Enemies Have Feelings Too
Great to see you yet again :)
In today's post I want to introduce you to the enemies of Rogue Angels. I want to talk about how they are implemented in the game, how they scale, their presentation, and of course - how their AI/programming functions and why it has been developed this way.
Hopefully you will find some inspiration along the way :)
All enemy illustrations have been drawn by Linggar Bramanty.
The Thoughts Behind Enemies
You might have heard the saying "The hero is only as good as the villain.", and while it may sound like some of those overused tropes, there is certainly truth to it - also in gaming. If you want the players' characters to shine, they must also face worthy and interesting adversaries.
The overarching plot/narrative of Rogue Angels has its own villain, which I am not going to spoil here of course. But there are many other NPCs and enemies to measure up against on the hero's journey, and they all need believable motivation and behaviors.
For the world to feel more fleshed out, I have tried to stay away from "completely random baddies". Now, you will meet random bad characters, but they are handled primarily in prose. Those organized enough to put up a fight against your crew, will have factions or gangs, each with stories and agendas.
The basics of the enemies look a lot like those found in other crawler-type games. The stats are being presented in the order of which they have to be processed for players to determine how the enemies move/act, and how much of a threat they are.
All information at the tip of your fingers
I understand many gamers love plastic, and it is easy to imagine all the cool illustrations translated into 3D. The challenge with this approach, besides the insane increase in production cost/selling price, is that players would need reference cards for each of the enemies, tracking their stats and current health. Something that would increase both overhead, upkeep, and play time.
It will always remain my goal that Rogue Angels ends up being both streamlined and easy to overview, no matter how many things I plan to introduce. It is therefore also very important for me, that I can present all relevant information about an enemy in one place, and that has to be on its standee.
A way I decided to lower upkeep was to introduce all enemies with shields as "permanent shields". Instead of placing tokens or tracking both shields and hit points, I kept shields as a constant, making it easier to digest with no fiddly tokens or secondary health-meters.
I have also spent a lot of time on trying to create a cardboard dial solution for a simple plastic base, which provides clear visuals on the enemies' base color, initiative, and their current hit points.
Like in many other combat focused games the enemy with the lowest initiative acts first, followed be second lowest etc. No need to fix what is not broken ;)
Context driven Behavior
Most crawler/skirmish games present enemies with fixed AI programming (behavior). This means that enemies will always act according to the type of enemies they are. An archer will shoot from afar, a brute will try to get up close, mage will cast spells etc.
With Rogue Angels focusing so heavily on storytelling and atmosphere, I found it underwhelming to use regular enemy behaviors, and therefore started to experiment with other approaches early on.
The system I came up with was "Enemy Behavior Cards" or EBCs. These cards dictate what a group of enemies will do. Each card has a red and yellow side allowing two different outcomes to the same type of behavior.
By placing enemies in either red or yellow (or orange, as a merged color), I can direct the behavior of different enemies based on the mission and the context the enemies find themselves in.
- In practice this means that enemies act according to their situation. If enemies have ambushed the players, they will be fighting more efficiently. If players are attacking them, they might be using a more defensive tactic.
Below is an example of a "Chaotic attack", which in some instances will hurt all characters (players and enemies), vs a "Planned attack" where the enemies will deal extra damage to players if at full health.
In Designer Journal #1 I described the three pillars behind my development of Rogue Angels. The EBCs are a result of having all three pillars weighing in on the final design choice. As a player, you will therefore also encounter EBCs geared towards a specific category of enemies with the goal of enhancing the overall thematic experience.
Below are a few examples of that. Here "Automated attack" is meant to be utilized by mech/robot/drone enemies, and "Frenzy" to be used by creature-like enemies.
I created some EBCs with more specific situations in mind. Missions might unfold in a way where certain conditions or parameters force enemies to act in a distinct way.
Below are examples of a "Jamming attack" used as a way of disrupting players' cooldown, and a "Swarming attack" used to overrun players in a short period of time. Both EBCs activate all enemies instead of the usual two (first row = lowest initiative, second row = second lowest initiative).
At A Glance
The last thing I want to touch on is the illustrations. While I understand that sci-fi and fantasy leaves a lot of room for interpretation, magic stuff, and fluff, I have always wanted Rogue Angels to be consistent in its worldbuilding and easy to decipher for players while playing.
- In practice this means that I end up with a range of demands for each individual illustration, like the examples below. Players must at a glance be able to tell that the enemy to the left can hit them from afar, and that the enemy to the right is protected by a shield and is a melee fighter.
Thanks a lot for diving into yet another topic with me - I hope it also sparked some interest with you :)
Now I would love to hear what you think about the enemies of Rogue Angels, if you know of other interesting ways of programming AIs, or if there are any particular behaviors you look forward to encountering? ;)
You can see all enemies (also those still in prototype format) on Tabletop Simulator.
May you have a great day :)
Best regards Emil
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