Arbiter Developer Talks About Bringing Ikaruga-Like Color Swapping To 3D Action

By Joel Couture . September 11, 2017 . 4:00pm

Arbiter is a 3D action game that will have players swapping between two different energy types. Like Ikaruga, by being the same type as their enemies, they can nullify damage they receive, but will have to be a different type to hurt them.

Siliconera reached out to developer Jordan Scott, who had previously worked on RWBY: Grimm Eclipse, to learn more about the complexities of bringing this kind of system to a 3D action game, and how he could create varied challenges with it to keep players on their toes and constantly switching energies.

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You’re no stranger to hack n’ slash. What brought you back to the genre to work in it again? What did you want to do with it after RWBY: Grimm Eclispe?

Jordan Scott, developer of Arbiter: I’ve always been drawn to making action games. After RWBY, I wanted to try making something more focused on a core mechanic to spice things up.

Arbiter features an Ikaruga-like color shifting system. How does this kind of transforming play add to an action game?

It changes quite a lot, particularly how you think about defense. You have to be the opposite type of your enemy in order to hurt them, but that also means by being the same type you can completely avoid being damaged. This puts a lot more focus on stamina management and how players choose to prioritize attack or defense. You can do things like charge an attack as the same type as your enemy so you can’t be hurt, then transform right as you release the attack to damage them.

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How do you use this swapping ability to challenge the player in creative ways?

There will be some exploration and platforming, but the biggest focus is combat. In the demo, we saw some encounters that had both black and white enemies, requiring you to pay attention to whichever was attacking you. There was also the boss who could transform just like you can, forcing you to transform in response. Then there can be things like enemies’ bodies being a different type from their weapon, enemies that fire projectiles of the opposite type, or even having an enemy that is two types simultaneously.


What other interesting powers and abilities will players be using as they play Arbiter?

In addition to swapping, the other core mechanic is sealing enemies. Basically, when an enemy is low on health, you can execute them and seal their powers inside of your body, learning new abilities in the process. Some of these will be required to progress through the levels, while others may be simple actions that make combat easier. Since bosses are obviously much stronger, sealing them will unlock completely new play-styles instead.

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What are some of the things you find important to go into a quality 3D action game? What aspects do you feel really help the action feel appealing? How are they implemented in Arbiter?

Spending the time to get fluid movement and responsive attacks is super important to me. I think this is why games like Kingdom Hearts get away with not being too particularly in-depth, but still being loads of fun to play. In Arbiter‘s case, I spent a lot of time early on just getting things like running around, jumping, and dodging fun. I also made sure the transformation mechanic was super fast (it has literally no delay/cooldown) and could be done at any time. Then there’s of course making sure attacks feel good through things like screen shake and enemy hit reactions.


What are some of the challenges you face in doing much of the game on your own?

It’s obviously just a lot of sheer work, but the most challenging part for me is making decisions. I’m the type to overthink things and I don’t have many people to brainstorm with, so there’s a lot of moments where I’ll just sit for hours trying to solve a design problem. In terms of actual content creation, though, it’s not too bad since I’m actively trying to work within my limitations, so the scope of the game is actually pretty small. I just want to make sure it’s as good as it can be, which is probably why I find myself stressing so much over the little things, hah. Still, despite the challenges, it’s all very fun and super liberating to have complete freedom.


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