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console rpg: adding reaction in fights

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''lo all. thinking of console rpg fighting systems (i mean games like final fantasy, breath of fire, etc)i came up to the conclusion that in almost every game i played so far the fights were actually very simple. the only things to do are: attacking(in any possible way) healing yourself casting status effect on either you or the enemy. compared to other games this is very plain and re acting to an enemy is in most cases not needed and if it is, its restricted to heal yourself ot remove a status effect he laid on your party. i actually think that fightng systems should include more reaction then action so that the main goal in a fight is not to do your damage faster then the enemy but to create a system of equilabrity(spelled wrong of course :D) where every of the enemys action forces you to react if you dont want to loose the fight. a good example how this works is magic: the gathering (a trading card game). (to those who dont know what it is: download the free online demo of it --- www.wizards.com) here playing permanents turns the game and the enemy will have to deal with it. for example: if one playes a creature .the enemy may now play one hisself to block it (every round or only one if one creature dies), he may play a spell to bounce the creature or to kill it with direct damage or other effects. knowing that every action forces a certain reaction makes it possible to abuse this: playing a permanent that sanctions playing creatures after allready having more creatures then your enemy. this will have your enemy to a) get rid of the permanent b) accept the sanctions to play a creature turning the tide of battle again. another things are combos... here effects of cards are used together. an example: one card may deal one damage to each attacking creature while another one makes each creature a 1/1 weenie -> every attacking creature will die. another thing in the game is the possiblity to counter a spell(playing a spell destroying an enemy ones yourself before his effects resolve) lets get back to rpgs: as you can see the simple attack/healing system is very unstrategic compared to the system shown above. the idea is now to invent a mix of both systems to make fights in rpgs more challenging. to get the discussion started heres the idea i came up with till now: -have several stances (art of the crane, art of the tiger, art of the dragon for example) working together like stone scissor paper (dunno the english name but: a beats b, b beats c, c beats a) so that you are allways forced to chose the appropriate stance. having several party members now makes it possible to lure or force the enemy to a certain stance with one of your characters to have another one attack him with the right technique afterwards. (of course more stances then three are needed to make this interesting and limitations on the transitions between them)

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Stances were done in the GodWars MUD codebase if I''m not mistaken.
But, alas, Magic does not translate well into the world of "normal" CRPG''s. Permanents would be min/maxed within the first time they reared their head, and would in the end, make the game far too easy.
There is only so much room to expand the basic turn-based RPG combat interface before it becomes unintuitive and no longer fun to play under. The latter Final Fantasy games started to stretch it to it''s maximum-command-limit, and I don''t think there''s much more you can do than:
-Attack
-Defend
-Magic
-Skill
-Item

-Ryan "Run_The_Shadows"
-Run_The_Shadows@excite.com
-The Navidson Record! The best film you''ll never see!

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...

this adds NO deepness to the game and it would only make it more complex to calculate

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Here''s a thought - instead of using a menu based combat system, why not make a different type of mini-game out of it, and do something more like the Heroes Of Might And Magic 3 system where combat is played on a hex-grid - you can still have menu options, but by having a meaningful layout, things can become a little more tactical - characters with ranged weapons/non-combatants can evade combat entirely (apart from enemy ranged attacks), spells could have areas of effect rather than just one/all ally/all enemy/all and formations could be made more meaningful.

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If you're going to have that sort of "pieces on a board" battle engine, don't forget to include features like cover and terrain types. Final Fantasy Tactics did a _fairly_ good job of this, as did Tactics Ogre before it. I'd almost prefer a Fallout-style "action point" system, where you can move and attack, or else put your whole turn's effort into sprinting for cover, or shooting twice.

Typing this, I'm reminded of the few times I watched friends play Warhammer. How did that system work, and would it translate well into an electronic medium?

