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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
Superweapon Design
By Robert Basler on 2016-06-19 00:39:37
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

The first two superweapons in Miranda are the the Empire's Fuel-Air Explosive Missile and the Independents' Orbital Bombardment Platform. Both weapons are powerful area-of-effect attacks and each player can only have one. Unlike superweapons of old, the superweapons in Miranda have a 5KM maximum range - this range limitation reduces their griefing potential. The really dangerous thing about superweapons is that they erase the shroud above the superweapon for all players in-range who have radar. You build a superweapon, you better be ready to get hit by one.

Currently the map shows superweapons as blinking red dots, but I decided tonight that I'm going to add countdown timers to the map so players can see which superweapons will be ready soonest like Red Alert did. Why not give players a way to prioritize targets?

Low power disables the superweapon countdown timer. On power restore, it takes a minimum of ten seconds for the weapon to be ready. I'm calling this a reboot time, but really it is time to make sure that everybody in the simulation is updated with the new time that the superweapon can fire. The timer also resets if you log out.

On Thursday I was ready for testing so I set up a new base. I immediately discovered two bugs in the base layout code. I put those aside for a moment and continued. One thing about not having a big QA department to help me test the game and send me nice detailed lists of bugs and how to reproduce them, is that when I encounter a rare bug I have to fix it immediately since it's unlikely I'll see it again any time soon. That happened several times in a row on Thursday so while I fixed a lot of great rare bugs, I didn't actually get to testing my nice new superweapons.

Friday I started work setting up my second PC for superweapon testing. When I upgraded it a couple months ago I tried not to install Visual Studio for full development. I've been using the final build delivered by Miranda's patcher for testing which is fine for most work, but getting the debug build to run I discovered that Microsoft hadn't patched Visual Studio for me. Kind of ironic given how pushy Windows 10 is with all its other updates. I was able to get Visual Studio updated but it didn't install all the same updates my main PC has and Miranda wouldn't build. After an hour of trying to get it properly updated, I gave up and just copied the new files from my main PC.

To finish off the week I spent three and a half hours fixing a bug in the simulation server that has been plagueing me for weeks.

Friday after work I read a rather scary article about Windows executables being modified with malware by one TOR exit node. What that means is that executables are no longer safe over plain HTTP and I need to get HTTPS set up for Miranda's setup program. Miranda setup verifies all the files it installs, but if the setup program itself is modified and the player ignores the Windows UAC warning, there's no way for Miranda setup to detect the danger. The only way to protect the setup binary is with SSL.

I was quite excited to discover this video this weekend! Someone made a video with Miranda in it. The first of hopefully many to come. Too bad I don't understand German.

Monday I should see some super weapon combat. I still have to do a little bit of effects and audio work for the Orbital Bombardment Platform then I'll be going back to working on server performance for the balance of the week. It's frustrating but I can't really estimate how much effort is going to be required to get the server to the needed performance level. Server work is kind of boring so what I'm doing is alternating between server work and feature work so that I have interesting things to show people every couple of weeks. I'm still trying to decide if I'll do the new wall layout system or attack drones and repair facilities next. I'm kind of biased towards drones, I always loved sending out a crowd of those to mess up my opponent's plans.

If you want to know when I'll be doing my first test weekend, just take note when I stop talking about the server.

By Luke Thorne on 2016-06-19 04:35:43
Homepage: email:lukeypukey36 at gmail dot com
Awesome it is great to hear another update Robert!.
By Lex on 2016-07-01 08:05:13
Homepage: email:
I always found the Red Alert style super-weapons a bit unsatisfying. They could be game changing but often they felt like a repetitive poke in the eye on a cool down.

Recently I played the oddly named kick starter card game Exploding Kittens. It has the concept of game ending bomb cards (the kittens) and interrupt cards (distractions, skips etc.). Play your initial bomb card immediately and you could be left interrupted and vulnerable.

I wonder if there is some inspiration here for superweapons. Make them truly super; battle ending game changers. Raise the stakes of having or losing one, but then create a separate meta game around countering them.

I could imagine players have forms of superweapon mitigation (shields, EMPs, Chaff, shrouds whatever). Play your mitigations as countermeasures as interrupts, counter-interrupts, buffs, attack support (i.e. I EMP your shroud). Countermeasures could be automatic, buyable, buildable or from map control points.

Superweapons can feel weightier not an irritation killing your war factory every five minutes. Suddenly you have a metagame around expanding for countermeasures, when to spend them or suicide run a countermeasure for a superweapon coup de grace?

Sorry for the brain dump, hope it was vaguely interesting even if not at all useful or a good fit for your game! I loved C&C and the thought of doing something better with superweapons has been rattling around my brain for years!
By Robert Basler on 2016-07-01 14:48:01
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
You're so right, having players poke each other in the eye repeatedly isn't so fun. Superweapons as they are in Miranda are pretty super. Fire a fuel-air explosion off over a force of tanks and they all disappear. The orbital bombardment can't destroy as many units in one shot as the fuel-air explosion, but it can kill much harder targets. I put a cap on the number of uses for superweapons in specifically because they are so destructive.

The biggest gameplay challenge I see for superweapon users is that they show up on everyone's minimap - because on Miranda's big map, someone has to find you before they can try to kill you. It's not like Red Alert where you can see anyone where there's no shroud.

I will be interested to see the stats, but I suspect a good portion of players will never get a chance to fire their expensive, shiny superweapons. As for counters, they will be in the next batch of superweapons I add although you're giving me some more ideas...

And thanks for the brain dump!
By Lex on 2016-07-04 08:04:51
Homepage: email:
No problem at all, glad it was of some use!

Glad to hear that you are planning them to be weighty out of the gate. I remember the tension evaporating after the first C&C countdown expired in a lacklustre explosion.

Thinking on you saying players might never use their weapons reminds me a bit of Hitchcock's theory on thrillers. If you have a bomb, don't have it explode, because as soon as it does all the tension is lost.
By Sutekh on 2016-07-27 09:11:59
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Any thoughts to expanding base design/building using components? Possibly as a future feature or expansion.

I'm a personal fan of the Tower Defense genre, which origin is attributed to RTS - specifically the Autumn Tower Defense level in Warcraft 3. I would think your component setup would be very compatible with designing specialty buildings. While towers of multiple varieties is the most obvious first application, there are many others, such as more effective/efficient radar domes, faster charging (yet weaker) Superweapons, construction yards with shields or "defensive" cannons, and so on.
By Robert Basler on 2016-07-28 09:44:18
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
Both buildings and vehicles capabilities are based on the components chosen for them so all the things you describe are currently possible, although I don't have as many component variations as I'd like yet.

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