Design a repeatable system with a focus on combat for Breath of the Wild. This system must support Breath of the Wild’s overall core experience of exploration and systematic experimentation.
This system will also be designed to bolster endgame content (after Calamity Ganon is defeated once) and is meant to be post-launch DLC.
The new system I designed is called High-Value Targets.
High-Value Targets are difficult enemies spawned by the Blood Moon at specific locations in the open-world and drop rare materials, weapons, and/or rupees upon defeat.
How does the player find these targets?
My first thought to answer this question was to have the game automatically mark it down on the player’s map for convenience. However, Breath of the Wild isn’t a game about convenience, it’s a game about a purist sense of exploration. We want players to feel like they’re discovering these surprises.
Keeping that in mind, the player finds the target by using the Sheikah Slate binoculars and searching for them. We can place subtle visual cues like an aura or glow around areas that have a high-value target spawn.
This means that a player just wandering around the world could just stumble upon a high-value target, which is a really exciting surprise.
Where do targets spawn?
The target’s spawn locations will be at designated spots on the map. Each region can have a bunch of different possible spawn locations, but there should only be one spawned target per region at a time (so targets are more spread-out, encouraging exploration).
Each spawn location has a list of possible enemies that can pop up there (which could be a single monster, or a defined group of monsters). When a target spawns, a random enemy from that list spawns in that location. Once the target spawns, they’ll stay there for about in-game day (this’ll have to be balanced against how long it takes to kill one of these targets). This is so that when a player gets to an area, they kinda know what to expect (like a fire-elemental enemy in the fire area) but not exactly what enemy will be there.
Enemies shouldn’t wander around after they’ve spawned, since this gives the design team opportunities to place targets in interesting areas with lots of pieces ripe for systems-driven combat (like areas with fire, boulders, or metal doors) or near important items like Korok Seeds. Players will also be searching for targets with their binoculars and manually marking the location down so we don’t want the enemies to move from this location. All of this encourages both the systematic and exploration aspects of the game!
What kind of enemies are these targets?
These new enemies should be super difficult, as they only exist in the endgame and drop guaranteed rare loot.
These targets will have a new enemy tier above all other enemies. This will be marked visually with a diamond flourish on the enemy’s body. The flourish will be placed on the enemy’s most prominent feature (like the Lynel’s mane), but it can’t cover a huge part of the body since communicating elemental status for enemies is still super important for the player.
These enemies will also draw from the existing pool from enemies EXCEPT for the Guardians. Shrine Guardians only appear in Shrines (and we want players to accidentally stumble upon them in the open-world to support exploration and discovery) and regular Guardians don’t have any color variance as part of the game or story (we would have to add the concept of color tiers to enemies that never had any).
When the player beats these target, they are rewarded with a drop of high level loot (rupees, high-level weapons, rare materials). Each Target should drop approximately the same value of loot. If one Target drops a weapon and another only drops rupees, the weapon and rupees should be about the same in perceived value. The value should also be high enough for players to feel like their time was valued, but not so high that players will drop everything they’re doing to go fight some targets every time they spawn.
How do High-Value Targets spawn?
We don’t want too many of these High-Value Targets to be spawned at once, since the loot drop is pretty valuable. If there are too many targets, it could completely shift the economy balancing of the game. It would also make players feel cheated if a bunch of targets spawn and they aren’t able to defeat them all without them disappearing.
Keeping all of that in mind, a small random number of High-Value Targets are spawned upon the Blood Moon. The small small amount of Targets makes them a rare occurrence and a surprise for players that find them.
The number of Targets spawned would have to be balanced against the Average Cadence of Blood Moons, and the real time of an in-game day vs. the Average Time-To-Kill of one High-Value Target. For highly skilled players experienced in the endgame, they should have enough time to kill all spawned Targets in between Blood Moons.
In a real game development environment, this system would be open to iteration based off feedback from the team. With that in mind, I wrote down some open questions that are edge cases, how to define the parameters of the system’s success, and details of the actual implementation.
- Since this system uses existing loot and currency, how much will this change Breath of the Wild’s economy?
- How do we know this new system will engage players more than the new golden enemies in the endgame?
- Does having guaranteed rare loot drops and a timed-spawns differentiate it enough from the other enemies?
- What data points should we track when looking at the analytics for this system to see if it is successful?
- Number of Targets Spawned per Blood Moon
- Number of Targets defeated per Blood Moon
- Percentage of Targets defeated per Blood Moon — The higher the percentage is, the more successful the system is. However, if it’s too high (more than 90% maybe), then maybe we can consider spawning more targets. However, this may also indicate that the loot drops are TOO good and may need rebalancing. We don’t want people to only focus on doing these objectives when the Blood Moon appears. It should facilitate exploration, not railroad the player into an objective too good to pass up.
- How will we know this system has succeeded?
- In what ways can this system fail?
- If we are rewarding rare loot to players that have already defeated Calamity Ganon, what are those players getting the loot for? Are these players only the hardcore players that want to collect everything?
- If we are only targeting hardcore players with this design, is the resources required to build this system less than the engagement of this niche player demographic?