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Derakon

Ideas for "Metroid"-style enemies

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I'm slowly working on my own vaguely Metroid-styled game (2D, not 3D), and so I spend some of my time trying to think up enemy designs. And it's harder than I'd realized! The key thing is, most 2D Metroid enemies are not particularly aggressive; many completely ignore the player (e.g. wallwalkers, or enemies that just fly back and forth, or enemies that just literally sit in place) and the ones that do react tend to move slowly. The most difficult enemies move erratically and/or quickly. So I'm trying to think of movement patterns that result in a similar kind of experience, and it seems like Metroid's stolen all of the good ones. I mean, I want my game to feel like a Metroid game, but I don't want people saying "Oh, and these guys are from the first game, and I recognize those, though they have a new paint job...". In other words, the gameplay should feel new, and for that I need my own enemies. But it's tricky. Here's what I have so far: * I think the basic wall-walker is a common-enough trope that I can re-use it without raising any eyebrows. * I have some thoughts on a combination bat/hawk thing that would hunt by dive-bombing the ground/surface of the water (not hunting the player, mind; just getting in the way, in that respect). * There's this guy who would charge along the ground and maybe do some jumping. * Along the more aggressive side, I do plan to include some stationary turrets. And that's pretty much it. Obviously I don't have enough to populate a game with. I'm not even remotely close. If you have any ideas of your own, I'd love to hear them.

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Keep in mind that the enemies in Metroid were like that somewhat intentionally. From one standpoint, you could say Nintendo was being protective and didn't want a million ant-like enemies charging at you. But from another standpoint, those "enemies" are just animals behaving normally in their own environment. They don't all attack the player because they don't particularly mind the player, as long as she doesn't bother them.

In other words, there are reasons for the simplicity in behavior. So, noting that these are creatures in their natural habitat, you could go about "evolving" your own creatures to suit your game's environments. If the enemy is a spider looking to catch its prey, then perhaps it is going to attack once the player is in a given trap (its web). If it's a bee, then perhaps it's actually out to collect some form of nectar and bring it back to its hive (which may be an excellent location for a boss fight and some mass amount of treasure for the player).

Also, while the animation would likely be far too complex for one person, Metroid, with its alien, insect-like animal kingdom, had a distinct lack of four-legged, bushy-tailed mammals. For the sub-terranean, alien environments, that made sense, but I would've liked to see some more life on the planet's surface besides some variant of a caterpillar. Whatever makes the most sense in the context...

While we're at it... Let me know if you need any help with the project, I'd gladly see what I could do. Sounds interesting. [smile]

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Right, yes, the animals are just being animals, and to a large extent it's your own fault if you get in the way. What I'm trying to do (and not having much success at) is coming up with creatures that would:

* have interesting behaviours
* not excessively replicate things that the Metroid series has already done
* not be excessively difficult to program

I have had one other idea - a motile plant that would occasionally lash out at small bugs. This is neat because the bugs aren't actually enemies; they'd be tiny sprites that wouldn't affect the player except in how they trigger behaviour in other creatures. But, this is also considerably more complicated behaviour than I'd normally go for, as now I need an enemy that tracks other sprites than the player.

Making the creatures be suitably alien is largely just a matter of coming up with the right model for them (I'm making 3D models for these, then rendering down to 2D to make sprites). It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm confident I can achieve results that will look satisfactory for the non-humanoid creatures at least. See the walker I mentioned earlier, for example, or this guy.

Thanks for the offer of help. I'll keep coming here when I get stuck, but it'll be a long while yet before I have anything presentable. This is very much a long-term project.

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Just off the top of my head, how about some mole type enemies?

Trapper: Hides under leaf covered pits and jumps up to attack the player when they walk over it.

Fearful Surface Dweller: Docile creature that walks around the surface but digs underground to hide when player gets near.

Tunnel Jumper: Creature that periodically surfaces to jump from one tunnel entrance to another.

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If you don't want to make the enemies complex enough to "track other sprites than the player," that kind of limits what you can do. But you could still look at various real animals for inspiration.

How about a swarm of "ants" or "bees" that wander back and forth around a central nest? Real ones have very complex behavior, but the centralized motion could still give you interesting-looking behavior. How about a stalking predator that sneaks up on you using water or foliage for cover, then pounces? A venomous critter that bites you, then hides and waits for you to die? A builder of sticky nets? Pack animals that attack together, try to disable you with their bites (going for the legs?), or herd you towards a dangerous spot? A mimic that looks like a dangerous creature, but isn't? A predator that distracts you with its weird movements? Herd animals that don't attack unless you get close, then rush you?

The design decisions here depends partly on whether you want mindlessly aggressive critters (like the ones in "Morrowind") or ones that act like part of an actual ecosystem. For a Metroid-type game you're probably going to lean towards the first one, but you can still have some variety to give the player the sense that they're not in a maze of video game monsters.

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Let me rephrase what I said about AI complexity: I just don't want them to be too complicated. I'm going to have to write the AI for all of these, after all.

Herding behaviors would be a problem because the player is not going to want to be herded, so to be at all effective, the creatures would have to coordinate with each other. Squad tactics are a bit complex for what I'm going for. I've also no plans to implement status ailments, or cover. Have you played any of the 2D Metroid games? The games are very zoomed-in, and there's usually not room for more than a handful of enemies onscreen at any given time before things start feeling very cluttered. I really am going more for non-aggressive creatures here; some of them will notice and react to the player, yes, and some of those will actually attack the player, but most creatures are there to get in the way. The focus of the game really isn't on combat, outside of boss rooms.

I'm not trying to say that I don't want your ideas; I'm just trying to clarify what kinds of ideas I'm looking for. I do like the "swarm of many tiny creatures" concept - that's are one area where I should have an advantage over the actual Metroids, as I have more resources available. Nets and other "lairs" could also be interesting. And while I'm not certain how exactly I'd do a mimic without making players think that it's just a joke monster, it's an interesting idea as well.

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You could look into Abe's Oddyseus for inspiration. Some enemies only attack you when they're in groups, if they're alone they back off, and only attack when cornered. Other enemies are solitaire, and will attack each other to prove their domination, which often gives you some time to escape. And others are initially sleeping, and only wake up when you move past them too loud/fast. That sort of behaviour really made each enemie feel distinct and natural to me.

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I don't think using movement schemes and enemy roles similar to Metroid would put off players; as long as the game is somewhat fun and engrossing, they will think about playing, not about other games.
If the graphics and setting are good and not obviously copied, even obsessive Metroid fans (a minority of the minority) are going to think "Derakon is conforming to a great, familiar style that I like", not "Derakon is unoriginal and I should be playing Metroid instead".
The fact that Metroid uses all good enemy patterns doesn't reduce your right to use them too: you want to make an entertaining game, not to showcase fruitless novelty.

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I like that gif you linked. The way that enemy lopes around.

How about an enemy that shoots at you, and jumps away when you get near it. When it's cornered, it drops its gun and retracts into its carapace, making it easy to take out.

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