Hello everybody! It’s Ari-Matti here again, with some ramblings and thoughts. Jaakko asked me to talk about enemies and monster design this week, and I’ll try my best to give you a glance at our process, such as it is.


For me, there’s two major things to consider when designing enemies for a game: lore and gameplay. Lore is shorthand for how the creature fits into the background and theme of the game. This consideration ranges from questions like “does it fit visually?” to thinking up the monster’s diet and ecology, and the depth of this documentation depends on the complexity of the game. For example, for Pac-Man it’s enough for us to know that the ghosts are differentiated by colour, and their names are Fickle, Chaser, Ambusher and Stupid (or Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde in English). For Cave Digger 2, I’ve actually gone more than a little deeper, and can give you an outline on the evolutionary and ecological pseudo-science behind the plasma shrimp and the nautiloids. 




Gameplay is of course much more important, for any enemy in any game. What sort of a challenge is the opponent supposed to create for the player? This includes difficulty – ranging from window dressing to brick wall – and a range of more subtle experiential factors like interaction with other gameplay features, guidance, progression, player agency, strategy and so on. Again, the general depth, complexity and focus of the game in question defines what questions are relevant and how you need to answer them. As an immersive VR game Cave Digger 2 requires a lot of consideration here.




As for actual ideas for enemies and monsters, they can come from anywhere. I think the plasma shrimp started as a joke. The nautiloids came up from my desire to make an enemy that camouflages itself as a loot node. The chameleon people were a variation on a theme: we wanted underground ruins, which genre-logically means lizard people, but we didn’t want to go the obvious reptilian route. 


Once the creature concepts passed the muster lore-wise, we started considering them in gameplay. I’ll add here that we could have gone the other way around just as easily, figured out what type of enemy interactions we needed, and concepted the monsters from that direction, but with the amount of visual worldbuilding going on in the team, it was just easier to do things this way around. The first creatures we implemented for the game were the plasma shrimps and the nautiloids: we wanted a shooty enemy type and a melee enemy type, and it was pretty obvious here which is which. Both had the added benefit of filling open design space – nautiloids provided us with their shell-geodes as loot nodes, and baby shrimp were useful as window dressing and target practice. 




Then, we started iterating. This means implementing a version of the creature into the game, and improving it until it works in the desired fashion. Shrimp behaviour has gone through multiple upgrades and additions, we’ve for example added the explosion on death feature, and using dead shrimp as guns. Nautiloid behaviour is getting there as well, the charge attack we recently added gives them a lot of added mobility and interaction. Next on the polish list here are the chameleon monsters, and we’re looking forward to seeing you interact with them once the Escape from the Valley -update goes live soon!




Random development quote: -“Samuel kysyy että 15 tonnilla sukellusveneen ovia. “Tutkimuskustannuksia””.