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benfinkel

Why are RPG combat systems so boring?

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Hello all, As a big fan of RPG games, I was wondering why their combat interfaces are usually so boring. The subject is usually brought to mind when watching my characters defeat some orcs in Dungeon Siege, or (god forbid) the repetative snake-bashing of Everquest. To me, a game is supposed to be an interactive fun experience. Here are my thoughts on the matter: There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to combat. On one side you''ve got the people who want it to be a completely dice-roll kind of system. You spend hours developing your character pefectly, getting all of the right magic equipment and spells, so that he is a master with that sword. It doesn''t matter that you, as the player, have no idea how to use a sword. There''s the appeal; a handicapped person can become a master swordsman without having to be highly coordinated or reflexive. You''ve built a character that handles all of that for you. The down-side seems to be that combat is a boring thing. You may make a few choices about when to pause and drink a health-potion, but generally the game handles all of the interesting stuff. On the flip side, you''ve got a totally action-oriented system where it''s ENTIRELY up to the player to be quick, reflexive, and coordinated. Think Soul Caliber, where the player must know what attack combinations to use at which point, and must be able to execute them in a timely and correct fashion. The down-side to this is that there is no RPG element. If you''ve got a few magical enchantments that increase your skill with the sword, and your character is level 75 and spent all of his skill points in swords, you as the player are still not any better at it. So, why hasn''t anyone tried to devise a system that marries the two? Thoughts for the day. Apparently this is what too much Turkey does to you. -Ben

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Guest Anonymous Poster
it''s a tough balance beteween gameplay focusing on reflexes or strategy so games generally pick one and stick to it. You may want to look at Magic The Gathering:Battlegrounds because that seems close to what you want to do right there.

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Deus Ex and System Shock 2 does this more or less perfectly.

I''ve heard not-so-good things about the DX2 demo though, so I can''t speak for that.

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I love Vagrant Story (squaresoft, ps1). The battle system is roughly halved between live action and decision-making, but it never feels that way. During battle, whenever you use your weapon, the game pauses so you can decide what part of the body - or stone creature - you want to aim for.
Throughout the game you build weapon strength stats, creature strength stats and attack techniques. The attack techniques let you wield your sword - or bow - in unusual ways. The key to this battle system is combinations. Everything is live action except for when you aim. Once you attack, you have the ability to attack as many times as you want, so long as you swing your sword at the precise time. This, in a way, gives the player total responsibility for being able to battle well, regardless of weapon stats, etc.
For example, even though the game architecture is pretty linear, one can potentially face an enemy that is far above your ability as far as stats are concerned. If your armor isn''t good enough and you get attacked you can die. However, if you''re skilled enough - or lucky - and get the first attack in, you can possibly beat the foe *soley* based upon your swordsmanship.
I''ve been waiting for Vagrant Story 2 since 1998 ...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I LOVE Deus Ex, and you''re right. It does make a fine balance between statistical-based and coordination-based gameplay. However, it''s (regardless of the branching possibilities) a fairly linear action game. That aside however, good example.

As far as Vangrant Story goes I''ve never played it, but it also sounds like an interesting approach to balancing the two out. I may try and find that hiding in a bargain bin somewhere.

Anonymous - I realize it''s not an easy thing to balance out, but I''d think there would be more attempts to do so. Eh, what do I know anyways.

--Ben

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Guest Anonymous Poster
don''t forget most big companies don''t like taking risks when it comes to game design, which is why we see so many "cloned" games. I didn''t say the mixture couldn''t or shouldn''t be done, just that it may take some experimentation which many game designers may not be willing to do, and you can either end up with a bomb, or "tha bomb".

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Diablo, anyone? It definitely got coordination gameplay.

And what you also have in many RPG:s are strategic gameplay. Like in Fallout.

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Grandia 2, look for this into the forum (search feature) I''ve described the system many times.


-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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I beleive Ultima Online has something like this now, I used to play and it was the dice roll type way like you described, but now they have special attacks and such that you can time so its kinda in the middle you can use those special attacks when you want but the rest is more or less computer controlled..

Also when your playing a mage you have to cast the spells that you want to cast so that also forces you to react to the different things..

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