Orbit

   Orbit was a project I undertook as a vehicle for mastering Unity and C# scripting. Orbit is a real-time strategy experiment designed for a mobile platform. I got the idea for the game design one day when I was trying to figure out how simultaneous turns could work in Go. How do you adjudicate the outcome when both players want to place a stone on the same tile? This is where the idea of a rotating planet came in. At any given time, the two players will be able to see and act upon opposite hemispheres, and there will never be a situation where both players try to place something at the same position.

As I mentioned above, my goal was to train myself to use Unity and C#, not to debut to the app store with a networked RTS. In the process I solidified my understanding Unity and studied a lot of common but complex gameplay systems like lockstep networking and pathfinding.

Gameplay

Focused as I was on improving my technical skills, I wasn’t particularly concerned with fleshing out or “completing“ the game design. Rather than simply making a revolving version of Go, I came up with the idea for something more along the lines of the tower-defense genre. Recently the concept has gotten a lot easier to explain due to the release of Clash Royale and its subsequent imitations.

Two players control space-ships/stations on opposite sides of a planet. Players can win in two ways: they can either harvest enough minerals from the planets surface, or deal a critical amount of damage to the other player. Both of these objectives required players to place structures and units onto the planet’s surface. Ideally, optimal play would involved in order to force the opponent to spend time and resources contending with each threat. The types of units that players had access to would change over the course of the match as they made choices about how to expand and upgrade their ship.

In my broad envisioning of the design, I wanted players to be able to choose between many different ships/factions, which could be further customized to fit their play-style. Although I only implemented one faction, I did structure my code such that other factions could simply be plugged into the existing system.

Each faction would have different units and structures, different objectives and methods of winning, and even different systems for customization. I had a lot of fun coming up with different faction themes and mechanics. The basic faction was the Galactic Mining Corporation. Their nemesis was a species of sentient minerals that found this mining to be an existential threat. Other ideas included space pirates, space termites, and mushroom aliens traveled around on giant space trees.

   And that's the game in a nutshell. As you can see in the video clip, the project is very much in a prototype. Someday maybe I’ll have a chance to revisit this concept. Figuring out the basics of the design took some time, but I think it would be easier to develop now that similar games like Clash Royale entered the market.