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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:

-Ryan "Run_The_Shadows"
-The Navidson Record! The best film you''ll never see!

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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 .

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,
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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