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Zarion

Dungeon crawlers and resource attrition

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[I realized, only after writing this, how atrociously long it had become. For the sake of those who'd rather not read through such a long post, I've posted a summary of the core points in the second post of this thread.] Lately I've been trying to dust off some of my notes, and start working on a game design project again, and one of the things that I've thinking a fair bit about lately is resource attrition. The game idea that I'm working on is essentially an old-school dungeon crawler with tactical turn-based combat. It's not really a roguelike, as there's a seperation between combat and non-combat screens. In that sense, it's probably more like Ultima 3 or 4 (from what little I played of them, many years ago, so it's possible I might have that mixed up) Ideally, the combat should have enough tactical depth enough to be interesting in and of itself, and I want resource management to be meaningful within the scope of a single battle. (I mean resources here in the sense of mana, energy, items, or anything else that can fund actions taken by characters in combat) It should be possible to run low on resources within a battle, or be temporarily tapped out at a bad time (say when a crucial healing spell is needed), and choosing where and when to spend these resources should be tactically meaningful, without encouraging excessive conservation. In many older or more traditional RPGs, resources are strictly finite in the scope of a single dungeon. You have so much mana when you set out (possibly restorable with a similarly finite number of items), and you don't get it back until you return to town or some other place to rest. On the plus side, it gives strategic relevance to encounters that are individually too weak to have a credible chance of defeating a rested party. Even if they can't outright kill you, they can force you to consume resources in order to defeat them. These battles become a form of longer-term resource management and attrition. Moreover, the fact that meaningful resources are steadily eroded as you delve deeper into a dungeon provides a sense of dramatic tension. I think that it can contribute significantly to a sense of danger, and of being far away from a safe haven. However, they also tend to encourage gameplay that is (in my opinion) less interesting. Resource management is often irrelevant within any single (non-boss) battle, since in order to have enough to last for many battles, you have much more than you could possibly use in just a couple. So if you're in an area sufficiently close to town (or another place to rest), you have pretty much free reign to cast your most expensive stuff with impunity. And if battles are generally balanced around the assumption that you CAN'T do that, they also tend to be trivialized. On the flip side, if you're in an area that does NOT have easy access to rest (such as exploring a dungeon), it often encourages a boring degree of conservatism. Since the player does not usually know the depth of a dungeon or the exact dangers they can be expected to face deeper within it, it's sensible to avoiding wasting something which might be essential to have later, even if using it now would speed things up. Frequently (if resources are finite enough in the game) this can result in magic-users avoiding using any magic at all unless absolutely necessary. I know this has been my own experience in some games, and I personally think it's rather boring if you're effectively encouraged to avoid using most of the interesting abilities of entire archetypes. Quite a few newer games (especially MMOs, anyway), have effectively switched this around, making resources finite in the short-term, but infinite in the long-term. This is often done through making the maximum pool of a resource only large enough to use a couple abilities before being emptied, but regenerate very quickly. I think this has very positive ramifications for tactical depth within a single combat. You're encouraged to actively use abilities, and short-term resource decisions can be meaningful (eg: if I cast X now, I won't have enough mana to cast Y for a couple more turns. Will I need it in that length of time?). Unfortunately, it also means that unless a given encounter has a non-trivial chance of wiping the group out, it becomes rather meaningless. You'll just recover whatever resources you used during the fight shortly after it concludes. Battles which are not a credible threat, and have no long-term consequences are tantamount to time-wasters, really. You could, of course, make sure that EVERY battle was designed to be difficult enough to pose a challenge individually, but I believe that, a game's difficulty curve should be punctuated with challenging encounters, rather than consist of entirely of challenging encounters. In fact, I think it could be rather exhausting of the player. I believe that systems without long-term resource management also lack most of that sense of dramatic tension you'd get from being deep in dangerous territory. After all, even after slogging through hordes of monsters to reach the deepest parts of a dungeon, you're not appreciably more exhausted or weakened than you were when you started. I'm not sure you could even replicate quite the same sense of being tired and vulnerable and far from home that older-school games tended to provide. Maybe not everyone felt that way, but personally, this is something I'd like to be able to capture in my own game. In essence, I want to make both short-term and long-term resource management meaningful in my game, despite these often seeming contradictory in many existing games that I've looked at. How can you make mana finite enough to be exhaustible (and regenerable) within a single battle, and yet slowly exhaustible over many battles? I've brainstormed a number of ways that my game's resource system could be constructed to attempt to facilitate some of these aims, but they all suffer from various different problems. I'm not going to go over all of them here (although I suppose I could, later, if anyone was interested), but here's one of the more simple and 'obvious' ones: A caster would have enough mana that it would be possible to exhaust themselves in a taxing battle, or if their mana was poorly managed, but more than enough to use a range of spells in an average combat. After each battle, a certain amount of mana would be instantly recovered (perhaps proportional to the difficulty of the battle, and affected by equipment or abilities that provided regeneration bonuses) The goal of this is that you would be free to use a reasonable number of spells without worrying about wasting mana (since you'd get it back after the battle was over), but that it would still be possible to win a battle with a net loss of resources, and that this drain could be cumulative. (ie: each battle you'd end up with a little less mana than the battle before it). Also, it would technically be possible to end battles with a net gain of resources, so this isn't just a death spiral. Unfortunately, if mana was to be used as the limiting resource in this way, it would also seem necessary to disallow mana regeneration in-battle, through any reusable source, be it through passive natural regeneration, abilities which could convert health into mana or generate mana in some other way. Because, if you could regenerate mana while in-battle, but not out of it, it should be quite possible to 'stall' for time in-battle to regenerate an arbitrary amount of it. For example, by leaving a single weakened enemy alive, who doesn't pose much threat individually. This actually sort of reminds me of the situation in Final Fantasy: Tactics (which I consider a great game, actually) where one of the most effective ways to gain experience points and JP (used to purchase abilities) was to leave a single enemy alive, and then have your characters either hit each other with wimpy attacks, or spam free support abilities. I think 'generating mana through abilities' is a rather large design space to restrict oneself from entirely, and I'd really rather not do that. But I decidedly do not want to create any obvious ways to gain tangible advantage through tedium. So.... I was basically just wondering what some of your opinions are on the subject of resource management and attrition in RPGs (or even more generally). It doesn't even have to concern my own problem, specifically. If you play these sorts of games, how do you feel about systems with/without significant attrition? Are there any games that you think have done it unusually well?

