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Yeshua666

Which is better? Realtime or Turnbase RPGs?

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Hello, I think it's about time we had a serious, in-depth discussion on which RPG battle engine is superior. This is a bit tricky since our opinions are based on existing game titles. I honestly believe that there is a great deal of untapped potential for both battle engines. So when you reply be sure to include a reason why you think one is better than the other as well as features you'd like to see added onto your chosen system to make it better. Downside of Things... Since I have a mild case of A.D.D., I’d prefer my games to be very active and chaotic (i.e.: Guardian Heroes [Sega Saturn]*, Tales of Symphonia [Nintendo Gamecube]**). I want the game to force me on my toes at all time and always be ready to do something; I want non-stop action. Years ago I perceived the real-time battle engine in the dark light due to some of my personal experiences. Real-time RPGs generally have simplistic, linear stories that a fourth grader could understand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I really prefer complicated, non-linear stories (i.e.: Chrono Cross, Xenogears, etc.). And finally my biggest reason for placing real-time RPGs in the dark light back then was because of how repetitive and mindless they seemed. They were synonymous to action games like Onimusha, Devil May Cry, etc. where you find yourself repeatedly hitting the same button over and over with no real strategy involved, no critical thinking required. While turn-base RPGs generally require some thinking. The “Switch” Now I’ve discovered my love for the real-time battle engine with a great game called Tales of Symphonia for the gamecube. I’m not particularly pleased with the game’s presentation; the art style isn’t impressive, and the music tends to be generic and out of place while I could care less about the story. Despite these glaring shortcomings I find myself playing the game for hours upon hours because of its fun battle engine. This is an interesting paradox because while the rest of the game is underwhelming for me, I still find myself playing it for hours (a real-life testimony that gameplay is the most important element of a game). The game is fun because its gameplay mechanics are somewhat synonymous to old-school 2D fighting games where you could juggle your opponents and chain crazy combos. With a turn-base battle engine, the actual fighting is boring. You hit a monster and then immediately run back to the spot you were standing on. It’s a bit unrealistic and at times, too calm for my tastes despite having had play turn-base RPGs for years prior to “switching over”. The Best of Both Worlds My initial post was much longer than this. I saved it onto a Word 2007 document file and am contemplating submitting it to some game development site as an article on game design. Anyway, I think the best turn-base system implementation is in Valkyrie Profile 2. VP2’s system introduced an element I’ve never experienced before of “geographic strategy”, where your party’s location plays an integral part in the battle. It’s basically a turn-base system where you could move your party around and the face buttons on the controller triggers a particular member of your party to attack; pretty neat. In regard to the Tales series, I’m a virgin there. However, I’m enjoying Tales of Symphonia very much. I’ve been told that Tales of The Abyss (PS2) is better so I’ll definitely purchase that one when I can. The Verdict My apologies for the long and boring post. The bottom-line is that I think when done right, the real-time battle engine can be better than the turn-base engine. But of course, when done right vice-versa could also be true. Guardian Heroes* Wikipedia Entry Tales of Symphonia** Wikipedia Entry youTube Video 1 youTube Video 2

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I agree with most of your opinions. I enjoy real-time combat, and I enjoy tactical combat. The tricky part is making combat with both. I'm striving for the same thing with my own real-time gunslinger RPG project. I'm literally designing the combat engine right now (and since several months ago) as I test it out. It's not an easy task.

I don't prefer either. I enjoy real-time combat because it's intense. And I enjoy turn-based combat because you have a lot of planning and thinking time. One element I've been trying to use is to give the player the ability to create planning and thinking time in real-time. For example, by locking doors that bad guys can eventually hack through, while he sets up traps, or an ambush.

By the way, I think the majority of people (especially gamers) have A.D.D. It's just that those without it, such as doctors, scientists, and very patient people, are usually in a position to point fingers and call it a disorder.

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I'd say neither real-time or turn-based are inherently better than the other; they're completely different styles that emphasise different things; turn-based is best for a tactical based battle system, real-time for an action based one. If I were to make an RPG myself I could easily pick either.

