Level 4CAV Developer's Journal
By Rob Davis

I read an interesting editorial in the current issue of PC Gamer magazine yesterday. In their Alternate Lives column (RPG games) the author wrote about the current state of Dungeons and Dragons, and how the game has progressed from a simple game where most things were left up to the DM and player's imaginations, to a number-crunching, min/maxing hours long process of rolling up the most effective character you can, in order to give yourself every advantage possible.

He speculated that what made D&D popular in the first place was the ability for a group of friends to get together and enjoy the fantastic stories and settings put forth by TSR's many scenario books and player campaigns, not the glut of rules that are present today. I found a correlation between his observations on D&D and my own in miniature gaming. I think that most people buy into a game because they enjoy the rules and/or the miniatures, but is it the rules and miniatures that keep them buying, or the fluff and everything that goes with that?

That brings us to a vital decision that we had to face while laying out our plans for CAV: should our products be strictly rules-only? I know from experience talking to people who worked for FASA back in the day, that while publicly fans clamored for fluff books, the rules-only products were always the money makers for BattleTech. Of course that path means that we also have to come out with some books that were fluff only. I've read a few Heavy Gear products like that before, but I can't really imagine something like that flying off store shelves.

That leaves us with the direction that we're moving in: trying to give everyone a little something in each book. Our goal is to not only expand the game by providing fluff about CAV's universe, but to back that fluff up with game mechanics that tie one to the other. My vision is that when we create a new SA that there's more to it than just adding a new rule to CAV. There should be a reason for the model(s) to have that SA and a fictional concept behind how it works. Likewise when designing new doctrines, they should fit the faction that they belong to, not just be some round peg smashed into a square hole to make sure that every faction has the same number of everything.

This brings us to another design concept that's one of the more interesting things we've had to deal with this year: diversity versus balance. We've all seen it before - most of us are probably guilty of it ourselves - another faction in your game comes out with ability X and before you can blink, players from all the other factions are demanding to know when their faction is getting a similar ability. They have a new toy and everyone else wants one too. Of course if every side is the same, what's the point of having factions at all? So that's something that's always in the back of our minds as we're kicking ideas around; how can we make this faction different from the others, without making over/under powered?

Unfortunately, IMHO the fact that CAV is a SciFi game makes this task even harder. In fantasy games, it's pretty easy to give one faction abilities that the others don't have or even abilities that no other model has. You just chalk it up to any one of a half dozen different reasons. You want a model to fly but it doesn't have wings? Well that's what magic is for! Need to give a monster a ranged attack without using a weapon? Give it a breath weapon or have it shoot spikes out of its derriere. It's as simple as that. But with SciFi, you actually have to start coming up with real, physical reasoning behind a lot of the things that you want to do. Why is the Dictator '70 the only model with Overdrive? Because after a lot of thinking, someone finally came up with the idea that an unintentional side effect of the pairing between the CAV's Gkw 14 Gauss Cannons and its Lacoda Barr - Type M5 power cell is that when a surge of power is pushed through the vehicle's electronics system, that the guns power actually increases significantly. Of course the surge also damages the other systems in the CAV, so it's a trade off. All that for +1 point of damage. LOL

Plus there's the fact that even when you do come up with a new idea, since most Sci-Fi effects are founded in modern technology, nobody even thinks that much about it. Flying models in fantasy games are cool. They have wings, they use magic, they can dive bomb their targets with big rocks or pick up the bad guys and drop them from 5 levels of elevation for 1 point of damage per elevation. Sci-Fi flyers use ducted fans and move pretty much like every other model. Yawn. What else do you have?

All said, this stuff is still what I relish about working on CAV. It's the challenge of coming up with new things and seeing how you guys use them that makes this "job" rewarding. It's why I've enjoyed the Suggestions for future game developments thread so much. It not only gives us a look at what you guys would like to see, but it reassures us that our own ideas aren't off-base from what our fans want. Now all we have to do is deliver on our end.

And keep FreeFall from making the Malvernians all-powerful.

Go buy some minis!
-Rob

 

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