Fighting and killing in games are familiar aspects that seem natural, especially if done well. When you hunt robotic dinosaurs in Horizon Zero Dawn or mow down Nazis in Wolfenstein, it's easy to get into the rhythm and feel comfortable.
However, the creation of a battle in the game is not limited to placing enemies on the location, setting them on the players and seeing what will happen. A lot of work goes into making the combat in the game feel natural, fluid, or intentionally awkward and awkward.
Sometimes it's as easy as killing Nazis in Wolfenstein. Because:
a) The Nazis are a villainous group;
b) their faces are always covered with masks, and the player does not have any connection with them.
The main character BB Blaskovets himself kills the Nazis, because they are villains and chauvinists, because of the politics of which millions of people die. Alas, this approach may not apply to all games, worlds, or audiences. What to do then?
All these thoughts were raised by the author of the Gamasutra website, Carly Vellochi. She decided to talk to various developers about violence in games. They talked about the secrets of how opponents are created in games that are not ashamed to kill.
Opponents don't have to be nice
Why is it easier for you to kill a wolf or a bear than a dog or a cat in the game? For the reason that players should not sympathize with their enemies because of their design. Carly recalls The Flame in the Flood by indie studio The Molasses Flood, where the player fights wolves, bears and wild boars in the American South. These animals already look menacing, but the developers decided to move away from photorealism towards deformation. The wolves were especially affected by their tousled hair, long crooked legs, a ferocious roar and sharp claws, becoming more like monsters.
"Enemies should look like creatures capable of crippling you, and nothing else," says Gwen Frey, co-founder and animator at The Molasses Flood.
This is obvious. But here's another fact. There are forms that are more pleasing to the player. They can be used in design to make the gamer sympathetic to the character. So in the study, which the author cites, it is said that rounded shapes and curves are more pleasing to the human brain than sharp edges. They feel more natural, softer and less dangerous than the sharp thorns in character designs.
But this is not a reason not to use them to create enemies. In this case, designers make opponents unfamiliar and not anthropomorphic. Monsters with so-called "safe" design, but looking unfamiliar, can be good enemies. A great example is Transistor. It had rounded robots, but its facelessness made it look dangerous.
Greg Kasavin, writer and designer for Supergiant Games, said of them:
“We wanted players to have no empathy for these creatures. They don't look like they are in pain. They don't look like they have emotions or anything like that. ”
It is for this reason that enemies such as zombies or plants are good opponents. You can give them a personal characteristic, and in principle sympathize, but this is a little more difficult. Zombies are such popular enemies in games because they are devoid of their own personality and do not need empathy. The player does not develop empathy, which means that he will not think about when he shot them in the head.
It is also important that the enemy show their aggression to the player. "The best example is frowning eyebrows," says Jalan Amber, supporting character designer for Bioshock Infinite, with a touch of humor. "This simple sign clearly hints at aggression." The opposite is true for friendly NPCs. Amber recalls that in Bioshock Infinite, they wanted the mobs to look like real people. For this, children were added to the game who ran, played and ate cotton candy.
Violence doesn't always have to be violent
It's easy to create enemies that look scary, but what about adorable enemies? For example, the Kirby series features the cutest set of enemies and bosses, and our spirited protagonist must kill or eat them all. What to do then?
It's all about the degree of cruelty. Games like Super Mario or Zelda use cartoony, without blood and obvious hints of death. Enemies do not run out of red liquid, and death is like a simple disappearance with the sound "poof!" In such games, everything depends on your goals, because violence must be justified and it should be used when this is the goal of the game.
On my own I will add that, for example, in Doom, your goal is to exterminate the hellish spawn, so violence is really appropriate. But imagine if in Super Mario Odyssey our favorite plumber killed turtles with the characteristic sound of broken shells, bones and a river of blood.
Enemies need a motive to fight
In addition to appropriate external design, the enemy must have a reason to attack you. With animals, everything is simple. Returning to The Flame in the Flood, the animals attack you for a natural reason - they defend their territory, and they do it in different ways. This approach not only introduces versatility, but also adds realism.
“To fully engage the player in the world, this very world must react to his actions, so it will feel alive,” says Frey.
Curie Lagann, developer of Read Only Memories, adds:
“I can see the difference between a good opponent and a great opponent. A good opponent fits into the environment, and a great one brings something new to it. ”
Animals are so often added to the game, since the gamer will already have a corresponding reaction to them. As Lucia Kyriakidou says as a freelance artist, creating inhuman enemies is much easier as a designer can take advantage of instincts that most of us have. For example, to distinguish where the hunter is and where the victim is. By referring a person to their experience, you don't need to teach them who is who from scratch.
Also, such game conventions as loot drops fit here. When you kill a dinosaur in Horizon Zero Dawn, the loot from the enemies presents different mechanical details that fit into the world around you. Or in Skyrim, when you take bones from a slain dragon, or a hide from a slain boar in the same Flame in the Flood.
This approach is very different from what we saw in old platformers, where loot dropped after being killed from the air. In Transisotor, after killing an enemy, you receive information that will then help fill in the gaps in your memory. Such loot is perceived not only as a reward, but also as a motive for the murder. “The temptation is simply to make a pinata out of the enemy. We want to give it depth, and something more thoughtful than: “Congratulations, you killed that,” says Supergiant Games writer and designer Greg Kasavin.
There are games like Nier Automata where some robots are pathetic. And this makes killing in the game uncomfortable. But if this is exactly what was intended, then the designers did everything right.
The Topic of Article: Comfortable Killing: How to make enemies in games that are fun to kill.