Although I haven't really played a lot of traditional RPGs, through theory-crafting, I think having a strong AI will solve a lot of MASH FIGHT problems.
If enemy was smart enough to see the pattern of the player smashing one single attack, enemy can change his skill that will negate such an attack.
Add in some sort of random number into monster's choice of skills to eliminate any pattern player might exploit, and you have strategic battles even at random battles.
I think you are perhaps misunderstanding the issue here. The question is not stricly about lack of strategic depth, but rather, the dominance of the simplest/fastest strategy (bashing the fight command). You seem to suggest that the AI could break that pattern, but I fail to see how to make an enemy break the DPS/Fight tactic when the player is sufficiently leveled.
If you are suggesting a hard counter, please refer to my explanation of Fight command works all the time (Resistance).
If you are suggesting an AI implementation to hose the Fight command, refer to the Grinding the Fight Command (Special Abilities: Counterattacks).
Please describe how you believe these are or aren't sufficient to alleviate the problem. We're looking for a fun implementation of the combat system, and to the best of my own experience, neither of these have really managed to fix the problem altogether.
Or even better, monsters can "evolve". Let's say you've been fighting goblins for past 5 battles, and you beat all of them using 'fireball'. Now, any goblins you fight after that will have gained passive resistance to 'fireball' (and decreased resistance in 'ice bolt' or something to keep the balance and not make goblin invincible).
I'm not too sure about this. Essentially, you are turning all monsters into "shells" that will evolve around a threat to their existence (you). It's like you are your own Darwin, a walking Apocalypse. If that said Apocalypse only casts Fire everywhere, by the end of the game, every monster would be immune to fire and very weak to Ice. I can see this system being abused in a number of ways, and monsters would trully lose their individuality so long as the player sticks to his playstyle.
The only good point I see about doing that is that monsters would keep on gaining physical resistance, forcing the player to move to other skills. But once they have, so many resistances will be triggered that physical damage would become a suitable alternative again. This shift-flow structure appears to me as a means to create frustration more than depth, but I may be misunderstanding the boundaries of the system you have envisioned.
I think those old RPGs were very limited in processing power/memory to program sufficient AI, but nowadays it's really easy to implement such AI, making even traditional menu-based battle more challenging and engaging.
That may be true, but I believe that the main limitation is inherent to the combat system itself. There are very few gameplay ingredients that can really be messed with.
I admit it's been a while since I played FFX but I'm pretty confident I remember what it was all about. Basically you had Tidus, who was swift and could kill quick, small creatures that moved so fast that other characters usually missed when they tried to hit. Thus Tidus was the most effective character. Mashing fight for everyone else would result in frequent misses. Auron had a giant sword that could pierce shells, so when a turtle-looking guy came up, Auron could do regular damage to it, while everyone else would do very little because they're just hitting the shell, also making mashing fight a poor choice. Wakka could attack flying enemies like bird monsters by throwing a blitzball at them whereas most characters would miss the attack, much like how Tidus is most effective at attacking fast ground units. Rikku could dismantle mechanical enemies instantly by using a mug ability -- granted, other characters could still bash them down, but it probably would take longer than a one-hit kill. Lulu was good for killing magic-based creatures that had specific weaknesses (fire/ice) and physical attacks did little damage to them, again making fight-mashing a poor choice. Yuna could summon and heal, Kimahri was a jack of all trades.
It wasn't too complicated, but it gave characters specializations that made basic fight mechanics more strategic and interesting without overcomplicating it or causing frustration. When characters level up and get more skills the basic attacking becomes less vital (especially during bosses) but it's always there at a base level. While I didn't care for the story of FFX, the battle system was probably the best Final Fantasy has yet to offer.
That actually sounds great! Now I have to experiment a bit more with that game... That's really what I'm striving for here: not removing things, just making them more effective and compelling. I think we all agree that the base command of the fight system is the fight command. It just has to be fun, involve strategic decision and be an option you sometimes wish to use and sometimes avoid using. The one thing I even like more here is that you're touching on the fact that one could fight their way through with just the fight command, but they'd still need to make thorough decisions about whom to target using whom. Definitely refreshing rock-paper-scissor here, but it's unfortunately just that: hard counters.
The design flaw here is that, as you fully understand the logic, you realize there is simply no good reason to attack a tanker with Tidus, or a stealthy lil mob with Auron. But there should be a reason to do that.
