June 28, 2016

A (Mostly) Tightly Focused 12 Player Mode

Although DICE’s take on the Star Wars universe came out last November, i’m only getting to it now. I say this with such shame (why didn’t you play this when it came out Matt?!?!?!) that I feel like I need to come clean with you guys.

Anyhoo, Droid Run is a multiplayer mode that pits 2 teams of 6 against each other trying to activate and protect droids that wander around the map. The 20 v 20 modes, although exciting, epic and ‘star warsy’, feel much more random: death comes swiftly, seemingly from all directions. Your skill as a player is often drowned in a swirling sea of bodies and blaster fire. The 12 player modes feel more grounded and centered around tight team play, and droid run is the jewel of them all.

Out of all of the multiplayer modes in the game, this is my favourite, as a designer and as a player. The fact that the objectives move is a simple idea, but it’s quite powerful in practice. It forces you to really know the map and pay attention to the flow of the match. It keeps me coming back for more time and time again.

Simple Game Mode Structure

As all good multiplayer modes do, droid run is relatively simple (control 3 droids) but has some interesting, if strangely designed, twists. Your team’s goal is to increase your capture % to 100. Bizarrely you only increase your % if you have captured all 3 droids. This leads to many matches that run down almost all of the clock before either team can seal the deal on the 3 droids. Seeing 0% vs 0% on a scoreboard after playing for 6 minutes of unadulterated death can be very unsatisfying.

Why Go Against The Grain?

My instinct as a game designer would be that the timer would tick up depending on how many droids are held: a single droid could still earn you some points. This was presumably done to put more importance on team play: you will only be able to win if you work together, and divide your manpower over capturing and defending equally. Another reason may be that a team, while behind by a significant margin, can always recover: provided there’s enough time on the clock.

Slow It Down Please…

Another tweak I would have made is the speed at which the % ticks up when the droids are held. It’s incredibly fast, approximately 1.5% per second. This means that an organized team can complete a round in under 2 minutes. It’s just simply too fast. This is compounded by the fact that initial spawn locations are all too often quite near, or quite far, from the cluster of droids that slowly wander around the map. There’s been too many games where our team did not really have a chance at winning, right from the get go, or were handed a golden opportunity to destroy the other team.

Although I love this mode there are too many times that it’s a blowout for either team. It relies  on objective placement and the initial 15 seconds of the match more than gritty team play. With some tweaks it could be the most interesting multiplayer mode of the past year.

Read the previous article Game Balance: a Case Study of Overwatch


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