Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account


Improving RPG menu-based battle systems


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
23 replies to this topic

#1 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 02:44 PM

I've been developing a 2D RPG (link) for a number of years with a menu-based battle system. One of my areas of concern is that your typical RPG menu-based battle is pretty dull, and I want to try and improve that with my game. So I'm going to throw some ideas at you guys and I'd like to hear your comments and suggestions, as well as receiving any ideas you all put forward to address the issues. But before I begin with my ideas, first, lets consider what I believe are the major downside to such battle systems. Of course the following are just my own opinion, but I think the points to be made are valid ones.


Major disadvantages of menu-based battle systems
  • Lack of strategy
Most battles require little skill from the player. Games typically have a basic "Attack" function that you can spam and win over half of your battles without a problem. These types of battles are not fun, and only serve to consume the player's time. Boss battles, on the other hand, typically require more focus and decision making from the player.

  • Lack of player engagement
A significant percentage of the time spent in a battle involves the player taking no action. They are either waiting for some stamina meter or equivalent to accumulate so that they can select an action for their characters, or they are watching action unfold on the screen. In turn-based systems, what often happens is that the battle is "paused" while you select actions for your characters. Then when your actions are selected, the player sits and watches (and does nothing) while the battle unfolds. The result is a "stop-and-go" system that is not very engaging, nor is it very fun in my opinion. Even if the battle does not pause while the player selects actions, they are still waiting a significant amount of time to select their actions or (in some games) watching certain abilities be used.


So the two main goals here are to make menu-driven battles more strategic and more engaging for the player (ie, we don't want the player to be inactive for significant amounts of time). I want to focus on the later goal here. We've already made a number of designs to take care of the first goal. Below is a video of my game (an older demo release) in action. You can see that there is a universal stamina bar that all characters and enemies in the battle traverse throughout their several states: idle, selection (of an action), warm-up, action, cool-down, and then repeat.

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Aok94zFs9Jc

You can see that we're currently suffering from player inaction during all but the action selection phases. Otherwise, the player is just sitting around and waiting for the next character to be ready to select an action. Even worse, the battle is paused during action selection so we suffer from "stop-and-go" syndrome.



Since the beginning, my team has had a number of goals for this game that are important to this discussion, as the ideas I am about to put forward are intended to stay true to these goals.
  • Design the game such that the major focus is on gameplay and story, not advanced 3D graphics and physical simulations.
  • As much as possible, remove the tedious, meaningless, and micromanaging aspects of many historical and modern RPGs.
  • Require a high level of strategic thinking and planning from the player, and less mindless "button mashing" found in many RPGs.

Now, finally I present my list of design ideas for improving this gameplay.

Idea #1: Do not pause the battle during action selection.

This is nothing novel, as many games have allowed the player to choose between "active" and "wait" modes. I don't want to allow that choice at all though, because there is obviously a strong advantage to choosing "wait" (your actions are selected instantly rather than consuming precious seconds).


Idea #2: Allow the player to pre-select actions for their characters before those characters are ready to execute their next command.
While the characters are in their idle state, the player can select actions for their characters. This solves the problem of the player having nothing to do when no characters are ready to execute an action. Of course the player can still wait until the stamina bar is full (and the character changes from the idle to the selection state), although there's no reason really to wait, unless the player is delaying the action selection based on the state of the enemies (ie if an enemy is seen charging up for a big attack, the player will want to put their character in a defensive state).

Expanding upon this we may consider allowing players to build up an action queue for their characters, selecting multiple actions to take. I don't like this approach, however, so I'm not really considering it.


Idea #3: Allow the player to change pre-selected actions for their characters

This goes along with idea #2. If the player selects an action for a character during the idle state and something happens which makes the player wish to change the action for the character (such as an ally was badly hurt and needs healing immediately), then we would allow the player to do so (but only if the character is still in the idle state, the warm-up state is too late to cancel). This would also apply toward changing the target. With this idea, we have to consider whether there would be any penalty associated with changing an action/target. We could completely reset the stamina bar back to zero and force the character to go through the entire idle state again, we could apply a less severe penalty such as a 20%-50% reduction of the current idle time that has been met, or there could be no penalty at all. I think I'd rather see a small penalty, because this will cause the player to consider whether or not they want to select an action for their characters as soon as they can (at the 0-time mark in the idle state). But I'm undecided here.


Idea #4: Populate a small action + target hot-key menu to allow the player to quickly execute actions

In our menus, we currently sort actions by category (Attack, Defend, Support, Item) and we have cursor memory implemented as well (the menu remembers the previously selected action and target). But I've been toying with the idea of having a small number (four) of "hotkey" actions and targets for characters. This idea came to me because I realized that you often only want to change between a small number of actions and targets in battle. For instance, one character might be a designated healer, and when there is no healing needed you would instead want that character to "meditate" to regain lost magic points (called skill points in the case of my game), or to attack an enemy if no healing and no SP regeneration is needed. Three actions, and three targets that the player cycles between for this character. Going through the entire action selection menu and target selection menus each time they want to switch between one of these settings is kind of a pain in the ass, so we would have this hot-key command card available for the player to quickly switch between these actions and targets. It could either be auto-generated by the game (ie saves last action + target combo) or we could allow the player to configure this, both in and out of battle.

I also had thought that maybe we could limit the character's actions to what they could fit in the command card to create an additional depth of strategy for the player, as they would need to select which skills they brought into battle (and couldn't use all the skills they learned). For our purposes though I think this would be a bad idea, because the strategic benefit is outweighed by the negative cost of additional micromanagement needed by the player, plus it could be seen as an annoying limitation for many people (not to mention it doesn't have much of a practical explanation for why skills are limited).


Idea #5: Allow multiple actors (characters or enemies) to execute actions simultaneously

This is another idea to reduce the amount of time that the player is forced to sit and watch. Right now only one actor can execute an action at any time (in this sense the game is turn-based). But what if this was not the case, and we could have multiple characters and enemies all engaging each other at once? Perhaps we can even add a strategic element to this, and say that if two opposing actors engage each other at the same time, the one who strikes first will cancel the other's action completely.

