper game by far as it has over twenty-five years and 15,000 cards of existence surrounding it. It’s a double-edged sword however as the game isn’t just one that you pick up and play, it has to be taught to you. So daunting is the game’s system that it’s company, Wizards of the Coast has gone to great lengths over the years to create dumbed down Magic products to teach new players and get them hooked to varying degrees of success. It’s still amazing to me that Blizzard was able to so easily take the basic core of what made Magic so enjoyable and translate them to a digital game. Hearthstone matches have a flow them that makes time fly by while playing. After drawing their card at the beginning of their turn, players can cast and attack in an any order they wish with nothing but swipes and flicks of a finger.  Like what X-Wing did to Battletech, Hearthstone has done for Magic and reaped the rewards.

Being a digital only game, we hope REDLINE can also take advantage of the medium to present players with a fast paced intuitive game that can do things traditional tabletop games can’t. It opens up some great design space for us which I’m excited about.

There are of course a ton of other games I’ve enjoyed playing that have had influences on REDLINE big and small, but these are some of the major ones. I hope one day that REDLINE might become an influence for somebody else when they create their own game. I would really like that a lot.

Next week I’ll be back and I’ll be talking one thing and one thing only. WEAPONS.

Until then may you learn and play games like a child.

MAKING REDLINE: FROM THE ASHES

Patience is a virtue.

But resilience is underrated.

A little under a year ago I was working my nine to five job as a teacher when I wanted to take a break from grading papers. So I did what any bored teacher would do in my situation and jumped on my phone. I just had gotten into a popular tabletop game with friends and wanted to download a similar game as I still had the itch to play something like it.

So I searched the app store high and low for a game to get my fix in. A thinking man’s turn based game that was fully 3D and based on movement and positioning. Something sci-fi and with a deep customization system as I like choosing what I can bring into a battle. Something fun and rewarding as I love games where I can pull victory out from the jaws of defeat. So I looked. Again and again but found nothing like I wanted. I fired up Google and searched on the internet, but was dumbfounded that no such tactics game like I wanted to play existed. “That sucks.” I thought and went back to grading papers for the rest of my free period.

But why the hell did that game not exist? To me it seemed like a tabletop styled tactics game would be a perfect fit for a mobile phones. The games I play with my friends were fun, but also bogged own by dice rolls. An app that took care of that for me could play out a match pretty quickly and allow the player to focus on just playing the game. Sure there were some similar games out there, but they were often super simplified, played out on a 2-d checkerboard, or were a tactics game disguised as an RPG or base builder. Mobile Strike? Mobile Ugh.

There’s an old saying everybody knows that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourselfSure I’ve never dreamed of making a video game before and didn’t even know where to start, but why let those small details stop me? Within days I was writing out what would soon become REDLINE.

From the start, the game was centered on cool ass robots running around and blowing each other up over 3D terrain. Each one was to be fully customizable with a massive array of weapons. sensors and even pilots! Big explosions! Weapon combos, deep strategy, intuitive swipe based controls, and an engaging setting with bright colorful graphics. Throw it all in. This game was gonna be awesome!

The one little problem as I mentioned was I had no idea how to program.  Dammit Jim, I went to school to become a history teacher not a game developer! Despite my complete lack of game development education I jumped into the game designer pool with both feet first and learned to swim along the way. Through the strength of the game’s ideas, a bunch of talented coders and artists were recruited to help make REDLINE. I’m forever thankful for them as they invested a ton of imagination and energy early on into creating the game’s look and feel. We busted ass and in two months had created a playable game demo  from scratch. With dreams of dollar bills in our eyes, we proudly took our work to Kickstarter. The hope was an injection of crowdsourced funds would help the game stay on its breakneck development pace and hit the market in short order.

REALITY CHECK

And then our Kickstarter failed.

