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Behind the Screens: Creature Design

Aviva Schecterson

Hi everyone,

I’m Aviva, and one of my game design responsibilities on the team is artificial intelligence (AI) design. I’m here to tell you about upcoming changes regarding creatures in Crucible. Some of these are coming out in the next build, while others still have a ways to go before they’re ready to be released.

 

Next release: Lurker update


The Lurker as we know it today is simply a nuisance—receiving damage from one is inconsequential, and they’re pretty safe to ignore outside of the little meta-game in which a hunter tries to capture the harvester before the Lurker notices them. Even with their very accurate projectile, 25 points of damage once or twice doesn’t mean much to most hunters (especially when there’s a medical station nearby).


That all changes in our next release! I’d like to introduce you to the Beamer Lurker, a glowed-up version that will be replacing all current Lurkers on Crucible.


We’ll still be calling them Lurkers, though.


We had three major goals for improving the basic Lurker behavior (which, incidentally, is a project we actually started before our May launch with an intention to release after Pre-Season). Those three goals were all part of making Lurkers seem smarter than the Stompers and Spitters. We wanted them to have a territorial personality when it came to harvesters, so players would have to defeat them before capturing a harvester. We also wanted them to have some “zoom zoom,” you know? They should zoom.


But “zoom zoom” isn’t exactly a measurable goal, so instead we used these three pillars for the Lurker redesign:

  • Give players challenge with a smarter creature.

  • Provide urgency through anticipated threat.

  • Reward clever play by letting players use Lurkers to their advantage and sic them on other hunters.


The first change we implemented was to make Lurkers shoot a beam instead of a single glob. The first iteration of a beam that increases in damage over time was definitely an overcorrection that made the Lurkers too threatening. Specifically, there wasn’t enough messaging to let players anticipate of what was about to happen—just a death ray from what had previously been little more than a distraction. We did more  internal testing to get to a place where we think the new and improved Lurker gives enough warning about its attacks and still has consequences (in the form of damage) for players who don’t react appropriately.


In addition, Lurkers are now a bit better at spotting players, they move faster, and they’ve got a couple other tricks up their, uh, fins. Be careful trying to capture those harvesters without defeating the resident Lurker first! I think you’ll find combat with them more interesting than before.


We’ve got other plans for Lurkers in the future, but that’s a conversation for another day. But I’ll leave you with this:



Fun fact about Lurkers: They don’t look it since they’re in the air and keep distance from you, but Lurkers are a tiny bit taller than Tosca—and I have a picture to prove it.



Next release: Hive update


Fun fact: The Hives actually use a lot of the same components as characters rather than the AI component all of the other creatures do. So they’re technically closer to a character than a monster. Don’t let that make you feel bad about taking ‘em down, though.


The changes to the Hives in the upcoming release are mostly cosmetic and aimed at making it a centerpiece in Heart of the Hives. Each Hive spawn point will have “roots” to show you where a Hive can potentially appear.


There’s also some very exciting new spawn visual effects (VFX) that we’ve complimented with an updated camera shake.



Also, did you know the hive can take critical damage on the three outer beaks? Pretty soon (but not as soon as the other changes!) you’ll see a FUI (fake user interface) element over the beaks as a constant reminder that there’s where you can deal critical damage if you’re playing a character that has this ability, like Captain Mendoza or Ajonah.

 

Spitters: nothing to see here


We don’t have any major updates for you on Spitters, but I will share this little tidbit: when I prototype brand-new AI types, I start by duplicating the Spitter. The Spitter is the most basic AI in that it doesn’t have any special components that I need to remove in order to make something else, and it already has a bunch of the  basic functionality (besides movement—but can you imagine?) that I would add to a new AI type anyway.

 

In the future: Stomper update

You may remember seeing concept art of some Stomper variants in the June 26th developer update. One of those is on the journey to becoming reality! We’re in the process of building out Healer Stompers.



This Stomper variant adds a new layer to destroying a herd. They aren’t quite ready for you to play with yet, but here’s a few lil facts about them.

  • They heal other creatures—any other creatures—around them. The orange VFX is indeed the cloak plant VFX to show their heal power activating as placeholder, and you may also notice the green VFX (also placeholder) on the Stomper that is being healed.

  • They can heal themselves.

  • When they die, they’ll likely leave behind healing plants in addition to Essence.


Fun fact: Our internal name for a Stomper is “snurtle.” Does that make the healing variant a hurtle?)

 

In the future: creature camps


If you’ve looked at our development priorities roadmap, you may have noticed some information regarding potential creature camps. In the gif above with the healer Stomper, you may have also noticed some nests and mud at Spaceport that isn’t in the game currently. Creature camps, which consist of spawn and map changes to give various creatures a “home base” on the map, are how we’re integrating creatures into environment art and helping the planet feel alive.



We’re still deciding timing on refilling the camps, but they will be refilled multiple times during the match so that you can continue to progress and level up. We’re experimenting with how large these camps are, how many creatures in each, and how much Essence can be earned from clearing one.


And there you have it—all the news we have to share right now about the creatures of Crucible. Thanks, and we’ll see you in game.


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