It sounds like a promising idea I think if its implemented well, but I have a couple major concerns with it. First, it could cause battles to become very chaotic with swords and spells flying everywhere (but shouldn't battles be chaotic anyway?). Second, it may be difficult to implement both from a programming and an artistic perspective. And there may be other issues that I haven't thought of yet.




Yeah, so that's my first batch of ideas that I'd like your feedback on. Which ones do you like? Which ones do you think would go well in my game? (Maybe you should go play it? :wink:). Some of these ideas might not mix well with each other, and I'm also trying to exercise caution about adding too many concepts to the design. There are a lot of cool feature that an RPG can have (customizable equipment, relics with special abilities, etc), but just because all of these ideas are great on their own does not mean that you should then throw them all into a single game and expect things to work out. So its really about finding the best combination of ideas to help us meet our ultimate goal here. Thanks for reading, I know this was a long post. :)
Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

Sponsor:

#2 Fox89   Members   -  Reputation: 145

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 03:16 PM

Aha, this one is very close to my heart as I'm working on an RPG and have identified very similar problems! To be honest I don't want to share my own personal solutions, but I'll happily discuss your ideas and maybe throw some other ones around. :)

First of all I don't think 'inaction' time is necessarily a bad thing. By not allowing the action to pause at any point, you risk reducing the strategy the player can employ because they don't have time to think and/or react to changes in the battle conditions. For example, they may be planning to cast a fire spell but all of a sudden an enemy makes his move and makes himself immune to magical damage. At this point the player has to make a snap decision which can lead to panicking and just mashing any old action. Allowing a pause in the action gives the player thinking time, and so they can employ more strategy.

Assuming you want to keep the battle moving swiftly, which seems to be the case as you mention chaotic battles and keeping the player engaged through plenty of action, I think one of the best things you could do would be the ability to queue actions, as per your idea 2. So if you select attack, and then queue a fire spell, you will cast the fire spell as soon as you have enough stamina. I would also suggest allowing the player to select their attack first, and then executing it when they have enough stamina. This will allow you to make different things cost different amounts of stamina. So if you selected a basic attack it would execute when the stamina bar is half full, but if you select a powerful attack it will execute when the bar is completely full.

A system like that, where you select the skills first which are auto-executed when enough stamina has been gained, with the ability to queue moves, will mean that the player is active as the stamina bar is being filled in order to choose and select their next skill. Then all you have to do in order to keep the battle flowing is balance the speed at which the stamina bar fills up. I agree with you that allowing them to queue multiple commands would be a bad thing, as that would lead to players spamming single commands and then sitting back for 5 turns as they are all executed.

Idea #3: Allow the player to change pre-selected actions for their characters


I think this is a must. As you say, a party member could be badly hurt and you need to take action. The trouble with sudden changes in circumstances is that suddenly you would have to remove your selected actions from the queue and set up new ones. Even if you set common actions/targets to hotkeys as you put forward, this will take time and in a battle that never stops runs the risk of getting other party members killed. To fix this, I would suggest mapping a key that pauses the battle and allows a player to change the action currently queued or being charged, depending on how exactly your system ends up working. So that if there is an unforseen change in circumstances, they can pause the battle, think about and select their healing commands without losing any time. However I would reset the stamina bar to 0 as their should be some minor penalty for doing so, in order to encourage players to plan ahead they best they can.

Right, hope I worded all that OK! :)

#3 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 05:50 PM

I'm working on an RPG and have identified very similar problems!


Link to your project please. :)


First of all I don't think 'inaction' time is necessarily a bad thing. By not allowing the action to pause at any point, you risk reducing the strategy the player can employ because they don't have time to think and/or react to changes in the battle conditions.


I completely agree. Its a matter of personal preference. Some people like to approach RPG battles as if its a chess match of sorts. I'd prefer to have our strategy be more like what is needed in a multiplayer RTS match, where you not only need to have good decisions but be quick at making them and having a minimal response time. I'm really sick of standard menu-based battles, but I didn't want to make an action RPG either. There will be a little panicking perhaps (but that's prevalent in RTS as well, and no one complains about it there).

I would also suggest allowing the player to select their attack first, and then executing it when they have enough stamina. This will allow you to make different things cost different amounts of stamina. So if you selected a basic attack it would execute when the stamina bar is half full, but if you select a powerful attack it will execute when the bar is completely full.


Actually all of our skills have individual warm-up and cool-down periods, which serve the same purpose (actions cost different amounts of stamina). So this particular idea, while not a bad one, probably wouldn't work with our system since that angle is already covered. But you did make me think of something though. Perhaps the player should be given the option, upon selecting an action, to indicate that the action shouldn't be executed until the player explicitly commands to (ie, the action doesn't auto-execute once stamina requirements are met). This can really make timing an important factor in putting together a sound battle plan. For example, if you know that a big attack is coming that is going to do a lot of damage, you'll want your characters to cast protective spells just before the big attack, or healing spells just after. But if all the characters are on auto-execute, then you'll either 1) miss the timing, which could cost you the battle, or 2) you'd be forced to not enter an action for your character (so that they don't execute anything) and then when you're ready be forced to scramble and select the appropriate action.

I guess a similar effect is achieved by just not entering an action for the character (the character won't execute an action if none is selected), but I'd rather still allow them to pre-select their action so that they can manually execute it at just the right time.

Even if you set common actions/targets to hotkeys as you put forward, this will take time and in a battle that never stops runs the risk of getting other party members killed. To fix this, I would suggest mapping a key that pauses the battle and allows a player to change the action currently queued or being charged, depending on how exactly your system ends up working. So that if there is an unforeseen change in circumstances, they can pause the battle, think about and select their healing commands without losing any time. However I would reset the stamina bar to 0 as their should be some minor penalty for doing so, in order to encourage players to plan ahead they best they can.


