This was originally written up for a different web-site. I've adapted it somewhat but please forgive the slightly formal tone. We know you guys know some of this stuff already, but we wanted to include all of it for new people that might be reading.
Visual and gameplay evolution from Natural Selection 1
It's been a long time since the original Natural Selection and we wanted both sides to feel like they've really evolved. All of these changes improve gameplay, make the visual look of the aliens more consistent, or both. In NS2, both the marines and aliens have changed and they've both taken some visual cues from each other! This highlights one of the underlying themes in Natural Selection – on the surface both sides seem diametrically opposed, but one thing they do have in common is that they are not good and evil, they are both just species trying to survive. We wanted to hint at these commonalities through the visual design.The marines have always had subtle animal/alien influences including the curvature of their armor, the exposed “spine” on their backs and nature-inspired shapes in their equipment. With the evolution to Natural Selection 2, traditionally human elements pervade the alien designs; hardened armor plating now guards the alien creatures and structures, replacing flowing lines with harder angles. You can also see from the plated armor on his front legs and chest to the almost mechanical, extending blades on his head. The edges and tips of them are square and look almost machined. But with his tentacles and gorilla-styling, he is still indisputably of alien and animal origin.
Another aspect of the alien visual design is the infestation - that lacy greenish goo you know and love. The infestation is actually a bacteria that has taken control of various animal species on other planets and has warped their bodies and controls them as a parasite might, and the tentacles you see on the Onos emanate from this bacteria and are another unifying visual element for all the alien player classes. As you probably know, this infestation spreads dynamically through the level as the game progresses.
The role of the Onos
There is a lot of difficulty incorporating a player class of this size, but we knew we wanted the Onos to return in NS2 and to be better than ever. In NS1 he lacked “purity of purpose” in NS1. His abilities changed a lot with different versions and he a gore attack, a charge movement ability, devour (the ability to take another player out of the game for 10-20 seconds while he was ingested, or rescued) and even a paralyze ability in earlier versions. His abilities were all over the place...no wonder he was hard to balance.
So we knew that we had to rethink his role. One of our gameplay goals with NS2 is to make sure no lifeforms, tech, weapons, etc. will make earlier ones obsolete. They should provide diversity and advantages but generally should not similar enough to earlier tech as to make them unused. Instead of being just a bigger, tougher version of a skulk with a bunch of varied abilities, his role is now the “disruptor”. The Onos is designed to shake things up and stymie the marines and force them to react. All of his abilities were designed this in mind.
Here are the current disruptor-based abilities we've designed for the Onos in NS2.
Gore: This is a basic melee attack, in which he bucks his head and gores targets with his horn. Instead of just doing damage though, he can fling targets around. With an effective attack, he should be able to knock back a few marines at a time, disabling them for a few seconds while they get back on their feet. Gore will do plenty of damage, but in the hands of a skilled player, the knockback should be the most effective aspect of this ability. Gore can also be used to smash through doors that have been welded shut, as shown in our teaser video.
Bone shield: The shield ability makes the Onos' head blades extend out into a fan and the Onos crouches down, forming an impenetrable shield of armor that takes no damage from any attacks from the front. The head blades extend a bit behind his normal width to provide cover for other players or other targets. During this time the Onos moves slower and can still take normal damage from the side or back. We hope that use of this ability will allow aliens to break stalemates with entrenched marines surrounded by sentries and armories, as well as provide some needed defensive capabilities to the alien side.
Stomp: This ability lets the player stomp his legs on the ground and send out a shockwave in front of hit. Any structures that are hit by the shockwave are temporarily disabled – resource towers stop harvesting, sentries' aim goes haywire and Commanders inside command stations have their view dim black and shake, temporarily hindering his support of his troops. Marines hit with a shockwave will likely have their aim disrupted as well (although we hope good players will be able to counter-act this to some effect, like recoil).
We hope you enjoyed this overview of the alien visual and gameplay design in Natural Selection 2 and are looking forward to showing you the Skulk, Gorge, Lerk and Fade!
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