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Cold_Flame

Complex combat rules

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Oh yes, this is based off a previous topic, but the idea is quite different. I was reading ADnD 2ed rules book, when it struck me: why do designers still stick to simple rules for combat, primarily RPG combat? Why do weapon damage attributes like 1d4 or 3-12 or, even worse, simply "12" still exist? Back in the PnP days it was impossible to compute something more complicated by hand. But hey, nowadays computer RPGs have become quite common :), computers are sure better then humans at computing :), and combat rules are all the same. Take weapon's damage, check ToHit, subtract from TargetHP... it's primitive. Which leads to players caring only about their numbers, not actual gameplay. Why not make a complicated and hard-to-figure combat system? Hide all numbers and stuff from the players. A weapon has a fuzzy description of its abilities. Like "this sword looks good. too bad you're a mage, so you don't even know how to handle it". And give in-game hints like, "your sword may be good at hacking up orcs, but don't count on it if you encounter a Stone Golem". Make players figure out what weapon is better in practice, not just by looking at its numbers. I suppose it will make any game much more immersive.

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Players need to make strategic decisions or else they feel like they're watching a movie. To make strategic decisions, players need proper information/feedback. Getting into a few fights just to see how a weapon works isn't fun, it's a waste of time.

[edit: less... caustic]

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There are plenty of games with more complex systems in place, and plenty that hide a large amount of the data from the player, but its not nearly as common as exposing the numbers, and doing so in a simple to understand fashion, because a player wants to be able to assess the value of something quickly. If two things are called 'good', thats very vague, and maybe the difference will only show up after many, MANY uses. But if something is a 243 attack and something else has a 244 attack, the difference is discrete, and obvious. By the way, you'll find more complicated combat related equation sets in general in situations where it would become computationally expensive to do it the 'old fashion way'. Picture a team of game entities that each have a machine gun that fires 100K bullets a second :P.. Rediculous indeed, but even if scaled down, the problem still exists, and complicated statistical equations enter onto the scene to see what is the probability, given the circumstances, that X damage will be done to each entity in the area of fire, seperately for each i [if a bullet passes one target, maybe it hits one behind]. Many players want to be able to quantify the effect they have on the game world, and telling them something is 'pretty good', just isn't sufficient to those who are trying to construct a character with specific traits. Information gets lost easily in vagueness, like 'pretty good', and information takes on a certain vagueness if it is derived from overly complex equations [not lost to the computer, but to the player]. So the simple data is shown to the player, each of the 100K bullets does 1-4 damage, with a chance to hit that starts at 20% and decreases the longer it is fired. The dirty and nasty equations are behind the scenes, to derive the data without having to trace a path for every bullet.

The simple equations aren't meant to make things easier on the developers, or the computer, but to make things more accessable by the player. Tell a player that the chance to hit what is being shot at is ((E^(accuracy) * dexterity + E^(target evasion))/(E^(3(target evasion * ( range / max weapon range)))), and [s]he is going to just revert to shooting the weapon with crossed fingers, instead of even attempting to wade through the equation to find out what attribute benefits more than others. Not much a point in making a customizable character creation system if you have no idea what your added attributes even effect


But the thought of having to 'try out' every weapon that hits the ground in a dungeon crawler like either of the diablos, is downright funny. Such a vague system will only really be applicable to games that have a smaller and more restricted range of possible items

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Quote:

Getting into a few fights just to see how a weapon works isn't fun, it's a waste of time.

Sure they don't have to. They will base their knowledge on rumors gained whether in-game, from the game manual, from game-related websites, from other players, or whatever. The big thing is to keep actual data from the public, as this will kill the system.

And then you can't tell for sure that a two-handed sword makes most damage, you can only know that it *probably* makes most damage, and that's a big difference. Combat becomes more dangerous and, actually, more strategic too.
"Strategic" means less based on numbers, more on using your mind.

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For turn based games I think youd want simple rules and open known info so the players can plan and think what to do. For fast real time games you can have hidden info and complex rules - it doesnt make much difference as the players go through it as hack-and-slash.

the simple "12dam" weapons can be very very complex games (mostly turn-based), for example see Tactics-Arena. These simple rules help you play strategically, plan your steps in advance.

Games can have simple rules and turn into hack-and-slash (mostly real time games) for example Diablo.


There was a mud I played (arctic-mud) where the equations and info were partly hidden from the players damage was conveyed by texts such as obliterated/.../bruised and not numbers. The result was that I had no idea if the next lightning bolt had a chance of killing the monster or not. Im not sure if its better or worst, its just different.

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If you know that your two handed sword does 1d12, and their shortsword does 2d3, you already know that you'll probably do more damage. The only way to prevent raw data being published is to run it as an mmorpg, and even then some enterprising person will run tests with a buddy to see just what the numbers are to a high certainty.

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I think a big reason why 'simple' combat equations are so common is because they are simple. They're easy, and since they are easy to work with, they're easier to prove they work and balance.

I have a few more tests to run on a few of the systems I'm working on before I pick one to run with, but simple does seem to be better even if I could spare the computer power to use something 100 times as complex.

as for hiding the numbers, if you include enough small random elements in the equations, it should make things hard enough for people to find, even if they are testing them. If you use an action based skill gain on a varible slide (meaning each time you swing your sword, you gain a little more skill with it, not much just a little, and each time it is a little different) it would make it next to impossible if you hid those small changes.

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I agree with you that the combat system could go furthure, but I don't think hiding data from players is the way to do it. Eventually that could become annoying and possibly frustrating. Take a common MMO where you raid, some sword drops, you might not want to spend your dkp on it, but it could be an upgrade. But you don't know.

