Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account


Weekly Discussion on RPG Genre's flaws [The "Fight" Command]


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
36 replies to this topic

#1 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
3Likes
Like

Posted 25 June 2012 - 04:47 PM

About a year ago, fellow developer Roots created a thread to initiate a discussion about what he believed to be the inherent flaws to the Retro/Console (J) RPG combat system as a whole.
He listed a few concerns and how he and his team intended on solving these issues in their game (Allacrost).
The discussion can be found here.

I've always been a big fan of the snes-era RPGs and thought about creating a series of discussions based around the flaws of the genre and how they could be assessed. I've noted some of the observations made by Roots and added my own, ending up with a non-exhaustive list of topics that could be covered by such discussions.

The format I'd like to setup for these discussions is to come up with one new theme on a weekly basis. Please do not hesitate to PM me any topic that may you'd like to discuss.

The discussion itself should be based around the topic that has been selected for that week (obviously).
Feel free to discuss
  • the problem (helping everyone establish the root cause of why you believe this is a flaw and what are the consequences inherent to that),
  • the solutions (if you know of games that have used a workaround to that or would like to promote your own idea)
  • the topic itself (i.e. I may have written the topic in such a way that suggests a certain position when, in reality, this may require to be reformulated or may not necessarily be a problem).
Whatever you feel like discussing here, please make sure that you add sufficient explanation/arguments to your logic as I take this intellectual exercise seriously and believe others will too.


Without further ago, this week's topic:

“Lack of strategic depth // Monkey-bashing the Fight command Syndrome”

In most retro RPGs, bashing the “Fight” command is the best return on investment for your time. You generally bash that key in areas where monsters are weaker, so that your party grows in level and then migrate to a new area/level and blast through content with no regard to actual strategy. You just fight.
The consequence here is that it undermines the strategical dimension of the game.

Sub-Issues:

GRINDING THE FIGHT COMMAND
Here, the complain is the fight command itself which is used as a default action.

*Special-Abilities (Counterattacks): Chrono Trigger have a partial fix to this issue. They tackle the problem with this reasoning: “The problem is BASHING mindlessly the fight command, not using it.” As such, they created monsters that would generally be primary targets, and made them less likely to be hit first. The Winged Apes, for example, are prime choice for fight commands as they are the Alphas in their encounters. But so long as rocks are present, they get massive counterattacks on any physical damage their receive. This forces players to assess the problem in one of two different ways (options).
A – Defeat the rocks first, even if they are puny and very weak, so that the Winged Apes lose their devastating ability
B – Defeat the Winged Ape through the use of more powerful spells at the expanse of resources.

This brings somewhat more depth although this is negative reinforcement (getting hit repeatedly by the monster to tell you “Your strategy is bad”)
Note that this applies too when certain monster roles are defined (a healer, for example, which becomes the primary target despite not being a very large threat)


*Supressing the default Fight command: A few games, such as Diablo 3 (Signature spells) and Allacrost (please correct me if I'm wrong) chose to simply suppress the Fight command and replace it with various options. Their position is that the source of the problem is the creation of such a vague concept as the default attack which is both easier to access and acceptably effective.
While it does force players out of the Fight command, it doesn't necessarily force them out of a dominant strategy loop: in this case, the strategy with the lowest resistance, aka, the one where you simply bash the action button until an action is returned.

My real concern with that however is intimately tied with a different problem of the genre: keeping it simple. Most of the RPGs need some design space to bring in their own original take on the combat system, generally revamping the skill system. While replacing the Fight command with 3-4 signature spells that are free and have different effects is nice, it is also a lot more complex to grasp for the player, and reduces the amount of crazy things one can do with their skills afterwards if they wish to keep it simple to understand.
I strongly feel like this is an “ok” fix that is perhaps too taxing on the rest of the game's depth strategy-wise. Since the initial purpose is to increase strategy as a whole, this feels counter-effective.


FIGHT COMMAND WORKS ALL THE TIME
The concern here is that while some spells are more powerful at the expanse of Mps, it is still a viable and simpler strategy to just FIGHT the monsters off.

*Resistances: A lot of games have come up with groups of enemies that are resistant to physical damage, forcing the player to use their more powerful magical spells which cost resources. It generally gets the job done but doesn't really increase strategical decisions. This is a hard counter to force players out of their habits but does little else. This is more pattern recognition than actual strategy (oh yeah, this guy is fire based so I need to ice him). There isn't really choice involved in this solution.


ALWAYS BETTER TO GANG RUSH ONE THAN TO SPREAD FIRE
This one is a bit more vague. Intrisically, the idea in any given fight is to reduce the amount of threat you are facing at any given moment. Since all monsters in nearly all games represent 100% of their threat until reduced to 0 HP, there is no gain in striking 3 monsters simultaneously, if you could strike 3 times the same monster instead.

*Bloodied: A vague concept scarcely used in D&D 4th edition and to a lesser extent Mystic Quest (Final Fantasy) is the idea that a monster changes state as it decays. The idea here is that, somehow, a weakened monster should not be as much of a threat to the party as it would at full health. For example, past a certain threshold, a powerful minions would lose sufficient speed and damage output that it would fall from primary to secondary target. This could encourage strategies where the player chooses to strike 3 monsters at once rather than finish off one. The outcome would be diminished threat even if the monster count has not been reduced.
I believe part of the reason why we haven't seen this into action is because of the 'attack all' spells. Yet, I feel this is underused and could be expanded upon as a strategic element.



I'd like to hear what you guys have to say about this topic in general, the sub-issues I've listed, the cases I have overlooked, and solutions that you have found or believe might work.
Bear in mind that the goal here is not to make the battles longer, just more strategical and less repetitive. We absolutely want to avoid fighting 30 minutes at the time for every 5 steps of the way. It works for some (Bahamut Lagoon) but these are not part of the genre.

Edited by Orymus3, 25 June 2012 - 04:48 PM.


