Video Insight: Combat Review Meeting

20 Jan Video Insight: Combat Review Meeting

We want to give you some more informal video updates outside of the video diaries so here is one on combat.


Yesterday we held a review meeting with Rahni who is a Creative Director at Ninja Theory working on another project.  Also at the meeting is Alexander, our combat designer, and Mel who is implementing the combat engine.

It’s obviously good practice to conduct regular peer reviews and critique each other’s work but especially so with Rahni.  Rahni was the only designer on combat in DmC and her expertise is invaluable.

What we are reviewing is the kernel of the combat system, the basic moves without all the fancy stuff that we plan to layer on top.  As we don’t have resources to create AI and enemy characters just yet, we set up a split screen mode that is there purely for testing purposes.  It will allow a human to play as AI and see if our combat system will cope.

The way we work is to keep all visuals and sound as placeholder until we feel the mechanics are solid.  This allows us to get things up and running and make changes quicker, so please excuse that aspect of it.

From the meeting a big list of items, small and big came about and this feeds into the development tasks for the next review.  A lot of the discussion in this review was focused on directional charge attacks. It was a feature Alexander thought could work well given our camera view.  It seems to have potential and suggests directional blocking could be a feature of the game, adding an extra layer of skill to blocking.

Creating a combat engine is a big and lengthy design undertaking, most of which is driven by touch, feel and iteration.  We take a small steps forward regularly and often.

When we get to a point where we think the core of our combat is solid, we will layer on top additional features, each time making sure it complements the core system. Along the way, we will share this with you so that you too can offer comments and suggestions. When we feel we have something we are happy with we intend to do small discrete beta tests with you online. These will initially focus on simple set ups like the one shown in the video.

This isn’t design by committee by any means, but we are convinced that being open with you guys will help us to make a better game in the end.

So have a look and let us know if you have any ideas that you think we should consider in the comments.

Till next time.

  • Vital (Brownie_USSR)
    Posted at 15:49h, 20 January Reply

    Greetings to the team! I liked evasion attacks – now rarely seen anything but rifts. Strokes are quite simple and that is understandable, given with what weapons deal, but would like to see something more complex in terms of movement with a bang – maybe a little detail from the east (for example samurai), including upper and lower attack. Also, motion sen ndeyus be smoother in terms of the fall and rise, but at this stage looks great.
    Creative Successes to you guys!

  • RodyHW
    Posted at 17:38h, 20 January Reply

    Hello and Happy New Year lol,

    Concerning the battle system, it ‘s interesting to watch and the combos looks fun. I’m really looking forward your dodging system, I love this kind of gameplay. I hope that the future AI and ennemies will force us to dodge often. Your gameaplay reminds me of Monster Hunter and it’s a good thing.

    You showed fast hits, charged hits, will we have a heavy hit too? (Because that would be great and this way we’d have all the hit types)

    PS: Could you please upload your futures videos on Vimeo as well? I’m asking because Vimeo allow the HD download and Youtube don’t (I have a folder wih all the video so I can watch them offline in HD and see the progress to compare ^^).
    Sorry for my french grammar x).

  • André Vila Franca
    Posted at 18:32h, 20 January Reply

    Holy shit i wasn’t expecting this awsome update today!
    The evade, duck and dashing moves look really cool. I also loved the idea of directional blocking.
    I hope there’s also directional attacks. I’m really looking forward to see the other combos and special things that you want to incorporte. I noticed that you choose Senua’s cool, dangerous, technical closed pose, well done! xD
    One thing i would love to see is parries, like when both attack simultaneously in the same direction the swords would clash, and you could keep clashing or chose to be close to the oponent sword with sword in a strenght fight, then you could switch to evade the enemy’s sword or punch him (everything should be fast passed and in real time of course).
    An aesthetic thing i would love to see is permanent damage like blood cuts and ragged clothing.
    Keep up the amazing work!! \(^0^)/

  • Dean Child
    Posted at 18:34h, 20 January Reply

    Another great video I really can not wait for this to come out, the combat looks pretty solid liking the sound effects as the weapon hits, are there any shield’s in the game or is it just 2H weapon?

  • Niccelson
    Posted at 19:46h, 20 January Reply

    Very nice sneak peak! Not sure if you have the swords rendered as full-fleshed physics objects or if it’s just the animation quality, but that clash was damn immersive to look at even without any background textures. Real sense of weight behind each of those swings you got there.