BB-Pest, you mentioned M:TG in your initial post, and I like the idea of effects cancelling one another out. This is something that I've always liked. In FFT, you could set your character's "counter" skill, which could range from a counter-attack to a pre-emptive strike to a defensive spell. Maybe you could expand on this principle, training reactive maneuvers for different types of actions.

For example, you could teach your kung-fu guy to block any kind of empty-handed strike, but try to dodge weapons, and as they get tougher, you could teach them to pre-empt the strike, punching the enemy before their attack is fully executed.

This reminds me of a thread I started recently in the AI forum. You could, instead of programming individual reactions, have characters learn different things that work and employ them automatically. In fact, it might be better to give them basic principles of combat to adhere to, and then build the AI to follow them.

For example, during my Defensive Tactics course in the Police Academy, we were taught little rules of thumb, one of which was, "Flee a knife; charge a gun", since a knife wielding assailant needs you to be within contact distance to harm you, but somebody with a gun can have complete control over you if you can't reach him. So, holding onto the grid-based battlefield, if your character is attacked by a knife wielder, one of the responses he considers might be just backing the heck off and keeping out of range, possibly with a duck/dodge to the side, or just a powerful leap backward. If they're being shot at, and there's no cover readily available, they might put their head down and rush toward the enemy. This way, when their turn comes around again, they're in a better position to act. Against a knife-wielder, they'll start their turn at a safe distance, with the option of getting out of there or rushing in for an attack, while the guy facing the gunman might have gotten close enough to engage at point-blank range, reducing the effectiveness of the firearm. Does this make any sense?

[edited by - Iron Chef Carnage on December 10, 2002 11:47:26 PM]

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rmsgrey : This style was done, rather successfully, in the "gold box" AD&D games. You would move in "3d" and then it would turn into a TBS which allowed you to fight the monsters on a grid.

BB-spot :
I''ve played a Japanese "board Game" RPG and a (Turn Based Strategy)TBS that was a combination of a card game, and a RPG, and it work kinda well.

The TBS was for children, you have 4 team mates, and when you attacked, you could either play cards, (attack, defense, heal, or a few specialties), or change your outfit, which would give you better defence, or better attack. You could also give team members better cards, having one member with lots of defense, and one member with lots of offense. One of the things that made this successful, was the fact that encounters would only last 5 cards, so if an AI picked a weaker player, they could defend and run.

The JRPG was very simple, and very linear. IT allowed a player to slowly advance, gaining new cards after every enemy, and fight harder opponents. The opponents would change based on what cards you currently held, making the game very difficult. Because it was board game like, (think the game of life), it solved a lot of the balancing problems associated with card games...

Sorry, I don''t think I help your problem..., I just got nostalgic...

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It wouldn't be right to say you need more reaction, I think what you're getting at is reactions taking into account long-term circumstances.

In your average RPG, the player thinks "I'm hurt too much, heal!" Or "I'm poisoned, cure!", and it hardly gets deeper than that. In a magic battle, a more common thought is "I could counter his artifact now but I know he has a circle of protection in his deck somewhere, perhaps I deal with this artifact another way and hold on to the counter spell a bit longer. Then again he already used his revival spell and I eliminated his best creature, I could splurge here and try to take him out quickly."
There's only one fundamental difference between those.

In the first, every reaction comes instantly after every action. You get hit, you heal, and then you move on to another action. Because of this you get very limited and simple combat, everything is done for the moment.
The key to making it more interesting, as in Magic, is to make your choices last .

Example:
A wizard confronts a warrior. They start at long range and the warrior is a melee fighter.
Everyday RPG:
Wizard casts fireball.
Warrior runs at wizard.
Wizard casts ice shard.
Warrior reaches and slashes wizard
Wizard heals,
etc.
Other RPG:
Wizard begins chanting to bring down a fireball which will hit in 4 turns.
Warrior uses a speed boosting potion (allowing him an extra turn from now on).
Wizard brings up a wall of ice in front of him.
Warrior runs at the wizard and jumps the wall.
Wizard casts a stunning spell on the warrior.
Warrior is stunned for one movement but slashes the wizard in the next.
Wizard's meteor hits, severely hurting the warrior. The wizard still has his turn because the meteor was from before, so he finishes the warrior with a fireball.

