Broken Bots Preview

Broken Bots is a multiplayer twin-stick shooter with some rather unique combat mechanics that landed on Steam Early Access this month. I sat down with the Early Access build, played with what’s available so far, and asked a few questions of Broken Bots devs Bunnycopter. Now I’m ready to bring you the latest on the game – strap in and get ready for glitches, here comes my Broken Bots preview!

Related Video EBongo and I did a Broken Bots stream, and you can catch up on our YouTube channel if you missed it.

Broken Bots Preview: Team Deathmatch

Broken Bots is a top-down twin-stick shooter at its core. The bots themselves can rotate and fire in any direction, independent of the direction they’re currently moving. Geometry Wars really led a modern renaissance of this genre, although competitive multiplayer is not a feature that is seen often.

With Broken Bots, however, the focus is definitely on multiplayer. The offline modes are all versus AI controlled bots, but the real action is online. Teams of up to 8 players face off in a set of game modes that will feel familiar to any online shooter veteran – Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill all make an appearance in the Early Access version.

Broken Bots Preview: Bot Loadout

Each player controls their own bot, and each bot can be customized to change its weapons, secondaries, and vital statistics. In the Early Access version, the range of these choices is somewhat limited, although updates to drop additional options are planned.

The Good (and Bad) Kinds of Glitches

Broken Bots Preview: Glitching

As bots face off against each other, they are inevitably damaged. Being damaged to the point of becoming “overloaded” causes various glitches to occur. The screen takes on an “busted CRT” effect, as well. These glitches can be positive or negative – if you’re hit with a positive glitch, for example, your fire rate might go through the roof or your gun might switch to spread fire. On the flip side, you might find yourself unable to shoot straight, or not able to move as fast.

The glitch mechanic factors into a couple of other systems in the game. If you collect enough glowing blue “energy,” you’ll have a chance to negate an incoming glitch. Meanwhile, destroying the enemy generator causes the entire enemy team to get hit with glitches simultaneously. Again, this might work in your favor, or it might not – so it’s a bit of a gamble.

Broken Bots Preview: Generator and Energy

Broken Bots is still really early, although the core functionality all works. The AI is generally pretty decent, and my few complaints with their behavior were mostly addressed by a patch a day or two after the Early Access launch. I only managed to find one online game during the couple of hours I was playing to write the preview, and it was a bit on the laggy side. There’s still a lot of content missing – there’s just a few weapons and secondaries to choose from, and it seems like more variety is still on the way.

Q&A With Bunnycopter

After playing for a couple of hours, I rounded up all my notes and asked a few questions of the Bunnycopter team. Here’s what I asked, and what they had to say:

WOTS Broken Bots is a multiplayer-focused shooter. The challenge with games of this type is that they live or die based on the strength of their online community. How do you plan on growing and sustaining the community for Broken Bots?

Bunnycopter Well, this is the absolutely hardest question to answer regarding Broken Bots and one we’ve given a lot of thought. I don’t think there’s a magic formula here but I’ll try to list some of the thing we have in mind.

  • We’ve included both offline and online AI enemies so players will never end up on an ’empty’ server.
  • Engage with the community ourselves: try to figure out how people are playing the game, what they like and dislike. Adding or removing features based on the community’s input and tweaking gameplay continuously. Certainly during Early Access – but also post launch. We believe that making the game as fun and engaging as possible will lead to more people playing the game, therefore having more people to play with!
  • We’re planning to organize fixed play sessions at certain times in order to get people to play together. We’re hoping the community will sort of pick up this idea and run with it and start organizing play session without us. We’ve got leaderboards in the game already and we’re hoping people will really start competing for the top spots there.
  • Keep players interested in the game by adding content. This is something that’s going to be most apparent during the Early Access period but we plan to continue post launch. We’ll be adding a proper single player mode that’s a proper campaign, and we’re adding at least 2 more multiplayer game modes, one of which is cooperative. We’re also adding local multiplayer (split-screen) which actually works in both the offline and online modes, we’re going to expand the number of maps, weapons, passives, skills, etc. And these are just the ideas we’ve planned ahead of the Early Access. We’re very open to community input so I’m sure many an idea to engage players will be triggered by the community.
  • Expand the ranking system. The ranking system will become a much larger factor than it is right now once a lot of the content above gets added.
  • Give people the tools to make their own content. We’ve got a map editor that we developed for internal use but we’ll be adding that to Steamworks. Here again, the idea is that people will start doing their own thing and that things will sort of snowball from there.
  • And finally… getting the word out!. We’re going to get as many people as we can to play our game. We are putting a lot of effort in reaching out to YouTubers/streamers/reviewers and getting them to play the game, and write reviews. All that, from our side, is really aimed at getting people to play the game. We’ll do sales once they become appropriate, we’ll attend conventions, anything to get people to give Broken Bots a chance.

