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Mercs Inc

White Paper

1.0 Overview

     1.1 About

     1.2 Vision

     1.3 Key Audiences

     1.4 Selling points

     1.5 Replay-ability

2.0 Product Design

     2.1 Player Experience

     2.2 Visuals and Audio

     2.3 Monetisation

          2.3.1 Market Hub

          2.3.2 Weapons, Characters and Items

          2.3.3 Incentives and Rewards

3.0 Core Experience

     3.1 Mission Play

     3.2 Multiplayer

     3.3 Trading and Levelling

     3.4 Level Building

     3.5 Loot Vault

4.0 Game Design Elements 

     4.1 Game Camera

     4.2 Character Selection

     4.3 Character Control

     4.4 Squads

     4.5 UI

     4.6 States

          4.6.1 States

          4.6.2 Movement States

          4.6.3 Stationary States

     4.7 Vision

          4.7.1 Character FOV

          4.7.2 Fog of War

          4.7.3 Cover objects

     4.8 Attacks

          4.8.1 Attack Speeds

          4.8.2 Attack Selection

          4.8.3 Damage

          4.8.4 Deaths

          4.8.5 Enemies

     4.9 Combat

          4.9.1 Combat Strategies

          4.9.2 Character Abilities

     4.10 Level Design

          4.10.1 Level Design

          4.10.2 Object Interaction

          4.11 Platforms and Back-ends

          4.11.1 OS Support

          4.11.2 Multiplayer Back-end 

          4.11.3 On-boarding 

5.0 Development Progress

     5.1 Proof of Concept build

     5.2 Future Development

     5.3 Stages

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1.0 Overview

1.0 Overview

 

1.1 About

 

     Displace, Flank and Outsmart the enemy while Advancing onto the Objectives in this tactical combat, mobile RTS.

     'Mercs Inc'  is a top down, real-time combat based strategy game that takes the most entertaining aspects of tower defence, RTS and RPG and combines them into a small-scale, fast paced action adventure. Designed first and foremost as a strategic, online multiplayer that enables a multitude of play styles, strategies and skill levels. It also provides an engaging single player campaign mode which lets new users develop and refine their skills and strategies before venturing online for more competitive game play.

 

1.2 Vision

 

Our goal is to create a unique, accessible, multiplayer strategy game that rivals the tactical depth of 'Star Craft' and combining this with an engaging character based levelling and progression system.

 

1.3 Key Audiences

 

     Core game play will appeal to gamers that enjoy the RTS and tower defence genres due to Mercs Inc's strong strategic elements. Player's character control, abilities and game play style will need to be balanced effectively in order to overcome obstacles and achieve objectives. Like any good strategy game, it will be easy to play but hard to master.

1.4 Selling points

 

     Currently, the gaming market lacks a contender that perfectly fits the niche targeted by 'Mercs Inc.' Despite this absence, several existing titles bear resemblance to aspects of Mercs Inc's envisioned gameplay. 'Aliens: Dark Descent,' 'StarCraft 2,' 'Desperados 3,' and 'Team Fortress' each offer elements that align with Mercs Inc's objectives.

 

     Among these, 'Aliens: Dark Descent' stands out as a notable competitor, sharing similarities in gameplay dynamics and strategic depth. Its development timeline, coinciding with Mercs Inc's, and its successful performance since its mid-2023 release, with approximately 8 million in revenue accrued over the last nine months, make it a formidable contender. However, Mercs Inc introduces unique features, such as narrative-driven real-time strategy elements and extensive squad control and character customisation options, setting it apart and potentially establishing its own genre.

 

     'StarCraft 2,' hailed as one of the most successful PC real-time strategy (RTS) titles, offers a complex gameplay experience characterised by real-time management of resources, building construction, unit production, and tactical combat. However, its complexity may deter some audiences. Mercs Inc aims to simplify these mechanics while expanding on StarCraft 2's multiplayer functionality, striving to create an accessible and fast-paced RTS experience.

