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'Forfeiting' design decision for flexibility?


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#1 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10571

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 08:28 AM

I've come up (yet again) across this issue where I need to define a set of finite 'resources' in an non-finite environment that has expansion plans.

Specifically:

 

In a tactical 2D turn-based combat skirmish game, I need to determine damage 'types' (piercing, slashing, fire, etc.)

Every 'unit' I will add later down the road will be limited by these damage types.

I'm trying to find a good fit by keeping things simple, but I can't help thinking I'm inevitably closing doors on a better solution.

 

I'm not looking for suggestions on what the damage types should be (I already have a pretty good fit), rather, I'm looking for an alternate system.

 

Creating damage types on-the-fly is no solution either because, earlier content will find itself unable to properly ward itself against these new damage types and revisiting earlier content will be impossible (as there is a physical component to the game).

 

In essence, it feels like the way Mark Rosewater explains why a game such as Magic the Gathering can never have a 6th color, because of the conscious decision to make 5 colors a finite reality. I'm wondering if I can forfeit making this design decision to keep my design more flexibility.

 

Have you faced similar challenges? How have / would you address this?



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#2 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3966

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 01:39 PM


I'm wondering if I can forfeit making this design decision to keep my design more flexibility.
I will answer in a philosophical way. You don't want your design to be flexible :) Even if you can, you want to impose restrictions on yourself. Flexibility is bad, veeery bad. Even evil I would say :D

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#3 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1463

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 02:13 PM

So what's the goal/use ?

Some rock-paper-scissor effect to increase/decrease damage ?

in M:tG they just make sure they make plenty of usefull cards for every color.



#4 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5055

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 02:39 PM

When there are too many damage types or elements they just become meaningless.


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#5 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2242

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 04:18 PM

One possibility is to have a system under the system. For example don't literally have fire resistance, ice resistance etc, have lower-level attributes such as reactivity, stable heat range, hardness, flexibility, etc. Then damage types can be created as a combination of the lower-level damage types.

 

However as others have said, sometimes keeping it simple is best because the player can understand the system better. If the system goes too far against the player's expectations, then the player will think it's broken or too difficult.



#6 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10571

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 07:38 AM


I will answer in a philosophical way. You don't want your design to be flexible Even if you can, you want to impose restrictions on yourself. Flexibility is bad, veeery bad. Even evil I would say

 

I agree, most of the time. I'm referring to a very pragmatic type of flexibility. One that could see use very soon, and not just a 'I can't shake this feeling that I might need this'.

 


So what's the goal/use ?
Some rock-paper-scissor effect to increase/decrease damage ?

 

Pretty much. I'm currently using 6 different types of attacks (3 physical, 3 magical). Each of them have a 'comfortable' set of purpose. One of the physical attack types is mostly used for ranged attacks, so whenever I make a ranged unit that uses a different attribute instead, or whenever I use a melee unit that uses the ranged attack type, I'm essentially breaking the mold a bit, on purpose, to give a unit some usefulness beyond just being 'stronger'.

 

Additionally, some effects may trigger based on the type of damage that hits a unit (burning for example), but these are generally described as a standalone ability. Still, it helps to have a damage type that is on-theme (but I could have gone without it).

 


in M:tG they just make sure they make plenty of usefull cards for every color.

It is a bit more complex than that. Basically, they have a color wheel that determines what color an effect should be. In addition, they have a few 'splashes' which are effects that fall between 2 or more colors. Over time, they have shaped the color wheel into a sturdy construct where everything is defined. If they were to add a new color, it would not have a personality, nor any effect per se. More importantly though, it wouldn't have enough cards to compete with the others and wouldn't be drawn at the back of their cards (one of the many issues when dealing with physical components).

 

My issue is similar in that the damage types will have a dedicated field (especially its corresponding armor values), and I can't start fitting 7 icons on newer units if I had 6 icons before.

 

 


When there are too many damage types or elements they just become meaningless.

 

I agree. I feel that 6 different types is actually a lot, but I can't help thinking I'll need another one in the near future which I can't possibly guess currently. Much like MTG here, it was impossible for Richard Garfield not to know that not all of the world could be explained within 5 colors (or that, perhaps, it was mechanically relevant, but broke its own theme).

 


One possibility is to have a system under the system. For example don't literally have fire resistance, ice resistance etc, have lower-level attributes such as reactivity, stable heat range, hardness, flexibility, etc. Then damage types can be created as a combination of the lower-level damage types.