That's certainly an idea worthy of consideration. I agree that allowing the player to pause the battle and change out commands needs to have some sort of penalty to it (otherwise we're just back to the original problem). Either that, or the number of emergency pauses needs to be limited, so the player can't abuse them and has to be conservative in their use (becomes a part of the strategy).
Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

#4 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2433

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 06:11 PM

Giving input thru mouse and keyboard is slowish so it might be cool if it was a non stop matrix style fight :P You could actually attack at the exact moment when the enemy has a hole in his defense. Though that wouldnt work in many cases.

o3o


#5 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 06:48 PM

Giving input thru mouse and keyboard is slowish so it might be cool if it was a non stop matrix style fight :P You could actually attack at the exact moment when the enemy has a hole in his defense. Though that wouldnt work in many cases.


Uhh, no its not? Professional RTS players average 200-300 actions per minute in competitive matches.
Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

#6 Fox89   Members   -  Reputation: 145

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 07:49 PM

Link to your project please. :)



Not much to link to I'm afraid as I don't put much online. Most of it is just in a shared folder between the team! But there's a little stuff on my blog here: Link.


But you did make me think of something though. Perhaps the player should be given the option, upon selecting an action, to indicate that the action shouldn't be executed until the player explicitly commands to (ie, the action doesn't auto-execute once stamina requirements are met). This can really make timing an important factor in putting together a sound battle plan. For example, if you know that a big attack is coming that is going to do a lot of damage, you'll want your characters to cast protective spells just before the big attack, or healing spells just after.


That sounds good, although in a fast paced battle system like this you'll want to be very careful how you balance that. Asking the player to micromanage the timing of multiple party members might be a bit much, but hopefully any problems you find along that route will be something a bit of playtesting and tweaking will fix.

I guess a similar effect is achieved by just not entering an action for the character (the character won't execute an action if none is selected), but I'd rather still allow them to pre-select their action so that they can manually execute it at just the right time.


How about an 'override' command? So you can set a second command in 'reserve', if you will, that can be called for one or all characters at a single button press. This could allow players to plan their abilities in preparation for the big attack in advance, but not have to concern themselves with navigating menus at breakneck speed in order to execute everything in time. So let's say you had three characters, one of which would cast a massive spell, and the others would cast temporary buffs just before the massive attack was unleashed. With character 1, you set the massive spell charging up, or however you work it. You continue attacking the enemy normally with characters 2 and 3, but between attacks you find time to set their 'override' commands to buffs aimed at character 1.

You then continue entering commands normally with characters 2 and 3 until the big attack is almost ready to be cast, then you hit your 'override command' hotkey and 2 and 3 stop what they're doing and cast their buff spells. And hey presto, you've pulled off your complex move that you planned a while ago in advance, without sacrificing the moment to moment routine of the combat.

That's certainly an idea worthy of consideration. I agree that allowing the player to pause the battle and change out commands needs to have some sort of penalty to it (otherwise we're just back to the original problem). Either that, or the number of emergency pauses needs to be limited, so the player can't abuse them and has to be conservative in their use (becomes a part of the strategy).


I think the former would be the better way to go in this scenario. The trouble I find with limited use things is that it's very hard to resist the urge to hoard them. Final Fantasy IX had this problem with Ethers. They were very useful items in battle, but somewhat rare. So I always ended up saving them for the tough battles with the fear that if I used them frivolously I would not have them when I needed them. The result was I ended up not using them enough, struggled through the game more than I should and finished the final boss with a stock of about 60!! I think limiting the use of these 'thinking time' pauses might hit similar issues, especially on very long and difficult fights. Although having said that it might just be another balance issue that wont be a problem after a bit of testing :)

#7 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 June 2011 - 09:30 PM

Yeah, to pull this system off well we're really going to have to spend a lot of effort getting the timing just right. If its too fast, players will get frustrated and won't be able to keep up with the action fast enough. If its too slow, we're back to the same problem of a game with long periods of inactivity. Another thing we must get correct to make this a success is the user interface. It needs to be simple to understand and easy to use, since the player isn't going to need to use it quickly and efficiently. Fortunately, the early battles of the game (which will be much easier than the rest) will give the player time to get used to using this interface before they start fighting the more difficult battles ahead. I've only given prelimary thought to this interface since these ideas are, as of now, just ideas and it would be premature to design the interface for concepts that may not even be used.




How about an 'override' command? So you can set a second command in 'reserve', if you will, that can be called for one or all characters at a single button press. This could allow players to plan their abilities in preparation for the big attack in advance, but not have to concern themselves with navigating menus at breakneck speed in order to execute everything in time. So let's say you had three characters, one of which would cast a massive spell, and the others would cast temporary buffs just before the massive attack was unleashed. With character 1, you set the massive spell charging up, or however you work it. You continue attacking the enemy normally with characters 2 and 3, but between attacks you find time to set their 'override' commands to buffs aimed at character 1.


Hmm, can't say I'm a fan of this one. I don't see the player needing to "override" commands very often, and I think being able to specify a command plus an override command may just be too cumbersome for the player. I can't imagine being able to implement this very well and I think that many players may just choose not to use it at all. But who knows.


I think the former would be the better way to go in this scenario. The trouble I find with limited use things is that it's very hard to resist the urge to hoard them. Final Fantasy IX had this problem with Ethers. They were very useful items in battle, but somewhat rare. So I always ended up saving them for the tough battles with the fear that if I used them frivolously I would not have them when I needed them. The result was I ended up not using them enough, struggled through the game more than I should and finished the final boss with a stock of about 60!! I think limiting the use of these 'thinking time' pauses might hit similar issues, especially on very long and difficult fights. Although having said that it might just be another balance issue that wont be a problem after a bit of testing :)



Heh, we play exactly the same way. I always find myself with a large number of [insert rare and extremely useful item here] at the end of most RPGs. I don't think its as much of a concern here though because the restriction would be done on a per-battle basis, not one where we say "you have 10 battle pauses available to you thoroughout the game, use them wisely". For instance, the player could be given one pause allowance at the beginning of each battle, and maybe a second one every 5 minutes or so for those longer boss fights. But I do agree the former may be better, simply because then we'd have to convey to the player how many pause allowances they have available, which would be more clutter to our battle GUI that we don't really need.
Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

#8 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 19 June 2011 - 06:12 AM

I think you're trying to fix the wrong problem. You said all the player does is press the Attack button and then wait. The problem is not the waiting period, but the lack of meaningful choices. Finding ways to speed up gameplay will work for as long as the player is required to input the Attack command. When he needs to cast a spell and have to go through sub-menus, he will curse at the real-time battle system. This will only reinforce the "Attack forever" playstyle because people are lazy and are generally not looking for twitch gameplay in an RPG. If all you want is to speed up gameplay, then look at Final Fantasy X. They had a similar time system, except time jumped to the next character and waited for a command. You could mash the attack button and be done with fights rapidly or take your time for tougher battles.

