Core Combat Mechanics

In keeping with the overall principles of Outer Colony, its combat system is built to exploit the platform’s simulation mechanics and emulate realism as much as practically possible. The results represent a significant departure from most games, but are ultimately intuitive and fun.

Summary:

  • No health bars, no action meters.
  • Instead, combatants have bodies made up of body parts. Body parts are, in turn, comprised of subcomponents. Like all things in Outer Colony, body parts are comprised of specific volumes of materials with various properties.
  • Body parts and their subcomponents are all individually damageable. Subcomponents, like an individual bone in a leg, sustain certain types of wounds, like a compound fracture, and this is how damage is modeled.
  • Body parts confer certain semantic functionality to the combatant. For example, eyes are needed for the combatant’s sight, and legs are needed for movement.
  • As a combatant’s body parts are wounded, associated functionality is impaired. A torn ligament in a leg will render the combatant less capable of moving.
  • All combat related actions are governed by rudimentary, Newtonian physics and simple material models. There are no minimum / maximum damage values for weapons, and there are no critical hits. Kinetic and other energies are calculated from offensive implements, these energies are imparted to contacted body parts, properties of constituent materials are accounted for, and wounds are inflicted on affected structures.
  • Details of combat engagements are reported in narrative form via combat logs. They can become grizzly, especially when human combatants are involved, but the narratives effectively provide insight into what’s happening in the world.

Combat Mechanics

While combat in OC is a deep, multifaceted topic, most of its underlying complexity manifests itself in a very intuitive way. Afterall, the mechanisms that govern combat are derived from the core simulation and are meant to approximate the real world. So don’t be intimidated! We’ve all sustained injuries in the course of our lives, whether it be a twisted ankle or a broken finger, and that type of experience is what’s modeled in OC.

The easiest way to explain combat in OC is by working through an actual example. Let’s go alpha to omega on an actual combat encounter between two creatures, predator and prey, in OC.

The northern hemisphere of Utrot 6 features an extensive band of boreal forest. The taiga here is inhabited by a variety of creatures. One particularly unfortunate specimen is a short snouted woodgrunt, a large, solitary grazer, pictured below.
Woodgrunt
Like all living things in OC, this woodgrunt has a body that’s comprised of many parts and subcomponents. Its body model consists of a head, four eyes, two ear openings, two tusks, four legs, four hooves, a tail, and a torso – just like what you can see in the illustration.

The woodgrunt’s body parts are further broken down into subcomponents. Continuing with this example, a woodgrunt’s leg is comprised of muscle, bone, and sinew. Like everything in OC, each subcomponent is made from specific volumes of specific materials. These substructures are made of animal bone, woodgrunt meat, and a tough, outer layer of woodgrunt fur. The tusks are more simplistic in their composition, being made entirely from a single material, that of the woodgrunt tusk. Remembering that each of these materials has different properties, like density and hardness, you can start to imagine how they react differently to forces.

Each body part described above is associated with some semantic functionality, which it confers to the woodgrunt. When a force impacts a body part, its subcomponents can sustain a variety of type-specific wounds. The functionality of the body part depends on the integrity of its subcomponents, and their wounds actually impair the functionality of the part. For example, a woodgrunt’s eyes are responsible for its ability to see. If an impacting force damages ocular tissue, the woodgrunt’s sight may be impaired, decreasing its environmental awareness. If all four eyes are destroyed, it will be rendered blind and unable to see anything, including predators.

Speaking of which…

Frostbull

Enter the frostbull, a fearsome, apex predator, bane of the cold, dry regions of The Far Reaches. Like the woodgrunt, the frostbull’s body is modeled in terms of parts, subcomponents, and materials. Of course, the frostbull’s specific model is different. As a bipedal animal, it has only two legs, but boasts two massive arms with tremendously heavy fists. A frostbull is covered with a with a very tough hide, and its fists are covered in a very hard substance that excels at transferring blunt force. The frostbull’s immense strength is coupled with superb eyesight and hearing, making it a formidable predator.

In addition to the more numerical aspects of combat, combatant behavior also has a significant impact on fights. All species in OC have an associated combat profile that’s used to model instinctive combat tendencies. A frostbull could kill an opponent by kicking at it or trying to headbutt it to death, but these approaches are far less effective than beating its adversary to death with its powerful fists.

Furthermore, the frostbull instinctively knows that the most effective way to rapidly subdue its prey is by targeting its head. When engaging a woodgrunt, this is precisely what the frostbull will try to do. Still, every engagement is different, and no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Sometimes a frostbull will break a woodgrunt’s leg, render it unable to move, and finish it off by crushing vital organs in its torso. But its instinct is to aim for the head and subdue it quickly.

Given that information, let’s see how the actual encounter between our woodgrunt and frostbull plays out. The poor woodgrunt has wandered into the line of sight of a hungry frostbull that’s ventured into the taiga in search of prey. The woodgrunt failed to hear its approach, and the faster frostbull easily ran down the woodgrunt and forced it into mortal combat. The two became locked in a fight to the death, where all actions were recorded in a combat log. As the woodgrunt fell slain, I cracked open the combat log to analyze the results:

FrostbullWoodgrunt

The full text can be seen here.

As you can see, the woodgrunt was dispatched quickly, and this particular engagement was mercifully short. The frostbull landed the first blow, cracking the woodgrunt’s skull almost immediately. The force of the frostbull’s fist was sufficient to cause a cerebral contusion in the woodgrunt’s brain, which is a severe wound. The woodgrunt’s sight, hearing, and dexterity were all significantly impaired, making it far less capable of defending itself. Landing a devastating blow to an adversary’s head can sometimes incapacitate it quickly, which is the benefit of the frostbull’s combat strategy.

The woodgrunt didn’t go down entirely without a fight, though. Despite its passive nature, a woodgrunt is a large and fierce animal when pressed. Its legs are powerful, and hard hooves can can cause serious problems for predators when they catch a kick. Over the course of the fight, the woodgrunt did manage to kick the frostbull in its hand and abdomen, yielding minor bone and tendon bruises. However, in the woodgrunt’s crippled state, its defense ultimately amounted to little more than flailing.

The creatures howled, roared, and exchanged blows. A glancing hit to the woodgrunt’s eye further diminished its capacity to see. Finally, the frostbull landed another devastating hit to the woodgrunt’s head, and the woodgrunt immediately died from brain damage.

Why did the fight play out this way? Well, its brevity was largely determined by the frostbull’s landing a devastating hit to the woodgrunt’s head right away, which severely reduced the woodgrunt’s ability to fight back. But the frostbull’s immense size and strength put it at a tremendous advantage, even against large prey, like the woodgrunt.

The attacks that comprised this fight were modeled using very simple Newtonian physics, applying forces in certain ways to simplistic material models. Granted, OC’s is a crude abstraction of the immense complexity of the real world, but the results are decent. The massive, hard fist of the frostbull is propelled at a great velocity, resulting in tremendous kinetic energy. The woodgrunt’s tough fur and stout bones are somewhat effective at dissipating lesser forces, but the energy of the frostbull’s hits are too great, and the woodgrunt sustains catastrophic wounds very quickly.

Hopefully this demonstration sheds some light on the underlying mechanics of OC’s combat system. There’s still more work to be done in honing the results prior to release, but I’m happy with the state it’s reached so far.

Posted in Combat