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Anatomy of a Combat Zone
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Anatomy of a Combat Zone

July 15, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next


Players want to feel like a big badass that can outsmart the "stupid game". Giving the player the ability to outsmart AI by flanking the Kill Zone and Defensive Cover is key. Plan for ways that the player can get the perk of feeling like a hero that outsmarted the enemy.

The image above indicates a few ways a player could approach flanking the enemy within the example layout.

Relation to Difficulty

Cover is critical to controlling the difficulty of a Combat Zone. Taking into account the level Intensity and Difficulty Beats, your Combat Zone should reflect this.

Control cover difficulty by taking the following into account:

  • Amount: More cover means more protection from enemy fire and more opportunities to sneak around and pop an enemy. Less results in a larger and more deadly Kill Zone that ups the challenge.
  • Spacing: Player speed is key to spacing, so ensure that you are well versed in our metrics. Cover that is spaced further than the player can sprint makes for a risky run through the Kill Zone. Cover that allows the player to connect jumps facilitates a layered Ninja path.
  • Size and Height: Big and wide offers ample cover while a narrow tree exposes the player to multiple lines of fire. Forcing the player to crouch behind a stump is tough than just running and standing behind a wall.
  • Density: A cluster of small trees breaks sight lines, but not shots fired.
  • Temporary: Destructible cover leads to no cover and exposes the player to the Kill Zone.

Leverage the above intelligently following your Intensity and Difficulty Beats, so that your Combat Zones challenge the player in a variety of deliberate ways.

Layering and Verticality

Layering refers to having multiple layers of game play surfaces stacked on top of each other. Layered Combat Zones are critical to supporting the above mentioned play styles. Layers need to be planned in your Napkin Sketch as the environment needs to justify it. Catwalks in the jungle, anyone?

The image below is an example of layered Combat Zone.

Verticality refers to a Combat Zone that is built vertically vs. horizontally. The challenge is focused on moving through the space vertically with lots of emphasis on climbing/jumping, which makes for a challenge that is focused on traversing a space. Couple that with combat, and it dramatically increases the difficulty.

Combat Zone Layouts

There are two main types of Combat Zone layouts; those that feature explicit bottlenecks, referred to as Choke Points, in which the player has to cross and overcome a deadly Kill Zone which I refer to as "defined". Note the image below; it features a few paths that all choke at the same point.

The second layout type is referred to as "freeform", where the choke point isn't explicit. The resulting experience is more "loose" as the Kill Zone could come together at various areas within the Combat Zone depending the player's approach.

Switching it up

Is it possible to design a Combat Zone that starts off as freeform, and then becomes defined -- and vice versa? The switch could be an exciting component and make for a memorable battle.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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