Welcome back to the Ravensdale game design dev blog! It’s been a while. This time around, we are going to take a break from the weapons to tell you more about the Arc Connector and how that unusual feature came to be.
The Arc Connector is an indestructible energy source that powers your piston knights’ armors – from the outside! It drifts along with your strike team, feeding the armors’ engines with arcs of energy. The Arc Connector’s core warps the space around it, effortlessly gliding through walls and ceilings. Or is it technically the walls doing the gliding?
In the Ravensdale universe, this energy form is highly experimental, and is viewed by the resistance as their greatest hope to free the city from its crippling dependency on Goop. This mysterious new energy could be their ticket to a bright new future… or utterly destroy the city.
Gameplay-wise, a fully upgraded Arc Connector offers you three distinct advantages:
Piston knights can use the energy arc that connects them to the core to slingshot themselves to and even past the core at breakneck speeds. Any enemies or objects along the path get sent flying with enough force to bounce of walls and ceilings.
Furthermore, the core’s space-warping properties effectively create a temporary “hole” in walls, floors and ceilings, allowing you to zip through otherwise impassable terrain with a bit of clever positioning.
You can also pull more softly to use the energy arc like a rope and swing around the core. This is especially effective in combination with jumping and dashing.
The energy arcs catch most enemy bullets and funnel them to the core, where they are converted to energy. As each arc is attached to a knight, you can move around to sweep up bullets. This doesn’t only protect your buddies, but also powers up the core.
Capturing bullets also creates a dangerous feedback loop between the armors and the core, allowing you to zap enemies with the arc. Smaller enemies even get pulled into the core, just like bullets! While your armor is specially designed to protect you from the exposed energy source, your enemies aren’t so lucky…
Powering up your core by feeding it bullets and the occasional hapless goblin allows you to tap into excess energy to overdrive your weapons, temporarily turning them into outrageous engines of destruction that can drown your enemies with bullets.
Overdrive makes your weapon go “Hulk smash!” with bigger, stronger projectiles and new abilities. For example, if you overdrive your Goop thrower, in addition to more powerful goo, some of the blobs it fires will be gigantic. If one of those giant blobs hits an enemy or player, it will erupt into a Goopvalanche that – you guessed it – can spawn even more giant blobs.
Your armor also gets boosted, increasing the force of your pulls and slams, allowing you to punt enemies twice your size around as if they were mere goblins.
Last but not least, going into overdrive grants your weapon’s primary characteristic to other players. For example, if you’re wielding a flamethrower, going into overdrive will turn your buddies’ bullets into incendiary rounds. This allows a group to tactically decide who activates their overdrive when, or just go berserk and activate multiple overdrives at the same time.
For Goop’s sake – why?
“OK, that’s nice”, you may think. “But why did you design such a funky feature? Did you just brainstorm some crazy ideas and pull them out of a hat?”
While brainstorming certainly was involved, all the different mechanics that make up the Arc Connector fulfill a specific set of goals:
1. Make other players matter
2. Reward cooperation
3. Make environment and positioning matter
4. Have the optimal usage shift in function of context
5. Keep the players together
Co-op is a big thing for Ravensdale. We don’t want it to be tacked on top of single player with each player doing their own thing in parallel. While we won’t force you to support each other, we want to bribe you to work as a team by making this approach more efficient. The Arc Connector ties up several mechanics that support those goals in one convenient package.
For example, if you coordinate with other players, you have more control over the positioning of the Arc Connector, which in turn gives you more control over where you can pull your knight and which shots you can block. This ties directly into the positioning of each knight being relevant for your actions; you’ll often need to dash or jump to line up a pull’s trajectory, and the position of the Arc Connector and the terrain will influence that in a different manner in each situation.
Moreover, each action you take with the Arc Connector usually benefits the group: catching bullets for energy powers up the entire team and shields your buddies from projectiles. To sweep up bullets, you’ll usually have to dodge them first, but your teammates won’t have to; you’ve effectively dodged for them. Overdrives also boost other players’ weapons, and no one player can hog the overdrives.
Finally, the Arc Connector provides us with an in-game explanation for why the knights can’t stray too far apart from each other (and is less disruptive than having players getting blocked by the camera or getting lost off screen). Ravensdale is intended to be playable on the same screen, and in our opinion, solutions like split screens would be detrimental to the game. In fact, even if we had opted for networked play only (with each player on their own screen), too great a distance between the player characters would have hurt the gameplay in our opinion.
This is a lot of stuff crammed into a single feature. We’ll likely simplify things down the road and will split the uses of the Arc Connector into a series of upgrades so that you can get acquainted with them one at a time.
Until next time,
the BFG design team