Conceptual Aspects

Here, I try to retrospectively expose some conceptual considerations that had a central impact on the creation of Squar. My aim (for which I expect the reader to be familiar with the game mechanics) is to expose the relationship between the central elements of the game and the purpose with which they were designed. I hope that my considerations are comprehensible and emphasize that this explanation of selected aspects is not to be understood as a design document.
1) Basic Mechanics The central challenge was to compress the game elements of RTS games (conquest of territory, units that work according to the paper/scissors/stone principle, collecting resources) to a minimum amount of space. In the following, I will explain four selected aspects of the game mechanics. Although these aspects are strongly correlated I will present them in isolation for ease of understanding .
a) Game Board Given only a single static screen for up to 4 teams, it was a central problem to somehow represent the conquest of areas of the game board and create a strong feeling for territory. The conservative „chess board“ (in contrast to an analogous game board) together with the conquest of single squares with a converter – comparable to a domination mode with 15x15 flags – grant a maximum amount of gameplay relevance to the available space. At the same time, the color of the squares creates a strong feeling for territory.
b) Game Goal Due to the compressed space all players are in confrontation at any point of time. Thus I did not want the collection of resources to require any further attention of the player. As a consequence I united the domination aspect (cf. a) with the resource aspect: Your territory is at the same time your infrastructure to collect resources and the goal of the game is achieved by connecting so called energy sources with your base. This yields the satisfying „gatherer effect“ on the one hand and on the other hand satisfied my necessary criterion to have a game goal that does not come down to simple confrontation (à la Deathmatch). Instead the „kill/death ratio“ is subordinated to a more strategic element. Both aspects majorly account for a positive feeling especially for the loser of a match.
c) Map diversity A nice-to-have criterion for Squar was a map editor that can significantly support the formation of a strong community and also greatly enhances long-term motivation.
The modular construction of the maps (cf. a) greatly abetted the implementation of an editor and in particular allows (due to the small amount of information per map) for the exchange of player-generated maps in the lobby in real-time.
Placing energy sources (cf. b) at different positions on a map yields a unique semantics for each map. Thus, maps do not only look different but they also play differently and require different winning strategies.
d) Units RTS games (as well as the Battlefield series) strongly rely on the idea that different units can defeat one another according to the paper/scissors/stone principle. For a clear arrangement the player-controlled hover tank should (by applying different upgrades) assume the rolls of different units.
Another approach to make multiple units available to the player without violating the clear arrangement was the introduction of a base weapon that extends the battlefield as well as the game’s complexity.
2) Power-Ups Access to upgrades is controlled by power-ups that spawn randomly on the battlefield. This breaks the symmetry between players and raises the fun factor by introducing some well measured factor of randomness: picking up an upgrade does not automatically activate it. Instead power-ups can be saved, giving you access to different levels of upgrades. In particular, the player may decide at any point of time, if and when he wants to activate an upgrade at the current level.
This central consideration implements the game’s strategic demand, as it allows for a dynamic reaction to the behavior of your opponent. Furthermore the resulting different levels of upgrades deliver a feeling of exclusiveness to a player whenever he makes it to a level three upgrade.
The fact that you can not or hardly attack enemy squares with your standard weapons establishes a strong relation between the infrastructure aspect and the upgrade aspect in an elegant way.
The possibility to make your opponent lose the collected power-ups by destroying his tank completes the idea.
3) Controls The idea to make different units available to the player, while still maintaining a simple control system and taking the restricted space into account lead to a system in which the player can control three units: The tank chassis, the tank turret and the base carriage.
Controls were kept as simple as possible and only include the sticks, the triggers and the shoulder buttons. This control scheme accommodates the game’s speed, as you never have to take your thumbs off the sticks.
The inertia in the tank’s movement has already been optimized for online gaming and the resulting latency issues.
4) Unlock System Given the originality of the game together with its complexity it requires a stepwise explanation for newcomers. Additionally, the complete strategic potential (and thus the fun factor) of Squar becomes available only when all elements are integrated into the game.
Making the game elements accessible in a stepwise manner guarantees that the player is not  overstrained and also delivers a temporary motivation while learning the game, namely being promoted and the curiosity for the next unlockable upgrade.