If I were to base my choice on the existing battle sytems in games, then the choice is more difficult. I'm not very happy with the battle systems in most RPGs as to me the majority have serious flaws.

I have not played too many of the console style RPGs but out of the ones I have tried I've only played a handful that had a battle system that didn't, for lack of better words, totally suck. Examples would be:
  • Fire Emblem series - actually has tactics, but it is a tactical style RPG so probably should not count; it's not really in the same genre
  • Grandia II - probably the only tactical system in a "proper style" console RPG that had more than a hint of tactics in it; it had an increasing counter system before characters could perform an action, but certain attacks would lower the action bar on your target, making the order you hit creatures important.
  • Pokemon - not the standard type of RPG, but the battles involve a level of tactical choices beyond that of your more standard RPG.
  • Chrono Trigger - the actual system wasn't that great from a tactical perspective, but I liked the animation, the double/triple techs, and the way the monsters were present on the map before battles; the sense of style about the game made this enjoyable.


Most of the rest tend to suffer from being simply mash "attack, attack, attack, heal, attack, attack, attack" to win. The exceptions are the bosses, where the strategy is to figure out which type of attack it is weak to and use that. More difficult bosses simply change mid-fight its weakness, and the toughest use some cheesy insta-kill attack and take a bajillion hits to take down. Note that this applies equally to turn-based and real-time systems.

The PC style RPG is a better in tactical variety, partly because most are based on pen and paper systems and thus have a large variety in different character classes to choose from. There still is a tendency to have "cheese" attacks like instant death spells with a correspondingly large amount of randomness to whether your characters shrug off those spells, which I find to be irritating to the extreme.

Fallout's battle system would be my favourite out of all RPGs, as it's a good mix of tactics with the amusing effects of its gunplay system. It's also similar to the tactical systems used in games like X-COM which have a strong RPG feel to their squads as well. I'm also fond of the Dungeons and Dragons based systems used in the Baldur's Gate games and Neverwinter Nights, although that is partly to do with the setting (Baldur's Gate II in particular suffers a lot from the instant death annoyances, although it is still one of my most favourite games of all time).

So adding it all up it might seem that I'm a bigger fan of the turn-based system over the real-time ones, but that's probably because the good real-time systems make the game more of an action/RPG hybrid than what I'd call a "true" RPG.

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I don't think realtime is inherently superior to turn-based, or vice versa. You can make bad games in both; you can make good games in both.

I do tend to prefer a well-done realtime game over a well-done turn-based game, but that's largely because I find that combat in such a realtime game tends to go more quickly, with less time given over to expansive screen-filling animations and the like. However, games like Disgaea 2, where you can replace any animation with a simple slash of the sword (or raise of the staff, for spells) show that this problem is not forced onto turn-based games; rather, they choose to accept it. Unfortunately, plenty of normally realtime games pause the action so a spell or a super-attack can resolve. I say, keep the action going, keep me invested in the game. I bought it for gameplay. Feel free to be as shiny as you like, so long as I can't put the controller down.

One other thing I have noticed about turn-based games is that they tend to be much more about numbers and careful optimizations than realtime games are. Because the game is turn-based, you have arbitrary amounts of time to work out your strategy, figure out what weapons provide the best offense and what armors the best defense, and so on. Sometimes the numbers game is almost all there is to combat; certainly, many Final Fantasy linedancing combat styles usually devolve into dealing damage as efficiently as possible (sure, you have those nifty non-offensive spells, but you're almost always better off casting something that deals direct damage, to get the combat over with faster). And some people like this kind of gameplay, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Realtime games, in contrast, generally don't give you all the time you need to work out a strategy. And even if you pause the game at the beginning of combat to look things over and decide how you want to attack, things can change rapidly once you actually engage the enemy ("No plan survives first contact with the enemy", as some famous general said). Thus realtime games tend to be more about quickly acting and reacting to the behaviour of your enemies, which requires an entirely different kind of skill. Mind you, with copious use of the pause button, any realtime game can essentially become turn-based, though with simultaneous resolution of turns. But most people don't play that way.

