June 13th – Specialization

Most of this week was spent finishing up a full set of ranged attacks for each of the quadruped head styles, so now Tiy and I have moved on to the next stage: special abilities! We’ve accumulated tons of ideas (including lots of great suggestions from players) for ways that monsters can act to keep combat exciting and strategic. Most of these are still in the design phase, so I’ll explain a little about our ideas so far and the reasoning behind them.

We started by reexamining the special abilities currently in the game. Attacks like Grab, Gust, and Gravity Slam are interesting conceptually, but don’t add much to the experience. They take control away from the player without incentivizing any particular strategy, so they end up just getting in the way. These have all been removed for now. Charge, Pounce and Stomp, on the other hand, we’re polishing up and adding to more monster types. These attacks help the monsters fight in a variety of circumstances (different terrain, ranges, positions relative to the player, etc) and also force the player to move and adapt, adding interest to the combat experience.

As far as new attacks, there are several different kinds which may or may not end up as distinct categories within the code. Some will be like Charge, Pounce and Stomp: offensive abilities that aren’t standard ranged/melee attacks. Others will be reactive, defensive abilities. For example, some monsters may raise a shield to block projectiles for a short duration after being hit with a ranged weapon. Some will retreat to heal when reduced to low health, while others may go berserk and attack in desperation!

In addition to offensive and defensive abilities monsters also need ways to interact with terrain, using it to their advantage and avoiding getting stuck by natural (or player-built) formations. This is going to take some experimentation to get right, so we’ll be testing some things out and seeing how they work in practice. The first and simplest thing to try will be a ‘burrow’ ability that allows a monster to dig their way through intervening blocks to reach a player. More subtle abilities might include monsters digging pits to hide in, building small walls of dirt to block projectiles, or even constructing nests where they can spawn offspring! One big challenge with these sorts of abilities is to avoid eroding planets into hellscapes of craters and tunnels (except for the ones that are meant to be cratered hellscapes!) We also need to be picky about which types of tiles monsters can damage so that a stray enemy doesn’t destroy a player’s carefully-crafted home. Ultimately, I’m confident that we’ll be able to balance these in a way that both allows monsters to interact with the world they live in, and limits the effectiveness of placing tiles as a combat strategy for players.

Hopefully this gives you a bit of a window into our thinking about monster special abilities. Have a great weekend, and check back next week for more progress!