Machines Wired for War

machines wired for war

A page about modernizing Machines - Wired for War

Towards the end of 2021 I had nothing better to do so I installed and finished the single player campaign. I started by drawing a reaper and ended with updating the UI and a few ideas about a custom unit designer. 

First time I played machines was around 99 or 2000, I dont recall being impressed that much. I had a friend who was obsessed with this game, he forced us to play it as if it was the best thing ever made.

Machines tries to blend C&C base building with fps shooting by letting the player enter inside any unit and control them using keyboard and mouse. It wasn't a new idea for its time as games like Urban Assault 98 and Battlezone 98 managed to blend the unit management and strategy aspect with FPS gameplay much better. There were also many other 3D strategy games that had better pathfinding and fast paced gameplay compared to machines so the game was somewhat forgotten without making much impact on players.

What I really like is the visual designs of the robots. They look cold and heartless as any machine should but also full of character thanks to the use of their tiny white glowing eyes and rabbit ears. I still cant think of any other RTS game that has such simple yet powerful character designs.

Like many games of its time the path finding of units is horrible. Actually the path finding in this game can be the worst ever made. Some units move painfully slow, they bump into each other and get stuck trying to follow even the simplest orders. I've seen 3 units gt stuck to each other in an open space.  

Points to modernize if a remake is ever made;

- AI is horrible. It occasionally attacks with a bunch of units from the same direction. Harvesters get stuck to one another when moving, some units stop to calculate new path after move commands. Indoor missions have narrow corridors, some levels have narrow canyons and combined with the dumb pathfinding the game becomes really unplayable even for a retro fan who is used to shitty, old games like me. 

- The range and intelligence of enemy units seems to be a little watered down compared to the player's units. This is good if you want to enter a machine and play the game as FPS. However, FPS mode is not as practical as it seems because your units dont have enough HP so you cant really stay inside a unit for long before it blows up and you have no way of controlling other units or building stuff while in FPS mode.

- Game needs a new Command / Build menu when the player is in FPS mode

- Healing, scavenging and repairing should be automatically performed when target is near

- Selected machine should always have health bar above it.

- Pointing mouse above a machine should show health bar (as long as the cursor stays on the machine)

- UI needs to be updated for modern standards.
- Maybe minor increase to the hit points of all units to make first person view more useful


I had nothing better to do so I decided to spent some time modernizing the UI

Gave the Isometric RTS UI a face-lift. Now it looks closer to what modern games have. It is semi transparent so action is still visible underneath, better organised in terms of user experience as you don't have to move your eyes from top of the screen to the bottom to read notifications. I cleaned up and simplified the unit commands where the old one had tons of  useless orders and text buttons.

Generic Commands

Generic commands available for all machines - attack move, move, guard area, scatter, stop and waypoint.
Special commands (such as build, heal, repair, scavenge etc) should be available on machine type and should appear under the selected machine's portrait. Some special commands such as healing, scavenging and repairing should be automatically performed when target is near and have a radius if such command is given to the selected machine.

Production menu (building new machines)

By default you couldn't see what was lined in production after the first 4 or so machines, now the queue should be visible, clicking on something in the queue should remove that unit from production queue.

FPS screen

Some cosmetic changes and a command interface to add some functionality to the first person view.

By default you had no way of controlling other units or building stuff while in FPS mode. This new UI should allow you to select few followers and tell them where to move etc. Holding CTRL will allow the player to use the mouse cursor as if in isometric view so the players can click around giving orders. Construction menu can be added for constructors etc.

Machine Designer (adding a custom unit designer)

There are many machines that can be built but lets be honest, the player only needs to use a few of them. (reaper with double plasma is the best thing around) Maybe an army designer to mix and match body and weapons would allow creation of more fun and useful alternatives.

Now the players will use the technician units to research new body parts and modules instead of new units. Players can open the Machine Designer menu to mix and match the researched parts and modules to create their own armies.

There can be some limitations like different body types can have different number of module slots. Heavy weapons can only be placed on heavy body types and the more you add the longer it would take to produce vehicles and the slower they would move so you have to mix bodies and modules carefully to maintain the perfect efficiency. 

Body types can be the base parts of all vehicles in the vanilla game;

Scout (wheeled), 
Transport (heavy wheeled), 
Grunt (threaded), 
Warrior (heavy threaded)
Reaper (mech)
Enforcer (tank)
Knight, (hover)
Gorilla (extra heavy mech)
Wasp (aircraft)
Bee (aircraft bomber)

Modules can be stuff like; 

Auto Cannon
Bolter (couple of different version) 
Flame thrower
Rockets (couple of different version)
Plasma (couple of different version) 
Pulse (couple of different version)
Locator (stuff that finds oil)
Tankers (to manually create oil transports from different body types), 
Constructor (to build stuff)
Shield  (I think its called armour in the game, there can be a fer versions like heavy, med and light)

The player should be able to create every default machine found in the vanilla game plus have the ability to mix and match stuff.  

Weapon Triangle (weapons and their effects)

The game has 4 main weapon types; Bullets, Rockets, Pulse and Plasma. I'm not really sure what the difference is between them. Bullets seem to bypass armour (shield is a better term) and rockets always damage armour before they can damage hit points. But other than that, the mechanics are very obscured.

Maybe an easier to understand rock paper scissors system can work better.

- Bullets do low damage to the body but high damage to shields.

- Explosives should damage both shields and body at the same time.

- Energy weapons should do heavy damage to body but low damage to shields so you may need a few machines that shoot bullets to get rid of shields and then hit them with plasma wielding machines 

Hopefully this new weapon triangle should make more sense.

Factions and Logos

The game has 4 factions, Reds, Blues, Greens and Yellows. Somehow they seem to have banners ripped from Warhammer games. These banners seem very out of place and contradict with the game's visual style. It's almost as if the banners were added at the last minute, without spending any thought just for the sake of adding. 

The machines of each faction can have different head shapes. Doesnt matter what they are as long as they look different from each other. Instead of out of place epic battle banners each factions logo can be the silhouette of its head