A solution here would be to create higher level gameplay mechanisms which increase the number of meaningful choices the player is given each turn. There are a lot of ways to do it and this is what will differentiate your combat system from other generic RPGs. For example, Final Fantasy X had character switching in-battle. Lost Odyssey had the "wall" mechanism where the back row was protected until the front row took enough damage. Chrono Trigger had combo attacks between characters. A good higher level mechanism is simple enough to be understood quickly by the player, but has enough complexity to be used in multiple ways to create depth.
Developer for Novus Dawn : a Flash Unity Isometric Tactical RPG - Forums - Facebook - DevLog

#9 apatriarca   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1619

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 19 June 2011 - 08:50 AM

I don't think pausing is bad. I actually also use it often in action RPGs where some kind of pause command is implemented. But we are probably very different players, I don't like RTS at all for example. As Tiblanc said, I think you are trying to solve the wrong problem. The game pauses help the player think and decide the best strategy to follow. In my opinion, it become boring only if there is no depth in the game and there is nothing to decide in these pauses. Let the player do more meaningful and strategic decisions. After all, if the player really want action, then he wouldn't start playing a menu based RPG in my opinion, but an action game.

#10 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 19 June 2011 - 11:23 AM

@Tiblanc

I absolutely agree that its a problem if the player doesn't have meaningful choices. But that problem is due to the lack of strategy that I mentioned, not due to the lack of inaction. We've already taken actions to fix this in our design, and yes for many players that itself might be enough to satisfy them. Some people certainly will not like being continually active in the battle and would prefer the traditional "chess" style approach, where you have unlimited time to choose your actions. I think your statement that everyone looking to play an RPG is going to want to play a lazy style is a fallacy. I certainly don't enjoy playing that way, and I would imagine I'm not alone. I do think that people will be frustrated with going through menus in a real-time system, that's one of the reasons why I proposed that command hotkey idea.

Its funny that you mention Final Fantasy X, because we were actually talking about its battle system on IRC last night. Its certainly an option to consider, thought I'd prefer sticking with a real-time system versus a strictly turn-based one myself.

@apatriarca

Yes, game pauses help the player think and decide the best strategy. But I think it adds a lot of enjoyment and challenge to the game if you have to make your decisions quickly, rather than being granted unlimited time. I don't like the suggestion that "games of genre X play like Y, and you shouldn't change that". As independent video game designers, we have the opportunity to really experiment and to take risks to see if we can produce something fun and unique, rather than just the same old tired formula with a few changes.


I appreciate the comments both of you. Its nice to hear some dissenting opinions about this. :)
Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

#11 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 19 June 2011 - 02:26 PM

I found the log of the IRC conversation that triggered this discussion in the first place. Thought I'd add it here for the heck of it (slightly edited to remove side conversations).

