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Encounter Design

Matt Judge

Over the past couple months I've mostly been debugging and promoting the game, in anticipation of a Kickstarter, so there hasn't been a lot of news on the development front. Now that I'm getting back into development, I'll have more to talk about here.

There aren't a lot of one-on-one encounters in Lonely Star, and that's by design. Individual enemies are largely pretty easy to push around.

Continually body-checking this guy every time he tries to do something makes it impossible for him to respond.

Add even one more enemy, though, and now failing to take him into account puts you in danger. By the way, check out how, when the player repositions so the conquistador is between them and the archer, the archer moves to outflank and ends up close enough that he switches to a melee weapon. That's an important thing for the player to exploit, when they're fighting multiple enemies-- maneuvering so they get in each other's way.

Similar deal here. Every time the enemy starts to attack, the player dodges and strikes his unarmored legs. For a one-on-one encounter, like a boss, I could give the enemy leg armor, or a limited ability to do dodge attacks of his own, to complicate this approach.

But just by having multiple enemies, with different attacks of different speeds and ranges, with slightly randomized elements to their level of aggression, things get a lot more interesting. The player can't dodge-attack back and forth unharmed forever; eventually, one of the four attackers they're exposed to will get a good shot at them. This boss, the Witchfinder, is probably the hardest in the demo, even though he has low health, no armor, and the slowest ranged attack in the game. His entourage and his attack range organically combine into a complex, reactive challenge.

This is what a better attempt at swordfighting him looks like, by the way. The player uses their speed advantage and the terrain to break through the enemy line and get a clear shot at the boss. Still, you can see that going in with just a melee weapon requires good timing and footwork.

Or, by spending some corn to make magic, you can fight in a more strategic, less twitch-reflex-based way. It's a tricky balance to strike, but my goal here is to incentivize stealth and tactics, not with special rewards or ranks, but by making them legitimately less dangerous than facing everything head-on.