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Development Info Expeditions: Rome Dev Diary #13 - Building a Great Combat Encounter

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Infinitron, Dec 21, 2021.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Jan 28, 2011
    RPG Wokedex Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Tags: Expeditions: Rome; Logic Artists; THQ Nordic

    The esteemed members of our community tried out the Expeditions: Rome demo this weekend and shared their impressions. The game has clearly been casualized and the included tutorial scenario is rather linear, but it seems decent enough in most other respects. With the launch date approaching, THQ Nordic aren't slowing down their promotional efforts. On Sunday they released a new combat trailer that introduces the basics of Rome's combat system and offers a glimpse at a few advanced tactics as well. They've followed that up with the game's thirteenth dev diary, which is all about encounter design. Logic Artists aim to make every encounter in the game a set-piece battle with multiple paths, verticality and interactive environments. Here's that new trailer and an excerpt from the dev diary:

    In Expeditions, every new level begins with a narrative context. Even a random encounter level or a purely combat-focused so-called “pacification quest” level will have some snippet of story associated with it that helps guide the creativity of the world builder. This isn’t just about placing the level geographically so the environment artists will know what kind of nature or architecture to sculpt. At the earliest stage it’s just as much about creating a feeling in the player. A bustling overpopulated metropolis on the banks of the Nile will need a very different layout than a small quiet fishing village on the coast of the Sea of Marmara.

    This nebulous yet crucial idea of “feel” will also inform the combat design in important ways. Overwhelming the player with the size and freedom of choice of a wide-open battlefield, or making them feel claustrophobic and limited in a smaller room, are important ways to sell the fantasy of a particular scene. A mix of open spaces with narrow corridors and chokepoints creates variation between encounters and gives the player a choice of fighting somewhere that fits their tactical play style.

    No design choice is purely about gameplay in a game as story-driven as Rome, but the gameplay is generally the most important aspect of level design. Pathing choices is one of the driving factors when setting up an encounter area: by placing small islands of obstacles in an open space, we create smaller paths that lead to the same area. When faced with multiple paths, the player begins to think about why they should go left or right. That choice can be based on enemy positioning, what cover is provided along either path, or if one path is slightly longer than the other. Conversely, an open space gives the player more freedom to manoeuvre around enemies, but also makes it more difficult to control enemy movement and positioning.

    Height differences have also been a huge focus for us this time around. Encounters in Expeditions: Viking usually took place on flat planes, and several mechanics in the game were designed around that relatively 2-dimensional landscape. In Rome, we wanted to use elevation better, which involved redesigning ranged attacks to use a real line-of-sight check and giving archers a bonus to their range from high ground. The most important piece of that puzzle was to make sure the levels themselves offered high ground and permitted vertical movement.

    Designing levels with plenty of vertical elements such as cliffs or scaffolds creates a height difference that separates hexes from each other by their edges instead of needing to place an empty hex between them. This is another, different form of pathing choice. A landscape with a lot of verticality will block the player’s vision and occasionally force the player to rotate the camera to see the encounter area from a different angle, which gives the player new ideas for how they could approach a problem they’re trying to solve.

    We also added new ways to traverse those new obstacles, in the form of ladders and jump points. Using a ladder as a shortcut while another character flanks around makes you feel smart, as does spotting a jump point to get quickly from an elevated platform to a lower position. Not only does jumping off a cliff look and feel cool, it connects the different paths of an encounter area in interesting ways since you can typically only jump in one direction (thanks gravity).

    Traversal isn’t the only way to interact with the environment, however. We’ve also implemented a host of new combat objects to use during an encounter. Many combat objects allow you to pick up tactical items just until the end of combat, such as torches from a bonfire, water from a well, or bandages from a medicine box. Other objects can change the battlefield if damaged, such as oil jars which can make someone’s day a lot worse if targeted with a fire arrow.
    The dev diary also includes descriptions of two actual encounters from the game that demonstrate these qualities. Good stuff. As usual, a dev stream about this topic is scheduled for Wednesday, on December 22nd.
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  2. Sensuki Arcane

    Oct 26, 2012
    New North Korea
    Codex 2014 Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    It's too early to tell whether encounter design is better than the previous games, but the combat level design is better than both the previous games at least from what I've played in the demo.

    Conquistador had a lot of objective based missions but re-used a lot of the same maps and enemy rollouts for encounters (you might fight the same battle against the same enemies or slightly different enemies). That kind of felt repetitive but made sense for the HoMM style worldmap where there could be random encounters.

    Viking was more like BG so encounters mostly took place inside maps that you would otherwise just explore like a standard RPG. Encounters had to fit inside those maps, and you were often arbitrarily locked into a small area of the map for a specific encounter. Kind of felt a bit awkward but was kind of necessary for the combat system to work.

    Rome kind of mixes the two while leaning more towards Conquistador. Combat is generally mission specific and mostly objective-based rather than kill all enemies, but you might do a few encounters in a bigger level like Viking and there'll be some C&C depending on which one you do first, you might not get the first turn in combat if you do it one way but not have to face reinforcements. The levels so far are specifically designed for the missions and the maps seem bigger with multiple routes through to the objectives etc - obviously a much larger budget for level design in this game.

    I don't really like the way the dev diaries are written lol
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  3. Tyranicon A Memory of Eternity Developer

    Oct 7, 2019
    I'd be interested in how they do financially. The demo is pretty robust technically, and Rome is about as attractive as any historical setting gets, especially with RPG fans.

    According to Steamdb, the game currently has 11k followers (somewhat low, Vikings has 34k) and is #112 in wishlists.
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  4. hyttenhoof Novice

    Mar 11, 2011
    Incredibly offputting that they removed basestats from the franchise, Only relying on skill trees for builds just feels so much less interesting to me.
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  5. Dr Schultz Savant

    Dr Schultz
    Dec 21, 2013
    If you ask me, tactical games where stats allocation is a worthy addition are rarer than virgin prostitutes.

    This kind of games tend to have ONE correct stats setup for any given class/role and A LOT of wrong setups.

    Basically, statd allocation, more often than not, is a fake choice and/or a test of your understanding of the system.

    Not a real expansion on your character building options.

    PS: Many CRPGs are plagued by the same issue now that I think about it.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2021
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  6. Grotesque ±¼ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Patron

    Apr 16, 2012
    Divinity: Original Sin Divinity: Original Sin 2
    this game looks and feels like a Netflix adaptation of ancient Roman times
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  7. RunningWolf Novice

    Oct 7, 2020
    It will be exactly that, just like their Viking game. Apparently retards in charge think that having woke diversity is more important than historical accuracy. Despite the fact that KC: Deliverance sold million times more than their netflix-like trash did, surpassing both Skyrim and Witcher 3 in concurrent players.
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