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DarkZoulz

auto vs turn-based combat

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Hi all, I'm working on a web-based RPGish game where you (like so many other games) fight monsters. I'm currently contemplating if the combat should be auto-generated or if it should be turn-based. One would think that the turn-based approach would be most fun for the player. He/she can sit down and really plan what to do next in the battle. But, as it's a webgame I want it be VERY casual. Players should be able to login, play a bit and then just leave. The game is mainly about advancing your characters and trading with other players. What do you think?

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Who decided that turn base have to be complicated? It shouldn't be that hard to design a simple turn based system - tough it would probably be hard to make it fun.


Also, sometimes automatic battle systems allows the player to interfere a little. To make him more involved. Check out Yggdra Union for the GBA to see what I'm talking about.

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With auto-generated I mean that the entire combat is calculated and a log of what happened is presented to the player. The player has no control over what his character does during the fight. I've seen this approach in many web-based games, but have always thought that it's pretty bad. I'd rather be in control over my own characters. This is how Warriors 2 work, for instance. The fighting has to be fast too. Someone logging in during a 15-min coffee break should be able to play a few rounds. Although auto-generated combat is faster, I can also see the downside of presenting a lot of text to the player. They won't read it and will mostly be interested in if they won or not.

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Original post by someboddy
Who decided that turn base have to be complicated?

I did, as a player. Well, if I can substitute "complicated" with "intense depth". My attention's tolerance refuses to play games with a turn based battle menu that has [Attack] [Defend] [Run]. To be completely honest, it's worse than that. I need some room for serious strategy investment to get into turn based combat. X-Com or Fallout 1 or 2 style combat is the only thing that comes to mind as enjoyable.

I think one big dividing factor of boring turn based combat and fun turn based combat is player-controlled unit movement. That introduces environmental objects for cover/stealth, terrain advantages, attack range limits, unit formations, and all sorts of other increased depth.

For the record, I'm not saying real-time combat has any advantages, but it's usually easier to tolerate when it lacks depth.

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Original post by DarkZoulz
Although auto-generated combat is faster, I can also see the downside of presenting a lot of text to the player. They won't read it and will mostly be interested in if they won or not.


You can always make a simple flash animation for that...

Anyways, I fail to see the problem here. After all, you want to allow shot playing sessions, and if I log in for 5 minutes, it doesn't make any sense that I spend 3 of them on a battle when your game's focus is on other things.

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Original post by DarkZoulz
Although auto-generated combat is faster, I can also see the downside of presenting a lot of text to the player. They won't read it and will mostly be interested in if they won or not.


You can always make a simple flash animation for that...

Anyways, I fail to see the problem here. After all, you want to allow shot playing sessions, and if I log in for 5 minutes, it doesn't make any sense that I spend 3 of them on a battle when your game's focus is on other things.


So you suggest auto-generated combat then? Yes, i'm leaning towards that direction. Maybe add some feature that lets you take an "stance" of sorts before a fight. Like defensive/aggressive stances.

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I'm coding a mud-like web thingie. I'm thinking about using a stance system and a one-hit-per-second combat style. Most combats would last about ten or twenty hits. The player would watch the combat unfold but could still make decisions : switch from bow to sword once the monster is at reach, try to flee, use a healing spell, unbuff the monster, etc... In fact, each one-second turn, the player can make one action but it automatically falls back to his stance if no other instruction is given.

The first version will have only simple stances but I plan on having an optional complex stance system in the second version, that would allow things like "attack with a pierce weapon if attacked by an armored enemy" or "use a potion if under 5 HP" that would allow a player to quick-script ally NPCs

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Original post by Yvanhoe
I'm coding a mud-like web thingie. I'm thinking about using a stance system and a one-hit-per-second combat style. Most combats would last about ten or twenty hits. The player would watch the combat unfold but could still make decisions : switch from bow to sword once the monster is at reach, try to flee, use a healing spell, unbuff the monster, etc... In fact, each one-second turn, the player can make one action but it automatically falls back to his stance if no other instruction is given.

The first version will have only simple stances but I plan on having an optional complex stance system in the second version, that would allow things like "attack with a pierce weapon if attacked by an armored enemy" or "use a potion if under 5 HP" that would allow a player to quick-script ally NPCs


Sounds sweet. I used to work on a windows-based MUD codebase written in VB6 a loooong time ago. It was really fun. MUDs have the advantage of using a persistent connection while the web is very static in that sense. Although you can spice it up with other techniques such as AJAX and Flash, it will never beat a true sockets-based application in interactivity and user response.

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Original post by DarkZoulzAlthough you can spice it up with other techniques such as AJAX and Flash, it will never beat a true sockets-based application in interactivity and user response.

It may be a bit off-topic but this project was actually an excuse to learn about all this AJAX thing. In AJAX, it is actually possible to leave a request object open to wait for events. You then have to configure your server to not timeout with such requests and leave it open as long as no new events happened.

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Just allow players to automate the thing so it gets less boring.
Instead of clicking "attack" every turn, allow the player to code "always attack unless x happens, and if that happens, do that instead".
Of course, the player should be able to manually interrupt the process to change the strategy.

