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Magic without the spells...

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I am working on a new game design where the player uses the elements to perform spells. But not in the typical "Your player has cast 'Fireball'" way. In the sense that you literally manipulate the element. What I mean is something like this: You are in a room surrounded by enemies, and in the room is a small pond. As the player, you "click" on the pond and begin to drag. Your player immediately begins casting, and begins to control the water, and as long as you hold your mouse down, the water will trail and follow the mouse. As soon as you let go, you no longer control the water and it falls to the ground. Now, I thought this could have some awesome abilities: real time control over spells and manipulation of in game items. Say someone shoots a fireball across the room at you -- one quick flick of the wrist and you summon water from your water jug to create a water wall infront of you by just holding your mouse infront of your character. Now, the issue is this: spells generally come in different strengths and sizes. I don't want to use the generic "player cast fireball" kind of thing...I want the player to drag the fire around the room with their mouse, erupting damage. But how do I keep this interesting? I figure that there would be some sort of level up system based on kills using an element, so the control over that element would grow, so you become more powerful with it. I don't want to drop the scheme of the manipulation of elements, but I wonder if there is another method I could use in conjunction to make it more interesting. I mean, when I am controlling fire...what if I want a very concentrated ball, or a large spray to hit the entire room. How could I differentiate if the player is just clicking and holding? Do you think I should have generic "designs" that the player can hit the 'F' keys to choose from? For example, to create a centralized fireball, I would hit F1 for the "centralized" style, and then start manipulating the fire? Any thoughts? I think it really has some potential for reali time attack and defense as long as I can figure it out. I figure fellow game players can help me come up with the most comfortable scheme. <3 visage

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Seems like a very interesting idea. You mention that the players ability grows based on kills. Wouldn't it be better if the player gets better when he uses the element, since he propably wants to use the elements for defence and other this.

As for control, perhaps use the mouse movements to control? If the player clicks on water and then quickly drags the mouse towards his enemies, a powerful ball of water shots towards the enemies. If he instead clicks on the water, and just moves the mouse in front of the player, a wall of water springs up to protect the player.

Anyway, hope you decide to do something with this idea, I would love to play a game with this kind of magic.

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Perhaps something involving mouse "gestures", ala Black and White?

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Seeing as two people just recommended the exact same thing...maybe thats the way to do it...however, the idea is that you shouldn't have to differentiate between "wall of water infront of the player" and "ball of water at the enemy", because by just moving the water infront of the player, you are essentially creating your own wall (this is 2d overhead I am talking about).

My concern was more with the shape and style of the current manipulation. I am thinking that the f1 through f12 will be the best way, where f1 is something simple like "concentrated mass", f2 is "spray", f3 is "shroud", all the way up to f12, which is "wall" or something like that, and as you use an element more and more, these unlock.

Do you like this system? I think the issue with the mouse based system is it would not be as fast as I would like. My thinking with the f1 through f12 system is that as the style becomes more powerful (wall is more powerful than spray, for example), it would require more of the element, which may not be available at the time. For example, if you can only carry 10 gallons on you in your magic container, and a wall would require 15 gallons, than you can't cast it.

Thoughts?

Thanks for the responses!

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Cool idea. If you wanted to create a ball of water / fire / whatever, you could have the player move the mouse in small circles around the source ( pond, torch, whatever ) dragging in more of the element and then throw it. This way you could set it up to allow higher level players to make bigger or stronger balls. If a novice tried it, it could just fall apart in their face. You could use the left mouse button to specify a projectile and the right mouse button to specify a more defensive option, like a wall.


If you haven't already seen it, check out this show called "Airbender: The Last Avatar" I think its on Nickelodeon. The magic users in the show do something similar to what you are describing here. It could make for some good research / inspiration.


It sounds like a great idea. You could even have it set up so you could combine elements, like water and air to make an ice wall, or something.


