Modules, Magic: The Gathering, and the Next Steps for co.llide

co.llide-0.4.0-modules-black

One of our goals for ver­sion 0.4.0 of co.llide was to pro­vide a small but fairly bal­anced set of build­ing blocks, called mod­ules, for all play­ers to use in con­struct­ing ships. How­ever, vari­ety is the spice of life, and we plan to even­tu­ally release a large num­ber of unlock­able mod­ules for play­ers to add to their per­sonal col­lec­tions. In this post, I’ll be dis­cussing some ideas for these future mod­ules. I’ll also be talk­ing about a poten­tial prob­lem that we face as design­ers, and one par­tic­u­lar source of inspi­ra­tion that we believe offers the solution.

The Cur­rent Con­stel­la­tion of Modules

The cur­rent set con­tains 37 dif­fer­ent mod­ules of vary­ing size, shape, and func­tion. The most impor­tant is the Galileo Core. Every design is required to have exactly one core, which serves as the heart of the ship and must be pro­tected at all costs. The core also pro­vides a small amount of omni­di­rec­tional thrust, giv­ing the ship its base mobility.

The remain­ing 36 mod­ules help to shield the core and pro­vide addi­tional giz­mos that ben­e­fit the ship, including:

  • Two types of thrusters, which help the ship to move and turn.
  • A damper, which auto­mat­i­cally slows the ship’s momen­tum when­ever the thrusters are inac­tive. Some pilots may like this effect, as it helps main­tain control.
  • Five dif­fer­ent weapons with vary­ing range, speed, and firepower.

Together we feel that these mod­ules pro­vide a pretty good first taste of what co.llide is all about, and we encour­age every­one to try them out in the edi­tor and then let us know what you think!

More Mod­ules, More Mayhem!

At this stage in devel­op­ment, the cur­rent set of mod­ules feels OK, but it barely scratches the sur­face of the kinds of mechan­ics we would love to see in co.llide. For example:

  • What about new weapons? What space­ship bat­tle game would be com­plete with­out hom­ing mis­siles, death rays, EMP emit­ters, trac­tor beams, cor­ro­sive gel, nanobot swarms, and energy lances?
  • What about stealth mechan­ics? Per­haps some mod­ules could include giz­mos that hide your ship from view, or make it invis­i­ble on radar.
  • What about the abil­ity to repair a ship mid-fight?
  • What about new forms of mobil­ity, like the abil­ity to “dodge” by chang­ing tra­jec­tory in a quick burst, or even a short-range teleport?

The Threat of Module-splosion

While all this may sound excit­ing, sim­ply cram­ming new mechan­ics into a game can be a recipe for dis­as­ter. Imag­ine that rather than sit­ting down at the edi­tor with 37 mod­ules, you are instead pre­sented with 100, or 500, or 1000. Even if the var­i­ous weapons and abil­i­ties con­tained within were per­fectly bal­anced, the aver­age player would prob­a­bly feel over­whelmed at the sheer num­ber of avail­able choices.

So as design­ers, how do we pro­ceed in grow­ing our game with­out falling into this trap? For starters, we can take a page from those that have gone before us. In par­tic­u­lar, we plan to bor­row a few tech­niques from one game genre that has dealt with this prob­lem in a way that stands the test of time. I speak of course of col­lectible card games, or CCGs.

I need 20 cc of CCG, stat!

To be clear, co.llide is not a “card game.” Think­ing abstractly how­ever, it does bear some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the typ­i­cal CCG. Both involve a build phase, wherein the deck/spaceship is con­structed by choos­ing ele­ments from a much larger set, and a sep­a­rate play phase, wherein play­ers com­pete using what they have built.

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