When developing Kyon, we had to make sure to maintain a strong connection between the player and the core concept of being a sheepdog. My previous blog post covered the herding aspects of player mechanics, but another aspect of being a sheepdog is protecting the herd.
Designing combat systems for Kyon was much more focused on enemy AI design rather than player ability mechanics to maintain variety of encounter. Throughout the game, the player must defend the herd from enemy AI opponents such as cultists, wolves, and mythological creatures. Kyon, being a dog, has limited combat abilities. To deal damage, the player can use a bite attack, or a sprinting charge attack.
The bite is fairly basic, being a general purpose attack that deals one increment of damage per successful strike. It's what any given player would expect of a dog character to be able to do.
The sprint attack sends Kyon in whatever direction he is facing at the time of activating the ability at a high speed for a set distance. Kyon will deal one increment of damage when successfully colliding with an enemy, but it also serves other utilitarian purposes. It's useful for evading enemies when low on health, closing with fast moving enemies who are difficult to catch up to, or quickly getting around the flock if the player needs to quickly change their direction.
So being that Kyon's combat abilities are limited, the design goal was to keep encounters varied by having opponents respond differently to Kyon's abilities. One way is through bark commands.
he cultists, for example, are scared of Kyon's bark. If the player uses any bark within range of a cultist they will drop a sheep if carrying one and run the opposite direction for a time. This helps the player manage the herd when taking on multiple cultist enemies.
However, with wolves the barks do they opposite. Wolves aren't afraid, and will actually prioritize Kyon as a target. This increases difficulty for the player, since these bark commands are an important way to manage the herd. At the same time, players can use this to their advantage and aggro the wolves away from the herd when necessary.
These bark and bite abilities can be used in more complex ways utilizing the environment in other scenarios. During the final boss fight, for example, Polyphemus is blind and searches for the player. The player cannot damage Polyphemus, and will take damage from him when physically close. Instead, the player must use bark commands to attract him towards dangerous environment actors that can stun Polyphemus. This is when the player can get a few hits in.
Well, that covers Kyon's basic abilities for combat. For my next post I will be writing about environmental hazards.
Until next time.