Oct 07

A Delicate Balance

staff_peter_schnablI’m Peter Schnabl, Systems Designer for the upcoming mobile game The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault. My role is to focus on tuning the game, filling in the details to achieve good pacing and balance.

Drop Assault is designed to allow our players a lot of flexibility. With eight units, eight tactics and ten defensive structures to choose from, plus a wide range of specialized bonuses to strive for, we’re confident players will be able to customize their forces to suit their personal play style. That flexibility was one of our goals from the beginning, but it does present a challenge in balancing all of the different combinations players might bring to the table. Our live skirmish mode adds to the challenge, since the units must be balanced against each other as well as against base defenses.

We’ve spent a lot of time comparing and tuning units’ and defenses’ stats on paper, but in the end that only goes so far. Testing out different combinations has been a big part of finding the right balance, and we’ve definitely run into some unexpected results along the way. Sometimes those surprises were a problem we needed to fix, but others added some interesting depth that we wanted to keep. We’ll leave it to our players to explore for themselves!

Our most basic goal has been to ensure that every simple strategy has at least one counter-strategy. As long as we’ve achieved that, we can count on our clever players to punish any strategy that becomes too dominant. We have several tools to work with: Some weapons deal area-of-effect damage, punishing massed armies of cheap troops like the Tactical Space Marine, while others inflict massive single-target damage that can take down heavier units quickly. Units like the Heavy Support Squad can take down some defenses while standing safely out of their range, but that range can be a weakness against defenses that are especially vulnerable at close quarters. Speedy units like the Scimitar Jetbike can sometimes evade damage entirely while closing in on their target, but if anything slows them down, they become much more vulnerable. Finally, each unit comes equipped with a particular type of armor, which can be especially effective or vulnerable against certain weapons. That applies when units fight each other in live skirmish, too. For example, the Heavy Support Squad is a deadly tank-killer, but entire squads can be taken out quickly by units that specialize in destroying infantry at close range.

In Closing

With all of these levers to work with, we’ve had fun finding and shaping good counters to each strategy. But we’re sure our players will uncover new combinations we didn’t see coming, and we’re keen to see what they come up with!

Emperor’s Blessing

This week’s wallpaper features the mighty Emperor commanding his troops from ancient Terra, ready for a fierce battle like none other.

Check back often, we’re always adding new Drop Assault content.