Equestrian Dawn

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EqD logo.png

Equestrian Dawn is a realtime strategy game. The initial idea came from Screwtape, over on Byuu's board.[1]

Contents

Representing units

Each pony unit produced gets a random color scheme and mane style, to reflect the overall variety in the show. We can have the game draw the units from a few combined parts, each of which can be tinted separately. Now, if you do that, you can't use their body color to tell what kind of unit they are, so I'd suggest giving them house-specific team vests (Winter Wrapup anyone?) and class-specific hats. A farmer (see below) could have a cowboy hat like Applejack's, while a contractor could have a hardhat. As long as the house colors and hats are distinct enough, you should be able to tell your ponies apart.

Having randomized visual appearances also helps avoid death. In any other RTS, if a unit is lost, he's dead. Train a replacement, which costs more funds and time, and get him to his predecessor's location to continue. In EqDawn, being a MLP fangame, we shouldn't have death as such a cheap and common occurence, and randomized, unique units help with this: when a unit is lost, she disappears from the map like before but after a bit, a training countdown starts on its own, some funds are lost... and that same pony appears in your base, recognizable as the one that was lost. The only limitation here is that the specific kind of building that spawned her must be available -- that is, a scout that is lost can only respawn if scouts are listed in the sidebar at all, so if your farm is destroyed and you lose a scout, that specific scout will not respawn. Not that she's dead or anything, you just won't get her back.

Variations

  • Bodymold: male, female
  • Type: separate wing and horn sheets
  • Mane: several different styles, perhaps grouped in male/female sets
  • Tail: same deal as mane
  • Eyes: again
  • Mark: anything goes, they're probably too small to identify anyway

Suggested game UI

Status line Funds Options
Map Repair
Sell
Orders

Suggested unit list

Going by C&C playstyle. XCraft playstyle calls for way different units.

Regular units

Icon Name Type Strength Defense Speed Description
File:Eqd scout.png Scout Earth Cheap to produce, but weak.
Eqd farmer.png Farmer Earth Turns fields to funds, like a Harvester.
File:Eqd striker.png Striker Pegasus
File:Eqd bomber.png Bomber Pegasus Drops junk to do damage. Has to return to base to reload.
File:Eqd battlemage.png Battlemage Unicorn
File:Eqd medic.png Medic Unicorn Heals other units.
File:Eqd contractor.png Contractor Earth Can build a Farm. Doing so removes the contractor from play.

Vehicles

Icon Name Type Strength Defense Speed Description
File:Eqd appleballista.png Apple Ballista Slow to move, strong attack.

Buildings

Icon Name Type Strength Defense Description
File:Eqd farm.png Farm Unit producer Unlocks and produces Earth units and unlocks the Library and Cloud Castle. Comes with a free Farmer.
File:Eqd cloudcastle.png Cloud Castle Unit producer Unlocks and produces Pegasus units.
File:Eqd library.png Library Unit producer Produces Unicorn units and unlocks the Workshop.
File:Eqd workshop.png Workshop Unit producer Produces vehicles and unlocks the Contractor and Farmer.
File:Eqd temple.png Temple Superweapon Unlocks Celestia's Favor and the Hospital.
File:Eqd hospital.png Hospital Support Reduces respawn time.

Superweapons

Icon Name Strength Description
File:Eqd celestiasfavor.png Celestia's Favor Basically an Ion Cannon
File:Eqd meteorstorm.png Meteor Storm Counterpart to Celestia's Favor, a more wide-spread attack.

Nonplayable units

Icon Name Type Strength Defense Speed Description
Eqd no.png Chief Buffalo
Eqd no.png Warrior Buffalo
Eqd no.png Alpha Diamond Dog
Eqd no.png Guard Diamond Dog

Note that not all maps need allow all items -- an Earth-only campaign could lock out the Cloud Castle and Library, which in turn cuts off access to all Pegasus and Unicorn units, all vehicles, and the ability to build (more) bases. Most early missions could lock the farmer, so you only get the one that comes with the farm. The fields that a farmer works on would be a Tiberium parallel, only less deudly. So locking the farmer for early missions makes them more like Harvesters. Nonplayables are a given -- they can only appear on the map if placed there by the map's designer. Though, they could technically be playable, if assigned to the player's house.


