Star Wars: The Old Republic

The following article is a review on Gamespy about one of the boss fights I designed: How I learned to stop worrying and use the Force

Game Summary

Position: Contract World Designer

Time on Game: 1 year

Game Description: Be the hero of your own Star Wars™ saga in a story-driven massively-multiplayer online game from BioWare and LucasArts. Explore an age thousands of years before the rise of Darth Vader when war between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire divides the galaxy. Choose to be a Jedi, a Sith, or from a variety of other classic Star Wars roles, and make decisions which define your personal story and determine your path down the light or dark side of the Force. Along the way you will befriend courageous companions who will fight at your side or possibly betray you based on your actions. Together, you will battle enemies in dynamic Star Wars combat and team up with other players to overcome incredible challenges (Game Description provided by: http://www.swtor.com/info).

Tasks:

Link to Game

http://www.swtor.com

Creation and Placement of NPCs

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Responsible for:

  • Placement of NPCs throughout the game
  • Giving NPCs idle animations, abilities, and weapons
  • Placement of cover based objects
  • Generating pathfinding
  • Making sure spawned areas are balanced

NPC Placement Example Index:

Group of NPCs

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Placed 4 NPCs at the back of a farm
  • WHY: To cover up the previously empty space in the back of the farm
A single group of 4 NPCs

Additional Details

When creating and placing NPCs there are numerous things I had to take into consideration, such as: idle animations, the location of the NPCs, how they should be spaced, the weapons to give them, the abilities they should use, the level of difficulty of each of the NPCs, and the number of NPCs in a single group.

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Multiple Groups of NPCs

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Respawned a farm to make combat more interesting
  • WHY: It was previously just groups of 3 NPCs which is quite boring to fight
Multiple groups of NPCs spaced within a small farm

Additional Details

NPC spacing is important thing to think about when placing enemies in the game because it influences how the player can move through an area. The most important things to think about when spacing out groups of NPCs is: A) whether or not the player will recognize just by looking at a group of NPCs which NPC belongs to which group and B) that a player does not accidentally aggro more than the number of groups they meant to. In order to make sure both A and B are accomplished is it important to not only take note of the distance between NPC groups but also to think like the player and how they may possibly approach the area. And like everything else, it is also good to test the area by playing through it to really make sure the NPCs behave like you designed them.

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Cover

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Group of 3 NPCs around two cover objects
  • WHY: Give the NPCs a logical place to be
NPCs gathered around cover

Additional Details

The placement of cover objects near NPCs ties those NPCs to that object giving them an anchor point and a place that the player can associate them with. The placement of cover for players is where design really comes in, because just like the spacing of NPCs it is important to take into consideration how close a cover object is to an enemy NPC. Usually when placing cover objects for players you want to have them within targeting range of an NPC but not within aggro range. However, it is ok to sometimes throw in cover objects that are a little closer to an enemy NPC so that the player has to take a risk in order to get the reward and benefit of that specific cover.

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Idle Animations

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Group of 4 NPCs with idle animations
  • WHY: Gives the NPCs a lifelike feel
NPCs idling

Additional Details

One of the more underestimated things about placing NPCs is giving them good idle animations – animations the NPCs play while not in combat. Idle animations are important because they not only give areas movement but they help to make the game look more like a living and breathing world.

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Staged Fighting

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Two groups of opposite faction NPCs setup to appear to be fighting each other
  • WHY: To make the area more visually interesting and exciting
NPCs setup for staged fighting

Additional Details

Staged fighting is when you script NPCs to look like they are fighting each other when in fact they are not. Staged fighting is useful for making an area look like a battleground or giving the player a cool backdrop of action.

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Creation of NPC abilities

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Responsible for:

  • Scripting and balancing of NPC abilities
  • Assigning combat music when necessary
  • Making sure the fights match anything mentioned or seen in a cinematic relating to the NPC
  • Playtesting the fights with the NPCs

NPC Abilities Example Index:

Knockback Smash

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Elite Droid with the ability to knock the player back
  • WHY: Force the player to move around
Elite Rakata Droid smashes the player

Additional Details

Creating NPC abilities is all about themeing the ability to the type of NPC and knowing how to balance it for the different types of players that it may be used on. What is great about creating NPC abilities is the fact that you get to take a standard enemy NPC and turn him into a much more interesting and unique character that the player may need to change their current strategy of play in order to beat. In the above image is an elite rakata droid. Before I touched it, it was just a normal melee droid, but then I created a ground smash attack for it to use and suddenly it is no longer just another droid. Below are a number of images that show off some more of the abilities I created in Star Wars the Old Republic.

