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Icefox

Making blocking worthwhile

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In the "Combat in RPG's" thread, the subject of blocking/fighting defensively was brought up, and I thought it worthy enough to delve into a bit more deeply... The main points:
Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid With most RPGs, blocking usually a losing tactic. Your avatar does no damage to the enemy, but the enemy does damage to you. How are you making blocking a useful strategy in your game?
Quote:
Original post by Jiia Blocking is nice, but I prefer counters. As in a move that uses the enemy's attack to throw them off balance. It's the same idea, but harder to pull off, and leaves a larger opening for attack.
Now, I do some karate, so let me draw on my experience from that. The two times when an enemy is most vulnerable is either when he's trying to block a feint (with your real attack coming from somewhere else), or right after they've tried to attack you. Looking at these, I think it suggests a mechanic that makes blocking useful: Instead of telling your character to block with the result that they do nothing and simply take less damage, why not make it more tactical? Say there are a few different results that trying to block an attack can have: 1) You succeed in blocking, take less damage, and nothing else 2) You succeed in blocking and manage to riposte, giving your enemy a good hit 3) You fail to block and the enemy clocks you This makes it a bit of a gamble, of course. You can attack now and maybe get a decent hit, or maybe get hit hard instead. Or, you can wait for the enemy to attack and try to counter it. Which is a better idea would depend on how your character is built --someone with high perception and timing would be better at countering, while someone with high speed and skill would be better at attacking without opening themselves up to a counter, and could be more agressive. It would also depend on the enemy you're fighting; you're more likely to be able to counter a swing from a back-alley thug than from a pro boxer, even if they both hit equally hard. And then you would have the obligatory range of special skills and effects to swing the chances one way or another... Of course, this only works for hand-to-hand combat, but then you have to think more strategically about hand-to-hand vs ranged combat as well. "I have to fight a smiling little old man in a saffron robe; I'd better have my fighter sit there and taunt while my weaker archer plinks him, 'cause if my fighter attacks she'll end up flat on her face." Any thoughts?

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How about a successful block gives the attacker a '-n' on their next defence chance where 'n' can change depending on how committed the attack was?

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Quote:
Original post by Icefox
Now, I do some karate, so let me draw on my experience from that. The two times when an enemy is most vulnerable is either when he's trying to block a feint (with your real attack coming from somewhere else), or right after they've tried to attack you.


This suggests to me a variant of the tried and true "scissors-paper-rock" gameplay mechanic. Blocking beats an attack, feinting beats a block, and attacking beats a feint. Now I'd probably make it a little more complex than that [smile], but this would at least be a bit more tactical than the pure attack combat mechanics which are present in most RPGs.

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In nice systems, countering is usually a risk, where blocking is almost always successful. You may need to block low or high for different attacks, but for the most part, it's not that risky to block. There's usually no bonus to blocking, other than not being hurt as much. The attacker is usually not even stunned much, and can continue to unleash attacks. In fighting games, the usual method of countering a good blocker is to throw them around.

Countering is a way to change their offense into yours. Sometimes the enemy can counter your attempt and prevent the change, and you can do the same, until someone makes a mistake. Like tennis I guess.

Non-critical blocking is important for real-time fighting. Sometimes you're thrown off balance (mentally), and need to rethink your strategy or can't react fast enough to some situations. I guess preventing normal blocking would be a good way to step up the action and force the fighters to stay at each other.

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As a fencer, I use blocking for basic defense while I attempt to reposition myself for an effective attack. Blocking is almost never done in a vaccuum; there's always something going on behind the scenes that includes the block. In the standard "exchange of blows" combat systems, a block is just a wasted chance to hurt the other guy. It can be used in a pseudo-strategy, if you can convince your enemy to attack the guy with big armor, and have him block such that he can last for fifty turns while your other dudes pound on the mobs, then you're in business. Otherwise, it's useless.

