One of our earliest posts briefly mentioned our design pillars, those ideas that would provide goalposts for the game. One of our pillars is "Consistent Discovery." We want players to always find new experiences through a variety of means. One way we decided to capture this was through randomness. Your beast will have access to a random assortment of improvements (Mutations) during a play-through, the enemies you see will be semi-random (we also hope to have rare enemies), and we'll have mechanics like the two I want to talk about today: Enemy Upgrades and Area Malfunctions.
Hazard throwing the Unity dice.
As you're being swarmed with laboratory defenses, some of them will come equipped with random Upgrades installed. These could be anything from simply having extra health or damage, to dropping a bomb on death that must be knocked away, to teleporting around every time they're hit. These can apply to any type of enemy that shows up, keeping you on your toes at all times. These upgraded enemies will be worth more points than their vanilla brethren, making them worth your while to defeat. Higher difficulties will likely have you encountering more of these upgraded bots, and possibly seeing multiple upgrades on a single enemy. Good luck!
Every enemy mashed together? Definitely an "Upgrade."
As a mostly automated laboratory, things sometimes go wrong at the worst times. As you're moving through the various sections of the beast facility, the area may have a Malfunction. These can either be good for you, or...well...not so good. There might be significantly more defenses to pummel your way through, maybe there will be less. Maybe someone forgot to turn all the lights on and you can't see very well. Perhaps all of the enemies have been coated in invisible ink and are a bit more see-through than normal (I'm pretty sure that's how that works). Perhaps there are chemicals in the air that mess with the beast's abilities or senses. Who knows what'll happen? Nobody knows! (RNGesus knows.)
Dangers of Randomness
Every decision made in development has pros and cons attached. We feel the random factors in BioBeasts will keep it fun, interesting, and challenging even after hundreds of play-throughs, but there are a few aspects to keep in mind when designing for randomness.
First, it quickly becomes difficult or impossible to test all possible combinations of events, which can cause very rare bugs that are tough to track down. The cure for this is plenty of testing and having flexible systems that play nice together. Knowing from the start the amount of random things that will exist in a game is extremely helpful here. Since we knew randomness would be built into the bones of the game, we knew to keep our game elements open to manipulation.
The other big gotcha is balance. Random elements tend to create scenarios where the game becomes trivially easy or impossibly difficult. We've chosen to tackle the "too difficult" half of the equation and make as sure as we can that the game is always theoretically winnable in any scenario, even if the player needs to play extremely well. If there happens to be a set of circumstances that make a play-through too easy, we think that's just another fun thing to discover. As long as it doesn't happen all the time (because that gets boring), it adds to the game, instead of taking away.
What random elements of other games do you like/dislike? Are there other random events or elements you'd like to see in BioBeasts?
Total aside -- does "randomness" sound like a fake word to anyone else? It felt fake to me the whole time I was writing this. I think I made it up. It's mine, I own the word now. Randomness™: ©®RabbleFroth 2015.