Spectacularly and impressively, it fell into the large heap of Kickstarter projects that fail to fund of which I’m sure you could pile up to the Moon and back if you wanted. There’s many reasons why it did, which I’m sure I’ll write about at a later date, but failing at something you worked so hard on and were so proud of is quite a severe kick to the balls. We did get a lot of good feedback from the Kickstarter campaign, both positive and negative so it was helpful, but in the end, REDLINE simply wasn’t ready. Afterwards, I tried to keep my chin up, said all the right things that the game was still on track and moving forward, but the fire in my belly was out, as was the team’s. After that two month crash course of development we were spent.

As a result, in the weeks and months afterwards, REDLINE lingered in pre-development hell. We refined the game a bit. Maps were improved, movement and combat were toyed with, but the progress came in small increments of one step forward and two steps back. One big issue was the creation of the proper servers that could handle the game’s workload. Sadly, to make matters worse, I just wasn’t as focused on the project as I needed to be and the game suffered greatly from it. The thought came up many times to move on, as the game had become my own personal version of the classic movie, A Bridge Too Far. Game development is HARD after all. Who knew?

Failing at something you’ve dedicated yourself to is a humbling and lowly experience. We’ve all been there before and I don’t have to tell you, it’s not a fun place to be.

Thankfully, stubbornness and ignorance are qualities I’ve always had in spades.  REDLINE had too much potential to abandon, the concept was still strong I felt, and on top of it all, there STILL WASN’T an equivalent game anywhere on the app store for what I wanted to play in the first place.

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON

Though the game had stalled out in development hell, and stalled out hard, it was harder for me to walk away from it than to keep going. A trick writers often use when they encounter writer’s block is to take a break from their work for a significant amount of time only to come back to it with fresh eyes.

That’s exactly what happened with REDLINE. The first thing that needed to be done was to rebuild the development team that had eroded in the prior months. The internet is full of talented coders and artists hungry to make a name for themselves and I was lucky to find a core group of great guys for REDLINE version 2.0. We took a long hard look at the combat system and redesigned it to flow faster while still keeping the strategy and tactics firmly in place we wanted from the start. We amped up the unit customization system which is something that I’m really proud of. (its gonna be way cool) And we’re expanding the number of units in the game to give players more choices when it comes to how they want to play. Most importantly, instead of racing for a successful Kickstarter again, we’ve learned our lesson and are prepared to make the game fully on our own without outside funds and at our own pace.

Numerous other small changes were made during the REDLINE redesign and the end result is the game not only plays, but looks better than ever before.

So REDLINE is back, and it’s gonna be better than ever. Make no mistake, the game still has a long way to go in its development, but I’m confident in the work we have ahead. We’re already well on our way and I can’t wait to share more of the game with you in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Starting a large project, be it making an indie video game, writing a novel or starting a company is a difficult and long process. As are most things in life, the deck is stacked against you from the start as time, money and resources are always in short supply why the naysayers sadly are not. Coming up compelling ideas isn’t as easy it seems. Finding right help and supporters is a trial and error process but essential since there isn’t much you can truly do on your own. The highs of seeing your ideas finally come to life are exhilarating. Conversely, the lows that come from setbacks rearing their ugly head,and there are always setbacks, can be crushing.  Putting yourself out there to the public is essential but also nerve wracking.

The one piece of advice I can give to anybody working on something worthwhile is a simple cliche you’ve heard before a thousand times. NEVER GIVE UP.

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Or as I personally have come to see it, “Losers quit when the fail, winners fail until they succeed.”

Which leads me to the point of this article. Point blank, once again, we’re aiming to put REDLINE back into the public’s view. We’ve tried before and failed, but we’re back at it again because he team strongly feels this is a game worth making and we’re gonna dedicate ourselves to making an awesome game worth the time to play. But beyond that and anything else I write, I want you to walk away from this article knowing that’s it’s ok to fail. I tell my students all the time that “fail” is not a four letter word and there is no reason to be afraid of it. Only through mistakes can we ever truly learn and grow. I hope REDLINE’s journey is proof that with limited resources at your disposal and the proper resilient mindset, you can do crazy things.  Like develop a video game out of the blue on a whim one day.

