So I’ve been playing a lot of MechWarrior Online lately. For the uninitiated, it’s a free-to-play online shooter where you are a pilot in a large walking battle tank. The game isn’t hugely known but its following is quite dedicated. The main draw, inasmuch as my opinion goes, is the customization of your mechs in between matches.
When you’re not actually stomping around on the field you’re able to acquire other mechs and weapons systems and assorted equipment. The game has a very deep numerical set of statistics and rules, and the customization is just as deep. You’re able to tweak your giant robots to the most precise of details. For those willing to plunge headlong into it, the experience is honestly quite captivating. At first glance all the mechs look and feel the same. But putting hours (upon hours) into the game makes you realize the subtle nuances to everything that makes things feel quite different.
The core gameplay experience really isn’t anything revolutionary. It’s basically a 12v12 tank battle game, with a sci-fi twist. But the subtle details combined with the fun of crafting your own massive set of mechanized armor is incredibly addicting. You never get tired of micromanaging every little detail of your mech.
But this article isn’t about espousing the virtues of a game I like. It’s about introducing the idea of a game I would like, if it existed. The other core factor of the concept I’m going to talk about today is naval battle.
I have a lot of Navy veterans in my family, including my mom. We have water in our blood, and that extends to a fascination with ships. There’s just something terribly awe inspiring about giant leviathans sliding across open water and rippling with cannons and missiles. They’re aiming at targets that can be miles away and are often shooting back. The whole thing is made even more harrowing when you consider the relative lack of cover the ocean provides.
There aren’t a lot of high profile naval combat games. That’s mostly due to the relative lack of options such a game affords, and how unfamiliar with the environment most people are. A great way to circumvent this issue, in my opinion, is to take it to the skies.
I’m talking about space ship combat. Space ships have been a critical component of science fiction for a long time. Personal Starfighters zipping along trading laser fire while lumbering behemoths belch forth death across a lightless void filled with rocks, debris, and silence. It’s just cool, and it’s the perfect setting for my idea.
I want someone to make a game where you and your team fight against another team in ships like these. The combat would complex and deep. It would revolve around the intricacies of a ship you practically designed yourself. The pacing would vary with the types of ships you choose, from nearly FPS levels of speed with smaller fighters to practically RTS pacing if you pick a bigger capital ship.
Players could get lost in constructing and customizing and putting the most miniscule of details into their personal vessels. The success of the game would hinge on a single simple component: the breadth and depth of options.
If it sounds simple that’s because it is. The core concept is very straightforward. Players need to have a lot of options, and all of those options need to matter.
It’s easier said than done. Thinking of different things that spaceships can do in a capacity that helps them fight is troubling to begin with. Make it faster, make it tougher, make it shoot harder. Those are three obvious ones, but beyond that you have to proceed with some finesse. You have to think about it from a different direction.
Fortunately setting it in space and the future helps that a lot. The weapons won’t simply have scaling damage, but different damage types and methods of firing. Solid slug weapons will have varying travel times to target, which could be very complicated with the distances involved in space. Lasers might get there instantly but be prone to overheating. Missiles can track targets and potentially do devastating damage, but they’ll have a very long travel time and limited ammunition. (Openly admitting MechWarrior Online did a good job with its weapon types)
The systems within the ships could be just as interesting. Short range jump drives could allow for instant repositions. The position and orientation of engines could allow for different levels of maneuverability. Computer systems could allow things like scrambling targeting data or hacking enemy components. Automated systems could allow sections of larger ships to continue functioning even if the decks have vented atmosphere, killing the crew.
The options grow exponentially when you consider the possibility of alien technology. Maybe there’s a faction in the game with bio-organic ships. They’re hulls can slowly repair themselves over time. They’re weapons can fire living creatures that burrow into enemy ships and consume them from the inside.
And all of this is before you consider the variety different ship designs could add. Different weapons and systems could be restricted based on the ship your flying, cultivating creativity to maximize your options. Individual ships even have unique options or characteristics.
The options, when you really start to think about it, are quite broad. With gameplay rich and deep enough to support all of these things it feels like this would be a no brainer. This will be one of the shorter articles I write, but that’s because the core concept is just so simple.
Being a part of a team of people flying around space trading deadly gunfire with an opponent would be viscerally exciting. Being able to take a ship and design it from the ground up, adding weapons and technical systems that will give you the edge in fight, would leave me addicted. I would come back for more in a heartbeat. I’d shamelessly spend time outside of the game thinking of ship variants and designing them in my head, trying to maximize different ideas. Needless to say, if somebody every got around to actually making this game?
I’d buy it.