Posts tagged ‘combat’

Bad Guys Don’t Play Nice

This post goes along with the previous post on combat. Besides being short and sweet (or not so sweet if you get yourself killed) when thinking about combat it needs to be remembered that bad guys aren’t going to fight fair. Unlike MMOs today where the mobs will just stand there and trade blows with you, “real” bad guys don’t want to do that. They’ll set up ambushes, traps, run away if the fight goes sour on them, etc. Players will need to change the way they think about taking on the bad guys if they want to come out on top, let alive just survive.

Any time a player has to enter into hostile territory, he needs to start thinking about several things:

  • What in the immediate area can kill me?
  • What in the immediate area can hide things that can kill me?
  • What in the immediate area can let the bad guy know I’m here?
  • Is the immediate area even the best way to go?
    The last is something that needs to be considered by the area designer. The bad guy is almost never going to want a direct route that leads to him that’s easily discoverable by players. This is part of why mission planning is going to be important. If the player doesn’t know how to find the bad guy, he shouldn’t just be able to follow a path to him.
    The first 3 are also things that need to be considered by area designers, but in a different way. Even if the area the player is in doesn’t lead to the bad guy, it needs to appear that it might and thus, needs to have things that are hazardous to the player, although not overwhelmingly so. Thinking like a bad guy means that the stuff the designer puts into or near an area of the bad guy’s lair costs money and bad guys are probably going to be cheap about what he leaves lying around, unless the bad guy is a multi-millionaire, which shouldn’t be common, obviously.
    What kind of cheap but deadly things might players encounters in an area? Things like mines, pits, things that a character might touch that are electrified, trip wires that release gases, etc. are all usually staples in a bad guy’s arsenal, though they’re also all pretty cliché. Still, some of the usual suspects should be used to satisfy the player’s expectation.
    The area designer is also going to have to consider how players might be able to escape or evade these things in order to keep things fun for the player. A trap that is unavoidable that kills the character 99% of the time isn’t going to be fun and if the game isn’t fun the player will not continue to play. Typical building architectural pieces like ventilation shafts, fire escapes, rear entrances, and roof accesses are all things that should be options to be considered when designing the area a bad guys makes his HQ in. Most bad guys in the game are going to use regular buildings as their lairs so these things should be present, although possibly booby-trapped in keeping with the thinking above.
    Depending on the bad guy, he also might not want to kill agents that come knocking at his door, so traps may be non-lethal. Not only does this give the player a better chance of making it to the bad guy it also means the designer has to plan for what happens if the traps incapacitates the character. Is there a part of the lair that can be used as a holding cell? How thorough are the minions of the bad guy going to be in making sure the character doesn’t have anything on him that will allow him to escape? How escapable is the holding cell going to be (again, it might just be an office in the building the bad guy has holed up in)? Is the bad guy going to want to interrogate the character and, if so, how is this going to play out in the game?

Ultimately, building a world that is both fun and exciting for the player for several years of game playing time and one that is also not just another standard MMO is going to be challenging. I think it’s something that has to be done though, to bring some freshness back to the genre and pull in players like myself that have given up on MMOs that devolve into grindfests and new players that are looking for something different.

Spy Game Design – Combat

The next area to make over in MMOs is combat. I like some elements on combat in MMOs, but overall it’s not very exciting. Mostly it devolves into “OK, I’m gonna hit you now, then you can hit me”.  There’s very little strategy in combat systems. I know things like chains and combos exist, but really – why would my attack be more effective just because someone in my group did a specific attack? It makes very little sense.

Part of the problem with combat in MMOs may be because AI is a little lacking. How many of you ever just ran around a couple of corners in a dungeon because your health was low and the mob lost interest and went back to his “guard post” (which is another point – why is the mob just standing there?!? Doesn’t he have anything better to do?).

How about MMOs where you can zone to escape combat? Nice for the player I guess and I used it a lot during my MMO playing days, but it’s seriously unrealistic. There needs to be some element of danger to combat and that’s lacking in every MMO I ever played, once you get to higher levels. (tangent thought – how many people felt stupid when you got killed by a giant rat or some kind of bug? 🙁 )

Some things I’d like to see in the combat system for this spy game:

  • Realistic fire rates for weapons
  • Range modifiers
  • AOE for grenades and such
  • Specific damage locations and targetted areas
  • Decreased ability due to wounds (that carries over after combat maybe)
  • Effective cover (think Gears of War)
  • Effective stealth attacks
  • Incapacitating civilians for stealth missions
  • Consequences for combat in public (law enforcement, compromised cover, civilian casualties, agency discipline, etc.)

Overall, I’d say combat should be rare and quick. Prolonged firefights only happen in movies, mainly due to running out of ammo.

Would an MMO that didn’t focus on combat be interesting enough to play for the time it would take to get to level 50 in WoW? I think it could be, but it would take a lot of interesting missions in an interesting world.

Spy Game Design – Inventory and Related Areas

So in thinking over how inventory should be handled, I came up with a couple of issues:

  • # of weapons that are carryable
  • ammunition for said weapons
  • reload time based on location of ammunition
  • how does ammunition affect combat
  • how much gear should be reasonably allowed to be carried, even considering strength
  • how gear is obtained
  • First off, I wanted this to be semi-realistic, which means unlimited weapons and ammo are out. This should be more about the skills of the character than just being able to blow away all the enemies standing in the way of the completion of the mission. Two, maybe three weapons max is reasonable IMO.

Obviously, realistic weapons mean those weapons have to have realistic ammunition in terms of type of # of rounds. This brings into play how many clips a character can carry and where are these clips stored. A character can reasonably have a couple of clips quickly available, but if he gets into an extended firefight, after these clips are used up, it’s going to take longer to get to others and reload. That means combat resolution has to take this into account. Not a big problem but making the combat fun and still keeping these things in mind is an issue. Having weapon cooldown between clips like spell cooldown in fantasy MMOs seems a good way to handle this. The cooldown obviously changes based on how many clips are used. This also means clip location has to be handled in the inventory. Again, no problem, just something that has to be noted in the design.

Gear loadout is going to change mission to mission of course. The agent would get this gear at the agency headquarters, assuming that’s where he gets the mission. I’m imagining missions can be obtained on-the-fly in the field. These missions would provide more XP, since it would possibly mean some improvising, thus making the mission completion harder. (note to self – document in design doc :D)

Obviously, gear selection is going to be tailored to the mission type – the character isn’t going to be able to select a rocket launcher on an infiltration mission (geez, another thing to note in the DD :\). The character also isn’t going to be able to load up on every piece of equipment that could possibly fit the mission, so how do we determine how much equipment the character can carry while keeping in line with the where is it stored idea noted above in the ammo discussion. The time to retrieve this equipment isn’t as important, usually, since it’s mostly used during non-combat times, but still – even the biggest backpack can only carry so much and the character has to have the strength to handle it. Does this mean every item has to have a property to tell how much area it’s going to take up along with it’s weight? Possibly. Is this the best way to handle it? Don’t know yet, what do you think?

I envision a black market being available in the game where equipment can be obtained in the field, which means the character has to carry money of the type used in whatever country he’s in. Where does the character get this money? Agency HQ, hideout/safehouse in the city he’s in, stealing it? All these are possibilities I guess. This means a fairly robust game world with a lot of NPCs that can be interacted with in a lot of ways, but that’s a good thing IMO. Most NPCs in MMOs are usually just placeholders for things like training, getting quests, buying and selling loot, etc. They’re not really non-player characters. This is one thing I’d love to see changed in MMOs. Yes, it means a lot more work, but it’s a big thing that needs improvement.