In our previous PS blog post, we shared the design philosophy and creative process behind Rayton, the protagonist of FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch. Today, we’ll talk about his combat skills and how we designed a satisfying, yet stylish combo system for players to enjoy.
At the beginning, we made it clear that the combat system in FIST should be designed to provide an arcade-style action experience. Aside from our crazy love for the arcade scene when we were young, the characteristics of arcade games are also fascinating – those combat systems are easy to understand and trustworthy. Players can have fun in these games very quickly. This is the kind of gaming experience we want our players to have at FIST.
In our initial design, combat featured a single attack button. Long press to load; press the button to start combo skills; When the enemy’s HP drops to a certain value, press the button to start an execution.
One button covered three key attacks: a powerful blow at the beginning of the battle, a set of continuous attacks during, and a magnificent execution at the end. The functions and visual effects worked as one, giving the feeling of an arcade experience. We are very satisfied with it.
We spent over two months producing a demo based on this system. Feedback from players who tested the demo at exhibitions was positive, convincing us that we are heading in the right direction.
The contradiction between streamlined combat and rich settings
Then we start the formal development. We define FIST as an easy-to-operate action game with over 10 hours of main story playtime, an expansive and fluid map, and a host of exploration elements. However, after completing the first stage, with more and more content and a longer overall game time added, the original combat system started to show some disadvantages.
The original three-stage combat experience includes charging, strikes, and execution. Charge attacks take time to prepare, which is difficult when combat encounters happen suddenly. The performance is essentially a performance with little input beyond the initial trigger. As a result, players must press the same button over and over to perform combo attacks most of the time during battle.
Such a combat system is a reasonable design for a 15-minute demo, but not quite as suitable for a game lasting a few hours. It got boring.
Considerations when designing combo attacks
After rethinking the player experience of combo attacks, we decided to add a button to the combat system. The two attack buttons are for light attacks and heavy attacks. Players will need to memorize combos such as L (right) L (Light) H (eavy), LHL, HLH to perform different abilities.
But we don’t want to give up our original intention of developing an arcade-style action game. If it is necessary to memorize combos, how could we simplify it as much as possible? After several brainstorming, we developed the following rules:
- Each combo must start with a light attack.
- The maximum number of hits in a combo is 5
- No light attacks after heavy attack
- Use as few buttons as possible
With these rules, we restrict combo abilities to the following seven:
LH, LLL, LLH, LHH, LLHH, LLLH, LLLHH
Does it seem difficult to remember? In fact, combos are easy to perform in FIST.First, you need to take an action A. If you want to cast combo abilities, take an action B.
This combined system satisfied our need to develop a simple but interesting combat system. Starting with a light attack and ending with a heavy attack, the combo system provides an intensifying battle process. In the design language and image performance, we also noticed a certain consistency with this increasingly intense trend.
Also, since there are three weapons in the game, we split some moves with similar effects into a unified mode of operation. For example, for all three weapons, AB launches the enemy into the air. Players don’t have to memorize different aerial launchers for each weapon.
Adjusting a balanced combat system
As development progresses, in addition to combo skills, we add more battle ops like SP skill, throw skill, special skills, weapon change, jump, run, and cancel. Players will have more options in combat.
However, throughout development, we have been doing “addition” and “subtraction” at the same time for each battle system. We would like players to have more moves in battle, but we also wanted those moves to be understood and handled as easily as possible. The ultimate goal is to allow our players to launch those cool moves in a relatively simple way as if they were in the arcade.
FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch will release on PS5 and PS4 on September 7, but you can make an order on PlayStation Store now.