Last time we talked a little bit about my history with the project, the very beginning if you will and the influences we used in designing the combat for Age of Conan.
We had our most basic elements, directional combat, combo’s, no auto attack. But we needed to identify the elements that made up the combat in the games that inspired us. Here are my personal assessments as I remember them.
- Seamless combo system, essentially no activating of abilities primarily (except musou of course)
- Wide variety of characters and weapons
- Feeling of Heroism in epic proportions
- Movement in attacks
- Collision between friend and foe
- Cone Targeting
Ninja Gaiden (the Xbox 3d one)
- Seamless combo system, allowed for a lot of free flowing chains of your own design
- Movement in attacks to the extreme
- Weapon based targeting
Soul Calibur (Good old Dreamcast)
- The pinnacle example of a weapon based fighting game of anything to aspire to this would be it
- Fast paced and furious, one of the best examples of taking the action/fighting type game successfully onto the PC.
- The control aspects here were the key elements we were looking at
Mount & Blade
- Fun and tactical feeling combat, especially mounted combat and archery
At E3 2005 we had combo’s and directional attacks in and were demoing in one area called Eiglophian Mountains. We had some Picts riding a Mammoth, and a large NPC vs NPC battle we could start to show off the engine’s ability to handle a lot of enemies. But we were still missing something, so we went back to our inspirations and dissected them like I did before but in even more detail. We looked for common traits and ways we could incorporate them. One of the big things that we noticed was movement in attacks. 90% of all fighting games the feet do not stay planted during attacks as balance must be maintained and often momentum and weight transfer are applied as well.
And so began the first of many major revisions of the Combat in Age of Conan, to add in movement to attacks. This meant more motion capture work, and implementation. It also meant code changes would be necessary to handle things like what happens when you can’t move but still need to attack etc. At first this was solved by having pushback on impacts which created a tug of war type appearance. The issue was that mobs could then be pushed around and cornered, and that interrupting the animations all the time made it hard to have both attacks and impacts happening and look good.
Animation prioritization would be an ongoing challenge in bringing combat to the table at the level we desired. Eventually we lost the pushback on all attacks and instead incorporated the ability to stop the forward movement but maintain the sideways movement allowing the character to slide if impeded, which looked much better than simply allowing the character to slide completely and removing all movement.
Obviously we knew that some things might be technically unobtainable when it came to meeting the standards of our inspirations but that was all part of the challenge and the fun part when it came to the design, and getting to attack such a lofty goal. What we realized through this first major iteration was that combat was going to be a dynamic thing and that for the rest of the project it would be changing and growing and polishing all the way through the development process on our way to launch.
Stay tuned for the next part as we focus on the changes to the combo system and its interface on the road to release.