Creating Satisfying Combat Experiences

Report
Creating Satisfying Combat Experiences
At
Games
The Designer’s Dream

“drop in and play” enemy behavior

Less scripting and environment authoring

Less predictability, more procedural
surprise moments for the player
The Reality
Sadly, “drop in and play” is:

Chaotic

Incomprehensible

Frustrating
Solutions









Establish a Front
Create Layered Setups
Understand Combat Focus
Functional Cover Placement
Attack in Waves
Good Flanking Practices
Know When to Re-Direct the Front
Use High Priority Targets
Good Ally Usage
How did Insomniac Games
arrive at these concepts?
RCF: TOD and Resistance 2

Tightly directed by Insomniac veterans

Design staff experienced in the franchises

R2 had very linear spaces
RCF: A Crack In Time

Departures and promotions

Design staff noobs to the franchise

Less linear spaces
Back to the basics …
RCF: ACIT and Resistance 3

Immediate and dramatic improvements

Solid core combat means fewer changes

More effort can be put into dramatics
Hill 609 by Fletcher Martin
Establishing a Front

Establish two distinct fronts

Use the architecture to help define fronts

Use cover placement to define fronts

Front lines determine flanking opportunities
Enemy front?
No Man’s Land?
Player front?
Example of a poorly established front
A well-established front
Layered Setups

= 2 distinct setups both requiring enemies to
be present at the start

Keep layers clearly separated (combat
distance)

Use vertical space
Layered Setups

Player only truly engages the first layer –
second layer is spectacle

On the last 1-2 foreground enemies, pull them
back, move allies up, then allow second layer to
engage

Player rushes the second combat-area = engage
All on same level
Needs Layering
Tons of enemies
No separation
Well Layered
Combat Focus

= where the player’s attention is – the anchor of
the setup

It’s narrower than you think

Keep distinct – associate with geometry

Can have 2 – keep distinct – separate
geographically
Combat Focus

Keep cover positions pretty tight

Intro enemies into a tight “home” and keep them
there

Intros route new enemies behind the combat focus

Player exit/goal behind the combat focus
Exit off screen
Intros from too far
Enemies too spread out
Poor Combat Focus
Player’s FOV
Better Combat Focus
Cover Placement

Defining each setup should BEGIN with your cover
placement

Use cover to define the front lines and combat focus

Be conscious of facing and shape of cover

Use cover to lure the player into their initial combat
position

Use multiple cover positions to create player choice
Cover Placement

Resist the urge to randomly scatter cover for realism

Ideal Combat Distance between player and enemy
cover

Flanking cover = 1-2 pieces of good cover (rarely
more)

2+ cover positions for each shooter
Poor cover placement
Combat focus?
Front lines?
Initial combat pos?
Player choice?
Better cover placement
Waves - Composition

Enemies over time is key – waves are the way
to do this

First wave is the “gimmee” – it’s the second and
subsequent waves that are the real combat

Each wave is *about* a single – and different –
class of enemy
Waves - Composition

Filler enemies OK – but NOT a homogenous
mixture

Keep melee enemies and projectile enemies in
separate waves

Pacing across waves – build up to a crescendo
Waves - Intros

On last 1-2 enemies in current wave

Or on <40% health of single tougher enemy

Intro new waves through the current combat
focus – then fan out
Waves - Intros

Long intro paths, perpendicular to LOS

Stagger enemy spawns – temporally and
spatially

Dropships – intro through combat focus and
loop around battlefield
Waves – pausing between

ONLY when there is a story reason to do so

Exposition should happen here

As well as your allies repositioning themselves

This is usually a rare moment, that precedes a new
enemy intro or significant story event
Poorly done waves
Waves from afar?
Toughest enemy first?
Grunts in every wave?
Improved waves
Flanking

A solid combat focus and front lines allow for a
flank

1-2 good pieces of cover and a single path
define a flank (more = messy)

Let the player get anchored before flanking (8s
delay)
Flanking

Must flank through the combat focus

Must call out the flanking maneuver really well



Dialog/foley
First shot miss behavior
Additional wave makes a good flank, BUT this is
really Redirecting The Front
Bad Flanking
Flank from afar?
Front lines?
Clear flanking pos?
Better Flanking
Re-directing a front

You must establish a new front and combat
focus

Do on new wave entry

Retreat remaining enemies to their new front
Re-directing a front

Move allies up into their new front

Call out with dialog or significant event

Use the new combat focus to attract
player to setup exit
Needs redirecting
Now what?
Front Redirected
High Priority Targets

Usually tougher enemies

Take prominent positions



Use the geography to highlight them
Separate physical space from filler enemies
Wave is “about” this high priority target
Muddled priority
Just another in the mix
Improved Priority
Tight environments

Hand script each enemy

Enemies generally take a single position and stick to it

Sometimes fine to just let the enemies run wild


example: coming upon two easy enemies in a room with no
cover
these are usually quick surprise moments
Can clump up
Can wander off
Looks dumb
Poor tight environment work
Good tight environment work
Allies

hand scripted

go to specific cover points every time

in small encounters, stick to that cover point
indefinitely

in larger encounters, can have a small home area
Allies

keep allies and enemies separated

allies will define the front line and the
player’s initial position

allies should run ahead of the player to the
front line
Poor ally usage
Allies muddying the front
Player ahead of allies
Action off-screen
Better ally usage
How it all comes together …
Finally…

“no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader”

Do something unexpected

Surprise yourself

Surprise your leads

Surprise the player

similar documents