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Original post by DarkZoulz
So you suggest auto-generated combat then? Yes, i'm leaning towards that direction. Maybe add some feature that lets you take an "stance" of sorts before a fight. Like defensive/aggressive stances.


I'm planning to do something similar (web-based / pbbg rpg)...

I was going for:

automatic combat with stance options (with # of options limited to a skill and/or stat) that are 'saved' until changed.

(e.g. Default to stance X, if you perceive the opponent is attempting stance Y then attempt stance Z)

So, instead of 100% automated combat...you'd at least be able to tweak things a bit.

No clue if people will like or dislike it, but as combat is not the primary focus of the game (unless you want it to be...but you may find it a bit dull)...I think it could work well.

That said, you'd still need to go and find things to kill so you couldn't just hit a button and execute all your daily combats or something.

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I personally hate auto-combat, I find it extremely boring, but then I am more of a hardcore gamer, I don't like simple turn-based combat either, I love arcade/platformer combat and find the second best kind to be turn-based with complex strategy that must be changed for each enemy and possibly terrain or player's current status. So maybe my opinion doesn't matter because I am not your target audience...

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Original post by sunandshadow
I personally hate auto-combat, I find it extremely boring, but then I am more of a hardcore gamer, I don't like simple turn-based combat either, I love arcade/platformer combat and find the second best kind to be turn-based with complex strategy that must be changed for each enemy and possibly terrain or player's current status. So maybe my opinion doesn't matter because I am not your target audience...


Ofcourse you hate auto combat - if you wanted to watch two characters attack each other with randomly selected generic premade moves you could just watch the presidential debates on TV...

Now seriously - my two cent on auto combat:

Auto combat is not fun. It's not that I personally don't like it - I just think it doesn't meant to be fun. A non-fun combat system could be a great design element - if you know how to use it. This design element is the basic of the browser-based management MMO genre.

For example - you probably heard of Hattrick. Hattrick is a soccer management game where you don't play soccer - you just manage the team. You buy and sell players, interact with other teams etc. But you can't play soccer - the soccer games are auto generated by the server. Do you think that the developers were simply too lazy to develop a soccer gameplay system? that the servers can't support actual soccer gameplay?

Well, this might be true, but at any rate, if Hattrick contained an actual soccer system it would be filled with soccer kids who just know how to play soccer, and the whole community aspect of the game would disappear. Why? because the soccer system simply draws too much focus. Most people would rather play online soccer than to arrange imaginary soccer player transfer from one imaginary soccer team to another imaginary soccer team.

This is the greatness of auto combat - it's not fun, so it doesn't draw focus from the community&management part(in that kind of games, community and management kind of merge into one part) of the game. And unlike unfun turn-based/real-time combat, where you have to do it anyways so you can affect it's results, auto combat never becomes a burden, because the player doesn't have to participate in it, just to read a summary. However, player do have some control over the outcome of the auto combat in the preparations - which are handled in the community&management part of the game, the part where you want to put the focus.

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Here is a better example - Gindis. Try to play one of their games - it's pretty boring. Sure, you can build stuff and attack stuff, but it still doesn't have real depth.

Now enter the forums. This is where the real action is. Players form alliances, arrange attacks, declare truces etc.

Do you think that kind of diplomacy would have been possible if the game was had a real-time/turn-based battle system?


I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of that kind of games, but I can see what other people find in them...

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If the combat isn't supposed to be fun, it shouldn't be there at all; a boring thing the player is forced to watch is an obnoxious and kind of insulting waste of time. If the player's efforts can't contribute anything to the outcome of the fight, there's definitely no reason to play it out, just roll one random number, report the result, and let the player spend their time on whatever parts are supposed to be fun.

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Original post by sunandshadow
If the combat isn't supposed to be fun, it shouldn't be there at all; a boring thing the player is forced to watch is an obnoxious and kind of insulting waste of time. If the player's efforts can't contribute anything to the outcome of the fight, there's definitely no reason to play it out, just roll one random number, report the result, and let the player spend their time on whatever parts are supposed to be fun.


You have just described the basics of auto battle.

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Original post by someboddy
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Original post by sunandshadow
If the combat isn't supposed to be fun, it shouldn't be there at all; a boring thing the player is forced to watch is an obnoxious and kind of insulting waste of time. If the player's efforts can't contribute anything to the outcome of the fight, there's definitely no reason to play it out, just roll one random number, report the result, and let the player spend their time on whatever parts are supposed to be fun.


You have just described the basics of auto battle.


I've seen games where you have to just sit there and watch your character fight. Also the OP was suggesting generating a log of multiple turns that were taken during the battle.

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Original post by sunandshadow
If the combat isn't supposed to be fun, it shouldn't be there at all; a boring thing the player is forced to watch is an obnoxious and kind of insulting waste of time. If the player's efforts can't contribute anything to the outcome of the fight, there's definitely no reason to play it out, just roll one random number, report the result, and let the player spend their time on whatever parts are supposed to be fun.


You have just described the basics of auto battle.


I've seen games where you have to just sit there and watch your character fight. Also the OP was suggesting generating a log of multiple turns that were taken during the battle.


