When Breakaway was early in development, it was an asymmetric attack-and-defend game. As development progressed, we decided to remove the asymmetric design to make the game more action oriented for the player and more appealing to the viewer. Shifting away from this also shifted the focus from making it about locations to raid and protect to making it more about the warriors who would compete in these arenas.

In identifying who our warriors would be in Breakaway, we were always taken aback by the tales and legends that were told throughout history of famous warriors. That became our primary inspiration for the warriors of Breakaway; looking throughout history and identifying iconic heroes, villains, fighters, thieves, and so forth. To kick-off and introduce our theme of selecting the greatest warriors of myth and legend, we needed someone who was not only an iconic warrior, but also fit with the idea of fighting in an arena. We landed on perhaps one of the most iconic gladiator of the arena, Spartacus.

Spartacus lived in 111 BC and was Thracian gladiator who led a major slave uprising against the Romans. He was a revered gladiator and often referred to as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, gladiator that ever lived—perfect fit for Breakaway!

In this new segment, we will go in-depth on a specific warrior from Breakaway. We will provide articles throughout the week that reveal more about Spartacus. How we reimagined this gladiator legend and brought him into Breakaway from an art, design, and gameplay standpoint.

Today, Game Designer Chris Corey joins us to talk about what it was like designing Spartacus for Breakaway. Take it away, Chris!

Balancing Act

Hi. I’m Chris. One of my roles as a Game Designer is to create warriors in Breakaway and make them fun to play. I also have to make sure that, once the warrior is in a build for the studio to test, that they aren’t too strong or too weak, and they are interesting to use.

One of our design goals with Spartacus was to create a warrior who was pick-up-and-play warrior, but to balance it out we couldn’t make him too strong, otherwise he’d be the best warrior ever made. He’s pretty straight forward: his basic attack is effective out of the box without much knowledge of combos and abilities. If first-time players pick Spartacus and feel like they were effective, we’ve accomplished our goal.

Spartacus is what we call a fighter in Breakaway. This basically means that his job is run around and destroy squishies: warriors with low health, such as shooter like Anne Bonny. He’s a well-rounded warrior that is good at a lot of stuff, but not the best at any one thing. So he does good damage, but not as much damage as say, Anne Bonny or Rawlins. He has a fair amount of health, but not as much as a tank, like Black Knight or Thorgrim.

One of the ways we balance a character is to take into account how many targets their abilities effect. Is it an AOE ability? Is it a single target ability? For fighters, we want them to be single target because they are the melee equivalent of a shooter. So we make sure a fighter’s attack isn’t hitting multiple targets.

When designing his abilities, we wanted to give him a pretty good range. Meaning that his abilities can do a variety of things. He needed a gap closer so he could easily catch the more elusive warriors, so we created the No Retreat ability, which is a dash attack. He needed something that could help him fight in crowds, and that’s what For Glory does. When he uses the attack, he can’t be interrupted. It also makes it easier for new players, because they don’t have to worry about their move getting canceled by an opponent.

We also made sure his abilities could combo together. You can do two basic attacks and then cancel into an ability. It means that he can dish out a large amount of damage in a short period of time. Which is good, because the squishy warriors would have more opportunity to escape and survive otherwise. He’s supposed to be a counter to warriors like Anne Bonny and Rawlins, so if he can’t take them out at close range, we didn’t succeed with our design goal.

Putting it to the Test

The initial foundation of balance is just what feels right, then we test it in our testbox against AIs and dummies, and then compare that data to other characters to see how it measures up. Finally, we test balance in game with real players, and that’s when you find out if a warrior is overpowered, underpowered or balanced.

Spartacus was pretty tricky because of his combo potential, so when you’re balancing his attacks you can’t treat them as single attacks, you have to treat them as a chain in a combo. His basic attack is a two-hit chain, so when you balance his basic attack, you have to consider that he will probably be able to get both hits in. Each hit needs to be treated as half of the attack, with the total damage being the sum both hits. With his abilities: Other characters may have more damage per ability, but the fact that he can combo all of his abilities together means that his overall damage output might be higher, even though damage per ability might be lower.

In Breakaway, canceling is an important mechanic that’s particularly useful to Spartacus. Normally, when you perform a basic attack, there’s a brief recovery during which you can’t move or attack. However, basic attacks can be canceled, allowing you to trigger abilities mid-attack and avoid the recovery entirely. This allows you to perform combos and maximize your damage output.

Are You Not Entertained?

We wanted a gladiator, so pulling from myth and legend, Spartacus seemed like a no brainer. And when we started development, we needed a fighter because we didn’t have any. So, bam! We pretty easily landed on Spartacus. 

We looked at what the concept team wanted to do with how Spartacus looked, and then figured out a way to make it work in-game. He had two swords in his initial concepts, so we thought to ourselves: okay, he has two swords. What can he do with two swords? So we designed his abilities around that.

Interestingly enough, Anne Bonny was one of the first warriors we designed. So when we were designing Spartacus, we wanted to make sure that at close range, he would beat Anne Bonny most of the time. So we had to make sure that his damage values were set accordingly, and that he could hit her reliability at close quarters.

We look at the concepts that Art makes, figure out a class that would suit them, such as fighter or shooter, then look at what their personalities look like and what they would do in combat. Spartacus’ For Glory ability is two hits and then a kick that launches the opponent back. A pretty obvious influence there was the movie 300. The Sparta-kick. And people at the studio love it, especially when it launches enemies off the map!

He’s fun, he’s a pick-up-and-play warrior. I think we met our design goals, but we’ll really see once we can get the game in the hands of players.

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