For example, if each character's basic attack was attached to a status effect, it would make more sense. There is no clear dominant strategy, but it gives you choice.
Hero1 - Stuns
Hero 2 - Poisons
While facing a glass cannon and a tanker, there is no "clear" strategy as to what you should do, but I'm going to assume you'd rather not take too much damage, thus, you'd probably like to stun the glass canon. Now, you could either apply poison to the glass canon as well to kill it faster, but you could also put that on the tanker because, with his high defenses, it would take a long time to get rid of it, while, a bonus poison stat effect would help you soften it up more quickly.
As you can see here, there are no real dominant strategy, and there is choice.
What do you think of that idea?
Well, sure, but being able to swap in and out mid-battle makes more sense than leaving two thirds of your party on the airship at all times.
No argument there
I never did play much of the Tales series, but if I remember Tales is more live-actiony than Legend of Dragoon, which was a pretty barebones, turn-based RPG (basically a Final Fantasy clone). In LoD it had the basic three of your guys on one side, enemies on the other side, random battles, etc. When you fight, you select attack from the menu, then your character runs up to the screen and a big icon lines up with the center of the screen and you have to press X at the right time. If you do, you do the next part of the combo, which also requires a timed button press, then the next, etc., depending on how many "additions" the combo has (it ranges from one to like six or something). The more combo hits you make, the more damage you do, and the more "spirit points" you get (which allows your character to go into Dragoon mode, offering more attacks and magic). You can choose which "additions" each character uses -- some are valuable because they get more spirit points, some do more base damage, some are just better because they don't force you to do too many combo presses, that sort of thing. You can find a clip of a battle on youtube, I'm sure.
That's probably something I'm going to have to look for myself, but essentially, they added a mini-game in there. That seems simpler than Sabin's blitz mechanic, which I always thought was a bit complex. (Note to self: Check that game out!)
On the topic of interesting battle systems, though, I'd also like to mention Chrono Cross. Some consider the battle system complicated and maybe it was, maybe it tried too many new things, but that's whatever. In terms of the base attacks, though, you'd get three attack choices when you made a basic attack -- a light attack, mid-power attack, or heavy attack, and each option is accompanied by the percentage chance to hit. Each hit would also drain stamina (more the heavier the attack). When you make a successful attack, though, the odds to hit would increase. So usually you'd start with a light or mid attack because starting with a heavy would probably miss. After using the light or mid attack(s), the chance to hit with a heavy would increase, so you'd use that. Okay, that does sound complicated, but I played the game start to finish while in middle school and I loved it to death so it couldn't have been that tough to figure out. Again, you can always hit youtube for an example of a battle for Chrono Cross.
My relationship with Chrono Cross is complicated. It is a love/hate affair. Truth is, I was expecting a sequel to Chrono Trigger (which I have not found in any way) and this is one of the reasons why I've hated the game for so long. But I'm with you there, they've tried something interesting.
The best part with CC's system is that its actually almost a card game so to speak. I know it doesn't show, but the underlying mechanics of Beats and turns is really present. The basic fight commands allow you to take risk, but hasten your ability to unleash stronger spells, which are all one-use-of.
The big problem here is that, while it aesthetically looks like a retro console RPG battle system, it really isn't. The entire concept of resource management is altered significantly.
Your choice scheme is as follows:
- What kind of attack should I make. Do I want to damage the opponent as quickly as possible, or give myself "magical pts" up the ladder to unleash stronger spells.
In most battles, you'll probably go for the quick fight, so you'll do as you've just stated: start with a weak nearly-100%-hit attack, and rank up to the strongest ones.
In some battles (namely boss battles) you'll do the opposite: buildup a strong magical base in order to unleash your strongest spells earlier on.
All in all, I think it's an ok system on paper, but I thought the execution (of the game as a whole) was sloppy.
Also, I think that what they did to the Fight command is pretty much the same as Supressing the default fight command which inherently complexifies the battle system in such a way that everything else had to be simplified. The 3 Fight commands approach is very taxing here, especially with its attached % hit, dmg base and magical points (bars) system. I don't see myself playing tons of games made with the same system. It grows old very quickly and fails to evolve.
And basically, like I said earlier, I don't think it qualifies as a classic retro RPG combat system. It is something else.
