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stenny

cRPG Combat - Tactics or not?

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Goodday to y'all[smile] Let me first introduce myself here (for I've not been here in this part of the forums before). I'm a composer, and program as a hobby (although that does start to take serious forms), and am currently in the process of designing an RPG. Yes, I know there are thousands of them, and yes, I know people ask for originality. That's why I'm here... I've arrived at the designing of the combat system. I am well aware of the fact móst of the people here don't want another 2 billion combat screens with some cutscreens in between them, and so it got me thinking. What is it that people don't like in those combats anymore, and I got to the conclusion these two things have something to do with it: no originality and length, and they both have to do with each other. With no originality, I mean another fire-, thunder-, water- or windspell, another superattack by the sword-wielding main hero, and another potion and ether to replenish health. And if there's no originality, a battle coming up each 5 seconds isn't quite fun. It gets boring quickly... So, I decided to handle both two points. Add more strategy, and shorten the battles. And that's my point. Dó you want strategic battles á la Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Final Fantasy Tactics, but of course not thát deepgoing. Dó you still want to keep the 'enemies on the left side of the screen, heroes on the right side'-type of screen with more tactics? Do you want more tactics at all? And, íf I happened to lean more towards a tactical battle, would you mind if they'd be long. And with that I really mean long. Adding strategy to a battle involves time and planning, and in a two seconds fight you don't those. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big time fan of the old SNES-type of battle systems, and I'm neither putting tactics in my battles just because everyone else wants it. But I like tactics too, and this is more of probing what'd be best. I hope people take the time to read this piece of text (that's way longer than I intended it to be), and reply. Now is the chance to have influence! -Stenny

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Long tactical battles are fine as long as you don't throw one at the player every five minutes, that would quickly get very tedius. A scalable system which works fine for both short and long battles would the best option IMO. Although it's not an easy task to design such a system.

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Yes it indeed would be quite difficult.

On the other hand, if you're looking for easy tasks and laziness, you shouldn't get into programming[lol]

-Stenny

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Quote:
Original post by stenny
I am well aware of the fact móst of the people here don't want another 2 billion combat screens with some cutscreens in between them

I think the main problem with cut scenes is that the player isn't playing anymore; they're simply watching a movie, and being railroaded along through the story. If the enemies are storming the gates, and things look grim, maybe I want to rush forward and die in a blaze of glory. If I'm given the chance to do it, I'll believe I at least have a chance of succeeding, and I'll usually give it a try. If I lose, I'll know its (probably) my fault. At least give me the opportunity. Unfortunately, most games simply don't allow this, and force you to flee in these circumstances. Games nowadays seem to provide little risk or choice.

Quote:
Original post by stenny
With no originality, I mean another fire-, thunder-, water- or windspell, another superattack by the sword-wielding main hero, and another potion and ether to replenish health. And if there's no originality, a battle coming up each 5 seconds isn't quite fun. It gets boring quickly...

In a lot of cases, combat is won through attrition and/or simple logistics. If I've got more hit points, more heal potions, and deal more damage, I'm going to win. Usually, there seems to be little in the way of tactics other than brute force (Attack, Attack, Attack, Heal, etc.), and the player is pretty much destined to win. This gets stale very quickly.

Quote:
Original post by stenny
And, íf I happened to lean more towards a tactical battle, would you mind if they'd be long. And with that I really mean long. Adding strategy to a battle involves time and planning, and in a two seconds fight you don't those.

You may want to allow for both simple and extensive tactics. If I'm level 23, fighting a lowly goblin, I'm probably not going to want to spend much time thinking about what to do. You could have a basic attack option, which could be done from the top menu, where everything is pre-selected for a standard attack (or, allow the player to setup a character's basic attack ahead of time). If the player doesn't care, they can select this, and be done with it. However, you could also have a 'tactical' attack option, where you select how to attack, where to strike, defensive options, stance, etc. for those who like all those options, and when its necessary

However, long isn't necessarily bad. If the combat is engaging and fun, there isn't any reason why it can't run for quite some time. Probably a good way to keep the player interested is to throw in something new every once in a while, so the player isn't constantly relying on the same tactics:

- Set up a fight in a narrow corridor, so only one character is engaged with multiple foes, and the others have to use long range attacks like bows and polearms, or spells.
- Put them up on several high, narrow ledges, where they need to worry about falling off.
- Have combat in a room where they need to move every turn or take damage.
- Combat underwater, where missile weapons are useless, and spells don't always work the way they should (fire might be impossible to use, but electrical might be devastating to everyone).

If combat is very long, you may want to give the player some mechanism for getting out of it, so they aren't stuck with completing it if they need to shut down. Saving would probably be the easiest, but also the most open to abuse.

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1- it doesn't matter how long the battles take but the amount of time you spend battling should be the same

2- no step by step random encounters, try to be more creative than enemies just springing out of the floor

3- check out earthbound, you can avoid enemies and if your at a high enough level they try to avoid you

4- try to avoid having all enemies re-spawn the second you go to another screen

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Ever heard of a game called Lordinium for the Palm? Methinks it's right up your alley in terms of combat systems. The sword stroke system is really addictive when you figure it out. Would suggest a sort of visuals system to add a bit more oomph.

