When I first approached the idea of a true "point-buy" system where you may customize a PC to your liking, I thought it was either nearly impossible or waaaaay over my head to do it without the resulting game being super easy to break over your knee. A year and change later I'd start to think I could do that, but only if I could find a "Focus Point" for PCs. A Focus Point would be something for the various special abilities of Characters and Mecha to draw power from, power up, and be costed around.
Attributes are that Focus Point. They're the core of all Characters and Mecha, and therefore the core of the rules themselves. Might is what you use to attack other Mecha and Weapons are conditional bonuses to Might Tests, and nearly every Mecha wants to have some Might as a consequence. Energy does not do anything on its own, but it conditionally boosts all the other Attributes to make them all perform above average for a fraction of what it would normally cost. Systems protects you from Extreme Terrain and extends the Range of your guns, but is also directly tied to the power of Restoration and Support abilities.
Everything revolves around your Attributes and is balanced around them. Like with any design paradigms that you decide over others, this has its pros and cons.
Three Reasons it Works
It is simpler to create PCs with. Instead of forcing you to compare various premade classes to find out the one that does what you want for your PC best, you can just pick whatever you want from the start. If you want to be the strongest and fastest hitter on the battlefield then you know you need Might and Speed. If you want to be a walking fortress that's Guard and Threshold. If you want to have a flamethrower, forcefields, or the ability to fly you can just grab those without much trouble. Easy peasy.
It is simpler to play with. You don't have to worry about weapon damage tables, armor resistance types, hit location spreads, tracking ammo and fuel, radar systems or acceleration speeds and types of movement. The most complex and possibly finicky of the six are Energy and Systems, but at the base level they still are "Energy is how much juice I have per Turn and a point of Systems is a point of Range" and Systems only gets more complicated if you choose to build around using it as your primary or secondary Attribute.
It is easier to design and balance. This one comes with a caveat, but generally speaking it is so much easier to work with than any class-based or level-based system I've modified for my use or worked with as staff member. You have no idea, seriously. The caveat is that a pure class and level based system is easier on its own, but when you let people customize said classes and levels from a common pool of Skills/Talents/Feats/Whatever the balance almost inevitably tips greatly towards one or more classes.
Attributes are the primary reason the game works as intended, because it was engineered around them working the way they do. But with that said, it does have a few complications.
Three Complications it Creates
All PCs need a ton of XP. If we want the average PC to be reasonably competent, they will need a lot of points for said character. Not only do they need to have enough to get some Attributes, but they also need to have enough left for everything else afterwards. Finding the right balance between "just enough" and "too much" is difficult, and I'm glad that I have Power Levels to help with that. The consequence there is that low end PCs are a little lacking and top of the line ones have absurd amounts of XP, with the sweet spot being somewhere in the middle. Since you can use whatever Power Level you wish, that's not a big issue.
Attributes are often more efficient than abilities. Attribute purchases scale and abilities have a static price, but Attributes can't be too expensive or else we make the issue with the previous paragraph worse. This means that, for the first few raises, Attributes have to be cheaper than most abilities that revolve around them. Special abilities would be used to specialize and perform above average, but not before then. This means you'll be essentially purchasing Attributes for the most part with your first few points, and it tends to make low Power Level characters look a bit samey. Like with above, being able to choose your Power Level goes a long way.
Advancement is not all that exciting. Roughly half of your total XP (maybe a little more, maybe a little less) will be spent on Attributes. I think that increasing your Attributes is a good way to show that your PC is growing or powering up, but it is not as flashy as getting a new gun or learning a new robo-kenjutsu technique every other session. On the other hand that is more in line with how anime character progression works, and it does make each new ability you get feel more rewarding instead of being the powerup of the week.
We at Gimmick Labs are always looking for ways to improve the experience of our end users. I feel dirty having typed that out, but the point is that even if these quirks will always be there, I can always make them feel more like features than bugs. Thus the revamp to the Attribute advancement, XP, and Power Level system in our first Experimental Mechanics issue.
Enhancing the Game
There was quite a bit of talk about said revamp, and most of the disagreements with it seemed to come from the XP per Power Level, saying it was not enough to work as intended. My mistake came from keeping Attribute costs slightly lower and decreasing the total experience earned per Power Level to compensate, when it should have been equal or perhaps higher.
To be honest, more XP per Power Level is a change I can work with, and that I doubt anyone will mind. Would you like to have more toys or less? I am fairly certain the answer would be yes more often than not, I'm not even sure it is worth polling. What might be worth polling are the costs of each individual +2, though, but that's for later.
What I am more interested in keeping is Enhancing Attributes by 2 per advancement. I've stated above that you're going to do a lot of Attribute purchases, and while I provided a multitude of templates to make using them at various Power Levels easier, the actual purchases are more complex to work with. If you don't use any of the templates and want to customize your starting array, arranging your starting Attributes is kind of annoying. That is the primary reason behind this change. But it does have some nice side effects.
To continue our streak of explaining things by threes, here are three more beneficial side effects. Some of these are from last week, but one is new.
It does not alter the balance of the game. I can keep most XP costs as they are, and only would have to make some Upgrades and Weapons cost slightly less or more in terms of Energy, not all of them though, but for example most of the Upgrades that cost 5 Energy to use would cost 4 instead. I don't have to rewrite the rules significantly, except possibly those for NPCs. That means no builds are changing significantly other than by getting an XP boost.
We can start rounding things up. The primary reason that anything rounds down in this game is because a lot of Attributes are getting halved here and there, and causing those to round up would encourage you to have everything as odds rather than evens, making a 10 never worth it when you could get a 9. If Attributes are always even there is no rounding up or down to be done with them, so we can afford to make halved instances of Damage round up and speed up the game just an inch more.
We can break the Attribute cap of 10. More XP to go around and lower total XP costs means characters at PL 5 are effectively as Godly as the name of their tier implies. At that point they start to look the same again, not because they don't have enough to diversify, but because they've had enough to get everything. I think letting PCs achieve Legendary status with their Attributes is fair, it lets hyper-focused specialists remain the best at their fields and gives Bosses something to do beyond getting 10's in everything. I don't know how much it should cost, it could be 20, 25 or even 30. But the exact value can be settled later. The one thing I do know is that Grunts won't ever be touching this.
I really, really want to make this change work. If it doesn't, that kind of blows but we'll move on. But if it does, it'd be a pretty good improvement. My internet service has been terrible for the entire weekend so excuse the lack of images in between sections, just getting this posted was an ordeal in itself.