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Weekly Discussion on RPG Genre's flaws [Week 3 : Attrition]


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#21 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 11:44 AM

Not sure if I agree with this. If the purpose of easy fights is just to let the player relax why have them at all? I think a game should strive to make every encounter challenging. If an encounter doesn't challenge the player in any way, its worthless.

I think the level of challenge should change but all encounters should have some challenge. You should be able to die during every fight. If there is no fear of dying, there is no enjoyment.


I have to disagree. Easy fights are necessary to create contrast with boss fights just like you need out of focus background in photography to make the subject stand out. If everything is highly challenging, the boss battles do not stand out as much. There should be some challenge in random encounters, but it shouldn't be a life or death situation.
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#22 RedBaron5   Members   -  Reputation: 573

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 01:12 PM

I have to disagree. Easy fights are necessary to create contrast with boss fights just like you need out of focus background in photography to make the subject stand out. If everything is highly challenging, the boss battles do not stand out as much. There should be some challenge in random encounters, but it shouldn't be a life or death situation.


I completely see your point and agree that boss battles need to stand out and be epic but I'm not sure if easy fights are the way to achieve that. Random encounters that require no strategy and have little chance of failure are terrible. They turn into a player just spamming the attack option to get through the fight as quickly as possible. If you can't lose a fight, why not just have the player discover a chest and get some loot?

In the game I'm working on, I'm trying to have every encounter be drawn out and challenging, there just won't be nearly as many of them. Rather than filling the down time with easy fights, it will be filled with puzzles, dialogue, and exploration. Maybe this isn't the best way to go and won't work out that well.

All gamers are different and I might be a weirdo but I hate effortless random encounters more than anything in the world of RPG gaming.

#23 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 01:47 PM

You're not weird. I think we all hate the effortless random encounters, but there are no easy solutions. With more challenging encounters, you end up with longer battles and it has the potential to slow down story progression. If you have a large dungeon, you can expect the player to get 10+ random encounters before he reaches the boss. If each of them take 5 minutes, you're looking at 1-2 hours to clear the dungeon. That's way too long and that's why they get dumbed down.

Having fewer, more difficult encounter can work well if properly implemented. That's essentially how tactical RPGs are built. Encounters are designed to take 15-30 minutes to complete so each of them provides a story progression to keep things going.
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#24 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 01:03 AM

Not sure if I agree with this. If the purpose of easy fights is just to let the player relax why have them at all? I think a game should strive to make every encounter challenging. If an encounter doesn't challenge the player in any way, its worthless.

I think the level of challenge should change but all encounters should have some challenge. You should be able to die during every fight. If there is no fear of dying, there is no enjoyment.

That would make sense if we were robots with no emotions, but it is not true in real life.

Lets take the best rpgs ever diablo 1 and diablo 2.
Casual trash mobs die in 1-3 hits, they do 10-20% hp dmg, you fight 6-10 enemies.

Chance to die: 0%
Time to go from full hp to 0 : 5-6 sec.
Number of potions used per fight : 1-2
These fights are clearly easy, can be won with only 1 button press, but they are fun !!! they show you your power.

They turn into a player just spamming the attack option to get through the fight as quickly as possible.

True, you can finish the game with only 1 spell used even in hell.

But maybe players lack the emotional intelligence to accept another difficulty formula.

#25 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7038

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 05:47 AM

You're not weird. I think we all hate the effortless random encounters, but there are no easy solutions. With more challenging encounters, you end up with longer battles and it has the potential to slow down story progression. If you have a large dungeon, you can expect the player to get 10+ random encounters before he reaches the boss. If each of them take 5 minutes, you're looking at 1-2 hours to clear the dungeon. That's way too long and that's why they get dumbed down.

Having fewer, more difficult encounter can work well if properly implemented. That's essentially how tactical RPGs are built. Encounters are designed to take 15-30 minutes to complete so each of them provides a story progression to keep things going.


I think it all comes down to, how long is too long?
I mean, how long can we realistically make fights without boring the player and make him feel this is a chore every time?
As a byproduct of that, how often is too often?
If we make fights longer, we probably need to reduce the quantity so as not to slow down progression too much.
Maybe there's a sweet spot we can playtest with folks and see.

Lets take the best rpgs ever diablo 1 and diablo 2.
Casual trash mobs die in 1-3 hits, they do 10-20% hp dmg, you fight 6-10 enemies.

