Dev Diary #9 | A Flare For Misfortune

Hey, long time, no dev diary.

We've been in the thick of testing (which has been delightful) and surviving the flu (which has been terrible).

Hunter, myself and our wives have been playing through the FALLING STAR campaign, and during act 3, we made an interesting discovery: the Unysyn ability Emergency Flare is very much broken.

Here's how Emergency Flare use to read:

Major Action
Target 1 character within Range of each controlled bot (must target different characters per bot). The targeted character’s next major action must target that bot.

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Now, that may not seem too broken, except when we realized that the ability gives the Gamemaster (or GM) no instruction on what to do if an enemy character is unable to reach or target the Unysyn who used Emergency Flare. What if you physically can't target the Unysyn? Did the player waste the ability? Is the enemy character forced to effectively lose a turn?

This turned out to be a huge liability for the GM.

And this is why we love playtesting. We find broken or frustrating mechanics, and we try to figure what's intended versus what's actually happening.

 

Here's a breakdown of why Emergency Flare was broken.

Suppose you're a Unysyn using 2 bots, and either through Mainframe Upgrades (or stat boosts from level gains) or by increasing your stats with your abilities, you've achieved a moderately high Move -- say like 13. You're moving fast.

On bot 1's turn, you activate Emergency Flare on both of your bots. Now the targeted enemies have to target your bots, but on bot 2's turn, you activate Mobilization Command to move both of your bots 13 tiles away.

Unless those enemies also have exceptionally high Move, your bots are now well outside of their Range for targeting you with attacks.

This put the GM in the frustrating position of trying to respect a smart strategy while also providing a fun challenge. Overpowered, shutdown tactics like this are something we're always watching for and want to adjust.

 

But we don't want to remove the spirit of the ability.

What makes Emergency Flare great is exactly that a Unysyn can draw attention to itself and then try to pull enemies away. This is a fantastic strategy for peeling enemies off of your support characters, but Emergency Flare needed an out -- it needed an "if not X, then do Y."

So with a slight revision, Emergency Flare now lets Unysyn play smart without trapping the GM in a no-win situation:

Major Action
Target 1 character within Range of each controlled bot (must target different characters per bot). The targeted character’s next major action must target that bot or take 1d4 Misfortune.

Now, the GM has to make a decision: target the Unysyn who's aiding the softer characters or press on with the planned tactic but with lesser output.

Decisions are important. They build tension. They guide strategy, and most of all, they allow action. If you have a choice, then you have control, and whenever an ability removes choice, that's a clear sign that something needs to be adjusted.

 

Have you found something broken?

We want to hear about it. Check out the free adventure, and let us know what works and what doesn't.