Design Discussion: Extending the Thrill

November 28th, 2016

Design Discussion: Extending the Thrill

For many players, the greatest appeal in a survival game is the thrill you feel as you secure the necessities required to avoid death while acquiring the resources needed to begin building your base of operations. Some games can extend this over hundreds of hours of play, while others advance at a much faster pace. We hope to be on the former side of the spectrum and are using a variety of mechanics to achieve that goal without creating punishing game play.

The “thrill” I am referring to is that sense of drive and purpose that comes with the initial scramble for resources. It doesn’t matter how many times you have played the game; that sense of accomplishment that comes with a successfully executed strategy can give you a reason to hit the “restart” button no matter how many times things go to shit later down the road. Like when you realize your ideal base location is actually a hot spot for the zombie spawn, or that you didn’t collect enough food to survive until your farms started producing, or you miscalculated the travel time back to your base during an exploration trip, resulting in the darkness of night bringing an abrupt end to your adventure. Oops!

This feeling is enough to keep gamers coming back for more, to try something slightly different or to prepare themselves a bit more, or to secure their bases just a little better. However, it seems that the better the player gets at preparing and protecting themselves, the less thrilling survival becomes. And it gets to the point that the thrill fades away after the player has established a stockpile of supplies along with a renewable food source in a defensible location. I’ve found myself scraping a successful game just so I can restart it all and feel that thrill all over again.

We’ve given a great deal of thought about ways we can keep players immersed in the game, and in many ways, these same design decisions hold the key to extending the survival experience for the players that crave that thrill.

Though it will not be ready for the initial early access launch, our wound system is the first feature that comes to mind. Wounds can come from combat or environmental damage, and give a consequence more meaningful than HP loss when a player makes a choice that results in one. Cliffs can no longer be considered a HP-costing shortcut, instead they are to be avoided under most circumstances. They also give a more dire result to combat, enough that even victory is no guarantee for survival after a serious encounter. Combat wounds also give a player a chance to prove their skill, as avoiding injury while still defeating your opponent will require practice, good strategy, and a strong understanding of game mechanics.

The multiplayer facet of the game will also add a huge element of unpredictability to the game. No matter how established the player can become, another player can disrupt their survival strategy. Cooperative players can work together to protect one another, but that can deplete the resources in an area faster than they can recover. On the other side of the coin, an uncooperative player can destroy and steal the resources that the first player has worked so hard to gather. Learning to deal with the element of other players will be important for every player in ToA: Exile.

The weather, mob AI, and resource management will be additional elements for players to manage while they are establishing themselves. There will be storms that blow up across the islands, bringing with them severe winds, heavy downpours, and plummeting temperatures. Even preserved food will spoil if given enough time, so stockpiling resources could prove to be a detriment to the player rather than a benefit.

Mobs that may normally roam the island on their own or in pairs can combine into small groups or even large packs that can present unexpected challenges for a player who roams previously explored areas without caution. Hungry predators will seek and eat meat that has been carelessly left out, while herbivores will consume plant material which could be food sources or resources for humans.

All the features come together to create an exciting experience that will extend the thrill of survival through countless hours of game play and will hopefully keep the players coming back for more, even when the island chews them up and spits them out.
What games have you played that gave you a thrill? Share with us over at