Hello! We continue our series about the development of Caliber’s various mechanics. This article is dedicated to one of the most important aspects of any videogame — in-battle intel.
In a nutshell, in-battle info is the combination of visual effects, animations, and interfaces that inform the player about the preparation or the result of some sort of action, change in HP, activation of skills, marking, etc.
In third-person shooters, the player is able to see much more than their playable character would. Much more than in first-person shooters.
Just standing behind a cover is enough to easily control approaching enemies. The camera allows the player to see everything — there’s no need to put the character in harm’s way.
A low-profile waiting tactic such as this often becomes one of the most effective and reliable strategies, taking away any incentive to charge headlong into enemy territory. However, if both teams are playing the waiting game behind their covers, expecting the enemy to make the first move, the game just becomes a chore.
In the beginning of the development cycle, our goal was to make a third-person shooter that would adopt the best features of similar games in the first-person shooter genre.
Make it so the both teams would be on an equal footing and eager to try out different tactics instead of sitting out the entire round behind their covers.
We researched different mechanics that would allow us to make this a reality.
We tried different methods during the prototyping stage.
The first thing that came to mind was to try hiding enemy operators’ models when the player’s operator couldn’t ‘see’ them. So if the enemy’s model is out of a certain field of view in front of the player’s operator, then the game would hide it from the player.
On paper, it sounds like a simple and fair idea. But while implementing the idea, we came to a realization that Caliber’s gameplay is too fast-paced for it to work.
Friend and foe alike are rushing about, throwing grenades and activating abilities. If the ‘disappearing’ models were to be added into the mix, then the game would become too frantic and uncomfortable to play, to put it lightly.
Thus, we decided to scrap this idea.
Further research would lead us to several in-battle intel methods that are used in Caliber to this day.
We have decided to inform the player about the actions of operators taking cover. But only actions!
An operator taking cover can be seen:
The moment that the enemy operator leaves their cover to attack, you are already informed of it. You will be able to react according to the situation: use an ability, throw a grenade or lay suppressing fire.
This is the fairest approach that allows all players to obtain a relatively equal amount of information. Defending becomes as effective as attacking.
Now let’s look at our in-battle intel methods in more detail.
Visual effects are the most efficient source of information in the game. They display changes in HP, abilities and some special gear usage, as well as pointing out positive and negative modifying effects.
Let’s take Odin, a Support, as an example. When he uses the Omen ability, the surrounding area immediately turns purple and the enemies who fail to leave it are struck by lightning.
Such a colorful visual effect signifies the ability’s deadly potency.. The more dangerous and powerful an ability is, the more bright and expressive it will be to warn players.
We understand that such effects can negatively affect the authentic look of the game. But they are needed in order to make the PvP modes’ gameplay more varied and engaging.
When choosing between gameplay and authenticity, we would pick the former.
That doesn’t make the authenticity less important. Changes to visual effects’ displays to make them more realistic are in the works
And if you didn’t know, it is possible to completely turn visual effects off. But we recommend only doing so outside of PvP modes. The bots’ artificial intelligence is configured such in a way that allows for comfortable PvE gameplay even without the effects.
It is unwise, however, to turn them off for PvP game modes. The enemy would have much more info on you, putting you at a significant disadvantage.
The battle interface (HUD) is responsible for all sorts of information: the readiness status of abilities, the player’s HP and SP, the ammo and reserves counter, the round’s timer and so on.
The HUD also displays operators according to different rules. One of those rules allows the player to see an enemy if at least one of their teammates can see them.
This rule not only weakens the tactic of blind defense, but also adds depth to the gameplay. Thus, even incapacitated players can still play a part by informing their allies of enemies in their field of vision.
Incapacitated enemies force the player to decide between executing the incapacitated enemy and opening themselves to an attack, or leaving the enemy alone, knowing they can relay useful intel on you to their allies.
There’s also an additional nuance to note regarding markers. The icon of a player that is positioned behind a cover shows up a little faster than the player’s operator appears from behind it. So, if the player wants to stay near the edge of the wall, then they should also be willing to sacrifice their safety.
Or they can instead position themselves further from the edge of the wall and lose a good vantage point.
Animations are also an indispensable tool for informing players about the actions of others. If you are positioned behind a low cover without moving, then you are invisible. But as soon as you make even the lightest button press, your operator will start to lift their head, exposing themselves to the enemy. There is a reason for this.
The logic behind it is the same as when taking cover near a wall — both you and the enemy are given an equal amount of information, so the outcome of the battle is decided by your own decisions, made on the basis of that info.
There exists an option to move behind low covers without any risk of taking damage. But for the player to do this, they would have to consciously deprive themselves of information.
To move safely in this situation, the player only needs to look down while doing so. This makes it a very intuitive and logical action overall. The enemy would shoot at you, so you have to lower your head.
Reviving an ally behind a cover would also inform the enemy of your location. The animation starts with the operator raising their hand high in the air to treat their incapacitated ally.
And let’s not forget that the Stunned debuff forces the operator to rise up. Throwing a stun grenade behind a cover is a sure way to expose an enemy hiding behind it.
The synergy all these mechanics allows us to make a third-person camera view game that plays fairly. You decide which tactic to implement, and every single one could prove effective. The only things that matter are the choices of the operators, their skills and team coordination.
This method of informing shifts the game experience to a more decision-oriented approach instead of ‘pixel hunting,’ and displays of superhuman reaction times. It’s all part of making Caliber a tactical game.