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[For the more complete version, see above post]

Many traditional RPGs have finite non-regenerating resources that are restored only at particular points (such as inns, etc.). Resource management is of long-term relevance, but rarely relevant within a single regular combat. This allows for less challenging battles to have meaningful consequences (consumption of resources), but often encourages a (subjectively) boring degree of resource conservation (eg: magic-users who avoid using any magic at all if they can help it)

In RPGs with rapidly regenerating (but smaller) resource pools, resource management is of short-term relevance only. This may allow for greater tactical depth within a single combat since the player can be expected to use a range of abilities, rather than conserve them, and running dry during a single fight is plausible and must be managed. However, if resources regenerate between battles, any fight which does not present a reasonable chance of outright defeating the player is effectively just taking up time. Attrition is not possible. Moreover, I think you lose a significant degree of dramatic tension that can come from being deep in dangerous territory, and running low on resources. In such a system, no matter how many battles you slog through, you're still effectively as fresh as when you set out.

Is it possible to design an RPG where resource management is relevant both in the short-term and long-term? Where excessive conservatism is not encouraged, but moderate-difficulty battles are not made irrelevant?

What are some of your opinions are on the subject of resource management and attrition in RPGs (or even more generally)? How do you feel about systems with/without significant attrition? Are there any games that you think have done it unusually well?

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I suggest that the interesting part of dungeon crawling is the enjoyment of long-haul resource management and constant, steady progress. In your example of long-haul resource management, you made the suggestion that the developer could provide a finite amount of resources during a delve into the dungeon, which can then be replenished when the player enters the next town. You suggest, however, that this type of game encourages conservation which you deem is boring or bad gameplay. I disagree that conservation is unfun. I also disagree that the long-haul resource manage necessarily implies conservation.