Assorted notes

Objects

* Game
:--* Campaign GC
|  :--- Tech List
|  :--- SideBar GC
|  :--- StatusBar GC
|  '--* Map GC
|     :--- Units
|     :--- Buildings
|     :--- Ground
|     '--- Collision tilemap
:--- MainMenu GC
'--- UI GC

The game has either a MainMenu or a Campaign loaded, never both. The UI is always available. The tech list determines what the SideBar shows and is edited by the units and buildings on the map. To allow easy construction of unique-looking units, have each of them have a series of separate texture sheets; body, mane, tail, mark, team detail, accessory. Each of these parts is drawn in white, then rendered with a certain color. Special cases like Rainbow Dash can have their mane and tail drawn in color, and rendered in white, which will result in the original colors. To switch between mares and stallions, just swap out the body layer. Other kinds of units can use basically the same layers, but with different meanings, such as diamond dogs or buffalo. To support arbitrarily sized units, the sheets should have a preset number of rows and columns, allowing the engine to determine how big a single sprite is from a simple division, in turn determining the sprite's hit box.

Scrolling is a thing now, and units aren't drawn if they fall at least 32 pixels far from the viewport. As for the map, it might be easiest to define it as a list of objects, vertically sorted as the units are, and basically in the same way as buildings. That is, there'd be three sorts of map objects: player bases, which their owner can sell, repair, and toggle, can have active effects (guard towers shooting approaching hostiles?), are destructible, and get a tooltip; map buildings, which can have a tooltip, possibly an active effect, and may or may not be destructible; and natural elements such as roads, bushes, and cliff sides, which never get a tooltip and can't be destroyed. Each map object can edit the map's collision tilemap in various ways, mostly by setting the "passable" flag. Others, such as water, may set the "water" flag instead, limiting movement on those tiles to flying and swimming units. The collision tilemap starts out filled with "ground".

As a practical example, consider a river with a bridge crossing it. The river would consist of a handful of parts that visually resemble a river and mesh well together. When initially constructing the collision tilemap, the river objects fill their general area with "water" tiles. The bridge part visually combines a river with a bridge (YOU DON'T SAY) and sets most of its area on the collision tilemap to "water", but leaves a strip of "ground" tiles. The trick is that the bridge is set to be destructible, and when it is destroyed, two things happen: the bridge switches to a "destroyed" image, and the map is reconstructed, at which time the bridge instead sets -every- part of the collision tilemap that it covers to "water".

Map objects that are destructible would need a few different sprites to reflect structural damage, and a separate color overlay if they can be owned by a playable team.

House ideas

"House" is the term used internally in the Command & Conquer series since Dune II.

  1. Earth Ponies
  2. Pegasi
  3. Unicorns
  4. Celestials
  5. Lunatics
  6. Generic civilians
  7. Appleoosans
  8. Everfree
  9. Diamond Dogs
  10. Buffalo

Superweapons

  • Celestia's Favor -- pretty much the Ion Cannon of PoniRTS
  • Meteor Storm -- Luna's counterpart to Celestia's Favor

Screwtape's brainstorms

Notice that Screwtape takes most of his ideas from the Warcraft series, with regards to playstyle. You can tell from how each single unit can have several possible actions, and there are several resources.

