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RPG battle system question

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I've been having recurring problems deciding on a battle system for my game. It doesn't necessarily have to be novel, but I want the game to at least feel a little different from the traditional menu-driven turn-based drudgery. I've been thinking of taking the age-old team-based ballistics shooting paradigm popularized by the Worms series and developing it into a random encounter battle engine for my RPG. Instead of just selecting a spell and casting it, the player would also have to aim it and select the power, compensate for wind, and account for area-of-effect damage. Just like Worms, Liero, Scorched Earth and Gunbound (the most popular games of this mini-genre) there would be a variety of spell/weapon types and effects. Aside from that, however, the battle might be similar to one in popular square-enix games - each character has some hit points, magic points, can choose to fight, gains experience after battle, etc. The biggest drawback to this is that in a game such as Worms, melee attacks really take a back seat to ranged attacks. Not just because of damage potential, which could easily be normalized, but also the ability for ranged attackers to reach additional foes, stay further back from potential danger, and more easily gang up on opponents. I would be interested in hearing thoughts from other developers on how this could be resolved, or if you feel its an issue that could easily be coped with by players.

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So the problem is integrating melee attackers into the game. And I would suppose you want melee attackers to have a little more armor (read: tanks). Throwing out melee attackers is probably out of the question, because then you would only be left with stupid magic users and archers.

Solution #1: Use player positions. Before you go into battle, the user could set up the formation of his units. Assuming the player's units are on the left of the screen, he would most likely put his melee attackers to the right, and his ranged guys to the left.
I'm thinking that you could trade one turn of movement to "swap" positions with a unit next to yours. So the melee attacker would move toward the other units until he got next to the opposing melee attacker. After moving, he would attack the other unit. On his next turn, he would swap positions with the melee attacker, and then attack him again (because he's still not close enough to the ranged guys). Then on his next turn, he could move closer to the ranged unit and finally attack him.
(This is all assuming you can move then attack in the same turn).

Solution #2: Don't have melee attackers. Or, melee attackers are equivalent to short-range attackers.

Solution #3: Use the terrain. Have the world wrap around, such that a player could walk "away" from the fray, and back-attack the enemy units. This may not work too well with units having a lot of range.

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Well, there is the game Clonk Planet which has some combat in a lemmings/worms sort of format.

http://www.clonk.de/contents_en.html


Also, for Melee attacks:

Charge- The melee fighter runs at high speed across the ground and slams into opponents (kind of like a football player). Making a check to see if he is sucessful. Sucess could depend on the distance because if he's too close he can't get up to speed. Too far and he runs out or energy and slows down again. Stronger chargers can run through multiple enemies and stun them.


Charge with spear- Same as above but with a spear for added damage.

Block- gets in defensive position to stop charging enemies. Protects ranged fighters behind him.

Leap- Runs, then leaps into the air to hopefully get past blockers. Does best damage if he lands on somebody.

Wrestle- Approches enemy and tries to lift them into the air and throw them.

Ninja Strike- Sort of like a ranged attack, the Ninja launches himself and does a twirling tornado thing with his blades.


Other odd things to add to a worms-like game.

Climbing walls and ceilings- (actually Clonk has this feature, but it is really vital) you could have a class called "Climbers" that specialise in moving along walls and ceiling and performing ranged attacks. Perhaps able to attach ropes and leges for other chars as well.


Move through rock- A magic user or char that can 'swim' through the solid parts of the map. Can only make melee attacks which would consist of getting close to the surface and striking an enemy.

Reflecting attacks- Something like a wall of force that can deflect projectile attacks. Has to be calculated right to redirect it.

=============

Not sure if this is what you had in mind.

