Legions Players

Collision Damage - Why?

Last updated on Wed, 15 Jul 2009 15:50 UTC

A post by Munge over at the Legions Blog:

Hey, folks. Some of you may know me from the forums, IRC, or the shazbots as MungeParty. Some of you may also know that I'm acting as Creative Director on Fallen Empire: Legions. I've abstained from blogging for Legions in the past because posting a blog when we have perfectly good forums always seemed a bit like standing up and giving a speech in the middle of a casual conversation (in fact, this blog post was originally a forum post in a thread on the topic), but this is a topic that I've seen come up quite a bit and I think it deserves some explanation. Collision damage is something I've always intended Legions to have, so this explanation is sort of two-fold because I'll be answering both "Why have it  at all?" and "Why add it now?"

Fall damage was the subject of much bickering right before closed beta. I wanted to add it from the start, but to keep the team at the time from getting distracted with gameplay issues, we took it out until we had the physics mostly nailed down. By the time we were getting ready to launch, we were all used to the game without it. I stressed the importance of adding it right away for closed beta, rather than later on, but I was met with overwhelming negative feedback from everyone who played it internally. It got to the point where people were literally throwing tantrums about it, so I let it go for the time being. Long story short, it was always supposed to be a part of Legions.

The initial reasoning for keeping it out was that it would make the game more accessible and easier to learn. It turns out, as many of you have probably realized, that the lack of collision damage actually hampers people's ability to learn proper skiing because there is no feedback to tell you what you're doing wrong. Skilled players can abuse the lack of collision damage by pulling nonsense maneuvers that shouldn't be possible (near-vertical dives onto 10 degree slopes, etc), which further stretches the learning curve from newbie to master because newbies have to learn all these subtleties to pushing the physics system in ways it was never really intended to work. It's just much harder for new players to catch on to what works and what doesn't. With collision damage implemented, new players get a nice obvious full-screen blinking red spanking when they move in ways that look like they should be painful (i.e. abrupt changes in direction or velocity), which heavily reinforces the concept of fluid movement. The positive results can be clearly seen on PlayLegions.com where previously weaker players are scoring very decent time scores, at least on the more simple routes that don't require advanced maneuvers like corkscrew overdrive turns.

Aside from helping newbies, it adds a sense of mass to the world and makes the environment much more interesting because you're forced to pay attention to all the angles and curves around you. Duels lose their instant yo-yo effect to some degree because you can no longer just empty your energy reserves and launch yourself into the air without having to use some of that recharged energy to pad your landing. Height and speed now have a risk aswell as a benefit, which adds depth to the game. You can still blindly launch off of a ramp as fast as possible, but now you need to plan for a soft landing or risk exploding into a pile of people-bits all over the side of a hill, which is of course hilarious and exciting - more so than just instantly slowing down and puttering to the top of the hill to try again.

A byproduct of that increased focus on curves and angles means that other players are forced to follow the terrain the same way you are. What that means for you is that player movement at high speeds (130-250+) and even moderate speeds (85-130) is much more predictable. If you're chasing down a flag carrier and you're trying to lead them to plant a rocket right at their landing spot, it's easier to predict where they're going to land if you and he both know there are only a few spots that won't cause him to take damage. He can still choose to juke your rocket and take the collision damage, but again, there's that trade-off of risk and reward. Just in this simple scenario you can see a whole new level of depth added to a previously fairly dry and simple one-track process of chasing and running.

I expect some people to hate it at first, but give it a chance. I truly think you'll grow to like it.

-Thomas Buscaglia

Original Post: Developer Notes: Collision Damage in Legions