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Goblinson Crusoe
4: Adsense

So, I've been thinking about death lately. Brooding about it, mulling it over.

GC is turn-based, but it's far less elaborate than some turn-based systems I've been hearing about. (Here, I have to admit to a shortcoming. For a guy who's making a turn-based rpg, I've only played a very few. By far, the majority of tb games I've played have been roguelikes, which comprise a different playstyle than what I am attempting.) In GC, people/mobs take turns. There is an initiative system to determine turn order (it's a straight random roll at the moment, no weighting for any kind of skill or attribute bonuses) then after that, everyone goes in their turn. Each unit gets 10 movement points per turn to use as they see fit. Once those are used up, or once the unit decides it doesn't want to do anything else, the turn ends and the next unit in line gets to go.

In this system, the way I handle death is that if a unit is killed during a round and it has not yet taken its turn, then it remains "alive". That is, it gets to take its turn. If the unit has already taken its turn for that round, then if it dies it dies. I am kind of uneasy about this.

My reasoning in the first place for doing it this way is that if, for example, GC goes first and he casts a Ultra Mega Super Duper Ball of Fiery Doom upon the head of his poor enemy, and it takes him 8 movement points to do so, then logic says that if the turns in a round are assumed to happen concurrently (that is, while they are executed one after another, the time-slice they are modeling is concurrent) then that means that while GC is locked up for 8 points casting a fireball, the unit he is casting upon should be able to do something during that time. Maybe he doesn't know what GC is doing, maybe he does, but still he should be able to pull a trick or two out, maybe get in a swing while GC casts. The fireball is going to obliterate him, though, so he will be dead by the end of the turn. But he can still get his licks in.

The same holds for GC if he gets finished off during a round; if he hasn't taken his turn yet, he still gets to go. At the end of his turn, if he hasn't managed to heal himself, then he goes poof.

Now, in my head, this seems like a logical thing to do. But I do have an alternative that I am considering. You see, it seems a little iffy to me that if a unit has already moved and gets one-shotted, it's insta-dead, but if it hasn't already moved and gets one-shotted it has a chance to heal itself and avoid being dead. Just because it happened to roll lower on the initiative roll. But since the turn is supposed to represent a slice of time, does it really matter?

My alternative is that if a unit is killed, it gets to take its next turn regardless of whether or not that turn happens in this round or in the next. Now, this breaks the abstraction that what happens during a round represents a concurrent model; that is, if GC lands his Super Duper thingy on a mob in one round, then by god that mob should be cooked to well done by the time the next round begins, and yet this abstraction would give that mob a chance to heal up before the reaper harvests his soul into the great beyond, regardless of the timing.

I dunno. I kind of think I should just keep it the way I have it. I mean, I used to have it so that if you were killed, you were killed. When that Super Duper Fire Ball landed, it whacked you right out of the initiative list, dropped a treasure chest where your scorched feet used to be, and sent you off to be garbage collected without so much as a second thought. At least this way, you just might have a fighting chance.

Now, I did bring this up in chat last night and had a chat with Dragonsoulj and AllEightUp about it, and got some other points of view. One idea I am considering is to let the killed unit do its next turn, but allow it only half the usual quota of movement points to use. This strikes a decent balance, I think, between figuring out exactly how much time the unit should have been able to act if it were a real-time system, and ignoring altogether the fact that the unit should have been able to at least do something. Eat a Tasty Goblin Flank, fire off one last fire ball. Something.

I would love to hear other thoughts. Ideally, I would like to avoid cluttering up the basic loop. I have heard about other systems that involve mixing movement and actions in different ways, systems with reactions that let you act on targets of opportunity even if you have already taken your turn etc... I'd like to avoid all that. Right now, it plays with the same kind of orderly cadence as a rather rapid game of chess, and I like that. It seems obvious to me that I ought to be able to pack enough complexity and opportunity into 10 movement points per turn to flesh out a solid game, without complicating up the core loop. But if anyone has some input on this, I'd love to hear it.

Dec 02 2013 12:07 AM

No pictures!! *pulls out pitchforks*, but great read and i Like the concepts you put here.