As a developer, you can mitigate the player's desire to conserve by placing restocking points at regular, anticipated intervals. The truly conservative player will play conservatively no matter what restocking you give them, so ignore this type of player for your design. An average player, however, will quickly learn to trust that you will supply them with a marginal amount of resources in each area. Take, for example, Half-Life. The only resources that are managed in Half-Life are Health, Armor (another form of health, really), and Ammo. The level designers also placed copious amounts of health/armor rechargers in each level. Ammunition for various weapons was also available in adequate amounts. While I might not always be able to have an amount of ammo for any particular weapon that I would want, I always had some ammo to keep me going. For example, I might run out of rockets or SMG bullets, and have to switch some other weapon. (Note to FPS designers: I think you do your game a disservice by consolidating ammunition in this way. Different ammo types enhance the resource management aspect of your game!) Looking back at some older dungeon crawling rpgs, you will notice that the map designers placed treasure chests that often contained potions and restoratives to supplement what the player was expected to have consumed to reach that point. My favorite example of restocking points was in Dungeon & Dragons Online. True to D&D, casters could only cast a finite number of spells before resting. Casters could only rest at certain 'safe' places. The number of safe places in each level was limited, and once used, could no longer be used. This essentially gave the casters a maximum number of spells per level, which required the party to act in a very efficient manner.

I suppose what I am suggesting is that you divide your levels up into sections between restocking points. The suspense of the level is in getting through the whole thing intact. The immediate goal is to reach the next restock(/save) point, where you can recover some of the resources that have been lost to attrition. Players don't need to know the length or difficulty of the dungeon to play regularly. They only need to know that that they can trust you, the designer, to have placed enough restocking points to make the level challenging, yet fun.

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Interesting topic. I'd love to see discussion about this, but here are my two cents.

If I remember correctly, Star Wars Galaxies (at least at the time I played it) had a system of wounds and damage, where wounds would decrease your stats, which determined the available amount of health. Health would then be effected by damage. Wounds would only be healable in town, or by a doctor whose ability was limited by consumable items. This might help with your mana ideas.

You didn't mention the positive aspects of "trivial" encounters. In typical RPGs, you get loot and experience/skill advances, which make it justified to spend your resources on them.

Personally, I think one of the key issues is making all the involved resources relevant. For example, I loved the Baldur's Gate games, but never really bothered with potions (collecting or using), because it was just too tedious to use my time on, and I kind of figured that they'd have to balance the game around a player not having any; this means that in those games, this particular resource wasn't relevant (they had to include it because it was D&D though). If you want to discourage over the top conservatism, make it necessary or just overly useful to e.g. use magic on a particular monster. A more extreme example would be to base the magic system on creature vulnerabilities and potions that allow a mage to strike a creature where it's vulnerable. Often (i.e. in D&D), the situation is that the opponent only has a single pool of hit points you have to overcome, and the mage differs from the fighter only in the average effectiveness of their attacks, and the scarcity affecting their use. In pen-and-paper RPGs, this is often to cut down record keeping, but there is no reason to make such a monotonous system using the computer.

If you want to make a good computer RPG, take the ideas from traditional games, not the implementation.

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Original post by Zarion
I've brainstormed a number of ways that my game's resource system could be constructed to attempt to facilitate some of these aims, but they all suffer from various different problems. I'm not going to go over all of them here (although I suppose I could, later, if anyone was interested), but here's one of the more simple and 'obvious' ones:

A caster would have enough mana that it would be possible to exhaust themselves in a taxing battle, or if their mana was poorly managed, but more than enough to use a range of spells in an average combat. After each battle, a certain amount of mana would be instantly recovered (perhaps proportional to the difficulty of the battle, and affected by equipment or abilities that provided regeneration bonuses)

...

Unfortunately, if mana was to be used as the limiting resource in this way, it would also seem necessary to disallow mana regeneration in-battle, through any reusable source, be it through passive natural regeneration, abilities which could convert health into mana or generate mana in some other way.

Because, if you could regenerate mana while in-battle, but not out of it, it should be quite possible to 'stall' for time in-battle to regenerate an arbitrary amount of it. For example, by leaving a single weakened enemy alive, who doesn't pose much threat individually.

