Sign in to follow this  
Derakon

Ideas for "Metroid"-style enemies

Recommended Posts

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have thought some about predation. One concept I'm liking more and more is that there are small "bug" sprites that the player can't interact with, but that many creatures do. Birds hunt for them, motile plants will eat them, and so on. The advantage here is that the bugs would be very simple sprites that wouldn't need to have special reactions to being nabbed - they either are alive, in which case they follow a simple flight pattern, or they are dead, in which case they disappear. Simple.

I could also do similar things with plants, I suppose - have a few grasses hanging about that some herbivores could graze on. In this case I don't think the grass itself would have to do anything (it'd be an infinite supply of food); the creature would just walk by, notice it, munch a bit, and move on.

However, having the more complex creatures that can interact with the player also interact with each other would require more work, and I'd only get value out of that work when the creatures are in the same room together, which they wouldn't always be. I mean, a believable predation system wouldn't just include hunters that kill other animals; otherwise, the prey animals would all be dead. The prey needs to react to being hunted. You can get away with a lack of reactions when the player kills creatures, because the player is an alien in the environment, and the creatures don't know how to deal with him/her. The same isn't true for predation from native creatures, and it breaks suspension of disbelief (for me, at least) to see a hawk descend on a wallwalker who does nothing to protect itself.

Moreover, assuming you do write reaction AIs into the creatures, the behaviours they generate can't be 100% effective (nor 0% effective). In other words, if a creature has a spiny back that protects it from attack, then nobody would predate on it. If the creature did not have the spiny back, and thus was always vulnerable, then it would have been made extinct already. If, on the other hand, the creature was sometimes vulnerable from below, then sometimes predators would be able to get a meal. But then you need to get the predators to recognize their opportunities (as well as set up the prey to be occasionally vulnerable), and it just gets to be a huge hassle. If you can find a way to simplify this that makes sense, I'm all ears.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well I don't see a need to make it that complicated. Just don't have so many predators all over the place. Moreover, a predator doesn't necessarily go out and charge agressively after the nearest potential prey, as the player could just wait until there's only one creature left and then kill it. Instead, suit the behaviors and the creatures to the situation and to the puzzle that you want to create. It's a game; make it fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this