So I played Fortnite Battle Royale

And it made me realise how much I've wanted a building-focused PvP game since playing Minecraft. A game in which a viable strategy is to erect an intricate and imposing castle and laugh as the opposition throws themselves at it until perhaps one of them successfully breaches it and ends your reign of terror. That would be nice but of course there are some problems with this.

The two problems

One such problem is that if building intricate bases is a viable strategy then it's likely that multiple people are going to build bases and sit in them. And if you have two or more people sitting in their bases far apart from each other then there's no conflict, it's boring, nobody wants to see everyone sitting and waiting for the other guy to make a move.
The other problem is that the role of the attacker is inherently more advantageous so unless countermeasures are taken in the design the attacker will win every time. The reasons for this are all about resource allocation. If you have a certain amount of resources, you can either invest them into making a stationary stronghold or portable weapons and equipment. Once you have a stronghold, that's about it. But if you make weapons, armour, potions, you can use these to then explore the dangerous parts of the world, acquire more resources for better weapons, use those to go to even more dangerous places, get more and more and more resources. Whereas the lad in his base is still armed with nought but stick of wood, the explorer will have the blade of the gods, and the encounter will be less of a battle and more of a punchline.

So you have these problems; folks not battling each other and attacker's advantage. Each must be solved for a viable game to be created. I'll describe some greater details of these problems:

Solution categories

See, those people who build a mighty tower and wait for foolish adventurers to intrude that they may be slain, these people don't tend to want to leave their bases. But it would seem that in fact someone has to leave otherwise adversaries will never meet. But just like the speed of light limit this problem can be sidestepped; bases could be moved instead of just the players within. What about gradually destroying the land between them and bringing all the bases closer together over the course of a match? Or allowing bases to be mobile? Perhaps it takes a lot of skill to make an airborne base as you'd have to manage weight vs buoyancy or lift or something. These are only some potential solutions, I'm sure there are many others.
Let's explore this problem further: One facet of the "people won't leave their homes to fight each other" problem is that outside the walls of their fortress they don't feel nearly as safe as within, and they're right. What if the protections and power of their base somehow allowed them advantage in combat in the open? Some examples of this would be for instance building giant artillery cannons on the base and bring able to remotely fire them from kilometres away to annihilate foes. Such measures need not only be offensive; perhaps building a huge nuclear reactor at home to power a personal shield? You can imagine the kind of firepower that would be necessary to go through a shield of this calibre.
A third angle to approach this problem is to consider the idea of bases being able to influence the world at long range. Imagine if advanced bases kilometres apart could attack each other, either through artillery or missiles, armies of robots, anything really. All the better if they can harvest resources from the wild too, to empower the base itself and its creator. Something I think is valuable in all of these scenarios is to leave open the option to play the nomad and break into other people's fortresses to assassinate them and steal their stuff. Because dealing with an intruder in your base to me sounds very appealing as does breaking into an intricately designed stronghold.

On the other hand you have the problem of nomads having more resources due to their higher mobility. One way to approach this is to make bases mobile, which I've already mentioned. That this idea solves both problems makes it all the better. In fact all three of the solution categories mentioned above solve this problem in one way or another. Allowing the bases to aid you in combat from range; this could help a player acquire loot from dangerous places; Allowing bases to influence the world and gather resources kilometres away solves the problem in an incredibly obvious way. Indeed, these solutions all do the same basic thing: They allow the base-dweller's area of effect to extend over far more then merely the plot of land on which they decided to construct their fortress. And that it seems is the core of the issue: In games like Fortnite and Minecraft, if you build something, it will rarely have any impact over anywhere other than the land it stands on and the immediate surroundings. The thing to do is to allow these bases to have some kind of impact anywhere in the world, whether the whole base has to up and move there or just the owner has to go there, or if the base has to be advanced enough to exert its influence so far away.

Some idle thoughts I couldn't neatly put into a category:

How about teleporters of some kind? You could leave the base to go gather resources but when trouble shows itself you could deploy a teleporter linked back home and get a huge advantage in the battle from it somehow. Your enemy would have a more interesting time too; they would have the primary objective of killing you but the secondary objective of killing the tele. If the game has respawning you could get back to where you were after dying, provided the tele still lives. You could even make multiple bases this way, linked through a teleporter network.
I haven't talked about this from the perspective of the invader, only the invadee. It is important for traps and such to not be too obvious but still be visible to an observant interloper. Fortnite seems to make their traps a little too obvious but also at the end of the day it isn't really a game about traps. Minecraft does this really well I think. The default traps people make, they're very obvious, conspicuous pressure plates usually. But it's possible albeit difficult to make nigh invisible traps. The quality of traps depends on the knowledge of the person making them. Ideally as a skilled and experienced interloper you would be savvy enough to identify most traps without falling for them. It's a hard balance to strike.
This entire article of course is several paragraphs of evidence that I need to play From The Depths.

tl;dr

The problem with base building pvp is that cool bases don't have any influence on the world far beyond their borders. To make a game where building a large base is viable, advanced bases need to be able to have some impact far away from where they were built.

2017-10-20