Developer Diaries #3: Shop Revisions and Flashpoint Rewards

Developer Diaries #3: Shop Revisions and Flashpoint Rewards

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HBS_Kiva

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Shop Revisions

Hi! For those of you just joining us, I’m Kiva, the Lead Designer on BATTLETECH. In our third dev diary, we’re diving into a big revision to Stores that’s going to appear in our next big free Update, 1.3. I’ll also talk about Flashpoint Rewards and how the new Store system factors into them.

An interesting tension in the development of BATTLETECH has been the opposed forces of “story campaign game” and “simulation sandbox game”. From the beginning we knew we wanted to do both, but a lot of the early design work was squarely aimed at the sandbox. Shops are an excellent example of this design focus.

If you’re a modder, you’ve seen the jumbled way we assemble the contents of a shop. The intent isn’t to create a consistent shop experience, but to give a random cross-section of possible gear and weapons and supplies that seems appropriate for the location you’re in. “Appropriate for the location” is the key phrase there -- the underlying principle is that we don’t have to look at each individual planet to construct its shops. We could, for instance, expand the game to cover the whole Inner Sphere, and as long as we tagged all the systems in reasonable ways, the shops would just naturally work themselves out.

Unfortunately this approach collided with the story campaign very early on, when we realized we wanted to provide a path for people uninterested in sandbox play a route through the campaign. That meant scattering ‘Mechs -- the Griffin and the Dragon, in particular -- in front of the campaign player, where they could buy them and fill out their roster. Sandbox players would be gathering parts of ‘Mechs from side content, and increasing their drop tonnage organically, but campaign players were in for a nasty surprise if they tried to take their Weldry-capable lance to Smithon.

We had to break the shop concept for those ‘Mechs, in those systems. Modders, again, will see the hacky work-around we used, in which a special shop file looks for a tag that contains a system’s name to include itself. It’s ugly, but it worked. But it got me thinking about how I’d like to control shops if I had the chance to go back and revise the system.

The new model for shops is far more deterministic and structured. Rather than a large pool of undifferentiated items, we’re creating weighted tables of items, and a given planet will have a selection of tables on which it “rolls” to pick out what will be in its inventory. Instead of hoping that particular items will show up, we can directly force them to, or we can let random chance pick a handful of interesting things from a given category. (Old school nerds: the process is very much like rolling up loot on the treasure tables in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide.)

Here’s an example of the shop table, for minor Liao systems.



The system’s shop will include all possible base ammo types (that’s what the 0 means -- a Reference type, plus a 0, means “include the entire contents of the referenced table”), and all possible base components, meaning jump jets and heat sinks. It will also include 5 “stock” weapons, chosen at random from the named table, and 2 non-stock weapons from Liao-specific manufacturers.

Here’s the shop table for “Weapons_Liao_common”:



You can see that we’ll be picking from manufacturers with a strong presence in the Capellan Confederation: Mydron, LongFire, Ceres Arms and Holly. We’ll get one roll on whichever manufacturer’s table we happen to choose when we pick one of these entries at random.

Here’s the table for “Weapons_LongFire_common”:



In this table, there’s a new wrinkle: the final column, Weight, isn’t all the same. That means that when we roll on this table, there’s a higher chance of getting an LRM5 than an LRM10 or 15. (The chance is 10/24, if you’re curious.)

By creating a lot of these tables, in a lot of detail, we can get extremely specific about what items are in which shops. We can include extremely rare tables, with items you’ll almost never see, and sprinkle them like seasoning across a few important systems. Here’s a sneak peek at a table you probably won’t see very often in play:



What you will see in play is much more highly tailored shops, including both black market shops for the criminally-minded, and faction-specific quartermaster shops only accessible to closely-allied mercenary groups. You’ll be able to predict a shop’s contents a bit more easily, and we’ll be able to create very specific content-driven shops for interesting planets, Flashpoints, and story locations.

Flashpoint Rewards

We’re going to be using shops a lot more aggressively as rewards, as methods for getting interesting items into the game, and as a way to gradually introduce new items into the game economy. And we’re going to use these Item Collection mechanics for something else entirely: random treasure rewards for completing Flashpoints in our first Expansion.

