Outriders: Anatomy of a Skill - the Trickster’s Time RiftThe developers of Outriders talk about one of the Trickster’s key skills… and the many changes it underwent during development.
Hi, this is Piotr Nowakowski, Lead Game Designer for Outriders.
Every individual power in Outriders is the result of hours and hours of development, testing, and refinement. From the combat team, to the artists, everyone on the team has played a role in helping these awesome abilities come to life.
To give you a sense of just how much effort goes into creating the gameplay of Outriders, I thought it would be interesting to look at the story of single power from each class - from conception through to the final game - and what exactly went into making them.
Outriders’ Trickster class has the ability to manipulate time and space - an incredible skillset that opens up all kinds of opportunities for awesome powers.
But not all of these powers stayed the same over the course of development. In fact, some went through dramatic alterations, changing form and function in dramatic ways. Time Rift is a perfect example.
What does Time Rift do?
It’s not an offensive move, but Time Rift is one of the most useful powers that a Trickster has at their disposal. It sends out a wave of temporal energy that lifts up enemies and holds them in place for a short time.
It’s a move that has a tremendous amount of utility - you can use it to set up enemies for a barrage of bullets, make a bit of space if you’re under assault from a mob, and even create combo opportunities for other players to follow up with their own powers.
But the power didn’t always work this way - it changed and evolved over development, ending up as a very different idea to the original. In fact, when we began, it wasn’t even a Trickster-specific skill… it was a move called Tremor.
The initial idea - a sniper’s paradise
Originally, ‘Tremor’ was intended to support a sniper playstyle. The idea was much simpler - you raise up a single enemy so you can get an easy headshot.
We tested it in prototype, and although it wasn’t the most exciting power, it worked as intended… at least until the animation came back.
When animated, the power lifted up and moved the enemy, leaving their heads tilted back so you couldn’t see it. Rather than facilitating headshots, the power was making them impossible, which was the total opposite of what we wanted to achieve with that skill!
We played around a fair bit with the skill as it was, but we weren’t able to find the sweet spot between function and animation where it felt satisfying. So we went back to the drawing board and rethought it.
Our next idea was to make the power a wave that lifted the whole arena. This actually looked really impressive visually, yet it still wasn’t massively helpful in gameplay terms - it still didn’t really help snipers get headshots.
What’s more, from an artificial intelligence (AI) perspective, it was a disaster! The wide effect caused issues where enemies started to behave stupidly, fall over… long story short, it really wasn’t working.
So we took a step back and started to reconsider the skill at its most fundamental level. For example, why were we still trying to make this all about headshots and sniping? What other functions could it hold?
As we talked it through, we realised that it would actually be a perfect fit for the Trickster.
Fitting the fantasy
The moment we made the decision to recontextualise the skill for the Trickster, everything started to fall into place.
Previously we’d framed the power around fire and other effects, as we experimented with it for different classes, but the concept of raising enemies up fit perfectly with the fantasy of being a master of time and space. Now, you’re essentially holding the enemy in time - hence the name Time Rift.
That said, the name change actually gave us a little bit trouble. Internally, many people on the team still referred to it by ‘Tremor’… but we also had another skill in development that use that name. So when documentation went around, people sometimes mistook it for being about this skill rather than the new one - there were a few mistakes because of that!
On the plus side, with some lore behind it, it was easier for the animation team to find a satisfying way to portray it. We actually took inspiration from Guardians of the Galaxy - in the movie, there’s a section when the team are in space prison, and they turn off the gravity. Everyone floats helplessly up in the air - it’s a great scene that made it easier to visualise the effect.
It also fit the standard playstyle of the Trickster perfectly. At the beginning of the game, this class is all about getting in close, dealing big damage, and getting out again before the enemies can retaliate.
The addition of this power adds some real flexibility and combo potential for the Trickster. For example, one thing I like to do is first use the Trickster’s Hunt the Prey power to teleport in close behind an enemy for a melee attack.
This move has an element of risk, because it can also put you right into the middle of a horde of enemies - I know I’ll definitely take some damage. So I can use Time Rift to disable those enemies who are out of slashing reach so they can’t interrupt my rampage.
When everything in close range is dead, I can then decide to either go for the suspended enemies while they’re still vulnerable or get out of the danger zone to regroup.
That’s just scratching the surface of what the power can do. It’s great for stopping fast moving enemies so you can combo them with the Venator’s Knife power, it can set foes up for a follow-up attack from another class… the list is endless.
And as you build out your character, and get different mods for your gear, you can make it even more flexible and powerful. It’s an incredibly useful skill that encourages you to get creative.
And to think - it all started because we just wanted it to be easier to get headshots.
You can try out the Trickster and Time Rift for yourself in Outriders - available now for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Steam and Epic Games Store.
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