New Dev Input On Combat May 28, 2015 11:46:12 GMT -8
Post by Chrissy The Blesser on May 28, 2015 11:46:12 GMT -8
COMBAT: FINDING THE FUN
Let’s talk COMBAT.
As you know, we’re going to be inviting our first external testers to explore the combat system late this summer. Today’s update is to talk about where we are going and how we hope to get there.
First, we should answer this question: What is the purpose of the “core combat” milestone?
“Find the Fun.” This is a phrase that game developers use when they talk about building new game systems. When designing a game system, you have to decide how much ‘innovation’ you can afford.
The simple fact is that a lot of ideas sound fun on paper (or a whiteboard) and turn out NOT to be fun in practice. Even worse than that, sometimes ideas that COULD be fun aren’t because implementation issues crop up (bugs, gross imbalance, UI issues, bad framerate, whatever) that effectively ‘hide’ the fun that you should be having.
Why was Tetris fun? It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why this combination of elements was more fun than all of the other ‘falling pieces’ games that came before (or, frankly, since).
Therefore, the chances of your development team finding the fun in any game is, quite often, a function of how many chances you have to iterate on it. You start with a strong suspicion that there is gold right here, and you keep digging until you find it.
As we’ve said before, we think combat is our most important subsystem. Once we make combat fun, we will have a solid foundation on which we can build a great game. And the key to making combat fun is iteration:
- Build it
- Play it
- Change it
It’s amazing how often teams have to move forward on building the game before they ‘find the fun’. I know! Sounds crazy, right? It’s actually quite common. Honestly, we’ve all done it.
No one can predict how long it will take to find the fun, and time is ALWAYS in short supply. Business realities inevitably dictate that you can’t afford to wait some indeterminate length amount of time for your team to find the fun before you can start making content.
How are we going to avoid that? We’re going to be as smart as we possibly can about ordering the content – move low risk items forward, push the unknowns out as far as possible – and get to work IMMEDIATELY on finding the fun. Start at the beginning of the project, and then squeeze as many iterations as you possible can into your production schedule.
OK, so how does the iterative process look?
It might be a lot different than what you are used to seeing because even companies that use the iterative approach typically hide it. It’s kind of messy. The first version we are going to put in front of you is going to look a LOT different from the final product.
If your goal is to minimize the number of iterations, you don’t spend time on stuff that is likely to change. The key tenets are:
1. Do less, but do it better. Include only the features, art and content that you need to test a concept – nothing more. Anything else is a distraction (or worse, it could hide the fun).
2. Try out ideas, then kill them quickly if they don’t work. This is a concept known as “fail quickly”. If an idea just isn’t going to work, better to find that out as quickly as possible and move on.
3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. ‘Finding the fun’ is an exploration game, and every iteration reveals a bit more of the unmapped space. You can’t explore a problem space without going down a few rabbit holes.
4. Learn and adapt. Every iteration gives you more data to work with. Use that data to make measured changes to the system, and try again… and again… and again… and again…
Let’s say that we need to test the ramparts around a castle wall and, due to movement speed and jump height being still in flux, we aren’t sure yet if that wall should be 15 feet high or 20. Rather than guess, and then spending a few months of art time adding detail to that wall – only to get it into the game and find out that it was too high – instead spend an hour building one version, then get it into the game as quickly as possible and try it out. Don’t build the detailed wall until you know everything you need to know.
What does this mean for me?
It means that you will likely be testing combat on a castle wall that looks like a grey box.
It also means that a day later, that wall might be taller… or shorter… or gone completely.
The key is quick iteration. As a tester, you’re going to be using your imagination to fill in a LOT of gaps in the gameplay experience:
Interfaces will stress function over form. Environments will be untextured and blocky as we focus on flow and movement rather than appearance. Archetype selection will be extremely limited, because we’re only building the ones we need to test powers, skills and features -- as they come online.
Remember the process that we outlined, above: Build, Play, Change, Repeat.
Is this going to change how you communicate with us?
Yes and no. The process will be oddly familiar.
Between now and late summer, it means that we’ll be releasing the combat information in small, digestible chunks. Some of that information will make sense, some of it will be puzzling and some of it will inevitably change as we iterate.
Hopefully, by the end, we’ll have a fun experience and you will all see how it all fits together.
Wait – that sounds like the game of rampant speculation! You sneaky bastards, you’ve been training us on this approach all along, haven’t you?
No, I wish we were that smart. J
The approaches are similar because both of them focus on the timely release of information on a structured cadence…
…but the difference is that with the “game of speculation” we had a firm view of the destination. This time, the process is iterative; this is an exploration expedition. We know the direction that we are heading, but we won’t know the exact destination until we get there.
That sounds ominous. How do you know you’ll find it?
We don’t. That’s the thing about game development, it is equal parts and amazing and terrifying.
But here is the secret: There is no shortcut to building something great. It doesn’t come from hoping. It doesn’t come from wishing. And it certainly doesn’t come from just copying something else.
It comes from having a clear vision, and then working your *** off to make it a reality.
When I say it like that, it isn’t really that surprising, is it? You know the drill.
We’re all going to take a leap of faith, together. If you’re reading this, then you feel it too: There is gold right here. We just need to dig for it.
We’ll find it, or we’ll die trying.