You see, both parties uses tactics which counted for more than one round. While in the first they just keep hitting and healing indefinately, the second allowed them both more strategy (had the warrior started at close range, he likely would've won).

Well that's my take on it at least...

------------
MSN: nmaster42@hotmail.com, AIM: LockePick42, ICQ: 74128155
"It's all part of the conspiracy of conspirators conspiring to conspire their own conspiracies..."

[edited by - LockePick on December 12, 2002 10:50:53 PM]

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LockePick, I like that a lot. Introducing time as more than a delay function. Many current games employ an anemic form of this, wherein it takes three turns to finish casting a spell, during which your liitle guy stands their getting hit with sticks. If there was a system like the one you suggest, where the effect itself takes time, then a whole new dimension would open up. You could have different types of spells, with different time functions. Quick hypothetical to illustrate my point:

Immediate effects: These spells would be executed instantly, and would usually come from the caster himself. Lightning from the hands, fireball from the staff, healing wounds, paralyzing enemies and halting projectiles. Also in this category would be the equivalent of M:TG interrupts, which I will explain later.

Initiating Effects: This is things like causing an avalanche. It happens right away, but doesn''t affect anything until it gets down the mountain. It would be targetted in one of two ways: Location-specific and target-specific. Location-specific targets a point on the map, as with an avalanche or meteor attack, and would strike the target point after a given interval, regardless of what''s there. Target-specific is directed in real-time toward a particular object, character, etc. Guided attacks like magic missiles and swarms of ethereal bees would use this system. An interval to generate the effect, and then a semi-intelligent guidance system to execute it against a target. Nothing says, of course, that these can''t be avoided one way or another. At any time after this spell is cast and before it''s intended effect takes place, another spell can cancel it out, usually and immediate effect, but if there''s time, an effect might be initiated in time for it to counter one of these.

Semi-Permanent Effects: These are conditions that are imposed by means of magic. A rainstorm, a meteor shower, fog, light, darkness, and other environmental effects, as well as enchantments placed on people or objects. Magically augmented equipment or abilities, swords of fire, x-ray vision, all these things would be cast and then last until they either wear off or are dispelled, either by an immediate effect, or an initiated effect, or even by the introduction of a more powerful condition which renders it obsolete, as in a spell of darkness being defeated by an enchantment of illumination.

Now, these different spell must each be cast, and casting time is another element. It''s much more prevalent in current RPG''s, like the FF series. Tougher spells that are less well-known simply take longer to bring into effect. A weak caster might need ten full seconds before bringing out a fingertip fireball, while a higher-ranking mage might call up a whirlwind with the flick of his wrist.

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It''s important to remember that M:TG is a simulation of two wizards duking it out, and everything else is either a spell or a summoned creature. When I think about implementing these ideas, I think in a FFT-type setting. You have your wizards and your magic, with all their fancy time effects, but you also have guys out there with axes and bows. Maybe there could be a way to integrate these effects with the "Auto-Reaction" that others have suggested on this thread? When an archer fires at a knight, a wizard on the knight''s team, if he has the time, might cast an immediate effect to slow the arrow down so that the knight can dodge it, or else teleport the knight to a location of safety. As a barbarian charges down a hill toward an enemy, his enchanter friend might generate a small avalanche in front of him, so that the rocks injure and confuse the enemy before the barbarian''s club gets down there.

Of course, this could go back and forth, with arrows being sped up or slowed down or turned to steam six or seven times in flight. If the player has to take a hand at every juncture, then a gameplay turn will occupy about a tenth of a second in game-time and battles would take weeks to play out. A degree of AI would be necessary to make it work well. However, if it worked out, you could train your different characters to be good at different things, and this system could manifest itself in non-magical forms, like swordsmanship and evade rates.

