Balancing the roles, quantity, and power of enemies in DD2 is no small task. The enemies we place in a level affect nearly every vector of difficulty in the game. This is one of the reasons it is imperative that we experiment not only with different types of enemies, but how we use those enemies, as well.
Wyverns were a staple of the original Dungeon Defenders’ gameplay, but it was clear the role of air units in DD2 needed to evolve. Fundamentally, an air unit poses a different tactical question than a ground unit. Units on the ground can be blocked using a barricade, permitting time to react to their presence. Wyverns required players to develop different strategies that were based around anti-air defense.
The Trouble With Wyverns
But DD1’s Wyverns had numerous shortcomings, and in order to make Wyverns more interesting to engage in DD2, we had to resolve two main problems:
There was little variety in their behavior, making any gameplay that involved them monotonous and predictable.
They utilized extremely basic AI, flying straight for their objective without deviation.
Fixing these problems in the long term was going to take time. But there was nothing stopping the intrepid level designers from hacking their way around these problems. Early on, it was clear that we needed different types of Wyverns.
Creating Different Behaviors
Initially we developed the Heavy Wyvern by creating a copy of the standard Wyvern, making him larger, and changing him to a rich purple hue. The Heavy Wyvern was a bit slower, but could take a much larger amount of abuse. We coupled this change with making the standard Wyvern much faster.
The difference was immediately noticeable in terms of strategic consideration. The heavy Wyverns did a fantastic job of diverting the attention of players, and when they appeared in early prototypes, everyone reacted to their presence. Internally, we had to devise new ways of counteracting the presence of the Heavy Wyverns. Players devised new defense setups to combat the Wyverns, such as groups of Frostbite Towers that would freeze and then shatter them when they hit the ground, or Cannonball Towers placed in positions that were advantageous to attacking air units.
In another playtest, we created a small, fast, black Wyvern that could bombard players and their defenses from a long range. These opponents created a different type of player reaction: If not controlled quickly, the black Wyverns could severely disrupt the team’s defensive layouts.
Tweaking the Flight Path
Resolving the Wyverns’ flight paths was actually surprisingly easy. With a little manipulation, we were able to create a chain of flight waypoints that forced the Wyverns from a specific lane to follow a tightly controlled path. This allowed us to create predictable air lanes (making it much easier for players to position anti-air defenses) instead of having Wyverns simply spawn on the outside of the space and fly directly towards their targets.
The result of these two initiatives was much stronger aerial gameplay, allowing air units to play a clearer role in the combat space. But we continue to iterate on our air units with new ideas and new prototypes, so if there are any air unit types you might like to see in the game, leave a comment below and you could win a seat on the Defense Council.
Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’re going to be at PAX East this week so there won’t be a blog this Friday. That’s why we’re going to pick two posters from this blog and reveal the winners in next week’s blog post!