Jagged Alliance: Back in Action Developer Diary Part 7: Plan & Go
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action
Developer Diary Part 7: Plan & Go
Having spoken at great length in the previous diaries about the technical basics of the game and in particular the level design, we’ll now turn our attention to the slightly less dry aspects of the game: the gameplay.
We’ll talk first about a new feature in Jagged Alliance: Back in Action: the Plan & Go system.
The Plan & Go system could be described as an extended “real time with pauses” system. Back in Action essentially runs in real time, but the game can be paused at any time. The player maintains control of the game events even during the pause, and can input more entries which can only be implemented when the pause is removed.
This will already be familiar from other games, e.g. tactical RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate or Dragon Age: Origins. But what is new in Back in Action is the action timeline, whereby all the commands issued by the player while the game is paused are retained and listed. While in Baldur’s Gate players generally pause the game to issue an order, i.e. for the mage to make a fireball incant magic, and then continue the game only to pause it again several seconds later and issue a command to a fighter, in Back in Action you can issue a sequence of orders to several mercs to devise complex plans, so we like to refer to pause mode as planning mode.
All the orders you have given are not only shown in the action timeline as an overall strategy, but are displayed in the game world as markers, so you can see exactly which mercs will carry out which commands and in which order. Think of this process as a sort of table on which you can design a raid and refine it for as long as you want; only when you press the space bar to exit pause mode and quit planning mode to resume the game can you then observe how effective your plan is. You can of course pause the game the moment anything goes wrong, and then tweak your plan accordingly. When you revert to planning mode, you will again see all the current commands you have issued to your mercs.
The knack with the planning mode is that you can now synchronize your actions: for example, you can order Shadow to sneak around the enemy base to launch an ambush and attack a guard there, as meanwhile you bring Igor out from behind cover to take aim at an enemy. If you now want to stop Igor opening fire immediately, thereby raising the alarm among all the enemies before Shadow can get half-way to his target, you can simply link the two attack commands. This means that one of the mercs will automatically wait for the other, and will only carry out his action when his team mate is ready to start the linked action.
This method is simple, but effective. It’s fun to suss the enemies out and to tweak things here and there as you move your mercs into position as discreetly as possible to then launch the surprise attack!