Discussing how a *massive* warfront/boss encounter plays out


Well-Known Member
Nov 16, 2018
(This is not Kickstarter demo-related)

I engaged a veteran shooter gamer to discuss boss/raid encounters and how the fundamental choices Ember has made would bring a very different experience. I brought up how things would play out, and probed for what ways the player would react in terms of their changing gameplay and choices.

Going through it, a number of other things came to light.

  • Portals - It has been established that portals/phasing in Ember are a way the enemies could enter the fight, but it has been said that this is a cheat existing games use to create waves of respawns because they were unable to have that many actors on the battlefield (for various reasons).
    • Given that Ember is (optionally) freed from that limitation, how will it approach how enemies will be laid out? How will they enter into the play field and where will they go?
    • Presumably the overall area is large (1x1 km?), and it will have various terrain within it. So, let's say, a 100 player engagement would need enough enemies at a time to keep having fun. However all of them setting up at a single gauntlet is stupid, so what size clump of players will fight what size clump of enemies, and how can those clumps be separated by just enough space that any one battle action can have its players observe and split off to engage another action they become more interested in?
    • If enemies spawn in at various points from too far away for players to get there, and enemies have multiple positions they want to get to, or past, then perhaps that split would encourage players to separate?
    • Maybe PvP-style reasons need to exist, such as perhaps the enemy is creating portals, building bases/etc at a specific locations and the players must split to suppress all options at once? Will there be a push-pull mechanic at play? The enemies continuing to bring their engineering to bear by building or arming at various locations might be a way to split the mass of players. A meta reward could also exist, such as perhaps players are rewarded with materials for participating in one of the hotspots/events but it's split with all participants and so some players are encouraged to go to other lower-participation spots for a better reward. Rewards would have to be applied over time, so players can't just hop in and get a reward, then jet over to a new place for that one, etc.
  • Stages - While discussing how that player would approach gameplay, the notion of stages came up. Like portals, other games use stages because games have (until now) been unable to make things happen all at once.
    • This feels very samey/boring/predictable, and lacks a kind of strategic aspect to it. I loathe Destiny 2's raid puzzles, but variation must somehow exist.
    • One idea is that some "commander" enemies might look at how a situation is progressing and order its units to retreat or approach in certain specific ways. The fact that kneebiters can climb walls allows them to be commanded to climb on to plateaus and then lemming on top of players. Some units could be ranged and could use natural cover, or perhaps create it (phase materials in), or can transform into the so-called "beast mode".
    • Leaning in to this, this would make the region of the commanders a hotspot and commanders become goals.
  • Encounter variations - Since the Destiny 2-style stages (everything stops, press a button to move on to the next encounter, etc) aren't a thing in Ember, how can a bullet-sponge boss be made to act differently, requiring players to think strategically?
    • Base destruction / takeover changes which units have what tools to work with.
    • Limb destruction changes the tool set the enemies use.
    • Technology destruction on the boss changes it from being a controlled asset to being a universal threat, and has it use its default/"primal" offensive abilities.
    • Maybe there are miniboss-commanders who are key to how the boss operates, and killing them matters.

So back to the main point of how this player would engage in combat, it was impressed upon me that the player desires flexibility in how each slice of each encounter is interacted with: Mobility to scout, mid-range by default, opportunities to slide by and melee when passing to another more interesting encounter or as a finisher, a large nuke option, etc.

When I talked about how enemies vary, and how the situation would change, including how some enemies would become very dangerous in melee, and that encounters are unpredictable so a single loadout could not be universally optimal, I was told that a different loadout would be chosen on the fly.

This is when I brought up something that hasn't really been discussed completely in Ember: Loadouts.

In many games, the player has a bag of holding which has a crazy amount of stuff in it, and they pull out a new weapon from that hammerspace to cope with a new set of enemies (e.g. a new raid phase). In Ember, I submit that this must not exist (I'm pretty sure that's already the case).

So either the dropship brings a new frame with its own loadout, or players come to people like me: Engineers.

Some frames (let's just call them engineers) will build the option to call down loadout stations which other players can return to to hand-waive change their loadout. With this mechanic in mind, there comes is a specific kind of gameplay.

That station becomes an immobile (or perhaps difficult-to-move / cooldown-summon) and vulnerable object which must be protected by players. That player reads the terrain and attempts to create a gauntlet of defenses (turrets!) to hold that zone safe. Some players roam, get in over their heads because their loadout isn't optimal for what they see they are facing, and fight their way to the station to switch loadouts.

Player-made things like that, or maybe siege weaponry, might be targets for the enemy. This becomes a way for players to make choices that shape the way battles play out. It wouldn't just be enemy approach paths, their installations, and terrain, but also where players set up shop which influences where the fighting gravitates toward.
Aug 14, 2016
I just woke up and had not had much time to fully think about this. But one of things that always bothered me about portals in games and other media is how does the portals pick what can and can't be let them at all times? Who or what is acting as a gate keeper? Because when you think about if there is a difference in things like temperature and air pressure on the each end of the portal the flow of heat and air rushing to each of the portal could be enough to you from going into it as the rush of wind would keep pushing you back or the force of wind would be pulling you into the portal. Not counting the blast of heat. Remember if it is one thing that nature hates it is vacuum and an unbalance of energy. So the greater the difference in energy levels of the two points of the portals the greater nature will try and even out those forces. Like opening a hole in a massive dam made of energy. But most media never address this problem nor talk about it.

Now, there are a few of them that do. And that is why in those sci-fi stories there are clear rules about when and where ports / warp gates / jump gate can happen. Like that can only be open for a few seconds or they can only be opened in space or only opened in special rooms where things like temperature and air pressure is more or less the same on both sides. This is also why in those worlds portal tech is super highly watched. Because even if people us it for every day travel. There is also a risk of someone using it as a weapon. For example opening one end of the portal near a star/sun and the other end near an enemy. Even if it is only for like half a second with portal no larger than say a baseball, the amount of energy coming out of the portal would stull be many times the power of all the nukes Earth going off at once.

This also why in some sci-fi and even in some magical fantasies things like solar pinhole is one most powerful weapons / attacks because you just open a tiny portal into the core of a star and point it at your enemies.

Meaning that any race of beings who can open portals at will any time and any where they want would be a nearly unstoppable fighting force with not much risk to themselves. And nothing outside say things like a sense of ethics and honor wouldn't stop them from just ending this in one attack opening portals to things like stars and blackholes to destroy the enemy. But that is where you also get into things like troops of advanced sci-fi civilisations too stupid to really exist because there is not much outside of luck that would stop them from destroying themselves along with everything else around them. This is a passing thought I had as little kid reading comics and such.

The fact the portals exist in the world is in of itself a problem unless there are clear rules of how they work and they can't be used as weapons.

I'm not the only one who thinks about stuff like this. lol
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