The Culling Combat - Skill vs Luck

Hi everyone!

Recently, a group of members of the community on the forums have raised the question “Is combat in The Culling skill or luck?”. While there may not be a consensus on the answer, I wanted to give you our view of the system here at Xaviant, and some reasons as to why it is the one we chose.

First let me start with the priority of any combat system in a game: It must be fun. It doesn’t matter how real it is or how easy it is to use, if it isn’t fun then there is really no reason to play it. According to Marc LeBlanc there are eight kinds of fun: Sensation, Fellowship, Fantasy, Discovery, Narrative, Expression, Challenge and Submission. Our entire game focuses largely on Challenge, so the combat should as well. 

For challenge to be “fun” you need to be able to experience winning and losing and feel like your skill contributes to each result. The “challenge” is in trying to win more than you lose.

In real life, combat is broken into two components; mental and physical. You need to have the raw physical prowess to swing a weapon effectively and you need to have a keen mind to read what your opponent might or might not do. Games can’t embody the complete physicality because all we need to do is click the mouse or press a button. So we can only experience the mental component of combat.

When we started looking at combat, we began with a system of “I click, you see my animation, you click before my animation is done to stop it.” Many games have done this, but we felt it really only works well in single player scenarios. This is because a system like that goes from a player experience of “I can never react in time to anything” to “I can now react in time to everything.” In single player, that is great because it means you have mastered the game and now totally “pwn” the AI. Nobody cares if the AI has fun, so it works great.
 
However, when it is a human being on the other side, then they both need to have fun. 

If you take a system where everyone can read every attack perfectly, then you simply have a combat of stalemate - every attack is blocked, every opportunity seized, etc. There would be no surprises. It would be like Tic Tac Toe: every game leading to a draw.

So this led us to the system that we call our “Rock Paper Scissors approach to combat”. Many people feel as though RPS is “purely random,” but in actuality, it simply isn’t.

 Both people get to decide which choice they are going to make. They aren’t rolling dice, they are choosing a result and hoping it beats the opponent. There is a mental aspect to it that is similar to the mental aspect of combat when you try to “get into his head and see what he is going to do.” 

Many of the physical components of a fight happen too quickly for someone to react without some level of anticipation. Our RPS approach tries to embody that. The goal of the system is to make it where someone says “Oh yeah, I had a feeling he was going to block, that is why I shoved!” When you are right you get to celebrate a little win and you know you just got in your opponent’s head. When you are wrong, it gets in your head. It affects your decision-making.

With all this said, we aren’t pure RPS either. In actuality, we are a variation of it. 

In our RPS, we let you hold an action (block) if you want to lure someone in. We let you decide when the RPS moment happens by shoving or jabbing on your timeline, not the 1.. 2.. 3.. countdown like a real RPS game would have. Like RPS, we give you the ability to punish someone when they lose their round in a way that hurts more (virtually of course) than a two-finger slap on the wrist.

Is there some luck to it? Of course! But that doesn’t negate skill. 

Poker is a game of luck that has rules to allow skill to become a large factor. Poker lets you bet in disagreement with the strength of your hand. That tiny nuance is huge to people who understand the game. If the rules of poker said, “You must bet big if you have a good hand and you must fold if your hand stinks,” then it would be pure luck. In The Culling we have this little bit of RPS surrounded in ways you can break the rules of RPS: throwing, grenades, guns, traps, power attacks, kiting, strafing, running from the fight, blinding, switching weapons, other combatants joining the fray, etc. It is combining everything you have at your disposal in that given moment that determines your skill at defeating someone. It is not just randomly choosing jab, block or shove.

Despite all of our hard work and all of the incredible feedback the community has delivered, there are still things we need to refine and we will continue to do so. We will improve the netcode, refine animations, fix edges cases where block or shove doesn’t work, etc. However, we feel the RPS system we have in place now is the foundation for a skilled, yet fun, multiplayer experience. 

From this point forward, this is The Culling.

Michael McMain
CEO Xaviant