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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:
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 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.
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.