19:21:22 <DrSeemann> Warcraft III were absorbed by DOTA
19:21:41 <DrSeemann> On diablo II when you go online it's all about runs runs runs and more runs
19:21:48 <DrSeemann> So the essence of the game is pretty much lost
19:21:57 *** CruzR has joined #opengameart
19:24:16 <chl5011> If I remember correctly, the essence of diablo has already lost because it seems originally they were to create just rpg, instead of arpg?
19:29:33 <kurtisevan> i favor arpg myself. i get bored and frustrated with menu driven battles
19:32:56 <DrSeemann> Well, action involves player skill
19:33:05 <DrSeemann> That's what i love
19:37:03 <Roots> I want to find a way to make menu driven battles more interesting
19:41:07 <kurtisevan> i dont have a clue myself
19:41:52 *** DGMurdockIII has quit IRC
19:41:57 <Roots> well I know how to make battles more strategic at least. But I don't know if that will translate into fun for most people
19:42:23 <Roots> I tried to do away with the "hit A to attack and repeat 5,000 times"
19:42:55 <DrSeemann> The only menu driven battlas that I enjoy
19:43:01 *** chl5011 has quit IRC
19:43:02 <DrSeemann> are pokemon battle's :P
19:43:07 <Roots> hahaha
19:43:11 <Jattenalle> menudriven battles with timeout
19:43:32 <Jattenalle> you only have, say, 10 sec to make your decission before your character executes whatever action you did last round (or a default one?)
19:43:48 <Jattenalle> menu driven battles are inherently imerssion breaking
19:43:53 <Roots> Grandia 2 was pretty fun because the characters moved around on their own, and you'd have to use positions to determine the best attacks (ie line area, circular area, etc). And you could "cancel" an enemy's action with certain skills as well
19:43:54 <Jattenalle> having a timer might help
19:44:38 <Roots> what about not allowing the player to stall during action selection? That is, the battle still continues while they are deciding which actions to take
19:44:53 <Jattenalle> harder battles could lower the timer, so you have less time to react to the super well trained ninja assassins.. but the bunnyrabbit gives you plenty of time to decide if you want to do
19:44:54 <kurtisevan> oooh auto-pilot! sit back and watch the fun :)
19:44:59 <Jattenalle> Roots, exactly, that's what i mean
19:45:08 <Jattenalle> have combat go on even if the player isnt "doing" anything
19:45:15 <Roots> hahaha, I think Breath of Fire 3 had an auto-pilot for battles. :P
19:45:19 <Jattenalle> player action should add benefits, but not be required
19:45:24 <Jattenalle> if you go with menu driven that is
19:45:24 <Slipyx_> one of the mother games did
19:45:29 <DrSeemann> Like chess using cronometer
19:46:00 <Roots> yeah. And what if the player could choose actions for their characters before the character was even "ready" to execute the action? Ie, you don't have to wait for the stamina/timer bar to fill up before you can select an action
19:46:11 <Jattenalle> Roots, perfect!
19:46:26 <Jattenalle> adds strategy and depth to it all, what to queue up so to speak
19:46:35 <Jattenalle> to avoid "downtime" where your char just autopilots to build up mana/stamina
19:46:39 <DrSeemann> uhm in that case
19:46:50 <DrSeemann> it would be really really fun and challenging if
19:47:08 <Roots> The problem with that though is putting together a clean and easy to use interface. Plus you have to consider whether or not you want to give the player the option to cancel the action they previously selected before the timer bar expires
19:47:12 <DrSeemann> you could use more than one character
19:47:25 <Jattenalle> Roots, always allow cancel
19:47:38 <Jattenalle> hell make it so the number of actions you can queue is based on a char stat/skill
19:47:49 <Jattenalle> DrSeemann, now we're talking! :D
19:48:10 <DrSeemann> That's the same feeling that you get when playing or watching sports
19:48:11 <Jattenalle> juggling 2-3 chars making sure their action queues are optimal = player skill
19:48:17 <Roots> Yeah but not allowing cancel can add more strategy, because the player has to time their skill selections and can't just mass-select actions with the knowledge that they could cancel them later if needed
19:48:43 <Jattenalle> Roots, well say there's a penalty to canceling, such as your char stumbling for a split sec, missing a potential strike on the enemy
19:48:52 <DrSeemann> Well use time out like in basketball :P
19:49:05 <DrSeemann> That offer's you a vast counter action universe
19:49:12 <Roots> Ah yeah, like reduce their stamina bar by 50%. I like that. Still allows a cancel, but it comes with a slight cost
19:49:31 <Jattenalle> nah dont reduce stamina
19:49:31 <Roots> We can put all of these ideas to the test in Hero of Allacrost and see how they work out.
19:49:42 <Jattenalle> more like, interrupt an auto-pilot action
19:49:44 <DrSeemann> that would reward pre planning and
19:49:48 <Jattenalle> or make the next queued up action have a delay
19:50:05 <DrSeemann> correcting strategies in battle
19:50:40 <DrSeemann> Yu gi oh has some of that game style
19:50:42 <Roots> This discussion is making me want to go write the code for it right now and see what its like :)
19:50:48 <Jattenalle> :3
19:51:04 <DrSeemann> Well roots i might help with some drawing and music atm
19:51:11 <DrSeemann> sketches i mean
19:51:34 <Roots> Good thing I already have a working menu-driven RPG already functional, yay! 99% of the work is done :)
19:52:05 <DrSeemann> :)))

..............

19:54:46 <Roots> Potential issues/gripes I can imagine with this sort of queued battle system though is that it might get too frantic/furious and will be a lot of fast button mashing
19:55:19 <Jattenalle> Roots, nah, say 1 sec is the lowest delay between queued actions
19:55:33 <Jattenalle> Roots, that's still plenty of time (surprisingly enough) to click a button
19:55:47 <Jattenalle> and if you miss, well your char will attack once every 2 sec instead
19:55:49 <DrSeemann> 0.2 is average speed for humans
19:55:50 <Jattenalle> so no biggie
19:55:58 <DrSeemann> that's what we are not :P
19:56:33 *** rujasu has joined #opengameart
19:56:56 <Roots> Well I'm thinking in the framework of my own game, where first you select the type of action (attack/defend/support/item), then you select the action to execute, then you select the target, and then you select the attack point (if the action targets a "point", such as the legs or wings)
19:57:05 <Roots> Yes that's what I mean
19:57:23 <Jattenalle> Roots, make attack points optional
19:57:28 <Jattenalle> if i dont pick one just attack a random one
19:57:31 <Jattenalle> or "body"
19:57:38 <DrSeemann> Macros are good for this
19:58:01 <DrSeemann> I mean, developing a certain attack to a certain point
19:58:06 <Jattenalle> have a skill that increase the delay between "rounds" could be a good skillpoint waste as well
19:58:08 <Roots> The kind of defeats the purpose of having attack points to begin with :/ The purpose of those is to exploit specific weaknesses on your targets to inflict maximum damage or slow their speed by hitting their legs, etc
19:58:18 <Roots> but not all actions target points
19:58:25 <Jattenalle> Roots, which players will do if they feel they have the time
19:58:47 <Jattenalle> in combat though, would you want to miss an opportunity to do some damage because it's not optimal?
19:59:02 <Jattenalle> dont make the round timer fast enough that it's frantic
19:59:11 <Jattenalle> just fast enough to add some action to the thing
0:00:50 <Roots> yeah I get you Jattenalle. It will require some tweaking to get the timing right so that its not too fast or too slow
20:01:11 <Jattenalle> Roots, aye, base it on the level of the enemy.. if the enemy is way above you in level make the timer fast as hell
20:01:14 <Jattenalle> and vice versa
20:01:17 <Roots> Or maybe the timing could be configured? Young children and old people or those with disabilities may need more time and find the game too difficult with the default setting
20:01:38 <Jattenalle> you should always have a difficulty setting, or at least make it so people can progress at their own pace
20:01:43 <Jattenalle> i favor the latter in an RPG
20:01:47 <Jattenalle> dont force peolpe to move on
20:01:54 <Jattenalle> if i want to kill rats for 5 hours, then let me
20:02:00 <DrSeemann> too fast* :P
20:02:01 <Roots> lol
20:02:03 <Jattenalle> dont make the XP received go down


Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

#12 Durakken   Members   -  Reputation: 518

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 02:00 AM

All of your ideas have been done in other games to varying degrees...

Here's my plan for the 2D RPG i'm coming up with

#1. You control your character, not the other party members.
#2. All moves have Charge up (magic) or cool down (physical) periods
#3. All moves can and will change at any time needed, either automatically or by command
-example: If you cast a spell that takes 4 charges to cast but a party member gets down to low HP then when you are at say 3 charges and the cure spell takes 2 charges to use then you can cast the cure spell and charge for 3 turns and cast the original spell
#4. You have battle "tactics" Defense position, light attack, heavy attack, experiment. each of which have different styles of play and bonuses.
#5. You can give orders to other party members, but how they follow them is based on tactics, personality, and what they are currently doing.
#6. Changing moves from physical to magical doesn't change your charge up/cool down meters alone. If you charge up for a 4 charge attack, but at the charges use a physical attack that takes 1 cool down, then you will lose 1 charge up due to losing focus and the magical power leaving you...

I'm pretty sure I can program it, but I'm inexperienced in that area, but if it works out the way i think it will result in a quick action turn based rpg that is bogged down by having to trod your way through several menus for several characters, but also give you tactical control of your characters when needed.

#13 Zethariel   Members   -  Reputation: 310

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 02:12 AM

A good menu based battle system with some things from Durakken's list that I played was Persona 3 on the PS2

In the game you onlt controlled your character. The other ones were AI driven -- not the stupid one mind you. The game battles were interesting as the AI learned how to tackle problems like a player would -- if the monster is resistant to fire and the AI unknowingly casts a fire spell, it would comment on the sh*tty effectiveness and use another spell instead. It was pretty awesome and saved time in battles, making them interesing and unrepeterive. It was also common for the AI companions to suggest to the PC what to use. Alas the game had other frustrating features, such as easy death and sparse save points, which in the end prevented me from ending the game.

A good system was also in FFX, where one could alter the chain of events via skills. I think it was brilliant to show on a simple panel when would each character move and even show how that order would change is I used Haste or a fast skill.

Auto-battle is also a good solution if some fights become repetetive - simplyfying combat to, lets say, an interesting minigame, where the battle is in the background and the player has to strike some keys, do a puzzle or just have a raw power struggle (read button masher) against the AI. That way the player would be able to choose whether he is content with the amount of battles he fought and needs a rest from random encounters. After time the minigames would bore him, making him fight again refreshed and interested in turn based combat.
Disclaimer: Each my post is intended as an attempt of helping and/or brining some meaningfull insight to the topic at hand. Due to my nature, my good intentions will not always be plainly visible. I apologise in advance and assure I mean no harm and do not intend to insult anyone, unless stated otherwise

Homepage (Under Construction)

Check my profile for funny D&D/WH FRP quotes :)

#14 Durakken   Members   -  Reputation: 518

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 03:01 AM

The problem with having AI controlled characters is that in the design you have to come up with a balance or a switch that makes it not feel like you are being told "sit here and watch the game play itself." I absolutely hate when games go "Oh, you suck so we're going to turn it to easy mode" or "you suck so we're just going to take over for you" When you do that you make it so you aren't encouraging the player to learn and get better and making them feel useless because why not watch a movie if all you're doing is watching.

My take on it is that I'm a character, not a party so I should have absolute control of this character, but not others...however we fall into the trap of now we're making the computer play and my strategizing abilities are gone... so lets take the "I am the character" idea further... I'm the bloody leader of that party so I'm going to be issuing commands and telling my party what we need to be doing. When I realized this it fairly obvious any and all menus need to be accessible always and instead of having "absolute" command you have a "suggestion" command where the AI understand your intent and does what it thinks is best whether to follow the command absolutely or a variation on it.

So in doing this it lessens the amount of worthless menu clicking you have to do, but at the same time gives you control and tactics, while giving you a bit of depth. It also deals with the whole repetitive thing.

I should also say that my system is also built around the idea that i can have from 1 party member to 15, but that can be extended infinitely with the design.

So anyways, basic message, you need to figure a way to keep control and tactics, but remove the tedium of clicking the same menu 50,000 times which gets even more boring when it's random battles.



FFX has a decent battle system... it's just ATB without the meters showing
FFX-2 is the best ATB...I call it the perfection of the system...unfortunately the game around it sucks but whatever.

I keep hearing of the persona games...i need to play them..

#15 Zethariel   Members   -  Reputation: 310

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 03:49 AM

@ Durakken - Yes, please do play Persona :) It has really great depth and a story to tell, several actually. Still, I got discouraged by said issues of saving and estimate of over 60 h (sic!) gameplay on first playthrough (...)

Persona did exactly what you just metnioned -- you can let your AI do whatever it likes (and it usually compliments your actions anyway) or suggest it does a specific strategy - like using only magic, only physical or support.

Having a party of 15 could take forever to actually make all the moves :P A large scale battle of 15 vs 15 would take a few minutes to just move around and deal damage. Altough I do admit it would be Epic.
Disclaimer: Each my post is intended as an attempt of helping and/or brining some meaningfull insight to the topic at hand. Due to my nature, my good intentions will not always be plainly visible. I apologise in advance and assure I mean no harm and do not intend to insult anyone, unless stated otherwise

Homepage (Under Construction)

Check my profile for funny D&D/WH FRP quotes :)

#16 Durakken   Members   -  Reputation: 518

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 04:05 AM

@ Durakken - Yes, please do play Persona :) It has really great depth and a story to tell, several actually. Still, I got discouraged by said issues of saving and estimate of over 60 h (sic!) gameplay on first playthrough (...)


Only 60 hours, geeze... Must be a newer gamer.60 hours used to be the average length of the normal play through.

Having a party of 15 could take forever to actually make all the moves :P A large scale battle of 15 vs 15 would take a few minutes to just move around and deal damage. Altough I do admit it would be Epic.