Chance to die: 0%
Time to go from full hp to 0 : 5-6 sec.
Number of potions used per fight : 1-2
These fights are clearly easy, can be won with only 1 button press, but they are fun !!! they show you your power.


Diablo 1 & 2, as real-time hack n slash, have a big advantage.
If you are not careful, you can run into so many monsters that it doesn't matter how weak they are, they can overwhelm you with numbers.
That mechanic might be transposable to the jrpg (turn-based) genre, but its not straightforward.
The idea is to measure the player's carefulness (time they actually willingly lose) as a means to gauge difficulty. It's clever, but I haven't really seen this in a jrpg.
My AI system kinda goes in that direction, in that monsters chase you, and depending if you seek to avoid them or not, you may end up with smaller or bigger encounters. I just don't really have any incentive for them to go after larger encounters right now...


Edit:
Really liked your input RedBaron!
Thanks!

Edited by Orymus3, 12 July 2012 - 05:48 AM.


#26 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2649

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 06:46 AM

Attrition does have number of facets and there are number ways they can be used to alter the not the overall game design.
  • Fatigue
  • Semi permanent disabilities
  • Defeat even after you've won
  • Attrition works both ways

Fatigue

One simple approach is having a fatigue meter that starts at -100 after resting and can go up to 100. Each combat round adds 1 to the fatigue meter and when goes over 0 all the characters stats are reduced by that percentage. When it reaches 100 the characters could either collapse from exhaustion returning them to town or killing them. Or you can lose the ability to fight random battles and you auto run until you can recover. To completely recover you'd need to rest either at town, or making camp in a safe spot in the dungeon if it has one. You could also tie in a eating and drinking mechanic where once between rests you can eat or drink something to reduce fatigue. One thing this also gives you is that different food and drink could provide additional benefits until the next rest. Such as eating a dragon steak could completely remove fatigue and give 25% experience bonus until you rest. So now the player has to decided between

Semi permanent disabilities

I had an ancient c64 RPG called legend of blacksilver there was one point during the game where you contracted a flesh eating disease reduced your endurance over time which ultimately lowered your max hp. Curing it meant doing some optional dungeon exploring and puzzle solving as it was back in the day before way poinit marker showed you exactly where to go and what to do. I never found how to cure when I play through although one of my friends did. But what it did mean that game had a new sense of urgency since I know had a ticking clock that meant that if took to long to win the game I'd be to weak to be able to do it. The game was also different from a modern rpg in that it had no levels. Instead your stat levels where determined by skill at playing different mini games, so it was possible to get recover some of your lost endurance by going to the right temple and doing well at the endurance game. Legend of black silver also a time element to in that you there were two world 1 good and 1 bad and as the good world sunk the bad world raised so the longer you played meant that parts of the good world would no longer be accessible but it would also open new areas in the evil world.

You could a have similar mechanic in a JRPG where by it was possible to suffer long term or permanent injuries to characters that reduced there ability or usefulness. It could even open optional quests to help them. It would work particularly well in a game like chrono tigger where you have cast of characters but can only use 3 at a time. You might have to phase out your favourite characters after a while if they've become too injured to carry on the fight. It also gives you the option to force the player to make hard choices what if as the player you knew in advanced that any characters you sent into the dungeon filled with toxic gas would cause ever increasing permanent afflictions to them. Who do you send? It also eliminates my most hated game story trope of the magic bullet.


Defeat even after you've won

Kings bounty has been mentioned a few times but one feature the game had that hasn't been mentioned and that is the fact that you had fixed number of game weeks to win. To win you had to find and dig up a stolen treasures hidden on one of four islands. Each time you defeated 1 of 25 evil lords you got a map piece. You could try and dig for the treasure any time you wanted doing so used up a full game week how many of evil lords you defeated before finding the treasure depended on your pattern recognition skills. But also crucially it was possible to defeat all 25 evil lords and still lose the game if you weren't able to reach the buried treasure in time.

It would be interesting to see how that would work JRPG could you have a situation where by you defeat the evil boss but be to injured in process to make it back to town. You tend not to see that no matter what deadly swamps, endless deserts, or demon infested dungeons you had to venture through to defeat the boss getting home is always very easy afterwards. The only exception I can think of is the golden harp quest in one of dragon warrior games there was quest you had to do to get a golden harp from a dungeon but once you had it the treasure it caused monsters to attack you every step until you got it to where it need to go. In that way getting the harp was really only half the challenge.

