One of the reasons why I love video games is that they create memorable moments. Do you remember the first time you made a headshot in an FPS game with a sniper rifle? It’s so satisfying to align the reticle against your opponent’s movements, hit the button at the right time and get them domed.
My first Breakaway moment like this was with Thorgrim’s throw, his Ram’s Head ability. Watching enemy warriors get flung off the stage just feels good, but it still takes enough skill, patience and practice to get right often.
This week, we’re going to look at Thorgrim, the plunder king of the Northlands and vanquisher of the heathen hordes. Today, Game Designer John Bautista is going to walk us through how the team designed Thorgrim to create those awesome moments in the game. Take it away, Bau!
Most people around the studio just call me Bau. I’m a Game Designer on the Breakaway team. When it comes to production, we usually wear multiple hats. I do system work, so I design the underlying systems for equipment, write some of the dialog for the warriors and some other things here and there. Designers on the team do a lot of things, and we’re all willing to do whatever is necessary to make the game awesome.
So Thorgrim is a straight-up tank. He’s the beefy, in your face warrior that initiates teamfights, takes all the hits and draws all the aggro, as much as possible. All the while he can still throw warriors off of the map. His role is basically to disrupt the enemy team and make them focus their attention on him.
We wanted a warrior that could mix it up. Usually when you have fighters and tanks, you want the tanks to head into a fight first to draw aggro so the fighters can move into position to take out the squishies. Thorgrim is a fun warrior to play, his play style is very distinct.
When we thought about designing tanks, generally speaking, we knew we wanted warriors that were big and beefy and that take multiple hits, but don't deal too much damage because we don’t want them to impede on the roles of fighters. Tanks should always be a presence in the arena, they aren’t warriors you can ignore. We wanted this big and boisterous character, so with Thorgrim, we gave him these huge, heavy moves. We went through several iterations of his abilities until we decided to try out a throw ability. A lot of his moves up until that point were knockbock abilities; his Rib Splitter which he spins around, does damage and reflects projectiles; his Ragnorok, where he jumps up and does a huge AOE attack. We wanted something that was a little more skill based, something that was single target, a bit harder to execute but with a huge payoff. So once we put the Ram’s Head throw ability in, it became an instant favorite at the studio. It's Throwgrim, as he is known throughout the studio now.
As a mechanic in games, throws are generally hard to create, especially in multiplayer games. You deal with a lot of positional data with client-to-client discrepancies, so we needed to make sure that it had a gratifying impact of grabbing an opponent and chucking them off the map. We had a previous iteration of the move where Thorgrim would dash forward, hit the enemy and pop them up, allowing for some juggles. It was a little awkward, considering he’s not a mobile tank. He’s a warrior that runs into battle and stays there, he doesn’t have the attributes to dash-in and dash-out of a fight.
We had to tune how vertical the throw was. We didn’t want Thorgrim to be an active juggler because it was outside of his character. We needed a warrior with those big, one-hit impactful moments. So that’s when we started messing with the arc. Once we got this nice, fluid arc, it changed everything. There are still opportunities for skill-based juggles, but there’s timing and positioning that make it difficult. But we like the element of, up-front it does this ability, but there is something about the right positioning and timing that can help extend a combo or send an enemy flying off the map.
Inspiration for the design comes from all over the place. When we’re designing warriors, we try to understand what their role is in combat. We have to identify the nuances and style of the warriors. So it comes from the role we’re trying to fill, and then the background of the warrior. Thorgrim himself is boisterous, bigger-than-life Viking. So you imagine everything he does is going to be big and impactful. He’s not going to sneak around and stab people in the shadows. We wanted these big, broad, huge moves that did AOE damage and took up a bunch of real estate in a teamfight.
Thorgrim is a special-case warrior. We’ve gone through iterations and iterations of Breakaway, and he was one of the characters that followed us throughout the process. To get where he is today, we started with the idea of the character and we took the role we wanted to fill, which was a hard crowd-control tank warrior, and worked closely with the Art team and they started to concept the warrior out. We knew we wanted to work with a Viking, so there was a lot to work with from a visual standpoint.
It’s interesting to see Thorgrim’s role in Breakaway because he’s very different from Black Knight. Black Knight is an upfront, hard to disrupt warrior. Players will start to see how effective Thorgrim’s Buildables are, in particular his Buildable kit is probably one of the best for defending your base. The Demolition Hammer is one of the best disruption Buildables in the game. I’m curious to see players get their hands on Thorgrim to see how things shake out. Black Knight got a lot of love on the TwitchCon floor, but you could start to see people respect the value of Thorgrim and how you can utilize his abilities and Buildables.