Stats and combat AI
In the new video we will showcase a number of environments and gameplay features including various weapon types, looting, item interaction, item properties and more... The video should give you a much more complete idea of what the final game will be like.
There are two main things we are trying to complete for the video at this point. One is the item and character stat system and the other is the new combat AI. Both these things are close to being ready to use and very key in defining the core gameplay. We're working on them right now so we thought we would explain what we're trying to achieve.
Item and character stats
Stats must play an important role in the game but player skill, action gameplay and physics are already playing a huge role. We want to retain the skill element and the fluidity of the combat, stats must interact seamlessly with this process and give advancement and loot a good purpose. The effect of stats compared to many other RPGs is quite small, you will never be 10 times as strong or do 100 times more damage, but that extra speed or force does make all the difference.
It's taken us some time to design and test a stat system that would work well. Weapons in particular are tricky because their shape and size alone have a huge impact on gameplay and character animations. Just the distribution of the mass of a weapon (this is accurate and based on the 3D mesh and can also be tweaked) can completely change how a character effectively wields it. We need to use the weapon's inherent physical qualities and allow them to interact with character skills and physique realistically, we also need to provide the player with an intuitive yet accurate overview of a weapon's qualities. We think the fact that every weapon feels and plays differently is great. We're thrilled with what we've come up with and you'll be able to see all this in game.
We've now got almost all our weapon types implemented with the notable addition of pole weapons. After all, what's an RPG without halberds? We're having to redesign all our animations yet again as we've made some changes to accommodate the effects of weapon and character statistics interacting with them. We've also added some new manoeuvres such as thrusts and more elegant parries which were previously entirely procedural.
We've been adding a lot of polish to the combat mechanics and made a huge number of improvements that show both in gameplay and visual realism, we feel we're rapidly approaching completion here and damn is it good. We have always firmly believed the combat was exceptionally fun and to this day we become excited every time we play, but with the latest improvements it's really shaping up to be breathtaking.
Combat AI is something we're taking very seriously. We're very keen on NPCs appearing lifelike and playing similarly to a human opponent. Combined with the physical interaction and motion, a realistic and clever behaviour really tricks our brains into thinking of the characters as alive, it makes combat feel very real and personal. We're also keen on AI opponents being challenging while playing by the same exact rules as yourself which contributes to this feeling.
To ensure that NPCs really do play by the same rules as players we're actually running them through the same exact controls, we're basically putting a virtual player in charge of them with their own cursor and buttons to press. Because of the full physics simulation however these need to be very smart, landing a good blow requires steering the character so that their weapon connects with force in the right place at the right time while overcoming the opponent's defences. When you play the game you'll see this is a very organic and tricky process, it requires skill from a player and it also does from AI. It's even trickier when you start to consider the hugely different weapons and other items that a character or their opponents may be equipping. That's just the beginning though, we want our characters to react with human like individual qualities; we need them to employ solid tactics and have good awareness of the environment, swinging a halberd into a wall, or worse into a friend's face, is a big problem. NPCs need to act cleverly in any situation or against any number of opponents. Oh, and we need you to be cursing at the little buggers with genuine outrage.
These seem like pretty daunting problems but we've been working at them and overcoming them for some time, we're close to integrating the first version of the new AI framework into the game and we'd like to use it in the upcoming video as the current AI severely limits what we're able to show.
Hopefully that contained some useful insights into what we're doing and why!