These days as I’ve learned, developing that independent video game these days is an incredibly sustained and daunting task. One thing that’s essential from the start is that you must build a large fan following around your property to help share in the hype and spread awareness of what you’re trying to make.
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Personally I have no idea as I’ve never not, not been in the woods to see. But that’s not the point. The point is, you cram that forest with as many people as possible so that if that tree falls you’ll never even notice as everybody is too busy blowing each other up playing REDLINE on their mobile devices to care.

 

So welcome to the forest. I hope you stick around as I promise it’ll be worth it as I’ll be posting weekly updates to the website with news on REDLINE’s development and progress. And, If you haven’t already, check out our Facebook page for fun content and news on REDLINE as well as our Instagram and Twitter accounts. We even have an email list if you’d like to enlist in the REDLINE Army to make sure you never miss out on the latest news, screenshots, concept art, and information on REDLINE.

Thanks for reading! Next week I’ll be back with an in-depth look at some of the games that I love to play and how they inspired REDLINE.

 

Until then, keep taking the hits that life throws your way.

 

REDLINE Press Release

REDLINE: sci-fi tactical combat in the palm of your hand

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“If you want something done right you have to do it yourself””

That’s just what two Arizona brothers did when they created, REDLINE, an upcoming video game for ios and android phones as well as PC.

REDLINE is a turn based tactics game in which players compete across 3-D maps while fielding squads of 3 efreets each, the game’s version of giant piloted robots that are popular in movies and video games. The game goes the extra mile to create complex and interesting gameplay that can still be easily played and understood in quick mobile matches through simple swipe and taps.

  • Move freely in all directions

  • Efreets take damage by location.

  • Weapons vary from multiple types of lasers, rockets and cannons and have different ranges and can even be destroyed in combat.

  • 3-D terrain provides cover and blocks line of sight.

  • Forces of 3 on 3 PvP battles.

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On top of that REDLINE features a deep unit customization system that lets players modify the efreets they bring into battle with collectible card based equipment they can earn through purchase or simply by playing. Lasers, rockets, cannons, sensors, system upgrades, camo, and even pilots can be changed in between battles to find the most lethal combinations. Equipment cards come in a variety of rarity levels and feature beautifully illustrated art.

REDLINE will be free to play though players will be able to purchase packs of cards in booster “tech crates” or earn them for free through playing the game normally.

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REDLINE is also set to feature the music of 80’s rock synth star Vince DiCola and his recording partner Kenny Meriedith. Vince is well known for his score on Transformers: The Movie (1986) and Rocky IV. Few things go more hand in hand than giant robots blasting away at each other set to heart pumping snyth rock!

What makes REDLINE even more impressive is the fact that the two brothers had absolute ZERO video game development experience before they began their project. Cameron, the project lead is a high school history teacher with 8 years in the classroom. His brother, Micah worked at Starbucks. Despite their lack of experience they were able to recruit a talented group of programmers and artists from around the world using internet sites like Reddit to make their vision a reality.

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Developed by Phoenix, AZ based Saving Throw Studios REDLINE is set to begin it’s crowdfunding campaign June 1st on Kickstarter.com. You can find out more about REDLINE at redlinegame.com and their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SThrowStudios/

Just Another Mission

“One second, I’m picking something up on my scanner.”

Outside it was a dark and moonless night, but in the cockpit of her Tigercat efreet, Christine “Wax” O’Malley could count the pine cones on each tree through her canopy as she walked past them thanks to her helmet’s night vision.  On patrol deep in the Washington forest there was no shortage of pine cones to count. Space based sensors had alerted the radar operators back at Fort Tirro of the zig-zagging trail of a mercenary dropship doing its best to avoid detection in the vicinity outside the base perimeter. Now it was up to her and her wingman to scout it out. Probing reconnaissance missions like this were common by the Mars based forces of the Crimson Pact and the mercenary companies they employed. They would regularly attempt to penetrate UNE space to look for weaknesses or to field test their newest technology. Rarely did these encounters result in combat however as enemy forces would rather return home instead of picking a fight in this sleepy sector. “Just another mission,” Wax thought to herself.