We think loot is cool, and it’s a great motivation to finish a Flashpoint. But it serves an additional purpose as well. When flying around the Periphery earning your mercenary pay, mission choice is often a matter of trying to predict what ‘Mechs will be present, with what weaponry, and withdrawing if the OpFor isn’t interesting to salvage. So we want a way for you to predict -- at least partially -- what kinds of loot you’ll get from doing so.



I mentioned previously that this was very much like treasure tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and that’s not accidental. A weighted table for picking items is a useful way to construct shops, but it’s just as easily used to construct a random reward or collection of rewards.

Perhaps you’ve completed a major Flashpoint for the Draconis Combine. You’ll get the payout that was agreed on -- c-bills and salvage, as usual, as well as their gratitude. But this Flashpoint was hard, and had you doing back-to-back missions with no time to repair or refit. You want more than just the usual rewards to take a risk like that.

And the Kurita rep agrees: you’ve done a great job, and you should get three of these:



Throughout all the Flashpoint content, we’re going to be including special rewards like these. You won’t know what you’re going to get in advance; in this example, you might be told that you’ll get “Rare ‘Mech Parts”, but otherwise the specifics of the reward aren’t known, and will be different each time you play the Flashpoint. Different factions will offer different rewards, depending on both their power and influence, and what sorts of technology they’re likely to have on-hand.

We’re pretty excited about how this new model will allow us to fine-tune both shops and rewards, and give you interesting reasons to choose one Flashpoint over another, or visit one system over another. If you have any questions, we’ve got a livestream coming up shortly and I’ll be on hand to give you answers!
 

MeiSooHaityu

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Sounds pretty cool. It will be nice to have items better tailored for their locations or tailored to our employers.

All I know is, Bob Kurita better be offering me a Catapult K2 part for my troubles :D.
 

mmurray821

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I have always liked the DM tables and also some of the BT tables did the same thing with equipment and 'Mechs. Made for a nice variance of items based on where you were.

I also approve and will steal a Large Pulse Laser, thankyouverymuch!
 

Ken-Sw

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Very nice I do not know if it is just me but I have one

Not showing up the one right after Flashpoint Rewards.

Edit: Thanks @Kiva working now.
 
Last edited:

stjobe

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When flying around the Periphery earning your mercenary pay, mission choice is often a matter of trying to predict what ‘Mechs will be present, with what weaponry, and withdrawing if the OpFor isn’t interesting to salvage.
I would just like to point out that this mercenary has never withdrawn from a contract because the OpFor "isn't interesting to salvage". You'd lose C-Bills that way, and C-Bills are what pays the rent, the salaries, the repairs, the ammo, and the coffee. And we all know what happens when our MechWarriors start fighting over the last cup of coffee!

Other than that, thanks for the interesting update! It looks like the shops will get quite a bit more differentiation in 1.3, and that can only be a good thing!

Oh, and as Ken-Sw said above, one image is missing.
 

MeiSooHaityu

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I would just like to point out that this mercenary has never withdrawn from a contract because the OpFor "isn't interesting to salvage". You'd lose C-Bills that way, and C-Bills are what pays the rent, the salaries, the repairs, the ammo, and the coffee. And we all know what happens when our MechWarriors start fighting over the last cup of coffee!..
For sure! Also, breaking contracts just because of an uninteresting contract isn't good for reputation or the 'ol MRB rating either. The only time I am going to break a contract, is if it is going to break me first.


That is why my Lance commander quotes Tony Montana (well with some liberties) to their employer to "seal-the-deal"...

"All I have in this universe is my MRB Rating and my word, and I don't break them for no one".

Well...Something like that. :)
 

scJazz

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Ohhhh I do like this new Store/Treasure system very much!

Thank you Kiva!

This Livestream that is mentioned...
Anyone know where and when?
 

Havamal

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DD#3: Yes to this!

tenor (2).gif
 

MeiSooHaityu

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The image is now showing up for me...
 

yrrot

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Way to make waiting for Flashpoint and 1.3 harder Kiva...sigh...

