(Deity) How We Got the “Chain” in Chain Rift

Finding our “one cool mechanic” was actually an interesting discovery and lesson in choice of words. When we were developing the ability set of the player, one of the very first abilities we ever made was Shadow Rift, which effectively acted as a teleport.  We found this to be a really fun mechanic to use, and provided us with a lot of possibilities for the game itself. As we were playing around with different ideas to improve on this mechanic, we ended up discussing the idea of using the ability to allow the player to teleport onto specific objects. We ended up implementing it and found it to give off a really unique feeling and perspective to the player.

Perch Point Example

(Early implementation of latching onto Objects) [Deity – 04 – 24 – 2011]

Once we had those two core features in place, we started to develop enemies and how the player interacted with them. We quickly figured out that being latched onto an object, as an enemy walked by, gave a sense of “stealth” and that you were waiting for the most opportune moment to strike. Since we decided we wanted the player to be strategical about the decisions that they made, I really didn’t want to have a massive combat system, and simply wanted to reward the player for making good decisions prior to engaging the enemy. As a result, we created the Devour ability, which was simply rifting onto an enemy, and instantly killing them. From play testing, players loved being perched and then swooping down to slay an enemy. The players explicitly noted to us how satisfying it was to kill an enemy.

With this in mind, I realized that if players were going so far as to make sure we knew it was satisfying to kill an enemy, I wanted to elaborate on that aspect so that players could continuously feel satisfied playing our game. As I was playing myself, I noticed that I kept trying to do quick “dash” moves in an attempt to quickly kill one enemy after the next. I would try to swoop down and kill an enemy, and then rift back to the same latching object to get in a range of an incoming enemy so that I could speed kill them as well. Of course, under the current system, this was insanely difficult to do and still try to make it feel as cool.

Dash Example

(Visual representation of “Dashing”) [Deity – 07 – 27 – 2011]

I ended up demonstrating what I was trying to do to my fellow teammates, and they all noted that what I was effectively trying to do was to “combo” from point to point. I agreed, and we all thought that a “combo-like” action would be a really cool ability to try out. After figuring out how to properly implement it, we needed to visually show what enemies or objects was part of the combo. We concluded that drawing a line between each point would provide a good sense of clarity. After the basics of the ability were finished, my Gameplay Programmer (Chris Mingus) came to me and asked, “So, what are we going to call it, Combo Rift?” We both found that to sound really lame, and I asked, “Well, isn’t there a better word to use then ‘combo’? I mean, what is a combo after all?” This was actually an important train of thought because we ended up delving into the definition of a combo. We ended up coming up with:

“…A series or string of strategic moves or actions that collectively creates a result more significant than any other previous action.”

This resulted in us all thinking, “Oh! So it’s basically a chain reaction!” At that point, we had the name, and renamed the ability from “Combo Rift” to “Chain Rift”. I really liked the sound the name gave, but I felt that the debug drawn line was a little lack-luster for how cool the ability was. I only really had to think about it for a short time, but I turned to Chris and asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool to visually show the concept of a chain with actual chains instead of just a line?” Chris responded with, “…that sounds awesome!…” We both quickly got to work, with me providing the 3D model and texture for a chain segment, and him with the visual implementation of them, as well as adding some swaying effect and a droop on an entire link line. We even took it a step further and made it so that if an enemy or object were to start to move out of range, you could see the chain begin to strain and eventually break if the point wondered off too far. We added a visual to tell how many chains you had to work with, and then we had our foundation for Chain Rift.

Chain Rift BW Effect

(Visual Chains Effect) [Deity – 07 – 27 – 2011]

After all was said and done, we put our new ability in front of some play testers, and we were all a little nervous with anticipation about how they would react. Everyone ended up having an absolute blast using the new ability, latching onto an object, linking up various points, and then taking out hordes of enemies in a single moment. The players described the ability as a “game-changer” and they meant that in a good way. However, what I did notice was that players were having some difficulty chaining multiple enemies together, as they would move out of range and break the linking chains. This made the player click very quickly, and throw strategy right out the window just so they could use the ability in time. I’ll admit, I really hated that the players had to do that. In fact, it broke the entire point of strategically planning your move. It wasn’t like the player wasn’t trying to be strategic, but the fact was that the ability just didn’t lend itself for that kind of gameplay.

We all spoke as a team afterwards about all that we witnessed during the session, and I brought up all the various points that I saw. I noted that we needed a way to give the player time to plan and chain the points they wanted without worrying about if something breaks. Of course, I didn’t want to give the player infinite range, or else that would break the game entirely. My Technical Director (Ryan Chew) ended up coming up with the idea of implementing Bullet Time to slow everything down while you are in “Chain Mode”, but he would have to do some architectural restructuring in order to make it happen. When thinking about this proposition, I really liked two aspects about it: the player wouldn’t have to speed click from point to point just to use the ability, and that it gave back the strategy aspect that we had lost when we had first implemented Chain Rift.

The only other issue that we had to solve was to make it really apparent that the Bullet Time was intentional. Without any other feedback aside from creating a chain, the Bullet Time read like a really consistent bug or glitch to the player. I ended up approaching my Graphics Programmer (Caroline Sugianto) about a way to visually make the Bullet Time apparent. A majority of our team had recently been playing Assassin’s Creed 2 for some reference, and one member suggested looking at the “Eagle Eye Mode” from the game. Caroline ended up implementing her variation of the effect, and effectively de-saturating the entire screen. This worked perfectly, and really added to the ability visually. In the end, the combination of all those events made Chain Rift what it is today.

Chain Rift Example

(Overall effect of using Chain Rift) [Deity – 07 – 27 – 2011]

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~ by rhickman-design on September 18, 2011.