Juggernaut 2: Keeping the Good

Re-creating something means improving, and improving means fixing the bad and keeping the good. One feature that was “almost there” in the first iteration was the Juggernaut’s Frenzy.

The Frenzy: When the Juggernaut loses health, he goes into a Frenzy.
The Frenzy of the Juggernaut

When making the original Juggernaut, I recognized a problem during play-testing that I had never anticipated. The non-jugs (remember that they weren’t called Prey until Juggernaut 2) were unloading the full brunt of their DPS as fast as they could and the better they did it the faster the round would pass and the sooner they would get their XP and money. The Juggernaut had to way more health to compensate for the 19-versus-1 DPS discrepancy and his damage had to be “unfairly” large.

These mechanics created a very sour dynamic: there was no guaranteed challenge each round and the game became a mechanical challenge to see how fast you could unload damage without getting killed. Power-ups became a thing you only had to pick up if you really needed them; they were not even worth going to pick up as taking that time lowered your DPS. As a non-jug, you only had one decision: do damage. All the time.

The way I solved this issue turned out to be more valuable than I originally anticipated. I gave the Juggernaut an ability that activates when he loses a percentage of his health: he becomes 100% invulnerable for a short period of time. I drastically reduced the amount of health he had to make sure he wasn’t unkillable outside of the invuln. In my last post I talked about how invulnerability makes for a one-sided (the invulnerable), one-choice (run away) gameplay experience. However, in this context it is appropriate: it only triggers until after the Juggernaut has lost health. He cannot control it outside from “losing”. In other words, it’s a catch-up mechanic, not a “get more ahead” mechanic.

This changed the dynamic of the game completely: as a non-jug, you now had to pay attention and wait out when the Juggernaut became invulnerable. It wasn’t a DPS contest, but now a game where there was a forced back-and-forth. The time the Juggernaut was invulnerable made up for the time that he would otherwise be receiving damage.

The Juggernaut’s invulnerability time was great for gameplay, but it was executed poorly. Namely, the impact of this portion of time to the players was not communicated well enough. I simply gave the Juggernaut a ForceField, and that was that. No other visual changes were made – but due to the game’s lighting choices, the shield was black (instead of the standard blue). It was hard to see from a distance (hello snipers) and it didn’t pop out to players immediately next to the Juggernaut. To new players, it appeared to pop up randomly and they wondered why it even existed in the first place (which was a huge problem for the game thematically).

The Frenzy: When the Juggernaut loses health, he explodes and becomes invulnerable for a short time.
The Frenzy: When the Juggernaut loses health, he explodes and becomes invulnerable for a short time.

I recognized all these problems when I came to re-create the game. I named this period the “Frenzy” as the Juggernaut is supposed to “get mad” that he’s being defeated. The first element of the Frenzy I had to fix was that I had to communicate to the Prey when it occurred. What better way than a giant explosion? Because the Frenzy is meant to be a huge shift in power, I should have an equally huge visual change.

Remember that the Frenzy is by-and-large a catch-up mechanic. I added the knock-back to the explosion to create a forced disengage of all the Prey around the Juggernaut. This also forces the Prey to switch to “defense mode” quicker than they would manually. There’s a small damage portion when the Frenzy triggers to make it a bit more interesting (it’s 10% current health + 10 damage).

Of course, I had to give the Juggernaut a bit of love as well. Sure, exploding every so often is cool, but if the player isn’t getting the idea that this their time to shine (kill), then the Frenzy won’t be used properly. If the player becomes temporarily 100% invulnerable, then they should be 100% aggressive. To communicate to the Juggernaut that this is the time to go offensive no matter what, I made their perspective of the world turn bright red like an enraged bull (see the gif). This change affected the way new Juggernauts acted in play testing: every time a Frenzy triggered, the current Juggernaut would try extra hard to kill the Prey! Keep in mind that this change in stance is not forced, just extremely encouraged (one is not required to be aggressive when there are no repercussions; it’s just a very strong suggestion). The player still retains the power to decide and it never feels unfun.

I’ll end this post similar to how I did the previous: choice is important. You can encourage your players to make decisions by nudging them in the right direction, but never force them. Make your player feel like they should make a decision versus actually forcing them into it – otherwise it’s not a decision.

-Ozzy

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