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makeshiftwings

controlling multiple characters

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Hey, I'm designing a sort of RPG/adventure game, which mostly focuses on one character, but will sometimes have NPCs tagging along in your party. The combat's going to be real-time, sort of a cross between Zelda and World of Warcraft. The view point is going to be 3rd person over-the-shoulder cam, again, similar to Zelda. It will be PC (keyboard and mouse control). I'm wondering if anyone's seen any games that are good examples of allowing some control over the other party members while still allowing fast-paced real-time combat in a non-overhead view. Right now, I'm envisioning standard FPS movement controls (WASD + mouselook), left and right mouse buttons for attacking and blocking, space for dodge/jump, and then a hotbar w/ hotkeys (like 1-9) for spells and items. I'm considering having other party members have their own mini-hotbars under their portraits and health meters, which you can also use by pressing Ctrl, Shift, or Alt + 1-9. That's assuming a max of 3 other party members. Their abilities in the hotbar would generally just target whatever you're targeting. I'm also considering having the main character be able to give orders, like "Heal me!" or "Focus fire!" or "Don't use any magic", which could also be hotkeyed. I don't want any pausing the game to give orders like Baldur's Gate or KOTOR, and I don't need the view to ever switch to the other characters; I want the game to be entirely from the view of the main character. But I want it to be easy and useful to use the other NPCs instead of just putting them on AI and having them follow around and attack on their own. I want the player to actively participate in using them, but have it simple and fast enough that he can still spend most of his time directly controlling the main character. Anyone have any ideas, or examples of games I could check out that might lead me in a good direction?

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Kingdom Hearts ("Final Fantasy: Disney") has a main character controlled Zelda-style and 2 "wingmen" who you can set onto a targeted enemy. You can also tweak their AI parameters in the menus.

A lot simpler than what you're proposing, but might offer some ideas.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Almost every Tactical Shooter has the game mechanics you are looking for. I would look at games like the Rainbow6 or Ghost Recon series for examples of teambased realtime combat.

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Ghost Recon is a good example, and so is Rainbow Six 2, but they both make it feel like the orders are an interruption. There's either a contextual menu or a pause screen to be dealt with.

How about Star Wars: Republic Commando? It's a big design investment. There are "hot spots" in the game. A crat will have a "snipe point" on it, so you can put your crosshair on it and press the "go" button, and your sniper will switch to his rifle and run over there to over long-range cover. Other positions are terminals to hack, cover to use for lobbing grenades or launching anti-vehicle rounds, turrets and stationary guns to operate, and health stations to recharge at.

You can also use the command button to designate targets for focus-fire. It's neat.

Like I said, though, you'll have to script all those locations. SW: RC had linear levels, but every once in a while you'd be backtracking, and the "snipe" command would send your guy to the WRONG side of cover. That sucked wang. Be careful.

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Thanks for the suggestions, guys; those are all games I haven't tried yet. I don't have much experience with tactical shooters; most of the FPS's i've played have been of the Doom/Unreal variety. I'll have to try some out. I like the idea of having hotspots like crates to take cover behind that you can point out to the party... I'll have to see if I can work something similar into the design somehow.

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SWRC is probably the best suggestion of squad command so far, though it felt like the "hotspots" made the gameplay somewhat linear (there were only so many slots you could pick, and they were static, IE: Grenades/Sniper, etc so you couldn't tell him WHAT to fire there since it was pre-determined, just to sit there and fire).

There's Project Eden and Martian Gothic, though in those games you switch to the other characters viewpoint. Halflife basically had the NPC's follow you and shoot anything in the area near you, and you could use them to open doors. In Halflife: Opposing Force, you could control several team members, like engineer (blows doors open) Medic, heavy assult soldiers, etc. But again, they would fire on their own and just follow you.

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check out Shiny's Sacrifice.

(Sacrifice is the name of the game, not that Shiny sacrificed themselves after the crappy Matrix game or anything)

it was a 3D RTS where you would control a 'leader' and you would haul all your army around in formation. You drew mana out of your base via these little guys called ;Manahoes, who I always called Manawhores.
Anyways, you would target stuff and give instructions to your army , sometimes you'd send them to attack and you'd stay behind, and then they all died and you had to panic and run waving your arms all the way back to home base, which was already under attack and you had left no one covering it because that would have made your already slaugthered army smaller.
Yes I could never get the hang of it. But I disgress, it had that sorta control scheme you want. so check it out.

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And a Gamecube RPG that can never get too much hype, Tales of Symphonia. It featured a real time battle system where you completely control one character and then have button combinations to control the others. You also had a very extensive set of customizations you could make to each player's AI, but I'm not the kind of player to put too much attention into that.

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if you are going to control 1 or 2 characters, this might work:

normal controls : you control PC, NPCs follow you around

press and hold alt - switch control to NPC1, use mouse to make him go to this position, or target opponent, you normal 1-9 hotkeys will activate corresponding 1-9 functions in npc1

press and hold ctrl - switch control to NP2. same controls

press and hold ctrl-alt - commands apply to both NPC1 and 2



rather than keep track of where the main character is, the player just needs to let go of the crtl and/or alt keys to control the main player. he does not need to look at the screens just feel the keys to know who will be affected by his commands.

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Just want to suggest to have a look at Dungeon Siege. You could tweak the AI settings for your (most of the time) computer controlled party members using three selectors.

Maybe you could use a similar approach, but with a twist - you could save settings to a hotkey (say, F1 - F12) and could assign these to the NPC in a similar way yapposai suggested. Not just selecting from a given number of settings, but being able to configure them on your own.

So if F1 is the "use range weapons, no magic, stay back as far as possible" setting you just set up, you could click ALT+F1 to assign this to the first NPC, CTRL+F1 for the second and so on. You would need to keep the party size down of course, or you might soon run out of hotkeys... ;)

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