Sponsor:

#2 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:54 AM

*Special-Abilities (Counterattacks): Chrono Trigger have a partial fix to this issue. They tackle the problem with this reasoning: “The problem is BASHING mindlessly the fight command, not using it.” As such, they created monsters that would generally be primary targets, and made them less likely to be hit first. The Winged Apes, for example, are prime choice for fight commands as they are the Alphas in their encounters. But so long as rocks are present, they get massive counterattacks on any physical damage their receive. This forces players to assess the problem in one of two different ways (options).
A – Defeat the rocks first, even if they are puny and very weak, so that the Winged Apes lose their devastating ability
B – Defeat the Winged Ape through the use of more powerful spells at the expanse of resources.


An issue I see with this is the lack of long lasting impact. If you can heal up after the battle and fully rest before a boss battle, there is no point in adapting your strategy. These features are better used during boss battles.


*Supressing the default Fight command: A few games, such as Diablo 3 (Signature spells) and Allacrost (please correct me if I'm wrong) chose to simply suppress the Fight command and replace it with various options. Their position is that the source of the problem is the creation of such a vague concept as the default attack which is both easier to access and acceptably effective.
While it does force players out of the Fight command, it doesn't necessarily force them out of a dominant strategy loop: in this case, the strategy with the lowest resistance, aka, the one where you simply bash the action button until an action is returned.

My real concern with that however is intimately tied with a different problem of the genre: keeping it simple. Most of the RPGs need some design space to bring in their own original take on the combat system, generally revamping the skill system. While replacing the Fight command with 3-4 signature spells that are free and have different effects is nice, it is also a lot more complex to grasp for the player, and reduces the amount of crazy things one can do with their skills afterwards if they wish to keep it simple to understand.
I strongly feel like this is an “ok” fix that is perhaps too taxing on the rest of the game's depth strategy-wise. Since the initial purpose is to increase strategy as a whole, this feels counter-effective.


It works for Diablo 3 because the basic attacks are all simple. It's an attack with some simple extra effect that has a direct impact like more damage, a stun, etc. D&D 4e did something similar with their at-will powers and it didn't work. The increased complexity of secondary effects made it hard to track what was going on because it was not a direct effect. That's probably why they dropped the concept and went back to basic attacks for their next edition.


I'd like to hear what you guys have to say about this topic in general, the sub-issues I've listed, the cases I have overlooked, and solutions that you have found or believe might work.
Bear in mind that the goal here is not to make the battles longer, just more strategical and less repetitive. We absolutely want to avoid fighting 30 minutes at the time for every 5 steps of the way. It works for some (Bahamut Lagoon) but these are not part of the genre.




It's a hard to fix issue. On one hand, you want to have quick random encounters to make the game faster paced. On the other hand, you want to have interesting random encounters that involves more than a simple race to 0 HP.

To have interesting encounters, there needs to be some sort flow altering feature manipulated by the player and monsters. Without that, all you can do is provide different abilities that vary the damage/resource efficiency. That's when you end up with Attack that deals little damage but consume no resources and some other damage skill that deals more damage in the same time frame, but consumes resources.

An example of a simple flow altering features could be buffs. The flow differs based on what buffs are active. An attack buff on a strong monster means he will trash your party so you need to counter with something like a slow or stun to mitigate its effects. The race to 0 HP is strongly affected by these effects and is no longer determined before the battle by equipment. The player choices will determine the outcome, not his equipment.

The reason why it never works out is because these features are directly in conflict with the quick random encounters requirement. If monsters die in 2 rounds, there is no point losing a round to cast a buff that will allow you to kill the monsters in the next round. If monsters take a 10 rounds to die, it makes random encounters take a few minutes and this hurts the game flow.

Have a look at Lost Odyssey. They had a great flow mechanism where attacking was not always the best option. The first part of the game was finely tuned and had great random encounters. However, the battles took a while. Toward the end of the game, the skill mechanic got out of control and that made the flow mechanic broke down which made random encounters boring. It's very hard to balance without making the player feel he's on railroads.
Developer for Novus Dawn : a Flash Unity Isometric Tactical RPG - Forums - Facebook - DevLog

#3 KylHu   Members   -  Reputation: 152

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 26 June 2012 - 11:50 AM

Final Fantasy X had an engaging battle system that rewarded you for playing more strategically by having a kind of matching game between characters and enemies. For example, fast enemies dodged most attacks except for those of the fast team member (Tidus), heavily armoured enemies were much faster to take down with the heavy-hitter (Auron), elemental monsters took little damage from physical attacks but went down quick when hit with an opposing spell from the caster (Lulu), etc. Furthermore, you could switch in and out characters from the party in the middle of a battle so you weren't screwed if the guys in your party didn't match the enemy weaknesses. This was great because it was one of the few times in a JRPG where you could use your whole team rather than forcing you to only use 3 or 4 for no real reason. Battles in FFX weren't mindless attack button mashes, but if you played well enough they weren't artificially slowed either.

Persona 3 and 4 had a neat system where (pretty much) every regular enemy had a weakness to a certain attack, and when that attack was used on them they would get knocked down for a turn. If you managed to knock down all the enemies, your characters would perform an all-out attack that did massive damage to all enemies. Thus you were encouraged to try several different options for each new monster until you figured out their weakness. The only downside to this system was that it was pretty much impossible to tell who was weak to what, so you just had to use a bunch of stuff on them until you figured it out. Once you did, though, any time you'd fight that enemy from then on would be significantly quicker to take down, or at least prevent from attacking. Thus you were encouraged to find their weaknesses as soon as possible to save you time in the long run.

Games with timed hits can make fights a little more engaging as well. Mario RPG had a neat timed attack and timed block system that didn't require much skill and was sometimes iffy as to when to time the attack/block, but made battles reactive and fun. Legend of Dragoon also had a timed hit system that worked pretty well, and each character had their own set of combos that you could individually level up and had advantages and disadvantages to each one. Your strongest combo would only unlock if you fully levelled all previous combos, so it incentivized mixing them up rather than just using one until the next one unlocked.

