We’ve created almost 100 different enemies during the development of Mecromage, including variations, and we need to pick the best ones before animating and refining the enemies. Below, I’ll describe some of the enemy characteristics that we’ll look at when we start approving, cutting, and merging behaviors.
Mecromage features enemies of different cultures – Rakknor, Elgon, Tainted, and Critter. Each culture has its own common game-play themes, visual characteristics, and back story.
- The Rakknor are tech-savy, intelligent dwarf-like humanoids who work together to stop the hero.
- The Elgon are more primative in nature and have evolved from elves into more dragon-like creatures.
- The Tainted are undead beings, some of whom can mutate into more vicious forms as they consume alloy.
- The Critters are native inhabitants of the land who may be protective of their territory.
The designer role is based heavily on an article we read about enemy design. In short, we want each enemy to have clearly defined roles in how it challenges the player.
- Fodder enemies are easy kills that make the player feel empowered.
- Emphasizer enemies emphasize a particular game mechanic, but don’t require it to be defeated.
- Enforcer enemies enforce knowledge of a particular game mechanic to defeat it.
- Challengers (bosses) test the player’s knowledge of multiple mechanics.
The behavior type abstracts the enemy’s behavior into simple terms.
- Kamikazes appear to be single-minded, walking or flying straight through the hero.
- Engagers seem conscious of the player and try to lock on to him and fight.
- Support/Distraction enemies tend to not directly attack the player, but instead buff up other enemies or indirectly distract the player by dropping mines, casting spells, or summoning more enemies.
- Environmental Hazard enemies are inanimate or botanical hazards of the environment. They may be a spike pit, thorny vine, lava ball, etc.
The movement style describes the way in which an enemy moves on the ground, in the air, or in water. There are several movement styles. I’ll list a few.
- Dug-In / Stationary enemies do not move. They may literally have dug into the environment and be stationary by nature,or may simply chose to not move.
- Flyer (Area Controller) enemies fly, controlling a particular region of the screen (or relative to the camera or player), possibly in a roughly figure-8-like pattern.
- Flyer (Hoverer) enemies hover in the air like a helicopter, trying to stay in one place, though it may drift or be forced somewhere else by the player.
- Path-Follower enemies follow a path around a platform, ceiling, wall, grapple strip, etc. It is likely to be a kamikaze, though it may fire projectiles or switch to a different movement type.
- Walker (Default) enemies walk in a specified direction, ignoring everything except possibly walls, in which case, it may turn around.
Why Does the Player Know Me?
The last characteristic I’ll mention is the “why does the player know me?” description. This is what it comes down to – the player’s experience. Disregarding all the things an enemy could potentially do, what runs through the player’s mind when he sees that enemy? Maybe he’s learned that that enemy is an easy kill, or maybe he knows to be cautious when approaching him.
Now that we’ve identified the enemy characteristics, we can design them in Excel as a team, and with the help of the NPOI open source library (which is super-easy to use), we suck in the data from excel and display it in a window in our level editor.
If I had to do it over again, I would have created a stand-alone enemy designer tool using C# and would not be using Excel at all. I didn’t like having to figure out VBA and the necessary VBA commands to do something that seemed simple to me, and that was after a couple hours of messing with excel formulas. But, it’s done!