The main objective was to make a MOBA game that contains RTS aspects to create a true hybrid of the two genres. The RTS aspects I wanted to incorporate are multiple character control, base building and 1 vs 1 gameplay. On the MOBA side, I wanted unique characters with multiple abilities, lanes with minion waves and jungle area with neutral creeps.
Expanse is a blend of the MOBA and RTS genres and set out below are the main features and design elements of this exciting game.
In Expanse there are currently 3 heroes, Harvester, Darkin, and Krash. I wanted to design them to hit three different roles being Tank, Assassin, and Utility. Each class was designed to counter another allowing for players to create multiple three-man teams to counter other players teams.
A large part of my design was to focus on "wombo combos" with each character. For example, Darkin is a Utility hero which focuses on keeping her team alive and crowd control. Her abilities are to heal all allies around her, throw a mine that after a short delay explodes and finally after channeling for a short time stunning all enemies in a targeted radius. This design was created so she could combo with herself or her teammates. She can stun her enemies and throw her mine under the stunned targets to generate a large amount of damage. She could also use her mines as a zoning mechanic and force her enemies into her teammate's path.
One of the struggles I had with the heroes was the balance, I noticed through several playtests that people would pick three of Darkin because her stun was longer, there was no cast time and her mine did a large amount of damage. To change this I added a cast time to her stun causing an opportunity for the enemy player to stop her or move out of the way. I also reduced her stun duration and damage inflicted by her mine causing her to act more like a utility hero and not an assassin.
During the early prototype phase of my game, I only had the player playing as 1 hero. I soon found that it felt too much like any other MOBA and I was aiming to make the perfect 50/50 MOBA/RTS. As a result, I modified it so the player could control 3 heroes and that felt less like a standard MOBA. To test if this was true I had a few RTS and MOBA players play this new version. Both enjoyed the gameplay and each played differently, the RTS players normally spread out their 3 heroes and played more macro while the MOBA players played more clumped and focused on micro play.
Buildings and Upgrades
In a normal MOBA the player buys items to increase their power, in an RTS players buy structures that research better units. In Expanse I combined the two, players will buy 4 different buildings with 3 upgrades available in them, each designed to increase different aspects of your hero.
The four structures are Tank building, Utility building, Spell building and Damage building. The upgrades are based on the specific building, so for example, in the case of the Tank building, there is the Health increase, Health Regen increase, and Armour increase upgrades. I did this so the player feels like they are base building as well as upgrading their hero like a MOBA but with something they can physically see in the world.
The buildings are destructible which means placement is important and if it's destroyed you are punished by having to spend more resources to rebuild. This made it so the player had to care about their buildings rather than place them right at the front ramp and just forget about them.
The jungle in MOBA games is where neutral creatures lay and killing them grants you some reward whether its gold or a buff. For my game I wanted my jungle to consist of two type of jungle creatures, Basic Creeps and Epic Creeps.
Upon killing a basic creep you are given 2 minions for you to directly control. The idea is to reward the player for killing the jungle with resources and units so you can amass an army if you wish too. This was something that required a lot of tweaking as I did more playtests. At first, the jungle was easy to kill but the minion you got was weak. This was a problem because players could create a large army with ease but they would die almost immediately. To fix this issue I increased the minion's health, but that meant that a player could now create an unstoppable army easily. So I increased the difficulty to kill the jungle creep and slightly lowered the health of the minion.
Epic creeps are large creatures that once killed will push the closest lane for you. This is a useful pushing tool that allows you to leave your lane and not have to keep a constant presence in the lane.