Sunday, November 3, 2019

New game-board

We've not shared anything in a while.  This has led to people asking if the project has ground to a halt.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Truly we've been so busy working on the project that we haven't had anytime to share our progress.  We'll share something more substantial soon; but we wanted to give a sneak peek of what's being worked on.

Through discussions with gamer's outside the project we noticed a point kept being raised repeatedly.

"If you're going to build a virtual experience, it should be a virtual experience of the best possible physical experience.".  

Well that makes sense we thought, but what does that mean?  While we're still compiling a complete understanding of what this means, one item that immediately made sense to us was that the game-board should be an epic example of a game board.  A masterclass of miniature battle-field creation.

With this in mind we've completely rebuilt our game-board engine, producing what we believe will be a far greater experience.  Our game will contain numerous game-board options, but we wanted to share a screen of our first game board in the new engine.  We hope you like it as much as we do!


The board revolves around a crash-site at its center.  A great option for a defend the objective style battle.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Introducing the Starsapiens

If you've been following our posts you will be aware that we have been play testing our rules within our game engine.  This has led to us fleshing out the statistics for our first faction; the "Starsapiens".  Now while these stat-sheets may not reflect the final release we thought it would be great to share them with you.  We've also updated our rules to the latest version, you can download them here.





You'll notice we talk about various weapons on the stat-sheets above, but we don't provide any details on the weapons themselves.  We're currently mocking up the stat-sheets for the weapons, and we'll share those with you soon.

If you have and thoughts or questions about what you see here please drop up an email an rules@virtualminiatures.com

Monday, July 8, 2019

Micro Tactics

If you've been following our early blog posts you'll of seen that we have been doing some play testing of late.  As we've said before our primary focus is to build a great strategy game, if it's not fun and exciting what's the point.

We've made some bold statements about how the rules we've created along with the way our game-engine interprets these rules will allow you to have some truly fantastic battles where the commander with the best strategy and tactics will attain victory.


Exploring Strategy and Tactics


First I'd like to explain what we here at VM mean when we talk about strategy and tactics.  This is just how we think about it, it's not necessarily the correct definition, but by understanding how we use these terms you will better understand how our game interprets them.

Strategy is the grand plan you as a commander have for a battle.  It starts with the miniatures you select as to make up your army.  It then continues into how you choose to deploy those miniatures, and the overall plan you have for them.  For example I decide that I intend to play a battle from a defensive stand-point.  As such I plan to do minimal advancing of my units, but rather lay in wait for the enemy.  As such I may choose an army roster consisting primarily of miniatures equipped with long to medium ranged weapons, and have minimal melee capability.  I may look to deploy my miniatures on the higher ground to maximize line of sight against the oncoming enemy.  All of this is my strategy, planned out before battle commences.  As the battle takes place my strategy may be forced to change, but ideally I'd like to be able to stick to it and follow my plan.

Tactics are all the little opportunities a commander has to gain the advantage throughout the battle.  A commanders strategy will likely contain numerous tactics such as holding the high ground for best line-of-sight.  But a successful commander will always be watching for new opportunities to use tactics to turn a battle in their favor.

We have been testing numerous tactics within our engine, and we'd like to share some of the results so you can see how tactics will be able to give you an edge in battle.  Are rules have been updated as part of this testing, and we'll be posting the latest version very soon.


Effective use of cover


Line of sight is an important concept within the game.  If one miniature is firing on another miniature that is partially obscured by an object within the environment, then a modifier is applied to that ballistic attack (as the miniature is said to be "behind cover").  However one recent update to our rules is that if the miniature being fired upon is directly adjacent to the object providing cover then an additional modifier is applied making them even more difficult to hit.  Consider the two scenario's below.



In this first scenario (above) both miniatures are being offered cover from one another by the rock directly between them.  As a result both miniatures will receive the same negative modifier to hit the opposing unit.  In our test we used two opposing Starsapien Shock-Troop, the result of equal stats and equal modifiers made for a pretty equal distribution of success.  Green actually fared better purely by the luck of the virtual dice.




In this second scenario (above), the brass Starsapien was pushed up to be adjacent to the rock; this resulted in an additional negative hit modifier for the green Starsapien to hit the brass (as the brass miniature is said to be "taking cover").  The result was a big swing in favor of the brass Starsapien who had three times more success than the green.