If you could also regenerate mana by idling on the map (out of battle), then why wouldn't the player choose to idle on the map rather than in the near end of a battle where they must take constant damage from remaining enemies? If you are able to regenerate mana by idling on the map as well as in battle, then the problem you are describing here wouldn't be a problem at all, except that the flow of gameplay would be riddled with constant idling breaks (especially bad for the conservative player). The use of potions and your end-of-combat mana recovery mechanic however, sort of combats that.

Another way to persuade players to resolve battles as fast as possible is to make the amount of mana that is restored at the end of the battle be dependent on how fast they resolved the battle – quick encounters will restore more of your mana, while long, drawn-out battles will be more draining. This will also persuade players to use more of their higher-level skills/abilities to quash their opponents quickly.

[Edited by - Tangireon on April 30, 2009 9:20:29 AM]

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It strikes me that being overly conservative in long-haul dungeons is largely because you've no idea what's else you're going to have to fight. You don't want to be using your best spells on an enemy that's moderately hard just in case his bigger, meaner brother is hiding around the corner.

If you knew beforehand that there was 10 kobalds, 10 orcs and one humongous dragon before stepping into the dungeon, you'd be much better placed to plan out your resource usage. You wouldn't find yourself either completely depleted of your good stuff for the big enemies and similarly you wouldn't complete the dungeon with all your big spells still held in reserve.

I'm not sure how you'd integrate that into a game though. Just telling the player before they go in would seem to be a little fake and immersion breaking. Perhaps you could gather intelligence on the dungeon by quizing local NPCs (and collate that into an in-game notebook which crossed off enemies as you find them). This would only occur for major or semi-major enemies, grunt enemies which shouldn't be much trouble wouldn't be included so you retain some sense of danger and unpredictability.

Another option could be to give the ability to sense creatures in the same region as your party. Almost like infrared goggles you would have enemies displayed as vague heat traces on a map, showing you both the density but also how tough they are likely to be but without explicitly telling you what enemy type they actually are. Again, smaller grunt enemies would be excluded so you don't have perfect foresight and can't just walk around with your pants around your ankles.

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This is interesting topic and I've been thinking about the same goals. Generally I lean towards the long term conservation type designs, for example the D&D games with restricted resting. Although I think they do require quite careful level design to balance them properly, particularly when there will be large variation in the players party build by the time they encounter the dungeon. The Neverwinter Nights games are examples of games that barfed this a bit, and made up for careless level design by letting you rest anywhere which took away the challenge. (Or at least left determining the level of challenge too much to the players discretion.)

One suggestion I have is to divide your spells into two types. One type is more powerful, but requires preparation of the incantation and perhaps the reagents, this preparation is assumed to be done automatically while the player rests. The other type is more about the immediate manipulation of energy. So the latter type depends on a mana bar with recovers in a short period, and the first type is based on once per day type usage.

Another suggestion would be to effectively have two mana bars. The first one has a short recovery time and is a limiting factor for all spells. The second you'd need a different name for, perhaps something like fatigue or concentration. Your concentration bar depletes slowly, but as is gets low it starts to decrease your rate of mana regeneration and also increases the chance of a high level spell fizzling out on you. So you can still attempt a high level spell when heavily fatigued but with some risk. High level spells would have more effect on your fatigue bar, so as a wizard gains levels he becomes able to use progressively more spells routinely.

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Definitely agree with making scouting and reconnaissance useful in dungeons, with spells like invisibility, wizards eye etc helping. You also make so that characters from certain classes or with a high Lore skill can discern more facts about creatures and surroundings. (For example what their resistances are.)

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Then I'd be classes that didn't have resource expenditure. I mean, if my character is useless (read: dead) after running out of arrows/mana then I'd avoid even coming close to being out of arrows/mana. It's less of a problem when you're controlling a party (since the tanks can often delay enough to flee) though.

Honestly though, going back to the inn/town or sitting around waiting for mana is not fun. 'Dramatic tension' as you get closer to death is not fun for me.

If you're making a dungeon crawler, then you want the player to dungeon crawl. Anything that pushes them towards 'recovery' and not explore/hack/slash is perhaps against the core game ideal.

