The gist of this post is simple; Cataclysm DDA was never meant to be just a zombie apocalypse. We can see this in the world already; there are triffids and robot cops and meteor impact sites and a whole bunch of creepy-ass Lovecraftian stuff. And now, since zombies have gotten fleshed out more a bit recently (pun), I think it’s about time we turn our collective eye to something else. I have chosen robots, because robots offer a lot of diverse gameplay options beyond ‘shoot them’ and ‘trap them in a window and hit them with sticks’. I think there’s a lot that can be done here, especially with the future plans to make the various creatures of the world spread over the map, but specifically right now as well.
To start with, some ideas for robot foes that I believe would make good additions to the game, without breaking the current atmosphere too much.
The Protectro 4000 :: Standing guard on street corners for the last five years or so, the 4000 model of the Protector series is a Certified Complacent ™ AI that will accept US currency in exchange for a temporary span of bodyguard work. Sporting a resilient quadruped chassis, mounted tasers with computer-guided accuracy, and a net gun for those quick getaways, the Protectro will keep you safe throughout your day, and even carry your shopping for you!
In game terms, the Protectro is either a stationary neutral mob that will only react if attacked. Zombies will ignore it, usually, since it’s not alive. And it only cares about protecting its client, which could be you! Finally, a use for those money bundles as something other than kindling. Beware, though. Sometimes these things could spawn ‘hired out’ to already-zombified individuals. They’re smart enough to know the difference, but apathetic enough to not care, and they will fight you if you try to take down their ‘clients’.
Farmer-class ML11 :: Just like a good farmer, the ML11 tends to its fields diligently. The difference, of course, is that a normal farmer plants seeds and reaps fruits and vegetables. The ML11 plants mines, and reaps a harvest of blood. Capable of reprocessing the matter of detonated explosives in its patrol path back into explosives, the ML11 will maintain a stable minefield within its target area. It isn’t armed; all that fancy internal factory machinery takes up space that we can’t waste on ammo. But it’ll follow orders well enough, if you’ve got the command rank to give them. Smart. Efficient. Just like a solider; only it makes its own bombs.
The Farmer is a good lead-in to what’s coming next, but to start off, it too has a method of subversion like the Protectro. Give it a military ID, and it’ll follow you like a puppy. A very explosive puppy. Otherwise, it’s content to follow its previous orders laying a semi-permanent and replenishing minefield. Sometimes, though, these things will be on the AI network, and taking orders from something a bit above you, so be careful. If you see one change patrols, you know that it’s likely to self-destruct if you approach it, rather than follow your orders.
Primary Matriarch :: What’s known in the language of the science fiction future as a Seed AI. The Primary Matriarch is capable of learning, and improving itself at an accelerated pace. It knows what it wants, it will stop at nothing to get it, and it thinks you are in the way. The two of you are awfully similar, aren’t you?
As far as the game goes, the PM is a late-game boss fight waiting to happen. As with fungal spires or triffid hearts, the longer you leave her to wait in her office highrise, the more you’ll see her robotic drones appearing in the world. If you manage to reach her, she’s an easy kill. Good luck with that, though, since every day means more and more deadly autonomous weapons put together by her robotic engineers and the survivors-turned-machine cultists that follow her. It will start small; a few scout drones, nothing to worry about. But soon, you’ll be seeing spider tanks and hunter-killers moving through the cities. They don’t care about zombies, either. Why should they? They have no flesh to eat. They just want to make sure that no living human is left to oppose their future.
These are just some basic ideas for potentially friendly to outright aggressive robot mobs that we could toss in. The use of projectile weapons by robots makes them a huge threat to players, and really pushes you to get some guns of your own. Also, this makes explosives really valuable, as well as giving a use to that stock of EMP grenades we all have. It also gives a way to ramp difficulty up as the game progresses and zombies become less of an issue.
As far as NEW gameplay goes, I have a few ideas. If you manage to sneak up on a robot under cover of darkness, there are a number of potential new tools you can make via the electronics skill. A simple short EMP (perhaps replacing the grenade in terms of material use) that will disable it for a time, allowing you to disassemble it for scrap or just leave it as a roadblock. A self-destruct trigger which would provide a more flashy solution. And, if you’ve got some computer skill to go with it, a hacking port that would let you take complete control of the bot. I’m sure there’s more ideas to be discovered, too, but these alone give a few options for players that don’t like guns and want to have some alternate paths to dealing with the robots.
Robots will also track you for longer than zombies, and are more dangerous as individuals, but don’t tend to travel in packs. This actually starts to make the trapping skill more useful, as players can rig up corridors of doom that would be useless against a zombie hoard, but are perfect against a single strong enemy. This is also a good reason to have a sturdy home to retreat to.
And that’s it. My ideas for robots. Add your own, critique mine, do your thing. You all know how this goes.