The Evolution of Pirate101 Combat Part II
Last week we introduced you to a few early versions of Pirate101 combat as KingsIsle Lead Software Engineer Josh Tigner explained the steps taken to create the Pirate101 combat system you love today. Today we conclude this look into the journey combat took to become our current version!
Frame the Action
We needed to figure out how to frame combat to the player in a way that was exciting and engaging. Giving them complete control to swing around the board only caused issues, and we had no way to predict which angle players would be viewing the action. It would be too unpredictable to build areas or create animations without a clear guide about how they would need to be framed. This became the primary goal for the next iteration of Pirate101 combat. The camera became entirely automatic, ensuring that all players would have the same experience, similar to Wizard101. However, we had to account for issues that weren’t required in our previous title. Combatants were not in static locations, they were allowed to move around and face any direction. Projectile timings were not consistent because attack duration would vary depending on the distance from attacker to target.
Once the camera position was locked, it became obvious that selecting units was going to become a problem. Some units would be off screen, while small ones were unable to be seen behind large ones. We knew that the only direction we could go was up, so we continued to rotate the camera overhead, hoping to find a “sweet spot” that solved all of our view problems. We finally found it when we were pointed straight down!
The Good: This was great! The attack sequence was enjoyable to watch and you were able to truly appreciate the care that went into creating the animations and particle effects for each action. We had strict adherence to “The Line,” an invisible axis that prevents viewers from becoming disoriented when the perspective changes too drastically.
The Bad: The combat framing was ideal for watching the action. However, looking directly down at the world caused disorientation and didn’t feel right. You couldn’t easily discern between units that had similar visuals, and there was no easy way to see detailed information about the combat.
Planning goes 2D
We needed a way to present a unified view of the combat, and all the important information that gives players a sense of strategy. The answer was to create the first version of the Combat UI that is in use today. This would allow us to present the most amount of information with a cohesive feel.
The Good: Selecting companions was no longer a problem. Strategy was much easier to set up and perform. It was very easy to have a high level overview of the entire combat. You were able to feel engaged in the action and enjoy watching your army storm onto enemy ships like real Pirates.
The Bad: It needed a lot of polish, but most of our problems had been solved. For the first time, the list of “Good” outnumbered “Bad”!
A Final Note
Once we had completed the Look & Feel of the experience, that’s when the real fun began! We began adding layers onto the system. We added ‘Area Of Effect’ spell types like Radial, Line, and Wall. Next, we added Reflex Talents (First Strike, Riposte, Double Tap) and Auras (Hold The Line, Cheap Shot, Repel Boarders). The addition of “Bullet Time” gave the critical hits a great flair. We are constantly working to generate new ideas for the next power, talent, or strategy. We have some great updates that we have been working on for a few months and we can’t want to show them to you. The community has been instrumental in providing us with information about what you want to do and the types of skills you like to see. So, now it’s your turn. What is your favorite part of combat?
Lead Software Engineer