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A structure for more interesting enemies

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Everyone knows the boredom of killing the exact same non-intelligent monster for the 100th time, and the different kind of boredom of killing 100 different looking monsters that all act exactly the same. For this type of monster, the only factors that might make a particular fight interesting are the mix of enemy types on a team and any level design/terrain factors that alter the strategy. Traditionally in RPGs the only enemies who are actually characters are bosses and mini-bosses. A lot of these are still animals, not terribly memorable because they don't get any dialogue; some of the ones that do get dialogue aren't very memorable because they are only on-screen for one battle, then they're dead or disenchanted or otherwise neutralized. So (at least from my point of view) the best opponents are the ones who both get to talk and appear multiple times in the game. There are two main types of this kind of enemy: the 'team rocket' comic villains, and the serious main or subordinate villain who acts as the playable character(s)' nemesis. I just finished reading the sports manga Eyeshield 21 up to the latest-available issue. This is humorous because I don't even really like football (aside from the uniforms being kind of hot[wink]). But the reasons I got hooked and stayed excited through a really long series are: 1. Great characterization of both the viewpoint teammembers and the opponent teammembers including regular reappearances of opponent team members, and 2. The dramatic structure of the football games and practices followed a fantasy fighting anime/RPG that created a consistently high level of excitement, and maintained a good balance between comedy, more dramatic emotions, and new strategic elements which are basically 'level up ability evolutions' of individual players and 'new combo attack/combo attack evolutions' of teams. So how can this structure be integrated into videogames to make pve/pvm combat more exciting and strategic than ever? There are several points which have to work together: 1. Instead of types of monsters or single-use bosses, create opponent characters who have personalities, get dialogue, and are encountered several times by the player. These opponent players should have ability level-ups that occur several times throughout the game (just like the playable character(s)). -- Supporting point, the combat type must be such that it can end with the player feeling satisfied without being fatal for (at least some) enemies. -- Opponents should be of both genders, a wide range of appearances, and should be interactable with as NPCs in non-combat areas; they might be merchants, they might be romanceable, they might be quest-givers, they might be trainers, and they might be opponents or commentators in minigames. -- There could still be regular monsters too, which might occur mixed into the opponent character teams, under the control of or with buffs from the opponent characters, or sacrificable by opponent characters to buff them or damage the playable character(s). 2. Opponent characters should occur in mix-n-match teams, such that the composition of the team can dramatically alter the strategy necessary to win the battle. -- Supporting point, the enemies basic abilities need to vary a lot and require different player strategies to defeat, so the player also needs to have a range of different abilities which are good against different opponents. -- Additionally it would be nice to have a dynamic such that the player could fight single opponents or larger teams and have both types of fight be approximately the same difficulty. 3. Instead of having ability evolutions (level-ups) occur as a reward after the battle, have them occur right in the middle of the battle for both the playable character(s) and opponent characters. Specifically whichever side is losing might be more motivated to surpass their previous limits and evolve. Dialogue should also occur during the battle. -- Presumably individual battles will take longer and there will be fewer over the course of the game, compared to a typical RPG. Overall, the system is kind of a reversal of the huge number of collectible playable characters in the Suikoden series and ChronoCross; these are collectible opponent/NPC characters. Thoughts?

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The Final Fantasy series is pretty good about using this concept (except for your third point), especially Final Fantasy VII with the Turks where they are your constant nemeses throughout the game, often encountering a different subset of the group (each member possessing different strengths). While they became stronger as you did, they didn't really evolve their individual tactics too much.

Recurring enemies work fairly well, and there are lots of good examples (especially in the final fantasy series), another example is in Chrono Trigger with Magus' lackies (Ozzy, Slash and Flee).

I can't think of too many outside of Square's games at the moment, but I'm sure they exist.

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If you have a strategic dismemberment system, why can't you just randomise the parts at key seams? I think it would make things more interesting if each monster had slight variations in form, rather than whole new monsters every wave (and I don't mean just a change in colour, either).
It's a pain in the ass learning a new monster's weakness every 5 minutes.

Edit: Also, sounds like someone's been up late googling naughty things xD

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The biggest problem with this is that in most stories you are either killing enemies or it just would never fit into the story in any way...

If you are fighting the same group all the time you can use reoccurring characters and things like a random percentage of the soldiers live on after the area and build up along with you as well as make comments like "not this guy again..." of course more interesting things would take more memory...and if you have good enough graphics you can also have enemies that were older in the beginning get younger to show that there was a draft or something.

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In most cases where it makes any sense at all, I think all that is needed to start is giving some enemies a name and an excuse to live at the end of the battle. It gets more memorable if you introduce a specific AI so that it acts differently, unique graphics so it is identified by more than just name, and a more in depth reason for his continued survival.

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Yeah Square probably has the closest examples to what I am suggesting, although it's still not quite what I have in mind. Also I have seen some monster-rancher type games where you see the same opponent characters repeatedly, and they evolve by battling different monsters or leveled-up monsters against the player. I haven't played any Pokemon games, wonder how this works in that series?

Randomized appearances is sort of interesting but irrelevant to the deeper issue that enemies are more interesting when they are characterized and their abilities evolve.

Learning how a new monster's AI works is my favorite part of combat, makes it more like a puzzle. 5 minutes is too often though because a single battle would take at least 6 minutes and you wouldn't be fighting them constantly.

I agree that for a lot of current stories this system wouldn't work, however there are some story ideas which definitely would work with it - perhaps the main character is a gladiator or dueling champion or participant in a televised sport like American Gladiators, or in a regular MMORPG world this type of combat could occur in jousting tournaments - anything where there is a structure of rules that require combat to be non-fatal. Also if NPC characters can revive the same way the player does, that would actually be more logical than the usual MMO >.>

(Naughty things? Last I knew manga scanlations weren't naughty, Eyeshied-21 itself is only rated about pg-13, mostly for swearwords and fistfights. But, it's true that when I finish reading a series I usually look for yaoi fanfic and fanart for my favorite characters, lol.)

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Recurring enemies whose tactics evolve is a pretty cool idea provided you have a vested interest in beating them (either they're part of the story or something like that).

For instance in your first encounter, you might have beaten them by simply throwing your healer in the back and going to town with physical attacks, so maybe in the second encounter, they'd use long range weapons to take out the healer first, and use some protective magic to reduce physical damage.

I don't know that I'd really care if all battles were unique, but you could add a sense of rivalry if there are groups that you'd always encounter and that force you to consistently revise your tactics.

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Quote:
Original post by dashurc
Recurring enemies whose tactics evolve is a pretty cool idea provided you have a vested interest in beating them (either they're part of the story or something like that).

For instance in your first encounter, you might have beaten them by simply throwing your healer in the back and going to town with physical attacks, so maybe in the second encounter, they'd use long range weapons to take out the healer first, and use some protective magic to reduce physical damage.

I don't know that I'd really care if all battles were unique, but you could add a sense of rivalry if there are groups that you'd always encounter and that force you to consistently revise your tactics.


working on this idea, why not categorize each attack a player does with 2 or 3 parameters (range, type of damage, damage dealed). And do this also for the monsters. So in the end you can say: in this fight, player used close range combat, no magic, and it easily defeated monsters. Monsters dealed 0 damage with physical attack.
In the end, you can easily try to setup your next encounter based on this previous one. Follwoing the example above, trying to make ranged attacks and better protect from close range attacks.

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I like the idea of recurring, named enemies. Toward the idea of non-fatal combat, what if conflict was built around objectives and your world was such that status effects (freezing, stunning, etc.) were far easier to inflict than actual damage? If you take the football analogy directly, maybe you've knocked someone because that allowed another character to get past them to the goal, but you didn't have to kill them.

Some frameworks that might work well for this would be martial arts, vehicles (mecha?) or tourney battles using proxies (magic creatures, though hopefully ones that don't scream "Pika! Pika-pika!"[grin])

I do think that for battle to be satisfying, though, you have to either simply disallow killing, make it really hard or make it come with a steep in game penalty. Otherwise, it'll be too easy to fall into the typical "goblin genocide" RPG mindset.

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