Also, items could have intrinsic magical properties. A helmet that renders the wearer immune to mind control (Juggernaut, anyone?) or a gauntlet that cancels out ice attacks or an amulet that prevents paralysis. This way, a properly equipped "mere mortal" would stand a fighting chance against a big bad magic man.

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Here''s a little adjustment to the usual Final Fantasy style/menu driven combat that should add some gameplay.

So it CoolDude turn to attack... so you go to attack in the menu. Instead of simply attacking, a new menu pops up: low, normal, high.

Normal: this is your normal boring attack... always hits for relatively the same amount of damage (if it hits).

Low: this is a weaker (perhaps faster attack) that hits for at least 50% less damage.

High: this is a stronger (perhaps slower attack) that hits for at least 200% damage.

To make it interesting, monsters (and players) would have a blocking stance: high or low. If they were blocking low, a low attack would do hardly any damage... if blocking high, a high attack would do hardly any damage.

Any smart monster would be blocking high, but you could "force" a monster into blocking low by attack him low a few times. Think: setting him up for a high attack.

Say it took 2 low hits to move MONSTER our of blocking high. If your third attack was a high attack, you wouuld get double damage.

But wait, you''re thinking. I give up 50% of my damage two turns (a whole turn of damage) to attack for double the next turn. It evens out. Yes. But No. Not if you have two weak characters attack low, and your uber-character attack high.

Also, you could consider that a player attacking low (maybe defensively) would TAKE less damage... and a player attacking high (offensively) would TAKE more damage... or be considered blocking low or whatever.

... stay tuned for a similar idea for magic ...

- Jason

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Doesn''t it suck that Fighter characters can hack away forever, but Magic characters need to keep track of MP. Well you might say it''s for balance, and it is, but I''d like to think my level 80 wizard can still cast Fire1 with no MP. So...

Give a Magic character 5 free MP to use each turn. So on the first turn of battle, your Magician could use Fire1 or Cure1 with those 5 MP. Also, she could use Cure2 with those 5 mp and 5 of her own.

But, let her not cast anyspell. Let her "wait" or "charge" or "meditate" or "concentrate"... and next turn give her twice as many MPs to play with.

Now round two, she has 10 Mps, and can cast that FIRE2 for free. Or if she waits until turn 3, she''ll have 20 MPs to cast FIRE3.

This system has the added benifit of allowing for different types of spell casters... those with a lot of MPs, to take out the big guns early, but would need to rest, and those who can channel their magic faster, or those who have a wider variety of magic, but no MPs, so they have to build up spells.

Some FF games have done things like this with a "concentrate", "charge", or "store" command, but never well I thought. It could really be exploited and made an intergral part of the battle system.

- Jason

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Dymetrix, that''s a neat system, somewhat reminiscent of the Tactics Ogre MP system. Everyone starts with 0 MP, and each turn you gain some depending on your various skills etc., or you can use an item to boost it artificially. That way, you never really "run out" of MP, but the super-tough mages can''t use their hard-core magic for the first few turns. If you want to start out with a rocking magic attack, you have to waste some other bruiser''s turn potioning up your wizard. It added good depth to the magic casting system. Also, there were no "casting delays", where your guy stands there chanting for fifteen minutes. I''ve always disliked that feature. If the spell system is based on reciting incantations, then everyone should be able to do it, and if not, then the time it takes to cast them should be fairly brief.

Say, what games include a "fizzle" possibility, whereby a spell can just not work, or even go wrong, with random effects? I think it would be neat for your guy to screw up a spell now and again depending on his skill and the difficulty of the magic in question, and have either nothing at all happen or something quite different from the efeect intended.

