Rebuilding Bam Ham Combat

How would you fix Bamham’s combat?

I don’t think you can really fix it. There’s nothing in bamham’s combat that really stands out to me as interesting or dynamic or worth keeping. You could obviously replace it with something better that is loosely themed the same, but that’s not really fixing it.

So the loose aspects of bamham’s combat are, you have attacking, and you have counters, then you have a few special actions that need to be performed before attacking certain enemies, like stunning them, jumping over them. Enemies that get hit enough get knocked down, and need to be knocked out, which takes time, but if you have a long combo chain you can do a special input that knocks them out immediately. Your combo chain builds faster if you press normal attack with good timing. Combo resets if you get hit. Occasionally you get to throw a batarang for extra damage and combo points. The attacks are built so there’s a ton of different attacking animations, but they all have sort of the same framedata. Some enemy types are slightly different, the big ones really, but otherwise the only difference is that some enemies need a button pressed before you can attack them.

This all kind of adds up to something resembling DDR. You attack with the right timing to build up combo points. You press counter when an enemy winds up an attack to avoid having your combo get broken. Then you press another button before attacking certain enemy types so you can attack them. And you have additional opportunities to press another button to get extra combo points. Like, there isn’t a strong decision-making process, the most dynamic thing is just where enemies are positioned and where you’re positioned, which is why later games added some crowd control options in the form of bombs and such. You’re kind of indirectly being prompted to just follow this sequence of button presses and you can do better or worse at that, but there’s no real trade-off between doing one thing or the other, it’s always just a matter of keeping up your button presses.

Though there’s one pattern there that kinda works I guess. You gotta take time to knock enemies out after knocking them down, but other enemies can interrupt you. So this means that knocking an enemy out in a group encounter is about crowd control. You gotta make sure none of the other enemies have access to you as you knock that enemy out. This also incidentally means that individual enemies are totally trivial. So if you wanted to spice up the bam ham combat system, this would be the dynamic to target.

Since combat is trivial with one enemy, it would also be smart to make sure setting an enemy up to be knocked out doesn’t remove an enemy from combat in the process, like disabling them currently does. One idea I had was doing something like knocking their soul out of their body, then performing the disable action on their soul, while their body is still attacking you, so even versus a single enemy, you still have to manage their access to you while knocking them out.

Obviously the whole “knocking the soul of their their body” idea doesn’t fit the batman theme unless you cook up a bunch of new story elements that don’t really fit Batman in the first place, but just examining the combat system in abstract that seems like an obvious move.

So from there the things to accentuate are the enemy behaviors in having access to you. For sake of simplicity we’ll say that if they’re set up to attack you, interrupting the knockout animation, they have a connection to you. The goal is to break their connection to you long enough to knock an enemy out, and then set up the next enemy to be knocked out. So to make this goal more interesting, you could add environmental objects and enemy behaviors that affect under what circumstances they have a connection to you. Two obvious conditions for having a connection to you are being adjacent to you, or having line of sight to you. Obvious examples of environmental objects that could modify these conditions are physical barriers that block enemy movement and line of sight, patches of floor that disable line of sight while standing on them, patches of floor that slow movement, or one-way barriers.

Then you obviously would want to give batman abilities that allow him to affect enemy positioning and movement such as to prevent them from having a connection to him. Obvious examples are ones that push enemies away, that stun enemies, or that create environmental objects like above. These could be melee, they could be ranged, they could be remote activation. Abilities that also allow him to affect the location of the target to be knocked out are also sensible.

And of course back on enemy behaviors, you might want enemies to have a connection to you based on keeping you within a certain range, like maybe a certain AOE, or within a ring that is a certain distance away from the enemy, or just simple line of sight, or maybe they use projectiles that have a more complex relationship of connection to you, or they could switch between having a connection when adjacent and a connection based on line of sight at fixed intervals or under certain conditions.

Their movement patterns could also stand to vary. The most simple is just moving directly to you. They could move slowly without line of sight and faster when they do have line of sight. They could try to maintain a specific distance from you. They could try to center themselves in an open area, moving closer when you’re in their range. They could have a movement towards you like gravity. They could move in a preset pattern across the room. They could move in a bouncing pattern off environmental objects. And of course they could switch between these behaviors based on what you do.

And by this point it really doesn’t sound like Batman anymore, but whatever, these are a bunch of ways of playing with that one dynamic.

Megaman Prime

How would you design a Megaman game with the gameplay of a Metroid Prime game?

That’s such a mindfuck. Like, Metroid made some degree of sense in its transition to Prime. The exploration and powerup aspect translated really well. Megaman by contrast is basically about jumping to specific heights and shooting. Megaman games through their enemy and level design basically require you to aim your weapon at enemies that you need to move around because you can’t aim up or diagonal, so you need to get on the same horizontal line as them through movement. Megaman as an FPS would probably be like Doom with a jump button and no auto-aim up or down. It would probably have fairly linear levels focusing on combined enemy and platforming challenges. Maybe be a bit like action doom? (I didn’t play action doom, I only saw a video of it once). Continue reading

Designing Stealth Enemies

What do you think is a good way to design enemies for a stealth game?

