When it comes to implementing new elements in a game’s design, there is usually some amount of teetering or rebalancing that needs to take place. Adding a feature may affect something else within the game or even introduce its own bugs that need adjusting. However, sometimes the programming forces that be shine its light to unveil something that was never brought to the table of discussion during design meetings. One such “something” was found while blindfiring through zero gravity. It was uncovered that a player could propel themselves faster through zero-G by blindfiring their weapon.
I sat down to talk with our Lead Designer, Dan Nanni, to walk us through how this mechanic was set into motion.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the propulsion mechanic, let’s take a brief step back. Was blindfiring an idea from the very beginning of development or did it come about organically?
Dan: This was a Cliff thing and was part of the LawBreakers pitch from the very beginning. “Why can’t I just take the gun I’m holding and fire it behind me?”, he asked. And that was a good question. Why couldn’t you?
Ok, so now being able to blindfire is in the early stages of the game’s existence, and developers are able to playtest it. Tell a little of the story about discovering you were able to use it to traverse the map more quickly.
Dan: After we got the blindfire in the game and working we realized that, while it worked, it was just too hard to make useful. First off, you can’t see anyone. Secondly, a mechanic like this works best in tight, predictable corridors, not wide open spaces, and we’re a game that throws players into large, zero-g areas where enemies can literally be everywhere. We kept it in the game – it was working, so why not – but we focused on other stuff and left blindfire on the back burner.
During a playtest one day, someone noticed something though. I think it was Cronos’ rocket launcher, but when they fired it, some impulse was applied to their character while in zero-g, moving them forward faster than they could normally move. We were asked if this was a bug, and the first instinct is sometimes to say yes, but we noticed players were having fun with this. Is it bad that they can move themselves faster than we intended? Normally, yeah, but this already had a self-balancing resource. You need to burn through your ammo source to get that extra movement speed, and that trade-off can put you into a bad situation if you’re not careful.
Once we applied that impulse to all of our weapons that it made sense to put it on (sorry Assassin swords, you’re not propellers), it became part of our traversal language.
Did learning this help influence other creations during development?
Dan: It definitely influenced us on our weapon decisions. “How does this role use zero-g?” directly influences what type of weapons we give our new characters. This also led us to accidentally discovering, and then supporting, the reverse rocket jump on our Titan role. No need to turn around in order to move forward – just look up, run forward, jump, and blindfire your rocket to get that extra boost in speed. It wound up turning our slowest ground role into someone that could ambush and surprise unexpecting opponents. That effectively turned the Titan into a more push-based role, which freed us up to create a role that was more focused on tanking.
What about from a gameplay design perspective?
Dan: Resource management for roles like the Vanguard were tweaked based on blindfire. She might not seem like she has a lot of fuel at first, but if you’re playing it right with blindfire, she can get from base to base in many of our maps really fast and land at the enemy base with fuel still in her reserve. That was all carefully tweaked based on blindfire as part of her movement arsenal. That also led us towards designing maps with an optimal “blindfire exit”, allowing roles that may not be the best at traversal to get into zero-g quickly, blindfire and then land in the enemy’s base within seconds to reclaim an objective. The countdown timer at 100% in Overcharge takes blindfire into account as well, since a player can spawn in, run into zero-g, blindfire across and play one final move on the defended battery before time runs out.
After we locked blindfire down as a movement mechanic, it really permeated itself throughout a lot of our movement, distance and timing systems in LawBreakers.
The moral of this LawBreakers story? If it’s fun, don’t fix it. Rest assured the fun train doesn’t stop there. The team is continually pushing the envelope each week to not only make this a unique gameplay experience for players but an enjoyable one as well. Nothing can stop us from finding the fun! Not even our neighbors downstairs, who have literally invested in brooms just to hit the ceiling in order to alarm us that our screaming and banter during playtests are too loud.
We will continue to share stories from the studio here, so be sure to check back often. Also if there is anything you would like to know more about, drop us a line on our social networks!
Until we meet again, my awesome marvels of mayhem, this is Britt blindfiring into the sunset…