Damage Types in NS2
I wanted to discuss damage types in NS2 briefly, and it’s a bit much to discuss properly for tweet.
Damage types are standard and crucial in strategy games. Ie, this unit does 10 damage to armored targets, but only 7 damage to everything else. This creates much more interesting unit combinations and tactics. For example:
- If I have an A that does +30% damage to your B, so I move it in for the kill.
- But you know that your B is vulnerable to my A so you try to use your C to keep my A away from your B.
- I see this happening, so I reinforce with my D which I hope will kill or delay your C long enough for my original A to attack your B.
At this point, the combinations start to explode. What appeared to be a simple battle is now becoming something much more – we have ambushes, planning, scouting (counter-planning), etc. Where does the rabbit hole end? This emergent depth is one of the big reasons we play strategy games.
By contrast, without variable damage types (payoffs), everything just does damage and there is little maneuvering, tactics or interest. I just build more and better units and so do you. They fight, and whomever built more wins.
But there’s a down-side of course – adding these damage types makes the game more difficult to learn and understand. Which targets are armored? How can I see the damage bonus at work? When my army meets your army and mine gets decimated because I didn’t realize my units only do half damage to yours, I may get frustrated and leave. For this reason, and because most FPS players aren’t thinking in terms of damage types (and don’t want to have to read online to see why their one-shot sniper shot didn’t kill their target), damage types are largely omitted in FPS games.
For a game that blends RTS and FPS like NS though, damage types are a must. The thing to remember is that damage types will bring all the depth and less of the difficulty if you strive to make them intuitive. This means checking the ‘look’ of creatures and weapons and trying to be faithful to how players THINK they should fare against each other.
Here are some of the goals for damage types in NS2:
- Technology shouldn’t obsolete other technology. Ie, skulks will be seen throughout the game and not just because they’re cheap!
- There shouldn’t be overlap between weapons or abilities. We are a small team so we can’t afford to do this anyways.
- A basic marine with a rifle, and a vanilla skulk should always feel effective. This is to make sure new players joining a game in progress have fun.
- Single-minded strategies should be counterable. Ie, a room full of hydras should be assailable.
- An Onos shouldn’t be ripped apart (or even really bothered) by sentries, nor should he be demeaned by spending a lot of time taking out structures. It does not befit his position in the food chain.
- The more armor that appears in the art, the more armor the unit has (marine structures have some, the Onos has tons, marines have a little, etc.).
There are more, but these are the basics. With these in mind, here are the basic damage types that are currently in NS2 (in development, not final):
- Normal – Regular damage (Rifle, Bite)
- Light – Half vs. armor (Sentries, Hydras)
- Heavy (was Puncture) – Extra damage vs. armor (Fade swipe, Pistol, Shotgun)
- Puncture (was Piercing) – Extra vs. players (Minigun, Lerk spikes)
- Structural – Double against structures (Onos gore, SwitchAxe, Rifle grenades)
- Gas – Breathing targets only (Spores, Rifle nerve gas grenades)
- Biological – Living/organic targets only (Parasite, Flamethrower)
- StructuresOnly – Doesn’t damage players or AI units (MASC, Whip Bombard)
Here are some beneficial effects of these simple types:
- Basic marines and skulks are versatile.
- Shotguns won’t absolutely waste skulks but are especially good at more advanced lifeforms and armored structures (Crags).
- Lerks aren’t especially effective at taking out structures from a distance (something that was a problem in old versions of NS1).
- Marines can take down alien structures relatively quickly when they aren’t defended (ie, when they have taken down defenders and pull out their axes).
- When heavy marines are gassed by lerks, they aren’t affected.
Thinking about damage types in this way is also a good tool for evaluating a new weapon or ability. If it seems to fit the same role as another, its role needs to be re-thought.
In fact, now I see some changes that are necessary…