Wouldn't you still want to know what happened tho? (e.g. How effective your character build was.) Assuming you did want to play such a thing? ;)

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It's my preference, but I would be totally disinterested, or bored quickly, in a game with auto-combat. But, I have built a turn-based web game, and it seems, perhaps, too complex to keep most players. One even said it was too complex, preferring games like Travian and Tribal Wars (which just give you the results of combat). We chose to try to get the niche market of turn-based, complex combat players rather than try to compete with all the other casual RPGs.

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Original post by Kenneth Godwin
Wouldn't you still want to know what happened tho? (e.g. How effective your character build was.) Assuming you did want to play such a thing? ;)

Part of my point is that there shouldn't be such a thing as character building if the combat isn't meant to be fun and thought-provoking. But no, I probably wouldn't play it at all, and if I did I _definitely_ would not want to read logs describing what happened in a simulated battle or have to sit there and watch a simulated battle.

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Wouldn't you still want to know what happened tho? (e.g. How effective your character build was.) Assuming you did want to play such a thing? ;)

Part of my point is that there shouldn't be such a thing as character building if the combat isn't meant to be fun and thought-provoking. But no, I probably wouldn't play it at all, and if I did I _definitely_ would not want to read logs describing what happened in a simulated battle or have to sit there and watch a simulated battle.


Alright...maybe I'm just strange.

I actually like 'building' something and then letting it loose and have the game tell me the results.

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If the character building requires extreme player creativity, then I might watch automated battles to see what attributes need tweaked next. But both the character building and the battle automation would need to be really interesting, and the rest of the game would need to keep me coming back.

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Original post by ID Merlin
I have built a turn-based web game, and it seems, perhaps, too complex to keep most players. One even said it was too complex, preferring games like Travian and Tribal Wars (which just give you the results of combat). We chose to try to get the niche market of turn-based, complex combat players rather than try to compete with all the other casual RPGs.

It may have been less to do with how complex the game was, and more to do with how it was complex. I remember playing a Civilization style space game once that required players to tweak every attribute of their single units, all of which were made up concepts like "Inertia Droppers" and "Pesco Pods". There were literally hundreds of them for each ship. I had zero motivation to learn about these traits, and gave up quickly.

Complexity/depth/strategy doesn't need to be something to learn. It's possible for players to pick up a game, understand everything 100% at first glance, and still have that game present huge depth, and demand intense strategy to be played. Everything in the game can be obvious and intuitive, while still requiring heavy brain interactivity to play well. This is definitely not something that's extremely easy to pull off, but it's something to aim for.

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Original post by Kest
If the character building requires extreme player creativity, then I might watch automated battles to see what attributes need tweaked next. But both the character building and the battle automation would need to be really interesting, and the rest of the game would need to keep me coming back.
...


I'm curious what would you define as 'extreme creativity'?

Maybe I'm not so strange after all. Heh.

For me, a simple AI whose decisions you can tweak a bit (combined with a 'normal' level of character building) is 'fun'.

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It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Consider games like RoboSport or X-Com where you "program" your players, either for the entire battle or for fixed slices of time. You give them objectives and tactics to carry out and then watch as they engage the enemies. It's kind of like "auto" but not really; you took the time to plan some tactics for that specific engagement and then watched as it unfolded. It's auto in that you have no real-time control over the situation, but it's involving in that you can see you plans either succeeding or failing right before your eyes.

Maybe next time you'll use your [insert weapon] against the enemy's [insert defense] with a few more units, since obviously [insert pathetic outcome] !!

I can definitely see that as being fun, as long as the tactical per-unit AI was interesting, since you won't controlling their every move, just their objectives. Patrol here. Aim there. Guard this area. Sneak around this corner. Etc.

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Original post by Kenneth Godwin
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Original post by Kest
If the character building requires extreme player creativity, then I might watch automated battles to see what attributes need tweaked next. But both the character building and the battle automation would need to be really interesting, and the rest of the game would need to keep me coming back.
...


I'm curious what would you define as 'extreme creativity'?

Something more than typical RPG attributes and stats. Something that borders on simulation-type interactivity.

For example, players of Sim City basically set things up, then sit back and watch things happen. Yeah, they can change things at any time to deal with immediate situational problems, but that's not a necessary interaction. In fact, removing that ability may provide positive gameplay quirks. If you can't reach in at any time to make changes, it makes everything you do beforehand more important. You can't just run into every encounter and try random things out. You have to plan ahead, and choose a strategy that will work against each specific enemy encounter.

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Original post by leiavoia
Consider games like RoboSport or X-Com where you "program" your players, either for the entire battle or for fixed slices of time.

This is totally based on my opinion, but I've always preferred turn based systems where orders are carried out on the spot, rather than the whole team being given orders, then executing them at the end, even though the latter is probably more realistic.

If my heavy gunner shoots at a huge alien, I want to know if that's going to be enough, or if he's going to miss, or if his gun is going to malfunction, so I can shoot it down with someone else. It seems less engaging to not really know what the exact circumstances might be for your third unit as you give him orders. You might give him orders to shoot at something that's already dead by the time he executes.

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