Community 2K Exclusive Developer Blog: The Mechtoid
- By Kate Distler
- 2K Games
- Community Manager
- Fri Sep 27, 2013
Hello Commander. Welcome to the second in a series of Community exclusive developer blogs. I am thrilled to have Ananda Gupta, lead designer for XCOM: Enemy Within, able to answer some of your questions. Keep posting those questions to our Facebook pages and twitter and you may see one answered here in the coming weeks.
The Mechtoid: Evolution of an Enemy
When we decided to add mechanized cybersuits to the XCOM arsenal, there was little doubt the aliens would get a new mechanized unit as well. We discarded the idea of doing a “light” mechanized pass on several aliens while keeping their animation sets; this didn’t distinguish the new mech elements enough. So we had to pick one, and settled on the Muton. The Muton seemed like a natural choice; culturally very attracted to impressive armor and firepower, and occupying a bruising front-line combat role. But as we kicked the idea around it made less and less sense. Mutons already wear distinctive heavy armor; the mech elements would have to be very exaggerated if they were to make sense visually. And mech elements would simply add to the Mutons’ strengths. Why not mechanize an alien who really needs it?
And thus the Mechtoid was born. The Sectoid emerged as a clear choice; how could the weakest alien in the game pass up the chance to put on a cybersuit and hand back some punishment? (Plus, the Mechtoid’s name just wrote itself on the whiteboard!) And Sectoids’ Mind Merge ability led to a natural opportunity to introduce some variation. By giving the Mechtoid a Psi Shield when it receives a Mind Merge, we let Mind Merge remain relevant in the mid-game, and introduced some neat variation on an ability players understand pretty well. Obviously the downside to Mind Merge – the fact that killing the originator causes the target to die as well – couldn’t stand for the Mechtoid, since that would give him too dramatic a weakness. So instead killing the Mind Merge’s originator gives a feedback effect, cancelling the shield and causing light damage to the Mechtoid. Since the shield also halves all incoming damage when it is intact, as well as providing a renewable health buffer, this is a very valuable tactic.
Mechtoids’ offense is also something for players to reckon with; Mechtoids can shoot twice, although they will prefer to split their fire instead of focusing on one enemy. This is mostly for the sake of fun, and to give players some counterplay options. But if you leave a Mechtoid with a single valid target, it will take the opportunity to burn that target down! Moreover, Mechtoids’ damage scales up substantially on higher difficulty levels, so they can be very challenging to deal with, especially when shielded.
When a Mechtoid is killed, it generates two “corpses” – that of the Sectoid pilot, and a “mech core” representing the wreckage of the suit. The Sectoid corpse is just like any other Sectoid corpse; Mechtoids thus provide a means to get additional Aim modules for interception later in the game, or to catch up on the Autopsy if all Sectoid corpses were sold or turned over to the Council. The Mech Core, conversely, unlocks new technologies: the Shaped Armor Foundry project adds extra health to all MEC Troopers and SHIVs the player deploys, and another Foundry project, Advanced Servomotors, will increase mobility for those units as well. While costly, these projects can really improve your MECs’ and SHIVs’ survivability and flexibility in battle. Finally, Mechtoids grant a small amount of Meld when killed. This caused some controversy; some team members felt that this removed pressure to recover Meld canisters later in the game, whereas others felt that players needed another Meld source and killing the more difficult aliens would be a good way to supplement Meld reserves. In the end we decided to go with the latter approach, but to leave those rewards exposed in INI files so modders would be able to try it either way (or increase them!).
I feel like the Mechtoid came together extremely well. Once we got clear on the concept, the whole team jumped on it and got it working perfectly. It feels simultaneously like an old-school XCOM unit with its name and role, but also like a very modern type of enemy with its slick, curved visuals and its tactical combination with its unarmored brethren. We all think players will have a lot of great stories to share about fighting the Mechtoid in XCOM: Enemy Within!