For coming up with new enemies, I think it pays to consider what niche every enemy fills in terms of how they detect the player. Think of every variable in the standard detection and investigation system and how it could be modified for a different effect. Most stealth games are built with only really 1 enemy type that is designed to be so versatile, it can do nearly anything. Continue reading

Shark Shoals: Prepare to Dive

What if the souls series had swimming? Would it be a good idea?

Probably not. You’d need to make a totally new set of animations and mechanics for it and it wouldn’t really emphasize what the series is established on.

Now a new game based on swimming and underwater combat in the souls style, sure, that might be interesting.

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How would you design Deep Souls/Dark Swims?

Gonna go with the title: Shark Shoals: Prepare to Dive Continue reading

We’ve Gotta Murder Quake: Arena

Please tell me I am not the only one who is sick and tired of every single recent or upcoming arena shooter being a Quake 3 clone (or UT clone). We have Xonotic, Nexuiz, Warsow, Open Arena (though it admits being a Q3 clone), Red Eclipse, Toxikk, and Reflex. Almost all of these rip their weapon sets directly from Quake, about half of them have quake style bunnyhopping, with Toxikk having unreal tournament type movement. Points to Red Eclipse for coming up with some more original movement methods even if it does look a bit janky overall. And of course on the horizon is Quake: Champions, which aims to do the arena thing all over again.

Lets look to the future a bit: FPS games and mouselook shooter games in general are unexplored, they’re practically infants compared to other genres in terms of mechanical development. Sure, we have open worlds, cinematic set pieces, RPG elements, physics puzzles, and so on, but not a lot of games are really considering the more basic interactions, like how people shoot, or how people move, and what they shoot and move in response to. Rather than continually copying Quake 3 like it was god’s gift to FPS games, we should be copying its example and the precedent for what it did right rather than verbatim bringing back the same weapons again. We should also be looking outside the genre for things other games did right that could be replicated in first person. Continue reading

Improving Unwinnable Boss Fights

What do you think of unwinnable battles or battles that aren’t ment to be won like the first kishgal fight in Ys Origin, first Jetstream Sam encounter, first Vile fight from Megaman X, ect?

They’re kind of a waste of time. It’s a lot more rewarding when it’s a 1 chance battle instead of an unwinnable one.

Shoutouts to Demon’s Souls, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma for including these and giving special rewards for completing them (in NGS’s case, literally beating the game on the spot).

Shoutouts to Magination for taking this idea to its logical extreme and including a boss fight that is technically beatable, but ridiculously hard (kill 99 enemies in turn based combat hard in a game designed for only 4~ enemies per battle).

Unwinnable boss fights are better viewed as segments where the goal of the scenario is altered from other scenarios, but it’s not clearly communicated to the player. The new condition for progression is reducing HP to 0 or the equivalent, which is normally avoided. So instead of trying to kill the boss, you need to surrender as soon as possible.

Some people view them as “taking control away from the player” or “forcing the player to experience defeat.” I think this is kind of a misguided layman’s view.

This can be really bad in games where you have consumable resources which can be wasted in such a fight. If players don’t catch on that they’re not supposed to win, they might waste resources. Also bad is if players think a battle is supposed to be unwinnable, but actually isn’t. A lot of games don’t want to be honest about whether a boss fight is unwinnable or not, because they’re trying to tell a certain story and deliberately mislead you into trying your hardest and failing.

One solution might be to have a 1 chance battle, but at the end, the boss asks, “Do you give up?” and one choice progresses the plot, one choice triggers game over and you can retry from there.

Mostly I think they’re a waste of time because it’s not challenging to die, it’s inevitable, and it can be irritating to trigger the enemy to kill you, depending on how random they are (I get annoyed at this in MGR sometimes when Sam decides to just stand there).

Building More Complex Beat Em Up Moves

Do you think its possible to have an action beat em where can perform the complex movements of something like this? Where you perform those moves yourself unlike the batman arkham series?

Okay, so lets list off everything in that scene:

1. Pointing and shooting
Going with the obvious first, apologies

2. Climbing on walls
Games have done this before, like asscreed

3. Pulling people from below ledges
Games have also done this before, you can have a contextual prompt for it, then a canned/IK’d animation. Continue reading

Ideas for Unconventional Games

You talked about in one of your articles that there some things that we haven’t begun to explore in terms of gameplay. Can you share some of those ideas?

Mang, I’ve been sharing those ideas. I drop ideas all the time.