 

I understand. If it was a PC-only game, I would've gone that way, despite how complex a system that could be. However, given the physical components, I can't afford to have this many stats.

 

 


However as others have said, sometimes keeping it simple is best because the player can understand the system better. If the system goes too far against the player's expectations, then the player will think it's broken or too difficult.

 

Back to square 1: make the design decision and it will bite you in the ass later.

That's what I've been doing for the longest time, but I feel there's a 'better way' that I'm missing here...



#7 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2796

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 08:30 AM

I thinking your missing a lesson from magic the gathering.  None of the expansions add new colours but they all have a distinct theme and introduce new mechanics. They create synergy between the new cards adding new decking building styles.

 

So you can add new abilities and damage types in each expansion and as long as the core rules are still basically the same it shouldn't be overwhelming to players.



#8 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10571

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 09:44 AM


None of the expansions add new colours but they all have a distinct theme and introduce new mechanics.

This is true, because they use law-breaking abilities that re-employ the same underlying mechanics.

For example, death touch simply turns a source of damage into a lethal source of damage.

However, a mana symbol is a constant decided from inception.

 


So you can add new abilities

Yes, I can create new abilities on the fly because they exploit existing systems without requiring these systems to change.

 


and damage types

No, I cannot create new damage types because they exploit a system but define new guidelines for pre-existing content.

 

For example, if I create a new damage type, say 'bubblelicious', any previously existing unit would therefore have a '0' armor value against bubblelicious by default, making any new critter with the 'bubblelicious' damage type essentially deals 'all of its damage' to any unit created before it.

This is giving newer units too much of an advantage over previously generated content.

 

In Magic: The Gathering, they call this the power curve. In any collectible game, breaking the power curve essentially tells your long-time players to get lost. This results in bad PR/Marketing and is prone to kill your game.

 

As Mark Rosewater pointed out in the 2000s, the Champions of Kamigawa block (which received poor response from player, but might very well have saved Magic altogether) was built essentially as a response to the creeping power curve. Up to that point, each set introduced cards that would simply annihilate any previous set too easily (think the original Mirrodin or Urza blocks). Champions of Kamigawa was created weak on purpose (save for the unfortunate Jitte) both to support limited play all the while slowing down the power creep, giving players the impression that their powerful cards bought last year had a lasting appeal (instead of being overtaken within 6 months).

 

Because my system relies on very few hitpoints and a lot of armor (you could say I'm enforcing rock-paper-scissor in a way), I can't afford to have this form of power curve.

As a result, unless I can devise a system that accommodates new damage types without breaking the curve, I can't have new damage types in the future, and this is a door I'm trying not to close.



#9 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2197

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 10:09 AM

I've never faced this problem and I see how there could be benefits to limiting how much you can expand. But if the idea is to try and accommodate expansion, rather than have existing characters and entities respond to the characteristics of a new damage type, couldn't you have a new damage type respond to the attributes of characters and entities? 

Maybe, Bubblicious attacks reduce the protectiveness of metal based armors by 25% except when worn by air elemental creatures on Thursdays in which case it becomes 35%. Wooden or other plant based creatures are immune to all attacks of this type. Otherwise, standard rules for attack power and efficacy apply.



#10 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 2145

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 10:44 AM

I think it depends on how you use your types/keywords.  If you do it in such a way that Attack Type: Fire will only do extra/less damage against a unit if the target has either Vulnerability: Fire or Resistance: Fire, you essentially close the loop.  If you suddenly add Attack Type: Electricity, yes, it won't really do anything, but it also won't be overpowered.  It will be more work, in that if you add that attack type, you need to add the corresponding Resistance/Vulnerabilities.  Though honestly, in a video game, it shouldn't be that hard to update that kind of a system and add/remove keywords.  It's not like a card game where you have to reprint cards and end up with multiple versions floating around.



#11 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2796

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 10:47 AM

Well if you're armour is fixed against specific damage types then that does present a problem.

My Knowledge of magic expansion ended around the Urza expansions in back in 1999.

My favourite expansions were the Dark and Fallen Empire which had a lot of really cool cards in it.  It introduced tribal benefits by adding cards that boosted all goblin creatures for example, and it added creatures that only last a turn and then returned to your hand. 

 

But if your game has fixed damage and defence types it does make things more difficult to add to later on down the road.

 

If you have bubble damage which is always reduced by bubble armor then then like you said adding that to the game effectively nerfs all existing creatures.

It also adds unnecessary complexity to a game as having lots of damage types isn't a good thing.  

 

Let's say you had three types physical, mental, spiritual.

