My name is Troy Schram, and I’m the Lead Designer on theHunter: Call of the Wild.
In our first developer diary installment, I’m here to talk to you about the waterfowl rework that is coming out alongside the release of Revontuli Coast, our upcoming reserve.
To give you all a quick update, I joined Expansive Worlds and the Call of the Wild team in 2021. One of the things that we knew needed to be addressed early on was the lackluster waterfowl. Something we have striven to do with each previous release was to either expand gameplay, tackle technical debt (the effort of improving existing systems and/or increasing performance), or add functionality.
With Rancho Del Arroyo, we added upland bird hunting and pheasants; with Mississippi Acres Preserve, we added amphibious water technology via the alligators and environmental interaction with the Raccoons and trash cans.
As we prepared for this next reserve and what would lead up to the waterfowl rework, we have also been fundamentally overhauling home ranges across all reserves (more on that in a future developer diary!).
With Revontuli Coast, our primary focus has been the waterfowl rework.
You are probably saying, “that’s fine, but what exactly is this waterfowl rework?”
Before we get into that, let’s look at why the waterfowl and geese were lackluster; based on user research, survey feedback, and bugs, we determined the following:
- The frequency of attraction is inconsistent: The selection of a bird’s next need zone is random (making them unpredictable). This makes the time it takes to attract a group with decoys very inconsistent. Ducks change need zones frequently to mitigate the issue, but it’s still a problem. Also, no feedback is given to the player once a group is attracted and it can take a long time for that group to arrive and land.
- Shooting ducks and geese is too easy: Ducks and geese fly slowly and in a very predictable pattern, making them easy to shoot. This makes waterfowl hunting more of a repetitive grind than a skill-based activity with little variation.
- All ducks behave the same way: This lack of diversity makes them boring, and getting new duck species does not feel exciting for players. Flight patterns look unnatural, breaking immersion, as every bird behaves fundamentally the same.
- Ducks aren’t bound to home ranges: Duck groups select their need zones randomly in real-time and aren’t tied to a specific home range. This makes them different from other animals and prevents players from stalking diamonds / rare “fur” variations since spawned animals are not persistent.
- Ducks and geese work differently: Ducks and geese seem similar on the surface, but behave differently behind the scenes. This can make it difficult for players to understand the behavior of either when learning the differences between them.
Next step: Using that information to get our ducks in a row.
These were all pain points that affected a large amount of our player base, from beginners to experts, so we used them to inform our goals for the waterfowl rework:
- Unify the geese and duck behavior under a singular ‘waterfowl’ behavior codebase
- Convert waterfowl to use home ranges and need zones akin to all other animals in theHunter: Call of the Wild
- Create persistence in waterfowl individuals and groups of birds
- Create variation within and between species of birds to differentiate their behaviors
- Update flee behavior for waterfowl
- Implement comprehensive gameplay feedback for waterfowl attraction
- Make sure all of this works in a multiplayer environment with players hunting together
You want upcoming improvement specifics, right?
Details! Well, here are a couple of nuggets I can drop:
- All waterfowl can land on both land and water and transition between them, so yes, the decoys have been updated so they can be placed anywhere.
- All waterfowl have their own ‘style’ including flight altitude, approach vector, flee behavior, formations, etc., and there is variation between the individual birds within a group so they won’t be coming down in perfectly choreographed formations.
- Waterfowl will let out specific calls when they have been attracted so players will know when they have successfully lured birds.
- As a whole, waterfowl have been ‘sped-up’ so they are more challenging now. With some species being easier to hit than others, there is a higher ceiling on the waterfowl gameplay.
- Finally, waterfowl always land into a headwind so you can set up your blinds to shoot them according to the wind direction!
Aside from the waterfowl rework, there is overall a lot of attention and love in the details; one such example is that ducks now bob along the water surface.
These are just some of the features that are included as part of the waterfowl rework. The general feedback we’ve received internally and from the private beta testers has been positive so far, and we’re excited for players to take aim at the waterfowl once this free update goes live alongside the Revontuli Coast release!