Q&A: Battles in the Rain and Writing Character Action Games

Hello! I’m not sure if this was already asked, but do you have any tips for combat in the rain? I’m writing a monster hunting/fight scene DMC/Devil May Cry style. However I don’t want to make the character mow through enemies in this scene like they’re butter lol

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that pretty much the combat of tempo of the Devil May Cry series? Individual enemies may be able to take a few hits, but the entire score system is built around smearing through them efficiently. Like most character action games, you’re going to kill a lot of things as you go. The only enemies who should stay on screen for any significant time are mini-bosses and the actual boss fights, which are a bit spongy.

It’s also worth keeping mind that the entire DMC series are spectacle fighters. This puts them in line with titles like (the original) God of War series, Nier (sort of), Bayonetta… actually, nearly everything from PlatinumGames, excluding Vanquish, come to think of it. The genre is characterized by flashy, visually engaging, combat.

When you’re wanting to adapt combat from that genre, the medium you’re working with becomes an important consideration. The key word there is, “visual.” Comics and animation can easily capture the kinetic quality to the genre. In prose, the genre struggles, because those visual flourishes slow down the reader. Most readers will mentally vocalize the text they’re reading, and this means when you take time to describe what your character is doing in detail, that will slow your reader down. The visually rich, high tempo combat style of games like DMC demands both detail and speed, meaning you’ll need to make some very difficult choices.

This is also an issue for comics. The more panels you use to detail what’s happening, the more that will slow your reader down. This is why things like motion lines can be very useful to imply action, without resorting to a storyboard structure (with step-by-step thumbnails), because that would slow the sequence down.

In prose, you’re usually interested in the results, and getting there as efficiently as possible. I’m going to use God of War for a moment. The Blades of Chaos are fairly dull from a prose perspective. Kratos swings them, and if he’s in the same zip code as his target, he’s going to connect. What makes them interesting is the animation behind the chains themselves. The way they spin. This can be conveyed in comic panels (though, the exact stylizing would be different), but as a potential weapon in a written work, they’re surprisingly uninteresting. In contrast, his Leviathan Axe (from the reboot) is a much better weapon choice for prose. It allows direct strikes with consideration for things like range, it has a built in limitation (it causes frost damage, making it useless against foes who are immune to the cold), and it has a distinct power with easily articulatable rules, (it can be thrown and recalled.)

This, sort of, brings me back to one of my reservations with “DMC style combat.” I’m not wild about the idea of having to write the air combos. Now, that’s me, I’m not writing your story, and if this really excites you, go ahead. From a gameplay perspective, extended air juggling is a skill based reward. If you’re good enough with the timing, you can juggle enemies and continue combat in the air. From a written perspective it’s ridiculous, and making it feel, “earned,” without being gratuitous would be quite difficult.

As for writing fights in the rain… it’s rain.

In prose, writing environmental conditions is a lot easier than it sounds. You establish the condition, and then you only need to reference it after that point when it becomes relevant, or the conditions change.

So, if it’s raining, you only really need to say that. Depending on perspective, you probably want to be able to describe the experience of being in the rain. Including details like how heavily it’s raining and the temperature, along with whatever steps (if any) your character may be taking to avoid getting wet. Though, at some point, the fighters will probably be out in the rain.

After that, the only times you need to worry about the rain is when it either adds texture to the moment, such as the character getting wet, their clothes getting heavier as they’re soaked, water on their weapons (or the weapons’ grips.) Possibly washing away grime. Dirt deteriorating to mud, making the ground less stable. Blood getting washed away by rainwater.

As the writer, you want to keep in mind things like how long and heavily it’s been raining, and then evaluate how that affects the environment, but you don’t need to include that except when it’s relevant. Simply saying that it’s been raining heavily all day, can help set the scene for the audience. On the other hand, you can have a fight in the cold front before the rain starts coming down, and fight through the storm arriving.

In the latter case, you’d want to note things like when the rain starts, and if it starts pouring. It’s important to remember that most fights don’t last very long, so this is unlikely to happen mid-combat, though if your characters are fighting in a series of skirmishes broken up by downtime (such as one trying to escape), then this can extend the sequence to the point where you would see significant changes in the weather.

One storm related event that might be worth noting are lightning strikes. These will break up the sequence, and slow the pace down, but they can be useful to subtly suggest how far away the storm is. There’s a seven second per mile delay between seeing the lightning strike and hearing the thunder. Closing the gap between these two can allow you to communicate to the reader that the storm it getting closer, without having to be heavy handed about it.

-Starke

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