Search or Be Destroyed
An RTS game where information is truly key.
Team Size: 1
Development Time: 2 weeks, 2018
Tools Used: Unity
Search or Be Destroyed is a stressful strategy RTS about scouting for and then responding to incoming threats. The player's goal is to defend power generators from waves of enemies that are shrouded in fog. The enemies Search of Be Destroyed focuses on information gathering and quick reactions over grand strategy. Searchlight robots are sent out to reveal enemies hidden in the fog of war so that the player can preemptively prepare their defenses for different angles of attack. This forces the player to multitask and make tactical adjustments on the fly --trying their best to scan for new information, defend from current threats, and re-adjust defenses for the next threat all at the same time.
Sorry this one is a bit long! (1.5 minute read)
I believe that this system failed to meet my intent. The core of the game was overcoming the obscurement of information created through the fog of war by using scanner drones to identify hidden threats, allowing the player to prepare their forces for said threats. The scanner drones ended up being very useful but not a necessity. The player was able to simply move their drones to a decent position at the beginning of the game or to only use one and still complete the game. Instead of the drones and gathering information with them being the focus of the game micromanaging the soldiers back at the base became the focus.
If players were able to react quickly enough with their soldiers they could counteract enemy attacks even with just the short warning from the passive base lights. This showed in that on players second playthroughs they were even more likely to neglect (not completely but to a much higher degree than desired) the scanner drones and instead focus on their soldiers. As they became better at the game they learned to focus less on their drones. I see this as a result of multiple factors, firstly soldiers were fast enough to move from position to position on the base without much planning. While being able to adapt quickly is important the player should still be planning actions for a few seconds ahead. The second failing comes from the level design of the game. With so many vision blockers getting the drones into a position where they could successfully provide a worthwhile amount of information was often times too challenging to be worth it. This could be solved by increasing the angles from which enemies can attack while reducing the amount of sight blockers. This would allow players to make more impactful choices on where to aim their drone and attain more information with the drone even if the information was of similar value due to the extra avenues of enemy attack.
Importantly, the simple nature of the game worked against the drones. Multi-tasking and handling stress were two core components of the game, having the player split their attention between drones that help them plan ahead and soldiers that they can respond to threats with in the moment made focusing on the “in the moment” characters the better choice. When pressured and forced to adapt I think the obvious reaction is to focus entirely on the present as opposed to splitting one’s focus on future issues. If the enemies attacking the base right now aren’t stopped what does it matter if enemies attacking later aren’t stopped. This tug-of-war for the player’s attention was the crux of the issue in “Search or Be Destroyed”, there was so much to focus on in the present, and little benefit of planning ahead at all that it was easier to simply throw that future planning away, along with the scanner drones that support it.
While the mechanics of the game got twisted around the feel of the gameplay was correct. The goals of the player experience were to make the player multitask, constantly adapt, and to be pressured. The player still had to multitask between all their units, the problem was that they didn’t have time to multitask between all their soldiers and the drones. They had to constantly adapt --the problem was that they could adapt quickly enough with their soldiers that planning ahead was no longer an issue. They were certainly pressured, the problem was that they were pressured so much that they had to almost “give-up” on managing the drones the whole game and dedicate almost all of their time to their soldiers. So, overall, despite not meeting my intent I’m happy to say that the game feeling was successful, with players saying it was challenging and stressful but not frustrating.
One last thing that I think is interesting to note is that using the drones to scan for enemies is the technically the “best” way to play (the way to take the least amount of damage), but by far not the most effective way to play. The goal of the game was to defeat all the enemies not to get a perfect score. Players primarily using the soldiers as an instant reaction tool took a lot of damage throughout the course of their run but still succeeded --and likely were a lot less stressed out than the player who spent half their time moving the drones. Theoretically they could have done a "better job” if they used the drones to avoid all damage. This could indicate that reducing the amount of health on the base could have“forced” the player to use the drones though it would likely take many deaths and much frustration of the player (something that is very much not worth it) to get them to use the drones “as intended”. I’m glad that even if it wasn’t technically exactly “how it should have been played” that the game was still enjoyable and beatable, which makes this project a personal success for me at the end of the day.