It's my opinion that turn-based games lend themselves more to high-level tactical play, while realtime games are better-suited to close-and-personal combat. Turn-based games will likely have more participants in any given combat (Disgaea, for example, has 10 player characters and more or less arbitrary numbers of enemies) than realtime games (Tales of Phantasia hase 4 PCs and rarely more than 6 enemies). This in turn means that turn-based games are better-suited to different kinds of stories. You can't plausibly have two armies clashing in a realtime RPG, for example; you just wouldn't be able to draw and resolve combat for all of the units involved. However, a turn-based game also creates many opportunities for players to lose track of specific characters and miss out on their development.

Given what I stated before about keeping the player involved, I think that turn-based games have a harder time keeping things interesting, largely because they tend to be "tell the character to do something, and then watch him do it". There's a few things you can do to improve this, like parallel execution (again, in Disgaea, you can give multiple units different destinations in one pass, and then in another pass watch them all move simultaneously to their destinations) so the player spends less time waiting to be asked for input, but to a certain extent this is inescapable. Certainly, because the game is turn-based, the player will spend some of his time watching his enemies do their thing. Ideally you want to keep the player involved even during this phase. In the worst case, you have the player take his turn, and then basically ask you "Okay, just tell me how badly my characters got hurt during your turn". He doesn't care what the other side does; just its impact on his characters and on the battlefield. Either make him care, or make it so that he gets what he wants (i.e. instant resolution of the other side's actions). Don't make the player sit through things he has no interest in.

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My biggest complaint with some turn-based systems is how varying movement speed is handled.


Let's say in X-Com, you've got a dude with 60 'time units' - this means you can move around 15 squares horizontally or 10 squares diagonally. But let's say you want to fire your gun. That takes a % based off your maximum time units instead of some fixed TU value. That makes sense - a real gun will only fire X times per second if you hold down the trigger no matter who holds the trigger. You can move and fire, but you spend a single bank of time units that resets at the beginning of each turn.

Now, let's compare one unit's movement rate to another. Wimpy human dude (45 time units but holding a huge plasma gun) vs. Chryssalid (hardcore alien with 110 TUs armed with nothing but a melee-range attack that instantly turns the victim into a zombie).

On your turn, you move your guy the rough equivalent of 10 yards. On the alien's turn, he moves his Crysallid from behind a corner and over an entire football field length over to your guy and turns him into a zombie. Now, in many turn based games, that would be the end of it. Your guy would have no chance to fight back since it's not your turn.

On the other hand, if you saw the Chryssalid on the previous turn, you could fire a half dozen rounds of superheated plasma at him without giving him any chance to react, since again, it's not his turn.


In a realtime version, you would get a shot off, the alien would get a few feet closer, etc, basing it more on whether your soldier was accurate enough to waste the alien before the alien could get close enough for hawt zombification action.


X-Com tried to overcome this problem by giving every unit with a ranged attack the change to shoot at an enemy on the enemy's turn ("Opportunity Fire"). However, this works by leaving unused time units available on a unit at the end of his turn. This is completely optional - you could run your unit as far as he can go each turn and throw caution to the wind. You're much more effective with opportunity fire if you leave about half of your TUs unused at the end of your turn, but you end up sweeping the battlefield MUCH more slowly.

Each unit is then given another numeric stat to give it less obvious predictability: Reactions. Units with a higher reaction stat have a better chance to get a shot off at an enemy that strays into their line-of-sight. Units with a lower reaction stat will probably be picking their nose instead of watching for enemies. But what to do about the Chryssalid-runs-across-the-field? Make reactions also based on your remaining time units!

Unit.ReactionRatio = (Unit.Reactions * Unit.TUs / Unit.MaxTUs);

Then as each unit performs some action that the game considers an 'opportunity fire check trigger', the system does line of sight checks between various units, compares your unit's current reaction ratio against the enemy's, and factors in a bit of randomness to make it more tense.