What I have always hated about RPGs is that I ave a party and I can't have them along with me so this is my solution ^.^ though I didn't consider how long a 30 man battle would take even with this method.. thinking about it it might be interesting if I just make all actions take place at the same time rather than "turn" based... it's just a question of how to program it if two characters attack each other at the same time. i can probably figure it out.

but this system also allows for massive battles to happen beyond the 15 man thing... it'd be cool to try to create a massive battle with this engine of like 2000 characters ^.^

#17 Zethariel   Members   -  Reputation: 310

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 04:24 AM

I took into consideration that characters would move at the same time -- then again, as a player, I would have troubles with focusing and telling WTF is going on on the screen. Plus, try and keep track of 30 people, their HP, status ailment, MP and all other stuff. That's what RTSes try to simplify :P

For me there is a difference in 60 h of FFX and 60 in Persona 3. Persona is... How to put it... Demanding. It can get very mental at times and the non-combat features suffer from monotony and repetition. Despite that, it is a good game I may one day come back to and try to finish.
Disclaimer: Each my post is intended as an attempt of helping and/or brining some meaningfull insight to the topic at hand. Due to my nature, my good intentions will not always be plainly visible. I apologise in advance and assure I mean no harm and do not intend to insult anyone, unless stated otherwise

Homepage (Under Construction)

Check my profile for funny D&D/WH FRP quotes :)

#18 Fox89   Members   -  Reputation: 145

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 June 2011 - 12:29 PM

FFX has a decent battle system... it's just ATB without the meters showing



The CTB. Or Conditional Turn Battle. Whilst I agree with you X-2 probably has the best system in the series...I would put the CTB as a close second. You can just be so much more tactical (assuming you aren't ambushed and wiped by a Great Marlboro in the Omega Ruins after 2 hours without a save point...) than you can with any real-time system.

#19 Roots   Members   -  Reputation: 657

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 23 June 2011 - 02:29 AM

Phew, finally read through all the most recent posts you guys have made. In general, I agree with everything you all were saying. I've never heard of Persona 3 so I'll have to check it out, in sounds interesting. I think AI-controlled party members certainly has a place, but I'm not really interested in seeing it at work in my own project. If I'm only able to control one character + suggest AI behavior, then I want to have full control over the character and for the game to play more like an action RPG, where I can move my character around to dodge attacks, etc. Traditional menu-style play (e.g. FF series) has the character movement fixed in battle and the player has no control over that, because the player is tasked with issuing commands to each character in their party and humans don't have the bandwidth to control both that and movement. I think FFX and FFX-2 are both great examples to consider, and my team/community and had been discussing these two games already. FFX is great because there's no "idle time" where the player is waiting for a gauge to fill. It is turn-based, even though its ATB under the cover. FFX-2 is sort of the other extreme, where the action is fast and constant.

-----

We've recently been discussing whether or not to allow the player to select between the "active" and "wait" battle modes (where wait will pause the battle while the player is selecting commands). Originally I was against this, because every other game I played that allowed this choice I felt I had to go with "wait", because it offers such a huge time advantage to the player in battle (you don't lose precious seconds while selecting an action). However some guys on team put forward strong arguments to allow that option, and after thinking about it I reconsidered my position. I think especially if we implement my second idea, letting the player select commands for characters before those characters are ready to use them, then it will be feasible to provide both options and not have the "wait" one carry a considerable advantage to it.

I've also been considering whether we want to allow the player to adjust the battle timing and select from different speeds. The players that are more action-oriented "hardcore" gamers could go with the settings that match their fast-paced style of play, while gamers which are more calculated and tactical can go with low settings or simply choose the "wait mode" option to grant themselves infinite time to make decisions.

If we allow wait mode to also apply speed settings (I was assuming we'd just use normal speed with wait mode), then the player can effectively turn the battle system into more of a turn-based system by choosing wait mode with the highest speed. This means turns pop up like boom boom boom right in a row (assuming the highest speed is fairly fast). So we can really cover a broad range of play styles here, with fast-paced active battles on one extreme, and tactical and very calculated decision-making (with no time pressure) on the other extreme. I don't think that either extreme would have a devastating effect on balance either. Sure wait mode gives an advantage to the player because they have infinite time to make their decisions, but since the active-mode players can select their actions before they are ready to execute (per my idea #2), the advantage is not drastic.

What do you think? Could it actually be possible to satisfy both the calculated tactician-type players and the high-speed action players at once without compromising on game balance? :o

-----

I worked out a draft of what are battle interface could look like for implementing ideas #2 and #3.

Posted Image

The arrow buttons to the right of the health and skill bars at the bottom fo the screen are the keys you'd need to hit to bring up that character's command menu. If the player can have their command set, the button lights up (white in this example) and if the command can not be entered (because the player is executing an action, dead, etc) then the button is dimmed (grey in this example). To the right of those buttons is the text for the currently selected action, where [Select Action] means that the character needs the player to have a command entered. Further to the right is the target of the selected action. And if a character is ready to act but has no command set, their name flashes with an orange overlay (like Mark in this draft).

It seems pretty intuitive and easy to use to me. When the player hits any of the arrow keys, if the command can be set then the command menu comes up (drawn on top of all of the buttons and action/target text) and the player sets the action for the character in the typical RPG-flow. I'm planning to implement ideas #1-3 for our next development release (which will come out sometime in the middle of next month I hope) so then we could test it and get feedback on how it actually functions. Its always best to build a prototype for your ideas rather than just dream about how it would work, right? :) I'll try to remember to post to this thread when I have a playable demonstration of these first three ideas available.
Hero of Allacrost --- http://www.allacrost.org
A free, open-source 2D RPG in development.

Latest release Oct. 10th, 2010.

#20 Orymus   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 04 July 2011 - 01:20 AM

Lack of strategyMost battles require little skill from the player. Games typically have a basic "Attack" function that you can spam and win over half of your battles without a problem. These types of battles are not fun, and only serve to consume the player's time. Boss battles, on the other hand, typically require more focus and decision making from the player.


I actually beg to differ here. The Fighting command alone still has a lot of untapped potential. You still have to target an enemy, and you could refine strategic decisions based on this (an enemy that has an uber powerful attack when its xp is full but is a tanker accompanied by small nuisances with big attacks for example). Although I agree with you that most rpgs have been a bit careless with how to handle regular encounters, I think you're generalizing the problem here.


