Every now and again, we'll get someone on our subreddit asking whether or not the defenders will be able to move cover around in the level. It's high time to address that now:
Short answer: No.
Long answer: No, not for technical reasons, but out of design realities.
See, we already tried movable cover. We spent over a month prototyping a cover movement system only to tear it all out right before our first PAX in 2014.
There's a couple reasons why it failed. First, we took an overly realistic and cumbersome approach.
Janky as fuck, right? We were using unity's physics system when we should have prototyped with a game-y system like this:
Second, and more critically, it decreased predictability.
What we observed was that the planning stage of the game really fell apart when movable cover came in the picture. All the cover in the room could be shifted to barricade a door, or a hallway, or moved to make cover in an unexpected position. The problem wasn't that these strategies were uninteresting. The problem was that there was no way to tell which strategy the defenders would opt for, and there was no way for the defenders to counter-plan against the attackers expectations. We found ourselves staring at the map, with no real plan to make. Every round broke down to “well, I guess we’ll just wing it.”
The game was much worse for it, but we learned something very important from our mistake:
Due Process is about predictability.
What I mean by that is pretty simple. Due Process is meant to be a more cerebral shooter; the game isn't just about chucking flashbangs and shooting people in the face, but rather about playing the enemy team. Due Process is meant to be a game where you divine your opponent's strategy through the observation of their strategic inclinations and your intuition.
For example, Vince, knows that I love love going for the classic "lights out" strategy, and can count on me attempting it more often than not. Of course, I know this too, and if I'm feeling clever, I might plan a strategy that suggests we're committing to a "lights out," when it was in fact a ruse to move them into predictable counter-positions and execute a plan of attack to best defeat them.
Who can resist shooting fish in a barrel?
Due Process is about yomi, or knowing the mind of your opponent. It is a game about that recursive loop of "you know that I know that you know that I want to do this." It's a game about hatching the perfect plan to play your enemy. In other words, it's an Ender Wiggin simulator. No wonder that the lion's share of our audience is teenage boys.
There are a couple of solutions to mitigate the effect on the predictability, namely:
We could make the objects heavier, making them take more time to move.
This makes the defender’s phase less about planning and more about moving furniture. Not good.
We could update the cover’s position, so the attackers could plan better.
Fortunately, we already have some footage of this happening from an unrelated bug. Unfortunately, it looks really, really dumb, to the point of breaking immersion.
Courtesy of BlueDrake42
I’m sure you can come up with a few more of your own, and I’m sure we can shoot them down in our subreddit. That’s not the point.
The point is that designing without clear intent is a really good way to sink this project. We don’t need to focus on features that we think “would be cool” and but instead need to focus on features that bring something important to the table. We tried movable cover, and we found that it is inherently damaging to the game, so it’s time to move on.
In order to move on, we chose to look at why we wanted movable cover. There's a subtext to what people are asking for when they ask about movable cover, which is "will the defenders have more strategic options available to them?" The answer to that is yes!
We're planning on adding in powerful weapons with very specific applications (think automatic shotguns, sniper rifles, and booby traps), the presence of which can be plausibly revealed to the Police. These weapons and gadgets will have specific applications, which should make their deployment predictable. If you have a sniper rifle, you’ll need to think about where best to put it.
Of course, the cops will be thinking about where you’ll be putting it too...
So that's why movable cover's out. We’ve got better options and it brings nothing to the table. We could see an application for it in the future, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.