Video Game Tuesday: Enemy Programming

This week for Video Game Tuesday I’m going to cover a topic I’ve been meaning to cover for a while. It’s all about Enemy Programming!

Enemy Programming?: What I mean is what goes into programming the various enemies you face in a game. For example in a First Person Shooter how to deal with enemies without them becoming too hard for the player to deal with.

Too Hard?: Yes too hard, most enemy programming nowadays at least when it comes to their behavior coding needs to be tuned lower so players can actually win against them in most AAA games. This has been the case for over a decade and this was one of my first lessons in Game Design and Programming. You had to plan out where and how enemies would act, where they would generate (spawn) and how they would approach the player. In most games this means giving them a specific path or paths you intend for them to deal with so they don’t just pop up from behind the player and waste them.

Pop up behind?: Yes, the enemies would actually flank the player and or leave a building and re-enter it to hit the player from behind. Think of it like this, when you command a large squad of Zerglings to attack a Terran Bunker and you don’t actually tell them to go surround it, no you just point them at their target and they do their thing, automatically swarming and circling the structure. This applies to pretty much most enemies in games. But say if that Bunker only had so much space to attack on certain side because it’s at the top of a ramp, but that same plateau it’s placed on has another entrance you’ve scouted out that would let your Zerglings attack it’s other sides. Well those extra Zerglings would move around to attack the other sides by going up that other ramp. In a First Person Shooter that would cause most players lots of issues, thinking that they only need to watch a certain angle and deal with it from there. That’s what I’m getting at when it comes to Enemy Programming.

What else?: Well this is where stuff gets fun or hilarious. Issues like this are what cause some really fun strategies to occur, like the infamous Atheon cheese of Destiny fame where you just used grenades to push him off the edge and instantly killed him and completely ignored the encounter’s mechanics. The programming was so constrained in certain ways to allow the players to actually beat the fight, but didn’t have certain other coding to prevent the Atheon from falling off the platform thereby completely preventing the fight from becoming trivial. Most developers have to take these sorts of scenarios into account for every encounter a game has in it. Most do a pretty spectacular job, although some like Bungie have failed spectacularly at times.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday, see you next time.

Video Game Tuesday: Why Ultimate Coil Should Be The Gold Standard

This week for Video Game Tuesday I’m talking about the success of Final Fantasy XIV’s latest hardcore encounter. It’s Why Ultimate Coil Should Be The Gold Standard!

Ultimate Coil?: The Unending Coil of Bahamut (Ultimate) is the latest hardcore fight in Final Fantasy XIV. To even enter Ultimate Coil it requires the player to clear the Savage version of Omega Deltascape V4 (The Exdeath Fight). Plenty of players have yet to even clear that fight, and as of the time writing this post (9 days after the release of the encounter) there still hasn’t been a clear of Ultimate Coil. That being said there are no new mechanics to the encounter which features Twintania the boss of Turn 5, Nael the boss of Turn 9 and Bahamut the boss of Turn 13. It’s merely just incredibly unforgiving and hard. If you make a single mistake it almost assuredly will lead to a wipe. This is the type of content that should be present in every MMO out there, the type that is so hard to complete it takes people weeks or months to complete.

The actual fight is said to last for about 20 minutes in total, not terribly long compared to past Square Enix bosses like the 18 hour boss fight of XI’s Pandemonium Warden. People have yet to complete this fight and I find that fact incredibly amazing. There are no bullshit glitches (Crota I’m looking at you, you teleporting bastard), no unknown mechanics, just pure difficulty. The first group to clear this encounter will probably go down in gaming history as some of the best gamers in gaming history. They’ll be up there with the likes of Mionee, a World of Warcraft player who has been soloing the hardest encounters in the game by herself for years.

