I haven’t talked too much about Volk, Katya’s wolf companion in Skazka, because I did the thing I always complain about in games with two-players — one of them gets relegated to “Player 2.” Player 2 is tacked on. Player 2 is unloved. Player 2 is either the same as (or less than) Player 1.
Fortunately that’s changing for Volk! During the paper design phase, I had Volk’s special move (in Katya’s case, the Grow ability) as question marks. Should he have an additional attack? Should his special just map to his heavy attack? Neither of these felt quite right, especially in a game that isn’t intended to be combat-heavy. Also, what a cop out.
While brainstorming modifications to Katya’s move set with Skazka artist and collaborator, Evan, we finally reached a promising solution: a ram ability.
In general, I’m opposed to ramming attacks. For one thing, it’s overused in games (especially by that first boss for some reason) to the point of being a trope. Also what sensible creature bashes its head into rocks and other hard objects? I mean, Volk already has a double jump — that’s usually the gaming trope limit to my suspension of disbelief for nonsense physics. But a ram variant adds a lot of intriguing possibilities…
In our current implementation, 1) Ram ability is activated, 2) Volk dashes, 3) if Volk hits a rammable object, the object will crack (or reveal hidden objects), and 4) Volk launches in the other direction. Breaking it down a little further, it looks something like this flow chart:
That is, Volk always gains a dash ability from his special (adding a velocity impulse to his current trajectory), and if he hits a object that is designed to respond to his action (more on triggers and components in a later post), the object will react, and he’ll change his trajectory — aiming a little higher than before but without losing speed. If he doesn’t hit an object designed to be rammable, he won’t get the wall jump, but he still has a nice little air dash before he hits.
This actually reimagines a wall jump idea we had for Skazka that got discarded before prototyping, and it makes Volk a first-class playable character with his own unique talents — something I’m determined to build out both in terms of gameplay and narrative. A side effect of this move addition is there are more skill-based platforming opportunities I hadn’t designed for, which is both cool (a lot more for the player to do and explore) and concerning (a lot more chances for the player to escape the world and generally break the system). I never conceived of Skazka as a speed-running kind of game, but who knows — maybe it will have some of that appeal as Volk comes into his own.
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