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I've thought about this a bit for a top-down action-RPG/shoot-em-up hybrid. My conclusion was that ammo type mechanics (i.e. a finite supply of something you could only replenish outside levels) offer nothing of real value, for pretty much the same reasons you have listed. Particularly in an action game (which doesn't really apply in your case), I think the inevitable conservatism would essentially just deny the player of extra toys with which to blow **** up (this, in my case, being a very fundamental part of the appeal).

A big issue for me is to make attacks non-spammable, even though they are infinite in supply. For instance, guns would have a finite clip-size to force the player to occasionally reload, and special weapons would have cooldowns (like, you can throw a grenade every 5 seconds and fire a missile salvo every 20 seconds). You could use the same idea in a turn based game. In other words, instead of having a Fireball cost 5 points from some finite supply, give it a 2 turn cooldown, to force the player to use a selection of moves rather than whatever is the most powerful (and hence avoid some of the monotony). If you have different rotation options that benefit shorter or longer fights (like one with instant damage attacks, and another including damage-over-times and buffs/debuffs) then you can make the boss fights feel fundamentally different from the regular fights (and even retain a sense of "pulling out all the stops" for the big fights).

I don't think difficulty is much of an issue; killing a boss is supposed to be harder than killing his henchmen. Let the player have a bit of a breather while he's making his way there.

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Original post by kru
I suggest that the interesting part of dungeon crawling is the enjoyment of long-haul resource management and constant, steady progress. In your example of long-haul resource management, you made the suggestion that the developer could provide a finite amount of resources during a delve into the dungeon, which can then be replenished when the player enters the next town. You suggest, however, that this type of game encourages conservation which you deem is boring or bad gameplay. I disagree that conservation is unfun. I also disagree that the long-haul resource manage necessarily implies conservation.


I think this depends a great deal on the maximum capacity of a resource, and how sparse restocking points are.

Really, the FPS ammo example could be tantamount to short-term resource management, if you can expect to find enough ammo for a battle or two after every couple battles. Sure, it doesn't regenerate on its own, but it regenerates sufficiently between encounters due to level design.

Quote:
Original post by Tangireon
If you could also regenerate mana by idling on the map (out of battle), then why wouldn't the player choose to idle on the map rather than in the near end of a battle where they must take constant damage from remaining enemies? If you are able to regenerate mana by idling on the map as well as in battle, then the problem you are describing here wouldn't be a problem at all, except that the flow of gameplay would be riddled with constant idling breaks (especially bad for the conservative player). The use of potions and your end-of-combat mana recovery mechanic however, sort of combats that.


Well, the point of mana regeneration in-battle was as an element of short-term resource management. Rather than having mana-users run completely dry in a protracted battle, their mana would regenerate fast enough that they could keep up moderate to low mana use for an extended period of time, but could still temporarily run out if forced to use more mana than this. Being able to regenerate mana through idling is an unintentional side-effect of this.

You're right in that allowing idling out of combat to restore resources would probably keep people from intentionally drawing out battles (provided you're not likely to end up in another battle by waiting), but I don't think this really improves things.

Downtime is sort of an artificial form of attrition. If you can recover all of your resources safely, and without any real penalty for waiting, than the only 'cost' that you've imposed on the player is the player's own time / frustration.

And, of course, real time isn't even a relevant factor in a turn-based game. It's a lot less trouble to hold down the 'end turn' key to simulate 5 minutes worth of game-time than to actually sit around and do nothing for 5 minutes.

I've played games that did not allow you to rest in dungeons, yet restored a tiny amount of mana with each step. There were also no (or very few) random encounters so that, although there was no 'rest key', you could effectively rest to full by rapidly moving back and forth. Personally, I think if you can gain a tangible gameplay advantage by mind-numbingly spamming the left and right arrow keys as fast as you can, there's a problem.

This is probably an overly strong statement, and I'm sure I could find exceptions to it, but as a general rule I feel that if anything can be accomplished through mindless tedium without any real 'gameplay' involved, then it might as well be done for you. It's best not to encourage your players to do unfun things. If spamming movement keys is all that's required to rest to full, you may as well just let them rest to full, anyway.

