Game Systems: Course Mini Showcase
Dates: March 2020
Project 2: For The Flag
For The Flag was created as a strategic experience intended to test the planning and resource management skills of players. The goal of the game is to retrieve the flag objective, while protecting your units by building and fortifying trenches to shield them from enemy turret fire.
For The Flag Core interactions:
In For The Flag, the ground on all maps is covered in deep snow, meaning in order to traverse it players must build trenches for their units to walk through. This restricted maneuverability creates the need for planning and resource management, as moving snow costs energy and time, both of which are at a premium when the enemy turrets become active.
In each level, players can find enemy turrets scattered throughout the map. At the beginning of the level, these turrets sit inactive, but when the flag is picked up, they spring into action taking aim at player units and firing powerful shells that can destroy blocks of snow, or friendly units.
The shovel class is likely the most important unit class in the game when it comes to movement. This is because the shovel class has the ability to clear paths through the deep snow, clearing the way for other units to follow. This ability is the only method players have for clearing snow and as such the use of shovel units plays a key role in the planning and execution of a mission. Shovel units also have a stamina bar, which will deplete as they dig snow. If a shovel unit runs out of stamina they will be unable to dig for a short time while stamina regenerates.
Shovel units are an outright necessity in the planning phase, but may become less useful once turrets become active, as the shovel unit can easily destroy walls built by builder units, if they are not directed carefully. This typically make them a risky choice as the flag carrier.
Builder units are the players' way to protect themselves from enemy turrets. By colliding with snow blocks, builders place defense walls on nearby blocks that block incoming turret projectiles. This is most useful in the planning phase, before turrets become active. Players should take note that some turrets can destroy protection walls, and some turrets shoot over them. The placement of defense walls is often a key component in the success and failure of a mission.
The medic class is a support class with the ability to continuously refresh the stamina of any nearby shovel units. Medics have simple functionality, but can be incredibly useful for digging long distances in a short period of time. Also because score is influenced by things like completion time and number of surviving units, medics represent a difficult decision for players in the planning phase. Some players may not use them intentionally to try to keep them alive to the surviving units reward points, some may use them extensively to try to save time. They don't have the most powerful ability, but they can certainly be useful in a pinch.
Overall I would rate this experience as a near success, with a few additions needed particularly on the UI/UX side to make the game truly play smoothly. For starters, few players ever really mastered the movement system, with units only able to target blocks of snow as destinations, this made simple movement difficult for many. Additionally players requested improvements to the unit selection and deselection interactions so that they could more easily tell who is selected and where they are going. These issues could be remedied by fairly simple updates the unit selection system. for one, I would just need to remove the limitations currently set to only allow snow blocks to be a destination, and add some kind of marker to display where the navigation destination is, if it isn't an object that can be highlighted. As for the improvements to Unit selection UI, I would move away from a color based highlighting system as currently exists on units and create an entirely new 2D UI similar to whats available in many modern RTS games. These changes would greatly reduce the learning curve for new players and thus hopefully improve experience overall.