Hello everyone. I’m Don-san, otherwise known as a third-rate programmer. On Bayonetta, I was mainly in charge of the player and enemy character interactions.
Bayonetta was the first project in a while where I once again teamed up with Kamiya-san. Our previous collaboration was on Devil May Cry, where I was first put in charge of player/enemy programming. Back then, I had no understanding of 3D, so I remember drilling myself in the basics of three dimensions. It was also my first time working on a completely original game, so I guess I didn’t really have a grasp on how to make enemies back then.
However, making an original game was incredibly fun, and I remember making lots of things just because. I remember adding things simply because I had a few extra moments – I would change up the grunt enemies, give them new traits, or increase the number of their variations, or I’d increase the variety of swords that would fly around our “rival character.”
I don’t know if it was because they liked me just making things on my own, but after that, I kept getting asked to program the enemies. I guess I chewed through things too fast, but every time I would be placed on a new team, the number of enemies I was in charge of kept growing. On Devil May Cry, I was in charge of maybe 1/3 of the enemies; however, on Resident Evil 4, I was in charge of them all. On God Hand, I was also placed in charge of programming the player as well as all the enemies in the game. With Bayonetta, I handed off a couple of the enemies to some new programmers here, and thus I wasn’t in charge of everything, but I did take care of 95% of things. And of course, I was in charge of Bayonetta herself. Since I’ve been in charge of enemies for something like 10 years now, there are a few things that I pay particular attention to when creating enemies, and I’d like to share them with you.
1) You Don’t Need a Design Doc
When making enemies, one would think that you need a design doc, but in reality, there ends up being so many changes in the end that it doesn’t really make a difference. (Other than setting a direction to work from in the beginning.) So I don’t really ask or depend on a design doc, and instead I talk with those involved to get a good idea of what needs to be done, and then I take over on my own and make the enemy my way. Especially with Kamiya-san, who tends to not be someone who is very specific from the get-go, opting instead to just shoot ideas at you on the fly, you have to be ready to adapt and adjust at all times.
2) You Should Get Things On-Screen ASAP
Making enemies is frequently about trial and error. If you are able to get things moving on-screen at an early stage, you can figure out if you are off-course and get back on track without much damage. One may think that because one hasn’t thought things out entirely before starting that there would be quite a bit of trial and error; however, as the fundamental game design is prone to change, I need to be able to react quickly to these changes. If you are able to get things up and running early, you are able to conduct even more experiments, which are directly linked to increasing the quality of the work.
3) Don’t Make Enemies That Behave Irrationally
For instance, I absolutely hate enemies that automatically evade or counter at the exact moment the player hits the attack button. The player has done nothing ahead of time to warrant it, so I do often wonder what in the hell the enemy is reacting to that he is dodging all of a sudden. I tend to get cold towards things that make me feel like I am fighting against a computer.
When I make an enemy, I treat it as an extension of myself, so if I feel that I myself couldn’t react and dodge in a certain amount of time, I am not going to allow an enemy to do that either. Nor will I ever let an enemy do some sort of attack that can’t be dodged even though the player is reacting to it. I may be an old man, but I’m a pretty hardcore gamer, so I think I’m pretty good at reacting to things.
4) Do Your Best to Avoid Patterns
Making things pattern-based does allow players to create strategies easily, but I think it ends up feeling more like work than fun. Even when you think that a pattern is fun, there is probably something else to it that is making you feel like you are having a good time, don’t you think? If I am making an enemy, I want people to enjoy what I am creating, so I try my best to avoid patterns.
Furthermore, if a player can block, it becomes a hot-bed for patterns or for the kind of passive gameplay that I am not a fan of. When we made God Hand, only the enemies could block, and I often hear that this was unreasonable. However, I feel that if we would have let the player block too, we probably would have ended up with a monotonous game. So to counter, you can Guard Break in God Hand. It wasn’t made to be unreasonable, instead it is an opportunity.
Of course, in Bayonetta, there is no block.
5) Watch Closely and Stealthily How People Play
When you watch someone play, places where you are overdoing it, or places where things aren’t there yet will become clear, and this will become a great reference. However, when being watched, people try to hide their “go-to moves,” so I try to watch them play in secret. (I’m an expert tip-toer.)
If I spy someone on the development team completely stuck in a groove with a go-to move, this is when I secretly work up a counter to their addiction. (Unforgivable, right?)
Just like patterns, go-to moves spoil gameplay by making it a simple work mechanism, so I tend to counter these moves, especially in the case of powerful enemy characters.
Of course, I don’t find it a problem if a user finds a go-to move in a released game and uses it. That is a matter of an individual’s efforts, and I am happy if they work hard to find these techniques. However, if I catch a developer doing this, I can’t let it slide. (This too, is unforgivable!)
That is all I can really think of right now… Well, actually, there are tons of points I can’t tell people, the kind of glib lines about how I want to do this and that; however, if I get in trouble with everyone here for spilling our secrets that would not be fun, so I’ll leave things here.
In Bayonetta, I’ve based things on the points I listed above, and I made it with the intention of having plenty of things to sink your teeth into. Whether it is Bayonetta’s rival, Jeanne, the giant claw wielding Grace and Glory, or the beast-like Fairness and Fearless, I think they are all “walking the walk” so to speak. Even though the game is tough, Bayonetta’s abilities as a player character are great as well, so I hope that as a result you will all be able to experience a new kind of thrilling, high-speed battle!