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.