“I don’t see anything on my radar. Viper, can you confirm?” Wax replied. Her sensors coming up blank.

 

tigercat efreet“Darn nuggets.” she thought, “Always so jumpy on the scope.” This was only Viper’s second time out in the field. A recent UNE academy graduate, he was so eager to prove himself to his squadron mates that he actually volunteered for the night shift, unaware he would have pulled graveyard for a solid year anyways per the standard hazing etiquette of the squadron. Rookies. Wax had just rotated back onto the night guard last week and was already counting the nights until she could join the land of the living once more. She eased back the throttle of her fifty-five ton Tigercat to focus on her scanners and to coach the rookie through a sensor sweep.

She called out onto the com in a calm almost lecture like voice. “Repeat. Viper, can you confirm?”

“I swear saw something appear on my screen in the direction of that westward hill but know it’s gone.” Viper’s voice came in shaky over the radio.

“Ease up, Viper. Cycle through your systems.” It was standard procedure to double verify an unknown contact with a second sensor lock, be it thermal, electric, passive, acoustic, or vibro. Wax remembered being taught during her training that there were a hundred ways to detect an efreet and at least a hundred ways to hide them. Each sensor type had their own specific uses and could find a needle hidden in a haystack in completely different ways but their complexity also made it easy to misread them and could that stack of hay into a pile of needles if on the wrong settings. As a safety precaution Wax called in to home base. “Watch Tower, can you confirm? We have a phantom signal out here tonight” The powerful radar back at base combined with orbiting satellites rarely made mistakes but it was known to lag at times. Of course an enemy attempting to avoid detection would be hard to spot from the get go.

“Negative.” a half asleep but coffee fueled voice answered back.

Sure she was dealing with a case of rookie nerves, Wax turned to face the hill in question and lit it up with the full intensity of her powerful sensor arrays. Better safe than sorry. She flicked the multitude of switches in her cockpit that corresponded to each sensor type trying to get a signal in return.. Next to her multi functional display that showed the results of each scan was a photograph of her late father, Army Captain Roger O’Malley who had died years earlier fighting in the early battles of the Solar War. She missed him tremendously and had hoped to make him proud by following in his footsteps when she enlisted two and a half years ago into the military.

Viper’s voice crackled to break up her thoughts, “Sorry sir. The signal was there, clear as day, then disappeared. I don’t know what….”

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“Viper! Evade!” Out of the corner of her eye, Wax spotted the ghostly pale blue ball of a compressed particle cannon emanate from the top of the hill toward the two of them.

Static filled her com as the huge explosion that engulfed Viper’s Lightning efreet lit up the nighttime sky thirty meters in front of Wax. A direct hit had punched straight through the tiny efreet’s armored frame causing it to explode. Shrapnel from the blast ricocheted off Wax’s canopy with the sounds of shredded metal and the shockwave was so fierce, it shook her in her seat. She was that close. Designed to be a light and speedy scout, Lightnings was never intended to withstand high powered impacts like that from a CPC and survive.

“Viper! Viper! Talk to me! Viper?” Her vain calls out for Viper’s voice in the hopes he had ejected safely were answered only with static.

“Watch Tower, Viper is down! Hostile confirmed. Requesting backup!” Wax’s blood ran cold. A different kind of high pitched static now filled her channel. She knew she was being jammed.

No sooner had she turned off the com when warning sirens filled her cockpit as a cluster of rockets swarmed down on her from the hill. Looking up at the flickering glow of the rockets motors, she could make out the silhouette of a giant seventy-five ton Claymore in strange mercenary markings. No wonder they couldn’t pinpoint it, the pilot was using the map of the Earth tactics for cover by hiding behind the hill. An older model heavy efreet, the Claymore still out gunned her state of the art Tigercat in every way imaginable. If Viper was up, the two of them could have out flanked the lumbering beast to take it out easily, but without her partner she stood little chance alone. Before Wax could evade, the rockets slammed into her efreet causing minimal damage. Thankfully, the Tigercat’s armor had absorbed the blow and done it’s job. Now it was time for her to do hers.