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My thought was that if you move the mouse slowly towards the enemies you can send a spray of water, and if you move the mouse fast the water gets more concentrated. But when I think about it I realise that you can't spray water very fast. I mean, since you have to move the mouse slowly, it will take more time to spray water than shot water balls. But this depends of course how fast paced the game will be.

However, if you mean that F1-F12 will control how dense the water is, I think that's a good idea. F1 will make the water scatter and produce a spray, and F12 will make the water really dense and produce hard balls of water. But if you meant that the keys will do different things, I think that would be too hard to use. If you for example meant that F1 creates a spray, F2 creates a ball, etc, it feels like it would be hard to memorize what the keys do.

Too bad that you can't measure how hard a mouse button is pressed, that would have made it easier [smile]. But I don't really know how to solve this, just trying to share some ideas.

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How about using the mouse wheel to scroll through element densities?

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Especially if combat is going to be a big part of the game, I would suggest a system where you select an element (like water) and click where you want it to be an the spell automaticlly moves the closest source of the element to the location at what ever speed the spell can move it at.

A fire ball would work the same way where you click in front of you but quickly moving the mouse away from your character and releasing the mouse button will "throw" the fire. But becarful if you are under ground and extinquish the last torch for this spell, everone will be left in the dark.

Of course objects in the way of the closest source of water like a wall would dramaticly affect how fast the water would arrive at its intended destination. So in the case of a pond being 10 feet to your right but with a wall in the way and a pond 20 feet to your left, you could still do the drag from pond idea.

Even if you have an instentanous creation of elemnt effect (create water, fire, etc) still make the power of creating it and/or how long till it actually appears based on how close/near the nearest item of that element is. I.e. creating fire next to a fire place should be easy, but in the middle of an ocean it should be a bit harder.

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I think a better example of a gesture system would be Arx Fatalis, since that actually uses it for a freehand magic system of its own. Mouse wheel isn't a bad way either.

My particular approach would be the combination of elements. For example, you mentioned a jug the player could summon water out of to manipulate. What if the player wanted the water to be thicker? Well the player could pick up some dirt (say from the floor) and combine it with the water in the jug to make mud which is thicker, and then use it to create a wall. This is essentially a basic form of alchemy combined with telekenesis. At this point, all you'd have to do is think of the possible spell combinations the player could make out of the objects and elements available in the room.

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First, I want to state something: this game will be one of dexterity.

The best controls as I see them:
Control character with point-and-click system (right button)

Aquiring a source element to use in your spells:
- once you want to use an element left click on it (without moving mouse too much); show player he currently manipulate the element - let's say fire from a candle. Posibilities - icon or effects over/round him, some icon in interface, some manifestation from element source (so can easily recognize his source of power)

Casting a spell:
- draw "spell rune" on the ground keeping left button pressed. On release analyze shape, size and orientation to determine spell type. Shape perfection will have an impact on spell efficacy (more dmg, duration etc).

Example:
- drawing a narrow angle with apex at your character position will generate a fire blast filling the angle. If wider it will do less damage (keep the same total damage).
- draw a echilateral triangle and you will cast some armor (make templates)
- draw a echilateral triangle on a target and you will cast ignite on it
- use your imagination :)

Another topic to consider is the nature of source element. For example manipulating fire from a candle will generate weaker spells than manipulating fire from a fire camp or a vulcano. Of course your character specialization or certain skills may improve over this, you may have spells that generate element.

This is an easy to learn system, each player plays at his own dexterity level. Items can affect the above variables. Beware to balace spells so even low dexterity people can cast the general ones (specials are for those who improve).

Let's see where this analyse goes...

Best wishes,
Cod.

PS: people like templates ;)

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I think what you should do is have keys relating to paint brushes. Your first level would be a small thin brush with a small amount of *paint*. As your levels increase you can change the shape of your brush and gather more paint on it. On second thought, I would not relate brush shape to levels at all. You could use a really huge brush at a low level, you just wouldn't get far.