First post[2]

  • You could start off in Ponyville, which has lots of resources (and hence things are easier), and slowly work your way across the map to the remoter corners of Equestria, which are far from anything, lack resources, and hence are more difficult.
  • Unicorns would be a mage archetype: ranged attacks, low HP, slow movement. I guess they would be best suited to libraries for advancing the tech tree and maybe workshops for building new equipment.
  • Pegasuses would have melee attacks (like Dive Bomb, Lightning Strike, and maybe a Rainstorm AOE that makes the ground muddy and slows movement) and low HP, but very fast movement over all terrain. They'd probably have cloud castles, though who knows what they'd do there.
  • Earth ponies would be roughly a paladin archetype, I think. Melee attacks, high HP, and slow movement. Maybe low-level healing, too. They'd be at home in orchards (which generate food resources), but I can imagine them being required to build all the other kinds of buildings too.
  • In a typical map, you'd start off with six ponies (two earth ponies, two unicorns, two pegasuses - not the Mane Six as such, but it's tradition)
  • First step, earth ponies build an orchard, which slowly produces the Food resource and also more Earth ponies.
  • Get the earth ponies to build a library, which slowly produces the Tech resource and also more unicorns.
  • Pegasuses go hunting for the Cloud resource, which naturally occurs all across the map. When they've gathered enough, they can make a Cloud Castle which will produce more pegasuses.
  • Orchards, libraries and cloud castles only produce more ponies while there's enough Food to support them.
  • Earth ponies and unicorns produced can be sent across the map as units, or they can be assigned to work at an orchard/library to increase its resource production.
  • Pegasuses can't be assigned to a Cloud Castle, but you can send them off to harvest more clouds.
  • While Tech and Food are just counters in the corner of the screen that tick up and down as they're produced and consumed, Clouds are items. Each pegasus has a number of clouds, and clouds are consumed by certain attacks (like Lightning Strike and Rainstorm).
  • Unicorns and earth ponies start off with simple, weak abilities, but you can spend Tech to unlock stronger abilities unique to each class.
  • Pegasuses might get a few non-cloud-based attacks unlocked by tech, but most of their attacks would be based on the number and type of clouds they've collected, maybe with a crafting system so that you can convert five light, fluffy white clouds into a light-grey Drizzle cloud, and so on and so forth up to enormous hurricanes. Sometimes, the higher-level cloud types would be naturally occurring on the map. Maybe the Cloud Castle could be involved in the crafting somehow? Would you need Tech to unlock more potent cloud recipes?
  • Pegasuses can also carry other ponies. This prevents them from carrying clouds or any other attack, but means you can get your Healer Pony across the map to where she's needed quickly.
  • I can imagine Earth Ponies having mundane healing that only heals a little bit, but works all the time and is very cheap, while unicorns can unlock a magical healing spell that heals a lot, but is somehow expensive (long cooldown? high food cost?)
  • Combo attacks! I'm not sure how this would work, but there should be a teamwork bonus when different ponies attack the same target at the same time, like Chrono Trigger's tech system.

Second post[3]

It would be pretty easy to make a pony RTS by taking StarCraft, replacing the three SC factions with unicorns, pegasuses and earth ponies, and calling it a day. That wouldn't make a very satisfying MLP game, though, because most RTS games treat all the units of a particular class as identical and expendable - if you create three infantry and they get ambushed, well you just make three more and try again. MLP goes to some effort to make you care about and empathise with individual characters, so treating pony units as expendable would be a bit disturbing.

In the heat of battle, you can't give complicated orders to a single unit, so RTS games generally give you one main verb for each unit type, and if you need a wider selection of verbs, you build a wider selection of units. That doesn't sit very well with MLP, where individual ponies are capable of doing a wide variety of things. Maybe that means an MLP game would be better suited to be turn-based strategy (so you can choose orders from a long list at your leisure). Certainly, there's a broad spectrum of possibility between "lots of classes each with 1 verb" and "few classes, each with many verbs", and you'd need some experimentation to figure out where the sweet spot is.

As I understand it, traditional RTS games have a very strict hierarchy, with a 'mothership' or 'command unit' or 'headquarters' building that kick-starts the tech-tree, and when it's destroyed the player loses. I guess you could do that in a pony RTS too, but a very strong theme in MLP is cooperation, and I'd like that to be expressed in the rules of the game, not just in the cut scenes/dialog boxes - hence all that stuff about unicorns/pegasuses/earth ponies all having their own 'base' building, and all of them being needed in order to have a functioning town.