Eternal Sonata had one of my favorite battle systems in a JRPG, which was a hybrid turn-based, live-action system. Basically, each character's "turn" gave them a few precious seconds to do their live-action moves, whether it be running up to the enemy, getting in a better position, rapidly attacking an enemy and getting as many hits in as possible, casting a spell (which cost you more time in your turn to do the combo), or just using an item. It also had an interesting light-based system that gave you a different set of moves based on whether you did them in light or darkness. Perhaps most importantly, it allowed you to designate different controllers for the different party members, easily allowing you to play with your friends without the forced need to pass the controller every single attack. More RPGs need to do this!

I think most RPGs need a system like the ones above in order to make battles not seem like a chore, or a forced break in the flow of the story. And, if they don't have anything like that, then they should at least have a way to let me just skip all battles and only do the story, minigame, and exploration parts. Because, honestly, there are so many games that I would love to experience if only they didn't force me into needless popcorn fights every ten seconds. Maybe that's just me.

#4 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 26 June 2012 - 07:44 PM

@Tiblanc:
First, Nice to see you around! Been a while...

An issue I see with this is the lack of long lasting impact. If you can heal up after the battle and fully rest before a boss battle, there is no point in adapting your strategy. These features are better used during boss battles.


I tend to agree, but in the long run, a fight-bashing player is also interested in shortening the load of battles, and it turns out avoiding a number of counter-attacks does reduce time. The "iffy" part is that most players will never really find this out unless they actually try, and as such, it does defeat its own purpose. I agree this is a very weak solution indeed.

It works for Diablo 3 because the basic attacks are all simple. It's an attack with some simple extra effect that has a direct impact like more damage, a stun, etc. D&D 4e did something similar with their at-will powers and it didn't work. The increased complexity of secondary effects made it hard to track what was going on because it was not a direct effect. That's probably why they dropped the concept and went back to basic attacks for their next edition.


I think it speaks for itself that the only examples I could find were indeed D&D and Diablo 3 (both of which are not retro console RPGs). The solution doesn't wrap itself all to well in a menu-driven combat system, and it complexifies things tremendously. As you stated, this was a weakness of D&D 4th. If I can put an aside here, I'm currently playtesting Wizard's upcoming "5th" edition of D&D and they seem to have learned their lesson in that regard, at least partly.

An example of a simple flow altering features could be buffs. The flow differs based on what buffs are active. An attack buff on a strong monster means he will trash your party so you need to counter with something like a slow or stun to mitigate its effects. The race to 0 HP is strongly affected by these effects and is no longer determined before the battle by equipment. The player choices will determine the outcome, not his equipment.


That was one of the avenues I was investigating myself. The problem here is that if the buff is a standalone ability that consumes an entire 'action/turn', the drawback on the race to 0hp is major enough that most buffs couldn't be balanced in order to be worthwhile. I've messed with a few scenarios where I've attached natural buffs and debuffs to regular skills so as to avoid making battles unecessarily longer, but it also resulted in making them more complex.
Bad example to illustrate this: a fireball that deals 100% fire damage and slows the enemy by 33% temporarily (not very flavorful but this is just an example).
I found out that this did complexify the system in such a way that it made it less appealing. If each skill you can use has so many secondary and tertiary effects, its hard to remember the purpose of each of them, and as such, plan accordingly.
Often enough, this ended up in situations such as this:
- Ok, I need to think this through... what do I have at my disposal
(mumble, reads, mumble)
- Oh fuck, I'm dead and I'm not even halfway through these descriptions.

Tactical RPGs can emulate that through territorial buffs. For example, standing on a cliff can give an advantage, while walking through water gives you a disadvantage. That's simple, easy to understand, and it does impact how you'll approach the enemy. Tranposing this to the classic RPG combat system has proven a complex task.

So basically, I agree that buffs are a way to affect the damage race, but I'm just not too sure how to implement that elegantly while avoiding the toll it takes on game progression.

Have a look at Lost Odyssey. They had a great flow mechanism where attacking was not always the best option. The first part of the game was finely tuned and had great random encounters. However, the battles took a while. Toward the end of the game, the skill mechanic got out of control and that made the flow mechanic broke down which made random encounters boring. It's very hard to balance without making the player feel he's on railroads.


I'll have a look at this. Your first sentence intrigues me!

@KylHu

Final Fantasy X had an engaging battle system that rewarded you for playing more strategically by having a kind of matching game between characters and enemies. For example, fast enemies dodged most attacks except for those of the fast team member (Tidus), heavily armoured enemies were much faster to take down with the heavy-hitter (Auron), elemental monsters took little damage from physical attacks but went down quick when hit with an opposing spell from the caster (Lulu), etc. Furthermore, you could switch in and out characters from the party in the middle of a battle so you weren't screwed if the guys in your party didn't match the enemy weaknesses. This was great because it was one of the few times in a JRPG where you could use your whole team rather than forcing you to only use 3 or 4 for no real reason. Battles in FFX weren't mindless attack button mashes, but if you played well enough they weren't artificially slowed either.


I remember playing FFX, and to be truthful, I didn't realize there was this depth to it. Case in hand, I would assume the "Fight button mashing" was still a viable strategy?
I like the rock-paper-scissor simplified mechanic you're referencing here. Like I said, I don't remember witnessing that, but essentially, what you're saying is that smaller characters had an easier time beating the crap out of critters while heavy hitters were better vs larger threats? How exactly? Did they actually scored higher damage based on a different stat? (aka, smaller units deal dmg with their dexterity or something vs the enemy, and if the enemy is tall, it compares with def, but if small, it compares to some other stat?) I'm really interested in the underlying logic here as I believe this could create easy unit specialization, and before long, I would assume players would just realize it works that way.
A simpler approach to a similar system is the piercing/slashing/bludgeoning damage type, where each weapon deals a different type of damage, and depending on their armors, the enemies receive a lot, some, or nearly no dmg. This forces you to mix and match, and diversify your arsenal so you can always kill a giant shelled creature (bludgeon), a padded thingy (piercing) or direct skin/pelt (slashing).
I see you're mentionning something about dodge rate. If you could give me a bit more insight into the specifics, I'd really appreciate it (that would allow me not to have to play through FFX over again).