Let's see, you should also be able to switch brushes mid stream. That way you could have a small thin line out to where you need and then widen it (conserving paint).
I would also create the brushes in 3-d. That way a large brush vertically could be very thin.
You could also have a spraypaint type brush that fades at the edge (I would think this would be best as the default).

Finally, I would have left-click hold, right-click be propel. Propeling the paint pushes whatever stream you are holding away (radially from your position.

Enjoy!

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I'm with CorSix.

Left click to grab the water, then spin the scroll wheel to decide how much to use. When you get enough, you can drag it to move it, drag&release to throw it, or right click to do something special based on how much you have.

A little tiny bit of water might be frozen into an icicle for more effective throwing, while a basketball-sized blob could be formed into a shield or a beachball-sized blob used to engulf an enemy.

A little icon in the corner could tell you what class your blob fit into, and the mouse wheel could be used to "pare it down" if you go too much.

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Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I'm with CorSix.

Left click to grab the water, then spin the scroll wheel to decide how much to use. When you get enough, you can drag it to move it, drag&release to throw it, or right click to do something special based on how much you have.

A little tiny bit of water might be frozen into an icicle for more effective throwing, while a basketball-sized blob could be formed into a shield or a beachball-sized blob used to engulf an enemy.

A little icon in the corner could tell you what class your blob fit into, and the mouse wheel could be used to "pare it down" if you go too much.



Wow, thanks for the input everyone! This seems like a really, really cool idea right here. The more the player levels up, the more of an element they can control at once, and the right click allowing them to do something special would allow for much more in the game. This way, not only can you unlock your strength, but unlock special abilities as well (which, as we all know, gamers get off on).

That is a superb idea -- and I can allow the gamer to set their "standard amount" for if they just want to quickly click and throw an amount of an element.

I don't know how much I want to allow the ability to mix elements: sure, this would allow a lot of freedom, but it also would require a very very complex system. I will think more about this.

Another thing I wanted to stay away from was the idea of "drawing" spells with the mouse. It is a great idea (infact, someone just posted a PDF design doc about their game that did this) -- it just would be too slow for the game I am picturing. I want my game to be about speed and reaction.



Thanks again for the input guys.

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About spray vs. concentrated blob, how about something like this:

Whenever you're holding some of an element, you have a concentrated blob in your control, but it's always giving off some spray. So if you want to throw a fireball, you can just move the mouse quickly towards an enemy, then release. Or if you want to spray someone, you keep hold of the element but wave your mouse about.
This could make for some interesting uses, like spraying some water about, then throwing the remainder as a concentrated blob. The more damage you want to do with the blob, the quicker you have to throw it after picking it up. This also means you can't hold onto something forever, as it's gradually lost as spray.

Finally, you could use this as a way to combine elements if you make the spray hang around for a while after you stop controlling the element. Then, if the player throws a concentrated blob of a different element through the spray, they combine.

I hope I explained that well enough. I could come up with some more examples if it didn't make sense.

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Quote:
Original post by visage

Wow, thanks for the input everyone! This seems like a really, really cool idea right here. The more the player levels up, the more of an element they can control at once, and the right click allowing them to do something special would allow for much more in the game. This way, not only can you unlock your strength, but unlock special abilities as well (which, as we all know, gamers get off on).

That is a superb idea -- and I can allow the gamer to set their "standard amount" for if they just want to quickly click and throw an amount of an element.

I don't know how much I want to allow the ability to mix elements: sure, this would allow a lot of freedom, but it also would require a very very complex system. I will think more about this.

Another thing I wanted to stay away from was the idea of "drawing" spells with the mouse. It is a great idea (infact, someone just posted a PDF design doc about their game that did this) -- it just would be too slow for the game I am picturing. I want my game to be about speed and reaction.



Thanks again for the input guys.


I saw that design doc too! It looked pretty inventive, but doesn't the DS already come with the shape recognition software needed? It would be a pain to have to pour through volumes of AI research to come up with this...