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Unique Looking Attack

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Elite Battledroid with a unique looking ability
  • WHY: To match the backstory of the droid being a prototype war droid
Elite Battledroid targets its prey

Additional Details

Abilities with long casting times give the player the chance to try and interrupt it before the NPC gets it off. These abilities are generally the ones that really make the NPC that uses them stand out from the normal repetition of NPCs. The image above is a good example of one such ability, if the player does not interrupt its cast before it finishes then the player takes a large amount of damage.

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Friendly NPC Heal

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Friendly NPCs with the ability to heal the player
  • WHY: To allow the fight to be made more challenging then normal
Friendly NPC heals the player during a difficult fight

Additional Details

Not all abilities given to NPCs have to be hostile nor do they have to be put on hostile NPCs. For example, in the above image, I created an NPC only heal that targets the player and gave it to two friendly NPCs. The two friendly NPCs will help the player during the fight and even heal him if he starts taking too much damage.

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Stealth Pounce

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Ice cat with stealth ability
  • WHY: Give the target of a kill quest a more interesting attack
Stealthy ice cat surprises the player by jumping out of the snow

Additional Details

Abilities that have a fast cast time or are instant, meaning they have no cast time, will usually hit the player for less damage then an ability with a long cast time. The above image of the ice cat exploding out of the snow is an example of an instant ability, as the cat uses the attack as soon as the ability’s cooldown is up.

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Ice Beam

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: NPC with the ability to shoot an ice beam that freezes the player
  • WHY: To match dialog that mentions the NPC in a kill quest
Cryo Trooper’s ice beam explodes freezing the player

Additional Details

The above image is one of the more unique abilities I created. The NPC channels a blue “ice beam” at the player which slows the player and hits the player for 3 separate attacks. The final attack results in the player being frozen for a few seconds. However if the player interrupts the ice beam attack during its last few seconds then the attack backfires damaging and freezing the NPC instead of the player.

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Creation of Boss Battles

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Responsible for:

  • Scripting and balancing boss mechanics and abilities
  • Assigning combat music
  • Making sure the fight matches anything mentioned or seen in a cinematic relating to the boss
  • Playtesting the fights

Boss Battles Example Index:

Additional Details

The creation of boss battles includes the design and creation of unique boss mechanics and abilities. When designing a boss battle while it is also about themeing the abilities to the NPC just like other enemy NPCs it is also about creating a very unique and memorable encounter for the player. It is about creating something that the player must figure out and strategize, utilizing all of their abilities in order to beat it. Below are some images and descriptions of two of the boss battles I designed.

Jedi Knight Boss Fight

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Boss with a channel ability that knocks the player back and then hits the player with a large damage attack
  • WHY: To teach the player to use his/her force leap ability to interrupt an NPC’s attack
Valis warms up for the finisher
Valis finishes his channel

Additional Details

The Jedi Knight fight with Valis is a somewhat unique boss fight in the fact that I made it so he opens with two stuns before doing his unique ability. Valis using two different stuns prior to his big attack forces the player into choosing when they should interrupt an ability or when they should just let the ability go off. The ability I made for Valis is a channel that starts with an area of effect knock back which, once the player is knocked back, can be interrupted by a force leap. If the player fails to interrupt the ability by the end of the channel, then Valis releases a large blast of force energy that takes a large chunk out of whomever it hits.

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Jedi Consular Boss Fight

What I Did and Why

  • WHAT: Boss with 3 stages of combat abilities based on boss’s current health
  • WHY: To make the fight increase in challenge as it progresses
Force smash signals Kyrus’ first damage buff
A force leap and some teleporting signal Kyrus’ second damage buff
Force choking the player’s companion signals Kyrus’ third and final damage buff

Additional Details

The way I approached designing the fight with Lord Kyrus was that I wanted to make fighting him more interesting and more challenging as the fight went on. The way I accomplished this was by giving him three different buffs based on his current health: a 10% damage bonus buff at 75% health, a 20% damage buff at 50% health, and a final 40% damage bonus buff at 25% health. Each buff overrode the previous so there was no stacking bonus damage and Kryus was also able to use more abilities after each consecutive buff making for a very entertaining fight.

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