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It sounds like a novel idea, but it is something I would be very cautious about.
When you are playing worms, leiro, or gunbound, the fun of the game lies in estimating angles and ranges to cause damage, manouvering around the playfield, and enjoying the unpredictable effects of the physics.
In an RPG, I generally want to advance the story.
If you combine a completely different game type with your RPG, you run the risk of that "mini combat game" becoming annoying or time consuming. It might be fun the first few times, but how many random worms like battles will it take for a player to become sick of them? How much variation can you add to it to prevent it becoming stale?
The menu driven square style of battles might be boring, but it has the benefit of being fast. In all honesty, the random battles are just there to bulk out the gameplay. It does this just rarely enough and is just quick enough to stop it being hair pullingly frustrating.
It then makes the boss battles difficult enough (either through unique attacks to overcome and stragise around, new pattern based attacks to interpret, etc) to make them interesting within the fairly simple battle system.
Can you do the same thing with an artilery game?
Will it just end up being like a Square game, but with one turn wasted trying to find the range?
I would recomend thinking of your own combat system and making it unique and appropriate to your game. Why would someone want bits or worms in the middle of their rpg? They can just play worms.

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the reason that mele attacks are less effective in a game like worms is because of Lanchester's laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancaster%27s_Law).

With a melee att ack you can only hit 1 target at a time. This makes it a 1 to 1 fight. Accoring to Lanchester's laws, this will follow the Linear Law.

The Linear Law states that the force remaining will be the diference between the two sides (subtract one from the other and the side with the positive number is the winner).

However, when you can concentrate your attacks like with artillery (or missile shooting worms) it results in the Square Law.

This one is more complex, but to work out the remaining force you square both sides, subtract one from the other and take the square root of that result.

There is more to these Laws than just this, it is not based on straight numbers, but also has factors for the technology (or skill levels) of the two sides as well (in the square law numbers workout as more important than effective power). These also dont take into account random (or semi random) events on the battle field, so they are not perfect, but are a useful tool to aid gameplay balanceing (if the gameplay is balanced then the rest is up to the players).

So inconclusion, the reason that melee fighing is not effective in games like worms is that you can have several attackers on one target and when it is destroyed you then have a greater advanatge than you would if you just attacked 1 to 1 in melee.

If you added a feature that increased the effectiveness of melee attacks so that it fitted in line with the advantages of Square Law, then you will have a game that appeals to both.

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I think that using a wormesque mechanic as a battle system is a great idea!
But it probably needs some adaptations to be used in a med-fan context (as I understand you want to). Here are some thoughts:
* The use of a side view is central to Worms and works well with the cartoonish style but for a RPG, where most terrains are not caves and improbable shapes, you may prefer a top view or even go in full 3D

* Emulation in RPGs works by the evolution of characters. In FF-style, you get more powers, different weapons, different capabilities. In your game you have to keep in mind that the characters must evolve and that it changes some rules.

* About the melee problem : In FF-style (or at least, in the 2D-era, haven't played any of the 3D ones) melee attacks were done with this sequence :
jump to ennemy
slash
jump back to initial position
Melee characters could have the ability to "FF-jump" in a limited range (maybe depending on their quickness). The obvious advantage being that they don't have to aim, therefore never miss (or at least not due to a player's error)
Another alternative would be, espiecially if you use a top view, to give melee characters the ability to "charge".

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why not just change the game setting to something original, rather then the same old cliched D&D inspired stuff?

how about a wild west fantasy type setting? where ranged weapons dominated combat, but allow fantasy elements to exist...magical "spell casting" weapons that shoot "spell" bullets and the like?

Its a interesting RPG battle system, but I'd hate to see its potential compromised by sticking with the overdone warrors/mage/elf/dwarf/dragon/ranger/etc RPG elements.

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First off, thank you everyone who responded. You've all been more than helpful.

Quote:
Original post by MSW
why not just change the game setting to something original, rather then the same old cliched D&D inspired stuff?

how about a wild west fantasy type setting? where ranged weapons dominated combat, but allow fantasy elements to exist...magical "spell casting" weapons that shoot "spell" bullets and the like?

Its a interesting RPG battle system, but I'd hate to see its potential compromised by sticking with the overdone warrors/mage/elf/dwarf/dragon/ranger/etc RPG elements.


You're right. I have absolutely no intention of using a traditional setting, but on the other hand, I hate the old west theme. I've been debating what "fun" settings might be, but all the ones I've thought of also involve melee. I'll still have to think on this I suppose.

One setting that WOULD get around this is a futuristic neo-tokyo setting such as the one in Megaman. Its an option.