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I like the idea of naturally regenerating magic pools, but it does raise concerns about game balance - at the moment, in FF games, I find that the long-term limiting resource on party survival is my spell-casters'' MP - casting curative magic from the menu screen effectively converts MP directly into HP at a very favourable rate. The two ways I game over are by taking on an opponent that can kill me in a single fight and by straying too far away from inns, running out of MP, using up my tents, ethers, elixirs, potions, etc. and getting KOed by some random bite bug or similar... OK, so I don''t think this has ever actually happened to me, so I guess under current conditions, you effectively have unlimited HP anyway - it''s not like you can''t restore HP/MP to max easily enough... in fact, it''s not all that often that I even use ether any more... but if you want to allow death by attrition, then you do want to limit magical healing in some way. On the other hand, I tend to under-use spell-casting in FF games anyway - mostly because I regard them primarily as an HP reserve (except in FFVIII where I''m happy to use obsolete spells (those I no longer want to junction))

Anyway, enough rambling... some interesting ideas on magic systems (mostly lifted from AD&D material):

Signature spells: if a particular character typically casts a particular spell or class or family of spell, maybe they should get bonuses with it (possibly with penalties for opposed spells). This can also help character development - one p/p character I played had a Create Water spell, which ended up being used for just about everything, and was one of the things that still makes the character stand out in my mind.

Channelled mana: a character can only store a small amount of mana (possibly 0) for non-immediate use (within a fight?). To cast a spell, the caster has to draw mana from the surroundings - what type and how much is available would depend on the location as well as caster level - so inside a volcano, fire spells would be very easy to cast, while water/ice would be hard (slower/reduced effect)

Partial learning/overcharging: in systems where characters learn spells rather than getting them handed down from on high, they could attempt to cast partially learnt spells/not yet mastered spells either at reduced effect or with risk of fizzling/backfiring. Similarly, spells with variable power could be attempted at levels beyond current caster ability with a risk of fizzling/backfiring. This could go well with signature spells...

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Personally I don''t think the problem is a lack of ''reaction'' moves, because as has been said already, a lot of spells are reactive - healing, removing status ailments/negative effects, etc.

I think that perhaps what is lacking is two things: the need for anticipation, and the need for economy. Magic: The Gathering, in my opinion, has always played on these two points perfectly, and they work in harmony. When you use a spell, it''s gone forever, so every time you cast a spell you have to really weigh up the pros and cons of using it now against saving it for a possibly more important occasion later. The game is a tense balance between using spells now to gain an advantage and holding back spells for a better time to use them.

Most computer and console RPGs don''t have this. You tend to have a pool of mana points and can drain it with impunity. I rarely ever run out of mana in such games, even when using the super spells. You rarely have to worry about saving mana, never mind specific spells. Because you almost always have enough mana, and because most spells can be negated with a simple heal/dispel/whatever, you don''t need to anticipate anything. You just deal as much damage as you can around reacting to any pressing attacks. Rarely do you find yourself having to make a conscious choice about the best way to proceed.

Dungeons And Dragons-style games often have it so that you can only use a spell once per day, and that goes some way towards this goal. You also have to pick your available spells for any given day in advance, much like a Magic: The Gathering player picks their deck of cards from their entire collection. Perhaps forcing the player to make such strategic choices would be interesting? Perhaps you have to spend your mana points on buying spells for the day, rather than on casting them at the time. Perhaps choosing to take certain combinations of spells works out cheaper, but less versatile?

It doesn''t have to stop with the magic system. A fighter''s weapon, armour, and shield combination could be important and can''t be changed during battle. Instead of merely getting the items that raise the stats the most, there could be severe advantages and disadvantages to each type of item. Mainly I''m thinking in terms of reach, speed, damage type, blocking capability, etc. I''d like to see players wearing leather armour because that suits their strategy, not just because they couldn''t find ring mail yet. In essence, the choice of armour is like a Magic: The Gathering ''permanent'' because it lasts throughout the battle and shapes tactics regarding that character.