 

You can add new effects later on such as maybe you add a new creature toxic zombie that does 1 Physical and on a 5+ adds 1 poison token to the target. Or a Corruption zombie that does 2 physical damage and on 4+ add 1 weakness to the target.

 

Poison and Weakness could be completely new to the zombie horde expansion. With their own mechanics but they don't break any of the existing rules and mechanics.  They still inflict one of the three damage types, and zombies might have the undead status which makes them immune to mental damage. They introduce new ways of playing and mechanics but the game as core still stands.



#12 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1463

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 12:48 PM

I'm gonna agree with the consensus that more complex/creative abilities can be implemented later on.

In regards to the amount of damage-types, you realy have to ask yourself how many you want to present to the player in total,

and i don't think players are waiting to see more then 6 resistace-types on a card.

(and i suspect M:tG has 5 colors for the same reason)

(btw you can implement damge that negates all resistances at some point, called "true damage" in most games, and just keep it's damage low)

 

M:tG still does this, btw, and it is - still - part of the powercurve/powercreep;

*destroy target creature

*regenerate

*destroy can't be regenerated

*indestructible creature

*remove creature from the game

*creature can't be targeted

*"choose" creature target player controls that player sacrifices it

*ban target card from the draft (yes they implemented cards that have use during the draft xD )


Edited by powerneg, 12 August 2014 - 12:48 PM.


#13 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2242

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 03:58 PM

Ah, it wasn't clear to me from the original post that this was a card game. I thought the MtG reference was general design discussion. Okay, my feeling is that the idea of old cards having no resistance to new attack types is terrible. It would indeed nerf old cards. Perhaps the new decks would have rules for calculating resistance for old cards, e.g. "bubble resistance = (magic resistance + water resistance)/2". Or you could combine cards, e.g. give your old paladin bubble armour from the new deck. Or the new attack types cause the same old kinds of damage, but with added effects, for example a bubble attack causes water damage + magic damage + can't attack or defend for one round. 



#14 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10571

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 07:17 PM


Maybe, Bubblicious attacks reduce the protectiveness of metal based armors by 25% except when worn by air elemental creatures on Thursdays in which case it becomes 35%. Wooden or other plant based creatures are immune to all attacks of this type. Otherwise, standard rules for attack power and efficacy apply.

As crazy as you make it sound, I had an embryo of a mechanic similar to this (except that it was caring for whether the target was flying, in which case it was an auto-miss).

I think this has potential because it shifts the question elsewhere. Yet, they wouldn't be new damage types, rather, new abilities, and, for the most part, they should be able to handle new content.

 

That being said, there's always the issue of what if I need a new damage type because the combat system gets old and needs a bit more depth (otherwise there would be no need for new units, etc.)

 


I think it depends on how you use your types/keywords.  If you do it in such a way that Attack Type: Fire will only do extra/less damage against a unit if the target has either Vulnerability: Fire or Resistance: Fire, you essentially close the loop.  If you suddenly add Attack Type: Electricity, yes, it won't really do anything, but it also won't be overpowered.  It will be more work, in that if you add that attack type, you need to add the corresponding Resistance/Vulnerabilities.  Though honestly, in a video game, it shouldn't be that hard to update that kind of a system and add/remove keywords.  It's not like a card game where you have to reprint cards and end up with multiple versions floating around.

 

Interesting. Essentially, I would replace the resistances with % instead of integers. By default, everything would be 100% unless otherwise specified. 

My only concern is that it is also present under boardgame form, in which case I'd be asking players to make calculations on the fly. For 50% and 200%, assuming I define whether to round up or down, it should be manageable, but what about 75%? That might put quite a strain on the players. That's why I initially went for integer armor points (and simply subtract from damage).

 


Though honestly, in a video game, it shouldn't be that hard to update that kind of a system and add/remove keywords.

The PC version wouldn't have this issue, but it will also be a boardgame, hence why I'm worried about persistence of data here. Arguably, publishing to 1st parties publishers (Sony and Microsoft for example) could have similar issues unless I plan on hosting an external xml file and force the player to connect to that server on game boot to update data in real time.

 

 


You can add new effects later on such as maybe you add a new creature toxic zombie that does 1 Physical and on a 5+ adds 1 poison token to the target. Or a Corruption zombie that does 2 physical damage and on 4+ add 1 weakness to the target.
 
Poison and Weakness could be completely new to the zombie horde expansion. With their own mechanics but they don't break any of the existing rules and mechanics.  They still inflict one of the three damage types, and zombies might have the undead status which makes them immune to mental damage. They introduce new ways of playing and mechanics but the game as core still stands.

