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Boss design, rewarding player achievements and what happens next

Boss design, rewarding player achievements and what happens next

Boss design, rewarding player achievements and what happens next

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Paul Broussard
posted 43 minutes ago / 111 views

Soul acquisition ended up being a very pleasant surprise and one of my favorite games of the year so far. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask the developers a few questions about their design philosophy and what went into making the game. Here are their answers!

A combat system that involves two characters at once is quite rare in action game. Can you talk about what drove the inspiration for a multi-character system?

Since the beginning of the concept phase, I have had a vision of two characters existing and fighting together. One wanted to be strong, solid and melee-oriented; the other would seem more fragile, but in truth they would be the one who sustains and protects the duo. I began to explore this idea on a deeper level after seeing the two princes, Lothric and Lorian in Dark Souls III. However, a similar relationship also exists between Guts and Schierke i Berserk.

I also wanted the game’s combat experience to be fast-paced and spectacular, so when a game designer from my team also suggested this, we kicked things off and chose a two-female protagonist team. It was around that point when I knew this formula would prove to be the right choice for Soul acquisition. And so Briar the Ashen Knight and her sister Lute the Shade were born. Since then, the game’s Dual Character System saw many iterations, each making it more consistent and engaging, and something that would become our own twist on the hack and slash genre.

Can you briefly tell us about the weapon variation in the game and what inspired the different ones tools at Briar’s disposal? What goes into making a weapon fun to play as and interesting to experiment with?

Each weapon in the game serves a specific purpose, and each weapon is intended as a tool to solve a specific problem in its respective scenario. It’s the old rock-paper-scissors approach, but it works well, and it helped us build a pretty complex and deep system. So that’s how we worked with Tearing Penance (the whip), which is particularly effective against swarms of aggressive but not armored enemies. The Hand of Retribution, Briar’s gauntlet, is on the opposite side of the spectrum: the blows are particularly heavy, and they can quickly destroy the armor worn by certain enemies. These are just two examples. There’s a lot to experiment and have fun with, and weapons can even be switched mid-combo! We’ve already seen some wild and imaginative combinations being shared by players online.

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Are there any personal favorite weapons for the development team?

This is a difficult question… but the fiery zealots are the likely answer. They are a hybrid weapon that is part tonfa and part hand cannon. Not only are they very effective in combat, but they are also very versatile. Plus, with Firey Zealots, Briar can even propel herself across the battlefield!

Likewise, can you talk about hostile design? What goes into the process of making one variety of interesting enemies to fight against?

This is the flip side of the coin. In the end, it comes down to the game situations we wanted to include in the game. After defining the situations and the basic “features” that would define an enemy, we worked on their appearance, to make them as twisted and interesting as possible. Soul acquisition also has three different classes of enemies, which had to work with Lute’s Blue Evocation field and her Red Banishment Field. Wraiths (the blue enemies) are invisible and intangible, unless under the influence of Lute’s Evocation Field.

Conversely, the possessed only become vulnerable when within Lute’s Banishment Field; moreover, most possessed Wraiths release when defeated, and if such Wraiths are not disposed of quickly, they may even reclaim their former hosts! In addition to this, while working on developing the game’s “bestiary”, we knew that each enemy would also need to behave properly when encountered solo, and when mixed in with other creatures.

Maybe a weird question, but I’ve always been curious about how action games decide which ones purchasable skills are worth more in-game currency. How do you determine the cost of different abilities and upgrades?

It is the result of a careful tuning process. Various variables are involved, from the risk/reward factor of each combat encounter, to the structure of the levels and the overall progression of the player throughout the game flow. By the way, we have two separate progression paths for the two main characters. Briar’s progression is based on unlocking new combinations for the weapons she acquires during the adventure, but there are also some passive skills to purchase, which can make each weapon more effective or versatile. Lute’s powers, on the other hand, are controlled through a very robust and diverse system of skill trees.

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The player has full control over how he “builds” Lute, focusing on Attack, Defense, Crowd Control or Buffs. And while it is not possible to unlock everyone of Lute’s powers at once, Lute’s skills can be specified for free without penalty. We did this to allow the player to experiment, have the freedom to try out different combinations, and let them come up with new solutions and approaches to different challenges they will be presented with throughout the game.

Soulstice has an element I love in games, which is remixing higher level enemy waves difficulty with repeated playthroughs. How do you balance remixed enemy waves against one player who has endgame weapons and health?

Knowing that the player has a full arsenal at their disposal obviously leads to a wider range of solutions for our designers to consider. Lute’s progression also carries over from one playthrough to the next, which also allows us to become more… vicious!

What goes into the process of designing a boss for an action game like this? How to do Are you trying to design a boss to be a fun yet challenging encounter?

We wanted each boss fight to look and feel like a big beat in the flow of the game. We worked hard to make these encounters stand out from different perspectives, with games, art and history. It was also our intention that each boss fight would give the player a specific way to use Lute’s mystical powers. As such, each boss fight plays out differently because each presents a unique and specific challenge for the player to overcome. Also, all bosses have different phases that make the action (and narrative) more engaging as the battle unfolds.

Were there any thoughts on bringing in some sort of jump cancel mechanic, a la the Devil The May Cry series?

We considered implementing these types of mechanics, but we didn’t want to overcomplicate the user experience, considering that the player would also have to manage Lute’s counters and fields.

One of the most exciting parts of the game for me is the unit meter, which unlocks synergy attack and Rapture state. While some action games give players more currency for better performance in combat, Soulstice is probably the first example I’ve seen incorporates unlocking new abilities to perform well as a core mechanic. What went into the thought process behind that design?

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We wanted player performance to actually matter, and the idea of ​​having Briar and Lute build momentum over each match tied in well with other elements. For example, when replaying a specific battle, the player may actually decide to adopt a different tactic, prioritize different enemies, and so on. We believe this approach helps keep things challenging and interesting. It also works well with the various “builds” that can be made for Lute, and with the weapon system itself.

Was there any concern about having a game mechanic as important as Rapture require the player to land enough attacks consecutively without getting hit?

We wanted the player to feel rewarded for their decisions and combinations they manage to execute. Even from a narrative point of view, the whole message underlying Briar and Lute’s story is that power must be earned in blood, and that trying to use it properly is dangerous. However, through Lute’s skill tree, it is possible to unlock and activate specific abilities that will help build and maintain Unity during battle.

Without wanting to spoil the readers, the ending teases some pretty big things to come. I know it is early, but any idea when we might get to see what happens next to Briar and Lute?

Right now we are focusing on refining the game, and making improvements in many different areas. We analyze player videos and listen to their feedback, and the entire team works to meet their expectations. The initial response from the community has been very positive, and we are very grateful for that! And even though it’s a bit early to talk about such things, when the time comes, we’d like to explore the world we’ve created further!

Thank you very much for your interest and time. We hope you enjoy yourself Soul acquisition as much as we enjoyed developing it.

I would like to thank Reply Game Studios for taking the time to answer my questions. If you haven’t already read it, check out our official review of Soul acquisition here.

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