I definitely am a fan of abilities unlocking through the game. A game is no fun if you start with everything at the beginning and just "make it stronger". Skills which inherently take more "element" should be learned much later than skills which only take a little bit of element. Maybe your character starts the game with just a spell to create a small amount of fire and can light a candle with it. Like Zelda, the first area would be a trek through a darkened manor where the character could light candles to dispose of nocturnophilac ghosts. Later, the character would discover how to manipulate the next element (say Water) to create magical Aqua Armor around his person by clicking and dragging from a water source, or whatever; followed by learning how to fire small fireballs from a torch that he carries, or whatever. As the story progresses, he unlocks new abilities.
The harder elements to describe visually will be air and earth. Earth tends to be tricky since there's not a lot that you can do with rock, just dirt. Air is difficult because.. well... there's a lot of it. I would have a hard time visually "pulling" on a piece of air in a game to have it do something. Smoke or Fog could be related to the fire and water elements, but they're not JUST air.

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The idea of manipulating elements like that sounds a lot like this show my little sister watches called The Avatar (I think? It's on Disney, iirc) There are four tribes of people.. Airbenders, Waterbenders, Earthbenders, and Firebenders. The Firebenders seem to summon fire out of nowhere, but the other three use the elements around them to do whatever.

The Avatar apparently is supposed to control all four elements.

-Greven

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I like the idea.

Tho some things that could be nicer:

Rune type things.

For eg. You have a guard (which you threw using your TK abilities, and got rid of his sword + shield + dagger), so you draw a cross under him, and you see these golden lines appear where you dragged. As soon as you see them, the guard starts floating, and can't move outside the center of the cross. (forcefield).

You are now free to torture the guard (who is a bot, so he can tell you some things), to find out info.

From,
Nice coder

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Guest Anonymous Poster
It is unfortunate, but I dislike this idea. The idea DOES sound cool, but where it starts to lack is while it's being used. The problem I see with it is this: You are creating it as a replacement for generic spells, such as fireball, that everyone uses and it's the same. Instead of someone casting fireball now, they must drag fire from a torch and make a spell. ... but if everyone is going to be dragging fire from a torch, everyone will still be the same. By now you must be thinking, "Wait! We still get to shape our spell!". Yes, you do get to do that. However, shapes are fickle. 99% of the time, a flat, horizontal line will be the best shape to use. Walls shouldn't even be considered because you can't win with defense (as shown in a previous thread), so defending someone's fireball with a water wall isn't a genius as you make it out to be, considering the fireball guy will just get to attack again, and you will be stuck defending again, IF you can keep it up.

I think what will really kill it are the sources. You say draw from a pond or a jug... so will everyone be carrying a source for each element, and sometimes they will be near a larger source (ie, the ponds) in certain areas? The game will quickly become stale like that. All you are doing is creating the spells for the players, and hiding them in different objects. Everyone will still cast their most powerful spell in each situation.

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A quick response to AP:

After you block that fireball with your water wall, he lost his fire, but you still have a handful of water. That puts you up. You shed a little with the mouse wheel, freeze it into a spear, and chuck it at him. He has nothing left, so he'll have to block it with his torso. Ouch.

When there's no fire/water/whatever around to use, then you get out your axe. Simple as that.

As to replenishing, each class could carry an "item" that supports them.

Fire: Flint, steel and tinder. Fire-users could use fire's self-propagating nature to generate more fire from a spark. Carry a flint with you, and strike a spark, then use it to ignite a bale of hay or log of wood. That's a good source of low-level power.

Water: Canteen/Waterbag. Water-users could use a "charge" skill to slowly draw moisture (including water they used earlier) from the surrounding area. They meditate until a cloud of vapor forms, then it gets thicker and thicker until it's an aqueous globe, then they drop it into their canteen for emergency use later.

Earth: Bag of sand/gravel? Earth-users could use dirt or sand or rock, and they could use just a tiny bit of it to abraid a rock and get more. Use a pinch of sand or some gravel or a small rock to chip away at a big rock and produce more sand/gravel/small rocks, which could then be used or carried in a pouch. I don't have a clear idea of how earth-use would work, though. Maybe limited telekinesis, like Magneto but with rocks and dirt instead. Some kind of seismic power? Tough to figure.