 

     In 'Desperados 3,' players encounter unit control and line-of-sight combat akin to Mercs Inc's proposed mechanics. However, Mercs Inc distinguishes itself through its incorporation of multiple units and intuitive squad functionality, simplifying control without compromising strategic depth and accessibility.

     Finally, 'Team Fortress 2' has demonstrated the market's appetite for extensive character and weapon customisation. Although it belongs to a different genre, Mercs Inc draws inspiration from such titles, aiming to incorporate and build upon similar elements. Players can expect not only the ability to customise their weapons and characters but also to combine them to create new and diverse loadouts. This customisation not only adds depth to gameplay but also enhances strategic options, further distinguishing Mercs Inc in the gaming landscape.

1.5 Replay-ability

 

     There will be varying levels of enemy AI strength that can be chosen at the beginning of the campaign. This will change the AI behaviour across the board. Increasing the AI strength, will require players to change their strategies and tactics from what they may have used previously to complete the campaign. 

    Certain levels, not key to the overarching storyline, will also be re-playable during a campaign that has already been started. Replaying one of these completed missions will automatically increase the enemy AI strength for that mission but also increase the credits received upon successful completion.

Multiplayer matches  and trading will be the main draw card for returning players. Users will be able to pit their skills and strategies against other players and receive items and tokens as reward which can then be traded or upgraded in the market hub. Incentives for building successful levels in the Level Builder [3.4] will also be added to ensure a steady flow of new maps to the multiplayer pool, increasing returning players and community growth. 

     Along with character and weapon progression, acquiring and trading rare items [2.3.2] and attachments will also contribute greatly to replay-ability.

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2.0 Product Design

2.1 Player Experience
 

     The game unfolds in a near-future setting marked by revolution and widespread misinformation. Players assume control of a ragtag group of B-grade mercenaries or vigilantes, striving to rectify the world's injustices as they perceive them. Rewards for their services come in unexpected forms, adding layers of complexity to their missions.

As players advance through the game's levels, they hone their skills while encountering new gameplay mechanics, additional characters, and character abilities. Progression revolves around enhancing both characters and weapons, alongside the collection of unique items and attributes. The game boasts a robust economy and trading system within the market hub, enriching the player experience.

Once players feel confident in their abilities, they can venture into the multiplayer arena to put their skills to the test against other players. Successful matches yield rewards, allowing players to further advance and customize their characters and gear.

 
2.2 Visual Style
 

     Following closely behind game-play, characters and performance will be the next highlight. Characters will be expressive, engaging and entertaining. There are only five main characters allowing us to create robust facial and body performance rigs and a high quality set of animations and customisation attributes. One of the reasons why Valve's 'Team Fortress 2' was so successful was that the users cared about the characters. We wish to emulate that love for our characters which in turn enriches the whole experience and ecosystem.

Lighting and surfacing will be stylised in a unique way as to fit with our overall aesthetic.

2.3 Monetisation

 

     Mercs Inc introduces a unique approach to monetisation by seamlessly blending two distinct methods: pay per episode and pay to customise. This innovative strategy offers users flexibility and affordability while ensuring a rewarding gaming experience.

     Firstly, the game will be released in episodes, allowing users to access segments of gameplay for a smaller upfront cost. This episodic format eliminates the need for users to invest a significant amount of money all at once, providing a more accessible entry point into the game. By breaking the game into digestible chunks, players can enjoy immersive storytelling and engaging gameplay without the financial burden of purchasing the entire game upfront.

     Secondly, the pay-to-customise model enables players to personalise their gaming experience through micro transactions. Users have the option to customise characters, load-outs, and other in-game elements by making small payments for specific customisation features. This approach ensures that players have the freedom to tailor their experience to their preferences, enhancing immersion and enjoyment.

     Moreover, Mercs Inc prioritises user experience by implementing micro transactions only in specific situations and in small amounts. Rather than inundating players with constant requests for additional payments, micro transactions are strategically integrated into the game to provide value-added customisation options without disrupting gameplay. This thoughtful approach to monetisation ensures that players can enjoy the game to its fullest without feeling pressured to make excessive purchases.

