In Part 1 of this four-part blog series, Twisted Pixel Games Project Director of Development Mike Henry took us behind the scenes of Path of the Warrior—now available on Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform. Last week, we heard from Project Director of Art Todd Swanson on the game’s unique sense of style. Today, our series continues with a look at the game’s retro influences and mechanics.
Taking the world of 2D brawlers into the 3D world is no easy task, especially when throwing VR into the mix, but that’s exactly what we did with Path of the Warrior. We spent a lot of time looking back at retro brawlers when laying down the foundation of the game.
“Classic enemy and level tropes were the first things explored,” says Project Director of Design Eric Wenske. “Plenty of other inspiration made it over too: food [to recover health], weapons, end level scores, etc.”
A wide range of enemies was important for the team to fully capture the spirit of the beat ’em up, but we also spent a lot of time making sure the enemy behavior was appropriate for the medium.
The team continued to iterate on the attack patterns of the enemies, replacing those that seemed good on paper but didn’t work as well in practice when implemented in fully 3D space.
To combat enemies, the team created a wide variety of weapons to populate the world that can be used to bash bad guys in the face.
“The art team came up with plenty of great ideas,” says Wenske. “Then we had a system in place where we could go in and tweak values.”
Since a lot of these weapons were designed to be hurled at enemies, there was a process of tweaking the stats to make them easy and satisfying, but Wenske says that the intuitive nature of controlling in VR made some of that easier. “Project Director of Development Mike Henry got the knife throwing in early,” he explains. “I remember hitting a grunt across the alley with it the first time testing it, and I asked him what he was doing for the aim assist. He replied that there was none. This sounds like bragging (and it is), but I think it’s interesting how natural and easy it is to just throw things in VR.”
Another important element of the genre that the team wanted to bring into the world of VR was epic boss battles. Each of the five levels has a unique boss that takes the player’s available actions and uses them in fun and unique ways.
“When in doubt, punch,” says Wenske. “I’ve always loved how boss battles work in Zelda games: You have a fight where you’re figuring out how to win, and then once you get it, you get a rewarding break where you get to slash the boss over and over with your sword. We did something similar, but changed ‘slashing with your sword’ to ‘pummeling with your fists.’”
Like any good boss fight, each one has a specific pattern that you have to learn before you can defeat them. This gave the team an opportunity to mix up the gameplay, always surprising the player in satisfying ways.
“It’s very rewarding to throw Mosh Eddie's knives back, and then you have the boss fight at the arcade that may be the most unique,” Wenske notes. “You also have the final boss fight, which is just an all-around good brawl.”
Adding more variety to the game are the Break Time segments that occur at the end of each level, each featuring a series of minigames for the player to attempt to complete as another way to unlock bonuses in the extras gallery. These games range from skee ball to darts to junkyard pool played with a baseball bat.
“We would make the Battle level before starting on its Break Time variant, so we would often look at what was in the level already to get inspiration,” says Wenske. “The Bar already had the dart board, punching bag, and beer tap before we even started those minigames. Since we’re in VR, we tried to come up with ideas that involved some sort of physical action, so games that required accurate throws, rolls, etc., were usually chosen.”