Attrition works both ways

Normally random encounters are as random as the designer has decided for that dungeon. But what if the dungeon had a fixed number of each enemy? In this way each battle while not only causing attrition on your side also weakens the enemy. In fact you could have system where the boss of each dungeon becomes easier to defeat the more of his minions you destroy. It could be whole aspect of the mid to game plot of the game. Take chrono trigger as example once you reach level 20 you can choose to fight the final boss you don't have to carry on with the story line and even once you get to the end of the main story line there are number of optional end game stories you can following to tie up some loose ends. Now what if the final big boss of the game had a number of generals an minions throughout the world defeating them weakens the boss or strengthens the player. The player can take on the final boss whenever they want but hunting doing and defeating his followers they change the course of the final battle an effect the epilogue. For instance freeing the priestess encased in crystal means the final boss loses his death beam attack. Defeating the master blacksmith means his guards are only half as strong. Slaying the 4 generals prevents him from calling on their forces as reinforcements during the battle. Destroying his shadow means he no longer auto heals each round.

It could make for a really interesting game especially if you add a time based event system, so that while you are trying to weaken the final boss enough to defeat him he is perusing his own goals and gaining strength. While you were off killing the master blacksmith he destroyed the heavens gate preventing your from obtaining the ultimate weapons. You were killing his generals and he found everything he needs transform to a super saiyan 4.

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#27 RedBaron5   Members   -  Reputation: 573

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 07:28 AM

These fights are clearly easy, can be won with only 1 button press, but they are fun !!! they show you your power.

I suppose this varies by player. My brother turns on God mode in games and plays through the whole thing without dying and has a blast. I can't do this. I played through the first 2 Fable games and I didn't die. That's not very fun for me. I'm sure certain players enjoy it. I guess I want to cater my game to the more "hardcore" players. The ones that want a game to punish them over and over until they finally win by the skin of their teeth. Once again, this feeling varies greatly between players. I will definitely lose out on the more casual market that some games have been dumbing themselves down for (I'm looking at you D3 and DA:2)

I agree with you on wanting to see your character's power though. Part of the enjoyment of leveling up is gaining an ability that gives you a new advantage over your enemies. I think you can have some weak characters in a difficult encounter that let you see this. For example, with my new skill I can now kill bandits with one hit. Should I kill all of the bandits in the next encounter first? Should I freeze the "tough" enemy and then kill the bandits?

I believe a player can still feel dominant over certain enemies in a difficult encounter and get that feeling of being a powerful character.

#28 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7038

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:11 AM

First off, thanks TechnoGoth for the post. This is a welcome addition to this discussion!

You could a have similar mechanic in a JRPG where by it was possible to suffer long term or permanent injuries to characters that reduced there ability or usefulness. It could even open optional quests to help them. It would work particularly well in a game like chrono tigger where you have cast of characters but can only use 3 at a time. You might have to phase out your favourite characters after a while if they've become too injured to carry on the fight. It also gives you the option to force the player to make hard choices what if as the player you knew in advanced that any characters you sent into the dungeon filled with toxic gas would cause ever increasing permanent afflictions to them. Who do you send? It also eliminates my most hated game story trope of the magic bullet.


I wasn't too fond of the idea at first, but I can see the impact it would have on party management, and I must say I like that a lot. It intertwines on several level with both attrition and party management and I think it can bring a dynamic. The big concern here is when and where can you contract these injuries, and how can you fix them.
A lot of RPGs actually put that in the main story path: Character X contracts Y and you need to do Z. It is a mcguffin to get the story advancing.
Now if you put the contraction main path, but the fix is optional (ala Chrono Trigger: Chrono dies, and you can complete the game without him if you so wish).
Or you could put the contraction and fix on the optional path (opening a longer sidequest series than anticipated). The idea is that the sidequest allows you to get a powerful reward, at the cost of an injury. If you really wish to even things out, you need to spend more time investigating the cure, or live with your curse.
What I'd be worried about is injuries that can occur randomly, aka, can happen more than once. If say, this given monster can injure you in such a way, then you'd end up grinding the sidequest to get yourself fixed. I would recommend that the fix be permanent to this condition.
AKA, you get "cursed", you go to the mountain of wisdom to uncurse yourself through a trial, and you can never be cursed again.

