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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

Honoring the Blade: Lethality and Combat Balance in 'Ghost of Tsushima'

Theodore Fishman  (Lead Combat Designer, Sucker Punch Productions)

Date: Friday, July 23

Time: 3:40pm - 4:10pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass

Topic: Design

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: N/A: I prefer to present live on-site but I am open to delivering a virtual presentation

A flash of steel, a few quick slashes and the enemy is dead; this is the fantasy of how a Samurai fights. Lethal, precise, fast… but how does that translate into gameplay and combat balance? Honoring this fantasy, most importantly lethality of the blade, was a major challenge in making Ghost of Tsushima's combat.

While assassinations and standoffs nailed it, applying lethality to standard combat was more difficult. This talk will go over the multitude of attempts to try to solve this problem. Additionally, it will provide a behind the scenes look at the data-driven approach to game balance and design details of how it all came together.


The importance of lethality and the Samurai fantasy as the driving force in design decision making and game balance for Ghost of Tsushima, plus takeaways that can be applied to similar games.

Intended Audience

Developers interested in combat balancing for a melee based game, especially those trying to hit a specific player fantasy.