People come to me, and they say, “Listen, we know how this game’s going to play. You go in a mission, you walk down a hallway, and you punch things like mad. WITH EXPLOSIONS.” And I say, “That sounds pretty darn boss!” And they say, “YEAH!”
But then I tell them the big secret; we can do more than that! I'm seeing a lot of missions where a whole pile of minions aren't the right thing for the story we want to tell. And we don't want to just make one guy in a mission a big sack of hitpoints.
It all goes back to comics. It’s all about playing the adventure you always wanted to be in. It’s true that classic Batman villains always have goons or minions around. Heck, that’s how we got Harley Quinn; Paul Dini thought up a quick walk-on character working for the Joker.
But that’s not how all comic plots go. Swinging to the other side of the spinner rack, in your stereotypical Marvel comic, Spidey swings across the Shocker robbing a bank, or the Vulture attacks Spidey on patrol. There’s no gang of Vulture-ettes backing them up.
No, sometimes, you want to have a mission where the mission’s about one guy, and him trying to beat the living heck out of you. Or you trying to beat the living cheese out of one guy. But how do you make it something you can play through? One guy in a room by himself, that’s not much fun. Well, unless you make it fun. (Check out Orc And Pie, for people doing just that.)
Here’s a couple ideas we’ve been working on.
I will remind you that the game is in a pre-alpha state and not everything written here may make it into the finished game (especially not by launch). Everything here is intended, but much will depend on support, resources, and time.
One is 'on patrol', a string of missions with one or two Boss level villains each. But that'll be a lot of work compared to a normal mission run. It’ll be even harder if each boss you defeat gives you a debuff. Remember those comics where Spidey just has one bad thing happen after another, the long days where nothing goes right and he still has to get Aunt May her medicine or to a date with Mary Jane? We can do that to you. And you’ll love us for it.
One is the Phased Capture, where you fight the guy as an a super hard enemy, then a really hard enemy, than a normal boss. If he knocks you down or out in the first two, he runs further into the mission, while you rez in the mission staggered. I think the Phased Capture mimics a lot of Spidey random villain events. Ock takes Spidey down, with a surprise attack through the roof, but then Spidey pulls himself out of the wreckage and fights back.
(I like Spidey a lot, man. He’s not incredibly powerful, but you can tell great stories with him.)
There’s also the Phased Capture that doesn’t decay: Fight the guy as a boss. Get him to 1/3 health, something explodes or someone pies you in the face, and he retreats. He doesn’t heal, though, and you chase him, fight him again. Bit by bit you wear him down.
Heck, we could even make the guy tougher after every fight. But you’d expect that sort of thing.
There’s a lot of things we could do to replace the old ‘stop the bad guy from running away’ missions as well. One would be 'keep the aggro of the villain for two minutes', while the NPCs evacuate. "Protect the structural integrity of the pillar while defeating the baddie." 'Defeat the baddie in under two minutes', to stop him from setting off his trap.
Things can get even more complicated as we look at more specific examples.
What if a building was on fire, and you had to put it out while the villain tried to stop you? Or in reverse, what if you had to light a building on fire to conceal evidence of your crimes while a hero came to arrest you?
Let’s say you hear about a bank robbery in progress and rush there to confront the Meadowlark. But after you defeat him, he tells you that a series of explosives he set are now on a timer; he trades their locations for his freedom. After reaching and disarming the explosives, you’re ticked off and ready to hunt the Meadowlark down via clues he left behind and beat him up again, this time in his rigged lair.
Clues. Yes, that’s right, you can do things with clues in a game that aren’t just ‘click glowie, get arrow.’ What if we kick it up a notch, keep it to fighting only one villain, but add more difficulty to the plot?
A group of school kids are kidnapped. Following clues, you track them down to various locations where each kid is rigged with a death trap. Outwitting a series of traps nets you enough clues to locate the mastermind behind it all, whom you can then confront face to face. Of course, you can figure out where the mastermind is, without freeing all the kids. The villain might escape if you spend the time rescuing them all.
But there’s more things you can do. Add a little plot, and we wind up with something like the next scenario.
You are a villain researching parts for your Gigantic Death Ray stored in a 1/6th gravity environment. You find out that a certain hero has been given the mission of transporting the macguffin from the Science Lab to the City Courts. You set up an ambush at the Lab, but after defeating the security there, you find that the hero has already picked up the device, but is currently at the scene of a disaster he is trying to mitigate. At the scene of the disaster, you have to brave/mitigate the harsh environmental conditions and accidentally rescue civilians while trying to dig the macguffin out of the rubble. After suffering the indignity of being thanked by the hero for your help, you can then chase the hero down and mug him for the macguffin before he arrives at the Court Building.
Of course, there’s other ways to change traditional stories. What about that classic escort mission? You love them, don’t you? Don’t answer that, I’ve had my tomatoes for the day. What if, instead of following you, you were the one being escorted? The NPC is just hugely stronger than you; you just freed them from prison. All you have to do is get out. Of course, the alarm’s been triggered. The NPC is considerably stronger than the enemies, and he makes a beeline for wherever he needs to go, smashing everything. Can you keep up, while the game spawns more and more enemies around you? If you fall behind… well, it won’t end so well for you.
Just punching through minions to the end boss is fun, but it wears after a while. Let’s mix things up. Make our goal something else. Something bigger, more heroic. Not every time, but more often than before. Create a goal bigger than just punching a desk till it explodes. That’s how you make missions fun.