January 19, 2014

Tales of Battle Century G

Battle Century G has been a lot easier to design, partly thanks to the clear focus elaborated on last week, and some of the focus being on simplicity. The grand majority of things I've talked about haven't changed since I last posted them, though things can always be easier to read or a bit better balanced.

It helps that I'm not trying to see just how many crazy mechanics I can get away with this time around, and I'm just going for what a game about fighting robots needs. Today I'll share a few more things and elaborate on how they changed since their conception. I'm aiming for shorter but more frequent posts from now on so let's not waste any further time!

A Net Loss of Stats

We start with a Weapon that changed very little from the start of the game's Alpha period to today.

Finger Net
Type: Melee Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Long-Range, Blast, One-Shot. All Units within the Weapon’s area of effect suffer the effects of Difficult Terrain for a Round.
Description: A giant net made of Type-W Gygravagnite, made to restrain the speedier Cryptids. By installing them in a Gear’s fingertips they can be shot as a surprise in the middle of close quarters combat, making sure they will snare their prey.

I'll remind you that Difficult Terrain halves your Guard and Speed. I also think I never quite said how big Blasts were going to be, so I'll make use of this opportunity and say that they have a 3-Zone Radius, which is pretty big.

And now time for an aside on redundancy! This bears a strong resemblance to Ensnaring Trap, previewed a couple of weeks ago. I said I was going to try and do away with most of the game's elements that were redundant, and that is still true. So let me explain how they are different.

-Finger Net has a very short range (2-7 for the most part) while Ensnaring Trap can be used from far in the distance Think around 8-14).
-Finger Net takes an Offensive Action while Ensnaring Trap is an Utility Action. You'll need Reversible Thrusters if you want to use Finger Net to use it while running away.
-Finger Net can deal Damage because it is a Weapon, Ensnaring Trap can't deal Damage period.
-Finger Net strikes everything in an area, friend or foe, whereas Ensnaring Trap is single-target.

They're similar on the surface, but clearly are meant for different characters. Finger Net can help clear crowds of mooks and put pressure on enemies while you're wailing on them, Ensnaring Trap pins down big foes for a round of focused fire or helps you get out of dodge.

While I'm doing away with redundancy, I don't want to do away with options. Two abilities that do the same thing with minimal differences are bad. Say, a Barrier that grants +3 Defense for 1 Energy and another that grants +5 Defense for 2 Energy is a no-no, instead I'll just consolidate both options into a single Active Defense and let you choose which mode to use each activation. But when both abilities do similar things that work differently depending on which character is using it? I'm game. So ends our aside.

You might remember the version of Ensnaring Trap I posted previously simply halved Guard and Defense, while this inflicts the effects of Difficult Terrain. That's because both halved stats originally, but now... Well, they do basically the same thing, just pointing you to the Difficult Terrain rules so they'll be easier to remember.

The Power Stat

Energy is a resource that replenishes every Turn to full, and that wouldn't have worked with GGG's rules. Well, it would have worked on a technical level, but it'd have made the game revolve entirely around how much Energy you could have spent per Turn. Energy had the best guns, the best Defenses, the best ways to improve your mobility, and the best support options. At least outside of Genre Powers.

Battle Century G takes a different approach, where Energy can do a little bit of everything but it cannot outright replace other Attributes. In GGG anyone could spend Energy to move 1 extra Zone as part of an Utility Action while going forward. I briefly considered doing something similar with BCG, but it quickly became obvious that a high Energy stat was basically like having a high Speed stat but better.

We still had this though.

Over-Booster (old)
Type: External Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn, you may spend 1 Energy to increase your Speed by 2 for a Round or spend 2 Energy to increase your Speed by 4 for a Round instead.
Description: Originally part of the Helios Project and meant to help with travel times for space exploration and colonization, but repurposed for war since then. The Over-Booster improves acceleration times considerably for any Gear that installs it, and in any kind of environment - not just space.

This worked, but still had issues. Y'see, without getting into spoilery territory, there's some Weapons and Upgrades that care about your Speed Attribute and in that context increasing your Energy was still better than increasing your Speed. That's why Over-Booster got a simple rewrite too:

Over-Booster (new)
Type: External Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn, you may spend 1 Energy to Move 2 extra Zones with your next Action this Round, or 2 Energy Move 4 extra Zones instead.
Description: Originally part of the Helios Project and meant to help with travel times for space exploration and colonization, but repurposed for war since then. The Over-Booster improves acceleration times considerably for any Gear that installs it, and in any kind of environment - not just space.