You need to add something to the combat to make blocking useful. FF6j had "parries" that totally blocked an enemy attack (a more realistic result of a block). They occurred randomly, based on a foctor that was a function of your agility and your equipment. A little shield, or a sword, or, in Shadow's case, a dog would appear in front of your character to absorb or redirect the attack. Really, you could just replace armor class with "blocking class", and have any attack it defeats "blocked". Throw in a little *ting* sound and show a main gauche stopping the attack, and you're set.

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I think you are looking at it the wrong way. The reason blocking is ineffective is because there is only 1 type of damage... HP damage. Since you are only drawing from a single resource as to whether combat is a victory or defeat, there is little you can do. However, if attacking were to take energy, energy which was limited and only replenishable by resting (not potions) then blocking becomes very viable in reducing the efficiency of your opponent. Thus a REAL strategy can be developed. By blocking bigger attacks, or just many of them, you can build a defensive player who can win a battle. There's a little more to it then that, but that covers my point.

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I guess most of you are referring to turn based combat. I've not really thought about blocking in that type of situation. It would definitely be a challenge to make blocking useful if you had to choose not to attack in order to execute it for a turn. It makes it pretty pointless. If you had time units, it might work to allow blocking at the end of a turn with so many points remaining. It's usually better to just run to a safe distance with that time, but if it were done realistically, it would be a bit faster to block than to move one step. Unfortunately, in this setup, anyone would be an idiot not to block at the end of a turn, making it pointless again. A chance roll might help the fact.

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Several very good ideas on this one. I like having an alternate energy stat, or extra action points. But one thing that really concerns me about making blocking more effective is that fights can drag out forever. I really like Icefox's lottery approach because at least it introduces some risk and helps head off what could easily turn into a dominant strategy (one you should do all the time).

I think that no matter how far you advance, this combat mechanic is so delicate that you should never have much more than 50/50 odds of succeeding if the result will drastically reduce damage. Maybe as you advance the other things you can do, such as reposte or move, become more effective. But if you get better than a 50/50 block chance, you'll end up with Invincible Hero Syndrome.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
Quote:
Original post by Icefox
Now, I do some karate, so let me draw on my experience from that. The two times when an enemy is most vulnerable is either when he's trying to block a feint (with your real attack coming from somewhere else), or right after they've tried to attack you.


This suggests to me a variant of the tried and true "scissors-paper-rock" gameplay mechanic. Blocking beats an attack, feinting beats a block, and attacking beats a feint. Now I'd probably make it a little more complex than that [smile], but this would at least be a bit more tactical than the pure attack combat mechanics which are present in most RPGs.


I've got a few designs for RPG style combat that are more or less roughly based on 'rock-paper-siccors' or in more RPG terms 'STR-DEX-SKILL.' Like you said its a bit more complicated than that but not too much.

Basicly something like:

Blocking is Strength Based.
Dodging is Dexterity Based.
Parry/reposte is Skill Based.

Power Attacks are Strength Based
Quick Attacks are Dexterity Based
Precision attacks are Skill based.


SO basicly choosing an Attack Type or Defense Type is Choosing which character stat to use.


So when two opponents match up, depending on thier attack and defense choices, thier Stats match up and do the battling.

A simple version is something like


DEX DEF has better chance to beat STR ATT,
DEX ATT has better chance to bea STR DEF,
SKILL DEF has better chance to bea DEX ATT,
DEX ATT has equal chance to beat DEX DEF,
etc...


And then you can throw in some strategic design tweaks on How much fuel (energy/stamina) each Attack and Def uses.

And then you could tweak it more on how much Damage each attack type might do.

And then you could tweak it more on Side effects. Examples...

Power Attacks have chances to Stun.

Skill Attacks have chances to Bleed, or Disarm.

-----------------

The idea would be to design a system were playing the game is much like playing rock-paper-siccors, where you watch your opponents patterns and try to adjust your own patterns.

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