Inside enemy designs. How do you create good opponents? (Topic)

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Inside enemy designs. How do you create good opponents?


Every game needs enemies, and the less realistic it is, the more freedom the developers have in the variety of enemies. In a fantasy or sci-fi game, there may be enemies that ignore the laws of physics without diminishing the player's faith in what is happening, while more realistic games must organically follow the laws of the real world. Flying tanks in the project about the Second World War will force players who want to enjoy an authentic setting, only cover their faces with their hands.

Since there is a large gap between good, thoughtful enemies and simple enemies in games, let's focus on the former, says game designer Emil Glans, reflecting on the design of monsters in games. the enemies are somewhat unique, at least unique enough to be recognized among the crowd of others. ”


However, just because an enemy is not unique does not mean that it is poorly made or simple. However, there is a higher risk that this enemy will become boring and monotonous after a while, both for the player facing the same monster over and over again and from a designer's point of view, since it is not so versatile to use. .

All enemies in games can be divided into three groups:

  • Hitscan is a type of enemy that fires simple projectiles at you in a straight line, and when they come close to you, you take damage from a melee attack.
  • Projectline - Enemies that shoot a rocket, fireball, or throw something at you, such as a car, are usually considered Projectline opponents. Their attacks can often be dodged. They are often slower, but will take more damage and are harder to kill.
  • Melee - Melee opponents that will need to touch you. They should stand by your side and hit you with claws, teeth or weapons.

Of these three types of enemies, you can create many unique combinations or battles. Ideally, when the balance is in good shape, hitscan enemies are weak, but they damage you much more often, while Projectline opponents are more powerful but less agile. Melee are ideally in the middle, both when taking damage and dealing.

Opponent behavior


Enemy behavior is a complex topic, as there are many factors to consider. However, this can all be narrowed down to a few key points:

External vie q is critical as humans rely on sight by nature, and this is the attribute that gives the player the most information. It also has a lot to do with the “narrative element”, which will be discussed later. The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to appearance is the silhouette of the enemy. Human opponents, even with different variations of body armor or body sizes, suffer from monotony, although this can be solved by giving them unique clothing or weapons.

Enemy sound. Enemy sound should be heard a second before the enemy appears to warn the player about his presence or the next step. When they are monsters, sounds will warn the player of an ambush or an impending attack. It also comes down to warn the player about the danger. When players are faced with human enemies, the developers figured out that the ability of soldiers to call for reinforcements, think out routes or other tactical moves provides the credibility of what is happening. At the same time, it provides the player with the information he needs.

The very behavior of opponents contains the very "narrative element". Narrative or storytelling is a combination of both visual and audio attributes. It is an identifier of what the enemy is currently doing or about to do. Most of the enemies tell something through their behavior, but some rely on it more. These enemies often differ in how they work and how the player should interact with them.

A great example is Shambler from Quake. He first prepares a lightning attack by folding his arms over his head, charging lightning that flashes brightly. He shoots it at the player. The second message is a melee attack. As before, he raises both arms above his head to strike, but now there is no lightning, the space between his arms is now larger, which suggests that this will be a melee attack, since now he is closer to the player. Combined with audible cues such as his roar or the sound of electricity, this provides ample prompting for the player.


Clear concept

As a result, all these details that tell something to the player become the behavior of the monster, and he must study it. It is much easier for a gamer to do this if the behavior is repeated. However, there are other requirements for a good opponent. The behavior must be easily recognizable, which means that each attack of different opponents must be easily distinguishable so that the player can distinguish one monster from another in an instant. The player shouldn't have any doubts about what the monster will do, so the behavior should be consistent. He must do the same every time so that the player knows what to expect. If the monster attacks differently each time, it will be difficult for the player to learn and understand how to counter him, since he does not know what to expect.

Once the player learns and understands this behavior, he can begin to adapt. Adaptation basically means making the right decision. Avoiding any clericalism, it all comes down to the fact that the player makes a decision based on the information received, no more, no less. In a shooter, you have two options: move and shoot, or both, but neither is always the right decision.


Let me give you an example, if I, the player, understand that Shambler hits hard with lightning, I must somehow dodge it. I will not rush to rush forward and kill the enemy, since he has a lot of health. The adaptations or decisions I make are based on knowledge gained through experience. I have seen this monster in action or have encountered it before to understand it. When I understand this, I can defeat him. It would be unwise to rush when I can just dodge an attack.

List of goals and priorities

This ends up with what I call a Priority and Goal List, which is a great tool in level design. You can write battle scenarios with several types of enemies, and you more or less know how the player will deal with them.


The priority list is the threat level created in the player's head. Players measure threat based on more than just the damage and health of the enemy, which means that the strongest enemy is not necessarily the biggest threat in a battle. Weak enemies that are annoying are most often considered # 1 targets by the player. A great example of this is the black headcrab in Half Life 2.


One crab can never kill you, but its poison is deadly. The attack doesn't kill you, but it lowers all of your health to one, which acts as a decent debuff. The danger itself arises when there are other enemies in this battle.

If you add to the battle besides a zombie that throws a headcrab and a normal zombie at you, you will panic. By themselves, common zombies are slow and don't do much damage, but when combined with a black headcab, even the weakest enemy can kill you with one hit.

Having gained this experience, when a player is weakened to one point of health, he will automatically determine the priority of this headcrab first in the next battles. Once the player hears a distinct noise from this particular enemy, they will go on high alert and look for a headcrab, as all other enemies pose less of a threat.

The "Threat List" is constantly updated in the mind of the player. This creates an interesting dynamic, because if the player fails to spot the headcrab and is poisoned, the balance of power changes and other enemies are now the greatest threat as they can kill him, which forces players to constantly switch from attack to retreat.


The geometry of the level should help to identify both the enemy's strengths and weaknesses. If you have a melee enemy that has strength and mobility, a good game designer should create routes without obstacles so that the enemy can use their strength. Otherwise there is no point in putting it here.


A ranged enemy will need good vision to hit a player. Distance is also important, especially for the projectline of opponents, as the projectile will have a moment of movement before it reaches the player. If you have too many cover blocks in your line of sight, the distant enemy will become completely useless. The same will happen if the player has no distance and no cover.


The basic requirements for a good enemy are: a clear, distinctive appearance, unique identifiable sounds, consistent behavior supported by a well-designed environment that allows the enemy to be both strong and vulnerable, and they must teach the player to understand, adapt and win.


The Topic of Article: Inside enemy designs. How do you create good opponents?.
Author: Jake Pinkman