As far as party size limitation goes, there is still one. The fact you can swap characters in and out doesn't mean you can have everyone at the same type. But honestly, I'm not going to complain as I believe party size limitation has always been an asset to keep things clean and understandable. The fact that the best/only explanation I've ever seen in an RPG for that was lame (Chrono Trigger's space continuum limitation of arbitrary 3) never really bothered me much.

Persona 3 and 4 had a neat system where (pretty much) every regular enemy had a weakness to a certain attack, and when that attack was used on them they would get knocked down for a turn. If you managed to knock down all the enemies, your characters would perform an all-out attack that did massive damage to all enemies. Thus you were encouraged to try several different options for each new monster until you figured out their weakness. The only downside to this system was that it was pretty much impossible to tell who was weak to what, so you just had to use a bunch of stuff on them until you figured it out. Once you did, though, any time you'd fight that enemy from then on would be significantly quicker to take down, or at least prevent from attacking. Thus you were encouraged to find their weaknesses as soon as possible to save you time in the long run.


This is an example of something I think is just a partial fix. It does shift focus towards exploration (the player figuring out what the monster is weak to) but once that exploration step has been computed, the battle becomes lame. The player doesn't see monster, he sees a pattern: Fire there, Ice there, poison there, and they're toasted. It forces you out of the "Fight" button issue, but it doesn't really provide emergent gameplay or even strategy. There is clearly a dominant strategy that you should be using and the game is testing whether you've learned it yet. It doesn't quite ask you how you intend on going about it. It works for some, but I'm looking for a bit more depth from a battle system.

Games with timed hits can make fights a little more engaging as well. Mario RPG had a neat timed attack and timed block system that didn't require much skill and was sometimes iffy as to when to time the attack/block, but made battles reactive and fun.


Heard great things about this, but never actually played it (I know sorry). From my understanding, this game is mixing 'action' elements in the game (timed inputs, etc). It is a neat idea, and it does keep the player engaged, but to me strategy and reflex are two different things. While a splash of action/reflex could be nice, it shouldn't make up for the fact that the game lacks strategical depth.


Legend of Dragoon also had a timed hit system that worked pretty well, and each character had their own set of combos that you could individually level up and had advantages and disadvantages to each one. Your strongest combo would only unlock if you fully levelled all previous combos, so it incentivized mixing them up rather than just using one until the next one unlocked.


Is their battle system similar to "Tales of" series? because that may be stretching far away from the classic retro rpg battle system.

Eternal Sonata had one of my favorite battle systems in a JRPG, which was a hybrid turn-based, live-action system. Basically, each character's "turn" gave them a few precious seconds to do their live-action moves, whether it be running up to the enemy, getting in a better position, rapidly attacking an enemy and getting as many hits in as possible, casting a spell (which cost you more time in your turn to do the combo), or just using an item. It also had an interesting light-based system that gave you a different set of moves based on whether you did them in light or darkness. Perhaps most importantly, it allowed you to designate different controllers for the different party members, easily allowing you to play with your friends without the forced need to pass the controller every single attack. More RPGs need to do this!


Once again, maybe developers chose to think outside of the box to fix the issues of the original menu-driven system. While I applaud their effort and concur that it has resulted in interesting systems, I'm really interested in fixing the original retro/console RPG combat system within its own boundaries without turning it into a new genre. Essentially, your argument is that in order to fix the mechanical faults of their Volkswagen, the German engineers would propose to create the Ferrari. It does 'fix' the problem, but doesn't really help them in any way. They'd probably get fired for saying the competition is the best alternative ;)

I think most RPGs need a system like the ones above in order to make battles not seem like a chore, or a forced break in the flow of the story. And, if they don't have anything like that, then they should at least have a way to let me just skip all battles and only do the story, minigame, and exploration parts. Because, honestly, there are so many games that I would love to experience if only they didn't force me into needless popcorn fights every ten seconds. Maybe that's just me.


On the surface, I'd be tempted to think that you don't like the classic retro RPG battle system to start with. That said, I think you underline formidably why there needs to be an effort to overhaul the original system in a direction that makes it fun. As you put it yourself, if battles weren't a chore, you'd probably love playing these games for more than just the story. Some developers have convinced you with their alternate take on the system, so you're not hopelessly opposed to the battle gameplay, you just seek entertainment rather than bashing the Fight command. I'd lie if I'd say that I love the retro RPG combat as it stands. I think it is a chore most of the time as well. However (you may or may not agree with me) there have been boss battles (not the ones about high HP values) where the RPG combat system trully shined. The problem is really scaling and applying it in smaller battles and get as much fun.
This is what I'm really after. Solutions to make the common system shine in smaller battles. I agree that the easy way is to redesign and come up with a new system, and it works for many developers, but I may be stubborn, but I'd really like to find a way to fix the problems of the system rather than avoid it altogether.

A few indie games over the course of the last decade have come up with interesting takes on the system. Very simple modifications that trully made a difference. For this reason, I remain convinced that it is possible to still upgrade the original system by being a bit more creative.

Thanks for the input guys, gives me a couple games to look through!

#5 Seongjun Kim   Members   -  Reputation: 223

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 26 June 2012 - 11:49 PM

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.

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 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.

#6 KylHu   Members   -  Reputation: 152

Like
3Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 01:28 AM

I remember playing FFX, and to be truthful, I didn't realize there was this depth to it. Case in hand, I would assume the "Fight button mashing" was still a viable strategy?
I like the rock-paper-scissor simplified mechanic you're referencing here. Like I said, I don't remember witnessing that, but essentially, what you're saying is that smaller characters had an easier time beating the crap out of critters while heavy hitters were better vs larger threats? How exactly? Did they actually scored higher damage based on a different stat? (aka, smaller units deal dmg with their dexterity or something vs the enemy, and if the enemy is tall, it compares with def, but if small, it compares to some other stat?) I'm really interested in the underlying logic here as I believe this could create easy unit specialization, and before long, I would assume players would just realize it works that way.


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.

