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Turn-Based Combat in a MOG

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This came up in a different thread, but I'm a massive fan (geddit?) of turn based combat and I would like to see turn based combat in a massive online game. One of the points made was taking a classical approach to turn based design means that as the fight gets bigger, you have to wait much longer for your turn to arrive (however short it may be when it does come). I think this could be tackled by having some kind of parallelism in the execution of turns. The newer Laser Squad Nemesis game (not recommended) both solves and does not solve this problem. In the game players plan the next ten seconds of all of their units actions, then they email the game state (along with their plan) to the next player. That player in turn reviews the results of the previous ten seconds and plans the next ten seconds for his units. So in a sense this is turn parallelism, but it isn't because everyone plans their turn sequentially, even though the turns are simulated in parallel. Conceivably you could have a MOG where everyone plans the next ten seconds of the game for twenty seconds (should be long enough to decide what to do with one character) and then reviews the results after they have been simulated. As seen in Bang! Howdy, some kind of bonus can be applied to those players who plan their turns faster, and if you timeout in the planning stage it's a simple my character was panicked kind of situation, probably has some penalty to dodge or something that makes them extra vulnerable until the next turn.

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One way I could see this being implemented is allowing a time period for all participants to plan simultaneously. Once the "planning phase" has elapsed, execute all actions simultaneously.

This brings about some problems however, such as competition for space and the lessened ability to react to the battlefield, as once you've seen what has occurred and planned your steps accordingly, everyone else will be doing something else. Actually on second thought that's not too bad as it tests the player's ability to predict situations.

Some food for thought.

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Vanguard SOH tried to do this in early beta. Feedback from beta testers said it wasn't as fun as the damage/delay hybrid system of typical EQ-clones.

But then they may have been implementing it wrong. =)

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OK let's say the game is a massive FF-Tactics type game, each character can move and then attack or use a special ability of some kind. Classically these games are executed as asynchronous turns where an entire force moves all-together.

Part of what makes action in these games satisfying is moving your butch knight next to the flimsy little cleric and smacking his head off interactively. This more or less precludes simultaneous planning, because then execution must be separated and you don't get that wonderfully gratifying thwump.

Suppose you plan a single character's move at a time (allowing for the possibility of controlling many characters), this can add a 'character speed' dimension to the game, that some characters move or attack faster and so their turns come around sooner.

You may still end up waiting several minutes for your turn in a large battle.

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It is entirely possible to do turn-based multiplayer - for instance, look at the success of internet poker. Even with ten people on the table, the game progresses fairly smoothly. You need a default move to be chosen in the case of a time-out/disconnection, i.e. "fold" for poker and what would probably be "defend" in an RPG style game, then you can limit how long a player gets in his turn (10 seconds is probably ok).

I've thought about the idea of simultaneous turn-based combat a bit. You are correct that in a 1v1 setting this would essentially be the same as rock/paper/scissors, but in a team vs. team (or players vs. AI) setting this isn't so much of a problem, as the element of teamwork adds a substantial layer of complexity to the game.

A real advantage of such a system is that it is relatively immune to cheating while being very low on server requirements. Indeed, all the server really needs to do is send a set of random numbers to each client at the start of a turn; if one player cheats somehow, it won't affect the other clients and he'll simply go out of sync. As such, for any amateurs wishing to make an online RPG, a turn based system really is the way to go; not only is it entirely viable to make, you could also design a very new and unique combat system to go with it.

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I have also thought of doing turn based since that is what original AD&D was. I have often thought that part of the original fun is lost because players only really deal with what's happening to them, for the most part. With pen and paper, you are watching combat as a whole and there is some delay to take it all in.
It seems like only combat is being discussed but happens to the rest of the world? Are you suggesting having to take turns walking around or even just looking? Are there any ideas as to how this could work?

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Quote:
Original post by Tesshu
It seems like only combat is being discussed but what happens to the rest of the world? Are you suggesting having to take turns walking around or even just looking? Are there any ideas as to how this could work?
Tesshu this is a good point, some old discussions about MOG combat talked about how a fight can occupy some region outside of which play can progress normally, so IF this was going to be in a single-character game to the tune of WOW or EQ, the player can freely watch in a real-time state (and should be able to see combat happening) from outside the boundary of the fight, and if the player chooses to enter then he/she will join the turn-based fray.

Personally, I don't like this, but more because I think if you're going to have a single character game you're already playing to an immersive story-telling experience and in that sense you want combat to be more real-timey.

Coming back to my idea of a Massive FF Tactics clone, perhaps in the world map you can see if a fracas is happening in a neighboring node. If you choose to travel there then you may have to take part (depending on alignments?). Travel through the world map (which is a graph) is a matter of choosing a destination and then waiting a bit (maybe a half a minute for LONG distances) while your force travels. Your force could have a travel speed property (heavy armor and small creatures travel slower, light armor and larger creatures like dudes on horse-back etc. or vehicles travel faster).

If as you were traveling along an edge in the graph your force met another force, then a fight could start right there! the two forces would face off on the travel path, and other forces that came along could get involved.

Entering combat means in a single action you deploy your force in an entry zone of the combat map (a special concession of say five seconds per unit to be deployed might be made), then all your units enter the action queue and you begin to take part.

This might elegantly allow for real territorial conflict like you see in Chrome Hounds or Hyberbol, players' forces start at the capital of their kingdom and travel to the front lines to directly take part in the (huge) fight that's going on there.