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One of my favorite combat engines for a cRPG is the Grandia II one (and by extension, the Grandia III engine, which is basically the same). There's a couple of big things going for it:

1) The positions of players and enemies actually matter, unlike in Final Fantasy-style "linedancing". Clustered enemies can be hit by area-of-effect attacks; enemies in a line by ray attacks, et cetera. Some monsters force the players into tight groups, following up with a "bomb" attack to hit them all. Positioning could be handled better; you don't actually choose where your characters are, but rather, after each action, they move to a random nearby location (and monsters pretty much just wander), so that could be handled better.

2) You can see what attacks are coming before they arrive. Every participant in battle has a token on an action gauge, which has three stages - waiting, preparing, and acting. Progress during the waiting stage depends on your speed stat; during preparing it depends on your skill with the desired action (some actions, like blocking or moving, have no preparation time), and acting is when you're actually doing the action. The neat things here are twofold: one, once an enemy starts preparing an action, you can see what he's up to and try to deal with it, and two, you can cancel enemies out of the preparing/acting phases by hitting them with certain attacks. The game becomes in part a matter of trying to manipulate enemies such that they never get a chance to act, which is considerably more interesting than the war of attrition mentioned earlier.

3) You can see enemies before getting into combat with them. No random battles; skillful navigation of the dungeons can let you avoid most fights.

Now, boss fights in the Grandia games can become basically like boss fights in other games; since the boss's attacks will hit you no matter where you are, your positioning doesn't matter; since the boss is only one enemy, his position doesn't matter; and he's fast enough in the preparation and acting stage that you probably won't be able to cancel him much. But against standard monsters, the Grandia engine is very strong, providing a good balance between the predictability of FF-style combat and the frequently long battles of tactics games.

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This may not be the answer you're looking for, but I'd say one of the most important parts about designing a game, even a small hobbyist game, is choosing your target audience and then sticking to it.

Continuous massive sales of every new Final Fantasy game proves that there are many people who still love it. There are also people who are tired of it, and people who never liked it to begin with. There are many types of people in the RPG crowd. Some of them play mainly for the story, and wish there were more cutscenes and less battles. Some hate cutscenes and story and just want to tinker with their stats and play long, tactical battles. Your game can't make everyone happy, so you should come up with a solid goal and then do some research into what the audience for that type of game likes. Don't concern yourself with what jaded ex-Final Fantasy fans have to complain about with the latest FF: they're probably not going to get your game, but will get the next FF no matter how much they swear they won't. Rather, concentrate on the fanbases of tactical RPG's; find out what has worked so far and what might bring some small innovations to the genre.

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Wow, I never expected thát much replies! Thanks guys!
Ok, based on what you said and some thinking by myself (yes, I think too[lol]), I got a, what I think, quite nice idea.

My game looks quite like Golden Sun (I'm sure you've heard of that). Tilebase maps linked with each other make up a vast world. I'm using height in the maps as well, and so I'm able to make some quite intriguing maps. Now, I wondered, why not use those maps for combat too?
What if I located several positions in the maps where e.g. Goblins have set up a camp, or where other monsters lurk. And when you invade the area of those Goblins, you'd have to engage in a fight. This way, it'd be possible to evade battles, and you can also see them coming. I could also use the movement idea (which I have had for a long time) and use the maps as a battlegrid.
This would resemble sort of a combination between FFTA, FE or AW and Chrono Trigger.

There is still quite some linearity here though. Monsters are always located on the same spot, and if they don't I'll have to make áll my maps combatready (and thus scrap puzzle maps).

@derickdong
Quote:
I think the main problem with cut scenes is that the player isn't playing anymore; they're simply watching a movie

True, but still 2 million random encounters can become lame. You're right though, and I'm actually trying to solve that.

Quote:
- Set up a fight in a narrow corridor, so only one character is engaged with multiple foes, and the others have to use long range attacks like bows and polearms, or spells.
- Put them up on several high, narrow ledges, where they need to worry about falling off.
- Have combat in a room where they need to move every turn or take damage.
- Combat underwater, where missile weapons are useless, and spells don't always work the way they should (fire might be impossible to use, but electrical might be devastating to everyone).

Yes, I've got some of those points covered now. High narrow ledges, and the movement in general. Battling underwater would be nice, but I don't think that's possible with the current state of game. Making use of the environment would be a nice add-on though.

@Kaze
Quote:
- try to avoid having all enemies re-spawn the second you go to another screen

Hmm, Yeah. I'll try and have a look into that.