An alternative solution to the melee problem is to give every character stamina points that they can use to move every turn. Melee characters will have more stamina points than non-melee characters, and also the ability to jump higher/farther.

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Quote:
Original post by Yvanhoe
I think that using a wormesque mechanic as a battle system is a great idea!
But it probably needs some adaptations to be used in a med-fan context (as I understand you want to). Here are some thoughts:
* The use of a side view is central to Worms and works well with the cartoonish style but for a RPG, where most terrains are not caves and improbable shapes, you may prefer a top view or even go in full 3D

* Emulation in RPGs works by the evolution of characters. In FF-style, you get more powers, different weapons, different capabilities. In your game you have to keep in mind that the characters must evolve and that it changes some rules.

* About the melee problem : In FF-style (or at least, in the 2D-era, haven't played any of the 3D ones) melee attacks were done with this sequence :
jump to ennemy
slash
jump back to initial position
Melee characters could have the ability to "FF-jump" in a limited range (maybe depending on their quickness). The obvious advantage being that they don't have to aim, therefore never miss (or at least not due to a player's error)
Another alternative would be, espiecially if you use a top view, to give melee characters the ability to "charge".


Yvanhoe, I wanted to specifically address your replies since they provided a lot of food for thought.

* In the Scorched Earth genre (S.E., Worms, Gunbound, etc.) a variety of terrains can be presented from a side-view. The terrain hardly has to conform to realistic situations. 2D platformers abound with odd platforms here and there and floating islands of ground.

*I have several ideas for character evolution tied to attack abilities. Melee attacks get stronger by increasing in both damage and number of attacks. Magic abilities become stronger in damage and area of effect. There will be several different varieties of effects too mimicing the various ways in which one may cause damage. direct damage, splash damage, ballistics attacks, top-down and horizontal attacks, ray-targetting, etc.

* Melee is still a problem. There are a variety of solutions, I just have to find one that works for me.

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This idea's kinda neat :)

That said, about the melee stuff, me's just gonna mention a couple'a things:

In addition to damage potential, you can make it so that melee is way better for throwing enemies around'n such. If melee, in general, is the way to go if you want to throw people into, say, the water, and throwing folks into the water is quite a bit more effective than shooting at'em till they're dead, then melee'd often be prefered over ranged. ... baseball bats are terribly handy in Worms: Armageddon 'tleast :) (yes, and in the other Worms games where you have baseball bats too I suppose :| )

Attacks of opportunity, or some such. Melee characters can automatically smack folks with their terribly huge axes and such if they move too close, maybe even ending their turn in addition to damaging. Additionaly, you might make neat combos by smacking some enemy right into some melee ally of yours etc...

Also, level design and AI behaviour can make for situations that encourage melee rather than ranged attacks (eg. rather cowardly enemies hiding in some building, sort of forcing you to get in melee range anyways).

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Quote:
Original post by Gnarf
This idea's kinda neat :)

That said, about the melee stuff, me's just gonna mention a couple'a things:

In addition to damage potential, you can make it so that melee is way better for throwing enemies around'n such. If melee, in general, is the way to go if you want to throw people into, say, the water, and throwing folks into the water is quite a bit more effective than shooting at'em till they're dead, then melee'd often be prefered over ranged. ... baseball bats are terribly handy in Worms: Armageddon 'tleast :) (yes, and in the other Worms games where you have baseball bats too I suppose :| )

Attacks of opportunity, or some such. Melee characters can automatically smack folks with their terribly huge axes and such if they move too close, maybe even ending their turn in addition to damaging. Additionaly, you might make neat combos by smacking some enemy right into some melee ally of yours etc...

Also, level design and AI behaviour can make for situations that encourage melee rather than ranged attacks (eg. rather cowardly enemies hiding in some building, sort of forcing you to get in melee range anyways).


That's sort of where I'm leaning towards now. Melee can be very useful, and the idea of melee being able to smack folks around seems pretty nice. Weapons are going to have ranges that are a little larger than life - they're still short range, direct attacks, but it makes them slightly more useful.

