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Combat Mission Design, Part 2

This series is in 4 parts on my blog site. I have attached part 2 and the links to the site. The articles cover everything form the initial conceptual design through developing story arcs within the mission system that will compel the player.

Stanley Handschuh, Blogger

September 12, 2013

5 Min Read

    Games have a wide verity of missions that the players can do in order to obtain items or experience. Mission and Quest Types, Part 1 provides an overview of the major types of missions. However, it is important to examine different types of missions in more detail. The most straight forward mission type is the travel mission. This is typically a subset of every other mission type and thus is well known to most players. More commonly thought of as a typical mission is the combat mission in which the player must defeat some opponent in order to complete the mission. But there can be more to this type of mission then a Seek and Destroy.

    The most well-known is the Seek and Destroy. In this mission, the player will travel a specific location and defeat a single opponent prior to returning to base. Figure 1 displays this logic. The player picks up the mission then finds the target, defeats it and returns to the initial point. The number of NPC’s defeated might vary but this is the basic flow of many combat missions.


    The next style is also fairly simple to understand. This is the single pickup and multi-target mission. These missions have a single pickup and turn in point but have multiple locations that the player must go to in order to kill the NPCs. Sometimes the NPCs will be in multiple locations and other times the player will have to hit several spots in order to collect all of the NPCs. There is a bit of verity in this type of mission but it is the same basic mission as the previous but there are multiple goals which tend to engage the player more after the first few levels because they can be compound with other missions that happen to be in the same areas.


    The last major type is the seek, destroy and move on. This mission is typically used to take the player to the next area that has more missions. The player will pick up the mission in one area then go complete it and finally they will be lead to a new area that will have more for them to do. This mission type is a good transition mission and combat missions are the best to do this because often the player will have NPCs in the way while traveling and adding the combat mission gives them a reason to fight the NPCs. It also provides additional experience during the traveling which may be relatively experience free otherwise.


    Now that the basic types of combat missions are explained, how can they be used to advance the player in other ways? That is a question every game designer must ask because the missions are the players life blood. It is also necessary to provide different types of missions so that the player does not feel like they are doing the exact same mission constantly when in fact they truly are.

    So how can these basic mission types be expanded to improve the player experience? There are several different ideas that have been used over the years. This list does not include every possible idea but it will provide a basis for the initial development and the designers can expand on them as the game evolves. One of the ideas is the Combat & Collection mission. This mission can be either a kill or kill and loot mission. The idea here is to force the player to go kill a target that may have a kill counter on the current mission or another one while requiring them to collect some loot item that the mission giver wants in return for the reward. Because the mission is a two stage mission that can be either all inclusive or include other missions in the same area it will provide a bit of a break from the standard kill mission. This is also an ideal mission since players tend to loot every NPC in order to make additional cash and find items that can be either sold or used by the player. Since this is a normal thing for players to do the mission is not forcing them to do something out of the norm but gives them an additional reason to pick up the items.

    Just utilizing these few types of combat missions there are dozens of combinations that can be used to advance the player’s abilities fairly quickly and keep them moving through more elaborate missions. However, it is also important to have a story that works with the mission and what is currently going on around the player. The stories may or may not be read by the player but they are useful to express the current situation and why the player is doing what they are doing.

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