So a unit that has spent very little of its time units so far in its turn has a better chance to do SOMETHING before the other team's opportunity firing starts taking effect - that Chryssalid can rush quite a ways, but then his reaction ratio drops enough that your guys have enough chances of taking shots at him. The more TUs you leave at the end of your turn, the better the chance of you taking an opportunity shot. You can get multiple O.F. shots, but each one drops your TUs, and in turn your reaction ratio (until your turn starts and your TUs are reset). You can also only take as many shots as you have remaining TUs.

Unfortunately the Chryssalid got the shaft in this respect, since melee attacks and movement (such as dodging behind a nearby obstacle) cannot be used as an opportunity fire response in X-Com. (But that's acceptable because if they actually DO get close to you, they have a 100% chance of turning you into a zombie. Not to mention that zombie will instantly hatch into another 'fully-operational' Chryssalid once you shoot it enough or give it a few turns to hatch naturally.)


X-Com 3 had both realtime and turn-based modes, and had a setting where you could have a unit dodge behind cover if they were being shot at, but since I never played that one in turn-based mode, I'm not sure if they added the dodge-behind-cover to turn-based opportunity fire response or not. Realtime mode in X-Com 3 didn't seem nearly as tense or exciting as turn-based mode in the original. It was definitely more action-packed, but fairly boring because you could usually just set your guys up in a firing squad and the aliens would eventually get gunned down.

On the other hand, if X-Com 1 didn't have opportunity fire, it would be excessively frustrating to fight against the fast moving aliens.


Both systems can suck or be awesome, and it depends a lot on how you do your balancing, and whether you come up with ways to overcome your system's restrictions. It seems like from a programming point of view, turn based is much easier to balance by having more definite control over how the battle rules work.

[Edited by - Nypyren on May 9, 2007 11:02:30 PM]

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Nypyren: What about reaction units? A time unit reserve that can only be used during enemy turns? Each character could build a certain amount of units each turn (up to a limit), where the amount they generate per turn would be based on their reaction ability. Those not used in one enemy turn carry over to the next. But the maximum limit would be the same for everyone, and be very small.

Your characters won't get an advantage for saving units (not doing anything is a little boring), but at the same time, you can't just leave your dude in a corridor ambush spot and expect him to kill everything that pops out with return-fire. Your character would get off a few shots at newly discovered enemies, but his next turn would need to be used fully, to take them out - he wouldn't have very many reaction units for that one.

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Now for a dedicated real-time post, again on tactical combat systems rather than RPGs (sorry for the hijack!).

The two systems I've played other than X-Com 3 are the ones in the UFO:Aftermath series and the one used in Fallout Tactics.


In UFO, they went with a "realtime with pauses" system. You can leave the game paused as long as you want and queue up commands for your guys to follow. Once you unpause, both you and the aliens do whatever actions you've queued up. Perfectly fair. So far, none of the UFO games have multiplayer though. Fallout Tactics, on the other hand, does.


I didn't play Fallout Tactics that much multiplayer, but it seemed like the biggest flaw in their entire system was the way stationary characters could react to approaching enemies. It's been a while, but I think it let you choose between real-time and turn-based. Everyone I ever played with wanted to play real-time or not at all.

In X-Com and UFO, you can only react and fire on an enemy if you're looking in that direction, and it's also based on how long it takes to use the weapon. In Fallout Tactics, stationary characters react to things the same way in all directions, even if the approaching enemy is DIRECTLY BEHIND them. X-Com 3 would play positional sounds each time an enemy took a step to let you know that you could pay attention but wouldn't turn your soldiers around for you. UFO displays on-screen icons when your soldiers could "hear" enemies, but doesn't automatically turn your soldiers around for you. You have to pause and do it manually, and if you're too late, you're typically in pretty deep trouble.