As far as party size limitation goes, there is still one. The fact you can swap characters in and out doesn't mean you can have everyone at the same type. But honestly, I'm not going to complain as I believe party size limitation has always been an asset to keep things clean and understandable. The fact that the best/only explanation I've ever seen in an RPG for that was lame (Chrono Trigger's space continuum limitation of arbitrary 3) never really bothered me much.


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.

Is [Legend of Dragoon's] battle system similar to "Tales of" series? because that may be stretching far away from the classic retro rpg battle system.


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.

On the surface, I'd be tempted to think that you don't like the classic retro RPG battle system to start with. That said, I think you underline formidably why there needs to be an effort to overhaul the original system in a direction that makes it fun. As you put it yourself, if battles weren't a chore, you'd probably love playing these games for more than just the story. Some developers have convinced you with their alternate take on the system, so you're not hopelessly opposed to the battle gameplay, you just seek entertainment rather than bashing the Fight command. I'd lie if I'd say that I love the retro RPG combat as it stands. I think it is a chore most of the time as well. However (you may or may not agree with me) there have been boss battles (not the ones about high HP values) where the RPG combat system trully shined. The problem is really scaling and applying it in smaller battles and get as much fun.
This is what I'm really after. Solutions to make the common system shine in smaller battles. I agree that the easy way is to redesign and come up with a new system, and it works for many developers, but I may be stubborn, but I'd really like to find a way to fix the problems of the system rather than avoid it altogether.


Oh, I agree, I'd like to see more retro-style games try new methods. What I was trying to say was that, for me personally, what I want from most RPGs is to be engrossed in a world, its setting and its story and its characters. If a game has that and a great battle system, that's excellent, chocolate and peanut butter. But I frequently find I'll pack in an RPG that I really love the story and world of but hate the battles (like FFXII) and wish I could just skip that part of the game. I don't think that's so bad -- people skip cutscenes all the time, what I want is just kind of the opposite :)

On the other hand, there have been many games that I've loved the battle system for but hated the story, like Eternal Sonata, which I had an absolute blast playing with my friends and making fun of the ridiculous story while enjoying the battles. It seems so rare that games can do both things really well. If Eternal Sonata had a good story and characters, it would have been one of my top games of all time, no question.

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.

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.net/topic/626637-random-encounters-how-to-keep-them-fresh/

#7 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2681

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:55 AM

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.

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.

Making things like status effects last beyond the battle would also add another dimension.

The auto fight command tends to be the dominate strategy because the individual battles random battles tend me low risk and recovery afterwards is ease enough. If I can auto battle and win with 50% health and fully heal afterwards or play more tactically and survive with 90% health but it takes 3 times longer why not always auto battle?

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.

Writing Blog: The Aspiring Writer

 

Novels:
Legacy - Black Prince Saga Book One - By Alexander Ballard

Current Projects: Rags to Riches -prototype increment game - Design V1

Android Apps:


#8 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

Like
2Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 12:00 PM

That was one of the avenues I was investigating myself. The problem here is that if the buff is a standalone ability that consumes an entire 'action/turn', the drawback on the race to 0hp is major enough that most buffs couldn't be balanced in order to be worthwhile. I've messed with a few scenarios where I've attached natural buffs and debuffs to regular skills so as to avoid making battles unecessarily longer, but it also resulted in making them more complex.
Bad example to illustrate this: a fireball that deals 100% fire damage and slows the enemy by 33% temporarily (not very flavorful but this is just an example).
I found out that this did complexify the system in such a way that it made it less appealing. If each skill you can use has so many secondary and tertiary effects, its hard to remember the purpose of each of them, and as such, plan accordingly.
Often enough, this ended up in situations such as this:
- Ok, I need to think this through... what do I have at my disposal
(mumble, reads, mumble)
- Oh fuck, I'm dead and I'm not even halfway through these descriptions.

Tactical RPGs can emulate that through territorial buffs. For example, standing on a cliff can give an advantage, while walking through water gives you a disadvantage. That's simple, easy to understand, and it does impact how you'll approach the enemy. Tranposing this to the classic RPG combat system has proven a complex task.

So basically, I agree that buffs are a way to affect the damage race, but I'm just not too sure how to implement that elegantly while avoiding the toll it takes on game progression.


That's was also my thoughts when building our game(Tactical RPG) combat system. Battles are expected to last 4-6 rounds. If a buff takes 1 round to cast, it has to be powerful enough to shorten the battle length by at least 2 rounds, which leads to extremely strong buffs and that was bad. So we merged buffs with regular attacks, but then there were buffs floating all over the place and they lost meaning. What we did was give 3 skills to each character that had a direct effect on the battle based on the enemy stats and some mechanical difference built in the skill. The player can choose to spend more MP to add a buff/debuff on top. Most of the time, the appropriate action is to not spend the extra MP because it's a scarce resource and it's better used to use another skill over a basic attack. This keeps skills simple to understand because their effect is immediate and buffs can be made weaker because you don't waste 1 turn to apply it. Having 3 skills on top of the basic attack makes it easy to choose as long as you understand the game mechanics.

I think the key is to build the combat system to allow countering with something else than damage and presenting this to the player in a way that makes it obvious. As mentioned above, FFX did it well by creating enemies with obvious traits and running the player through a tutorial to associate each enemy type with a character. FFX was a bit extreme in the sense that once you figured things out, you didn't have to think too much and just used the obvious character. D&D 4e went that way too by categorizing classes and monsters in archetypes. It helps knowing how a particular unit will act during battle, but that was not as clear cut as FFX.

An example from our game is the concept of staggering. This is a flat decrease on the next turn counter that is trigger either by a skill or when scoring a critical hit. One of the character is quick, accurate and scores critical hits more often. One of her skill is a multi-hit attack with an increased critical hit rate. Since her attack stat is lower, it doesn't deal much damage, but that's not the point. The point is to land critical hits and stagger the enemy. Because it's a flat decrease, it has a greater impact on fast targets and provides a good counter to that type of enemy. So whenever the player sees a fast enemy, he knows that's a good counter. If the enemy isn't fast, that skill can still be used, but the resources would have been better spent elsewhere. It's a direct effect because the player can see that enemy was about to take its turn, but because it got staggered, 2 allies can act before and finish it. Compared to casting a slow debuff, the player sees something measurable. Rather than something vague like "that enemy is slower", he sees something specific : "that enemy got delayed and 2 allies acted before".
Developer for Novus Dawn : a Flash Unity Isometric Tactical RPG - Forums - Facebook - DevLog

#9 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 12:19 PM

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.
Example:
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*.