Having mission-specific units would totally be possible: imagine starting a map with a pre-built orchard and no earth ponies (you'd have to be very careful about how you allocated your food resource!), or a map with no pegasuses so no easy reconnaissance.

I wonder if maybe Pegasuses could have a more C&C-style interaction - tell one to Harvest, and it brings Clouds back to the Cloud Castle, and your Cloud Castle can be told to take raw clouds and make them into different kinds of specialist clouds, which wind up piled around outside (which would also be a great way of concealing the extent of your base from enemy recon). A pegasus can be told to pick up manufactured clouds (after which they trail after the unit like eggs in Yoshi's Island), at which point each cloud becomes a new verb for that pegasus ("use this Lightning cloud to attack that enemy unit") If a pegasus is defeated while dragging clouds around, their clouds float free where they can be picked up by any other pegasus unit. I can imagine it being pretty exciting to build a Hurricane cloud, then make a convoy to transport it across to the enemy base to deploy it: you need a pegasus to shepherd it (and some others for backup/dogfighting), you could bring unicorns to cast Shield (and attack enemy flying units and mages), and earth ponies to protect the unicorns (and maybe to harass enemy mages attacking your pegasus). The enemy would be able to see you dragging a huge Hurricane across the map, so they'd have plenty of time to do something about it.

I'm not sure how specialised unicorns/earth ponies should be. On the one hand, I don't like the idea of expendable, single-verb units in the MLP setting; on the other hand the show clearly shows ponies specialising in baking or medicine or whatever. Does magic have subgenres in MLP? Like, could you have elemental magic unicorns and status-ailment unicorns and medic unicorns and techno-gadget unicorns?

I guess you'd need a wider array of buildings to construct for a complete RTS experience, but I can't imagine what they might be. Maybe a scaled-down, simplified game with only a handful of units and buildings would be a good idea, instead of trying to think up enough content to fill an AAA retail game.

Third post[4]

This time, I'm going to interleave my answers.

Screwtape Kawa
[rtslab.txt] is clearly some kind of brain-dump about all kinds of things (some of it from me, I see!) so I won't try to comment on all of it, but here's some thoughts:
I was imagining that on top of the 'terrain' layer there'd be a 'sky' layer which is where clouds, pegasuses and the Cloud Castle building would sit. That does make rendering the screen more complicated, though things in the 'sky' layer can't really collide with each other, except maybe for units and buildings. I was thinking something similar myself. Generating a cloud cover should be easy now that I tackled perlin noise for another project.
How much is known about the Chaos Wars that ended with Discord's original imprisonment? It occurs to me that might be a useful setting for the game. The Ponyverse already has gryphons, manticores, and cockatrices which fit the general (visual) theme of Discord. Also, being set in the deep, distant past would be a good excuse for not having the Mane Six around, or any other heavily copyrighted/trademarked content. Not much. But for historical battles, the Chaos Wars are certainly a source to consider. Being in modern times doesn't preclude the Mane Six either, tbh.
On the other hand, I also like the idea of a campaign where the Everfree Forest is expanding and needs to be pushed back. Since the Forest doesn't (seem to) have a 'leader' or a 'goal', it's just an ecosystem of Things That Are Dangerous To Ponies But Not Zebras For Some Reason, that means the player isn't fighting a person, just trying to protect Ponyville, which I think would be a good angle for a MLP game. You could still have complicated tactical fights against enemy bases, but they'd be 'things that happened to grow together and be dangerous to ponies' rather than 'things deliberately constructed to Destroy Ponykind'. Having the opposing team be so radically different to the pony team would make unit/building/level design that much harder, though.
I just watched the episode with the Diamond Dogs, and I think they'd do well as the Enemy Team equivalent of Earth Ponies. If gryphons are the Enemy Team equivalent of Pegasuses, I still haven't come across anything suitable as the Enemy Team equivalent of unicorns. Check the "Nonplayable Units" part on the project's wiki page.
I keep spelling 'unicorns' as 'unicons'. :( Try 'unicrons'.
Superweapon: Sonic Rainboom? Again, check the project's wiki page. If we don't put the Mane Six in, we can't have Rainbow Dash. That leaves Celestia's Favor, Meteor Strike, and anything else we can think of that doesn't require the Mane Six.
Superweapon: Discord Bakery (turns targeted unit into a randomly selected item: cupcake, croissant, danish, pudding, etc. Effectively insta-kill, but funnier, and maybe the unit recovers after X minutes?) wabbajack wabbajack wabbajack wabbajack wabbajack wabbajack wabbajack wabbajack
You have 'Scout' as an Earth skill, but I would have picked that as a Pegasus ability... or, not even a specific ability, just something that pegasuses would naturally be useful for because of their base stats (and as they're harvesting cloud, they'll map out most of the map anyway). I feel Pegasi are being favored there. And that's assuming "cloud harvesting" will be a thing at all. Remember: the more different resources, the harder it becomes for the player to track them, and the harder it becomes for the creator to balance everything out.
Pegasus unit ideas: Harvester (goes to find clouds, brings them back to the Cloud Castle or Cloud Factory); Alchemist (can build a Cloud Factory like a Contractor builds a Farm); Taxi (could transport other pony units around, but it seems a bit specialised - maybe the Bomber could do this too?) Linking to the above point, if the only resource is funds, you only need one harvesting unit. And that's the Farmer. The Contractor is like C&C's Mobile Construction Vehicle, but a person instead of a vehicle. Having the Bomber double as a Taxi is a reasonable idea to consider, but they would only be able to carry one.

