It’s easy to get caught up with features, graphics, optimising and going through a checklist of items to do when you work on a game, and not set aside time to keep fiddling with the mechanics. There are an absolute ton of variations to the mechanics of any game. The only real way you know if the mechanics are right, is by trial and error.
If you wonder what the hell I’m on about with ‘game mechanics’, it’s basically the rules and systems by which the game is played. For example, in chess, the pieces all move in different ways. Some can only move forwards, some can only move 1 square at a time… None of the chess mechanics are obvious. Imagine designing it from scratch. We take for granted the idea of a knight moving over other units, or castleing, or units like bishops having infinite ‘range’, but none of them is ‘obvious’.
Right now, my bugbear is support units. GTB has repair trucks and ambulances for attackers, hospitals and repair yards for defenders. My current mechanic is this:
The support units pulse out ‘waves’ of effect at a certain interval and radius. Any damaged vehicle (repair) or soldier (hospital) within that radius at the time gets X of their health replaced.
This seems ineffective, and there is little real incentive to use these units. I might have just set the costs for them too high or the effect too small, but in fact i think it’s more fundamental. By the time people are losing health, they are a lost cause, and the interval between lost health and death is too slow to enable a health pulse to really do much good.
- Ultra-rapid health pulses to ensure timing not an issue,
- Reduce armor and shields and increase health of all units
- Make support units dirt cheap so they are worth it anyway
- Allow recently destroyed / killed units to be revived by the pulses.
- Change the mechanic entirely so that the units don’t use pulses, but act as damage modifiers to protect everyone within their radius, effectively making them mobile buffs.
I’m planning on trying out the last option. It involves a lot of fiddly code, but what doesn’t eh?
BTW, stuff like this takes AGES, and it’s why I REALLY hate clones of games, where some talentless drone comes along and just copies an existing game design but slaps on some new textures. Yes, it really is easy to copy the mechanics of a popcap game, but coming up with those mechanics took a ton of work. This stuff is never obvious, and I personally don’t think it can be reliably learned from books. I think you have to just keep trying stuff.