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Wavinator

Is Armor Configuration Really A Good Mechanic?

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Wavinator    2017
Armor Configuration: They're using axes, so you choose hide; they're using proton beams, so you choose boson shields; they're shooting with flak guns, so you choose kevlar... etc. etc. Do you think this is really a good mechanic? In theory, what you're asking the player to do is to choose a damage minimization strategy if they themselves can configure their armor; and an attack strategy if the enemy either can do the same or comes in a variety of armor flavors. The latter I don't really mind, but I'm starting to wonder about the former. What the mechanic asks players to do is to plan in advance, yet I've never played a game where I had sufficient time or advanced knowledge to do so. It seems so different in the case of defending versus attacking. If I hit and do no / little damage, I'm not exactly in any immediate danger; but if I take damage, I'm that much closer to losing the fight, which usually means reloading. In most configuration cases I've experienced, I've had to stop, wonder why the hell I'm taking so much more damage than I expected, then go through the tedious process of rifling through inventory. In the worst (as in some space games) I've had to fly all the way back to a dock to reconfigure-- and that is if I can make it. I've heard it said that any choice you should automatically make in a game shouldn't really be a choice. Would you say this for armor configuration? If not, what's the best way you've seen this implemented (or idea you might want to share)?

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Edtharan    607
Quote:
Do you think this is really a good mechanic?

I think that having a specific armour for a specific type of weapon is too restrictive. It takes what could be an interesting choice and removes the choice from the player.

If, instead, you have the armour effect different aspects of the gameplay, then it might be worth wile. For instance, if you have the armour effect your character's ability to perform other moves (like slowing down your attack rate, or reducing the speed at which you can dodge), then this becomes more interesting.

Instead of Hid armour only being good against axes, hide armour might not offer much protection, but it allows greater freedom of movement and does not slow various other abilities.

The other problem with just having a specific armour for a specific type of weapon is that it is a 1 dimensional problem/choice. This of course make it a no-brainer as to which choice you make. But if you can add in other dimensions/factors to consider, then the choice becomes more complex and interesting.

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cih    124
Make it very explicit? A very heavy armor will protect me from all kinds of attacks, but if I need to run, or if I get knocked over -- I'm toast.

If I'm only wearing a vest I may take damage easily but at least I'll have a fighting or running chance.

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Kest    547
Make armor versatile for damage types, and give them less extreme positives and negatives:

"Trinium" armor protects against all damage types:
+ Lasers cause less damage, but more trauma/stun
+ Bullets are almost completely deflected, but can slip through cracks of armor
+ Does well to stop plasma, but takes considerable damage
+ Significantly hinders blunt melee attacks, but takes damage
+ Sharp melee attacks are stunted, but they can occasionally bypass the armor

This gives the player a choice, and the decision can be better or worse depending on what the enemy is equipped with, but not to the point of retreating.

Also, have you considered that wearing slightly wrong armor for a given situation may provide a more interesting experience? Being perfectly equipped isn't always a good thing for fun gameplay. If players are crying/dying because they made bad pre-fight decisions, you need to give them more options during the fight.

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Krohm    5030
Feedback is crucial.
Me and a friend of mine were doing a mod some years ago to make armors more valuable.

What we found out was three main issues.

  1. Playtesting. Lots of. Even with a very limited type damage types it was difficult to estimate the effectiveness of an armor type and in a specific level. It was even worse in our case since we had three "base armors" and a "super-armor" which could be plugged in the standard ones.
    Care must be taken in those cases in which the available weapons in the level are also likely to be "largerly absorbed" as the game will slowdown quite a bit.

  2. Feedback. Since the game displayed the armors the same, the attacker sometimes felt tricked. We needed a way to render the armor but the models didn't have a socket to attach.
    This was very exagerated in our test as some armor+shield combination were extremely effective against some damage types.

  3. Speed. The base game mechanic was too fast to support this kind of decisions. We tried slowing down time a bit but it obviously introduced more issues than it solved.
    Make sure your time scale is adeguate (especially when it comes to weapon switching) to take proper action. Having a long LOS would probably help as well, but there are many cases in which this cannot be guaranteed.


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I don't know whether it is good, but it is a bit closer to reality, and it gives the player an extra challenge.

