This FAQ was provided by the developers with their June 2018 Iron Harvest DevBlog #2.
1. Will there be official map making / modding tools?
This has been the most-asked question, not only in our Discord channel, but also during the Kickstarter. We understand it’s very important for some of you and I can honestly state that we will do our very best to have at least a map editing tool available at a certain point. Unfortunately, it is really not easy to develop modding tools for games that are being developed with the Unity engine.
There are examples of that, like City: Skylines or Sudden Strike 4. City: Skylines (the game itself) is basically a big level-editor, so a lot of the necessary work has been done already. The Sudden Strike 4 editor is a Unity editor expansion, but pretty difficult to use (or even to get up and running).
Thomas, Lukas and Arne will be at the Unite (Unity developer conference) in Berlin next week and talk to the Unity guys about how to tackle the problem. I’m not sure if we will be able to deliver something on release but, as said, we heard you loud and clear and it became one of our top priorities.
2. How do you plan to integrate the AI, both in singleplayer and multiplayer games (vs AI)? Will the AI be entirely scripted or will it be able to "learn" during a single match and adapt to human players units composition?
We are able to script any behaviour for any unit in certain situations, but the backbone of the game is a fully independent A.I. The A.I. operates on two levels. The lower level deals with individual units, squads and small groups of units. In combat, this A.I. decides things like what unit to attack next or if it makes sense to change cover.
On top of that, a more strategic A.I. plans and executes bigger manoeuvres like “attack over the right flank to conquer these two resource buildings” or “split units into two groups, so one group can defend position A while the second group can scout out the map”. This “strategic A.I.” also handles production and resources. The A.I. only knows what a human player would know, meaning it won’t cheat and, for example, observe “through the fog of war” what the player is doing.
At the moment, we do not plan to develop a learning A.I. that evolves. We haven’t started working on the strategic part yet and want to see how strong the A.I. is before thinking about how to make it even stronger.
3. How exactly will you handle melee combat? Will it be similar to Dawn of War, were most units have a ranged attack as well as a melee attack? Will you be able to force them to go melee like in DoW?
When you have a situation where, as an example, a rifle squad is being overrun by an enemy squad, they will switch to their available melee weapon to fight back automatically.
Many heroes and mechs/exo-skeletons on the other hand have one or more melee attacks at their disposal and you control these skills/actions directly. For example, the recon mech has a charge attack that you can aim and activate. The mech will then run towards the enemy and attack using its bayonet.
4. Due to the destructive environment there could be a time during a match where the battleground is "flat" due to the total destruction of everything. How will you manage keeping battlefields "interesting" during such long fights?
It is very unlikely you’ll see an entirely flattened battlefield without any remaining cover. During our countless testing sessions so far we never had a situation where everything was blown to pieces, not even close. There were always parts of buildings and other structures still standing, that, even if they were broken, would still be useable as cover.
Also, we are having some elements like trenches that won’t be destructible. Also, you or your opponents could always construct new fortifications by building up their base and/or using engineers to construct fences, barriers and so on. Lastly, you can also use mechs as cover for your infantry ;-)
5. Can you build freely on the map or are you limited to an area around your HQ?
Big buildings like your HQ or a workshop can only be built within certain areas. These provide plenty of room to build your base in any way you want and these areas are not necessarily limited to just one per map.
Smaller structures like fortifications, mine fields etc., can be built freely everywhere on a map. Everything that has to do with resources is, obviously, linked to the resource field.
6. Are you going for a full asymmetric faction design where each has its strengths and weaknesses at various stages of the games (regarding both infantry and mechs)? The three basic infantry squads clearly excel at different ranges so my question is more related to other units: for example, could we expect a faction missing HMGs entirely, or with more mech types but lacking a specific unit type?
The infantry troops are rather similar, as infantry units can pick up and use equipment found on maps. Independently of the faction, an infantry unit can equip tools and become and engineer unit. These units look different for each faction, but play the same.
However, it is another story when it comes to mechs, exo-skeletons and heroes. Those are unique for each faction and will feel very different from each other. Each unit and each faction has its own character, feel and tactical options.
The factions are not as different from one another as the factions in StarCraft, for example. But there are certain characteristics that might favour certain tactics or playstyles. We’re going to dive deeper into that topic in one of the upcoming DevBlogs.
7. As recently shown, a standard infantry unit can be tremendously flexible and adaptable by equipping them with different weaponry. Are there plans to allow the approx. planned 30 types of mech-like units to be loaded out with different weapon sets on the same chassis, similarly to infantry, and if so, will those differently equipped mechs count separately towards that intended goal of 30?
We are not going to have selectable equipment for mechs and exo-skeletons. We want each mech to have its own, unique characteristics and we want players to know what to expect when such a mech is coming at them. They are not easy to fight, so it would be unnecessarily tough to change their behaviour based on selected weapons or equipment. We will have around 30 unique mech/exo-skeleton units in the game and we want to make it easy for players to assess the situation so that they can come up with their own plan.
8. How will each campaign play out? Will there be choices (both tactical and those that affect the outcome of the story) or is it strictly linear?
The campaign itself will be linear, as we are telling an epic story with a beginning, a middle and an end over three campaigns. Proper pacing is important and we want to keep control over the character development and all the secrets and surprises. All of that is challenging enough without adding the extra complexity of a dynamic storyline. As we said before, our big reference when it comes to campaign design and progression is WarCraft III.
Now, for the “but”: within each mission, we want to give players as much freedom as possible, so do not expect scripted sequence after scripted sequence, but more open “sandbox levels” where there are many ways to win (and lose).
9. Can you get your hero to pet their animal when they are a good boy?
Now you can, man, now you can!
10/ Will there be fully customizable multiplayer rules (adding AI to the matches - pop cap limit - resources etc) ?
Yes, absolutely. We will introduce many options to customize both multiplayer rules and skirmish A.I. matches.
Besides population cap, start resources and so on, you can configure the overall skill level of the A.I. and its behaviour: is it an aggressive or a rather defensive enemy you are playing against? Does the A.I. prefer certain playstyles or unit types?
We’re also working on a system of “Bonus Challenges” (previously “handicaps”). These are basically bonus goals players can set for themselves in order to earn more XP. You think you can win with your units only having 75% HP or within a set time limit, or without losing more than 10 units? Then you can set these challenges for yourself and customize the match (and your goals) even more.