Gorgon’s Archery System

The next combat skill will be archery, and I wanted to talk about how it’s going to work. Well, I’m still coding it right now — in fact I’m taking a break to write this post — so I’m sure some details will get hammered out. But I plan to implement it this way and then get your feedback on it.

How Archery Works

Archery is a combat skill that, naturally, requires a bow. Bows go in your off-hand slot, not your main-hand slot, so you can use a bow with a sword or a staff, or whatever you like. However, there’s an animation that plays when you first use a bow skill: you have to get the bow off your back. And when you switch to your other weapon,  you’ll first put the bow away. This animation is short (less than a second), but you wouldn’t want to interleave bow-sword-bow-sword, because then it’d be really noticeable.

Archery attacks use arrows. There’s no “ammo slot” on your character, though. I never liked ammo slots. They’re simultaneously too micro-managey (having to drag arrows manually into the slot) and too restricting (since only one kind of arrow can be used at once). I just don’t see how an ammo slot is very interesting: there’s no choice to be made, usually.

I try a different tack. When you use an Archery ability, the appropriate ammo is automatically taken out of your inventory. Normal attacks use normal arrows, and that’s the most common arrow you’ll need. In fact, if you just want to use the bow to “soften up” monsters before switching to your sword, that’s all you’d need to carry around. But the fun stuff comes from the crazy specialty arrows.

“Net arrows” can entangle enemies; hollow arrows can be filled with various substances, like acid or poison; hook-shot arrows yank enemies toward you (great for pulling a bad guy off your weaker teammates). That sort of thing. Again, you don’t have to worry about the ammo personally — you just have stacks of it and it gets automatically consumed when you use the ability.

How does archery compare to the other primary ranged-attack skill, Fire Magic? Archery does a bit less damage per second, but has a lot going for it:

  • It costs less Power
  • It doesn’t induce as much Rage as fire does
  • It has more optional utilities (such as crowd-control)
  • It has access to more damage types — piercing, acid, poison, and fire — whereas fire magic is mainly just hot and cold

Critical Hits

I wanted archers to feel kind of like rangers — masters of the woods, experts about the creatures in it. So I wanted to reward archers for learning about creatures.

You may have noticed that recently when you autopsy a corpse, you sometimes get Anatomy XP for the specific kind of animal you autopsy. (Dissecting a pig might give you Non-Ruminant Ungulate Anatomy XP, for instance.) Those anatomy skills have lots of uses, but for archers the point is real simple: the more anatomy skill you have, the bigger the chance for a Critical Hit with your bow.

Just to warn you, this is something you work toward, not something that’s particularly useful at first. Early on, a 1% critical hit chance is boring and almost meaningless. But eventually they’ll happen pretty regularly.

How much damage does a Critical Hit do? That really depends on your equipment. The base bonus is 25% more damage, but equipment can dramatically increase that. Equipment can also change the meaning of your criticals — making them into Stunning Criticals or Depressing Criticals or Terrifying Criticals, etc.


So about those arrows!

You may have noticed that each combat skill has non-combat aspects. Swordsmen have to practice their calligraphy to gain the focus to be amazing swordsmen. Fire mages have to research their spells using expensive materials. Martial artists have to meditate at special locations to unlock their combos — and so on and so forth. (Not all of them are in yet — Staff fighting particularly misses out here.)

So archery has two non-combat parts involved. First, there’s raising the anatomy skills, as mentioned above. Next, there’s the art of making arrows. “Fletching”, as we MMO developers call it. (“Fletching” is actually a noun, like “scaffolding” — it specifically means the feathery bits attached to the end of the arrow. But long ago, people who made arrows were called “fletchers”, so now MMOs call arrow-making “fletching.” Just roll with it.)

Fletchers start out by getting some lumber carved into the correct approximate shape. (A low-level Carpentry recipe.) Then they treat the arrow shafts with chemicals, and they wait for them to dry. This is a real-time check: it takes several minutes for the low-level arrow shafts to dry, and for the mid-level ones, a few hours or so. Eventually at max level it might take upwards of 24 hours to dry a bundle of arrow shafts. (You don’t have to be online the whole time, though, of course, and you can dry a whole bunch at once.)

Why do I do this? Because it helps reinforce the importance of planning. If you’re a high-level archer and you didn’t remember to make arrows last time you played… you’re going to have to use crappy store-bought arrows, or buy some from another player.

Once your arrow shafts are dry, you attach whatever is needed for that particular arrow. Some arrows require fancy things, like chips of gemstones, but most just need some feathers and an arrowhead. Arrows are made in batches of 100, so you don’t have too much micro-managing to do.

There’s also a way to get your arrows back sometimes. When you autopsy a corpse, there’s a chance you’ll get back the arrows you shot into it. Handy for the more expensive specialty arrows. And… eh, I’ll just stop there. There’s some other odds and ends, but that’s the gist!

I’ll be back soon with a more general update. Lots more to talk about, stay tuned.

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5 Responses to Gorgon’s Archery System

  1. Conor says:

    Awesome. :)

    I would suggest that chemically-treated wood doesn’t feel very ranger-y, so perhaps a primitive/woodsy method of creating arrows shafts instead? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH7U4UVoeRU#t=215s

  2. Rolan Storm says:

    Your description reminded me of Strider and good fantasy in general. Great system you describe there, fine balance between logic and comfort.

  3. Ken says:

    Sounds great, one thing that popped into my mind is that it could be a problem for archers if someone else loots their arrows.

  4. Lolin says:

    every since I saw that monsters have vulnerabilities I was hoping you would have different kinds of arrows. I really enjoyed archery in AC.

  5. zikifer says:

    Have you thought about special bags (quivers) for holding arrows? Inventory space is often at a premium in games so requiring inventory space for ammo can make people feel “gimped”. Otherwise sounds great.