Mann VS Machine is nice. It’s a twist on normal gameplay, where you can make yourself an ultra strong monster of a mercenary, while defending a hole in the ground from a horde of robot monsters. Normally, you’re defending a control point from the enemy mercenary team, who are approximately the same strength as you, unless you’ve gone and stacked 7 sentries and a bunch of Demomen on Snakewater Last. The thing is though, Mann VS Machine is RED defending from BLU, because Gray’s robot army is weirdly tinted blue. So where is our game mode where BLU attacks RED, in robot form?
It wouldn’t be too hard to do. People already know how to attack and defend from playing endless amounts of Dustbowl. The robots, which use the basic AI of the TF_bots, know how to attack and defend too. They even have the rudimentary basics of Capture the Flag. So how do we put this all together into a coherent Mann VS Machine attacking game mode?
First off is picking a game mode we can base it off of. Current MvM uses a twist on Capture the Flag/Special Delivery, you have to stop them from getting the bomb to your base. An offensive version would require the mercenaries destroying something in return. The obvious idea would be to carry your own bomb into a robot factory or something, the polar opposite of what we currently have.
This does kinda introduce a problem though. There’s theoretically an infinite number of robots. There’s only six of you, and you’ll be throwing yourselves into sentries and giant robots and all sorts. You’ll die a lot. But you can’t really afford to die and drop your bomb in the midst of a swarm of robots. Gameplay-wise, it makes sense, but thematically it seems a bit silly, much less of a Last Stand Against The Robot Menace.
Perhaps a combination of Capture the Flag and Control Points, where you open up new pathways? Maybe that’s too complicated. MvM works because it’s simple on the surface but has a hidden level of difficulty underneath.
So what about Payload?
It makes sense. BLU is very good at pushing bombs. Of course, there’s not going to be a set of railway tracks to push the bomb along, but you don’t need tracks to push a bomb on a cart, just some wheels. The idea of BLU fighting off waves of enemies while slowly pushing bombs into place sounds interesting.
There are two ways we can do this: the push-along-one-path route, or the stage route – Either like Badlands or Goldrush. A game like Badwater though would have downsides, as there’s often no save point, no chance to stop and recharge, get your buildings up, charge your Uber, you just need to keep on pushing. A stage route makes more sense. Three to five stages, each one pushing a bomb cart into a sensitive part of a robot factory, with the grand final being having one of your team pull a switch, causing a giant explosion. Having separate stages means you get to have a regular setup time to buy upgrades and stuff, fitting more nicely alongside MvM Defense.
Of course, a single stage map could work, maybe as a super hard challenge mission. It would still need stop offs, so people can buy upgrades, one of the game mode’s bigger selling points.
Having a payload cart also has other benefits. It gives you some mobile cover and gives you some extra healing, a bit of a necessity when playing against humans, 100% needed against hordes of defending robots. Carrying a bomb on your back like intelligence is both a bit robot-y and a bit suicidal and it gives no protection.
I do hope we’ll get an offensive version of Mann VS Machine. It’ll make a change from the campy style of defending what is essentially a hole in the ground.