Almost everything in Elle, including player experience and damage types, is separated into six different elements: Stone, Wind, Cold, Fire, Thunder and Mind. With the appropriate elemental experience, Elle can craft multi-piece arrows with various elemental damage effects. This meant I needed to find a fun way for the player to access all of these effects that doesn’t confuse or overwhelm them.
My original idea was to limit the combinations the player could use and hard-code each resulting arrow effect. Essentially these would be effect recipes as opposed to arrow recipes. You would choose the effect you wanted, and if you had the required materials you would just plug them in. While this allows for quite a bit of control from a design perspective, it doesn’t have many reusable parts, which can be limiting, and more importantly, it’s likely to get stale quickly for most players.
It’s not particularly difficult to start with 6 elements and think of cool damage effects for them to create. The problem is, it doesn’t make much sense to combine some of them, ex. A burning, freezing arrow that explodes like dynamite and is reusable. While I admit that does kind of sound fun, the ability to make ridiculous combinations like that can really distract from a survival experience.
To solve this, I separated effects that don’t make much sense together into categories such as single-target effects, effects that effect the arrow’s path, and effects that cause area-of-effect damage. I then assigned each category to each type of arrow piece, so the player can only choose one effect from each category, which still leaves hundreds of possible combinations to keep the player interested. Not too limited, not too open. I think Goldilocks would be proud.
Only one thing left to do: make this seemingly-complicated setup accessible. After all, we don’t want to waste time designing arrows, we want to waste time shooting them. Because the 6 elements are such a common theme in the game, I thought the quickest thing for the player’s mind would be to simply choose the element for each arrow piece. The resulting effect would then be displayed and the player could quickly choose another element if it was not to their liking. This way, in only a few clicks, players can quickly create arrows with hundreds of different effect combinations.
(Don’t worry, the in-game version will be way prettier.)