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Placing a strategic focus on player positioning

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Placing a strategic focus on player positioning -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm brainstorming ideas for a fantasy based top-down shooter. Currently I'm looking at a system which encourages the player to move around the level strategically. I would like the player to have to regularly consider the efectiveness of their current location and decide whether it is best to move to another location or stay put. The position of the opponent(s) should also affect the player's decision. In order to facilitate such strategic thinking, the player needs a strategic incentive to change (or stay at) their location. Given the fantasy theme, I felt that an appropriate incentive would be mana for spells, which will form the majority of players actions. In order to have mana spread around the map in a believable manner, I will incorporate the idea of mana crystals. Crystals will grow around the map that produce mana. Crystals will vary in size, with larger crystals able to sustain heavier mana usage and smaller crystals able to sustain short term mana production. Once depleted, crystals will regenerate over time and return to full mana producing strength. This will ensure that the player has to keep to a dyanmic strategy. There will be a number of schools of magic, each represented by a colour. Players will be able to select a set of spells from any of the schools of magic. For every school of magic of which the player posesses a spell, the players radius of influence is reduced. The radius of influence determines how close to a mana crystal a player must be to start channeling mana. In this manner, a player specialising in a single school of magic will find it easier to acquire mana, but a player specializing in multiple schools of magic will have a lower chance of obtaining mana over a single school opponent, but as a tradeoff, they gain more flexibility in their set of spells. Mana comes in one pure colour which can be used universally to power spells from any of the schools of magic, there is no concept of coloured mana. This is the system as far as I have developed it. I think it works quite nicely in theory, but I do have some concerns, hence this post. I believe that it currently encourages players to roam the entire map, ever onwards in order to obtain mana as fast as possible. I'm not sure there is ever much incentive to stay in the same place. The choices are too obvious, if a mana crystal is not providing enough mana, the player simply moves to the nearest, largest mana crystal in sight. There is little risk involved in the process and no cause for the player to ever doubt their strategy. Of course, the player will have to take the opponents actions into account, which adds some risk element, but I wonder if this system of mana crystals can be improved to offer even more strategy? Would anyone have any suggestions!!? As a start, I'm thinking that if players hold the mouse cursor over a crystal, they are putting their focus on it. They are unable to act offensively or defensively whilst doing so becuase they aren't able to move the mouse cursor from the crystal without interrupting the focus, so we could reward the player for taking the risk of inaction, by increasing the regeneration rate of crystals. In this manner, players can decide to stay put despite other reserves of mana if they are willing to risk a small period of inaction (5-10 seconds or so). That's the kind of idea I'm hoping people might suggest, if you have any more, please suggest away!! Many thanks, Steve

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If you want them to consider staying, you are doing the opposite of what you ought to. Rather than having mana deplete, make it so the longer a player stands by a mana crystal, the stronger the connection between them is and the more mana they get (up to a point). This would want to make them stay in one place. Then you can have enemy rushes to get them to move. You could also put the largest crystals in the most vulnerable places etc. This way they have reasons to stay and reasons to move.

Another option would be having different colors of mana, therefore you could only really sustain one magic type in any one location. Then on top of this give the enemies weaknesses and vulnerabilities so that at one point it makes most sense to be at spot A, but then depending on which type attacks, they could move to spot B.

Great idea btw, I could instantly imagine the gameplay from your post and its pretty sweet. :)

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Thanks for the response :)

Great to have some feedback. I'm actually off to bed in a second, so I'll keep this very short and extend my post in the morning.

I just basically wanted to say that the point of the system is not necessarily to encourage players to always stay in one spot. I would like the situation to fluctuate such that at one period of time, staying put would make sense, at another point in time, should conditions change, the player might best be served by changing location.

The idea of encouraging the player to stay in one position is interesting though, as by default, on the shooter side of gameplay, staying in one location is a bad thing. So the plyer must weight up between establishing a strong mana link and gaining the tactical flexibility of being able to outmaneuver the opponent. I hadn't thought of it in reverse like that, but it's certainly worth further consideration.

The reason I would like to stray from a colour based mana system, is that if, say one player chose blue mana and the other chose red... there would be no competition over the mana, neither player has any function for the opponents colour. If however we have a universal mana colour, players are forced to compete over the mana regardless of the schools they specialize in. If you can think of an elegant intuitive way around that though, I'm all ears.

Anyhoo... I'll respond with more depth after some sleep, but keep the good comments coming in please :)

Thanks,

Steve

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After some consideration I think the process of developing a bond with a crystal may not work in the long run. It would work in encouraging players to play defensively, but again, there is a clear cut easy decision without much risk factor. In trying to think how players might abuse or misuse the system (a good stress test for any idea), I think all players would realize that the optimal strategy is to sit by a crystal until they have sufficient mana and then attack. This would make for a very defensive game which would likely be protracted and lacking in action.

I think the original idea would work better in the long run. Perhaps also taking the focusing idea, we could extend the concept of focus. The player could be allowed to focus a crystal which is already at full strength. This focus would cause the mana production rate to increase, but would increase the random chance of the crystal failing. If the crystal fails, it stops producing mana and must regenerate as previously suggested, with focus still providing a means of repairing the crystal at a quicker rate.

In this way, the player can obtain a quick burst of mana from a crystal at the expense of reliability. They must make the choice between quick gains and reliability. Neither is the obviously correct choice in itself, but the situation may dictate that one is better than another.

I wonder about my earlier criticism of using a coloured magic system. Perhaps if two opponents have different colours, it may dynamically alter the strategy to good effect within the game. If the player doesn't have to worry about obtaining mana before an opponent, it will alter the strategy dynamic, perhaps giving the game more tactical options. Perhaps we could even combine the ideas and have some levels with a majority of pure mana useable by all schools of magic, others with a majority of coloured mana useable only by the schools of that type, some with a mix of both. In such a way maps could play very differently depending on who is competing (or not) over which mana and players will need to adopt different strategies to cope with this.

We could even go so far as to say that coloured and pure mana act differently. Perhaps coloured mana crystals allow you to form a bond because you risk not being able to power spells of other colours if you stay still. So coloured mana crystals may be more beneficial to the single colour schools and encourage defensive play, where pure mana crystals encourage a dynamic strategy.

I've also had the suggestion to include powerups to encourage strategic positioning. Perhaps powerups that increase your mana channeling range among other things. Perhaps having powerups and spells in the same game though is a little too much? The only difference between the two is that powerups have to be collected, where spells are cast. It might be interesting though... perhaps they could be something like scrolls in other games that allow any player to cast a given spell regardless of class limitations, etc.

I might see if I can learn Flash/Actionscript to prototype this idea before trying to code it properly as I think it could be prototyped nicely with simple iconography. The more I think about it, the more I like it :)

Cheers,

Steve

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