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
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.
REDLINE 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.
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.
REDLINE 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
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.
REDLINE 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.
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.
REDLINE 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.
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.
REDLINE 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
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.
REDLINE 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.
REDLINE influences: 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.
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.
REDLINE 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.