WOTS There’s sort of a “build your own bot” concept here, but I’m not certain what level of interesting choices there will be in bot creation. Right now it seems like the bulk of the bots use very similar weapons. What percentage of the loadout options are available now versus how much is planned for launch? What interesting things do you guys have planned but haven’t been implemented?

Bunnycopter The amount of available bots, weapons and skills is one of the main things we will expand on during our time in Early Access, which will definitely add more variety here. Weapons and skills are one of the most fun parts of the game to tinker with, and for that reason it is the area in which we get the most feedback and suggestions from players. We would like to keep our options open rather than stick a percentage on it, but you can expect most large updates during Early Access to include new weapons and skills. Aside from the functional loadout we would also like to include more cosmetic options so that players have more control over the look and feel of their bot in battle.

WOTS The malfunction system is certainly a unique feature of Broken Bots. What was the inspiration for it?

Bunnycopter It’s inspired by real life. Why does technology in games work so flawlessly while we encounter bugs and malfunctions every day? When is the last time your weapon misfired in your favorite FPS? We figure even futuristic technology will always have its flaws and decided to build a game around that. Also, whenever you do see some sort of technical malfunction in games, movies, and TV, it’s almost always a system wide malfunction. Things will explode, systems will shut down, which often makes for good drama. However, technology does not really work that way, does it? Once we started building it, we felt that it added a certain amount of tactical thinking to the game, certainly if you can cause them on your enemies.

WOTS I see that the malfunction system screws up your HUD even when it’s working in your favor. Is that intentional? How does it effect the balance of getting a positive malfunction?

Bunnycopter Yes it is. First of all it provides the player with feedback about what is going on. We want a player to know he is malfunctioning, even if the end result is positive. Secondly the effect helps with keeping the effect balanced. Further punishing a player for a “bad” malfunction and rewarding a player for a “good” malfunction just caused it to become impossible to do well when malfunctioning in a “bad” way while causing a player to become decidedly overpowered when experiencing a “good” malfunction. In the end, a malfunction is still supposed to be a malfunction, even if it helps you.

WOTS The malfunction system is also something of a wildcard element in the game. There’s no telling if it will hurt or help you. How do you plan on balancing it in a way that fits with the rest of the game’s challenge curve?

Bunnycopter Well, we’ve gone through a few iterations of the malfunction system and the current method is where we landed on. The most important thing about the malfunctions is that they’re all LEARNABLE skills.

We really tried to make it so that every malfunction can be handled by an experienced player. To me, the best example of this is the inverted controls malfunction. Sure, it’s annoying and even after you’ve had the malfunction many times, it’ll still throw you for a loop for a second. But as a players become experienced in the game, they become better and better at steering with inverted controls or just dealing with any malfunction.

The other way around is the same. I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s a small amount of kickback to each weapon. Say you have a highly increased fire rate. All of a sudden the kickback becomes so powerful that you’re almost unable to move towards the direction you’re shooting in. So again, you’re not being rewarded as much as you’d think AND an experienced player might use this kickback to boost his speed by shooting in the opposite direction of where he’s moving.

WOTS The best multiplayer shooters reward thinking outside the box and developing new battle plans. What’s a strategy that you’d expect advanced players to use that isn’t obvious to newcomers?

Bunnycopter Well, using the energy/generator is a big one. Whilst easy to overlook, it can be a powerful tool in shifting the balance of power. Even if every member on the other team experiences a positive malfunction somehow (this is highly unlikely), the sudden change in play style for the entire team might give you a split second to perform a decisive action, such as carrying out an objective. Likewise, the passives are often overlooked. They may seemingly provide minor boosts to certain stats but if combined in a way that suits your role in the game at the time (defending an objective, attacking, generally causing mayhem) they can boost your performance significantly.

Broken Bots
Links:Homepage, Steam
Release:8/4/2015 (Early Access), 2016 (Full Release
Price:$6.99 (EA Version)
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