     In essence, Mercs Inc's innovative monetisation strategy combines affordability, flexibility, and user choice to create a gaming experience that is both accessible and rewarding. By offering episodic content and personalised customisation options through micro transactions, the game provides players with a dynamic and engaging journey through its immersive world.


 

2.3.1 Market Hub

 

     The market hub serves as the central location for trading items and levelling characters. Users can interact with other participants to buy and sell items they have earned and upgraded during gameplay.

     Unlike traditional marketplaces, the market hub offers a fully interactive environment where users can trade directly with others online or purchase stall space to sell items when offline. Stall spaces can be acquired using in-game currency.

     Additionally, the market hub features specialist stores where users can upgrade their items and characters. Certain items and abilities will require specific expertise to progress, such as gunsmiths, roboticians, and engineers. These services will be controlled by the game developers and may require additional micro payments.

 

2.3.2 Weapons, Characters and Items

 

     There are a multitude of items and weapons that the user can find or purchase and then upgrade to progress their characters. Some items will be less common than others, giving them greater value. Functionality for combining multiple common items of the same type into a rarer item will be added. Combining these items will result in the items being upgraded with their combined attributes. Different rarity levels such as common, uncommon, rare, very rare, and uber rare will be available. Completing full sets of specific armor or robotics will yield additional in-game bonuses and enhance their collectability.

     Characters will have the ability to carry both cosmetic and gameplay-related attributes. They can also be traded between users, aiding in character progression. The ability to "grow" new characters will be available to users who purchase a growth tank. Once a character is grown, any one of the 5 game characters' consciousness can be transferred to that character, making it playable. Users will be able to use these characters in multiplayer matches.

 

2.3.3 Incentives and Rewards

 

     The largest incentive for playing Mercs Inc will be its fun and engaging game play which will strengthen the love for its characters. This will in turn, strengthen the drive to progress those characters, items and weapons and the underlying economy which facilitates it.

      Rewards will come from completing story missions, multiplayer matches and also from other users playing maps that a player creates using the level builder [3.4]. An incentive structure for users who create quality missions will be deployed so that the game will be self perpetuating.

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3.0 Core Experience

3.1 Mission Play

 

    The player will be introduced to the two main characters and their stories via an introductory level which will also explain the basics of movement. This then leads to the first combat tutorial mission where players are introduced to the game's basic combat control mechanics.

     On completion of this mission, the player is taken to the home screen where they are shown the character load out and levelling aspects of the game. Once the player is ready to move on, they will be able to select the missions tab which will show the next available levels to play. 

     When entering new missions, the player will get a quick story overview explaining the initial mission objectives. Proceeding through the level will reveal the enemies and obstacles that will need to be dealt with. Early missions will have direction given via scripted dialogue. Tips and tricks can also be turned on to help a player that is struggling with the wrong tactic.

     At the start of every episode will be a cutscene that progresses the new story and character additions. Smaller loading screen cut-scenes will add character and comedy to the game. The loading screen cut scenes will change for new episodes.

 

3.2 Multiplayer

 

     Development will start with multiplayer ability at its core. Users will be able to join both versus and co-op modes. The quick match feature will use a player’s character loadout 'FP' and match them against players with similar levels in order to balance game play. Users will also have the ability to initiate multiplayer matches and invite players from their friends list, or open it to other users.

     Winning a versus match will be rewarded with the ingame currency token. When winning a co-op match with other players, this reward will be split evenly among the participants. At the end of each match, randomly generated stores will open and the players will have access to random items or weapons before leaving the map. 

 

3.3 Trading and Levelling

 

     Once users have items and characters accrued in their Loot Vault [2.3.3], they can move to the market hub [2.3.1] and interact directly with other users and developers to trade these items or to buy new, unique items.

     Weapons and characters will need to be upgraded with more slots before items and add-ons can be attached. Various upgrade types can be acquired at the engineer, gunsmith and robotician stores found in the market hub. Users spend ingame currency to buy these slots and to upgrade or merge items and attributes which increases their value and firepower level. 

