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Visually Satisfying Combos: A Team Effort

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Javahawk

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The visual style of the original Dungeon Defenders was quite memorable, but not really for the right reasons. More in the “Wow those colors sure are… Noticeable!” way. The running joke was that the visuals of the game sometimes reminded everyone of a bag of Skittles that had materialized out of one of those jet-powered blenders. Part of this was because the development cycle only allowed for time to create and commit visual effects (VFX), not necessarily polish them. While I’m extremely proud of my work, I felt the finished product could have been more cohesive overall.

For DD2, we’re taking the extra time to ensure the highest possible quality in our game. Even before the pre-production phase started, our artists were determined to deliver visual effects that were extremely stylistic, elegant, and polished. VFX in DD2 would be unique and recognizable, acting as an accent to the art and immersing players in the experience.

Creating Visually Satisfying Combos
When it came time to develop DD2’s combat, we wanted players to seek out and look forward to complex interactions. To do that, we created a combo system for devastating enemy minions that was both visually rewarding and fun to use.

Our first challenge was to conceptualize how these interactions might look. My personal favorite is the water + electricity combo. In this combo, once a minion is hit by the drenched debuff, it becomes vulnerable to electric-type damage and is stunned while lightning arcs through it.

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Yes, that’s a lightning elemental sword. And yes, it actually does something cool now!


In this particular example, our FX team had to come up with a solution for not only an emitter-based electricity effect that would play on the enemy, but also a material-based electrocution overlay, as depicted in the GIF above.

Our minion materials were already designed so that when an enemy is set on fire, oiled, drenched, or poisoned, you see the effect on the character model itself. Because we wanted a similar debuff effect for electrocution, we needed to add that state for each minion’s material.

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This orc is just doomed to die a horribly painful death.


This material effect went through two iterations. Initially, we decided to depict it so that lightning played over a dark ‘scorched’ enemy, but in our first FX review, we realized this was too subdued and wasn’t giving enough incentive for players to activate the combo. So we decided to add a pulsing electric overlay to the minions. That coupled with particle-based glow and lightning beams allowed us to reach something pretty cool and immersive.

This process was a great example of a multidisciplinary effort coming together successfully. With everyone on the team dedicated to polishing the visual effects, we achieved something we feel is a great example of what’s to come in Dungeon Defenders II.

We can’t wait for you to experience the immensely satisfying combos we’ve got in store for you. Leave a comment below and tell us what combo you’d most like to see and you could win a spot on the Defense Council!

The random winner of our DD2 at PAX East blog is abbazabba!

Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’ll pick a random poster and reveal the winner in our next blog post!
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