For example, in the middle ages, you could wear chain mail which would give you near to 100% protection from slashing damage, such as swords. You would of course still get bruised a bit from the impact, but a sword won't normally be able to cut through chain mail.
On the other hand, chain mail offered little, if any, protection against an arrow, which would go straight through at least half of the time, if not more often.
Full plate offered good protection against arrows, which were able to penetrate the shell only at very short ranges (20-30 meters), and more often than not, the arrow would then stick in the padding beneath the plate, not in the knight. On the other hand, plate armour deforms on heavy impact and hinders both breathing and movement (even more than it already does normally). This makes it a bit less optimal if you expect to get bruised with swords, axes, and maces a lot. Also, the necessity to raise one's arms for fighting meant that the shells on the arms (and legs) were much, much thinner than on the body. This of course meant significantly worse protection in these locations.
Light armour, such as hardened leather, offered protection against swords nearly identical to plate armour at much lower cost, weight, and penalty (you can try and boil leather yourself if you want, it's not difficult). However, it would withstand at most one or two heavy hits before breaking, so it was at best an emergency solution, but definitively not what you would want to wear when planning for total carnage.

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Kylotan    9880
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Armor Configuration: They're using axes, so you choose hide; they're using proton beams, so you choose boson shields; they're shooting with flak guns, so you choose kevlar... etc. etc.

Do you think this is really a good mechanic?

No. In fact, it worries me a little that so many gameplay mechanics essentially come down to this. If the opponent chose Rock, we choose Paper. If they chose Paper, we choose Scissors. Etc.

Simply matching one aspect to another doesn't seem to be sufficient to me, because you always have a dominant strategy. Given knowledge of what they're using, you know exactly what you should use in response. Given no knowledge, you pick whatever is best on average, and change to a better configuration when possible.

Quote:
I've heard it said that any choice you should automatically make in a game shouldn't really be a choice. Would you say this for armor configuration?

I'd agree. I think the answer is to make it a 'real' choice, which carries more than the trivial consequences of just how much damage you take per hit. Your choice of defence should affect other qualities: your ability to attack, your evasion speed, your capability for stealth, your carrying capacity, your finances, your capability to repair or reuse that type of defense, the variance of defence quality it bestows upon you, effects on reputation by choosing to use it, etc. I generally think that for these systems to be worthwhile, there need to be enough different factors that it's impractical to calculate any sort of dominant strategy (or to put it another way, that any chosen strategy can be demonstrated to have certain flaws).

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Talonius    643
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Armor Configuration: They're using axes, so you choose hide; they're using proton beams, so you choose boson shields; they're shooting with flak guns, so you choose kevlar... etc. etc.

Do you think this is really a good mechanic? In theory, what you're asking the player to do is to choose a damage minimization strategy if they themselves can configure their armor; and an attack strategy if the enemy either can do the same or comes in a variety of armor flavors.
No, because it favors the AI too greatly. The AI is able to make these types of instant decisions, can be able to assign individuals (versus large pre-organized groups, e.g. CTRL-1, CTRL-2, etc.) to combat those which it is most effective against, and because it simplifies the mechanics of combat too far. You choose hide armor against axes; a semi intelligent person is going to recognize that hey, my axe doesn't work against their armor - I'll start swinging at their exposed arms. Or, as mentioned later, the deficiencies in your choice aren't presented well enough in terms of movement restrictions, etc.

(I have a similar problem with unit level abilities which require you to manually invoke them. That's well and good with a group of the same unit, but if you've played Warcraft III the computer has no problem invoking the special abilities of all of its units without slowing down... and my guys are dead long before I get the chance. :))

=== Edit ===

Forgot to list my idea of a better system: resistances. The hide armor grants you a percentage of resistance to slashing damage, and provides a penalty for crushing damage. The idea of resistances allows you to fine tune the amount of damage resisted, provides a mechanism for balancing the benefits, and allows 100 axeman to still take out 25 horsemen without too many losses. It's similar in idea, but not an absolute.

More difficult to balance is armor absorption. Hide armor absorbs 1 point of damage (all damage types). Plate armor absorbs 5 points. Gives you the benefit of upgrading armor, without the added complexity of determining what type of weaponry your opponent is using.

No, these don't correlate well to their real life counterparts. Then again, it's a game, right? :)

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Spoonbender    1258
It depends on the game, doesn't it? In some types of game, you may have enough information in advance to make a meaningful choice. But then again, there has to be some kind of tradeoff, so it's not a simple "they're using laser, so I'll use energy shields".
Perhaps each defense type should have some secondary effect (positive and negative) as well? Something that ties into your chosen tactics as well.
Say, energy shields interfere with your own shooting as well, or generate a humming noise making stealth impossible. But on the plus side, they may... I don't know, offer some protection from environment hazards as well?

Armor might slow you down, making assaults trickier to pull off, but offer protection in melee as well as against bullets.

It becomes a bit more interesting if your choice has to balance both "what is best at negating their weapons", and "what plays well with the tactics I'm going to rely on".

But once again, it only makes sense if you have a good idea in advance of what damage types you'll be exposed to.

As you said, if it's an automatic choice, you might as well remove it entirely.

