Godzilla: Unleashed Designer Diary #2 - Critical Mass

In his second Godzilla: Unleashed diary, lead gameplay designer Simon Strange talks about monster abilities and power-ups.


Currently scheduled for release toward the end of this year, Godzilla: Unleashed is a combat-oriented action game in which Godzilla and a number of his monster friends will do battle in large, destructible environments. Developer Pipeworks Software has worked on Godzilla games before, but this is the first time that they've attempted to bring the iconic monster to the Wii. In his first designer diary, lead gameplay designer Simon Strange discussed the game's story. This time, he talks about some of the ways in which monsters will become more powerful as you progress through the game.

Critical Mass

By Simon Strange
Lead Gameplay Designer, Pipeworks Software

As I touched on briefly last time, we wanted to see monsters double or even triple in power over the course of the game. That allows us to break away from the series of one-on-one fights that all fighting games get trapped in. To get the ball rolling, we decided to take a closer look at the Rage Mode mechanic we'd used in our previous games.

The original concept of Rage Mode came from Powerstone. Mark Crowe (creative director) had this idea that monsters would collect energy spheres and eventually "Hulk-out" and become more awesome for a short time. That would help to give us the party-game atmosphere that became so important to our identity.

When Burning Godzilla is in town, the cab drivers really earn their tips.
When Burning Godzilla is in town, the cab drivers really earn their tips.

Rage Mode was very cool--but ultimately it fell short of the awesome upgrade we wanted it to be. In Godzilla: Save the Earth, Rage Mode gives you a modest 20 percent damage boost, 15 percent speed boost, and gives your attacks additional knockback. That was plenty to make it comparable with the other power-ups we dropped in the game--any more and it would have thrown things out of whack. Also, the way that monsters collected power-ups tended to be skewed--generally the faster monster would get all the power-ups, and with good play could dominate most matches with that strategy alone.

More importantly, random power-ups didn't really let players become tremendously more powerful. So that's what we tackled first.

We knew early on that our story would involve strange crystals--that the crystals would attract monsters from across the universe (giving us a reason to battle the monsters over and over) and give them strange new abilities. But we wanted that power to be dangerous. But what's dangerous about more power for a giant monster? Well, in the movies, the more powerful monsters have additional enemies. So we started batting around ideas for how we could use changing monster alliances as a balancing factor. Eventually, we decided to scrap the old rage system and replace it with a new system: Critical Mass.

Critical Mass is a new state--it happens when monsters absorb too much crystal energy. Visually, it's pretty spectacular--sort of like Burning Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. The monster begins to burst apart at the seams with glowing red light. It still confers speed damage and knockback bonuses, similar to our old Rage Mode, but it also lowers your defense, and leaves you drained when it wears off. Because it happens only when you interact with the crystals in each level, it's more of a deliberate choice each monster gets to make. Want to destroy some health and energy crystals to rejuvenate yourself? Doing so builds your critical meter. Standing too close to the large crystals also builds your meter, as does damaging and destroying the crystals.

You can't keep a good Gigan down. Godzilla's punching bag looks meaner than ever
You can't keep a good Gigan down. Godzilla's punching bag looks meaner than ever

But the biggest impact comes from giving in to the crystal energies and activating a Power Surge. Power Surges are one-time abilities that players earn in the single-player game. They confer awesome abilities like total immunity to weapons, increased health and energy regeneration, and ultra-finishing weapon attacks. Power Surges are designed to make you significantly stronger than other monsters--strong enough to defeat two monsters at once if necessary. But that sort of power also comes at a price.

Power Surges need to be earned in the story game, and they are earned through combat. Some encounters put you in proximity to a monster that has become corrupted by the crystals--these monsters tend to attack everyone in sight, regardless of faction alignment. (Naturally, fighting them still takes you out of the good graces of their allies). Defeating a monster under the influence of a Power Surge gives that ability to you for the rest of the single-player game. But it also makes you a target for the more power-hungry monsters.

Alternately, you can attempt to destroy all of the crystals empowering the crazed monster. If you can successfully destroy all of the Power Surge crystals scattered around the environment, you can destroy that surge and free the monster. Freeing a monster from the grips of crystal-fuelled madness is the fastest way to earn yourself a new ally. That's the real trade-off you're facing in the game--do you want to take more and more power for yourself and end up without any friends? Or would you rather stay close to your original power level, but end up with a powerful group of monster allies?

Playing with all that power will tend to put you into Critical Mass over and over, and certain factions won't appreciate that. In that way, you can actually use Critical Mass as a way to forge allies--push your opponent over the edge and they'll lose favor with the peaceful factions. That means more affinity for you. G:DAMM had a great mechanic for turning the human military against your opponent--just throw them into some large buildings and watch the humans swarm all over their new "attacker." Now you can do the same thing with the crystals--just make your opponent go critical and watch as the other monsters get in line to team up with you against the greater threat.

Mechagodzilla's space titanium alloy armor should make him a force to be reckoned with.
Mechagodzilla's space titanium alloy armor should make him a force to be reckoned with.

One other big change happened while we changed Rage into Critical Mass--we got rid of the UFO, which used to drop power-ups around our environments. Because the Aliens now have a more nebulous role in this game, we didn't want them scattering power for their opponents. So instead, monsters need to find beds of growing crystals for their quick health and energy pick-me-ups. These keep growing throughout the match, so it might pay to keep breaking away from your opponent to grab them. Of course, you're getting closer and closer to going Critical by doing so, which might not always be a good idea.

Finally, let's talk about Rage attacks. Rage attacks were unique abilities monsters gained in Rage Mode. Using your rage attack ended Rage Mode. Since Critical Mass is something that players might want to avoid, we thought it was inappropriate for monsters to "use up" their critical status in one huge attack. Instead, we've added some of those attacks to the Power Surges. Looking for Godzilla 2000's nuclear pulse? You'll need to score a Radiation Surge first. Do you want to use Godzilla's Finishing Red Beam? Find the Fire Surge.

Of course, despite all of my sage warnings against it, we know that some players will always rush to go Critical. In service to those players, we allow players to keep building their Critical Meter even after achieving Critical Mass. This means that especially aggressive players can keep themselves in Critical Mass for a minute or more at a single stretch. We fully expect that clever players will challenge themselves to stay in Critical Mass for as long as possible--or avoid it for the entire game. By giving the players lots of ways to change the flow of each match we're (hopefully) increasing replayability and giving fans and new players alike some awesome special effects to digest and enjoy.

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