She turned the Tigercat around and maxed out the throttle. In seconds, she was splintering trees into toothpicks as she barreled through the forest. Getting her efreet back to base in one piece was the mission now. Avenging a fallen comrade would have to wait until next time. As she pushed her machine to it’s specs a stray laser blast struck her rear torso where the Tigercat’s armor was thinnest. The impact gave her a strong jolt and immediately noticed her speed cycling down. Her helmet mounted heads up display (HUD) overlaid a graphic of her engine onto her night vision and showed exactly where it had taken damage in the rear compression chamber. She knew she was lucky it wasn’t completely slagged, but with a badly damaged engine there was no way she would be running away from this fight. Not anymore. And to make matters worse, her efreet was bleeding electromagnetic static. Thanks to their cold fusion reactors, efreets are like walking dynamos in the massive amounts of power they generate to power their weapons and give them their mobility. All this power created tremendous amounts of electromagnetic static (EMS) which had to be discharged or else suffer hampered performance. Her damaged engine was practically bleeding EMS into the night and overloading the dischargers faster than they could keep up. Wax was sure she’s now show up on her enemy’s sensor like a glowing junebug.

Sure enough as if on cue, warning sirens once again filled her cockpit. The Claymore had achieved another lock on. Instinctively she cranked the dual joysticks and foot pedals at her controls to the left as hard as she could. A barrage of rockets and another ghostly blue CPC blast flew by her canopy to crater the ground beside he as she swerved abruptly. A second’s delay and her efreet would be strewn across the forest in flaming wreckage.

Crippled, she steered the Tigercat towards a nearby ridge line to try and put it’s high crest between her and the Claymore to break contact and buy time. A stray laser blast darted out in front of her like a red finish line as she made it to the base of the ridge. Her mind ran through hundreds of calculations as she pulled up a map of the surrounding area onto her HUD. None of her options, were good, and she cursed tonight’s decision to opt for a load out of short range micro rockets on her Tigercat over the long range variants. The shorter range rockets limited her engagement options to fighting up close as she became resigned to the notion that the only way to make it back safe was through combat. Maybe it was time to avenge Viper after all.

A minute, maybe two was all she had to make a decision on how to engage before the Claymore closed in and took the initiative back. The terrain didn’t give her much to work with. The abundance of trees gave some cover and would slow the Claymore down, but only slightly. There was a small lake coming up that forced her to keep straight. If she tried to cross the ridge she risked exposing herself to fire while on top and her map showed the other side was nothing but even ground. With a working engine she could easily outrun her aggressor there, Tigercats were built for speed afterall, but in her current condition those long range lasers and rockets would pick her apart.

“Screw it.”

Wax began to turn around and face her opponent head on. Even though she was outgunned, her Tigercat still packed quite a punch of it’s own with it’s heavy arm mounted 120 mm cannon. As she turned her efreet skidded in the muddy shore of the lake. Wax almost lost control as her heavy efreet’s gyros worked overtime to keep it’s footing. Had she been sprinting at top speed she would have easily fallen down and ended up like fish in a barrel. Thank goodness for that damaged engine.

Fish in a barrel……..

Wax throttled up and plunged her efreet into the lake throwing huge sheets of water into the air. It took all of her piloting skill to do so without falling over but she managed to submerge her efreet completely in the lake’s dark murky water. All efreets were designed to operate in the vacuum of space so being underwater was no issue but having a damaged engine that sparked like an exposed wire worried her. In a blur she ran through the sequence for an emergency shutdown. The cold water of the lake would mask her from the Claymore’s thermal imaging but she didn’t want to risk showing up on electric scanners.

In an instant the Tigercat powered off and went dead. The helmet’s HUD still worked but without a connection to the efreet’s computer it was useless, so she took it off and found the cockpit eerily bathed in darkness. Only the dimmest of wavy light shone in from the water and through her canopy which created eerie shadows that licked the edges of her controls. For a second the scene reminded her of going to the aquarium with her father when she was a little girl.

