Updating company of heroes
And let’s be honest, it’s also a thrill to see your actions written into the world.
When somewhere is marked passable to a heavy crush vehicle, as far it’s concerned it’s just open ground, blind to what’s actually there.When the fence falls apart, the riflemen needed to be able to automatically shift to find the next cover so they had a sense of life, so a kind of self-preservation system had to be built to manage that. In the first Company of Heroes, soldiers can’t cross fences and walls, so once vehicles and explosions start breaking them up, troops’ access to different parts of the map completely change. “If you put a fence in you needed to know the pathfinding distance it would add, and you needed to ensure it wasn’t going to block troops.” Map design was an exercise in breaking the game into phases for when during the battle certain weapons and vehicles with the power to destroy objects would appear, and accounting in the environment for their effects on changing the pathfinding.Sometimes destruction would remove access to areas, such as when buildings are reduced to impassible rubble.In Company of Heroes, the battlefield is ever-changing, munitions cutting into the map new opportunities for flanking and to be flanked.Confident pushes turn to disaster as the enemy punches through rear guards, and last-ditch defences are saved as the cavalry smashes through barricades.To force troops to move and for players to move them around, seeking better cover.” But in making an actual game out of this relationship, Relic encountered all manner of knock-on effects which ended up pulling in the creative skills of the entire studio to solve them.
“We had to be really aware that by deciding to destroy the environment we were signing up for emergent gameplay in every system, not just a few,” senior artist Alun Bjorksten tells me. If guns are firing on cover, then the player needed to see the bullets impact on it to understand what’s happening.
And then the team switched from using the old engine it had used to make Impossible Creatures to a new one, called Essence, and with it came cover that was directional.
“That was the big defining change in terms of environments in the game,” says Duffy.
“Once it’s on the map then all bets are off because this thing could go through all kinds of things you’d set up neatly as chokepoints.” Destroying your own defences is a long-standing frustration in Company of Heroes, but like the prescient AI, it’s a result of accounting for wider problems.
First, Relic needed to avoid players being able to accidentally block in their own vehicles with their defences.
Unfortunately that means it’s also blind to your own defences.