We wanted the engineer to be the guy who ensure that the submarine works well. We then designed its role with three parts: he repairs and upgrades submarine modules; he chooses the submarine “mode” (stealth, boost, etc); and by dispatching resources to create various stuff on board. This last part became the “processor”, a module which allows the player to choose what is needed for the submarine instead of relying on the gaming environment – you won’t have to search for torpedoes on the ocean’s bed… The processor consists to transform the gathered orichalcum crystals to produce essential components for the survival of the ship. Oxygen, fuel but also repairs and upgrade or torpedoes for the gunner. The player can therefore use a number of crystals to trigger the manufacture of a component that ends after the timer is finished. All components can be in production at the same time and must be restarted by the engineer.
When we tested this mechanic, we quickly realized that the submarine rarely lacked components and survived too easily, even under the onslaught of opponents. The manufacturing was too simple and even boring for the player. It was then decided that a compromise would be made: the engineer must now choose between pairs of components, oxygen and fuel, for example, or repair and upgrade, to produce only one of them and this, continuously; in other words, once launched, the production of the component is continuously until stopped by engineer – or lack of crystals… Thus, it must adapt to the situation of the submarine to produce the right component at the right time while keeping an eye on the stock of crystals. Too much unnecessary manufacturing can be dangerous.
The mechanics was more easily handled by the players and was more enjoyable. A problem appeared however: the manufacture sometimes stopped suddenly, and the reason why was not clear. In fact, it’s simply that the crystal stock was exhausted, but the interface was not enough explicit. Linked to that, continuous production seemed to be annoying, it was hard to follow everything simultaneously. We designed then a new interface with a clearer view of the crystal and elements stocks, allowing at a glance to see the state of the reserves.
By designing this interface however, we found that there was a problem of equilibrium: some modules were more important than other: for example, using the precious orichalcum to produce some flare to light a small part of the map seemed very costly. We tried to change the cost – for example one crystal could produce 6 flares – but we got a better idea. We indeed divided the resources into 3 categories: orichalcum crystal, scrap, and energy. Crystals are less frequent and are used to improve the submarine. Scrap are also found in the environment, and can be used to repair the submarine or produce powerful torpedoes. And at last, energy, which is produced continuously, which can power various submarine modules: sonar, light, engines, …
This allowed us to remove the system of choice between two components, for a dynamic gameplay and a bette resource management. Thus, the engineer now has to better plan use of resources in the submarine. Also, resources are a little more realistic than before – we understand we can repair the submarine with scrap instead of crystals… And at last but not least, it allowed us to have less frequent crystals, making them more precious, which fits well with Abyss Crew lore!