Deadly still and silent, the seconds passed into eternity before she felt the ominous vibrations. Small thuds at first that rapidly increased in severity as the Claymore’s seventy-five tons hurtled closer. Being in the water amplified the vibrations violently until it felt like she was in a rocket leaving Earth orbit for more space based training. She couldn’t see her enemy, but knew it was only meters away as the plodding footsteps above jolted her body.

Then the thuds began to diminish.

Wax flew into an emergency startup procedure, reversing the same actions she had completed just a minute ago. Throwing off safeties and disengaging diagnostics, she prayed her damaged efreet would hum back to life. Like an old lover, Tigercat responded as the cockpit hummed to life once again, illuminating her in the soft blue glow of digital displays.

She didn’t even have time to put her helmet back on before she lurched the Tigercat up and out of the water. Sure enough, the Claymore was sprinting down the shore of the lake oblivious to the threat having emerged from the water behind it. Wax had one clean shot with the 120 mm, but without her helmet’s targeting HUD had to aim manually. The buzzing that filled her cockpit told her the short range rockets had achieved a lock already, so at least that was something.

Junked CPC by Clinton Bowers

Junked CPC by Clinton Bowers

With both triggers, she let loose a barrage of missiles  and cannon fire that ripped into the Claymore’s thinner back armor. The blast damaged the machine’s hip as it froze to a halt spewing out sparks into the night as it struggled to turn around and return fire.

Wounded but still deadly, the massive Claymore let loose with everything it had at the wading Tigercat. It’s long range rockets went wide, too close to lock on, but a CPC blast and large laser hit Wax dead on and destroyed all the rocket racks in her left torso compartment. Cracks raced across her windshield. As soon as her remaining short range rockets reloaded she let off another volley, lock on be damned . They impacted on the Claymore but did minimal damage to the tank like frontal armor. Methodically, the heavy efreet leveled its arm mounted lasers and trained the charged CPC onto Wax.

With closed eyes she squeezed off one last round from the 120 mm. “I tried my best daddy.”

Like a wrecking ball, the shell opened up a gash in the Claymore’s shoulder and exploded below it’s long range rocket racks, knocking the efreet backwards. Then a small secondary explosion. Followed soon after by a thunderous clap as the rocket magazine cooked off and shattered the Claymore. Small fragments of alloy filled the sky and rained down onto Wax’s efreet splashing into the lake like heavy raindrops.

A wave of relief washed over Wax as she eased off the controls. Within seconds her radio crackled back to life. “Wax. This is Watch Tower. Reinforcements are en route. Do you read? Wax. This is Watch Tower. Reinforcements are…”

Wax reached out to the radio’s speaker toggle next to her father’s photograph and turned it on. “Roger, Watch Tower.”

REDLINE STORY

THE 2nd SPACE RACE

2026 – China establishes the first base on the moon. Cramped and with nothing but the most basic life support systems, Hui Jia (Grey Home) nevertheless sets off a 2nd Space Race as the US, Russia, Brazil and India race to catch up and establish their own bases on the moon.

2029 – The Americans establish their own base, Freedom, at the site of the Apollo 11 landing. Nicknamed “Plymouth Rock” by the crew it becomes an important stepping stone for further plans to beat the Chinese by establishing a US base on Mars. Having lost the moon once again, the Russians abandon pans for a lunar base and refocus all their energy into being the first nation on Mars.

2031 – In order to overcome the massive head start, technological and economical wealth possessed by the three major world powers, Brazil and India team up to build the last of the major moon bases, Vishvakarman, (Hindu God of engineering) with major funding from the Middle Eastern powers. With the use of small probes, asteroid mining becomes commonplace and competitive, fueling the slumping global economy with a massive influx of exotic rare earth elements from space that leads to levels of economic growth not seen since the early 2020s. However,  tensions rise among the world powers as space becomes crowded, claimed and increasingly divided. All sides believe Mars is within their reach. 

