One of the big challenges when designing a game based largely around realistic sword combat is finding the right balance so that attacks feel powerful without combat relying on one-hit kills (unless you take the Bushido Blade path). When designing PS4 exclusive Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch Productions had to find the right balance, and now the game’s senior combat designer has provided a deep dive into what their process looked like.
In a post on the PlayStation Blog, Theodore Fishman has delved into some of the issues they faced while designing the game’s combat. A term he uses throughout is “lethality contract”–the player’s understanding that if they cut an enemy with a sharp blade, they’ll likely die. While it’s possible to make silent kills and standoffs instantly lethal, getting the balance on standard combat was difficult.
“When we did our early playtests we received very negative feedback that enemies felt like ‘sword sponges,'” Fishman recalls. “My favorite quote from players was ‘I felt like I was hitting enemies with a foam bat.'” Giving the enemy a form of hitpoints wasn’t working, so the team ended up integrating a “maximum hits to kill” system, whereby no standard enemy could withstand endless attacks.