Now this works better as a supplement to Speed, instead of being an outright replacement. The cost of the Upgrade plus two points in Energy is often higher than outright getting three points in Speed in the first place, and Speed has more uses than just Movement, not to mention Over-Booster can get disabled. On the other hand, Over-Booster does not care about Difficult Terrain, and does grant you a single extra Zone of Movement. If you really care about your Movement Speed then you might want to get both just in case rather than just one.

And this leads me to a point I've been trying to make about Energy for a while and haven't gotten the chance to insert into the conversation yet:

Managing your Energy isn't particularly powergamey, because while it can do some powerful stuff, it is still a secondary stat. Your Energy starts at 0, and you could get by with as little as 2-3 if you only want to make use of one or two Upgrades or Weapons that cost 1-2 points. That's pretty simple to manage. You could build around having a higher Energy, and that's where abilities like Absolute Barrier come into play to give you an obvious outlet in case of doubt.

Even then, it is often a good idea to just keep a few points open in case you want to use an emergency Active Defense in response to an attack. You might not end up using them, and that means you are technically wasting those Energy points, but it also means you didn't need them in the first place. Let's put it this way: Optimizing your Energy is like optimizing your Movement - sometimes you'll have extra Energy or Zones of Movement left unused, and that is okay.

Energy supplements pretty much any strategy, but it is costly and cannot make up for having low stats entirely. Well, it technically can in the case of the most powerful Beam Weapons as a replacement for Might, but that takes a big chunk of XP. Battle Century G has subtle differences between the gameplay of its various power levels, and one of those is that death laser strategies are much more viable (read: possible) at Power Levels 3 and beyond.

Your Face is Beaming

Both of the previous changes were pretty subtle, and the ability did not really change much when all was said and done. This one is a little like two of the above issues, but the change is more pronounced. Let me introduce you to my friend Shooting Beam Technique.

Reactor Overdrive (old)
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (Cost 3), Technique, Overheating.
Description: You overload and expose the Gear’s generators redirecting the power surge towards outside rather than your own systems. The process may cause lasting damage to your own machine, but the brutal energy blast released is much more certain to do even worse for whoever is on the receiving end of it.

On paper this is a perfectly balanced mirror of Radiant Fist. They're both Techniques that Overheat and have an Energy cost of 3. One is Shooting, the other is Melee. So they're balanced, right? Well, not quite. This version of Reactor Overdrive was better than Radiant Fist pretty much all the time.

That's because Melee Weapons are better at sustained Damage output, while Shooting ones are better at sudden bursts of Damage. Turns out, when Techniques are all about bursts, a Shooting Weapon makes them even better! Not only did it hit harder, but it also did so from a distance, where Overheating hurts less

The combination of Shooting, Beam and Technique was way too powerful even with Overheating in the mix. Reactor Overdrive was the strongest Weapon in the game available to PCs in terms of Damage, but was also easy to use and didn't have much of a drawback. Clearly I had to do something about it.

I considered just giving Reactor Overdrive a higher Energy cost to make up for it, but that ironically made it look very weak in comparison to Radiant Fist, and if the most damaging gun in the game looks weak then I'm doing something wrong. Eventually I settled down on something.

Reactor Overdrive (new)
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (Cost 5), Long-Range, Technique, Overheating. If you take the Aim Action with this Weapon before firing it attacks all Zones within Range in a straight line aimed in a direction of your choice.
Description: You overload and expose the Gear’s generators redirecting the power surge towards outside rather than your own systems. The process may cause lasting damage to your own machine, but the brutal energy blast released is much more certain to do even worse for whoever is on the receiving end of it.

I did not, strictly speaking, nerf it. I just added more abilities and charged the extra Energy cost. You could even argue that I made it stronger, because now it can hit multiple targets! In some ways it is even easier to use, because it has better reach, but things are not so simple.

First of all, by the time you want to use a Technique, most Enemies will be within the Range of your other Weapons, so you can snipe a Boss with it from afar if you put in the effort to keep your distance but it doesn't do all that much on its own.

Second is that Aiming with this Weapon isn't always a good idea, because the longer the battle goes the higher the odds that Melee units will reach their targets, and the higher the odds you'll end up blasting your friends to pieces with this monster.

Third is the Energy cost. Five is a lot to spend on a Weapon. Unless your Energy Attribute is solidly above average it means you don't get to shield yourself that Round. And if you get hit by something that halves your Energy while you're Aiming (like Cool your Jets) you'll have to wait another Round to use it... Unless your Energy is of 10, but at that point you deserve getting to fire your armageddon device no matter what.

On the other hand when it goes right, it goes right. Because is a Big Freaking Gun that blows up everything on its path. It is the Granzon's Degeneracy Cannon meets the Shin Getter's Stoner Sunshine by way of the Yamato's Wave Motion Gun. It is powerful, it makes you think about how you can best put it to use, and it is fun to let loose with when you just want to tell a bad guy that their face is beaming in the bad way.

