By Adrian Chmielarz Posted in Witchfire on 2019/02/13
Two phrases that spring to mind when we think of old school shooters are circle-strafing and backpedaling. The first thing helped avoid the incoming projectile-based fire and to keep enemies in the player weapon’s effective range at the same time. The second thing was basically the result of all enemies just mindlessly – or fearlessly, if you prefer it – rushing after the player.
What’s interesting about it is that while both phrases are forever associated with shooters, they describe the player’s movement, not the act of shooting. And indeed, since the original Doom introduced non-hitscan enemies, the movement – be it strategic positioning or acrobatic maneuvers – became one of the most important elements of the core shooter experience.
A good example of this importance is the fact that in a lot of PVP that offers a relatively high Time-to-Kill (Halo, Destiny, Apex Legends), a good player can win with a clearly inferior weapon simply because their movement is better.
Anyway, so after the concept of advanced movement was introduced in 1992’s Doom, things got a bit crazy. For example, a certain exploit in Quake allowed skillful players to move with the speed of light (bunny hopping) or to reach areas much faster by firing a rocket at the feet while jumping at the same time (rocket jumping). Shooters became faster and faster, until they started to look like someone had accidentally pushed the Fast Forward button on the remote. Here’s Painkiller:
Whatever was the reason, with a few rare exceptions, that speed was gone from shooters for at least the last decade. Gamers seem to miss it, as the critical and commercial success of Doom (2016) proves. For some, even that’s not enough, and they satisfy their need for speed with indie projects like Dusk, Project Warlock, or Bright Memory.
I guess it’s only expected, then, that we get questions like this:
I have mixed feelings about the movement. On the whole, it looks fast by today’s standards, but I feel it could still be faster. Are there plans to make the basic movement faster?
No, but, we think, for a good reason.
Compare the difference in speed when traversing the same path in two different ways, walking/crouching versus running/sliding:
Here’s an example a bit more extreme, walking versus dashing:
(Side note: we’re experimenting with Stamina, so it might be that there’s no free infinite Dash spam possible in the final game.)
As you can see, there’s already a wide dynamic range present in the movement mechanics. And we do want the controls to feel snappy, and the movement to feel energetic.
However, pushing it even further into a more arcadey bullet hell experience would require the enemies to be accordingly fast as well – otherwise the player would have too much of an advantage. That’s something we don’t feel would fit a dark fantasy game, full of cursed villagers and giant ogres. It would make our particular enemies feel gamey and cartoonish. It would also change the character of the player. The punishing slap of a witchhunter would turn into a nanobot-enhanced ninja’s Palm of Doom.
I mean, nothing wrong with that as a general concept. Games like that already exist and they’re fun to play. It’s just that in our case, we want to keep the atmosphere and the vibe of the game somewhat realistic, however odd that sounds for a game about shooting knights with machine guns.
And that’s the reason. We’re not trying to make a “more accessible experience”, and we’re not too old to 360 no scope, my fellow kids. We’re simply trying to make a shooter in which the mechanics synergize with the atmosphere, and for that we feel we need a certain discipline when it comes to the craziness and chaos.
But again, we’re still, as the commenter has noticed, “fast by today’s standards”. Here’s how quickly you can close the gap between you and a relatively distant enemy by using a slide/dash combo – and these are your basic, entry level abilities:
Oooh boy, that sounds like a thing worthy a whole separate post. Which I’m sure we’ll do at one point. For now, the short answer is yes, and the surprising part of the longer explanation is that we feel we actually need to limit the amount of enemy types in order to achieve the desired result. This video explains it very, very well: