A Non-Human Agent: Developing Enemy Characters in Games
[02.19.13] - Joshua Wilson
At the opposing end of the spectrum is how enemies die. In such games as Gears of War, one particular enemy would explode when killed, affecting the strategy of the player's attack. The player learned quickly to stay away from these explosive enemies and to aim for them when they are running in groups with strong opponents. The quantity at which the enemy is spawned is yet another option.
Stats at this stage in development should be more easily definable. Stats include values such as strength, speed, and health or defense. Health and defense are, in essence, the same thing. Defense can be raised, resulting in less health being taken away when an enemy is damaged. Both alterations extend the enemy's lifetime in the end.
By carefully weighing other stats, it should be immediately apparent how fast, strong, or tough an enemy is. This not only helps with game designers, but the artists as well. Concept artists can create far more interesting designs if the concept is loosely defined by functionality. Stats should always be ballpark estimations, and should be more finely tuned during playtesting. No matter how much thought goes into stats prior to playtesting, they will always change numerous times.
The workflow of enemy creation can be devastating to a project if done in the wrong order. Creatures that look interesting or have unique traits can gain enough designer attachment that they become part of the game. These creatures unbalance the mechanics, disturb the hierarchy, and add no benefits to the game. Understanding these organizational aspects of an enemy's development can make not only a unique enemy, but a great mixture to help the overall game play.
Enemies in games present a challenge to the player and to the designer. Enemies need to be challenging enough so as not to become a bore, and easy enough to avoid frustration. This is the key to maintaining interest in the player and, in the end, creating a great game.
Chris Crawford, Chris Crawford on Game Design, New Riders 201 West 103rd Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46290
Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil, Capcom, 1996-2012
Team Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Sony Computer Entertainment, 2005
Bungie/343 Industries, Halo, Microsoft Studios, 2001-2012
Supergiant Games, Bastion, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2012