Dev Blog: No Hard Caps

To summarize previous posts, Emergent Order is surprising properties of a system that “emerge” from simple rules meeting randomness,  and we use that for game design.  Now I’ll explain using it to avoid bad design.

Hard caps are a direct limit to something.  Mech Retriever has a few, e.g., 6 turns per Battle Phase.  This keeps battle moving, especially if no one is fighting.  Recently, in the most friendly first round ever, I (Andy) and Ben just quietly kept to ourselves, collecting resources on our sides of the board all round.  Rare, but it’s nice that it’s possible.

But hard caps oppose human nature.  Players chafe at hard limits, unless they “feel natural.”   A wise game designer will avoid hard caps, because they aren’t fun. e.g., We won’t limit the number of parts you can equip.  It can be tempting, to prevent land slides with invincible uber-mechs.  But it would also stifle creativity.

You tell players they can’t equip more than 3 weapons and then they want that more than anything.  And why not?  Games are about freedom.  Why can’t you make an armory on legs?  Or a dreadnaught mech with endless speed and armor?  Hard caps burden the player with game balance instead of the designer.

Enter “soft caps” via Emergent Order.  Mechs in Mech Retriever plateaus as they use up available Lift and Energy.  Engines, especially, do nothing on their own.  Thus can only make a mech so good before needing another engine, and lift to support it.

In the end, we ended up increasing the Power Consumption of Mobility gear a tiny bit.  This meant greater need for Engines, and thus a smoother power curve across the players.  As usual, we will now test, test, test.

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