Most "arenas" in the game are going to be more well-behaved than a worms match might be. Probably more like Gunbound. Strong characters have a higher movement potential to run/jump towards the enemy and smack them, while weak characters only have enough stamina to maybe hide under a nearby overhang and stay protected.

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Quote:
Original post by wildhalcyon
You're right. I have absolutely no intention of using a traditional setting, but on the other hand, I hate the old west theme.

That's just because the old west theme has been driven into lameness by cliche TV shows and badly made movies. In fact, a seriously dark-plotted movie is due to be put into development any time now (if not already). The creators of this movie will hit gold, the old west theme will return to all of it's glory, and hundreds of new wild west video games will go into development. Better to go forth now while your game will still be unique.

Don't think of old west. Think of horses, villages, and loud guns.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by wildhalcyon
You're right. I have absolutely no intention of using a traditional setting, but on the other hand, I hate the old west theme.

That's just because the old west theme has been driven into lameness by cliche TV shows and badly made movies. In fact, a seriously dark-plotted movie is due to be put into development any time now (if not already). The creators of this movie will hit gold, the old west theme will return to all of it's glory, and hundreds of new wild west video games will go into development. Better to go forth now while your game will still be unique.

Don't think of old west. Think of horses, villages, and loud guns.


Sorry, you still haven't convinced me. I doubt I'll ever be interested in the period as a genre I'm afraid. If it occured between 1800 and 1900 and between St. Louis and San Francisco, its not for me.

This may be because of cliched shows and movies, but I have yet to see one that I actually like. The setting just isn't one I can appreciate as much as other settings.

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There is a good solution to adding melee combat in a tactical setting where ranged combat dominates.

As soon as two characters are in a melee combat, neither can fire ranged weapons larger than a pistol and can only aim at each other.
Also they can no longer be aimed at individually by other characters.
Melee combat is a lot of moving around, up under over each other: you can never get a reliable shot in.
Therefore you add the rule that any shot fired at them, has a 50% chance of aiming at your friend and a 50% chance of aiming at your enemy.
You feeling lucky?

If you add this rule, going melee against better gunfighters/snipers/whatev is a good way to prevent them from being effective, while at the same time melee warriors will only be extra exposed while they're running to get into melee range. How exposed depends on where you want the balance of the game to be.

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Quote:
Original post by wildhalcyon
Sorry, you still haven't convinced me. I doubt I'll ever be interested in the period as a genre I'm afraid. If it occured between 1800 and 1900 and between St. Louis and San Francisco, its not for me.

This may be because of cliched shows and movies, but I have yet to see one that I actually like. The setting just isn't one I can appreciate as much as other settings.

Well, just don't think of it as west at all. Fantasy settings have horses and villages. Modern settings have guns. I've seen plenty of gunslinger anime movies that were very "west" style but also very cool.

Have you watched Vampire Hunter D? Horses, villages, guns. Yep.
Trigun, Gungrave, Cowboy Bebop. Check them out.

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Update!

Although this post is moving away from the battle system description itself, I wanted to discuss more of the background of this game so people can get an idea of where I'm trying to fit this into the rest of the gameplay.

The game is a single player RPG that takes place after a brutal world war that decimated the population. The war itself was fought using "engineered" individuals, which is very general right now because I'm not quite sure what setting I want this to be in. It could fit with magic, technology, mutants, whatever. 300 years later (present-time in the game), small dominions have begun to reappear, and local governors are beginning to get power-hungry in the leadership bubble following the destruction.

The player is in charge of a society of remnant engineered beings which is attempting to maintain peace between the new governments. They will have to deal with mediating disputes between the countries, protecting civilians, and dealing with rogue mages/robots/mutants/jedi/etc.

Character advancement is similar in some aspects to traditional RPGs. Each character has a level, HP, attack, defense, etc. The biggest difference is that characters are created randomly with different skills, and the game emphasizes recruiting new characters through a variety of means - bribery, persuasion, permission, and in battle - as the story progresses.

The spirit of the game is meant to be reminiscent of the fuedal history in China and Japan, particularly from Samurai lore and the Three Kingdoms period.

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