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JasRonq

Click-N-Kill and its little bro, Click-N-Cast

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I'm currently struggling with this problem in my game concept, how to cast spells. There are many many systems suggested for magic, I've read most of the threads and have pondered the options there. That isn't what I want to get into here though. Regardless of where magic comes from, or what the magic uses as a resource, there is a moment when the player chooses to cast a spell, or in the general sense, to whack an enemy with an arrow or mace or sword, and he hits a button, and it happens. I'd like to know if this is the best way of going about the casting of spells and the hitting of heads with hammers. Is there a better way, a more immersive or fun way to get the player to stab someone in the gut with a dagger than hitting the attack button? Is there a more fun or immersive way to make fireballs fly than hitting the fireball button? I have to wonder with such a simple interface if the player feels involved in the process. Hit a button and lights flicker, fire flies, swords slash and stab, does the player feel involved? Is this the most fun way of causing these actions? What are the problems with CnK and CnC? what might the solutions be? [Edited by - JasRonq on November 4, 2007 3:29:31 PM]

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I personally like combo systems for spell casting. People do not just "get spells," they get spell components which they can hotkey. Using those components in the right order produces a spell (the combinations are simple), but timing also comes into play because if you add a component too quickly or too slowly, the spell either fizzles (does nothing) or explodes.

This not only adds elements of skill to spell casting (harder spells are harder to memorize/time, and even easy spells require a minute amount of skill), but it also makes things more exciting and less predictable. Partying with a poorly skilled spell-caster might not be too wise, if the explosions are large enough to damage nearby party members!

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This is a great question, striking deep into the heart of game design...

Unfortunately, the answer is not quick & easy :)

There are a range of options for attacking + magic. These basically boil down to:

= Strategic choice (what do I want to do): most often used in turn based combat.
= Timing decisions (when do I want to do it): most common option, most like what you described.
= Pure Skill based (I have to make it happen): unusual, but probably most involving.
= Hybrids: Skill & Timing or Strategy & Timing. IMO, the best option.

The Strategic choices are best when there are LOTS of ways to do something and the game is about choosing the way to do it. It's great when you have lots of abilities, either as an individual or a party, and the skill is figuring out the key to the "puzzle". The involvement here is less about performing the actions and more about gaining them and using them correctly. Personally, I only enjoy this format with games like Civilization.

The Timing choice is great when the number of ways to do something is more limited, but you still have a few choices about it. It's also more suited to real time decision making, so you have to make sure your interface is super slick and easy to use - you don't want players to fear trying to change spells in the middle of combat. Generally, the decision making will be done outside of combat but the player needs to keep that flexibility to change plans mid action.

The Pure Skill method is rarely seen because it's probably the most difficult to pull off, both in terms of design and technical implementation. Examples would be spell casting in Black + White, or fighting in Die By The Sword. Both of these ask you to manipulate the mouse in a non-trivial way to cause either a spell to be cast or the sword to be swung. Both of these games have their issues - the controls aren't perfect by any means. However, I personally feel their hearts are in the right places. If you can get this right, I think it will be spectacular. The amount of player involvement - the "I made that happen" factor - is just incredible.

The approach that's gaining a lot of ground these days is a hybrid between the Pure Skill and Timing flavors. The idea is that you perform a little mini-game when you want to do your action, and your success at that mini-game determines the success of the action. The Active Reload from Gears of War is a great example: if you get the timing right you reload super fast, if you mess it up it takes much longer. This concept can easily be extended to just about any action in your game, and lets you increase the skill factor without requiring lots of crazy design / implementation.

To look at your fireball spell, you could easily implement a "direction and power" system, a la golf games / Track + Field, etc. The extra benefit here is that you can take these skill games and apply upgrades to the player's ability that make it easier to perform. It's potentially going to give you really deep results within really well understood + easy to implement mechanics.

The danger with that Hybrid system is that you'll take away the fluidity of your game. You don't want to go so far with it that the player can't achieve anything just by directly doing it - you probably don't want to make a "walking" minigame, for instance :) Also, you want to keep it simple: player's should immediately understand what they have to do.

So, anyways. There are loads of ways to do what you're asking, and lots of it comes down to what game you are trying to make. Don't be afraid to experiment with crazy ideas - but also don't be afraid to throw away anything that doesn't work!

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i think what i need is to know what has been done before and how it worked out. What have fighting games, rpgs, etc done when casting spells and swinging swords? Right now, for spells, I think that one feature might be that there is a point in the spell where you gather power. This defines the power of the spell and maybe mana use, but what if the power flickers a bit, and so good timing, or bad, might leave you with a much more powerful spell? that mechanic has a lot of room in it, it could be beneficial, ie, aim for the flare ups, or it could be bad where you want the normal power level and the flare ups and such could cause problems. What about physical weapons though? Im not sure I want a gesture system, but non trivial mouse gestures might have a place, how have they been used? It seems like there is possibility there for fireball throwing and sword swing aiming.

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Arx Fatalis is a much better example of a gesture based spell casting system than Black & White, IMO. While the gameplay was more action oriented, it was still quite fun to have to draw the runes on the fly to cast a spell.

Rather than go on about FPS melee combat though, I'll just point out This thread discussing FPS-HtH Combat with various examples.

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