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Wasteland 3 Fig Update #25: Garden of the Gods
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 July 2018, 23:25:12Tags: Eric Schwarz; George Ziets; InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; Wasteland 3
inXile have been busy with The Bard's Tale IV, but they've finally found the time to put out a new Wasteland 3 Fig update. The previous update three months ago promised a continuation of last year's "Building the Everest" series which chronicled the development of the game's vertical slice area, but it looks like that's been left behind. Instead the update introduces a new area called the Garden of the Gods, an agricultural site that's been occupied by a gang of raiders. Lead designer George Ziets gives us the overview of this area while systems designer Eric Schwarz describes his approach to designing its combat encounters, and there's a brief video of the place too. I'll quote the latter two here:
Eric here to do a dive into how I approached combat design in the Garden of the Gods - and more generally, throughout the rest of the game. Just a disclaimer that I'll be talking some specifics about combat encounters below, but keep in mind that these details may change before final release as we continue to tweak and tune the game.
When I begin with the design of combat in a location, I will use the story, characters, and other details of a scenario as a starting point. Who are these people? Why is the player fighting them? Are they an organized force of mercenaries, some killer machines gone rogue, or a bunch of punks? What kinds of weapons do they use? Do they have any special abilities? Do they rely on animals or robots to help them out? I try to factor it all in when it comes to conceptualizing the gameplay, as I've found it's often the best way to start building the encounter. It's always a collaborative process between the higher-level narrative and gameplay vision, the level designers working on each scene, and myself on the gameplay systems end.
In the case of the Garden of the Gods, the area is inhabited by the Dorseys that George discussed above. When you encounter them in the game, they've only been in the Garden a short time, so haven't had a chance to set up permanent fortifications. Although this is a relatively early-game location, I still wanted the Dorseys to be enough of a threat to deter a completely fresh team of Rangers. They dress in animal skins, and use mostly conventional weapons geared towards the outdoors - improvised bladed and blunt weapons, sniper rifles, assault rifles, handguns, and occasionally, larger machine guns and grenades. However, these early Dorseys aren't necessarily experienced soldiers either – they're bloodthirsty fanatics – so that means they don't have access to military-grade equipment, heavy armor, and they don't fight using lots of advanced techniques.
Once I've got a sense of what types of weapons the enemies will use, what their abilities are, and what their place in the game world is, and have spent some time building the NPCs in a sandbox test scene, I'll start working on the individual encounter design. The easiest way to start is to simply play through the level, getting a sense for the overall flow – where is the player likely to visit, and in what order? I generally try to scaffold the individual fights so that players get introduced to a specific enemy faction or type, and then we build up from there over the course of the scene. Having a good introduction not only makes the scene flow and play better for players, but it also lets us as designers ramp up the challenge and complexity.
That said, we always want to do what we can to give you more than "just some guys" to kill. In each location, I try to vary things up by using turrets, environmental objects like explosive barrels, elevation like watchtowers and cliff ledges, hostile robots, and more. In the case of Garden of the Gods, the Dorseys are not a brand-new enemy when the player encounters them, but as it's a few hours into the game, we want to start ramping up the complexity and difficulty of the encounters.
For instance, the first fight against the Dorseys is a mid-sized group with a mix of weapon types, and players are able to approach from a couple of different routes: they can either take the frontal assault, or look around to find a way up to the high ground overlooking them for a tactical advantage. The second, larger group the player finds later on has set up tripwires to keep out any pesky intruders, but observant players might be able to find a flanking route. They're also backed up by a mini-boss who makes use of pets – ones which the player might be able to turn back on their master, provided they have the right skill set.
Last, but not least, cover placement is a big part of combat design. Wasteland 3 uses a cover system just like Wasteland 2, and many design points inform how cover gets arranged, including the enemy weapon types, whether a location is indoors or outdoors, and the kinds of tactical opportunities we want to provide. The environment also contributes to how we design the layouts of our combat spaces. In an outdoor space like Garden of the Gods, you probably aren't going to find many heavy fortifications, but there's plenty of more spread out, natural cover, like rocks, snowbanks, and tree stumps that have you leapfrogging from point-to-point. Additionally, most cover in the game is destructible, so the type and relative strength of cover is also a factor for players to consider. All of these produce different combat dynamics.
That's just a taste at the kind of process we have when building combat in a scene. Of course, we continue to iterate from there many times over for just about every fight in the game, and we'll be balancing and polishing everything throughout development.