(MS) Design Goals – Scalable

A little late for spring cleaning but I’ll be pushing out a number of drafts written over the last few months on the Design Goals we had when developing MechaStellar. For our first one we wanted to go with Scalable.

MechaStellar originally started off by combining the rules for a homebrew Mecha RPG we were playing and combining that with a very simple homebrew wargame we had for intergalactic battles involving space fighters, mechs, space ships and death-star esque super bases. Over time we grew to use it more for a fun tabletop wargame than we did for an RPG and thus MechaStellar was created.

Since Gundam was our favorite Mecha show we began to adapt different Mobile Suits for use in the game. As mercenaries in a RPG as they acquired more credits they could acquire more varied and powerful Mobile Suits. It was quite a bit of fun. Naturally to keep things fair we’d have to figure out different ways to appropriately cost something, after all a Gundam should be more expensive than a Zaku but by how much? 5 times? 10 times? 20 times?

Great questions, ones we had to answer with small scale playtests, something outside the RPG. So we started doing skirmishes using the wargame rules and set aside the advancement rules from the RPG side of things. The more we did that the more fun we had working on the wargame system. It was fun working on something barebones and seeing it flourish over time, plus it was a nice break from other tabletop RPGs and skirmish wargames we were playing at the time.

As we tested the war game more often we began to move from small scale battles, 3 on 3, to one vs many. We figured the best way to see how much the Gundam should cost would be to see how many Zakus it takes before he can be brought down. The magic number back then was 13 Zakus, so when we put together the formulas and used up equipment slots on the ‘Low Production Cost’ option we eventually found an exponential growth function that allowed the Gundam to be worth 13 Zakus. Of course the rules were very different back then, we had d20s and rapid scaling on performance, armor saves to negate damage and a melee system that was very fun but highly volatile.

After doing small scale 3 on 3 and one vs many fights we tried out doing armys. Putting large forces against one another, sometimes 20 vs 30, sometimes 20 vs 5 if one side was sticking with just hero units. It was fun, it wasn’t always perfect but it was reasonably balanced in a general sense, rather than a fine tuned sense. Those 5 Heroes with their HP, Armor, Shields and Pilot Skill held out pretty well against 20 grunts attacking from all sides.

Looking back at our VER 1 & 2 prototypes we had a lot of fun with small games, large games and lopsided matches. So a Design Goal we’ve had at every step of the way is scalability. Allowing the game to be played at multiple levels so you can simulate each side fighting with 3 grizzled veterans, having a few powerful units hold out against an enemy horde and of course having large armies with or without famous heroes duke it out. Most importantly we wanted the game to be fast enough and slick enough that playing at a larger scale didn’t become a chore.

We’ve come along way since then towards realizing that goal. Version 7 is considerably faster and we’re excited to keep working on it and refining it.

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