The lesson here?  Have your miniatures hug cover whenever possible.


When no cover is available, use other miniatures


We did some extensive testing of our "unit shield" mechanism and got great results.  Once again consider these two scenario's.



In this first scenario we have a group of Starsapien Lancer's (brass) facing off against a group of Starsapien Shock-Troops (green).  We always gave the Shock-Troops the initiative which allowed them two rounds to fire upon the Lancer's.  In the best case scenario (for the Lancer's) two of the four Lancer's survived to engage the Shock-Troops in Melee combat.  In the worse case scenario all Lancer's were destroyed before they could engage.



In the second scenario we add three Starsapien Shock-Troops to the brass deployment acting as a "unit shield" to the Lancer's.  In this scenario the brass Lancer's did nothing other than act as a shield, moving forward in front of the Lancer's, they did not fire (as they would in a real battle).  Again the green Shock-Troops were always given the initiative and they only targeted the Lancer's.  As a result of the "unit shield" the green Shock-Troops received a negative modifier on their ballistic attacks.  The results were highly effective, in every test at least one Lancer was able to engage the enemy in Melee combat.  In the best case not a single Lancer was lost before engaging the enemy.

The lesson here?  If your strategy requires a certain miniature or miniatures to survive, consider using less important miniatures as a shield.


Unit Shields and Friendly Fire


If you're familiar with our rules you'll know that when firing past one of your own units you risk the possibility of hitting them, what we refer to as "Friendly Fire".  Consider the scenario below:


In this scenario the three brass Lancers are offering a unit shield to the Starsapien Heavy, the problem is that when the Heavy fires its Photon Cannon on the enemy Shock-Troops, it risks the possibility of hitting one of its own Lancers.  This was troubling for us as we wanted players to have the possibility of providing a unit shield to firing miniatures.  To accomplish this we once again made use of the concept of being adjacent.  If a firing unit is firing through a friendly unit that is directly adjacent to them, then the friendly fire rule does NOT apply.  





The scenario below is an example of this.













These new rules will be posted very soon.


Line of sight and the higher ground


This is a relatively obvious concept, but consider using the higher ground to provide better line of sight on the enemy.  In the example below, the brass Starsapien Heavy is able to negate the unit shield provided by the Shock-Troops when firing upon the green heavy, all because they have a higher vantage point.




We'll continue testing and tweaking our rules over the coming months leading up to our Beta launch.  If you have any thoughts or feedback please don't hesitate to add a comment below, send us a message on Facebook, or email us at ideas@virtualminiatures.com

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rules Update

The first draft of our rules which can be downloaded here have been fully integrated into our VERY EARLY ALPHA prototype engine allowing us to play-test.

We know that play-testing the core rules of the game will be an extremely important part of getting this project right.  

As we've said before, we're very interested to hear any thoughts or ideas our followers may have, this project is not just about offering the opportunity to play more, but to also offer a great new war-gaming experience.  How better to do that than listening to the passionate community of gamer's all over the world.

We're expecting to have numerous iterations of our rules before we make the first public beta of the game available, so we wanted to take this opportunity to explain some of our thinking as we evolve the rules.


Playing more

One of our core hopes for this project is to allow tabletop miniature hobbyist's to be able to play more.  Yes it won't quite be a tabletop battle, but we hope it will offer a fun, easily accessible alternative until your next tabletop game comes around.

When offering a turn-based online strategy game it seems there are two very different playing opportunities.  The first is Correspondence based game play.  In this scenario players may go minutes, hours, days even weeks between making a move.  The second is Real-time, in this scenario players take turns making a move immediately after one another.

Real-time game play is how traditional tabletop games are played.  You make your move, and then your opponent makes theirs.  While we believe this offers the most exciting option, it does limit a players opportunity to engage in a game, simply because they must have the time to complete a game in one sitting.  For this reason we want to offer the opportunity for players to play both Real-time and Correspondence based games.

How does this effect the rules?  Many tabletop skirmish games offer activation mechanics that are not as simple as - Player 1 goes first, Player 2 goes second.  As an example some games offer a system whereby players take it in turns performing actions with a single miniature.  Whilst this offers exciting strategic possibilities, it does form somewhat of a roadblock to Correspondence based gaming.  If players went a day between performing actions with a single miniature, a game could likely become quite dull.

