We just released our next major update to Spellbreak, Chapter 2: The Fracture, and one of the new features that we’re adding is NPCs the player can fight over the course of the story and as a part of the new capture and control game mode, Dominion. Normally, adding NPCs to a game focused on magical combat wouldn’t be especially interesting or worthy of discussion, but Spellbreak is first and foremost a PvP game that’s been live since September, so this is entirely new ground for us.
It’s worth noting Spellbreak currently has bots for giving new players a way to learn the mechanics of the game, so in making NPCs, we want to clearly differentiate them from existing bots. Bots are meant to fight similarly to how a player would and use a variety of spells and sorceries as well as runes to move around and make themselves a challenge for players. NPCs on the other hand should very explicitly not mimic player behavior. The most obvious differentiation is that the NPCs are visually different from players in most cases. They wear their own outfits and have special UI elements denoting that they’re NPCs.
As I mentioned above, there are two scenarios that players will encounter the new NPCs in and they both have different requirements for how the NPCs should act. For story quests, the NPCs can often “ambush” a player after the player has done something. They’ll warp in around the player and after a brief time during which they taunt the player with animations, they’ll attack. This momentary pause is important because it allows the player to see and understand what just happened (and what’s about to happen!) as well as giving them an opportunity to “shoot first.” When we were testing, we originally had the NPCs attacking right away which was not only more difficult but also decidedly less fun because you were put on the back foot right away instead of getting to be the aggressor.
The second place you’ll meet NPCs is in Dominion where they serve two purposes. The first is that they act as a resource for players, dropping loot and providing currency. Players must keep in mind respawn times and weigh the opportunity cost of pursuing the NPCs against controlling the zones. The second purpose is that the NPCs act as a hindrance that must be dealt with lest they pepper players with magic while players try to capture and control the zones. Dealing with incoming attacks adds an additional layer to how players strategize for taking the zones.
In both the story quests as well as Dominion, the NPCs themselves are fairly weak. This allows us to use them as cannon fodder, giving the player an increased sense of power. It’s incredibly gratifying to take out a pack of NPCs with a single well-placed boulder. We’re also starting to experiment with what it means to be a difficult NPC encounter in Spellbreak without just increasing the NPC’s stats, but instead from a behavioral point of view. This is a whole separate set of challenges that we’re actively exploring.
We’re excited to start exploring the idea of NPCs fighting players in Spellbreak and seeing how players respond. Our second chapter kicks off today and you’ll be able to battle the new foes in both the story and in Dominion, so grab Spellbreak from the Xbox Store and join us on Discord to give us feedback, discuss the new enemies, and squad up with fellow players. Hope to see you in game!