     Users add items and upgrades on to weapons and characters in the Loot Vault.

 

3.4 Level Building

 

     Users will have the ability to create their own levels and objectives using the intuitive in-game level builder. Prefab geometries can be placed onto a grid layout with various options for objectives, enemy placement and spawn positions. 

     An incentive structure will be implemented to reward users who make engaging levels for other users to play. In addition, a user rating system will be implemented to allow users to navigate through the player levels, up or down voting their gameplay. When combined with tournaments, this will greatly enhance user engagement and replay-ability.  

 

3.5 Loot Vault

 

     The Loot Vault is the location where all items and characters will be stored. It is essentially a 3D representation of the user's inventory which they can interact with. 

     When a character is selected in the home screen, users will have the option of adding items from their Loot Vault to the character's load out. Those items will then be linked to that character for story levels or multiplayer matches.

4.0 Game Design Elements

4.1 Game Camera

 

     The main game camera will be a tracking camera that scales and shrinks to encompass any selected units, their vision range and any enemies they may be engaging with at that time. If no character selection is made, the camera resorts back to its default mode, zoomed out, framing all characters and engaged enemies. This automated camera action will remove the need for player input but allows more control if it's needed.

     Two-finger drag and two-finger rotate, will disengage the auto framing of characters and give the user the ability to move around the map without deselecting the character. 

By double-tap selecting a character that is off screen, the camera will move back into auto framing mode. Single tap selecting a character that is off screen will not engage the auto framing camera mode.  

     If camera angle causes any of the player's characters to be occluded by buildings or map assets, they will have a wormhole effect revealing them and their line of sight through the asset. 

     The mini-map doubles as a soft joystick, pushing the camera out to a top down view and allowing the user to pan around the map with a thumb move. This allows for quick and easy exploration if needed.

4.2 Character Selection

 

     Character selections can be made via two different methods. Firstly, on the Bottom left hand side (by default) of the screen is the character and squad UI.  Using a single touch, the player can select the characters individually or, using the tap and hold function, can choose multiple characters and create a squad. Alternatively, players may click the on screen characters directly. Either avenue leads to the same result. When a 'Tap-Hold' selection is made, a '+' indicator  will pop up indicating the player is in multi-character selection mode. This mode is disengaged once all characters are selected or when another command is given.

     Once multiple characters are selected, an empty squad Icon will appear in the squad tab . Taping this icon will group your selected characters into a squad. This squad icon can be dragged to screen-right to enable single character selection from that squad. It can also be  dragged upwards, to disband the squad back to single icons.

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4.3 Character Control

 

     The majority of movement and state commands will be initiated by touch controls. Once selected, a character's combat control or movement options will be determined by what state they are currently in, either 'Ready' or 'Alert' [4.6.1]. Players will be able to see the character's current state in the squad icons. Two finger taps will change the character state back and forth. Manual control of this state change is a key element of game play. Swiping on screen will change the characters direction. Character direction is also a key element of game play, giving them vision of a selected area. Firing on enemies will be automatic if the character is in 'Ready'. If a character is in 'Alert', they will see the enemy but not fire until their state is changed to 'Ready'. Tapping on the screen will move a character to that location or cover point, drag and drop will move the character to that location along the drawn path. 

     Above the character/squad selection tabs are the 'Scan' command icon. 'Scan' allows the selected characters to automatically move their FOV back and forth between a certain degree range allowing a larger area to be covered.

4.4 Squads

 

     When selecting multiple characters [4.5.2], a small icon will appear in the UI [4.4] to the right of selection tabs, showing the player the option to create a squad for quick group commands. There is a maximum of two squads available which enables combinations for 4/1, 3/2 or 2/2 leaving one unit to be selected individually. 

     Squad commands will be the same as unit commands.  Selecting characters via a squad icon will quicken the selection process and allow characters in different locations to move to a single point easily. Squads moving together in the 'advance' state [4.6.1] will keep their direction constant until controlled otherwise. This allows a squad to move in a formation while advancing in 'Ready'. Movement speed will be determined by the slowest character in the squad, Faster characters will match their advance speed of the slower character. When a squad is moved in the 'Alert' state, they will run at their usual speed, staggering their arrival to the set location.