In Closing

I've made it pretty clear I care about Big Heroes, Fast Pacing, and Epic Plays. But I still care very much about options and balance, and of course none of all these things would mean much if not for the over-the-top robot action flavor to tie it all together.

It also goes a long way towards showing I've got a solid foundation to work with and a few simple changes here and there are enough to fix most issues. Which is good because I'm done rewriting things from scratch and I don't want character concepts ruined because they were written around something that needed to be taken out.

Next week: Announcements! Changes! Things Happening!


  1. Energy using modules should have diminishing returns at higher energy usage.
    Overbooster would be better with
    1 en for +2 move
    2 en for +3 move
    1 en for -3 damage
    2 en for -5 damage
    active shield example

    You're underestimating the versatility the energy gives you. With all attributes at 4 as starting point getting 2 speed for 11 XP (5+6) gives you +2 move. But you can get overbooseter and 1 en for 10 XP (5+5) and get the same +2 move every turn.

    Of course speed also boosts some weapons like you mentioned and overbooster can get maimed but on the other hand there are turns where you don't use your full speed and with energy you can boost your attack/defense or other things as needed instead so it can be mostly utilized almost every turn.

    If the energy effectiveness is similiar in other modules that use it mechs with large pools of energy and 3 or more ways to use it would be extremely versatile and effective.
    The situation gets worse as at higher power levels where cost of stacking single attribute is smaller and you have more ways of spending energy.

  2. This is a fair point, and gives me a reason to elaborate a little on the rate of energy-to-buffs I ended up going with.

    I chose 1 for 2 and 2 for 4 with Over-Booster so PCs could use it to counter snipers, because Shooting Weapons have a standard maximum Range of 5 and that means the current Over-Booster is just enough to catch up to them, at least before Long-Range guns enter the equation. In comparison, Custom Defenses grant higher Guard bonuses for the same Energy but you need to buy two of them to protect against all types of Weapons and they still only apply the bonus against one specific attack.

    With that said, you are correct in that the opportunity cost of choosing Speed over Energy is a bit too steep once we get to stat ranks of 7 and above. Maybe the Over-Booster itself should cost 10, that way even if you don't care about what Speed does beyond movement, it is still a choice worth thinking about, and it'd only be preferable to Speed earlier than that if you are already going for a hi-Energy build.

  3. If you make overbooster cost 10 it'd be more effective to just get +2 flat speed instead and the only mechs that would get overbooster are those stacking energy and even then some would still take flat stat because they have other uses for energy.

    I mentioned it already but if you make energy recover 100% every turn they're just floating points that can be converted into other stuff.
    If you make the ratio too low, it's better to just increase the stat directly.
    If you make it too high then energy is as good as the other stat but also flexible.

    Making energy recover 50% per turn means you can keep the high ratio because you won't be able to use all your energy every turn. You can store energy to 100% and then use it all to make a dash to close in on the sniper and make all out attack. But next turn you only have 50% energy and might not have any to spare for boosting.

    That way energy is burst power that allows you to do more that you could just by pumping the stat but only every other turn. So you have high spikes of power but the average is lower compared to guy that just has high stats and doesn't use energy much.

    With 100% regen you'll just use energy to boost a stat once you reach diminishing returns from the stat itself. You'll be spending energy pretty much the same way every turn.

  4. There's three different things to address here:

    The first is that under the logic that you'll always spend Energy the same way, a regeneration of 50% doesn't really improve things much, it just means you'll alternate between exploding at your opponents every other Turn. Arguably, it makes things worse, because with energy being weaker I have to make energy-based abilities stronger and then the game got a lot more binary all of a sudden. There's 'off' turns where you're saving up your juice and little of note happens, then there's 'on' turns where all hell breaks loose. I don't want that.

    Second, there are many more resources in the game than just Energy. Some of them are limited (Genre, Threshold) some of them return to full power every Turn (Actions, Movement) and others are only partway in your control (Tension, Maims). It is in the way these all come together that you realize that yes, spending energy the same way every turn is one way you can go about using the stat, but it is just one of many ways you can build your character. Building around the idea of doing the same thing over and over (or pretty much the same thing) is a valid strategy. In the case of Beams it is a very, very costly one though.

    Lastly there's Speed versus OB. I'm okay with the +2 being the better choice early on, because if you want to make a character faster, pumping the Attribute that does exactly that seems like the obvious thing to do, and that is why the Attribute exists in the first place. You yourself said that you probably won't need to move extra every round, but if you do need it, with OB you can now move four instead of two for a fraction of the cost of a permanent purchase. I might buff it up a very slight amount though (doing 1 for 3 and 2 for 5) to even things a little bit more though.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Talking about these things is how they get better.


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