#10 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 12:39 PM

That's was also my thoughts when building our game(Tactical RPG) combat system. Battles are expected to last 4-6 rounds. If a buff takes 1 round to cast, it has to be powerful enough to shorten the battle length by at least 2 rounds, which leads to extremely strong buffs and that was bad. So we merged buffs with regular attacks, but then there were buffs floating all over the place and they lost meaning. What we did was give 3 skills to each character that had a direct effect on the battle based on the enemy stats and some mechanical difference built in the skill. The player can choose to spend more MP to add a buff/debuff on top. Most of the time, the appropriate action is to not spend the extra MP because it's a scarce resource and it's better used to use another skill over a basic attack. This keeps skills simple to understand because their effect is immediate and buffs can be made weaker because you don't waste 1 turn to apply it. Having 3 skills on top of the basic attack makes it easy to choose as long as you understand the game mechanics.


I've toyed with that idea as well but have applied it to a single character. Basically, that character has a tag ability that allows it to couple one of its primary skills with a secondary status effect or buff. The outcome is a "free buff" for an extra optional cost. It is still a bit more complicated than I would've hoped, but it works ok.


I think the key is to build the combat system to allow countering with something else than damage and presenting this to the player in a way that makes it obvious. As mentioned above, FFX did it well by creating enemies with obvious traits and running the player through a tutorial to associate each enemy type with a character. FFX was a bit extreme in the sense that once you figured things out, you didn't have to think too much and just used the obvious character. D&D 4e went that way too by categorizing classes and monsters in archetypes. It helps knowing how a particular unit will act during battle, but that was not as clear cut as FFX.


I think you're referring to the brute/soldier/lurker types here? To me they were always just glasscannon/tanker/assassin :P It gives a good understanding of their behavior, but not necessarily who needs to counter it. They have their own roles (as do monsters in RPGs generally) but I'm not sure how this helps eradicate the Fight command domination syndrome.

An example from our game is the concept of staggering. This is a flat decrease on the next turn counter that is trigger either by a skill or when scoring a critical hit. One of the character is quick, accurate and scores critical hits more often. One of her skill is a multi-hit attack with an increased critical hit rate. Since her attack stat is lower, it doesn't deal much damage, but that's not the point. The point is to land critical hits and stagger the enemy. Because it's a flat decrease, it has a greater impact on fast targets and provides a good counter to that type of enemy. So whenever the player sees a fast enemy, he knows that's a good counter. If the enemy isn't fast, that skill can still be used, but the resources would have been better spent elsewhere. It's a direct effect because the player can see that enemy was about to take its turn, but because it got staggered, 2 allies can act before and finish it. Compared to casting a slow debuff, the player sees something measurable. Rather than something vague like "that enemy is slower", he sees something specific : "that enemy got delayed and 2 allies acted before".


I like that. If I understand correctly, rather than apply a multitude of buffs/debuffs that everyone keeps track of, you make an instantaneous effect on the turn order by delaying that fast enemy with an ability specifically made to hose that. I think this has merit and strategical depth. I would assume you have a visible UI component that displays the turn order of everyone that's in plain sight?

#11 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

Like
2Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 02:32 PM

I think you're referring to the brute/soldier/lurker types here? To me they were always just glasscannon/tanker/assassin It gives a good understanding of their behavior, but not necessarily who needs to counter it. They have their own roles (as do monsters in RPGs generally) but I'm not sure how this helps eradicate the Fight command domination syndrome.


Yep that's what I was referring to. It doesn't help eradicate the Fight command, but it's a tool to explain to the player how that monster is supposed to behave. If the player knows his characters abilities and how they work against categories of monster, he can associate them to new monsters.

I like that. If I understand correctly, rather than apply a multitude of buffs/debuffs that everyone keeps track of, you make an instantaneous effect on the turn order by delaying that fast enemy with an ability specifically made to hose that. I think this has merit and strategical depth. I would assume you have a visible UI component that displays the turn order of everyone that's in plain sight?


That's right. Most of the effects are simpler though and only affect the overall damage done. You would use Piercing skills against high defense enemies, Accurate skills/units against high evasion, Snipers against low defense mages, etc. The way the stat system is setup, if everyone has an equal amount of stat to distribute, having a strength implies you have a worse weakness against an average target. This means enemies have more than one weakness so you can use different units and skills to get the job done. In the end, it's similar to FFX, but less clear cut.
Developer for Novus Dawn : a Flash Unity Isometric Tactical RPG - Forums - Facebook - DevLog

#12 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 04:10 PM

Yep that's what I was referring to. It doesn't help eradicate the Fight command, but it's a tool to explain to the player how that monster is supposed to behave. If the player knows his characters abilities and how they work against categories of monster, he can associate them to new monsters.


Agreed. In the given case that some of the players hit FIGHT because they're not exactly sure how to react to a monster, having classifications can help too.

That's right. Most of the effects are simpler though and only affect the overall damage done. You would use Piercing skills against high defense enemies, Accurate skills/units against high evasion, Snipers against low defense mages, etc. The way the stat system is setup, if everyone has an equal amount of stat to distribute, having a strength implies you have a worse weakness against an average target. This means enemies have more than one weakness so you can use different units and skills to get the job done. In the end, it's similar to FFX, but less clear cut.


Yes. I remember interviews with Dustin Bowder discussing the balancing of Starcraft 2, and how they had to mix and match soft and hard counters into their complex rock-paper-scissor system to keep it moving. In the end, there were hard counters (we all know pikemen will always counter cavalry for example) but a blurred line is good. Versatile characters tend to be weaker overall but definitely a must to round up a party's weaknesses. Versatility must have a value of its own accord.