    Couple of questions: if A, X & RB are the respective dodge, attack and block buttons what does Y, B or LB do? And is locking-on the only way to fight or is there an alternative view that allows you to face a lot of enemies at once? If the former is true then here’s my impression on what would make combat scenarios challenging but fun: design the enemy dynamics so that the key to beating them is waiting and carefully choosing when to attack, rather than constantly attacking everything as much as possible (ala the endless string of combos in DmC). To build on this, I don’t think that dodging with LS + A should be the easiest way to avoid taking damage, especially if you want to encourage directional blocking. Rather, make it so that for each respective defence move (Block, Slide & Duck) the timing window becomes increasingly smaller but the payoff becomes much bigger. As an example: Block has the largest window for error and a perfect Block staggers the enemy as a counter; Slide is less forgiving and a perfect Slide kicks the enemy’s guard down as a counter; Duck is super-risky as to perform it you have to stay still and a perfect Duck allows you to instantly charge a heavy attack as a counter.

    Also, one last trick from Platinum Games: if the enemy telegraph isn’t obvious enough and nothing you do to the animation helps, make their eyes flash red. No player will miss a healthy shot of colour-filtered lens flare!

  • skeletonKey
    Posted at 06:05h, 22 January Reply

    I don’t have much to say in regards to the combat, as I play games for art, story, characters, world exploration, & music. Ninja Theory is simply the best there is in these categories, including gameplay/combat. My only requests: 60 fps (I feel like an extremely fluid framerate really makes a big difference in 3rd person blade combat), a Very Easy Mode (like Platinum Games did with Bayonetta & Metal Gear Rising), & please don’t use a ‘color coded’ blocking system or anything like that where you can only block certain kinds of attacks in a specific way. I also think cloth/armor visible damage would be very cool. Thank you!

  • skeletonKey
    Posted at 06:07h, 22 January Reply

    I do like the idea of directional blocking though.

  • Artiom Buchkowsky
    Posted at 09:51h, 22 January Reply

    This. This is why I’m totally sold on this game. Amazing work on movement types and combat mechanics.

    Still, there are some things regarding some of these animations (they are early in development, I suppose?), that irk at me. Sometimes the sword feels much heavier than it looks or feels in other animations (e.g. 0:43). In some animations, it feels extremely tip-heavy, while in others it’s nearly perfect – I’ve handled a few swords, so I hope it doesn’t sound like hubris when I say I know what I’m talking about.

    What I mean by tip-heavy – if you have a handyman in the office, ask for a hammer. Grip it near the end of the haft opposite to the head and give it a few swings. Then, reverse the grip, so you hold the hammer in such a way that the head is touching your little finger and the haft projects up – you will immediately feel the difference.

    I wouldn’t object against such animations if it were a giant oversized sword, or a sword that flares near the tip and is more narrow near the hilt, but in case of a longsword the center of mass is way closer to the hilt than the animations suggest.

    Hoping I haven’t offended anyone, I wish you good luck and a great success!

  • HunterLady
    Posted at 13:08h, 23 January Reply

    Wow! At last I saw receptions of the main character. Looking at video, I noticed some elements of receptions from the Heavenly Sword and the Devil May Cry. It is visible to the naked eye. Good fellows, super! I wait for new video.

  • Daniel Prem
    Posted at 20:53h, 23 January Reply

    The combat look interesting. I am very excited fo more. Keep it going guys. 🙂

  • Michel
    Posted at 00:11h, 24 January Reply

    I would love Hellblade to have a rather realistic and gritty combat and movement system. I looked at Enslaved and Heavenly Sword and combat looked way too unrealistic in terms of movement speed and pattern. It looked very anime like. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a dynamic fight. It’s just that when charakters move in combat like there is no gravity or inertia it completely breaks the spell. Jumping up into the sky several meters, jumping down 10s of meters without consequences or running and jumping from one loose rope tied between two points a hundred meters away from each other like I can fly feels just too unrealistic. And then, I think it makes combat with weapons boring if you have to hit opponents so many times to finnish them. To top it all it is really annoying when those guys you brought down with your sword go down, take a moment to recover and then get up just to move with the speed of light again for their final moments. That happens all the time in Heavenly Sword. I think that that is a rather bad way of putting more fight into the fight. Make combat interesting, don’t just prolong fights artificially. Make blows count. Combatants get slower when injured. They bleed and maybe even loose use of a limb. I have to be really good and have to have some kind of healing method in order to survive. Make every combat an interesting part of the game! Make every encounter count! I hope I don’t annoy fans of anime. I just would love to have a believable combat and animation system. Since that is going to be the core of the game it would ruin it for me. What do others think about this? Am I alone with my opinion?