 

4.5 UI

 

     The UI will be simple, clean and consist of some familiar features players have seen before but also some new features designed specifically for 'Mercs-inc'. All these UI elements may be mirrored in the options menu so as to cater for left hand and right hand users. 

On the bottom left hand side of the screen will be the character/squad selection and movement icons where players can see what all characters are doing at any given time. 

Health and Ammunition levels will be displayed on the characters selection circles. 

Character tabs will pop up in the top left of the screen if there is important information relating to the story to be provided. They will not be present throughout game play as to keep the screen real estate available for game play. 

     A mini  map  is located bottom right and shows the characters and enemy positions as well as rough map layout and visibility. This mini-map doubles as a soft joystick for the zoomed out game camera view [4.1].

     In the top right corner of the screen will be the user and character abilities. 

 

4.6 States

 

     4.6.1 States Overview

 

There are 3 main character states used for game play and a number of sub states beneath them. These are the core of the main gameplay mechanic.

          Alert - Guns down, wide  FOV [4.7.1]

          Alert Cover -  Guns down, wide FOV

          Run - Guns down, wide FOV, fast movement speed

          Ready - Guns up, reduced FOV

          Ready Cover - Guns up, reduced FOV

          Advance - Guns up, reduced FOV, slow movement speed

          Down - Character awaiting revival

          Death - Character not revive-able

 

     4.6.2 Movement States

 

There are 2 movement options available to the player, excluding special abilities. Run and Advance.

'Run' - allows the player to move a character to a location or cover point [4.10.2] quickly but will need to be switched to 'Advance' before  firing [4.8.1] on a revealed enemy.

     'Advance' - moves the character to the desired location and allows them to fire instantly when an enemy [4.8.4] is in their FOV [4.7.1] but at the cost of movement speed.

 

     4.6.3 Stationary States

 

     'Alert', 'Ready' and 'Down' are the main stationary states a character enters, also with sub states beneath them. 'Alert' gives the character a wide field of view, letting them see all potential threats without firing. 'Alert Cover' has the same function but uses cover objects to reduce the character exposure to enemy FOV [4.7.1]. If an enemy is located within the character's FOV while in the 'Alert' state, input from the player will be needed to change the character state from 'Alert' to 'Ready' in order to engage.

     'Ready', their FOV will be reduced but will fire on any enemy that enters into it. 'Ready Cover' has the same function while using cover points but with a reduced FOV. 'Down' The character has exhausted their hit points and is inactive until being revived.

     'Death' The time limit for a character being in the 'down' state has expired. The character is not able to be revived.

 

4.7 Vision

 

     4.7.1 Character FOV and Perception

 

One of the main aspects of combat within 'Mercs Inc'. All characters and enemies have Fields of View which they use for targeting enemies and revealing the map.

Different movement and firing states [4.6.1] will carry different FOV. Map elements such as cover points and character abilities such as smoke grenades will block FOV of affected characters or enemies. Perception is the distance immediately around a character in which enemies are revealed. FOV and Perception are traits that a player can progress using upgrades or items.

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   4.7.2 Fog of War

 

     Fog of War is any part of the map that the characters cannot see within their FOV.

The map elements will be visible within the Fog of War but any characters or enemies will be hidden.

 

     4.7.3 Cover Objects

 

     Certain objects in the game will be classified as 'cover objects', such as concrete or plastic barriers.


 

4.8 Attacks

 

     4.8.1 Attack Speeds

 

     Attack speeds are dependent on the weapon used and its attached attributes. Different weapons can be added to a character from the loot vault [3.5] on the home screen. These weapons can be progressed and improved by adding unique attachments to them via the market hub [2.3.1].