@InvalidPointer
I did a search on that game, but it seems it's for a PalmOS, whatever that is

@Derakon
Quote:
1) The positions of players and enemies actually matter, unlike in Final Fantasy-style "linedancing"

Linedancing! Wonderfull, just wonderfull! You just made my day![lol]

@makeshiftwings
Quote:
Continuous massive sales of every new Final Fantasy game proves that there are many people who still love it. There are also people who are tired of it, and people who never liked it to begin with. There are many types of people in the RPG crowd. Some of them play mainly for the story, and wish there were more cutscenes and less battles. Some hate cutscenes and story and just want to tinker with their stats and play long, tactical battles. Your game can't make everyone happy, so you should come up with a solid goal and then do some research into what the audience for that type of game likes. Don't concern yourself with what jaded ex-Final Fantasy fans have to complain about with the latest FF: they're probably not going to get your game, but will get the next FF no matter how much they swear they won't. Rather, concentrate on the fanbases of tactical RPG's; find out what has worked so far and what might bring some small innovations to the genre


You are so right. I, myself am one of those FF fans! Still, that doesn't mean I don't like other systems. In fact, I've enjoyed Fire Emblem just as much. One of the main rules I think of when designing a game, is that in the first place Í need to like the game myself. And that pleasing other people comes second, after all you can't please all (that's a double all[smile])

Anyway, please reply and tell me what you think of the battle system idea. And thanks again for that massive load of replies!

-Stenny

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I thought I'd chip in, since I've been working on a game with similar goals to yours. [smile] I don't have any insights or suggestions that haven't been given already, so instead I'll share with you what we decided to do with our battle system, and why. First I'll share a mock-up picture of it (ignore the black grid lines, they are just there as a positioning reference)




Our major goals with the game (and hence, with battles are):

- Design the game such that the major focus is on gameplay and story, not advanced 3D graphics and physical simulations.

- As much as possible, remove the tedious, meaningless, and micromanaging aspects of many historical and modern RPGs.

- Require a high level of strategic thinking and planning from the player, and less mindless "button mashing" found in many RPGs.


Now here's a list of notable points about the battle system in our game, and why we have them.


Multiple Attack Point System (MAPS)

This is one of our main features. Basically, both enemies and players can be attacked in multiple locations (head, torso, arms, legs, tail, etc.). Each attack point has different strengths and weaknesses, so the player has to continually seek out weaknesses in their opponents to exploit (and the opponent may notice this, and cast a spell to protect the particular weakness being exploited). In one word: strategy. That's what we wanted from this feature.

Along with that idea, when the player finds a weakness to an enemy (for example, by casting an ice spell when the enemy is weak against ice), we inform the player of the new weakness discovered and retain it in a little box on the bottom right of the screen. That way the player doesn't have to "guess" on whether he or she found a weakness or not by looking at the damage dealt.

No Random Encounters

Personally I don't mind REs that much, but we had a strong demand to eliminate them from our game after our first demo was released, so we did. [smile] Now you can try to avoid enemies as you watch them chase after you on the screen.

Longer battles, fewer battles

Battles that last less than a minute are not very interesting or fun; they're mostly annoying IMO. So we decided to try to make battles last a bit longer than most RPGs, but have fewer of them.

Enemy levels match player levels

This is a feature that was present in FFVIII, where enemies would be as strong as the player was. We're building on that idea by allow enemy levels to be within a certain range of the player's average level (a Gaussian Random Distribution, actually). The idea is to not let the player become a demi-god later in the game capable of mowing down anything in his path, but to provide a continual challenge instead.

Eliminate the "Fight" command

Player's would often abuse this command in other RPGs, and simply button-mash it until the battle was won. That's boring, so we got rid of it altogether.

Skill System and Skill Points

Instead, we give characters a series of "skills" that they may use (attack, defense, and support types). Each skill consumes a certain amount of skill points (SP), similar to MP. This means that now not only are magical spells limited by a finite point counter, but also advanced physical attacks and defensive maneuvers as well. There are some "innate" skills that don't require any SP as well.

SP is also not easy to regenerate. We're not going to make a plethora of "ethers" or whatever available to the player to use. Instead, they have to fight battles knowing that any SP they consume in this battle will affect their options in the next battle. This effectively limits the player's ability to continually wipe out the enemy party with their "ultimate devastating attack", and forces them to fight somewhat conservatively. Again: this is all done in the name of strategy. [wink]

Stamina Bar

Similar to Grandia II, there is a global stamina bar showing where each actor in the battle is, so you can get a good prediction of who is going to attack next. Also, skills have a warm-up and cool-down time period associated with them, which is also borrowed from Grandia II.

Swap System

Like FFX, we allow the player to swap characters in and out of battle with their reserve party. Unlike FFX, we limit the number of swaps the player can do, and don't provide them with additional swaps very often. Thus, the player can't abuse this system like many player's abused the one in FFX.

Status Effect Intensities

We made our status effects have four intensity levels. Basically, this means that you can be inflicted with a relatively harmless "Poison Lvl 1" or a disabling "Poison Lvl 4". We wanted to utilize status effects to enhance the strategy of our battles, so the player may choose to ignore a weaker status effect, but would be unwise to not heal a stronger status effect.



Phew, well those are a few features anyway. [lol] I didn't mean to advertise, I just wanted to share with you how we approached the same sort of problems that you are now tackling. Hopefully they give you some insight, or some ideas about how to design your own battle system. Well, good luck with your game! [grin]

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