2033 – Mars truly becomes the Red Planet as the Russians are the first to land and create a permanent base followed by the Chinese only fourteen days later. The Russian base of Laika and the Chinese Hong Jia (Red Home) are built relatively close to each other in the most habitable areas of Mars near the polar ice caps. The last power on Mars, the US establishes its base, Endeavor, before the end of the year in the shadow of Olympus Mons.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF SPACE TRAVEL

2034 – Thanks to the technological leaps made during the race to Mars the development of powerful new engines and spacecraft make space travel quick and relatively efficient. A trip from Earth to the Moon takes hours. A day is all it takes to get from Earth to Mars.

Large privately owned manufacturing ships stationed outside the asteroid belt and operating in zero gravity produce miracle materials like foam steel and nanotube composite aluminium in abundance.  Hundreds of times stronger than carbon fiber and still lightweight they revolutionize the construction of everything from buildings, bridges, cars, powerplants, drones, and spacecraft. 

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As the Earth’s overpopulation problems grow worse many families leave to Mars for a second chance at a new life. Space tourism grows. Powerful space based telescopes discover thousands of potentially habitable plants throughout the galaxy as humanity’s understanding of space increases exponentially.

2043 – With Mars increasingly becoming an industrial powerhouse, especially for the Russians and and Chinese who have invested heavily in it, and thanks to it’s location near the asteroid belt, more mining and manufacturing companies spring up which increases the demand for workers. Many families leave Earth for the rockier pastures and high paying jobs of the red planet. With the huge population growth attempts to terraform Mars begin in an attempt to make the planet more hospitable.

However, competition among the asteroid mining companies turns deadly during the Vesta Tragedy, when angry miners from the SpaceDust Mining Group sent a derelict ore hauler on a collision course with the Giuseppi Piazzi, an incoming space tourism ship, mistaken for “rock jumpers”. 129 passengers are killed in the crash, in what becomes the greatest space accident in history. Soon after, all the major space powers and corporations begin to arm amid increasing tension, officially nullifying the Outer Space Treaty of 1967’s ban on weapons in space.

2045 – Small isolated “rock wars” involving asteroid and space based manufacturing companies threaten to drag the major space powers into war as they strive to protect their colonies and the interests of those companies most beneficial to them. The frequent wars disrupt the solarized economy and further space colonization beyond Mars.

2046 – Plausible deniability leads to the widespread use of many private mercenary companies (PMCs) by the US, Russians and Chinese to influence the outcomes of escalating Rock Wars. Any false pretense of neutrality by the powers is perpetuated by the United Nations turning a blind eye to the dangers of the conflicts. The newly formed Indian, Brazilian and Middle Eastern Alliance (BRIMEA) largely stays out of the conflict to focus it’s energy and resources into developing new technologies.

2047Cold fusion is successfully developed by the BRIMEA. A more efficient and stable form of nuclear fusion, the small cold fusion reactors produce power many magnitude greater than even the biggest nuclear power plants of the day. Kept a closely guarded secret at first, the plans are soon obtained by hackers and proliferated through the internet. 

THE SOLAR WAR

2048 – A large supply of ore headed to the American refineries on Mars is ambushed and destroyed en route by unmarked ships. Unmarked, except for one with Chinese characters caught on camera by a nearby deep observation satellite. The US responds by sending a large flight of drones and troops to capture a lightly defended Chinese military base on Mars’s moon of Phobos that many believe the attack originated from. Chinese cyber warriors are able to reprogram the computers of the American drones to turn on the troops landing on Phobos, killing nearly 600 in the “Neo Valentines Day Massacre.” On the next day February 15, 2018 the US declares war on China who in return declares war on the US. Before the week is over the Russians join on the side of China and declare war on the US. Outnumbered and isolated, the American forces stationed at Endeavour surrender. The Solar War begins. 

