What Is Insomnia Legion And Why PA Needs It
This is the Future of Planetary Annihilation
Insomnia Legion is a single-faction, 4-tech-tier mod of Legion Expansion that also radically rebalances the base Titans mechanics and units, and PA needs it because it's freakin' awesome.
But let's take it from the beginning.
In the beginning, there was PA Classic, and it was a great game. Then Uber decided to release an expansion to it in the form of Titans, and it was a big success that added a lot of cool features and units to the game.
Unfortunately, Titans also had two great deficiencies whose full, long-term implications were missed in the rush of excitement for all the new content the expansion had delivered. These deficiencies were not actually bad new mechanics; they were old mechanics that had been dumbed down, mostly due to demands from certain player demographics.
The Dumbing-down of the Orbital Layer
The first deficiency was the removal of the Orbital And Deep Space Radar. Suddenly, all players gained God-like orbital vision across the entire system from the beginning of the game, and the cool little orbital-rush stealth strategies whereby you landed on a planet and then quickly sent your orbital fabber away, so that by the time your opponents had built their DSR they would have no idea you were on the new planet, were eliminated from the game. Uber has not given a reasoning for this change, as far as I am aware, but it is obvious that it dumbs the game down, so we reversed it. Moreover, we went even further by making the DSR very expensive and hard to build and maintain. The original DSR was a fairly cheap T1 structure, but we moved it up to T4, and massively increased its build cost and energy consumption, as befits the ultimate radar. So, in our version of the game, the orbital layer is far more complex than even in Classic, since until you tech up all the way to T4 to build the DSR you are forced to use regular radars for orbital scouting, just as you do in all the other layers. I am sure lots of players will find this uncomfortable, but think of how much more complex e.g. gas giant strategy will be now that proper scouting will be required for it. Gas giant mechanics have always been shallower than those of the other biomes, because of the lack of ground/naval and air layers, and the uselessness of radar merely made them even shallower. Insomnia Legion massively improves this issue.
The Dumbing-down of the Tier Mechanics
But the main deficiency of Titans that Insomnia Legion reverses is the cheapening of T2 that was introduced with that expansion. What happened there was that for many months after Ranked mode was originally introduced in Classic, a sizeable percentage of the 1v1 crowd was complaining that they rarely got to see T2 in Ranked. Which of course makes perfect sense: if you are playing 1v1 on a tiny planet, there simply isn't enough time or metal to tech up to T2 before the game ends. The solution was simple: play on larger systems and/or with more players, if you want to see all the units in the game. But the 1v1 crowd didn't care for team games, and Uber refused to put larger systems in the Ranked pool because then the Ranked matches would take far longer than the 15-20 minutes they usually take, and the 1v1 crowd would start complaining about not being able to requeue quickly enough to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for grinding for points. At the time, I cautioned that any lowering of the T2 cost to satisfy the 1v1 crowd would dumb down the game for the players who prefer large team games, since they would be able to pretty much instantly build everything, and leave them with nothing to build for the remainder of the match. But Uber didn't listen to me and to the few team players who were supporting me, they listened to the (far more vocal) 1v1 crowd, and slashed the T2 factory costs for Titans.
Fast-forward two years, and the damage is even greater than I had thought it would be, since now even some 1v1 players are complaining that T1 has been debased, and in the typical Ranked match you are expected to go T2 within five minutes. If this isn't dumbing-down, I don't know what is. The full extent of the damage was only brought home to me when Nosebreaker explained it to me in great detail on voice chat a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, that was during one of our earlier chat sessions, before I started recording them, so I can't simply give you the sound file to hear him for yourself, but I will do my best to convey to you here, in my own words, his explanation of why, as he put it, he "hates" the Titans balance.
In Classic, building the first T2 factory was a big risk. You had to build up a large enough T1 army first, so that when you started on the T2 factory you could sustain yourself on the battlefield without reinforcements for quite some time. It was not uncommon to see the first T2 at 15 or 20 minutes in, and the precise timing of it was an extremely delicate matter. During its long build time, your forces were very vulnerable on the battlefield, and the factory itself was extremely vulnerable to attack and disruption. If you lost it, it was a huge blow to your strategy, and if you finished it it was a huge relief and achievement. And even after it was built, it was such an important and valuable part of your strategy that the rest of your base would be centered and designed around it.
Tech tiers, in other words, should be balanced in such a way as to create HUGE GAPS between unit upgrades. In Titans, T2 is so cheap that the player can pretty much build any of the game's ten factories from the start. The only exception is orbital, precisely because orbital is hugely expensive, as T2 used to be in Classic. And that's why orbital rushing is still a risky strategy, but T2 rushing is so commonplace that everyone does it, all the time, dumbing down the complexity of the game, since it reduces the number of available, and viable, strategies.
All these problems are merely aggravated when it comes to large team games, and especially the huge 20-player Clan Wars that Insomnia hosts every week, that typically last 2+ hours. If Uber wants to listen to the 1v1 crowd and dumb their game down so that all units in the game are buildable within 12 minutes flat, there's nothing we can do about it, but that's why God created modding, so we can take the situation into our own hands, and create a complex balance that will provide us with stuff to build for the duration of the game. And that's why we reverted to Classic T2 factory costs. But we didn't stop there, because why stop there when in the meantime the Legion team has created 100 new units for us to play with?
The Inadequacies of Legion Expansion
The truth is that even with Classic T2 costs, you can still build all units in the game within 30-60 minutes in a large team game, depending on the number of players and the system's metal content, so if we want to have stuff to build beyond that, we need more units, and ideally more tech tiers. And that's precisely what the Legion expansion can easily give us with a little inventive modding done to it.
I got the idea for this when Team Burning leader Elite Sardaukar told me he wasn't a huge fan of Legion because he didn't think the new units were sufficiently differentiated. He said they were simply more powerful, more expensive versions of the original units, which in my mind is more or less what higher tier stuff is supposed to be. Further, after trying Legion myself, it became evident that the developers hadn't thought much about team games, and especially with large teams (which of course are my and this site's specialty); it seemed that they had mainly thought about 1v1. I came to this conclusion when I saw that in their mod you could mix MLA and Legion units in one team, so in a large team game of say 5+ people per team, there is no reason why all the teams can't have at least one Legion commander in their mix, and have all units available in the game at all times. But this negates the entire purpose of a second faction! The whole point of it is that you CAN'T have all units, and you must choose between them. And that's why the factions must be sufficiently differentiated, because the more differentiated they are the more interesting this choice becomes. So in Legion:
1. There is no choice at all to be made in team games, since you can have everything,
2. The choice you get in 1v1s is not terribly interesting because the factions have not been sufficiently differentiated.
Of course the quick solution to 1 would be to disallow MLA and Legion to mix in team games, but 2 cannot be solved so easily without a major redesign to make Legion far more unique (which Elite says might be impossible because Uber never got around to finishing PA's engine). Once I had established the above, I thought back to the main complaint of people who prefer SupCom to PA. You have of course the low-IQ crowd that can't wrap its head around spherical maps, but that complaint is easy to dismiss, because spherical maps are obviously superior in every way imaginable. But then you have the crowd that says that SupCom simply offers more units, and therefore more tactical complexity. That is the main complaint — and VALID complaint — against PA: not that it lacks a second faction, but that it lacks enough units and tactical complexity, compared to SupCom at least (though those people are leaving out of the equation PA's orbital layer, not to mention the interaction between separate battlefields that SupCom lacks, so with those added in I believe PA trumps SupCom on all fronts even without Insomnia's 4-tech-tier version of Legion). So the obvious solution to me at that point was to turn the Legion units into two extra tech tiers for PA's original "faction", and this is what we're doing.
By the way, it's worth pointing out that Uber's disregard for team games when they dumbed down the Classic balance to please 1v1 players is perfectly mirrored by the Legion team's neglect of how their mod would be used in team games, to the point where in some scenarios the player can't even access parts of his build bar:
In the above screen, the MLA Factory section and the Legion Orbital section are invisible and therefore inaccessible because the Legion team didn't plan for a player who would have access to all fabbers (i.e. the smartest move for team games with shared armies). Two years on from the release of Legion, the team is fixing tiny bugs every few months, but no one has so much as mentioned this glaring dysfunction, because they simply don't care about team games. Make no mistake about it: Legion is a fantastic expansion, but I submit that its value lies in the new units it introduces, while the alternate faction mechanics are not as well thought out as they could have been.
The bottom line is that the major new things PA brings to the RTS table are the spherical battlefields, the orbital layer, and above all the MULTIPLE battlefields, all of which innovations require LARGE TEAM GAMES WITH SHARED ARMIES to be properly played and enjoyed, and neither Uber nor the modding scene have quite COMMITTED to this format. They have created it and supported it, yes, but it is obvious that they have not COMMITTED to it in their development plans, or in the competitive events they have held and supported. So Exodus made Clan Wars, and it was by FAR the most successful event in PA history, precisely because it was an event for large teams with shared armies... and then they abandoned it, just like Uber essentially abandoned the very concept of tech tiers in the Titans balance, just like the Legion team apparently never stopped to think of how their new faction would be used in large team games. And this is where I and Insomnia are stepping in, to finally COMMIT to playing and developing PA and hosting events for it that are 100% designed for large teams with shared armies (and, therefore, essentially for clans, because a team of random people is not a team, it's just a bunch of random people; look up the word "team" in a dictionary if you don't believe me).
Our ultimate goal with the Insomnia Legion mod, then, is to provide an extremely deep, extremely complex balance that will REQUIRE large teams to play it at all, and that will facilitate multi-hour games in which the clans have new stuff to build throughout the entire duration of the war, so that two years from now, when new server processors have been released that are much faster than what we have available today, and we are playing 30-player Clan Wars that last for 3+ hours, we will have an appropriate balance in our hands that will do the event justice. Until then,
See you on the battlefield,