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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Fanstorm Armada - Developing the Game

Spartan are working on FA v3.0 right now, and I could be wrong, but I'm not liking the sound of what I'm hearing in terms of rumours and rumblings. Derek Sinclair, the rules designer who's primarily worked on DW, Planetfall and latterly Halo, is getting in on FA. I can't say this gives me a rosy feel inside. Derek was not involved in the development of the v1 FA, nor v2.0. I don't know about v1.5, but that was a clusterf*ck of copy/paste errors from DW v2 which was written at the same time.

Planetfall for me was a catalogue of how NOT to develop a game, with it evolving faster than The Thing on steroids in front of your eyes. I believe in a living rulebook, but not one where what I buy is invalid by the time it hits the shelves, or by the time the ink has finished drying on the 48 pages of PDF downloads that came out with alarming regularity - to say nothing of the shocking lack of proof reading, leading to more errors and re-writes than most Hollywood C-list films. Halo was much better produced, but I subscribe that this is down to 343s involvement, and not so much Spartan's change of spots. I find HFB a bit bland and far too dominated by boarding and Spartans, but that's understandable because of the Halo franchise - it's still not what I want to see come into FA.

"OK Alex" I hear you say "So you don't like what's happening at SG. So what? Are you just going to sit on your behind and moan about it? You're so negative....blah de blah de blah..." (ok, maybe not that last bit, but I wanted to cover myself!)

Well, I haven't been idle in this regard. Myself and a set of designers from across the world (now named "TheoryMachine") have embarked upon the project of Fanstorm Armada, to continue where the FFG left off, and continue the development of FA in a direction that preserves what we love about the game, strengthens those elements and tones down the ones we don't. As we're not a company and aren't in this to make money, suggestions and alterations from the community are more than welcome, and everything we suggest will be published for free distribution. We don't want to infringe upon what SG is doing, and we're not going after any IP, we're just fans of the game making suggestions about how to make FA a better game.

In a prior post, I mentioned movement. This is one of the largest chunks of time in FA - understanding that FA is a game of strategic and tactical manoeuvring is one of the greatest understandings that any player can discover about the game, and as such it should be preserved in the greater part, but speeded up. I discussed how to do this before, and mentioned some templates. Here is a PDF of those that forum member Ryjak made;


That's great, but we all want better gaming aids, right? As I have a 3D printer, this was something I figured I could cook up, so 15 minutes on Tinkercad and I produced the STL file. Printed at 0.2mm with 15% infill took just under an hour, and here are the finished articles;


They could do with a bit of tweaking on the print settings, and I might cut the longer ones down to 3" as well, to make them easier to get into tight spots (which is one of the issues with the SG 45 degree template). Here they are in use - I've set up a common situation in FA - the knife fight. In this example, the Dindrenzi Dreadnought really doesn't want to be so close, but it's decided to go for it. 


It has a 2" Turn Limit, so we use the Turn Rate 3 template.


So you can see two advantages of this method here straight away - firstly, the template is narrow enough for you to get it into tight spaces - you'll see that in the other pictures too. Secondly, you get an immediate idea of what is possible - where the model is going to end up, which reduces moving and then "backing up", which is one of the big slow-downs in many games. This also has a secondary thought-process speed-up, since you're concentrating more on actions rather than logistics of movement.


So we've moved, and can nicely line up the two Ba'kash cruisers in our dual rail cannon sights. Now let's look at the Ba'kash move (assuming they survive!)


Here the Ba'kash cruiser turn (using the Turn Rate 2 marker) would cause problems with model placement, and not be good for a port broadside shot, so instead the model moves 1" forewards...



and we can see now that a turn will clear the model nicely, and set us up for a nice broadside of drive-by boarding assault...


One more inch of turn...


...and we're aligned.


With 4" moved, there's plenty left to cruise alongside, probably setting the scene for a rear-arc shot next turn!

I hope you can see that this is pretty liberating for FA in a couple of ways, yet preserves a VERY important part of the game, since movement is a central and critical part of Firestorm's feel. Given that Spartan Derek isn't even considering movement mechanics yet, I'll be adopting this movement system and then moving onto other areas first - after all, you don't build a house and THEN work on the foundations, do you?