In X-Com and UFO, weapon usage speed was very crucial when determining whether you could react fast enough to attack an approaching enemy. UFO also used a delay before you could even SEE the approaching unit that was based on your soldier's stats. In Fallout Tactics, everyone from the most crippled ghoul to the most drugged-up human could whip out their 100 pound chaingun and fire off a burst in less time than it would take for your fast runner to move TWO STRIDES. Which biased combat very VERY heavily into "sit and wait". You could sit just inside a doorway with any Burst-capable gun and kill almost anyone who stepped inside with one or two bursts (even from a small weapon like an MP5) before they could do anything.

We stopped playing Fallout Tactics RATHER quickly when the multiplayer turned out to suck as hard as it did. I don't think anyone bought that game hoping that single player would be exciting - there was almost no role-playing aspect of the game compared to the first two Fallouts.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
Nypyren: What about reaction units? A time unit reserve that can only be used during enemy turns? Each character could build a certain amount of units each turn (up to a limit), where the amount they generate per turn would be based on their reaction ability. Those not used in one enemy turn carry over to the next. But the maximum limit would be the same for everyone, and be very small.

Your characters won't get an advantage for saving units (not doing anything is a little boring), but at the same time, you can't just leave them in place and expect them to kill everything that pops out with the return-fire system. Your character would get off a few shots at newly discovered enemies, but his next turn would need to be used fully, to take them out - he wouldn't have very many reaction units for that one.


I was actually thinking about doing something like this for the X-Com clone I'm working on. I could probably try it out when I get far enough and see how it goes. I'm going to be adding multiplayer but I am definitely sticking with turn-based to simplify coding and multiplayer (and because I believe I can make the game more fun for the effort that I put into it). Because in the existing X-Com rules, a human turn can take quite a while, (a minute or two if you have lots of units to deal with), I will probably have to change the turn-based rules quite a bit to prevent one player from falling asleep when it's not his turn. My first thought was to give each individual unit a turn and interleave them so that each player is doing something more often - maybe something like Final Fantasy Tactics did with their 'speed' idea.

Or I could do it similar to Civilization 4 - simultaneous turns. Everyone can move their units at the same time until they start to get within contested zones (line of sight for X-Com). Each player can move his units as if he's taking his turn, but the other player can do the same, until they both have nothing left to do and both say they're 'done'. This would be far trickier to implement in X-Com than in Civ4 because contested zones aren't just neighboring squares (it would be anything in line of sight), and there are many more actions and tactical possibilities available in X-Com.

My "X-Com clone" idea could probably be generalized into a more adaptable turn-based tactical engine if I did some more planning - allowing invasive rule-changing plugins or mods or something to try out different gameplay without having to rewrite the graphics or UI framework.

[Edited by - Nypyren on May 10, 2007 12:54:29 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by Nypyren
My first thought was to give each individual unit a turn and interleave them so that each player is doing something more often - maybe something like Final Fantasy Tactics did with their 'speed' idea.

That's how the turn based Fallout games were designed as well. Your characters had sequencing based on agility. There was also the Kamikaze trait that let characters react before all others, although I doubt that would work well for multiplayer.

Quote:
My "X-Com clone" idea could probably be generalized into a more adaptable turn-based tactical engine if I did some more planning - allowing invasive rule-changing plugins or mods or something to try out different gameplay without having to rewrite the graphics or UI framework.

With turn based games and fast CPUs, you can rely entirely on scripting to run the game's logic or rules system. My project is completely real time, and most of it's logic still runs via scripting and text-generation files [smile]

I wrote a custom scripting language that can also be used to parse (like XML) to create game objects, weapons, characters, map parts, and just about everything else. It's also used to load up a large list of game rules values, which control how just about everything works in the game. I basically removed all coded 'defines' and hard-coded values, and added them to these rules. If anyone is curious to see what the parsed code looks like, this is a text file that, when parsed, generates varying map tiles based on input values (like the TYPE and SUBTYPE values) which are then positioned and rotated in a simple map editor. Here's a screenshot of them.