[Edited by - Spoonbender on August 13, 2008 8:14:14 AM]

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TechnoGoth    2937
I don't have a problem with it if its part of an over all combat mechanic. The approach I personally favour is damage tables rather then point based damage. A laser might do Level 10 Heat Based Damage, and the semi conductive hull of my ship has level 5 heat resistance so if I get hit there would be a roll on the level 5 heat based damage table. That might cause power systems to overload, parts of the hull to melt, etc..

But armour should really be the last line of defence. There should be the ability to counter and avoid before hand. That way I can be more flexible and creative in my design. Do I include an auto firing rail gun to shoot down missiles and light fighters? A Stealth field to allow for hit and run attacks, or just buy the toughest armour I can find.

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Edtharan    607
Quote:
On the other hand, plate armour deforms on heavy impact and hinders both breathing and movement (even more than it already does normally).

Actually if you have a well designed set of plate armour, you should be able to do cartwheels in it. However, you are right, a deformed set of armour is a problem.

This actually add another aspect that could be used. If armour could have a repair level, then this might have different effects depending on the armour. Chainmail in disrepair would not impose too great a penalty on the character (it might only slightly reduce the effectiveness of the armour's protection), but plate armours, when damaged, might increase the rate of fatigue of the character (because it is hard to breath) or slow them down (if a piece is bent out of shape it might restrict movement).

This would add an entirely new dimension to the choice of armours as you would have to factor in what happens as your armour degrades (and therefore how much effort, time and resource you spend in maintaining it).

Quote:
No. In fact, it worries me a little that so many gameplay mechanics essentially come down to this. If the opponent chose Rock, we choose Paper. If they chose Paper, we choose Scissors. Etc.

Although I am a fan of the Scissors Paper Rock mechanics, I have to agree. If you mechanic is just Scissor/Paper/Rock, then it is one dimensional and does not offer an interesting choice. What you have to offer is competing aspects (price is a common, but not very satisfactory one).

As a general rule, people can only hold at most 7 things in their working memories, so if they have to factor in more than 7 things for a choice, then they will not be able to make that choice properly and instead guess at the answer (which you might as well just make choice the result of a die roll). Also, because when playing a game they will have several other things that they have to be also thinking about, you will want to give them some breathing room.

My suggestion is to keep the factors between 3 and 5 aspects that they have to consider at any one time for a choice as this give enough aspects to make it non trivial and is small enough not to overload most players working memories. It also allows for a degree of difficulty, with easy choices using 3 aspects and the more difficult choices suing 5 aspects.

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Sandman    2210
It's a good example of RPS gone bad.

It's fine to have different armour types with different strengths and weaknesses, but those strengths and weaknesses need to have more influences on the gameplay than just making me die if I'm wearing the wrong armour.

I should be able to defeat any foe with any armour - the only thing I might need to change is my tactics for dealing with them. A hide armoured character might deal with proton beam armed enemies by sneaking up (stealth) and then smacking them with an axe, for example. An overly simplistic RPS system doesn't really give you that. Armours should be designed for roles or fighting styles, not as hyper specific defenses against single weapon types.


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wodinoneeye    1689


In real life changing armor usually takes too long (hours for a medieval knight) assuming you could afford more than one set and the staff to maintain/transport it. Versatility was required (not too heavy/cumbersome or not too light or mismatched to the situation/usual opponents weapons).

There is a classic tradeoff between armor/speed/armament. Discardable armor accessories was a option that added some flexibility (ie- shields).

Future war might have technological tricks like reconfigurable armor (or armor function done by energy rather than a material barrier). Being hard to see/hit is a workable technology even today.


If the opponent could change his weapons (somewhat easier) faster than you change 'theme' armor, then versatility again is an important feature.

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RivieraKid    698
Mass Effect is an example of how NOT to do it.
It has several armor types but I generally stuck to the heaviest general protection.

I like sets of armor (boots/gloves/thigh pads/etc) which you can mix and match.

If you need to die to gain knowledge then you have a design problem.

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Speeder    150
In fact I am trying to create a armor system on my space shooter game that works this way:

First: The ship has his own health, that is sufficiently big to withstand some hits, a good player should be able to play on "normal" difficulty and not die without using any armor (good, since my game has realistic physics, and having armor means extra weigth, and extra weigth means less handling of the ship, somethign that when you have intertia is really "evil")

But of course, not all players are good, and not all players want to play on "normal" difficulty, so I designed a armor system that works more or less that way:

The armor has its own life, when at full, the armor offers 100% protection, at half, it offers 50% protection, and so on.

