ShellShock: Nam '67 is Eidos Interactive's upcoming action game that drops you into the Vietnam War. Amsterdam-based developer Guerilla is crafting one of the grittiest portrayals of the war seen in a game yet in its multiplatform release. Our third designer diary with lead designer Doug Walker focuses on how the team went about creating combat in the game.
Combat--The Most Important Gameplay Element in a War Game.
By Doug Walker
Lead Designer, Guerilla Games
Defining our gameplay experience initially came down to two main considerations: the third-person viewpoint and the subject matter of the Vietnam War itself. As our main avatar is visible onscreen we had to create physical movements that the player would not only perform, but also see onscreen. We also drew a great deal of inspiration in our design mentality from the war and the kind of events that took place in it.
Our original intention was to reflect how the actual war was fought by the US and to build this into our gameplay mechanics. Since the subject matter was relatively new to consumers we wanted to differentiate the gameplay experience by grounding it in reality. To explain further, it wasn't the case that the US forces aimlessly ran around the jungle with a huge machine gun with a limitless supply of ammo, covering large distances while mowing down anything and everything that moved. For the GIs fighting in Vietnam it was about trepidation and uncertainty and often fighting against an unknown enemy. In SSN67 you have to think about your movements just as the US forces did and realise how you can use the environment to your advantage. The player's ability closely mirrors that of the GI's in the late '60s, enabling them to use rocks, trees, walls, and contours of the ground to supplement their combat abilities. How the players decide to use the environment (and their weapons) is entirely up to them, as there is no right or wrong way of fighting in ShellShock.
Our realistic approach to combat also includes the weapons. In SSN67, you are only able to carry a primary and secondary weapon, such as an assault rifle and sidearm, plus grenades, to remain faithful to the war. To provide variety and personal preference, players are able to pick up any weapon in the battlefield to use against their enemy, regardless of whether the enemy is US, Russian, or of Vietnamese origin. There are of course "highlight" weapons that have an exhaustible amount of use to accentuate certain combat moments. Heavy-mounted machine guns, which, once captured, can also be used against your enemy. All the weapons that appear in the game have unique attributes, including fire rate, accuracy, ammo type, destructive ability, and distance. The player is also equipped with body armor that degrades to provide some balance and accessibility, as we didn't want to overly penalize the player. Between their movements, weapons, and environmental use, they have all they need to survive missions and NVA encounters.
To complement our avatars' abilities and weapons, we also created multiple- hit response states that enabled the player to inflict various amounts of damage from light wounds to limb dismemberment. Wounds or hit responses are measured by the type of weapon used as well as its accuracy. We also included states that left the enemy a threat to the player even though they had been successfully hit. This helped provide a new layer of complexity and challenge for the player to think about and overcome. This is a prime example of how we reflected Vietnam combat in Shellshock, as it was more often the case that enemy soldiers didn't immediately die from their wounds, and we wanted the player to realize the consequences of their actions.
The game's story sees the player progressing from a rookie to being special-forces adept, which enabled us to layer in new and more exotic weapons as well as certain skill sets and abilities (such as silent knife kills).
By the time you have earned the right to join the Special Forces, the missions and objectives that you'll be faced with will have evolved to complement your duties. At this point you will have most of the game's armory at your disposal, including some very secret and experimental weapons that "certain government agencies" have been working on.
As we applied, tweaked, and tested all of the factors mentioned above, we built up the combat gameplay in Shellshock NAM 67 to be realistic, but more importantly, fun to play.