Sorry, I didn't mean to wade so far off-topic. But I think that this is possibly one huge advantage turn based games have. Absolutely no need to worry about performance issues during tasks like path-finding. My own project's path finding is multi-leveling, and pretty complicated. Since it's real-time, I had to write it to search paths over several frames so it doesn't smack the framerate in the face. That means that during long path searches, AI characters have to actually find something else to do while they wait for it to finish (like play a scratch your head animation).

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Between turn based and real time is action-broken time. And you're not contemplating the one reason that stop the third method from surpassing the other two.



Turns help strategy but destroy any chance of fluid motion realism. Strategy "board" games don't need it; after all, if you're building cities nobody cares if you finished half a second before your opponent. However, for fluid action, it is quite important who turns the corner first, at what point of the target's sprint you shoot and whether the door is open when the grenade explodes.

Real time destroys complex strategy. you'd need a mind controlled interface to chose actions at the speed of actions themselves. So, the designer must remove part of the possibilities to allow you to access instantaneously the ones left.


In my opinion the perfect balance is the third option. Time is stopped when you choose your actions, so they can be as complex as wanted; however, as you chose it, the actions themselves are inserted in a continuous time line, so if you slash your next action will be a split second later, if you cast a long spell, your next action will be somewhere in the future and if you simply wait, you can interrupt at any time (as in real time).

This interrupting at any time solves almost every problem generated by turns (no moments where you can't act) and the pauses solve almost every problem generated by real time (you've got time to build complex strategies).

However, as I said before, action-broken time has a problem the other two methods avoid, it's impossible to implement a decent multiplayer. People can play their turn and wait for the others' but they won't wait through the other players' hundreds of pauses.

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Yeshua666,
Please be sure to differentiate your opinion from facts. I don't want to cause a flame war, but I think you need to word your posts better.

Quote:
Original post by Yeshua666
Real-time RPGs generally have simplistic, linear stories that a fourth grader could understand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I really prefer complicated, non-linear stories (i.e.: Chrono Cross, Xenogears, etc.).


Xenogears may be a complicated story, but it is, in fact, a linear story. Unlike ChronoTrigger, there is a set order of events that you have to complete before going on to other events.

Also, not all RPGs with real-time combat have simplistic storylines. Kingdom Hearts 2's story got very complex (especially if you haven't played Chain of Memories on the Gameboy Advance... you could potentially have a hard time figuring out Roxas's roll in the series). Also, you may want to look at Jade Empire, a game with a complex real-time fighting system and an interesting story.


Quote:
With a turn-base battle engine, the actual fighting is boring. You hit a monster and then immediately run back to the spot you were standing on. It’s a bit unrealistic and at times, too calm for my tastes despite having had play turn-base RPGs for years prior to “switching over”.


Again, a matter of opinion. If you've played games like Grandia 2 or 3. Both are games where your character can be virtually anywhere on the battlefield and the turn-based fighting takes on a more strategic aspect and actually requires you to time your actions before executing them. You need to pay attention to who you select to attack an enemy, how far away the enemy is and who is in your way (both friends and enemies in your path require you to run around them. If your selected character's range is not very good, they will stop and not complete their chosen action). And in Grandia 3, they introduced the idea of an Aerial Combo where, if you knock an enemy into the air and attack with another character, they perform an aerial combo that does a lot more damage. Go to GameTrailers.com and look at some trailers for Grandia 3.

I don't think either system is better than the other. I think that is the task as the game designer to design the game in a way that keeps the player engaged. I do agree that a lot of turn-based games can get boring, especially if they don't have a strategic aspect. However, I also think that real-time combat games can be boring if all you have to do is hit the attack button over and over to hack and slash the enemy.

I would highly recommend that you try out this game called BangHowdy at http://www.banghowdy.com/. It's a free strategy MMO for Win, Mac, and Linux that has RPG elements and, while it appears turn-based, it is actually time-based. Who knows? It may give you some ideas. :)

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