Aztez – A Game of Conquest and Brutality

What Happens When Struck

What exactly happens to the entities in a combat play space when they get struck by an attack is important for two reasons: because the player needs to be punished for making a mistake and allowing themselves to get struck, and also because the player needs to feel a certain way when they successfully strike enemies. But there are a lot of factors involved in a struck event both on the player and enemy entity side of the equation, and these properties can be mixed up in various ways to control EXACTLY where the player lands on the emotional spectrum when entities get struck.

Stunned - The entity is forced into a struck animation, effectively canceling whatever they were doing. The entity can do nothing until this animation is complete. This type of struck animation is the reason the combo is so devastating; the continually extended stun window created by the rapid succession of attacks locks the struck entity out of its ability to act.

  • The longer the animation lasts the more punitive this event is.
  • There may be some translation here during this animation. Traditionally, no entity translation occurred when struck. While a stun with no translation feels very straightforward (and is more likely to make the player feel in control of their struck entity), it is very stiff and ugly. Translation when struck is a more recent property of the struck animation and in my opinion it looks and feels better on both player and enemy entities.

Blasted - The entity is moved a non-trivial distance from the point of the attack, effectively canceling whatever they were doing. The entity can act again once the animation is complete. While this type of struck is very punitive, it also means that the entity has taken "enough damage" since the indefinite input lock of the combo is now broken and the entity will get to act again once recovered.

  • The longer the animation lasts the more dangerous this event is for an entity.
  • As a player, an enemy with a lengthy blasted animation means that the player has more time to think and act before the enemy can even act. As an enemy, a player with a lengthy blasted animation means the enemy will gain more ground before control has returned to the player.
  • It can be made to feel even very punitive by animating the struck entity landing on their ass/stomach/back and then getting back up. Recent beat 'em ups animate the entity landing on their feet once the forced movement is complete, which is generally much smoother. Note that when a player entity is animated to land on their feet in this manner, it feels like they are back in control much quicker then an animation of the exact same length that involves the character getting up off their ass.
  • In most combat engines, a player entity being blasted means the enemies are going to halt their advances for just enough time to let the player recover.
  • Some games allow the player to cancel the blast completely by providing specific input during the animation.
  • Traditionally, any attacks that hit an entity in the air would blast them instead of stun them, even if struck by an attack that would only stun them if performed while on the ground. The advent of the complex air game brought the Standard Stun into the air.

There is one important property to discuss before I move on to the last two types of struck events (to which this property does not apply), and that's the issue of how a struck entity is oriented when the struck occurs. There are two possibilities here:

  • Forced Forward - In this situation, the entity is animated under the assumption that all attacks hit them from the front. When struck, the entity will automatically face the direction of the attacking entity. This sounds really strange but it's what most beat 'em ups actually do and it mostly feels fine except where orientation is very very important (in most combat engines it's not).
  • Angle Specific - The entity's animation and orientation will reflect where they were hit at all stages of the struck animation. For example, if struck by an entity from the front, the entity that was struck will animate appropriately and will still be facing the attacker. If struck by an entity in the back, the entity that was struck will animate appropriately but still be facing the direction they were facing when struck. Not necessary, but looks and feels great.

Jiggled - The entity is not forced into an animation, their current action is not cancelled, and they are not moved at all. This is a fascinating struck event traditionally reserved for bosses, but has been passed on to any entity that is supposed to be resistant to another entity's attacks. I refer to it as "jiggled" because there only needs to be a small amount of visual feedback to indicate that the entity was indeed struck, and typically this is done with some fast, low range movement that oftentimes looks like the enemy is jiggling. The point of this struck is to make a player feel like they are attacking something very tough. Alternatively, this can also be enforced on very weak entities so that they can continue to move around while being attacked (which is oftentimes weak enemy's only defense).

Complex Event - Certain attacks from certain entities will cue unique animations that end with the struck entity on the floor or worse. Typically feels very punitive. I don't personally find these very interesting when enforced on me as a player, as they are often overly frustrating because of how long they take.

Pick and choose based on what you think is best and most reflects what the player should feel! And go and play all of your favorite beat 'em ups  to see exactly how YOU feel when you get messed up and also how you feel when you're messing up enemies. ;)

  • Evan Tyran

    Just wanted to say that I recently discovered your site and have fallen in love with it thanks to great in-depth combat mechanic articles like this one. Keep up the good work!!