For this reason our rules have players perform actions with all their miniatures at a single time.  We did opt to separate the Movement and Action phases.  We felt this would better offset the power of the Initiative, as moving second can provide some strategic advantage against that gained from performing actions first.


A Skirmish, a Battle, a War?

One thing we keep asking ourselves is how big should a game be?  How many miniatures should a player command?  Some skirmish games typically have a player commanding maybe 4 to 8 miniatures, others have the player commanding 20, 30, 40 even more.  Whilst we want to offer some flexibility to the size of a game, we also want to have a "sweet-spot" in mind to which we can design the game around.

At the time of writing this we're thinking 20 miniatures would be a pretty good number to focus on.  This would provide a number of strategic options and offer a game duration that would be under 30 minutes.

Here are some screenshots from our current Alpha Testing..
A starting setup of two opposing Starsapien forces.

In this simple test we just advanced directly towards the enemy

Before long all kinds of combat commences

4 Turns in and the forces are thinning out.


Note - These screenshots come from an extremely early alpha build and do not reflect the final product.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Welcome

This is the development blog for Virtual Miniatures.  The hope is that we can share our progress in the making of a "Digital tabletop experience".

What we're working on is a game that will be played on your computer, but will try as hard as possible to play like a traditional tabletop miniatures game.  

We're tabletop gamer's, we love to gather around a miniature battlefield with friends, roll dice, share some laughs, and compete for the win!  The problem is as we've gotten older the opportunity to gather with friends and play has reduced.  So we had a vision, to build a game we could play online, but would go as far as possible to scratching the itch of playing a real miniatures battle.

I'm a software engineer, have been for 20 years.  I've worked on all kinds of technical projects and this one really excites me.  I wanted to make this first post about the vision we have; what we are doing, and why.


It starts with the game

The most important thing is to build a great turn-based strategy game.  We're approaching this as we would if the game was a physical tabletop experience rather than a virtual one; starting with the rules.  You can download the first version of our rules here.

A window to the virtual world

Once we had a first draft set of rules we started translating them into code to make a playable prototype.  What was important to us was to make the experience feel like a window to a tabletop experience rather than a video-game.  Below you can see a screenshot from our first prototype.


Strategy in many forms

We remember all those hours in our youth spent perfecting the perfect "army-list", and the discussions with friends that could go on for days, long before a single dice was thrown and a list truly tested.  We desperately want to recapture the buzz of the army-list, so it's important that we provide many opportunities for customization of an army, and plenty of options for different factions.

As we're building a game that will be governed by the computer, it occurred to us that we can increase complexity within the game, without increasing the complexity for the player.  One example of this is our "unit-shield" and "friendly-fire" rules that we feel can bring increased strategy to game play, making maneuvers such as flanking a real strategic threat.  You can read more on this in our rules here.

Playing with friends in a community

We have a concern that video-games can (not always I stress) be played in a disrespectful manner.  We don't want people to give our game a try, only to be put off by being matched with an opponent who perhaps acts less in the way we'd expect from a tabletop gamer.

To combat this we hope to build a thriving community within a mini social-network of sorts.  The idea is you will only be matched or given the opportunity to play against friends within the network.  

We'll leverage this network to run tournaments, league's and other competitions.  Not to forget the network will allow players to discuss all kinds of things about the game such as battle strategy, army-list creation, and whatever else players want to talk about.

Finally we'd like to add the ability to create and share battle-reports.  The game will allow players to review their completed battles, grab camera shots from pivotal moments and then compile them into a battle-report they themselves can write.  We love reading battle-reports, and we're sure many of you do too.

Little extra's

We really want the Virtual Miniatures experience to be something you can indulge in whenever you have some free time.  To aid in this we hope to release a companion mobile app that will allow you to create and tinker with army-lists, interact with the community, read battle-reports and more.

Making the vision a reality

We intend to release the first beta of the game with 2 factions, but then provide expansions including new factions, weapons, and additions to existing factions as time goes on.

The network is set to be released as part of the beta to facility multiplayer options although it's full feature set will come over time.  The mobile app will come after the beta release.

Help us help you help us

We have a lot of idea about how we can best approximate a tabletop experience on your computer, and about the rules to which the game should be played.  But the game is not just for us, and so we'd love to here any ideas, thoughts or anything really that you think could make the experience better.  Drop us an email ideas@virtualminiatures.com .  Thanks in advance.