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Why not use time bubbles? Even with massive numbers of people, only limited amounts of those people (2-12) can interact with each other directly. So you divide each interaction group into it's own turn based bubble. Everything outside of a single bubble is taking place simultaneously. But within the bubble, players use the traditional turn based system.

Some care would have to be taken when allowing characters to jump from one bubble to another. Such as puting them onto the end of the turn list when entering.

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Something analogous to the timewarp simulation technique, if you were to think of a player deciding on an action as an integration step for a body in the simulation.

If each character has a region around it which represents the extent of influence that character can have in its next action (ie every cell on the map that that character can move to/affect with an action), then taking the union of all such regions, every connected component forms a bubble in which the characters cannot be influenced by anything outside the bubble.

You can still constrain the simulation to a global time scale, keeping all of the bubbles in sync, you just allow synchronous planning within the bubbles.

You can probably go a step further and allow every player on the front of the command queue who's character's bubbles don't intersect to plan their next action. That way you generally won't have to wait much on characters who aren't in your immediate vicinity.

It could be done, I still think that some kind of decision parallelism is needed to really make this feasible on a large scale (thinking about 100s of players taking part in a battle). But the current design is certainly workable for smaller numbers of players.

I'm going to draw a picture to get this across.

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OK so here's a picture:



The idea is this: there are four combatants, and the next-turn queue is on the right.

let's say 1,2,3 are melee units and 4 is an archer, in this arrangement, 4 can potentially affect all of the other units (and likewise, all of the units can affect 4).

So it's 1's turn in the queue first, followed by 2, but 1 and 2 are touching so only 1 can plan his next move.

Then it's 2's turn, followed by 3, and then 4. 2 and 3 are not touching, so no matter what they plan they cannot affect each other, therefore they can plan simultaneously, but 4 is touching 2 and 3, so 4 cannot plan simultaneously with 2 and 3, he must wait until they have finished their turns to plan his own.

This is actually a fairly clever system, because in big battles you can have alot of planning parallelism:



In this image, all the red circles can plan simultaneously.

But then you get into other problems; suppose a flimsy cleric has his turn after an enemy who attacks his ally who is within healing range, but because the enemy is outside the cleric's sphere of influence, the cleric is planning simultaneously with the enemy, so the cleric may not heal his ally who he would have healed if planning was sequential, or at least if the parallelism was less aggressive.

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Quote:
Original post by Symphonic
But then you get into other problems; suppose a flimsy cleric has his turn after an enemy who attacks his ally who is within healing range, but because the enemy is outside the cleric's sphere of influence, the cleric is planning simultaneously with the enemy, so the cleric may not heal his ally who he would have healed if planning was sequential, or at least if the parallelism was less aggressive.

That situation shouldn't arise; if an enemy can attack the same target that the cleric wants to heal, then their circles of influence would overlap, and they wouldn't be planning simultaneously.

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The biggest issue with that sort of system, assuming players not in combat or not in the area move in real time, is how to handle players that arrive in the middle of the battle, or players that are just passing by.

Its a good system, but in a MMO environment you are likely to have unrelated players passing by areas of combat on a regular basis - players are going to get frustrated if their movement slows to a crawl every time they pass by somebody else who is in combat.


It would depend highly on the exact style of game, I suppose, whether its intended as RPG, RTS, etc... but perhaps one solution might be similar to PvP flags in some MMORPGs? - to enter combat you have to explicitly signal it beforehand, and remain in that state for a period of time afterwards. That way when travelling larger distances you can pass by combats you arent involved in if you arent flagged, but you will be slowed if you decide to flag yourself or if you have recently been in another combat.

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Pretty good points. Unfortunately, if players are able to signal when they want to enter combat, they would be free to move to terrain or attack vectors that give them an advantage before initiating combat. And no one in the conflict would be able to interact with them to stop it.

edit: Actually, if players are able to see the real-time units update outside of their own turn, it would be possible to give them the ability to pull someone into their battle that is passing by without waiting for their turn to start.

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Since there's a lot of talk about FF Tactics, I think I'd only want to play if the basic map system worked like Tactics as well. Every battle would take place on its own instanced map; there would be an overview map that you could move on and see where people were having battles, but you wouldn't see the battle happening in real time, and you either can't join in the middle, or you join under strict rules of reinforcement, like you spawn in a particular spot and are stunned for one turn before you can act. Places like towns and cities could be no-combat zones where everything takes place in real time.

Of course, some people would say that this isn't a "real" MMORPG, because of all the instancing and failure to easily jump in and gank people in the middle of their battles or dungeon crawls.

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Some pretty good points/food for thought. I think the idea of trying to get parallelism with the turns is interesting but it feels like a dead end. This sort of optimization tends to help the better cases and comes at a pretty high cost of determining the bubbles.

I think you need to do a system where the game is always turn based. If you have a system that puts you into turn mode then this could be used to snare a mob or player. A high level character could engage the mobs and allow the lower level characters to pass around the bubble. Also it likely could be use the harass players.

The main scenario I hate is that which FF7 suffered from. Running around the world only to be continuously pulled into a fight that was so trivial was enough for me not to finish the game. Having movement always in the SLOW turn mode, might not feel so bad if your always in it. Of course it would have to depend on the game itself.

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