As the armor receives damage, it usually (usually, because the armor against laser is a mirror) absorbs the damage, that means that it takes damage itself, the point is: I made in a way that the more a armor absorb a damage, the more it takes damage, meaning that it endure less time, if you are a great player, that is sure that will take one or two hits, using a armor that absorbs all hits is good, but if you suck, and will take a lot of hits, it is better to use a armor that absorb less damage, altough your ship will get damaged (and repairing the ship is more expensive than repairing the armor), you are sure that this damage will not be much, neither on the armor (example: instead of the armor getting gone, meaning that instead of simple repair you will need to buy a new one, and instead of you getting some damage, you will get a bit more damage, but you will still have the armor, so you will only repair it, not install a new one)

Also, the armor has a quality attribute, better quality armors take less damage when absorbing some damage, but they may take more damage when absorbing something else (example: a high quality explosive ablative armor against explosions, will always take a lot of damage when absorving even minor hits... a poor armor, will not always get much damaged, but it may allow much more damage to pass when that damage is the "right" type, like if it take a armor piercing damage)

The idea is that the armors will be tightly balanced, the player will always have more than one weapon (in fact the player has 2 weapons and a sawblade that few armors can defend against, so he can use the sawblade if for example he faces a enemy armoured against lasers and the 2 weapons of choice of the player are lasers...), and the player can play without armor at all and still survive if he is good enough (and the difficulty low enough), so the armor may not hamper the mechanics.

In fact, mass effect armor system suck, I only used the "best" overall armor that I could use (I even do not discovered what gave certain types of damage), specially because the enemy was usually a mix of the two "basic" types of enemy (ie: geth machines paired with krogran organics, meaning that being good against one or other while poor on the other side was bad idea), also noone on my party could use armors above light neither sniper rifles, those things just litered my inventory (I discovered this way that the "engineer" class suck... Being stuck to use pistols and light armor to the rest of the game, with a tech that disables shields against shielded eniemies that can rearm shields, or against unshielded enemies...)

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I don't like it, for a few reasons. First, like you said, it requires you to know what you'll be up against before you depart, or to reconfigure on-the-fly. The first scenario is unlikely, and the second is somewhat silly, unless you've got Scotty there to do an emergency phase inversion.

Second, it puts a rock/paper/scissors element in that is seldom balanced. Either you can armor up to be invincible in a given scenario (which makes the strategy guide or trial and error a source of obscene uberness) or it doesn't really matter, and you're wasting time and resources trying to make use of a broken mechanic. Even if it works well, it's like spinning a roulette wheel to decide the next level's difficulty. Get lucky, it's "intermediate". Bring the wrong pants, and you're in "nightmare" mode.

And finally, this sort of thing tends to lead to gear being put on a pedestal. A boson shield that renders you 98% immune to proton beams would be worth a mint, and once you got it, you'd never fear enemies with PBs ever again.

EvE Online did a pretty good job with this, letting ships be equipped to adjust their resistances to the four damage "flavors" of the world. PvP setups generally go with a well-rounded "omnitank", but for PvE, each NPC faction had tendencies toward damage types and resistances, allowing you to plan effectively for contact with them. Some of the missions would mix it up by consisting almost entirely of ships that deal EM damage, and are also weak to it, and then throwing in some guys that dish out huge amounts of explosive damage, to exploit the weakness in the most logical ship setup for the first part of the job.

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ruby-lang    232
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I've heard it said that any choice you should automatically make in a game shouldn't really be a choice. Would you say this for armor configuration?

You can let your ship automatically choose the best available configuration. In this case, the choice would be made at the port, between getting a specialized configuration that would be good against some enemies and weak against others, or combining different pieces to have a more evenly balanced defense value.

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AngleWyrm    554
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Armor Configuration: They're using axes, so you choose hide; they're using proton beams, so you choose boson shields; they're shooting with flak guns, so you choose kevlar... etc. etc.

Do you think this is really a good mechanic? In theory, what you're asking the player to do is to choose a damage minimization strategy if they themselves can configure their armor; and an attack strategy if the enemy either can do the same or comes in a variety of armor flavors.


Galactic Civilizations used a system where there are three different kinds of armor that protect against three different kinds of weapon. My main beef with most rock-paper-scissors schemes is that all it does is require you to build one of each instead of one, effectively making a 'unit' a squad of three.

Modern day tanks use different kinds of armor as well, but it's more of an evolutionary tech race than a choice: Develop kickass armor, enemy responds with a new weapon that can defeat it, rinse and repeat.

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Kest    547
It would help significantly to mix up your combat. Make it impossible to dress for the occasion by having too many unknowns in the battlefield. Either through randomness, or through enemy offense diversity for each area.

It could also add flavor to scenario choices. If I'm wearing laser protective plates, then I may change my strategy for dealing with a given situation. If the door guard is armed with nothing but a laser blaster, that's the way to go this time.

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