Dec 02 2013 12:21 AM

Heh, yeah, I've been avoiding posting more pictures since I really can't show anything but more of the same. I haven't created a single new asset since the forge. Everything I've been doing has been under-the-table stuff having to do with death, respawning, code re-arranging, etc... I think next week, though, I should be able to post a few new shots. I'm planning to do an art push for the first "official" area, which will return GC to the great outdoors. I'm revamping the outdoor wilderness style from what it was before, though. I like the scale that I have going on in the caves, so I'll probably bring that scale back out to the above-ground areas, rather than the exaggerated scale of before, with the mountains. It just feels right for the pace of the combat.

Dec 02 2013 03:03 PM

Permadeath, or gtfo.


And I'm with riu. Stop talking and post some pictures. :P

Dec 02 2013 05:43 PM

If, when I get to 0 heal, I can always safely use a health potion - why wouldn't I use it? Maybe you should only allow non-healing abilities, so it's more of a "I'm dead, but let me pull the pin out of this grenade first.". The Modern Warfare FPS games even have an ability to do exactly that when you die.


If, when one of my minions died, I got a choice of several options, here are some I'd like:

  • [Block] Convert the dead minion into a wall (maybe as a stone statue) to hinder my enemies' progress.
  • [Explode] Explode the dead minion with fire, hitting any enemy (friendly or enemy) within 1 tile of him, dealing damage.
  • [Damage] Damage a nearby enemy unit of your choice (damage for 15% of the dead unit's max health), must be within 7 tile radius of the dead minion.
  • [Buff] Convert the dead minion into a buff on a nearby friendly unit of the players' choice - as long as the unit is within 10 tiles radius of the dead minion.
  • [Trap] Secretly booby-trap the dead minion to deal an immense amount of damage (or perhaps to root/freeze/paralyze) if an enemy unit happens to step on it (no visual indicator that it's been trapped). Friendly units can walk over it without triggering it.
  • [Health] Convert the dead minion into a health-bonus that friendly units can step on and trigger once (giving 25% of the dead unit's max health to the unit, even beyond the normal max for that unit), but enemy units cannot step on it. They can visually see it though.
  • [Dummy] Move the dead unit one last time, only movement (no other actions), but with a fake 1-5% health as if it wasn't fully dead, so the enemy (if they fall for it) is distracted and chases after a dead unit wasting a turn giving me an opportunity to move forward, attack with, or retreat my other units.


When a unit dies, I want to know it's dead. It shouldn't be ambiguous. At the same time, I like the idea of a "last stand" attack, though it should be simplified down to a few (3, 5, or 7) options that appear as a wheel to select from.

Dec 02 2013 08:42 PM

@Servant: I could do any of those with the system as it stands, although I would have to bake the effect into the unit definition itself rather than letting the player choose. I'm not sure I'd really want to mess with the loop like that.


I've got some real-world test data in hand now about this thing (courtesy of my nieces) and the verdict is that the death system right now is kind of confusing. The turn-system is kind of opaque as it is, and without a good grasp on it, there's no context for why some units go poof immediately when they die and some don't. And I'm not sure that more UI cues would really help, to be honest. So I might be putting this whole feature on the chopping block, and just go back to the way it was before. Sure, it might not be very accurate from a simulation perspective, but if it eliminates confusion then it's better, I think.

Dec 03 2013 11:43 AM

Temporal mechanics. Fun stuff.

I say, when you're killed you're killed and that's it. Although, of course, this is where the average player (which includes me) would likely want to reload and try a different course of action.

I understand your way of thinking for permitting another turn or partial turn. It makes sense if everything is thought of as happening at the same time. But I think you're going to run into other problems. For example, say you had 4 goblins all grouped together. GC goes first and launches some sort of area of affect attack that hits them all. The goblins then get their turn and all move. Now, if everybody's turn is thought of as happening simultaneously, then wouldn't that suggest that they shouldn't all get hit?

Because GC is turn based, I think you need to look at it as a board game. Players take turns, consequences happen as a result of those turns, and those are the rules. Nobody plays Monopoly under the assumption that everybody's turn is happening simultaneously. The player ahead of you uses his turn to put a hotel on Boardwalk. You then take your turn and land on it. It adds an element of strategy and risk that wouldn't be there otherwise. It is the way of things.

That said, it would suck if the game ended so quickly especially if it's a Roguelike situation with perma-death. I got the impression from previous descriptions (assuming I remember correctly) that GC will have friends and allies around him that you can task with things. So maybe a solution is that there is an opportunity to get healed but it has to be by an ally that you have with you. Enemies could have the same opportunity. And of course, healing doesn't necessarily have to mean you're back at any sort of fighting strength it can just offer a bit more of a chance to run away.

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