Why Hood: Outlaws & Legends Is PvPvE
Hood: Outlaws & Legends began as a PvE concept that evolved into a PvP experience and then became a PvPvE game.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends is an upcoming Robin Hood-inspired PvPvE game where two teams of four players face off on the same heist. You don't often see too many player-versus-player-versus-environment games, where players face off against each other and computer-controlled characters. I caught up with Hood game director Andrew Willans to ask why the team is opting for a PvPvE experience as opposed to a more traditional PvP or PvE one.
As it turns out, developer Sumo Digital initially brainstormed PvP and PvE concepts for Hood. In the end, both had their shortcomings and the studio found a good balance combining the gameplay loops of the two. "The initial concept was far more PvE-focused, and while it would have been fun to take that journey, it's also quite costly," Willans said. "When you look at doing PvE, even if you do co-op PvE, there's a certain element of linearity to the narrative and storytelling that's required."
Willans said that the team behind Hood is quite small, and thus not able to deliver on the same level of linear PvE storytelling that, as examples he provided, Naughty Dog or Santa Monica Studio managed to achieve with games like The Last of Us and God of War. That gave Sumo Digital the nudge to go for a PvP game that tells its story through a morality system, environmental details, and collectibles.
"We've done a lot of multiplayer games and we definitely thought we had more to say in the multiplayer space with fantasy," Willans said. "We actually started off with traditional PvP. So one of the early designs had a team of four players that represented the Outlaws, the heroes, and then the other four players would take the part of the State, the bad guys, who are now the AI in the game. So it would almost be like an attack and defend; you hold the castle while this enemy team of outlaws tries to get in and steal the loot."
The studio ultimately scrapped this idea because it was basically capture the flag, a multiplayer game mode that players had seen many times before and thus not a likely candidate for upholding an entire game. Additionally, Sumo Digital had trouble with balancing the two teams in terms of respawns--should the defenders be able to respawn multiple times to combat the outlaws' unique and powerful abilities, for instance?
"So that kind of set us down a path of asking, 'What would it look like if there were two teams--if it was just rival gangs facing off, but both have the same objective?'" Willans said. "And that's kind of where we found the magic in terms of the game mode design. Obviously there was a huge amount of work with that; setting up the AI systems so that they're robust enough to give you that friction, setting up stealth."
According to Willans, stealth was actually the team's "biggest challenge." There are three teams in Hood: your team, the opposing team of players, and the computer-controlled guards that are led by the Sheriff. All those teams need to react in different ways when stealth is broken. "Throughout the years, we've been taught that the red exclamation mark in stealth games means, 'Holy shit, you've caused a mess and you're going to have to deal with it," Willans said. "But what does that look like if I set it off and you're on my team? What do you see? Who's the AI going to chase?"
He continued: "So it was definitely a significant investment in terms of design and balancing to get all of those systems right, but I think it was the right thing for us to do. It was the right journey to follow, because it's something which is quite unique about this. You know, the idea of two teams competing to do the same heist at the same time, and the AI really gives us those glory moments."
Those glory moments are achieved because the Sheriff and his guards aren't exactly pushovers, so it feels like an accomplishment when you overcome them. The other team of players is the bigger of the two threats, but the NPCs can wreck your day if your team isn't smart about how to either efficiently deal with them or stealthily sneak past them. As Willans puts it, "They will kick your ass."
Hood: Outlaws & Legends is scheduled to launch for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, and PC on May 10, though you can get three days of early access and start playing on May 7 by preordering the game. On PS5, Hood will have DualSense enhancements.