The Spirit Mentor - tool and tormentor
It might be a bit surprising but we could not find many other games that had good melee combat design for such controls. They would typically require the melee attacker to take a few hits, and we did not want FORCED to become a potion management challenge. We’re really happy with our solution, which involves a knockback system where interrupting enemy attacks and dodging are important. So for instance one of our design goals became to ensure that a threat would never result in damage that could not be avoided.
Sorry, I can’t stop mentioning features and aspects about FORCED once I get started :)
Co-Optimus: It's not a bad problem to have. Speaking of features, what about character customization? Will players be forced into certain roles?
Steffen: Customizability - before players enter a trial, they can easily re-pick weapons, and each of the 4 weapons the players have access to in FORCED have 8 active and 8 passive skills that are repickable. Also the skills are designed to offer new utility rather than more power, so the skill you start with, can definitely be used in the later challenges as well. That allows for some interesting ways to constantly tweak and alter the playstyle. We want players to experiment throughout the game, and not just stick with their fireball from level 12 to 99. However we also appreciate progression, so you have to unlock your options first!
Co-Optimus: Those are a lot of features to implement. I mean, right out of the gate, you decide to make a - for the most part - purely cooperative game. Which begs the question: Why? Why start there and not try some something a little less ambitious?
Steffen: BetaDwarf is made up of multiplayer gamers and we want to focus on creating multiplayer games. We basically came to the conclusion that experiences must be shared for them to be truly powerful. We have all found it really hard to find co-op games for LAN parties that were not just grind fests. We were in love with much of the 5 person instance content in WoW, but to actually play those you had to spend a lot of preparation time - it was not anywhere close to pick-up-and-play, the group, gear and level had to be right.
You’re right and I think that we initially underestimated just how complicated it is to make a coop game, with GUI, balancing, story flow etc. Which is all much more simple in a single player experiences. In the light that we were complete noobs when we started, it is a very bold move to deal with an online cooperative multiplayer game in 3d... If the team had not been so compelled to make this happen, that we even moved in together, it probably would have failed a long time ago. It has been and is indeed challenging, but we have also learned a lot from pushing ourselves so much.
The BetaDwarf Development Team
Co-Optimus: Did you all have any experience developing and/or releasing video games prior to starting Forced?
Steffen: Not really. We had made some ambitious study projects, actually we had made a really cool concept of RTS vs FPS, which we held university tournaments in. We got known for that in the university and it helped a lot when we gathered the team. But we have never released anything before.
Co-Optimus: What, then, inspired the particular mechanics at work in Forced? How did you know what would work and would be fun?
Steffen: Extensive iterations and testing is our approach to uncover an interesting game formula. We basically spent the first year experimenting with base mechanics of FORCED. We have tried a dozen things, and we have been to several conventions with a total of 1000 test persons. Getting the Spirit Mentor mechanic right and the overall game flow formula was really challenging. Games like Left 4 Dead, Bloodline Champions, Lara Croft - Guardian of Light, Alien Swarm and [Warcraft 3] mods like Hero Defence has been very inspiring. We’ve had a lot of fun with Alien Swarm, but it really had this casual even weird progression going. You could basically choose whatever map you wanted and if you failed you would still be rewarded. We wanted a more challenging co-op PvE experience, with a real sense of progression.