    • André Vila Franca
      Posted at 05:27h, 25 January Reply

      I agree ith you man.
      I do love anime fights like Sword of the Stranger, Rurouni Kenshin Tsuiokuhen, Kakashi vs Obito in Naruto Shippuden, and many others but for HELLBLADE is absolutely necessary to have realistic fights, a good example is Jaime Lannister vs Eddard Stark in GOT, of course you can still have those cool dashes and evade movements, but that one of sending the opponent through the air i think it’s too much.
      They must find a balance between what’s cool and what’s realistic, it’s a bit difficult but we gotta believe in them. I just hope the mechanics are truly a masterpiece and yeah, the opponent must get weaker after a slash or a hit, it would be really cool to see them with blood coming from their wounds, the clothes all torn and broken armor. loss of limbs and the way they move would also change..

  • Sérgio Nehama
    Posted at 07:11h, 24 January Reply

    being Hell blade and all, will there be other weapons or other swords? will it be upgradeable?
    please, add a two handed mode or dual wielding…..these look sooooo badass ( ryu hayabusa even though he uses katanas)

  • Jason Reed
    Posted at 07:06h, 25 January Reply

    I think there should be a penalty for missing attacks, such as a brief recovery period where you cannot attack and take extra damage. This would encourage players to plan out strikes instead of just button-mashing and hoping the attacks land.

  • fael
    Posted at 19:43h, 27 January Reply

    there is a very old game you might be interested to look at about full directional sword attacking and blocking : Die by the Sword … the solo was a total mess, but the Arena mode was very interesting (once you understood how to manage the camera and the mouse) … it is the only game that has ever give me the sensation of really using a sword.

  • Thomas Roach
    Posted at 19:18h, 28 January Reply

    I’m pleased to see how polished the animations and general combat theory are shaping up. Have you thought of intentionally slowing down the melee aspects of combat in order to emphasize the depth of options (directional blocks and attacks, dodging, etc)? I think it might be a unique and worthwhile approach to showcasing it, as most other games hide shallow combat design by simply speeding up the hero-opponent interactions and adding gravity-defying maneuvers.

    A few ideas that could be implemented:

    1. Chaining directional blocks into directional evades (such as blocking an attack, and then using a directional dodge in order to achieve a specific evasive move unavailable during a normal dodge).

    2. Having a block limit which would leave Senua unable to guard against incoming damage indefinitely (I assume that you are going to have enemies with attacks that cannot be guarded, but you could add this as well to provide another wrinkle for the player).

    3. Allowing players to attack after a perfect block (is it actually a parry technique? It seems to destabilize the opponent in the video above). Basically a quick and fluid attack that can keep the offensive momentum flowing even after you have no choice but to block an attack. This could also tie into my first suggestion, as well.

    4. In the Japanese martial arts, there are two concepts in regards to dealing with an attack by an opponent. “Sen no sen” and “sensen no sen”. Both involve an awareness of the opponent’s intentions to strike, and revolve around interrupting that attack, with the latter involving “baiting” out a desired attack in order to counter it. Your mention of being able to cancel out of attacks made me think of this, as having enemies who will, for instance, start an unblockable technique if you happen to block preemptively. This could add a very interesting layer to your combat theory.

    Keep up the excellent work, NT. There are many of us who are not only looking forward to your game, but also hope to support you simply because of the ethics involved in your thought process. Looking forward to your next offering.

  • Tania
    Posted at 01:01h, 11 February Reply

    The game mechanics seem really fluid, I’m liking it so far! I also think it’d be really awesome if there were an arsenal of weaponry to choose from~ For example duel-wielding, sword, shield, having a bow or crossbow, and being able to quickly switch between weapons. I’ve always gone for the assassin duel wielding bowman myself~

  • Alex S
    Posted at 14:27h, 09 April Reply

    Directional blocking would be awesome. If done right, it could really make the game stand out. Maybe the player should be rewarded for blocking at just the right time and direction, like the enemy should be stunned for a second like in DmC.

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