Archery in The Pathless: Timing, Not Aiming

By Matt Nava, Creative Director

In The Pathless, you control a fast and acrobatic archer we call the Hunter. It’s important to us that players, regardless of gaming skill or experience, can easily become and act like the Hunter- a character with heroic aiming skill. For this reason, our main goal was accessibility when we were first considering how to implement aiming controls. Our theory was that if it’s easy for the Hunter’s character to shoot arrows accurately, it should also be that way for the player. It required us to approach the design of shooting in a unique way.

The Hunter can move quickly and shoot at the same time.

We looked at how archery, shooting, and aiming are done in other third person action adventure games. Characters in these games are generally not very fast and many games put you in slow motion or on rails while shooting to help with control difficulty/accuracy. We also noticed a common immersion-breaking disconnect between the game character’s supposed legendary shooting skills and the player’s actual skill aiming via the game’s controls. Aiming in these games is hard.

We wanted to avoid these issues, so our archery prototype began with the concept “never miss a shot.” We created an auto-aim system based on a target’s distance and position relative to the center of the screen. To shoot an arrow, you would hold the right shoulder button for a short time as if drawing a bow and then release it. The arrow would never miss.

As we added more kinds of things to shoot and chase in the world, we realized that our core concept of “never miss a shot” needed refinement. It did accomplish our goal of giving the player heroic aiming accuracy like the Hunter character, but the archery felt too predictable. To make hitting targets feel like an accomplishment we realized the player needed to be able to miss- we just didn’t want missing to be the default.

This critical realization led us to change our core concept from “never miss a shot” to “timing, not aiming.” We made the amount of time you hold down the shoot button reflect the accuracy of the arrow. Holding it long enough completely “charges” an arrow, making it 100% accurate. Letting go earlier decreases the accuracy proportionally. We also made getting physically closer to a target increase the accuracy of even partially charged arrows.

The reticle doubles as a meter that shows how accurate your arrow will be when you release it.

Archery in The Pathless bases accuracy on timing, which makes aiming very accessible without over-simplifying it. It makes it possible to shoot even while moving very quickly and performing acrobatic maneuvers. The timing mechanic gives shooting a unique, satisfying rhythm-game like feel and makes it simple for players to become the skilled Hunter.

It’s possible to chain shots while running and jumping.

The Pathless is still in development, and we are still refining how archery works. It will likely continue to evolve and get even better before the game ships. Thanks for reading!

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