 

     4.8.2 Attack Selection

 

     By default, characters and enemies will fire upon the closest target. The player may choose for a character/s to target a specific enemy within their FOV by tapping on it. If multiple characters are selected and an enemy is targeted with a single tap, only the closest character will engage. If a double tap is used to target the enemy, the two closest characters will engage. This can continue up to the maximum selected characters. If the selected enemy is outside a character's effective range, they will advance until the distance is closed then target the enemy.

 

     4.8.3 Damage

 

     The variables contributing to damage output will be the characters range to target, as a multiplier of the relevant weapon attributes, along with what state the enemy is in and if they are behind cover or not.

 

     4.8.4 Deaths

 

     When a character has their available hit points reduced to zero, they will fall into the 'Down' [3.6.1] state. Only a character with Medic abilities will be able to revive them. Upon Reviving a character, they will return to their previous active state with reduced hit points and a movement penalty. Not being revived within the time given leads to the character's death. The player will have the ability to regrow/heal characters in the home screen, using the healing tanks, after the mission is completed.

 

     4.8.5 Enemies

 

     There are a number of different types of enemies the player will face throughout the game's story. These enemies will either use ranged attacks, melee attacks and sometimes a combination of the two. Their combat intelligence will scale up as the player advances through the levels.

 

4.9 Combat

 

     4.9.1 Combat Strategies

 

     As the game progresses, players will be introduced to the fundamental strategies needed to complete the campaign. Displace, Ambush, Encircle, Charge and Flank are just a few tactics a player can use to complete objectives. 

     4.9.2 Commander and Character Abilities

 

     There will be a large number of Commander and character abilities that will enhance the tactical nature of the game and make multiplayer matches more competitive. 

          Ammunition Re-supplies

          Cover Creation

          Weapon Variations

          Smoke and Gas

          Healing

          Flame & Explosives

          Active game objects (Turrets, Drones, Trip Wires, Cameras)

          Map Reveals

 

     This initial list of abilities will be expanded upon once game balancing and updates take place. 
 

4.10 Level Design

 

     4.10.1 Level Design

 

     The initial episode release will consist of 5 missions that will advance the story. Point defence, escort, capture, destroy or evade the enemy are just a few of the level objectives that will be implemented into level design. Each level will have multiple solutions to cater for different play styles.

Missions will be rewarded on a points/cash system, allowing for weapon upgrades, munitions, healing, training, character advancement and also in-game commander abilities.

Selected missions will be re-playable with a scaling difficulty to allow for these levels and abilities to be acquired. This feature will also promote replay-ability [1.5] and player skill advancement.

Each episode will also contain a multiplayer map. This map will be modular in design and randomly change format in order for users to stay engaged.

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     4.10.2 Object Interaction

 

     Interactive level objects used as cover objects will have a damage LOD and health system. The more damage the cover object sustains from enemy fire, the more its covering ability will diminish. Alternatively, once the cover object's health is reduced to zero, it may collapse or explode . There will be other interactive geometry such as opening doors, ladders and sewer entrances which will have simple open/close interactive control.

4.11 Platforms and Back-ends

 

     4.11.1 OS Support

 

     'Mercs Inc' will be released for Android, IOS, Windows PC and touch screen devices all while being cross platform compatible. This will open up the online multiplayer pool significantly at release and contribute greatly to the games ongoing success.

 

     4.11.2 Multiplayer Back-end 

 

     Following the production road map, multiplayer servers will be created and scaled as per user demand but investigation into decentralised multiplayer technology is high on the development list. 

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5.0 Development Progress

5.1 Proof of concept build

 

     The proof of concept build will be a training level and a combat level that shows user control and general versatility of Mercs Inc game play. It will be used for general game testing and once in a polished state, for securing funding for further development. 

 

5.2 Future Development:

 

     The Versatility of Mercs Inc's game play is its strongest feature. It will allow for countless new story lines, enemies and game play mechanics to be added. Along with the multiplayer and level building features, this gives Mercs-Inc a fighting chance at a long and successful life.

 

5.3 Stages

 

     1. First draft pitch document

     2. First revision supporting images and videos

     3. Proof of concept build

     4. Investigate funding avenues

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