In our previous post on the PS blog, we shared the design philosophy and creative process behind Rayton, the protagonist of FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch. Today we’re going to talk about his combat skills and how we’ve crafted a satisfying, yet stylish, combo system for players to enjoy.
At the start, we made it clear that FIST’s combat system should be designed to deliver an arcade-style action experience. Besides our crazy love for the arcade scene when we were young, the characteristics of arcade games are also fascinating: these combat systems are easy to understand and master. Players can have fun in these games very quickly. This is the kind of gaming experience we want our players to have in FIST
In our initial design, combat involved a single attack button. Press and hold to charge; press the button to launch the combined skills; when the enemy’s HP is reduced to a certain value, press the button to initiate an execution.
One button covered three key attacks: a powerful strike at the start of the battle, a series of continuous attacks during, and a magnificent execution at the end. Functions and visual effects worked as one, giving the feeling of an arcade experience. We were very satisfied with it.
We spent over two months producing a demo based on this system. Feedback from players who have tried the demo at trade shows has been positive, which has convinced us that we are headed in the right direction.
The contradiction between streamlined fights and rich scenes
Then we started the formal development. We’ve defined FIST as an easy-to-use action game with over 10 hours of playtime for the main story, an expansive and transparent map, and lots of exploration elements. However, after completing the first stage, with more and more content and longer overall playtime added, the original combat system started to show some drawbacks.
The original three-stage combat experience involves charge, attack, and execution. Charged attacks take time to prepare, which is difficult when fighting suddenly occurs. Execution is essentially a performance with little input beyond the initial activation. As a result, players have to press the same button over and over again for combo attacks most of the time during battle.
Such a combat system is a reasonable design for a 15 minute demo, but not quite as suitable for a game that lasts a few hours. It got boring.
Considerations When Designing Combination Attacks
After redesigning the player’s experience when performing combo attacks, we decided to add a button in the combat system. The two attack buttons allow you to perform light attacks and heavy attacks. Players will need to memorize combos, such as L (light) L (Light) H (heavy), LHL, HLH to perform different skills.
But we don’t want to give up on our original intention of developing an arcade-style action game. If it is necessary to memorize combos, how could we simplify it as much as possible? After several brainstorming sessions, we have developed the following rules:
- Each combo must start with a light attack
- The maximum number of hits in a combo is 5
- No light attacks after a heavy attack
- Use as few buttons as possible
With these rules, we’re limiting combo skills to the following seven:
LH, LLL, LLH, LHH, LLHH, LLLH, LLLHH
Sounds hard to remember? Actually, combos are easy to do in FIST First of all, you need to perform an A action. If you want to cast combination skills, perform a B action.
This combo system satisfied our need to develop a simple yet interesting combat system. Starting with a light attack and ending with a heavy attack, the combo system provides an intensive combat process. In the language of design and image performance, we have also achieved a certain consistency with this intensifying trend.
Also, since there are three weapons in the game, we are dividing some moves with similar effects into a unified mode of operation. For example, for all three weapons, AB throws the enemy into the air. Players do not have to memorize different air launchers for each weapon.
Adjust a balanced combat system
As development progressed, in addition to combo skills, we have added more combat ops such as SP skill, throwing skill, special skills, weapon switch, jump, dash and cancellation. Players will have more choices in battle.
However, throughout development, we did “add” and “subtract” at the same time for each combat system. We would like players to have more moves in combat, but we also wanted those moves to be understood and manipulated as easily as possible. The ultimate goal is to allow our players to initiate these cool moves in a relatively easy way as if they were in the arcade room.
FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch releases for PS5 and PS4 on September 7, but you can pre-order now from PlayStation Store.