Here’s some random ones out of my idea file (some are obviously repeats of stuff I’ve said before):

A game entirely (or heavily) based on whiff punishes to get damage.

FTL except remade to be about all the mathematics you would learn at a real naval academy, practically applied to randomized situations. Make sure the ship doesn’t sink, explode, capsize, etc

Moving checkpoints, instead if going back to the checkpoint you just activated, you go back 2 checkpoints instead.

Parrying system that somehow integrates spacing more, like different attacks need to be parried at different spacings. Parrying system that needs a setup from the other game mechanics before it can be used, so parries don’t/can’t become the dominant or sole gameplay system.

Dragon’s dogma style magic system based on charging spells for long periods of time. Imagine you have 3 strengths of spell, light, medium, and heavy. Lights can be used pretty quickly, mediums have some startup, heavy are long and you gotta charge them. Big deal is, while charging heavies, you can’t use mediums, but you can use lights, and you take a hit to your mobility. So picture a dude with one hand in the air charging, zipping off little magic missiles to keep enemies at bay as he darts around them, then unleashing a typhoon when fully charged.

An overpowered super mode that makes you take/deal more damage and disables your ability to dodge, and takes a while in that mode before you actually deal tons more damage, so if you want to cheese, you gotta do it the hard way and survive to the point where you can wipe the enemy out.

Option to forsake bonus powerup type rewards in order to unlock hidden boss fights, content, endings, etc

An RTS with an overall health meter that is depleted each time a unit is destroyed, and when units are destroyed they are queued up to respawn at a certain point for free.

Vertical oriented “platformer” where you “jump” out to the left or right from a central pathway upwards, with gravity pulling you back into the center. Could lock onto other paths out in space and those become center of gravity.

RPG game about pacifism, where all your dialogue options deal damage to the opponent’s “will bar” and cause your character to shoot a stream of bullets at the enemy. See MSPA’s Sleuth Diplomacy and Listening to Both Sides of the Argument.

Rhythm platformer, you jump in beat with the music uncontrollably, automatically, without input. Gotta platform through levels by timing movements with when the jumps come in songs.

A fighting game that, as an on-going experiment, only nerfs characters to balance them. Imagine nerfing all of Melee to Kirby’s level.

Top-down twin-stick melee combat game.

Deep Mind on Starcraft 2: Competitive AI in Real-Time

What do you thinik of Blizzard’s collaboration with Google to developing sophisticated Starcraft 2 AI using Google’s Deep Mind?

I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited as hell. However I think they should try a version where they train it with the visuals on a 250ms delay, because unlike chess, this is a realtime game. Humans realistically operate with a delay between when something actually occurs, and when it reaches our brains. An AI playing a realtime game can frequently employ strategies that are not only better than human ones, but which are literally impossible for humans. My classic example is SFA Akuma, which will walk up to you, and if you press a button, shoryuken, if you block, throw, and if you shoryuken, block you and punish. It destroys the RPS loops that define the game. It’s effectively not even playing the same game arguably.

The AI in Starcraft itself is already way better than any human player (just way stupider), with up to 3000 APM depending on what it’s doing. It can operate every unit individually if it wants to, using units like Ghosts to hard counter mech builds with the lockdown ability fired from every ghost individually onto each individual unit, when in real starcraft, ghosts are practically useless because no human player can possibly micro like that.

You’ll notice that the lockdown ability didn’t return in starcraft 2 where ability units like the high templar are rigged to only have 1 unit cast the relevant ability when multiple of the same unit are selected, because it would have made the above tactic really really easy.

The point is, in realtime games, unlike turn based games like Go, computers are frequently able to beat humans in simple ways that don’t really reflect the way the game is normally played. A 250ms delay might produce something that looks more like optimal human play rather than play that is borderline rigged cheating.

Like, we want AI to beat us in playing roughly the same game we’re playing, ostensibly, but if you remove this human limitation, then it’s like you’re effectively playing poker without hiding your hand, not very interesting.

Improving Beat Em Up AI

Do you think the beat em up genre could do with a level of shaking up in the AI department? I find that the enemies mostly repeat the same moveset, and don’t act all the dynamic most of the time. Although the same could probably be argued about the enemies in a lot of martial arts films.

Here’s one big change: Record when the player deals damage, and perform attacks with inverse proportionality to where damage is taken. Keep updating this as the battle goes on. So if the player is only trying to deal damage during one particular cycle, or punish one particular attack, start using that attack less, forcing them to get damage elsewhere. This can help force continuous aggression from the player and improvisation instead of really safe play.

Beyond that, better AI is really a matter of thinking up specific behavioral characteristics. Making observably good AI is hard. Halo enemies dodge only after they’re initially shot, or if you throw a grenade or fire a slow moving shot. They can’t dodge pre-emptively or on reaction to your shots, so their dodging behavior is predictable instead of random. Continue reading