That said, aren't we merely dodging the problem? We're making the Fight command more interesting if anything, and aren't really coming up with an alternative to allow the players to seek strategy elsewhere. Rather, we teach them how to find strategy within the very command they overuse...

#13 Seongjun Kim   Members   -  Reputation: 223

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:18 PM

How about some kind of "leveling" system for skills, where if you use the skill certain number of times, it levels up and gives you higher damage?
Basic attacks would level up only so far that later on it won't be useful, so it isn't always wise to just use basic attacks. But then again you don't/can't spam the powerful skills because of the lack of proper resource. So you use the powerful skills from time to time, mixed with the basic attack, to level up those skills for later boss fights.

I feel like that should break up the monotony of mashing the basic attack, because although mashing basic attack will get you through the random battles, it won't help you in the long run, so if you want to become more powerful, you must use other skills even in the random battles.

#14 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:04 PM

If the Fight command is so nerged, why keep it altogether?
Wouldn't using weaker and stronger skills be the way to go? (Weaker spells to save on resources, and bigger to capitalize on larger dmg output)?

It feels to me like you're trying to keep the fight command for the sake of keeping it without actually making it part of the greater picture here.
Personally, given the small design space allocated to a clever and elegant combat system, I'd really prefer not having a "useless" option anywhere in there.
See what I mean?

#15 Seongjun Kim   Members   -  Reputation: 223

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 27 June 2012 - 10:11 PM

Because sometimes, you can end up spending all your resources that only available option might be regular basic attack (fight) mode. Also in the beginning when you don't have many skills you can rely on the basic attack to help you progress. I guess it'll all come down to clever resource management system if a game implements my style of combat system.

An example from our game is the concept of staggering. This is a flat decrease on the next turn counter that is trigger either by a skill or when scoring a critical hit. One of the character is quick, accurate and scores critical hits more often. One of her skill is a multi-hit attack with an increased critical hit rate. Since her attack stat is lower, it doesn't deal much damage, but that's not the point. The point is to land critical hits and stagger the enemy. Because it's a flat decrease, it has a greater impact on fast targets and provides a good counter to that type of enemy. So whenever the player sees a fast enemy, he knows that's a good counter. If the enemy isn't fast, that skill can still be used, but the resources would have been better spent elsewhere. It's a direct effect because the player can see that enemy was about to take its turn, but because it got staggered, 2 allies can act before and finish it. Compared to casting a slow debuff, the player sees something measurable. Rather than something vague like "that enemy is slower", he sees something specific : "that enemy got delayed and 2 allies acted before".


This also intrigues me a lot, and I see a huge potential in combat system which implements this sort of design. One thing that I would worry about in this situation is that if implemented wrong, it can be used as an exploit, like being able to delay the monster's turn forever, unless some sort of preventive measures are taken (such as making it chance based, or making it so that staggering is non-stackable).

#16 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7688

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 28 June 2012 - 04:18 AM

This also intrigues me a lot, and I see a huge potential in combat system which implements this sort of design. One thing that I would worry about in this situation is that if implemented wrong, it can be used as an exploit, like being able to delay the monster's turn forever, unless some sort of preventive measures are taken (such as making it chance based, or making it so that staggering is non-stackable).


I was worried as well when we implemented a similar system, but basically, you can have the effect be reduced the more it stacks.
For example, for each time it was delayed while the enemy hasn't yet taken a turn, you could divide te static value by a said parameter. Thus, at some point, you can no longer delay THAT specific enemy, and should choose to delay another to get maximum gain. But if he is the only real threat left, you might still want to shock it a bit.

As soon as the enemy takes its turn, get the modifier back to 100% and voila. Love in a nutshell!

I wouldn't worry too much about having enemies turn being skipped altogether if this is the player's strategy. Assuming there is more than one mob, its not broken. That said, bosses might need a resistance of some kind though.

#17 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 28 June 2012 - 08:18 AM

That said, aren't we merely dodging the problem? We're making the Fight command more interesting if anything, and aren't really coming up with an alternative to allow the players to seek strategy elsewhere. Rather, we teach them how to find strategy within the very command they overuse..


Right. Essentially, it's all about choices. Fight is used 99% of the time because there are no choices to be made or choices are made at another level.

Choice levels could be :
- Action to take with a character on its turn
- Actions to take for each character in the party
- Equipped items
- Party composition

In the case of FFX, the battle choices take place at the party level. What character should I swap to deal with the particular enemy. Individual characters have little choice to do and merely pick the best skill to deal with its assigned target. Usually that's Attack, but that could be Fire or Ice if there's a vulnerability. There's virtually no choice made at the character level, but combats are still interesting because there are choices during battle.

For older games like FF1, choices are done at the item and party composition levels. Once you decides which shiny sword to use and your initial classes, there's little left to do except hit the Attack button. Combats are monotonous.

The difference between the 2 is FFX offers interesting choices during battle. You still mash the Attack button, but you get to choose which character's Attack you use.

The best choice level depends on the scale of the battles. Having multiple skills with different effects on each character is a way to have choices at the unit level. If there are too many units, that can get cumbersome and slow down gameplay. Making choices at the party level becomes better in that case. If the game revolves around having lots of characters at once, then choices should be made at the equipment and composition levels. For example, the Fire Emblem games. Units are simple and the choice level is somewhere between party and unit choice. Games where you control a single character usually have more customization options because choices must be made at the unit level.

One thing to keep in mind is the human brain's capacity to handle information. Short term memory can usually juggle with up to 7 concepts at once. More than that and you get brain overload. However, that doesn't mean you need to have at most 7 units or skills. Categorizing enemies and units is a way to increase the number of choices without overloading the brain. For example, there's a bunch of mages. You check your units and decide to deal with them with a sniper. When it's his turn, you can pick an appropriate sniper skill. That's also the reason why having a forest of buffs don't work well. Too many things to handle at once and it breaks down.

