Environmental Traps are a fun new feature in Dungeon Defenders II, and one that we're continuously fine-tuning as we create new levels. When we first started building levels for DD2, we wanted to provide interesting motivations for players to move around the map during combat. We also wanted to think about how players could place defenses that synergize with the maps. We decided to try out a concept of traps built into the level's construction that players could use to their advantage.
Traps that are pre-built into the maps:
- Encourage players to learn the traps and, by extension, to learn the map.
- Encourage players to move around the map to use them.
- Provide a wildcard to help players regain control in an emergency.
- Add choice to the action gameplay and to defense placement.
Our First Attempts
We tried a number of different concepts for how traps could work mechanically. An early version of Greystone Plaza had a group of archers across the top wall and the player could switch which lane they were firing at. This trap didn't work so well because it wasn't that gratifying to use. Another early draft had steel floor grates that could be shot out, dropping enemies into the lava beneath -- but this didn't work because players spent more time using the grates to kill each other than enemies. In the end, the most satisfying traps tended to be those that had a lot of punch to them and those that encouraged tactical timing or positioning.
After we had built a few levels with compelling traps in them, it became clear to us that traps weren't quite powerful enough. When players disengage to fire a trap, they are giving up their own DPS in order to use the trap -- so without sufficient lethality, players didn't want to disengage and risk losing control of a lane.
For example, given the choice between these two traps:
- A trap that can be used frequently to low effect, or
- A trap that can be used infrequently to high effect
Players almost always preferred the latter trap because its use was more engaging, less tedious, and felt more powerful and fun.
In another example, given the choice between these two traps:
- A trap that fires a constant, high-DPS stream while the player holds down the attack trigger, or
- A trap that fires a single, high-damage explosive burst when triggered
Players generally preferred the second type of trap in this case, as well, even if the first trap was actually more powerful. The fire-and-forget trap allowed them to be in control of the situation instead of pinned in one location.
Refining the Idea
One of our most engaging traps is the water trap in Siphon Site D, which blasts enemies off the walkway with a high pressure shot of water. This trap was a lot of fun to use in early tests, even though the visuals were extremely basic when it was first built. Like many of the other successful trap designs, it is quick to activate, slow to recharge, and has a very high impact effect with rewarding visuals. And, as a bonus, you get to watch enemies plummet to their deaths.
Greystone Plaza now features a dynamite trap that sets off multiple, high-yield explosions and starts fires in the nearby area. This trap was also selected for its high impact and larger recharge times. When properly timed, it can wipe out dozens of enemies and belch out a sea of damage.
Most of our levels now contain traps that have a long cooldown time, but a high payoff. We're looking to make traps that are both spectacular to watch and fun to use -- nothing beats the excitement of seeing what a trap does to enemies the very first time. The Valley's gate trap is another great example of this and a favorite conversation topic at our first internal playtest for the Valley map.
As we continue to build traps, we’re keeping these fundamental design principles in mind. We can’t wait for you to try them out and feel first-hand how satisfying it is to bombard a horde of Orcs and Goblins with dynamite, or to freeze and shatter a group of Wyverns. Do you have any ideas for traps that you’d like to see in the future? Let us know in the comments and you could win a seat on the Defense Council!
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