 

Scary how my game works exactly like that... and I mean EXACTLY ;)

Currently, some attacks have such abilities bound to them. For example, if you attack, and you actually deal at least 1 damage, you get to roll. On a 5+ (some abilities trigger on a 4+), the 'thing' happens (stunning, poison, etc.)

I felt this system was one way to keep combat interesting even if actual damage became redundant, but I'm just not sure that's enough to insure I don't need other damage types later down the road.

 


M:tG still does this, btw, and it is - still - part of the powercurve/powercreep;
*destroy target creature
*regenerate
*destroy can't be regenerated
*indestructible creature
*remove creature from the game
*creature can't be targeted
*"choose" creature target player controls that player sacrifices it
*ban target card from the draft (yes they implemented cards that have use during the draft xD )

 

I'm glad you brought this up actually. During the inception of this design, I was somewhat influenced by MTG. I isolated issues I felt the game had.

Though the game presents itself as a 'creature game' its really more a wizards game and one should not get fooled by the amount of critters you can spawn.

 

I don't want that. I don't want it so much that it is actually the very reason I've stopped playing MTG several years ago. I love the mechanics, the flavor, the theme, etc. I just hate how expandable creatures have grown. So much so that you can table a 11/1 trample monster (even indestructible) for 11 mana and still meet your doom for 2 or 3 mana (as an instant!).

Surely, they've made a conscious decision to make it more about the wizards and less about the player (indeed its more about how much life the wizard has left, and less about the resources he controls), but shunning 20-25% of your card pool seems like a poor design decision. Tournaments (not limited ones) basically play (most of the time) without creatures because they are too vulnerable.

 

My design is a lot more about creatures. I decided not to stick to abilities that made them too expandable.

The creation of 'destroy' effects led to power creep (resulting in regeneration, although present in Alpha)

Destroy can't be regenerated was answered by Indestructible 

Exile (remove from the game) was met by Hexproof (prevents target)

and ultimately mass removal spells of any kind akin to Wrath of God.

 

This is a natural progression one gets to use to 'get away' with it, but this is pretty much what I'm trying to circumvent.

 


Ah, it wasn't clear to me from the original post that this was a card game. I thought the MtG reference was general design discussion. Okay, my feeling is that the idea of old cards having no resistance to new attack types is terrible. It would indeed nerf old cards. Perhaps the new decks would have rules for calculating resistance for old cards, e.g. "bubble resistance = (magic resistance + water resistance)/2". Or you could combine cards, e.g. give your old paladin bubble armour from the new deck. Or the new attack types cause the same old kinds of damage, but with added effects, for example a bubble attack causes water damage + magic damage + can't attack or defend for one round. 

 

Actually, it is not a card game. But it is very similar. The Boardgame version has cards, and the digital version wants to feel like a board game. It, however, has a more tactical dimension (miniatures for the boardgame, and actual units for the digital version).

 

Calculating resistance for old cards sounds like a cheap solution. This is something FantasyFlightGames did when they released Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2.0

Since the rules changed dramatically and they already had a lot of content from the 1st edition, they created a conversion kit which essentially provided each character with a new character sheet. The idea is that they allowed you to play with your favorite hero, but they drastically altered its behavior (so much so that it was no longer your favorite hero).

If I'm to tap into collectors, I'd rather not give them something unfinished that will require erratum. As a collector, I wouldn't invest in a game that does this.

 


for example a bubble attack causes water damage + magic damage + can't attack or defend for one round. 

I think that's the closest I can think of to a solution.

 

Thanks all for the feedback. although I haven't come with a better solution, I'm starting to make my peace that sticking to the systems and mechanics I've already placed (6 rigid types + abilities created with each expansion) is acceptable.

 

(Flash Forward 20 years, when my game has a million followers, they get to point fingers and say that I've ruined their favorite game, but then, I'll be happy to have million of followers!)



#15 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2796

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 07:34 PM

Well my idea was partially inspired by the one time I played the tactical board game mage wars.

 

In that each point of attack power = 1 die so a zombie with 2 attack would roll two dice and the attack die has hits, misses, and critical. Some attacks can also add status tokens.

 

Mage Wars has a couple of damage types buy generally they don't do anything special unless a creature specifically has an immunity or weakness to that damage type.  The exception being ranged damage which is required to attack flying enemies.