So Gold Standard?: Yea, if other developers can adopt this sort of fight to their own games it would mean a lot for the hardcore players. Imagine doing a boss fight in Destiny where you not only took on Oryx, but had to deal with Atheon and Crota with all their mechanics at the same time. It’d be insane, heartpounding and a ridiculous bragging point if you and your friends could actually complete such an encounter. Ultimate Coil has a gear reward that matches the same you’d get from V4 Savage, with just an extra materia slot, so for the most part it’s only there for bragging rights, but that isn’t a small thing.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday! Do you want to have the hardcore boss fights in your games be like Ultimate Coil, where you just have to be nearly perfect in execution to succeed? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Edited on 11/4: The Unending Coil of Bahamut (Ultimate) was beaten 12 days and 2 hours after release on 11/4/2017.

Video Game Tuesday: Artificial Difficulty vs. Real Difficulty


This week on Video Game Tuesday I’m looking at Artificial Difficulty vs. Real Difficulty. It’s another Game Design topic!

Artificial Difficulty: This is a kind of difficulty that developers implement when either they hate their players, which is incredibly rare nowadays, or when they overestimate the skill of their player base. A good example of this is the original C’Thun encounter that launched in World of Warcraft, or more recently Oondasta the World Boss that launched in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. The encounter mechanics are so unforgiving that players either can’t complete it at the intended level, or only the absolute best players can finish it if they are incredibly lucky. The latter happens in Destiny’s newest raid with the Crota encounter in Hard Mode. There is a difference between something being hard and something being stupidly difficult that requires perfect play by the players and no bugs occurring. My team and I have spent at least 24 hours attempting to kill Crota on Hard Mode and we still haven’t done it because of various bugs. These bugs range from perplexing to downright frustrating. One of the perplexing ones was when Crota started teleporting around the encounter area or knights walking through a force field and promptly murdering us. A frustrating one is one like the time kept standing up immediately after going down despite no person disconnecting (this is caused by the “fix” that Bungie implemented to prevent people from exploiting the encounter by disconnecting the host player to keep him kneeling down so you could hit him with the sword as many times as you want without him ever getting back up to attack the swordbearer.)  Another frustrating one was when rockets fired by one of my team didn’t register at all and would just fly through him, and the rest of the map. Players can’t control other players, and making one mistake shouldn’t make the encounter immediately fail. This isn’t even counting the bugs that the player can’t stop from occurring at all.

Real Difficulty: This is a properly tuned section of gameplay that is punishing, but not unforgiving to a single mistake and requires a player to coordinate properly and precisely without making a mistake 90% of the time. A good example of a properly tuned encounter that is difficult would be the Lich King raid encounter in World of Warcraft’s Wrath of the Lich King expansion. This was an incredibly difficult encounter because it required everyone to be on top of their game and make very very few mistakes. However it wasn’t impossible to beat, and once people got the mechanics of the fight down it was easily completable. Yes a single death during the encounter made it much harder for people to continue and if it happened to a key player like the tank it would spell disaster. However that is a rule of thumb in World of Warcraft, if a tank goes down it becomes 20 times harder for the fight to become completable. There are mechanics that allow for you to recover from that mistake, which in WoW’s case is the battle resurrection abilities of certain classes.

What is the Game Devs Duty?: If an encounter has too many bugs or isn’t tuned correctly and this prevents players from completing the encounter it is their duty to spend all their resources, meaning man hours, fixing the problems. They don’t get to ignore the fact that the thing is bugged horribly and just keep on developing new game content. They are expected to fix any problems with current game content first. Blizzard, despite what many say, is a company that has repeatedly done right by their fans and players by fixing their mistakes in a timely manner. They do not take more than half a year to fix a single bug, Heavy Ammo Bug I’m looking at you!

Overall: I guess what I’m saying in this article is that people need to take responsibility for their mistakes and fix them before moving onto something new. There is a reason QA plays a huge role in Blizzard’s development of World of Warcraft. Bungie and other companies like Ubisoft, cough Assassin’s Creed: Unity cough, haven’t done right by their consumers in this past year and need to step up their game. If that means future games will take longer to release, 80% of their fans and players would understand and prefer that to a buggy release of a game they want to love.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday.