Feature Article – Raid Gamemode

Creative process

When we started making our plans for Vanguard and decided to move to an infantry only game, it was clear that we needed our game to have a unique identity. Not only to differentiate it from the other games but also to to make a more coherent package, where the maps, equipment and game design seamlessly combines.

We also set principles that would define the game. Historically accurate, tactical, and team-based were already the core values but we added intensity and accessibility. 

Accessibility is a well known problem for a lot of tactical shooters, which can create steep learning curves that limit their appeal and walking for kilometers between two firefights is just not fun for most players.

We realised that creating a new gamemode was the best way to achieve our vision, so we began to look at our existing assets, specifically the maps. Since our existing three maps were all based on commando operations made just before or during D-Day by British forces, it was natural for us to build a gamemore around the idea of “raids”. 

Raid Summary – tl;dr

Raid is an attack/defence gamemode divided up into a series of phases. Each phase contains multiple objectives, the attackers must capture only one of those objectives in order to advance. 

Lives are very limited on both teams, with players respawning as a team in waves. The attackers win if they can successfully capture an objective in the final phase before the timer runs out. The defenders win if they can hold at least one phase before either the timer runs out or the attackers run out of respawns.

Matches are relatively short but additional time is saved by relocating players to the area of the next phase as soon as the previous one is captured, preventing excessive walking and ensuring both teams are grouped and ready to fight over the new objectives.

Phases and objectives

Raid is a linear attack/defend gamemode but not in the traditional sense. The British team attacks and the German team defends.

A match is divided into phases, each containing multiple objectives (e.g. radio transmitters) scattered across a section of the map. To successfully complete a phase and advance, in this example the attackers must activate one of the radios to call for reinforcements.

Since only one objective has to be captured, the defenders have no idea which radio the attackers will try to activate due to the number of options available to the attackers. 

  • Will the attackers try to attack several radios at the same time to divide the enemy forces?
  • Will they make a diversion attack to force the enemies to focus on one radio and not the others?
  • Will they make probing attacks at the risk of losing players but knowing which objective is the lighter defended? 

This forces the defenders to be mobile, and gives the attackers multiple options when progressing through the phases of each map.

To broadcast a message, an attacker must be in close proximity and manually trigger the radio. At this point the attacker is occupied and unable to fight, and must be defended by their teammates.

Once a phase has been won (an attacker managed to complete a broadcast using one of the radios), everybody will see a brief cinematic cutscene. This cutscene shows a link between the previous phase and the new phase.

The players will now find themselves in another location, with the defenders in position to defend the next objectives and the attackers at a suitable range to begin the next assault. This allows us to have full control over how each phase plays and avoids long distances between combat zone for the players. It also means that squads are together at the start of each phase and in a position to decide tactics for the next attack.

Player death and reinforcements

When a player dies they do not respawn instantly. Instead they are able to spectate their squadmates, or use this time to change their squad or class.

The only way to respawn is to use a reinforcement point, which respawns all players who are currently out of action. Both the attacking and defending team start the match with a predefined number of reinforcement points with the attackers given more reinforcements than the defenders. Reinforcement waves can either be triggered manually by squad leaders, or automatically if the whole team is wiped out. But as they are limited, they must be used sparingly.

Triggering the reinforcement early by a Squad Leader creates a cost/reward decision. By triggering the wave earlier, you will have a stronger defensive/attacker force sooner. But by waiting, more players can be spawned at once, possibly causing a greater impact on the fight.

Reinforcements are really what link the phases together and increases the tension as they are used up during the match.

A few more notes about the reinforcement system: 

  • If a player joins a match after it started, they will be put into spectator mode where they will be able to watch their team playing until they respawn at the next reinforcement
  • The two teams are not equal in the way they are informed about the reinforcements. Indeed while the defending team know the number of reinforcements left for both teams, the attackers know only the their own number. This is related to victory conditions explained below.

Victory Conditions

For attackers the only way to win is to successfully complete all the phases, before the countdown timer reaches zero.

For the defenders, they can win either by wiping out the attacking team or by holding the objectives until the time runs out.

If the defending team no longer has any reinforcements and none of the defending players are alive, the attackers still have to capture a now undefended objective.

This asymmetry is important, since the attacking team is unaware of how many reinforcements the defenders have left they are forced to focus on completing the objective, not to engage in a deathmatch.

Proof-of-concept HUD we are using in testing showing the current phase, time remaining and the number of your team’s reinforcements & teammates left alive. Before Early Access we will re-style the concept with a final design. Minimalistic floating markers (not shown) orientating players towards the objectives represent intelligence information. 

Variables

We wanted the mode to be easily tweaked by creating variables in the games design. For example, the level designers can set how many phases there are per map, how many objectives per phase, the mission duration and number of reinforcements per team for each map.

We wanted it to be flexible, so it can easily be altered during testing but also cater for potential alternatives in the future. If attacking players are being too cautious, we can reduce the mission time to increase pressure on them. If defenders are too easily concealed, we can add another objective forcing them to be more mobile.

Another striking example is that by simply setting the reinforcements number to 0 for both teams, the gamemode can suddenly become an hardcore permadeath experience.

These are only a few examples of the flexibility of the gamemode and in the first months of Steam Early Access we will be taking feedback from players to find the perfect formula.

Conclusion

Raid is a gamemode which requires squads to stick together to be successful. Teamwork is vital for both the attackers, who must advance through each phase, and the defenders who must ensure that does not happen. 

We aim to work around the frustrating elements of other attack/defend modes, by limiting combat revolving around “choke points” and defensive camping tactics. Every life is important, and where a single bullet can end your life, both teams must use tactics and discipline to come out the victor.

And we still have ideas for ways to improve Raid.

That’s all for now.

We still need to spread the word about the game so please share the Kickstarter amongst your friends, family, colleagues and squadmates. Your support is very much appreciated!

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