Designing the combat mechanics of my current project I've come to a problem: How do I make players feel responsable of their mistakes instead of they blaming my game? This is the scenario:

Among other things your character has two basic abilities a quick and a strong melee attacks, and as you may guessed the quick attack does less damage and has a smaller control(time enemies are pushed/stunned after hit), as the strong attack has a slower and obviously longer animation that (here is the catch) cannot be cancelled. And here is my concern; many players may feel that the game is unresponsive instead of realizing that they shouldn't had used a strong attack in that moment.

Extra info:

  • Neither of the attacks consume resources as stamina.
  • Receive a hit is a big penalization for the player as heal is hard and the difficulty lies in progressing through levels loosing less health than you can find.
  • Both attacks has a 3 hit chain with cool down after the last, this means that the managing of this ability to cancel or not the attack is a core mechanic that the player should learn in order to succeed.
  • Enemies always give a big hint before attacking the player.

Solutions I thought:

  • Explain to the player via tutorial.
  • Pop a message sometimes when the player got hit during a strong attack animation.

Pd: I'm looking to the solution to the problem described above, but any general tips in this mater are also appreciated

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Obviously your players have some wrong assumption (strong attack can be cancelled). It's hard to tell how they come to that conclusion with the little information you provide, but it might have something to do with the animation which doesn't really sell the "heaviness" of the strong attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Mar 20, 2017 at 16:30
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, is there any possibility that being unable to cancel the strong attack isn't actually a fun feature? Players generally dislike not being in control. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Mar 20, 2017 at 16:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's a classic mechanic from fight games. Street Fighter (and many others) use this as core to their design. A strong punch hits harder, but you're committed for longer... so if you miss, it leaves you open. I think the design is probably fine, but perhaps it's aimed at the wrong audience. \$\endgroup\$
    – Almo
    Mar 20, 2017 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Horizon Zero Dawn does this simply by having an obvious, very heavy strike animation. You learn pretty quickly that you can't cancel it (but you can turn in mid-strike, which helps a lot). \$\endgroup\$
    – SilverWolf
    Apr 20, 2018 at 20:19

3 Answers 3


In your UI, if you have a way to display the currently available skills, disable all the other skills, and overlay a timer of some sort on them which should indicate how long until the next attack is available.

I haven't played World of Warcraft since the Open Beta Test, but I think there is something like this in that game:

enter image description here

(Clip from this video.)

This technique has the advantage of teaching the user that this skill causes the others to be locked, while giving them a clue about when they're going to be unlocked and usable again.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just whatever you do, don't emulate the flashing 'hey you can use this!' crap that WoW has now, it makes the player feel like a child being led through the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – mrr
    Mar 21, 2017 at 20:37

Here's an example to get you thinking: put a section in one stage where the player must break down walls that can only be broken with the heavy attack (this shows the attack's increased power), while being chased or having a wall close in behind. Since the player has a reason to move as quickly as possible, they will now clearly notice the wind-up freeze resulting from this more powerful attack. This gives a gameplay element that is potentially challenging and is showing them the benefit and consequences of using the attack. There's plenty of ideas for stuff like this, this is just one I thought of quickly.

As a side tip, there's actually a great video about this that I've watched several times to get an understanding of how to teach players about features of your game. This video is part of a small series called Sequelitis. In it the narrator examines the Megaman series and compares Classic and X. Much of his focus in this video is how they teach the players through gameplay, and not through manuals or tutorials. There is bad language in this video. However he really makes some good points and got me thinking much more in the direction you're looking towards.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Another example of the same technique: Assuming enemies have the same locked-in style as the player, you could introduce a situation/enemy where the player has to wait for the enemy to try their heavy attack and the player counters while they are vulnerable. Have the heavy attack animation of the enemy be similar to the players: they will see that the vulnerability goes both ways. \$\endgroup\$
    – Will
    Apr 2, 2017 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ A similar option might be having to time a strong attack to break a wall, with something that pushes you back or otherwise stops you at regular intervals (such as shaking ground, or a goo-like creature knocking you down). Make sure that the first one is set specifically to knock the player down the first time they try to break the obstacle, and that it gives them time to try to cancel the attack. There should be more than enough time between individual "attacks" for the player to get off a strong attack, at least after the first guaranteed "hit". \$\endgroup\$ Jun 15, 2019 at 17:06

People would likely forget mention of it in tutorials. It is better to teach them when they try it for themselves. The message seems like too strong of an interruption.

One idea would be to give feedback in the attempt to cancel the attack without actually cancelling the attack. You could use a sound (I am thinking a buzzer sound like in a game show when you get the wrong answer to a question) or have an X appear in the corner of the screen, or both.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this idea \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2017 at 18:04

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