2049 – In an attempt to establish a base for a prolonged siege of Mars, the US once again launches an invasion of Phobos. Heavily reliant on drones for their military, it’s hoped an array of security upgrades rushed into service will protect them from cyber attack again. Once again, Chinese and Russian cyber warriors are able to hijack American drones and turn the invasion into another disaster during the battle of Phobos. Unable to gain control of the moon, the US falls back on a contingency plan to deny it’s use to the Chinese and Russian forces by launching nuclear missiles at Phobos as the survivors retreat. The blasts, which could be seen from Earth, destroy everything left on the surface and turn Phobos into a radioactive wasteland unfit for military use.

2050 – With the early battles of the war confined mostly to Mars and the asteroid belt, the war inflames the Earth. Believing the bulk of it’s military as too dangerous to use for threat of hacked, the American’s withdraw to their coasts. Hawaii is lost to the Chinese while Alaska is reclaimed by the Russians with reinforcements received from Mars.

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The tide of war against them, the Americans launch a desperate assault on the Moon at the Battle of Tycho Crater. Identifying the the Russians and Chinese military strength largely was based on Mars, control of the Moon could create an orbiting shield that could be used to stop additional forces from reaching Earth.  The US also deploys a secret weapon for the first time, the efreets. Large bipedal war machines, the efreets were developed by BRIMEA scientists who exchanged the closely guarded plans to the Americans for their blueprints on faster than light propulsion. Practically immune to hacking since they are piloted and have advanced datalink encryption, the small force of efreets were able to clear the Moon within 24 hours. By the end of the year, all sides will be fielding their own efreets.

The Battle of Tycho Crater is a pivotal battle in the Solar War. With complete control of the Moon in American hands, it becomes nearly impossible for Russian and Chinese forces on Mars to protect their populations on Earth. Forced to consolidate on Mars, the Chinese and Russians form an alliance called the Crimson Pact during the Laika Conference. They are soon able to reverse engineer their own efreets by the end of the year thanks to recovered battlefield salvage and Crimson Pact spies who it is believed gained access to blueprints through social media.

2051 – A red line has been drawn in space between the Earth and Mars as The Solar War settles into a stalemate with both sides preoccupied in creating stabilization after the upheavals of the previous year. The Crimson Pact begins a crash course 20 year plan to accelerate the terraforming of Mars and rebuild assets lost on Earth. This is counterbalanced with the United State’s struggle to maintain control of the large Russian and Chinese populations left abandoned and now under their control. As always, the BRIMEA nations do their best to keep to themselves and stay out of the war. The Moon has been heavily fortified to become an orbiting base to ward off further large scale Crimson Pact invasions or rescue attempts as has Demios in Mars orbit. Small reconnaissance and probing raids with efreet equipped PMCs are able to slip past the the orbital defenses become the war’s new norm during what becomes known as the “Fabricated Front” by the media. 

2057 – Desperate to break the stalemate and with the war taking a toll on it’s economy, the US heavily pressures BRIMEA, now the dominant technological power, to join their side. When BRIMEA refuses, the Americans decide to force them into the war by launching major invasions against BRIMEA strongholds across three continents. BRIMEA forces resist stubbornly but eventually lose Brazil and parts of the Middle East to the numbers and experience of the American military. Their independence nearly lost, the remaining BRIMEA leadership and military forces evacuate on huge Samsara (Hindu cycle of life and rebirth) Ark ships built in secret during the Solar War. Capable of faster than light travel thanks to perfecting of the Bead Drive technology gained from the Americans in exchange for the efreet plans,  the Samsara ships escape into space and and simply disappear into the unknown in a flash of brilliant light.

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With the majority of BRIMEA gone, the Earth now practically belongs to the United States, though riots from formerly controlled BRIMEA and Crimson Pact nations suggest otherwise. To cement their control of the planet the US overtakes what’s left of the United Nations to create the United Nations of Earth (UNE). Largely lead by the US and it’s closest allies, the UNE is dedicated to protecting all the people of Earth from the space based aggression of the Crimson Pact. 

2058 – REDLINE BEGINS