Today I wanted to go over the combat design of Armor Blitz.
Because this is an ongoing project currently in development, a lot may change as we progress through development.
When we started, the goal was to make a moe collectible game that had RPG elements. The idea was that you command a battalion of moe tanks and gather more allies as you progress through the story.
While the collectible side is very common among mobile collectible card games, one thing I never really liked was the fact that it lacked strategy and control. Frequently, in mobile card games, you assemble your “party”, level them up, and deploy them against a set of enemy cards. If your cards had better stats you win, sometimes there was a rock paper scissors element with weaknesses and strengths. However, overall there is little control besides setting up your party, and even the weaknesses and strengths don’t really add strategy since you cannot predict the enemies deck (though I suppose you can if only specific party types appear in certain areas, but it still reduces the tactic to one strategy to use and one to not use). You see this very common in games like Rage of Bahamut or Ayakashi, and this wasn’t the direction we wanted to go.
For the combat side of the game, we combined design elements from tug of war and traditional trading card games such as Magic and Yugioh. Before you enter combat you have a battalion group under your general that you assemble similar to a card deck. When you enter a battle, you are pitted with your general against an enemy general. The goal is to kill the enemy general.
Rough in development test layout
When the battle begins, you get a layout reserves/hand of units. These are randomly “drawn” from your deck, from a meta point of view, this is the initial patrol group in your army that is within range to reinforce your general. The player can deploy the units from their hand simply by dragging and dropping them on the field with their finger. As you drop units on the field, your hand gets refreshed by other cards in your deck, from a balancing perspective there is a small cooldown timer between card reinforcements.
While you can drag anywhere on screen, the unit will spawn at the starting zone. The green circle represents the units attack range.
Once you drag and drop the unit, it will move forward down the lane to destroy the enemy general or any units it gets in its way. Because different tanks have different ranges, you could either avoid enemy forces and try to go around them to take out their general, or intentionally engage them in a frontal assault to push your line. Most tanks are relatively simple in playstyle, you drag and drop from your hand and they automatically engage, however some more rare units have special abilities and cooldowns that you can trigger by tapping on the unit to create special effects to turn the tide. Generals also have special abilities such as providing artillery strikes so you can focus target specific enemies in their line.
Units sparkle when their ability is ready to fire. Later we will add hp and energy bars on the units heads. The Maus is activating a shield ability.
While the gameplay is simple, the special abilities and timing them will make it so there is more strategy to the game while making it easier to scale for players to learn in the game. This is because early on we can only have very few abilities available to the players and gradually complexity as the player gathers new units. The predicament though is that early on, the game would rather be a bit less interactive since you deploy units but can only watch due to limited abilities. To counter this, we will make it so enemies when they die, will drop special items that the player can tap on to trigger abilities such as repairing your tanks, buffing damage, calling airstrikes, and unlocking new items/tanks to make the game interactive. This way the player has to pay attention to the game while their army fights the enemy.
A particular problem when we designed this game was that the original mechanics makes it really unbalanced if a player has super strong tanks pushing down the lane. This will result in design issues with other “instant match win/lose” collectible mobile card games, except with more interactivity. Even with special abilities, strategically a player could simply just fill their deck with the strongest unit in the game and just mass them.
To counter this we added a few countermeasures…
1. Tank Points
Tanks points(TP) is essentially a food limit system most people are familiar with RTS games. Each tank costs different TP based on the type and strength of the vehicle. This makes it so that while really powerful tanks are devastating in combat, they are limited by TP so you can only field a small amount. This results in two strategies, you can have a zerg rush tactic with very weak but low TP tanks, or a very few strong but high costing TP elite tanks (though some mid point combination is ideal). We also designed stronger high TP tanks to be slightly more defensive overall, so that if you have a lot of small tanks the dps is actually higher overall (though dramatically falls down faster because the tanks are easier to die).
TP is in affect in combat (a maximum amount of units you can deploy on field at one time), and the max amount of units you field in your battalion (maximum deck card limit). Personally we have to test this as I am slightly speculative of the maximum deck size penalty. This is because in most trading collectible card games like Magic and Yugioh, it is best to have the smallest deck possible (60 card minimum in Magic), so it increases your chance of getting the ideal hand. That said because units die frequently and requires constant reinforcements, you probably need a certain quantity to survive in Armor Blitz, but we need to test this further.
Outside of balancing another reason for TP in combat is to prevent lag and slowdown from dropping ridiculous amount of units on field at once, since we are playing on mobile devices. ^_^;
2. Tank Types
In the game we have different types of tank categories in the game, Light, Medium, Heavy, Tank Destroyers, and Artillery units. Each with their own advantages and disadvantages such as damage type and armor. This will make it that players can counter a deck that has superior rare cards if they have the counter units to some effect. Besides pure stat based counters, another more hidden feature are their behaviors in combat. For example, tank destroyers hit hard and longer range but they have very slow rotation speed, so if a faster tank with less range runs past them, they have to turn very slowly and waste precious time. Meanwhile some tanks may have inferior stats but are built with multiple turrets so they can do dps against different targets at the same time.
3. Maximum of 4 of the same Tank per Battalion
Besides TP, for each battalion, the player is limited to having only the maximum of 4 of the same tank. Not only is this a safeguard in case a specific tank is unbalanced (you can only have four max in your deck), but it forces players to compromise and make combinations of different tanks in their deck for variety and make more interesting combos. At the same time, this also allows us to make tanks that are more unbalanced but forces limits on them (so super rare hero units for example).
Besides from a balance standpoint, we hope that these features would make it more interesting for a player not just in combat, but building and designing their deck. As a personal TCG fan, deck building is one of the fun things to do outside of the game.
I’ll be giving more design updates as we progress through the development so stay tuned! ^_^