  • Lack of player engagement
A significant percentage of the time spent in a battle involves the player taking no action. They are either waiting for some stamina meter or equivalent to accumulate so that they can select an action for their characters, or they are watching action unfold on the screen. In turn-based systems, what often happens is that the battle is "paused" while you select actions for your characters. Then when your actions are selected, the player sits and watches (and does nothing) while the battle unfolds. The result is a "stop-and-go" system that is not very engaging, nor is it very fun in my opinion. Even if the battle does not pause while the player selects actions, they are still waiting a significant amount of time to select their actions or (in some games) watching certain abilities be used.


I personally found that the problem with modern rps is the amount of time they spend on transitions and animations... seriously, attacks have gone from a 3 frames sword animation to a 1 minute long dragon summoning and explosion. If you take a look at a game like Chrono Trigger, transition is minimal, actions are rather quick (aside from a few late-game spells) and its all for the best. Keeps the player focussed on the battle system.


Idea #2: Allow the player to pre-select actions for their characters before those characters are ready to execute their next command.
While the characters are in their idle state, the player can select actions for their characters. This solves the problem of the player having nothing to do when no characters are ready to execute an action. Of course the player can still wait until the stamina bar is full (and the character changes from the idle to the selection state), although there's no reason really to wait, unless the player is delaying the action selection based on the state of the enemies (ie if an enemy is seen charging up for a big attack, the player will want to put their character in a defensive state).

Expanding upon this we may consider allowing players to build up an action queue for their characters, selecting multiple actions to take. I don't like this approach, however, so I'm not really considering it.


Idea #3: Allow the player to change pre-selected actions for their characters

This goes along with idea #2. If the player selects an action for a character during the idle state and something happens which makes the player wish to change the action for the character (such as an ally was badly hurt and needs healing immediately), then we would allow the player to do so (but only if the character is still in the idle state, the warm-up state is too late to cancel). This would also apply toward changing the target. With this idea, we have to consider whether there would be any penalty associated with changing an action/target. We could completely reset the stamina bar back to zero and force the character to go through the entire idle state again, we could apply a less severe penalty such as a 20%-50% reduction of the current idle time that has been met, or there could be no penalty at all. I think I'd rather see a small penalty, because this will cause the player to consider whether or not they want to select an action for their characters as soon as they can (at the 0-time mark in the idle state). But I'm undecided here.

I personally don't like this solution. While it does attempt to fix your problems, it also feels out of the genre and would make the game appear more like a shift-clicked RTS than an RPG. You have to be careful and having the player experience gameplay from the perspective of his characters. This approach neglects this.

Idea #4: Populate a small action + target hot-key menu to allow the player to quickly execute actions
In our menus, we currently sort actions by category (Attack, Defend, Support, Item) and we have cursor memory implemented as well (the menu remembers the previously selected action and target). But I've been toying with the idea of having a small number (four) of "hotkey" actions and targets for characters. This idea came to me because I realized that you often only want to change between a small number of actions and targets in battle. For instance, one character might be a designated healer, and when there is no healing needed you would instead want that character to "meditate" to regain lost magic points (called skill points in the case of my game), or to attack an enemy if no healing and no SP regeneration is needed. Three actions, and three targets that the player cycles between for this character. Going through the entire action selection menu and target selection menus each time they want to switch between one of these settings is kind of a pain in the ass, so we would have this hot-key command card available for the player to quickly switch between these actions and targets. It could either be auto-generated by the game (ie saves last action + target combo) or we could allow the player to configure this, both in and out of battle.

I also had thought that maybe we could limit the character's actions to what they could fit in the command card to create an additional depth of strategy for the player, as they would need to select which skills they brought into battle (and couldn't use all the skills they learned). For our purposes though I think this would be a bad idea, because the strategic benefit is outweighed by the negative cost of additional micromanagement needed by the player, plus it could be seen as an annoying limitation for many people (not to mention it doesn't have much of a practical explanation for why skills are limited).


The first part of this idea is more of an upgrade to accessibility than anything. It doesn't really fix your problem.
The second half I've tried implementing myself and it felt like I was just taking away from the player's game experience. Ultimately, I reverted back to a system where the player has access to all of his or her spells. The reason for this is that customization and strategy should always be positive, not negative. Removing access to earned spells is a negative experience. Ultimately, gameplay revolves around whatever skill you did "not" bring which could've been the perfect counter for a battle instead of which you brought.

Idea #5: Allow multiple actors (characters or enemies) to execute actions simultaneously
This is another idea to reduce the amount of time that the player is forced to sit and watch. Right now only one actor can execute an action at any time (in this sense the game is turn-based). But what if this was not the case, and we could have multiple characters and enemies all engaging each other at once? Perhaps we can even add a strategic element to this, and say that if two opposing actors engage each other at the same time, the one who strikes first will cancel the other's action completely.

It sounds like a promising idea I think if its implemented well, but I have a couple major concerns with it. First, it could cause battles to become very chaotic with swords and spells flying everywhere (but shouldn't battles be chaotic anyway?). Second, it may be difficult to implement both from a programming and an artistic perspective. And there may be other issues that I haven't thought of yet.


If an RPG is to be strategic, a player has to understand everything that is happening. By having actions occur at once, you are blurring the player's understanding of the situation (and possibly of the system altogether). It seems like your solution would bring more ill than good if it were to be implemented as is (and god knows some games have done just that! what horror).


Lastly, I'd like to point out I've been aware of the existence of your project for a fair amount of time. I was on the fence to get up close and personnal with it, and maybe lend a hand to development, but I've been iffy with a lot of the design decisions you've made in the past. I see you are trying to assess them now, which I feel is fortunate, and I'd have to play the latest demo to see how things have moved forward, but I'm still iffy about the general direction. I feel like this project could've been completed by now if the initial vision had received sufficient thinking. I mean, this whole thread is something you should've designed before production even started...
The fact you were there before they invented the wheel doesn't make you any better than the wheel nor does it entitle you to claim property over the wheel. Being there at the right time just isn't enough, you need to take part into it.

I have a blog!




Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS