Opinions on some design notes, please...
So I have this concept for a game mode that I'd like some feedback on, with an eye to improving/refining the design document a little, but also if anyone can help point out technically difficult spots, that'd be grand.
I studied coding for a couple of years at a university level, so, although my skills are rusty, it is plausible that I can learn enough scripting to do something useful, eventually, if I get a clear enough idea of what I'm doing. But to get that clear idea, some help refining the concept would be ideal, so...
(Also if someone can come up with a better name for it that is less egomaniacal, that'd be great.)
War Dog multiplayer system:
Key Concept: A 'semi-sandbox with direction' game mode that encourages team-play at the fireteam and faction level, based around dynamic asymmetric objectives (EG: Team A has to secure chopper crash, Team B has to drive a convoy past chopper crash) and a 'sport' scoring system to encourage leagues/tournaments.
1. Team-play, faction-play, and 'Sport' scoring.
2. Respawn mechanics to encourage pick-up groups.
3. Asymmetric dynamic mission system.
4. Equipment budgeting, safezones and off-field resource control.
5. Alternate-but-similar gameplay modes.
1. Team-play, faction-play, and 'Sport' scoring.
Each faction is divided into fireteams/squads of 4-8 players, each faction starts out with a safe zone. Each fireteam is assigned its own mission by the dynamic mission system (see later), and is scored based on the completion of their mission or missions, the nature of those missions, and their kills. Fireteams/squads do not directly receive points for assisting other fireteams/squads or defending objectives they have not been assigned to, but will receive a bonus to their score based on the overall faction score. The overall faction score will be influenced by how many dynamic missions are completed, and how many enemy dynamic missions are completed.
The rationale behind all of this is to ensure that fireteams/squads concentrate on achieving their own objectives and have a specific goal and direction most of the time, while permitting them to assist one another in a general way. (One fireteam/squad might provide cover fire for another, but will not actually be able or inclined do whatever the other fireteam/squad's job is for them.) Meanwhile, the faction as a whole will need relatively little direction from a centralized 'commander', with most organization towards achieving goals being based on communication between fireteams on the ground.
The lack of a clear 'win/lose' objective and individual scoring means that even if a faction as a whole is doing badly, individual fireteams on their own missions may still be able to score highly. Just because your artillery got blown up doesn't mean you can't still free the hostages, and doesn't mean you shouldn't be rewarded for that.
With the majority of the player and fireteam's score based on their own performance, it should then be possible for fireteams to have their scores recorded outside the game itself, allowing for leagues and rankings that will persist even if the individual players/fireteams are unavailable for some matches, or have to switch factions from match to match to keep player numbers even. If only four teams show up to a match one week, and twelve show up the next, the scoring remains intact and the new teams can simply be added in or their scores left standing from last time with no real penalty for failing to attend or joining in later. None of this malarkey about scoring, however, is too relevant for the actual gameplay itself.
Matches should last for a specified time period, rather than until a particular objective trips. EG: After 30 minutes, the achieved objectives are checked, the results are tallied, a new round starts.
2. Respawn mechanics to encourage pick-up groups
One of the failings in some Arma gametypes (Wasteland, DayZ) is that when respawning it becomes difficult to build up a pick-up group because everyone spawns in at a different location/at a different time, or in more serious types when there's no respawning at all.
For this game type, pick-up groups will be important for getting players back out into the field and back to their fireteams/squads while doing something useful. Pick-up groups of respawned players will probably also be a faction's best defence against the enemy -- they'll be closer to their faction's home locations/objectives, and more able to track down and respond to enemy patrols because of that.
In any case, players will ideally respawn at fixed intervals (say, once every five or fifteen minutes) as a group in a specific safe zone for their faction. The safe zone will be about 1km~ in diameter, or larger, in which they're safe, able to get new loadouts and vehicles (see equipment budgets later), and will be large enough with enough exit routes that the enemy faction can't easily 'spawn camp'.
The rationale here is to make sure that when a player dies out in the field, it's an actual (though temporary) loss to manpower, and death is an actual penalty rather than a reset button, while players still get to play, and they're put in a position where it's easy to group up and do something useful.
Ideally, before respawning there should be a period in which it's possible to get a player medical assistance and back onto their feet, although this should be somewhat randomized (ideally based on their wounds) -- a headshot's dead instantly, a shot to the legs might get up after 30 seconds or a minute of uninterrupted medical attention. I think ArmA already models a lot of this kind of thing?
3. Asymmetric dynamic mission system.
This is perhaps the key to the whole concept. Most adversarial missions I've come across, and dynamic systems like in Wasteland, are built around a very straightforward mission structure where Team A and Team B are fighting over the same thing. While this will directly lead to conflict, it seems a little basic and uninteresting to me.
In this system what will happen is, firstly, each fireteam has their own objective, maybe handed out/selected by a dynamic radio object or something.
So assuming each faction has two sites -- a radio tower and an office block, say -- BluFor fireteam A's objective might be to evacuate a friendly prisoner held at OpFor's office block back to the BluFor safezone, fireteam B's objective might be to capture the OpFor radio tower, and fireteam C's objective might be to get a convoy to a point somewhere in the middle in order to set up a radar dish or something. Meanwhile OpFor fireteam A's objective might be to escort a downed chopper pilot from somewhere mid-battlefield to the OpFor office block, fireteam B's objective might be to run a convoy to the OpFor radio tower, pick up some equipment, and move it to BluFor's radio tower, and fireteam C's objective might just be to demolish BluFor's office block.
The concept is, basically, you have all these players going around doing different things that conflict indirectly (BluFor fireteam B, if having secured the OpFor radio tower, will make it hard on OpFor fireteam B unless OpFor Fireteam B gets their convoy moving first). Also, and this is key, each faction has no idea what the other faction's objectives are. If a team of pick-up players wants to defend their faction's buildings against the enemy, they won't know what to defend or where. So scouting out where the enemy is moving to, and trying to get eyes on what they're doing, becomes an objective in itself. If your fireteam encounters the enemy while on the move, are you going to stop and engage them, to prevent them from achieving their objective? Or are you going to try and slip by quietly to achieve yours?
Naturally a lot of the logic and details behind this will be map specific and need some working out, but I have a feeling that so long as a system can be worked out to give the objectives to specific fireteams/score them for it individually, the actual dynamic objective thing should be achievable. Maybe some 'direct' conflicts could be generated, such as having a fireteam assigned to mine a road which will be used in a dynamic objective by the enemy later on -- if they don't mine the road in time, the enemy don't get blown to shreds.
4. Equipment budgeting, safezones, off-field resource control.
To ensure there's some kind of parity, but also encourage differing loadouts and ensuring you never know what you're going to encounter, each fireteam needs its own equipment budget in a semi-shared pool which it can spend to buy gear after spawning. This is fairly standard, but the budget system needs to be tweaked, and allow for the purchase of vehicles as well as for stuff like guns.
An ideal balance would be, if a fireteam wants to take a helicopter, at least two players from that team will be unable to afford rifles and the rest of the fireteam will be unable to afford fancier gear like NVGs/etc. An APC or something wouldn't be quite so bad.
The idea here is to ensure that some combined arms stuff can happen, but for serious force multipliers (fully laden helicopter with spec-ops equipped team carrying AT missiles) multiple fireteams will need to club together, thus impacting their individual performance. Meanwhile, also encouraging teams with helicopters to use them to ferry troops around the battlefield, rather than a situation where everyone wants to get ahold of their own transportation.
The equipment budget should be set at launch, and personal equipment will be respawned/refunded upon death, but the shared pool -- which will either be added to by a fireteam's players 'chipping in' or removed from by a fireteam leader distributing the points equally to everyone -- is spent once and only once, and is the only way to purchase vehicles and other mission-critical equipment, so if a vehicle gets destroyed, that's it -- it's destroyed. No refund, you get it once. If you lose your special GPS that needs to be brought to a radar tower, you'll need to get out there and see if you can find the corpse it was on. (Saving 'shared pool' resources for later in a match may be an option.)
Further, there should be at least one or two players per faction who remain in their side's safe zone throughout the match. These players will be in charge of off-field assets such as air supply drops, artillery barrages, mortars, air-strikes, UAVs, and other intelligence equipment. These players are not 'commanders', they don't order people around, the idea is that they should listen to the fireteams on the ground and prioritize their faction's budget of these special off-field resources as they think will help out their faction the best. (This will need a mechanic to ensure an arty barrage can't be used to complete a demolition objective.) (These off-field control players may, of course, be useful for coordinating the pick-up groups and whatnot, but they're still not 'in command'.)
Alternately, each fireteam leader should have a small budget to 'purchase' these off-field assets in the field. (Once per team per match, say.)
5. Alternate but similar gameplay modes.
Naturally what's been discussed is a little more organized, but with a few small tweaks this could be left to run on a server indefinitely, ala Wasteland or DayZ.
Instead of 'Matches', every 30 minutes or whatever top up the equipment budgets for each fireteam so new vehicles can be purchased, new gear set up, etc.
The mission generator becomes repeatable, with a fireteam visiting their home base and applying for a new one at a scripted object, or simply being assigned a new one when they've completed their old one or when a timer runs out.
More of a sandbox mode, where each fireteam's equipment budget is increased/topped up only when they've completed their objective, with a small bonus when a friendly fireteam completes their objective. Many objectives will involve securing battlefield resources. (Crates, vehicles, etc.) Some objectives will involve setting up forward operating bases -- maybe set up an automated AI ferry system with helicopters from the deploy safezone to forward operating bases?