 

What also makes Mage Wars interesting is that you have your full deck of cards to access each turn.  Instead of drawing like in magic you choose two cards from your deck to have in your hand that turn and uncast cards are returned to deck at end of turn. There are also summoning points which let you play additional cards.  But there is no random drawing or hoping to get that one card you need at the right time.



#16 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10571

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 08:34 PM


What also makes Mage Wars interesting is that you have your full deck of cards to access each turn.  Instead of drawing like in magic you choose two cards from your deck to have in your hand that turn and uncast cards are returned to deck at end of turn. There are also summoning points which let you play additional cards.  But there is no random drawing or hoping to get that one card you need at the right time.

 

I toyed with that idea as well. Ultimately however, I felt I would end up reusing always the same 'cards'. Maybe I need to play Mage Wars, my neighbor offered to show me.

 


In that each point of attack power = 1 die so a zombie with 2 attack would roll two dice and the attack die has hits, misses, and critical. Some attacks can also add status tokens.

I use a similar system, although I boast using a simple D6 to handle everything. I think its a clever system, quite accessible too.



#17 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2796

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 08:49 PM

Well in mage wars you can't reuse cards.  You can have say 3 of any one card in your deck subject to deck building rules and once played you can't get it back like in magic.

 

There are also different wizards that each player chooses who have their own stats and special ability. The goal being to kill the other players wizard.

 

There is something to be said to having all cards available, I'd be tempted to play a game of magic sometime with the player picking the card they want rather then random draw. I wonder how well it would work out...



#18 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 770

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 11:46 PM

If there's a mechanism by which creatures can defend one another, it could mitigate old creatures not having special immunity to new damage types, because there's an option for new, relatively immune creatures to defend the old ones.  (This mechanic could already be built in, or be introduced in the expansion.)  

 

  • So say this expansion introduces psychic damage, and no existing card has the "resists psychic" property.  However, there are also new psychic creatures that put up a "psychic barrier" such that any creature "within" the barrier is treated as having the protecting card's "resist psychic" stat.
  • Or, there could be some "mounts" that replace the "rider's" defenses with its own.  (And then any further expansion can add damage types at will, so long as it provides new mounts that resist that damage type.)
  • Or, a new element-specific "tank" creature could draw all attacks of a certain type to itself (the Martyr creature that takes all psychic damage on itself, the Magnet creature that draws all "energy" damage, etc.)
  • Or the expansion introduces a kind of damage that can't be defended against, but can be attacked.  (That is, it can cancel itself out.)  Say, attacks of ghostly energy that can home in on a target, but take a turn to "get there".  If the intended victim launches an energy attack at the first one, though, they collide and cancel each other out.

I'm not super-familiar with the genre, so apologies if this is all old hat.



#19 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10571

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 06:52 AM


Well in mage wars you can't reuse cards.  You can have say 3 of any one card in your deck subject to deck building rules and once played you can't get it back like in magic.

 

Interesting. I might toy with that approach and see if it works at all in my system. Thanks!

 


If there's a mechanism by which creatures can defend one another, it could mitigate old creatures not having special immunity to new damage types, because there's an option for new, relatively immune creatures to defend the old ones.  (This mechanic could already be built in, or be introduced in the expansion.)  

 

In a card game, that would probably work best. In a tactical game however, one would assume some measure of proximity. It's a way to somewhat cope with the issue, but I'd still be better off using just new units instead of having to pack all of my units together to insure everyone has 'that' defense.

 

Some of your suggestions are still usable regardless of the issue at hand though, so thanks! (I particularly like the idea of a psychic attack, though I already have a 'magnet' which can take damage for any adjacent enemy).

 

Thanks!



#20 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 2145

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 09:01 AM

Oh, so you didn't like Magic and it's creature's general vulnerability.  So that made me think of another game, that is very minion centric.  Vampire The Masquerade the card game.  It pretty much has no cards that directly do something to a 'creature', each creature has to perform the action, which can be blocked.  Combat is also entirely card based.  Actions are cards.  If a vampire doesn't play a card, or piece of equipment attached, it does all of 1 damage.  Now, where that comes in handy, is that for you and expansions, you could have new attacks and new blocks and counters, and they could all be usable by existing creatures.  A previous set have an attack that is too cheap?  You can counter it in the next set by adding a couple of counter cards, or easy blocks.

 

(Also, you mentioned percentages, but you don't need to go that route.  Fire Vulnerability X could be done as Takes an additional X Damage from fire attacks, or Fire Resistance 1, takes 1 less damage from fire attacks.)


Edited by ferrous, 13 August 2014 - 09:03 AM.





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