More, the combat system itself, the way damage is delt/mitigated/recieved etc. is what needs to be more complex. I have a few ideas on this, but really nothing worth posting.

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Original post by Cold_Flame
I was reading ADnD 2ed rules book, when it struck me:
why do designers still stick to simple rules for combat, primarily RPG combat? Why do weapon damage attributes like 1d4 or 3-12 or, even worse, simply "12" still exist? Back in the PnP days it was impossible to compute something more complicated by hand.

Because you're looking in the D&D ruleset.
Try looking at RPG's that aren't based on these rules. Fallout comes to mind, although it's far from the only one to have a different, more complex ruleset.

Quote:
Why not make a complicated and hard-to-figure combat system? Hide all numbers and stuff from the players. A weapon has a fuzzy description of its abilities. Like "this sword looks good. too bad you're a mage, so you don't even know how to handle it".

And give in-game hints like, "your sword may be good at hacking up orcs, but don't count on it if you encounter a Stone Golem".

You're mixing up two issues now. Whether or not the combat system should be as ridiculously simplistic as D&D has nothing to do with whether or not all hard data should be hidden from the player.

As far as the latter goes, what would be gained by it? Why would it feel better for the player?
What you're forgetting is that the player needs feedback to know whether he's on the right track. In the real world, well, you'd easily be able to see if your sword just bounced off a monster type. In a game, you can't. *That* is why you're usually allowed to see all the numbers. Otherwise, you're blind. And it doesn't become more realistic or immersive that way. Just frustrating.

Lets take your example. Ok, I now know my sword is "good" against orcs, and sucks against stone golems. But what if I find another sword that's good against orcs? How do I know which one is better? I can't feel which one is sharpest or has the best balance, because it's only a game, and I can't run a finger along the blade, or wave the sword around a bit to get a feel for it. I only have what the game tells me.
Next problem crops up when I run into a steel golem. Is my sword good or bad against those? How would I know. Sure, I could think "It sucks against stone golems, so it'd probably make sense for it to suck against steel golems as well". That logic would work in the real world, but in a game, it depends on the designer having thought along the same lines. The designer *might* have thought "Well, steel is pretty hard too, so an orc-slaying sword would probably suck here as well", or he *might* have thought "Well, it's not orc or stone golem, so I'll just make it do normal damage against everything else". Or he might have come up with some reason why it'd be extremely powerful against steel golems, and thought it was so logical that the player would be able to guess it too.

It's a game. The only feedback the player gets is what is displayed on the screen (Ok, there's audio too, but that isn't usually used to provide info on the combat system).
So the player has to rely on 1) what he can see graphically (Scars, blood, monsters being knocked back when you hit them), and 2) what you explicitly tell him (For example "Sword: Damage 7-9", or "You hit orc in the groin for 32 damage"). This information is not unrealistic, and it doesn't ruin immersion. It's quite realistic that you get some kind of feedback on how much effect your attack just had, or that you're able to compare two weapons and figure out which one is better.

Taking away that ability is not "realistic", and it's not "immersive". It's just blinding the player.

Basically, if you find a sword, what do you know about it? Do you usually get a voice telling you things like "this may be good at hacking up orcs, but don't count on it if you encounter a Stone Golem", when you pick something up in the real world? Or do you just look at the thing, and try to estimate some "stats" yourself? (I can see that this kitchen knife is big and heavy. And I can feel it's sharper than that kitchen knife over there. That means it does more damage. For convenience, let's say the other knife did 2-4 damage, then it wouldn't be far off to say this one does 3-7" - And yeah, of course you dont go around giving things actual numbers when you pick them up, but that's because you dont need to. In a game, there's no other way to compare.)

Of course, I'm not saying the player should always be able to see *every* number or calculation. You might very well be better off hiding 90% of it. I'm just pointing out that hiding information does not in itself make a game more immersive. It's vital that the player is able to get enough information to *know* what he's doing, and make sensible, informed decisions. Whether it's done by numbers and stats, or amazing next-gen graphics or a simple health bar, the player needs feedback on what he's doing, and how well he's doing.

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What you could do, is let the player assess the stats of an item in their inventory more accutely than they can an item that they don't have [kind of like identifying an item]. Call it 'a long sword' before they get near to it, and when they do, it becomes 'a long sword' with attack power 34, attack rating 22, blah blah. Also, you can give out info about the things the player can reasonably examine, but withhold that which [s]he cannot, like monster stats and ability lists :P Does the orc have 100 hitpoints? who knows, but your attack just did 17% damage to him, roughly, as thats how much his life bar dropped [if you show them a life bar at all, perhaps the sign that the orc is near death is that it'll start running away]. PLENTY of games have done that, and it's usually pretty effective [honestly i would go as far as to say a majority of games have done this, by quite a large margin]. Last time i made a server-based game, this is how i did creature hp updating, i transmitted a value describing how much life the creature had remaining.. as a percent of total life, and didn't tell how much damage was done, or how much life the creature currently has. The original reason behind it was to allow me to have enemy stats vary, and for a player not to be able to just tell by looking at the monster that they just chose the meanest one out of the group to face off with. The same system was extended to pvp, for the purpose of a deturant [among other systems deturing, such as attacking someone in a non-pvp area meant doing so at a reduced version of stats, attacking at about 75% capacity], hoping that pk's will be more prone to second-guessing their actions if they cannot assure themselves victory previous to starting the fight.

Then again, i included certain observation based skills that allow you to better decide a specific creatures stats, like knowledge of anatomy, or racial familiarity, that would give the player a more precise description [and allow extra damage or tactical bonuses, so its not completely overlooked :P]

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