Also: Magic Bullet? Can you elaborate?


It would be interesting to see how that would work JRPG could you have a situation where by you defeat the evil boss but be to injured in process to make it back to town. You tend not to see that no matter what deadly swamps, endless deserts, or demon infested dungeons you had to venture through to defeat the boss getting home is always very easy afterwards. The only exception I can think of is the golden harp quest in one of dragon warrior games there was quest you had to do to get a golden harp from a dungeon but once you had it the treasure it caused monsters to attack you every step until you got it to where it need to go. In that way getting the harp was really only half the challenge.


Obviously, the idea is that the player who has just killed an epic foe doesn't want to die to the wilderness. That wouldn't be a meaningful death and people generally get bored that way. You necessarily don't want to kill a player for making it out of a dungeon alive, only to die to the first random encounter because their resources are depleted. This would be counter-intuitive in the feedbacks you're giving the player: You've overcome the challenge (which was really the boss) but died on the way home.
On a few occasions though, you could feint the challenge or double it. As you've mentionned, you could lure the player into thinking that the challenge was the boss (which they're perfectly entitled to believe) but make it somewhat weaker than intended (the player feels overpowered, and for a moment, he doubts the game, might start to think he's overpowered and let his guard down). Then, you come in with a rule-breaker of that nature: you're going to fight 100 monsters on the way back to town: good luck "hero".
I think it works, if its well done, but don't overuse it, and especially don't foreshadow it (aka, don't create a certain lord of LIES that everyone recognizes ahead of time... erhm, seriously Blizzard?)
I'd be interested in hearing your ideas here, we obviously don't want a repeat of the Harp scenario. Any original dephased challenge?

Normally random encounters are as random as the designer has decided for that dungeon. But what if the dungeon had a fixed number of each enemy? In this way each battle while not only causing attrition on your side also weakens the enemy. In fact you could have system where the boss of each dungeon becomes easier to defeat the more of his minions you destroy. It could be whole aspect of the mid to game plot of the game. Take chrono trigger as example once you reach level 20 you can choose to fight the final boss you don't have to carry on with the story line and even once you get to the end of the main story line there are number of optional end game stories you can following to tie up some loose ends. Now what if the final big boss of the game had a number of generals an minions throughout the world defeating them weakens the boss or strengthens the player. The player can take on the final boss whenever they want but hunting doing and defeating his followers they change the course of the final battle an effect the epilogue. For instance freeing the priestess encased in crystal means the final boss loses his death beam attack. Defeating the master blacksmith means his guards are only half as strong. Slaying the 4 generals prevents him from calling on their forces as reinforcements during the battle. Destroying his shadow means he no longer auto heals each round.

It could make for a really interesting game especially if you add a time based event system, so that while you are trying to weaken the final boss enough to defeat him he is perusing his own goals and gaining strength. While you were off killing the master blacksmith he destroyed the heavens gate preventing your from obtaining the ultimate weapons. You were killing his generals and he found everything he needs transform to a super saiyan 4.


I've entertained that thought, on a smaller scale. In a dungeon, a boss had a bunch of sub-bosses that were optional. Defeating each disabled some of the boss' skills so that he would feel very weak if you had taken the time to explore and clear everything.
I think it could work "both ways" too in that, the more time you spend killing henchmen, the more time the boss has time to grow. Afterall, most henchmen are decoys while the villain is doing something evil. You could have an endboss that levels up as you do sidequests. You still get the reward and xp, you level up, and it still brings you closer to a fair fight, but not nearly as quickly. That way, you give the person that wants to speedrun the game a fighting chance (and quite an achievement at that) but you also challenge the player that has cleansed the world of everything.
You could even do both: have henchmen, which are decoys, and actual assets which are essential to the main villain's plot. This turns the game into a bit more of an investigation where the player has to pause and really think about how they can cripple the main villain's plot without actually wasting time.
To make it still interesting, you could make it so that henchmen guard treasures which still help empowering the player so they don't feel at the loss. Not necessarily giving them more power, but more options.

Very interesting concept. I might just use that!

