Developer Journal #6
Real-Time, Real-Space Combat
Since the inception of the FPS, there’s always been something lacking in terms of melee combat, close quarters engagements with hand-held weapons. The first-person shooter is great for realistic ranged weapon combat with projectiles, explosions, and cover, but whenever two combatants get within arm’s reach of each other, the game boils down to pointing at your enemy and jamming the pistol whip button over and over again. Seeing as the Kaneva Engine intends to serve as a hybrid between the classical FPS and RPG models, it’s no surprise that we here at Rapid Reality are fully exploiting that into each of our games.
Here’s how it breaks down: Most MMORPGs, indeed most video games in general, have a separate entity or object that decides when your character is hit by another object. These collision objects are sometimes called “hit boxes.” Even though your character has a beautiful 3-D model, dazzling particle effects, expressive animations, and hyper-realistic textures, all the game engine really cares about is where your collision box is relative to the rest of the world. When you walk into a wall, get hit by a moving vehicle, or try to block incoming bullets with your face, the engine just wants to know is where your box is. All of those 3-D models, particles, animations, and textures are for your enjoyment; they mean nothing to what’s actually going on in the game.
When those boxes enter combat, most game engines are simply tracking who is fighting who with a targeting system, then doing some random number generation in the background to determine who hits and how much damage they do. Character A targets and tries to attack character B. Is collision box A within five meters of collision box B? Generate random numbers based on character A’s attack value and character B’s defense value. Administer any resulting damage to character B. Begin second round of combat. I don’t know about you, but that quick rundown of how MMORPG combat works really got my blood pumping…
What if the game engine actually cared about not only your character’s size, but exactly where each of its limbs is in the world? What if a weapon wasn’t just a 3-D model with a single damage value stored in a database? What if you could aim your melee attacks for weak points in your enemy’s armor? What if you could actually raise your shield to intercept an incoming arrow? What if attacking the head was the best way to cause stun effects and attacking the legs was the best way to try and trip your opponent? What if you could set your spear to counter a charge?
What if combat required player and character skill?
Instead of all melee weapons being effective at the same range, players will be excited to see that weapon size matters in combat, not just damage per second. Since the Kaneva engine is tracking the 3-D model and not an arbitrary collision box, a spear has a longer effective range than a dagger by default, simply because it’s physically a bigger weapon. What’s more, a spear in the hands of an ogre is going to have a better melee range than in the hands of a gnome. Why? Well, because the ogre’s arm is longer, of course. Then again, being larger isn’t always better; the gnome is a lot harder to hit than the ogre for the very same reason.
With the added dose of realism comes a staggering array of combat tactics and maneuvers, for success isn’t just another game of who has the best damage per second. I often refer to the current industry standard, the relatively bland style of MMORPG combat that most other games use, as “dueling calculators.” When you strip away the flashy visuals, that’s basically what it’s been up until now. In The Chronicle, a phalanx becomes a useful formation, a low damage spear is just as useful as a high damage sword, sticking to obstructing cover as you advance will help against enemy archers, and outmaneuvering your opponent to find a gap in his armor could be the difference between winning and losing a battle.
Some people might begin worrying that combat in The Chronicle will be too complex for casual players to pick up on, let alone master. To lay that concern to rest, I’d like to offer that our combat system isn’t entirely twitch-based. What we’re aiming for is something halfway between twitch and RPG combat, but people only familiar with one or the other will still find some degree of success. If you’ve got the most skilled character on the field, you’ll know it by how well the character performs. If someone else has the best reflexes of any player on the field, the effect will be obvious to all. Naturally, someone with excellent real world hand-eye coordination and a character with advanced skills will be the most dangerous combatant in The Chronicle.
- Nathan Knaack
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