Wind: Fan. Air-use is very tricky. I think it would be best to make it "wind", so they need moving air to do their thing. Then a simple fan could be used to start things rolling. A low level spell could be "maelstrom", which gradually magnifies wind power in a swirling vortex. It's the easiest to produce, but the slowest to "charge up" for use.

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Telekinesis.

I mean, elements may be your thing, but it may work better to describe it a telekenetic force, and the Character's strength describes how fast an object can keep up with the mouse cursor. A strong enough character would pick up smaller enemies and smash them into larger enemies.

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Telekinesis is a totally different kind of superpower. TK is a psionic power. Elemental manipulation is a magical power. It's a metaphysical difference that totally changes the implications. A telekinetic character can move anything. An elementalist has different strengths, needs and strategic considerations. Totally different.

Don't wuss out and just treat it as TK.

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Not neccessarily, you could use Magic and have it behave like PSI-TK. For example, the traditional Earth Air Water Fire, those are dumb, forget them. Use the oriental version: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal.

So, for five elements, the magician in question has to master these elements individually to be able to take grasp of them, and it mixes it up for the player figuring out how to make use of these elements. Consider the "Regulating Cycle" for Chi:

Water controls fire. Water puts fire out.
Wood controls earth. Tree roots hold clods of earth.
Fire controls metal. Fire can melt metal.
Earth controls water. A pond holds water.
Metal controls wood. An ax cuts wood.

Thats PLENTY to work off of.

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This might make things slightly more complicated, but seeing that elements are being manipulated, there's the issue of quantity/volume.

So, say you're only carrying a gallon of water. No matter how you manipulate it, its always going to be one gallon of water. As you throw it at your opponent or use it as a shield, you really do run the risk of reducing the quantity that you have. Also, one gallon of water can only effectively create a shield of a certain size. Anything larger it might just be too thin.

Other elements like fire should follow physical limitations as well. Things like the fire will only burn for as long as the source allows. Different sources can then create different types of flame. So, say you use a candle. If you try to inflate the flame the candle will burn faster. So, at some point, you might get a large fireball, but then that would be it, and it probably won't last very long.

As for levelling, I think levelling up would just simply be the degree of control, accuracy and speed of your control. At first, you might not be very accurate, so, the element may spread to a larger area than you want. Then later, as accuracy increases, it will start doing what you really want it to do. The amount of element (quantity) that you can control should also increase as you level up. So, at low levels, you might be able to control a jug of water, but as you level up, you can start utilizing larger bodies and larger quantities of water.

Its a nice little system, just feel that some physical grounding may actually make it more realistic, though probably more complex.

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You should do away with the mouse and use some kind of motion-glove device, then you could also use finger postures and hand gestures ;)

I like the mouse gestures method, the F-Keys setup seems alot like normal spellcasting, since your selecting the "spells" but from hotkeys. With a gesture method, the accuracy and speed of the gesture can be used as factors for damage and other variables.

Sounds fun anyway

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How about a gesture system that uses more direct, intuitive gestures rather than cryptic sigils?

You "hover up" about a basketball-sized ball of water. As you drag it around, it "trails" behind your cursor. If you hold it still, it'll form a sphere, but mouse gestures can turn it into a line or an arc or, with enough water, a complete circle of varying size.

A ball could be "activated" to freeze it into a form based on how much you have (icicle, ice arrox, ice spear, ice lance), a line could form into a wall (with the ratio of volume to length determining its thickness) and a circle could form either armor or an iron maiden, depending on the friend or foe status of the critter inside.

You could even use a right-click toggle to start "drawing" the effect. Get your blob up, right click to "anchor" it, and then drag it around the area you want to cover. Then right-click to activate it, and it's off. Maybe you could click the wheel to cancel it or something.

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