I'd also like to mention another post I saw recently that brought up randomized "achievements" for each battle, providing certain rewards for completing battles in specific ways (such as using only magic attacks or by only attacking with female characters or something, and the reward would be things like extra money or experience or rare items). I thought it was a cool way to spice up battles and incentivize not mashing fight and making it more strategic but in an unpredictable way. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had a similar system, but it also had restrictions and punishments that weren't necessary. Anyway, this was brought up here if you're interested: http://www.gamedev.n...eep-them-fresh/
Early through design of my own RPG, I've toyed with the idea of having skills that would affect loot. For example, if you cast fire in your battle, flammable objects would be burnt. The idea was that using cataclysmatic level spells would have its own drawback despite being the best damage dealer options you had. Ironically, this tended to force the players back towards using the fight command, and so, I had to choose against it.
The idea expressed here is interesting.
A quick aside here: I've always wanted to make an RPG with as little randomness as possible. I think random had to be added to earlier rpgs because they were turn-based, and you could essentially calculate the outcome before making an action. Randomness was made to discourage actually making the calculations and enforcing you to take the risks instead. I don't want to delve deeper into this here, but I think it goes to show what I'm worried about with battle sub-goals. Would they be randomized? If so, would it be more frustrating than fun? I guess it could improve replayability...
The idea of static sub-goals seems more interesting though. I've seen games give you a rating for your prowess in battle, accounting for how varied your attacks were etc. It had an impact on loot and experience earned, so it really mattered. I think it worked great, even though it just forced you out of your strategy for the sake of it.
Some of the old era rpgs had the concept of attrition built into them. Where getting through the dungeon and to boss with enough hp and mana to beat them was part of the challenge. Rather having the player recover after each fight force them to carry the damage, fatigue, and injuries along until they can set up camp or return to town. I remember playing FF1 back in the day and limping back to town after a tough dungeon with 3 characters dead and 1 barely hanging on and then not having enough gil to resurrect my entire party.
I'm not sure if you think this is a good or bad thing? How exactly does it solve the "Fight" command button-mashing? As far as I can remember, FF1 was pretty much a fun fest of Fight until you had to heal. It wasn't a game with many options, merely resource management.
The star ocean games had the idea of levelling up attacks through usage. Ability got stronger though use, so that to get good value out of your abilities you had to mix them up and use them in random battles so that they would be useful when you made it to a boss fight.
This does assess the fight command button mashing problem, but I think it falls into another caveat: griding weaker mobs to ramp up the abilities. Moving an issue isn't really fixing it I believe, and this solution was a bit flawed.
Making things like status effects last beyond the battle would also add another dimension.
Care to elaborate? I'm intrigued. Or do you merely mean retaining poison status as you walk as several RPGs have done?
I suppose the real question for me is what problem are you trying to solve? Do you want to make each random battle more meaningful and challenging. Or should the challenge be in the journey. I'd prefer to see the challenge be about getting from town through the deadly swamp down into the depths of dark cave to retrieve the crown from its guardians and then making home again.
I fully agree with you there. But the problem, at least for me, is that while I could get interested in the journey, its these obstacles that should make it worthwhile. When the battles are boring because I don't need to think about them, I'm wondering why there should be battles at all. The same result could be obtained from walking in the poisonous swamp and get damage as I go (attrition that I need to overcome either through sheer HP count, or actual potions). This is essentially what the battles feel like in many rpgs: an excuse to lower your HPs, but without actual thinking and strategy involved.
The problem I'm trying to solve is to get players a bunch of tools/solutions and insure that there are always more than 1 relevant tool at their disposal that could be used. Having a more readily accessible option makes it less interesting.
One of the cool implementations that I've seen is in Monster's Den: Book of Dread. All characters have always 3 to 6 skills equiped, including some form of a basic attack, and they just need to pick one. Each are very simple to use and straightforward. It does look a bit like Suppressing the attack command, except that it is included in the list instead. Neat, simple, elegant, and satisfying to some degree. My only concern with their system is that most characters have very little depth as a result, and it tends to lead to a very straightforward but over-simplified battle system devoid of more interesting/advanced options.
This has lead me to consider the problem of the fight command predominance as one of UI design. The SNES controller forced a very clunky menu approach, whereas a mouse (PM) or touchpad (iPhone/Android) would possibly allow for a much easier browsing through options. If the Fight command is but one of a list that is equally accessible, then perhaps the Fight command will be only one tools amongst many?
Anyways, thanks for the input as ever, it is much appreciated. I've got even more to look into now *Looks at notebook*.