There is, however, grounds for airships and other types of vehicles known for their passenger capacity.

Unicorn unit ideas: Handypony (repairs buildings); Illusionist (creates fake units that can be moved within a certain radius of the Illusionist, and disappear when attacked or when the Illusionist is defeated); Organizer (raises the effectiveness of nearby units, and can apply a temporary Organize buff to buildings) No, maybe, yes on the first bit.
Earth pony unit ideas: Bronco (serious melee damage, high HP); Siege pony (high attack vs. buildings); Engineer (builds bridges) I like the first one, but I'd rather use vehicles for sieges. The engineer is something to consider...
I recently watched the episode where Rainbow Dash manages to pull off a Sonic Rainboom; turns out there genuinely are facilities where peguasus ponies manufacture weather, so we should totally have those buildings in the game, and maybe different upgrades/different buildings for different types of weather. If anything, they should at least be map dressing.
What would be really cool is if the pony identities were persistent, somehow, so you could remember that Seaside Breeze (or whoever) was the unicorn who scraped past seven minotaurs to knock out the enemy's farm-equivalent to win the map, and have her along for later maps. I suppose something like that could be arranged. Assuming a typical loadout with, say, two scouts, you could look at the survivors (word choice for clarity) of the previous mission and find the two scouts with the highest killcount. Instead of randomizing the two scouts on the new mission, you copy the molds. Ofcourse, to allow timeskips (in both directions), units in the initial map state should have a flag to indicate this shouldn't be an option.
Here's an idea: the first level is set in Ponyville, and when you defeat the encroaching menace (whatever it is), somebody says "the enemy retreated *that* way, we should send some ponies off to chase them down... we'll probably need three pegasus ponies, two unicorns and an earth pony" and then you get to pick your favourite units from the ones you built in the last level. I realise it's not very traditional RTS, but I think it would really fit well with the MLP setting.

Notes

  1. http://board.byuu.org/viewtopic.php?p=59505#p59505
  2. http://board.byuu.org/viewtopic.php?p=60111#p60111
  3. http://board.byuu.org/viewtopic.php?p=60165#p60165
  4. http://board.byuu.org/viewtopic.php?p=60898#p60898
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