DESIGNING COMBAT WITHOUT FIGHTING
Hi people! My name is Sergio Ortiz, animator and game designer of Flat Kingdom. Working on this project has been a great joy, because I’m a big fan of Nintendo games, platformers and games with cute and colorful art. Part of my job was to plan the levels, enemy dynamics, boss fights, puzzles, etc.
Flat Kingdom’s gameplay came from a simple idea: rock-paper-scissors in a platform game. With this concept in mind we started to craft the world, puzzles and enemies of the game. However, as it’s often the case, this was easier said than done.
“In the brightest day, In the blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight!”
For starters, the combat could not rely on attack-defense buttons, nor stomping everything like most platformers do. The main character had to touch an enemy of the opposite shape to defeat it, and in order to make it interesting, we had to design some of the enemies to change shapes, hide their weak spots or deceive the player, otherwise, you would just run and touch everything once you figure out the correct shape and never be challenged by the same enemy again.
This narwhal could be considered more of an obstacle than he is an enemy. The poor guy.
Since combat is not the main focus of the game, we designed the enemies to get in your way and make traversing the world more challenging. You do not gain experience or items from them, so the rewarding part about these critters is not defeat them per se, but getting past them. Sometimes you’ll have to fight them, but other times avoiding them is just as effective.
The big exception to this rule are the boss battles. Those had to change the pace of the game and focus on combat. That proved to be a challenge as well since the main character is not really designed to be a fighter (he’s pure love!).
I hope Japan doesn’t get any crazy ideas with this boss fight…
We designed the boss battles to be more like endurance and observation tests rather than actual epic fights to the death. Some are chases, some are all about avoiding, some have you just analyzing your opponent until he’s vulnerable, some even have some puzzles in them.
For example, one of the bosses is a killer whale (Hank). You’re on a little ship that gradually breaks as the fight goes on. We wanted to convey a feeling of helplessness for this fight, You’re on his domain, after all. He’s only vulnerable when you bounce back at him the fishes he’ll shoot at you. This mechanic was previously teached with some enemies that do the same. But the main thing about this boss is that when he’s in the water, he’s king. The Gyorg boss battle from Majora’s Mask comes to mind as an inspiration for a similar idea with a boss.
Eyeballs! Eyeballs as far as the EYE can see!
The thing with Gyorg is that Link has a plethora of attacks at his disposal and, if he wants, can dive into the water himself to damage Gyorg directly, but he could also stay on the platform and damage Gyorg with his arrows or his sword when he jumps or gets too close. I personally liked what they did with the 3DS remake because they tweaked the boss battle to incorporate some “out of the water” combat. This approach is very similar to how the Hank battle plays out. Flat does not have any direct means for attacking (and just touching the bosses like he does with the enemies would make them far too simple), so this method of “wait and attack” was the base for a lot of the bosses.
We took inspiration in games with fun boss battles in 2D, like most Kirby games, for example. But whereas Kirby can just use a sword-rod-hammer-whatever to hack n’ slash at the Big Bad, Flat has to avoid, observe and attack when the time is right, more like a Zelda boss battle would be (or most of them, anyway).
Beating a boss in Flat Kingdom means that you have truly mastered your abilities and understand the obstacles of the world you’re currently fighting. Some of them turned out to be pretty challenging, but that’s all part of the fun! Flat Kingdom is not for the weak-hearted!
(Sing with me) Ta ra ta tan, tan, taan, taan taaa raaaaan!
Players familiar with platform games will feel right at home with this game and shouldn’t have many problems fighting enemies or bosses. The concept behind them is to also evoke a little bit of nostalgia from older players! References to our favorite games abound in Flat Kingdom, both visually and conceptually, we listed them in this article, but, do you think we are missing any?
Sergio Ortiz – Game designer, animator and overall lovable person. When he’s not playing videogames or watching cartoons he… nah, that’s all he ever does. He also wrote this in third person to look cool.