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Monday, 19 May 2014

RTS Unity Tutorial Together. Part 1 - Prototyping

This is the beginning of  our adventure... an "Alien adventure"...

That's right folks! The winner of the poll that I posted on my previous article was Extraterrestrial Corporations (from now on: ET Corps). I am happy because this was, in fact, my favourite option :)

Here are the results of the survey:

In the end the results were tighter that I expected at the beginning.

It's time to kick start this tutorial, but first of all... What is the first thing you should do before you actually doing anything? That's right, THINK. :)

At the beginning of the development cycle of a game you will have plenty of ideas. The hard part is choosing between them and decide what you really want to create. Test your ideas as fast as you can so you can discard the bad ones as soon as possible. I talked about this before and the truth is that you will never have enough prototypes!

In this post there will be no code or explanation about how unity works. Instead it will be about game design and early video game concepts. The prototypes shown on this post will help us to decide the aesthetics of the game, rather than the game play. Making different game play prototypes should be compulsory in a real project, but a little bit "expensive" for this tutorial. This said, let's get to work :)

ET Corps

Sketch of ETCorps. "Draining planets for profit" ;D

The goal of the game is control the natural resources of different planets. To do that you need to build and expand your way through the map. You will need to have an strategy and counter the opposite corporations. Check Super Energy Apocalypse: RECYCLED! for reference. This game focuses on economy, building and resources. Planets have it's dangers, but combat is indirect and secondary.

Aesthetic Prototypes

With this in mind, I started to look for free on line assets. I found a couple of great resources for strategy games that could really fit the game. The art is definitively not necessary at this point, but it can greatly empower imagination. That's why concept arts are created, as some sort of inspiration for game designers.

First I stumbled across Kenney assets. This is a fantastic collection of art, that allows you to create many different kind of games without the need of looking for assets anywhere else. Complete and totally free. What else can you ask for? :D

Orthographic camera without rotations. Setup A.
That is the first attempt I made to use the assets and capture the basic essence of the game. The camera is obviously orthographic (as almost every 2D game) and the tiles are just placed into the XY plane. This is the most simple setup I could think. The problem is that the tiles were designed for a platformer, and somehow doesn't look so good as a tiles for floor. All in all I like it because is really simple to operate.

Isometric camera with the same tiles and rotations. Setup B.
After the basic setup, I tried to create an isometric camera. Somehow, if you type "strategy game" in google images, you will find out most of the 2D strategy games are isometric. I didn't want to swap to isometric assets and I though that rotating the map and camera would achieve the same effect. As you can see, you can do it. But the rotated camera and map is in my opinion a high price to pay and too complicated for this tutorial. You can see what I am talking about on the image above. Because of that, I will not choose this setup.

Orthographic camera with hexagon tiles. Setup C.
Finally I decided to give a try to this other fantastic set of pixel art collection of Pixel32. This hexagon tiles look wonderful and really fit into the look and feel of strategy games. The only problem is that, controlling hexagon tiles is not impossible but require certain special logic. Square tiles are always easier. If you want to learn more about hexagonal coordinates I recommend you read this article. This style won't make it to this tutorial. Maybe to another one in the future.

Concept Art

I am happy to announce that a very talented artist decided to collaborate with me in this project. Dario has already created some concept arts for ET Corps and they look awesome.

Mininerary complex sketch. Basic profit maker of the galaxy.

Laser turret sketch. Defend your compound is important.
Tripod unit sketch. Isn't that alien adorable? ^^

Game Design

It's time to define the game rules and scope of the project. Before continuing with any project up to this point, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to build. It doesn't matter if you change it later, but it is very important that you write it down. Since the original idea was very open, I spent a lot of time talking with fellow developers about what this game could be. You should go to this brainstorming meetings with ideas already, and try to fuse them into a mighty final concept. The goal of this game design is keep it simple, without making a no brain game without real strategy.

This are the spec of the game I have in mind:
 - Players: 1vs1. (more is still possible).
 - Duration: 5-10 minutes. 
 - Map: 30x20 squared tiled map. Some tiles of the map contain resources, local threats or empty space for building. Similar to "Setup A" described above, but with better fitting graphics for tiled maps.

I had some hard time keeping the list of buildings small and fun. I believe this game could be done with 3 buildings, but 4 adds more possibilities.
 - Buildings: there are 4 kinds of buildings that can be upgraded once:
   - Bases: provide energy to the surrounding buildings and allow to their construction. Sell minerals.
   - Extraction points: minerary complex that extract different resources from under the surface.
   - Defence turrets: laser weapons that protect you from local threats and rival corporations
   - Factories: automatically create laser tripods that attack your enemies.

 - Resources: there is technically one resource, money. Money is obtained by mining and is spent on building and upgrading.

I want to base the challenge of the game in creating a balanced and sustainable economy with an strategy that reacts to the movements of your rivals. In order to do that, it is important that the player can make their own choices. This choices cannot be trivial.
 - Game mechanics: the decisions should be always clear to the player:
    - Beginning: players start with an small amount of money to build their basic economy.
    - Mining: there are 4 different ore minerals in the game (red, green, yellow and blue). Each of them is worth the same at the beginning, but as you mine and sell always the same, the price will start to drop. Players also have to keep in mind what the rivals are mining to obtain maximum profit.
    - Conflict: building "military" buildings doesn't bring profit, but safety. Defending yourself from raids can pay off, or be a unnecessary expense. Players have to remember that the goal of the game is earn money, not expend it smashing your opponent.
    - End game: the game ends when an amount of money is reached by any of the players, or the resources of the planet run dry.

Time for voting! I would love to receive feedback from you. Please tell me what do you thing about the evolution of the tutorial. :)

On the next post: Top Level Game. Time to implement some goodies :)


  1. Really it's a pretty good tutorial. Thanks for the links to the assets and the article of hexagonal coordinates. With your advices, i'm going to start my own prototype, although i have to learn more, much more.

    1. Thanks a lot!
      I wish you lots of motivation! :)