In a sense, the above ideas shift the balance more towards the long-term/strategic side. But you don''t have to lose all control during the actual battles providing that you still offer enough choice to the player.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost | Asking Questions | Organising code files | My stuff ]

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The big problem for game developers in making players take strategic decisions early (choice of equipment/spells) when the utility of combinations varies widely with conditions is that you then have to give players some idea of what to expect... in FF games, the elemental system already does this to some extent - if you''re wandering around in snow, it''s a fair bet that you don''t want ice elemental weapons - though in practice, I tend not to equip fire element in snowfields either because Square tend to throw in a few fire absorbing monsters in that sort of location. Some unrelated element is generally safest.

So, rather than come up with some way players can judge what they''re likely to need, developers tend towards letting players change to match the conditions in battle... and once you do that, drawbacks of specific items are pretty much negated...



I agree with what Kylotan said - fights have reaction in, but RPG players, in general, don''t want to play twitch reflex style games (if they did, they''d be playing FPSs) What''s lacking isn''t the reaction to enemy action, but the option to act in ways that actually influence the battle. In my experience, most fights in FF games are won beforehand on the menu screens, and there it''s a simple optimising game - in fact, the game even offers to do rough optimisation for you! If FF games can support Blitzball as a side-game, then surely they can produce something better than the current combat system.

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I''ve been working away at a console style RPG for years now...getting all my ideas down on paper...and I think I''ve come up with some unique ideas.

First off the game world isn''t the typical D&D influanced fantasy stuff...so some of this will seem strange.

Magic...is quite rare, but very,very powerfull...at the start of the game no characters have any magic abilities...and they can only get them from killing certain rare creatures (meening any character can have magic)...upon killing one of these creatures the character will recieve 100 magic points, and the ability to cast first level magic spells...killing a second creature gives the player 200 magic points and 2ed level spells...3rd creature 300MP, and 3rd level spells...etx....pretty simple...but here is the catch...the only way to regain magic points is by killing another of these creatures (if you can find one)...further, if the character ever finds him/herself with zero magic points...they transform into one of these magic provideing creatures...this wouldn''t seem very bad...but every day the character will lose a percentage of thier MP basied on the spell casting level (if you have killed three of these creatures, your spell level is 3...so every day you will lose 3% of your MP even if you don''t cast any spells)...Obviously, this makes magic abilities less desireable...which is the whole point...it makes the character very, very deadly...but also obsesive about finding these creatures to regain MP (at first) and later to simply stay alive (once the dayly MP loss percentage grows large enough)...


Additionaly monsters are just as unique...there is a wolf like creature with the ability to summon others (pretty common), it also has several special attacks...one of which is that with every 3rd successful attack it can perform a unblockable hit for 33% damage...when it does this, the individual wolf instantly "raises a level" depending on the number of wolves in the battle (3 wolves = raises 3 levels)...which meens that killing wolves as quickly as possable should be a priority...however with every "level-up" a particular wolf gains, the experience points increase as well...which provides a bit of stratigy (hold off from killing them so as to gain more experience points once they have leveled up...but how long can you hold out?).

The way I''m planning it every monster has simular special abilities...there is a "mind wurm" that will take control of a player character if attacked (meening that you must fight one of your team mates...this isn''t "confusion"...but full on possession)...other creatures work together to kill PCs (there are blue and red birds...a succesful blue bird attack on one character will allow a red bird to do perform a unstopable attack for twice the damage, and vice versa...a sucessful attack by one leaves the charactor wide open for an attack by the other)...right now there arn''t a whole lot of monsters...but there are a huge variety of differences between them...fighting one type on it''s own requires some different stratigies...but if two or more monster types work together, things can get hairy very quickly.

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Say, anyone here play Wheel of Time? It''s a Unreal Tournament-engine-based game, an FPS, and it has a fairly complex magic system. I''m not sure how it works, never having played the game, but if anyone here has, and has some insight, I''m sure it would be appreciable. The books that it''s based on had a neat system, but it''s tough to describe...

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