So, having Fight isn't that bad as long as it fits the scale of the game and the player is offered interesting choices.
Developer for Novus Dawn : a Flash Unity Isometric Tactical RPG - Forums - Facebook - DevLog

#18 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 383

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 28 June 2012 - 08:31 AM

Three separate suggestions:

1. As http://store.steampowered.com/app/213030/ does, let the player's mp and health regenerate after each battle, such that the player is not penalized for experimenting with spells. Of course, that does bring its own problems.

2. Make the basic attack its own special move that drains stamina. However, if it runs out, then the character can use several turns to rest and gain some stamina.

3. Make it such that attacks can made from combining normal attacks and "buffs", such that the character has to choose between attack, ice attack, fire attack, super ice attack, or whatever, such that the player never has to just choose one when he can choose both.

#19 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 28 June 2012 - 10:52 AM

Bug 1 in your logic:
Crappy menu system forces them to use the fight command.
You said it yourself, it is 300% faster to choose the fight command.
So why choose the slower method of manually inserting comamnds.

Solution A: Throw the menu into the garbage bin, and use wow's interface + realtime combat.

Solution B: You allow button mashing but it takes a longer time to finish the battle e.g 300-500% more time.

New problem:
The player will use the cookie cutter max dps combo, regardless of enemy type to minimize the battle time.
New bug: All enemies are defeated with the same way, max damage. Max damage is the fastest option,
to minimize battle time. Slows, stuns, cc, hp, armor, heals are all a waste of time
if you aren't forced to use them or instantly die.

Solution B: So you want to completely counter the above problem right ?

B1) Monsters level up with you, and are as hard to beat always.
B2) Make Monsers ignore player stats, player level, and 1-shot you if you dare not have a [strategy guide] with you.

1) Vampires permanently level drain you, while lv 1 you deal 0 dmg, have 0% chance to hit, and die in 1 hit.
counter: cast spell that protects from level drain, wear equipment with protection from level drain.
2) Beholders instantly kill you in 1hit with finger of death / disintegrate.
counter: cast death ward, item with death ward, protection from beholder rays.
3) Medusa can pemanently petrify you and kill you in 1hit.
counter: anti-petrift spell/ equipment.
4) Undead/Werewolf/trolls never die, and reanimate after 3 sec unleash you use holy element/ silver weapon/ fire / acid Element.
5) Spiders can permanently decrease your stats, your lvl 99 character will then die in 1 hit from a lv1 rat.
6) Insert God's Name can permanently transfer you to a maze/or another plane.
counter: restart the game from the beginning wasting 90 hours, or use load game hack if you are a nab that doesnt play permadeath mode.
7) Fire doggies permanently destroy your items, making next boss fight impossible, and require to restart your game.
8) Liches permanently paralyze you until you die or until you throw your computer out of the balcony because you got bored waiting
them to kill you with 1 dmg attacks.

New problem C:

Players have to waste 10 min before each room, preparing their equipment to have the right 100% resists to enter the room,
else instantly die. Then the battle will last 1 min. Total fun: 5%.
Other problems: random god didnt grace you with that equipment.
A) restart game
B) load game hack until you survive it. 5% chance to dodge * 5% * 5% * etc = 0.0000*% chance of surviving = 400 game loads
(thats must be really fun)

Everything dies in 1 hit, hp is useless, heals are useless (you are gonna die in 1 hit anyway, you wont manage to heal).
Warrior's dont exist as a class, only ranged classes exist. The game is a boring prison jail attempt.
Kite for 5 min, perform 1 autoattack, kite 5 min, perform 1 autoattack. Gratz you won a simple monster pack in 30 min,
now move to the next (see diablo 3 inferno).
You attempt to break the laws a stupid nerd game designer made, instead of having fun.

Why have we ended up in this mess.
Because you attempted to make it nintendo hard.

Why?
Because You can always recover to full hp after battle in 0 sec.
A) Potionspaming. Free instant full heals.
B) Hp is a renewable resource.

Solution D:
Allow the player to play as he wishes.
Score his actions:
he wishes to be a potion spam hacker? ok take -score for each item used.
he wishes to stay on same stage for too long ( thus allowing mana / hp to recover to full after each battle ? -score.
he wishes to use the same attacks repitively (because they are better) ? -score (tony hawks combo formula to detect it).
he died (thus used load game hack commamd))? -score
Hit by status effect that ought to be instant kill? -score

he defeated boss? +score.
he killed all monsters? +score.
he picked all items ? +Score.
he found secret rooms ? +score.
he was undetected ? +score.
he killed no monsters? +score.
stage conditions fullfilled ? +score
first time completed the stage? ++++++++++++++++++score

By the end of the stage, his score :
defines what items / xp / achievements he gets.
Worst player: 25% xp. Normal: 100% xp Best : 200% xp

#20 tim_shea   Members   -  Reputation: 461

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 28 June 2012 - 11:17 AM

I have a very soft spot for retro-rpgs, but I haven't played one since high school essentially because of this issue. As my gaming time decreased, so did my willingness to sit through "encounters" that were so very important to the game designer that he couldn't even be bothered to design them. At this point, I'm with KylHu. If I can have just the story, that's ok. If I can have the story and an intellectually challenging combat mechanic, that's great, but I will probably not bother with a physically challenging (i.e. one which requires more manual effort than mental effort) combat mechanic just to play a game.
That being said, I have long believed that the first step should be reducing the number of encounters. The problem with long encounters is that (using the default fight mechanism) they get boring or frustrating, and when there's a whole lot of boring, frustrating encounters the game pretty much sucks. So, don't have so many encounters, and now you are free to make them more challenging and more strategically involved. This is exactly why tactical rpgs have always featured fewer encounters than static rpgs, the increased complexity requires more time and more time requires fewer repetitions.

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 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 have such fond memories of FF1 (3 dead, 1 barely hanging on, 4 dead once you leave the dungeon and accidentally step back in the poison swamp, or even better, 4 level 20s, awesome gear, promoted to Knights and Wizards and whatnot, saviors of the land, 'Oh hey, what's this Greenish dragon do?').

Edited by bimmy, 28 June 2012 - 11:19 AM.





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