Good stuff. I like that it should add a little more character to the planets and reasons to shop around a wider range of the map.

Also sounds like a good place for some modders to have fun.
 

scJazz

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Way to make waiting for Flashpoint and 1.3 harder Kiva...sigh...

Good stuff. I like that it should add a little more character to the planets and reasons to shop around a wider range of the map.

Also sounds like a good place for some modders to have fun.
There is an old and incomplete table of absurd detail kicking around that attempts to include every single factory on the map. What is produced there. Etc. The detail level is neat. Planet X, Factory Y, Fusion Engine NNN for Mech Z level crazy. I can see Modders getting silly with it.
 

Edmon

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I have always felt like the shops and planets are one of the very weakest parts of the base game.

So this revision will be really awesome. I would love for 50% of what I need to come from the shop/market(s) and 50% to come from the battlefield. But at the moment, it's more like 5%/95% with 95% being salvage. This will be great to redress that balance :).

Very much looking forward to this!
 

Leon12

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Oh, very nice. Currently there are maybe 3-4 planets with All The Best Stuff because they have a jillion tags so I always do my shopping there. This looks like a great way to give different regions of space a lot more personality.

Will Inner Sphere space still be locked away until after the story campaign ends in 1.3? It would be a shame if it was, it would rob this neat new system of some of its shine. I for one get bored quite quickly with post-story content - it just feels somehow sterile if I know I've already "completed" the game and am just dicking about.
 

CycKath

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*scratches chin* Magna ER Medium Laser...
 

Kodan

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@HBS_Kiva This all sounds amazing. Thank you for taking the time to post this. I love seeing this kind of thing written from your side of the game. I hope your new changes will address both the communities at large and my issues with the current system. I have some feed back as someone that doesn't mod but has spent a significant amount of my play time using the shops.

I have done HOURS of shop hunting in the campaign and its been fairly weird honestly. You can jump into New Vandenburg or one of the other major areas and get total and complete junk or you can find really nice stuff(and this is AFTER you spend tons of time in the campaign to unlock them). Yet Joppa early on can have assault level mech parts if you get super lucky with a shop roll or again junk. I have personally seen at Joppa(before Smithon) the salvage pieces for the Highlander variants, King Crab, Black Knight, and Zeus. In fact that's how I got my first Black Knight, Zeus, and King Crab I just shopped till I got them. I ignored the story for a good long time and just did missions till I could afford another round of mech part shopping. The worst thing about the current system for shops though for me is that you have no clue what a shop is going to have till you jump into the system.

This seems to be what you are addressing with the update if I read things right. I just hope you guys are going to let some more LOSTECH show up in shops (even if rare) and not just as flashpoint rewards. ;)
 

Ole122

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Sounds nice. Will you include a way for us to get a feeling of what special weapons/mechs/rewards each faction might pay, so that we don't have to look up what Kurita is famous for or somesuch?
 

dreese55

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Nice, im looking forward to how modders will add their own flashpoints for this. Hoping story missions can be added onto the base game for example using this system.
 

HF22

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*scratches chin* Magna ER Medium Laser...
So, are we calling this a continuity error#, or a tip the timeline is advancing?

# For those missing the reference - ER Medium Lasers are not lostech, only being developed by the Clans post Exodus, & so can't be available in the 3025 Inner Sphere.
 

Sigil

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So, are we calling this a continuity error#, or a tip the timeline is advancing?

# For those missing the reference - ER Medium Lasers are not lostech, only being developed by the Clans post Exodus, & so can't be available in the 3025 Inner Sphere.
I wouldn't be so sure. HBS has already taken extensive liberties with established canon. Introducing the ER Medium into the Succession Wars would simply be another modification. We already have an hither-to unknown Periphery power oozing with King Crabs, Highlanders, and Black Knights. Not to mention the incredible Castle Brian cache that we simply blow up. Atlas II anyone? An ER Medium, sure, why not. I don't read that as the Clans are coming.