Nosgoth preview: vampire hunting

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Nosgoth’s not the natural successor to the Legacy of Kain series, whereas those games saw you fighting through a singleplayer storyline, Nosgoth is a free-to-play arena shooter that pits humans against vampires. Fraser’s become a big fan of this unexpected spinoff.

It wasn’t always like this, though. At one point we could have had a Left 4 Dead turned Nosgoth.

At one point Psyonix looked at making a Nosgoth-style Left 4 Dead, with human’s pushing through a level against vampiric enemies. “We’re big Left 4 Dead fans, and we wanted to see that in a different type of game,” game designer Jimi Doss told us. “But Left 4 Dead works for a very specific reason which is that the infected are throwaway. Humans are this super-durable force rolling through the level and eventually they either win or get overwhelmed by attrition.

“We wanted our factions to feel fairly equally balanced. We couldn’t have weak vampires, we didn’t want to have really weak humans. We wanted both sides to feel powerful. That evolved into the arena game we have now.”

The team looked to other games for inspiration, too. Namely Dota and World of Warcraft.

“I used to play a lot of PvP in World of Warcraft but I didn’t like how long those games took, how long it took to kill. We wanted to try something, where we had these classes with cool abilities but plays like a shooter. It seemed like a great idea to take that asymmetrical, ranged vs melee.”

Going asymmetrical caused developer Psyonix a lot of trouble in the beginning: “When we put a new class in and it changes the whole metagame. I feel like we have the basic interactions solved and balanced now.” The current challenge is making the game balanced for all levels of players. “Humans and vampires are split 50/50 at the skilled level but if you’re new then it’s more difficult to win as a human, when you’re a pro it’s easier to win as a human. We can’t buff humans because they’re losing newbie games because that breaks high end balance.”

Part of the trouble stems from the unfamiliar pace of the game. “We’re having to teach a skill that a lot of people don’t have,” Doss explains. “We spend a lot of time making third-person computer controls very familiar but you don’t often have to fight against fast-moving melee targets that are charging you, and pouncing on you, and throwing you around the map. Not only does it require teamwork but it requires aiming and coordination that people take a little while to pick up.”

To encourage players to adapt to this faster pace Psyonix chose to avoid a “complex parry system,” instead “if you’re close in towards the vampire, he’s probably going to kill you.” It tells the player that Nosgoth is “much more about ability usage and countering.”

This is reflected in the class abilities. “Vampires almost globally have some kind of gap closer, the reaver can pounce in, the tyrant can charge at you, the sentinel can fly and drop on top of you,” Doss says. “You need to know that as a human and use your abilities to counter that. You could through a bolas onto someone and disable them, or scouts can go invisible or throw knives. It’s all about waiting for the right moment to counter that assault.”

Nosgoth’s currently in closed beta but, luckily, we’ve got a stack of keys to give away right, this very second.

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