View Postn00b0dy, on 12 July 2012 - 03:03 AM, said:
These fights are clearly easy, can be won with only 1 button press, but they are fun !!! they show you your power.
I suppose this varies by player. My brother turns on God mode in games and plays through the whole thing without dying and has a blast. I can't do this. I played through the first 2 Fable games and I didn't die. That's not very fun for me. I'm sure certain players enjoy it. I guess I want to cater my game to the more "hardcore" players. The ones that want a game to punish them over and over until they finally win by the skin of their teeth. Once again, this feeling varies greatly between players. I will definitely lose out on the more casual market that some games have been dumbing themselves down for (I'm looking at you D3 and DA:2)


I'm with you there, I'm more on the hardcore end. It is true that jRPGs are very showoff at times, (I mean, firing meteors is on the awesome-end for a reason) but there's nothing as satisfying to me as trying a new strategy after failing and see it succeed. Death forces me to adapt and think of another way to beat this game. It forces me out of my "this works everytime" strategy and gives me food for thought. By the time I've figured out what to do, I get this "ommphhh" moment where my brain ticks and says "that's what I need to do!" or even better "maybe this could work?!". Hardcore emphasizes this.

I agree with you on wanting to see your character's power though. Part of the enjoyment of leveling up is gaining an ability that gives you a new advantage over your enemies. I think you can have some weak characters in a difficult encounter that let you see this. For example, with my new skill I can now kill bandits with one hit. Should I kill all of the bandits in the next encounter first? Should I freeze the "tough" enemy and then kill the bandits?

I believe a player can still feel dominant over certain enemies in a difficult encounter and get that feeling of being a powerful character.


So long as there is choice, you're succeeding. You just need to avoid skills that thrump all strategies. "Kill_all" spells are a no-no. Crowd control should be weaker than single targets (it was actually a failure in Chrono Trigger where Luminaire and Magus' counterpart were the best spells. I would've loved to need lightning 1 later on, to one-shot certain enemies and fail doing so using luminaire).

#29 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:29 AM

I think it all comes down to, how long is too long?
I mean, how long can we realistically make fights without boring the player and make him feel this is a chore every time?
As a byproduct of that, how often is too often?
If we make fights longer, we probably need to reduce the quantity so as not to slow down progression too much.
Maybe there's a sweet spot we can playtest with folks and see.


I remember reading an article from a Diablo 3 dev(I think) that talked about changing the scenery every 20 minutes or so. If you pay attention when playing through D3, you'll notice you go in and out of dungeons frequently. The cathedral would be too big to complete in one go, so they break it with the crown side quest. It's been a while since I read that so I don't have a link. Act 3 of Diablo 2 has always been the most boring to me, probably because they had you spend hours in the jungle and sewers.
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#30 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7038

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 10:57 AM

I remember reading an article from a Diablo 3 dev(I think) that talked about changing the scenery every 20 minutes or so. If you pay attention when playing through D3, you'll notice you go in and out of dungeons frequently. The cathedral would be too big to complete in one go, so they break it with the crown side quest. It's been a while since I read that so I don't have a link. Act 3 of Diablo 2 has always been the most boring to me, probably because they had you spend hours in the jungle and sewers.


20 minutes is a bit aggressive though, but it suits their pace.
When playing the dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock, I was happily surprised to see the wall texture change after a few levels. Not only did it freshen up the game for me, but it gave me a sense that I had achieved something, that the early levels (sort of the "entry") were behind me and that I was deep. It really helped with immersion.

That said, I see how it can apply to changing monsters every so often, but I don't see how it correlates to attrition per se.
Care to elaborate?

#31 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 01:28 PM

That said, I see how it can apply to changing monsters every so often, but I don't see how it correlates to attrition per se.
Care to elaborate?


It's not related in any direct way. That was a comment about ways to figure out how long is long enough. If you set the target at 30 minutes and a battle lasts 2 minutes, then you should aim to have at most 15 encounters before progression. That can then be used to figure out the dungeon length, encounter rate and encounter danger level.
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#32 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7038

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 02:58 PM

I'm leaning towards preset encounters ala Chrono Trigger myself, as I believe they, not only allow you to control that flow, but more importantly allow to make it more realistic and give player choices (encounter or not).
Note that I will not make a weekly discussion about random vs scripted encounters as I have yet to see someone that'S convinced that random encounters are genuinely better...

#33 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7038

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 07:08 PM

New Week:
http://www.gamedev.net/topic/627898-weekly-discussion-on-rpg-genres-flaws-week-4-exploration/




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