Wednesday 24 April 2019

Equipping Ideas to EA's Battlefront - Part 2

EA’s Star Wars Battlefront games have seen a lot of good, even if there’s glitches within the gameplay. Last time in Equipping Ideas I talked about mechanics, which leads the way into modes. Galactic Assault is a fun mode, though with command posts there’ll be a few changes. Heroes vs Villains is also going to see a change. Then there’s conquest and my new mode.

For Galactic Assault, each team has two permanent command posts that always move with the phases. A third would appear when needed. The two that are permanently on the field hold only ground forces. That third command post holds all vehicles including the transports during transport defence phases. No starfighters will be available in Galactic Assault. There’s conquest for that.

In terms of phase switching, the defender’s CPs will move as soon as a phase shift happens, with the attackers having their CPs move after thirty seconds. When the phase includes a transport defence over a large area, the command post holding the vehicles will remain in place throughout the entire phase, but the other two will always move once the transport reaches a checkpoint.

The objectives remain the same, though I’ve got some new ones to add to freshen the mode up and make sure it doesn’t get as repetitive in objectives as some maps were [Death Star II I’m looking at you]. Transport defence, hack, capture and hold, set charge and hold, and destroy objectives will still be within the mode, with four new ones being added [with an extra one or two possible through DLC maps as destroy was with Crait].

Retrieval would involve the attackers fighting through the defence to pick something up then bringing it to their base. Critical Target would have the attackers needing to take out an important NPC [or more than one in some cases]. Withdrawal would turn that around with the attackers needing to defend numerous AI targets as they evacuate to a transport. Final assault will always be the end phase of the maps it gets placed on, as the defenders will get a reinforcement count of 100 with the attackers having to deplete that using whatever reinforcements they’ve managed to keep throughout the other phases.

Hero modes have been a bit of a mixed bag with EA’s Battlefront, with Hero Hunt being an impossible win against someone who can effectively use a hero. Heroes vs Villains – the main draw of hero-based modes – was quite fun in the first EA Battlefront, though the second reduced that fun slightly with the target system [though the rules are changing next month]. While I haven’t been on Hero Showdown, it offered a more confined experience with only four players. Hero Starfighters held a system similar to that of the 2015 version of Heroes vs Villains.

It’s difficult to really implement a balanced heroes mode, as the balance of such modes is in the heroes themselves. Heroes vs Villains could become great again with whatever changes DICE bring, but I’ve got a bit of a change to bring myself. I’m not ever going say bring it back to how it was in Pandemic’s Battlefront 2, as that time has passed [though it would be fun to see how it would play with EA’s systems].

Rather, the game would be a 10vs10 match, with each person randomly spawning as a hero, and upon death are respawned as a new hero. There’d be a point count that would increase by one upon each kill, with a set amount of points to reach. For those who would rather not deal with the randomness of such a system, there would also be a ruleset that allowed for the choice of a hero, but once defeated you cannot spawn as that hero again.

There’s also a new hero mode I just want to mention, inspired by the 2015 Heroes vs Villains and Ewok Hunt. It would be a 5vs5 mode, with era-locked heroes. One side plays as the heroes, with the other being the opposing grunts. The heroes have to survive being hunted for ten minutes. If a hero is defeated, that player becomes an opposing grunt, working to take down the rest of the heroes. If even one hero survives, they win.

With those modes out of the way, it’s time for conquest. There’s a concept that the original Battlefront 3 was working towards in that space and ground were interconnected. A player could start on the ground, hitch a ride in a ship, take it up to space and roam around, then enter the enemy cruiser and blow it up from the inside, using an escape pod to head back down to the ground and finish up the battle.

Elite Squadron recreated that concept as best as it could for the hardware it was on, reusing a lot of what that Battlefront 3 was meant to be. Whether through the hardware limitations or a lack of balance, that scenario I just said is pretty much a sure-fire win in Elite Squadron. It’s been almost ten years since that release, and such a concept can be done a lot better.

The maps themselves would be less symmetrical than those of Elite Squadron. And rather than just one central point of ground-to-space weaponry, there would be three. They’d be less powerful than the orbital cannon of Elite, but you’d still be as protected while using it [not very]. Cruisers up in space – one for each team – will have cannons of their own to blast those on the ground. Both will also be able to swat at starfighters.

The cruisers can be controlled by a person to place them in a new position. While being controlled, shields recycle faster [think on Pandemic’s Battlefront 2 and repairing the shield generator of a cruiser to restore its shields] and weapons have more power. The cruisers can be boarded by the enemy team when the shields are down, where they can then go for the power core [which will have more health than what they did in Elite]. Critical systems on the cruisers can be attacked to reduce its shield capacity and reduce the usability of it. A destroyed command bridge will stop someone from taking command, destroyed engines will stop it from being moved, and a destroyed sensor relay will reduce the effectiveness of the weaponry.

If you’re inside the cruiser and want to get out, there are starfighters in the hangar that – while you cannot pilot directly – are able to be used to select what you want to go out in. Heading into a hangar will automatically pull you out of the starfighter once just within it. And while you cannot land on the surface of the planet, you can exit from it and drop to the surface. Or you could go from cruiser to planetfall in a pilotable – or at least semi-controllable – escape pod.

And all these transitions won’t result in a cutscene. It’ll be instant. A chaotic battle on many fronts and not a transition scene in sight. And as much as DICE like to keep these fights 20vs20, a large mode such as this really needs 32vs32 players. And only one hero per side, that can be stopped depending on which command post they came from. One hero per command post, and if that command post is taken by the enemy, the player as the hero is instantly defeated. Hero starfighters are separate from this, but can only be used as long as the communications array is still functioning. Again, only one per side.

The winner of the mode will be the team that reaches the set point total. Each kill is worth a point, with a starfighter kill worth two. A hero kill is worth three, and it also counts if they get defeated through a command post takeover. Taking a command post is worth five points, reducing the shields to zero is worth ten points, and destroying a critical system is worth twenty points. Destroying the power core gives one hundred points, so it’s worth trying to go for it. The command posts in space then disappear as the cruiser is destroyed.

On the ground, along with those three command posts with the ground-to-space weaponry attached, each team has two command posts to call their own. A forward base and a main tactical base. The forward base acts as a regular command post for that team to easily get into the action and can be taken by the enemy team. The tactical base is different in that it is powered by its own shield and has its own power core to be taken out. Once it is, that tactical base can no longer act as a command post and the team that destroyed it gets 100 points to their total.

By having these connecting systems, each area of the battle is still important. In Elite Squadron, it always felt that the best strategy to any match was to take the orbital cannon and wipe the shields of the enemy cruiser, then board it, destroy the power core, then shoot back to the surface in an escape pod and wrap up the ground battle. With what I have said, I would hope that the ground and space engagements are equal in their opportunity and that the strategy isn’t as straightforward.

Planetary Warfare is the name of a mode I have been toying around with. It would feature three or more maps based on the same planet that are able to be travelled to on the spawn screen. There’s two versions of it I have been flitting between. I gave a bit of development to both of them, so that I could present them here.

First, though – why not just one large map instead of several smaller ones? Each map would be in different areas of the planet – so with Naboo you would have Theed, the plains, and a Gungan city. There would also be a starfighter map included. Second – what are these two versions? The first would be an open conquest across the maps. The second is a more objective based version with attackers and defenders. Both versions would use a perk system that makes the maps valuable to control.

The open version would have a reinforcement count for both sides, with each map having five command posts. One that is team-locked and three open. By controlling the majority of the command posts on that map, your team would get an active perk. The perks in this version are designed to keep your team active for longer by increasing the health each unit has along with a reinforcement boost for as long as you control it.

The objective-based version would be like Galactic Assault, except all phases would be active at the same time. The defenders would have all the perks to start with, designed to help them keep the objectives safe. They would be active only for that map. The attackers would have a reinforcement count, which would be boosted by fifty for each objective won. If the defenders lose a map, that perk is lost, and the attackers gain a perk that will help them across all maps.

The only thing I am uncertain of is how balanced they would be. There’d be a cap on the amount of players in each map, but even then I’m not certain how effective in terms of fun the mode would be. Perhaps if the concept was put into action, changes could be made to evolve it into something great.

It’s clear that I put greater focus onto conquest than my own mode, but I feel there isn’t really much that I can talk about with it as it currently stands. But conquest would be the main attraction of this third Battlefront, as it certainly allows for the most open warfare to take place.

Whenever and whatever this third Battlefront is, I hope it can see a great improvement over what the two previous games have given. Not to say they weren’t good, but there’s always room for change and betterment.

Equipping Ideas to EA's Battlefront - Part 1 / Part 2

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