Quote:
Original post by Tangireon
Another way to persuade players to resolve battles as fast as possible is to make the amount of mana that is restored at the end of the battle be dependent on how fast they resolved the battle – quick encounters will restore more of your mana, while long, drawn-out battles will be more draining. This will also persuade players to use more of their higher-level skills/abilities to quash their opponents quickly.


I fear that this would unfairly penalize party compositions that focus more on endurance and a slow-and-steady approach as opposed to lots of front-loaded damage. (Considering the high damage party already has the benefit of being faster) It's very difficult to algorithmically determine when a player is stalling for time, or when it's legitimately taking them a long time to conclude a battle (say when the enemy group happens to be particularly strong against their group composition)

Quote:
Original post by Somnia
Another suggestion would be to effectively have two mana bars. The first one has a short recovery time and is a limiting factor for all spells. The second you'd need a different name for, perhaps something like fatigue or concentration. Your concentration bar depletes slowly, but as is gets low it starts to decrease your rate of mana regeneration and also increases the chance of a high level spell fizzling out on you. So you can still attempt a high level spell when heavily fatigued but with some risk. High level spells would have more effect on your fatigue bar, so as a wizard gains levels he becomes able to use progressively more spells routinely.


I've considered a number of similar schemes. I'm just concerned that having two separate resource pools for each character, representing short-term and long-term resources, might add undesirable complexity (especially considering some classes already have a second class resource in addition to mana)

One such scheme involved all mana regeneration in battle, whether natural or through abilities, only adding 'temporary mana' which would disappear once battle was over. If you were using mana faster than you were regenerating it, you'd start drawing from your 'reserve', which does not regenerate in-battle. Even if your reserve was completely exhausted, you'd still be able to cast spells in battle, but would be strictly limited to your rate of in-battle regeneration.

Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Then I'd be classes that didn't have resource expenditure. I mean, if my character is useless (read: dead) after running out of arrows/mana then I'd avoid even coming close to being out of arrows/mana. It's less of a problem when you're controlling a party (since the tanks can often delay enough to flee) though.


I agree. And in fact I think that it often creates a balance issue between classes that have limited resources versus those whose are effectively unlimited. No matter what resource model I go with, I don't intend for magic-users to cast a few powerful spells, and then have to sit around being useless for the rest of the trip.

Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Honestly though, going back to the inn/town or sitting around waiting for mana is not fun. 'Dramatic tension' as you get closer to death is not fun for me.

If you're making a dungeon crawler, then you want the player to dungeon crawl. Anything that pushes them towards 'recovery' and not explore/hack/slash is perhaps against the core game ideal.


To me, at least, this is not about going into 'recovery mode' versus 'delving mode'. The point of having limited resources, with the occasional recovery point, is that managing these resources when between recovery points is supposed to be part of the challenge of clearing these sections. If you can clear a little, then run back to town, clear a little more, then run back to town, you may as well just give the player their resources after combat is over and save them from having to make the trip.

Out of curiosity, if you were in a situation where you were dangerously low on health, but not on offensive or utility resources, would that be similarly unfun?



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Original post by Zarion
You're right in that allowing idling out of combat to restore resources would probably keep people from intentionally drawing out battles (provided you're not likely to end up in another battle by waiting), but I don't think this really improves things.

Downtime is sort of an artificial form of attrition. If you can recover all of your resources safely, and without any real penalty for waiting, than the only 'cost' that you've imposed on the player is the player's own time / frustration.

And, of course, real time isn't even a relevant factor in a turn-based game. It's a lot less trouble to hold down the 'end turn' key to simulate 5 minutes worth of game-time than to actually sit around and do nothing for 5 minutes.

You could do just that then, apply the "Rest Button" feature to the map where you maneuver your character on. In Baldur's Gate and subsequent sequels, your "regenerative idling" consisted of simply pressing the rest button to which would skip over large amounts of time. This was also in Oblivion, in the form of the Wait Button. Occasionally during resting, enemies might come and attack you.

Quote:
Original post by Zarion
I fear that this would unfairly penalize party compositions that focus more on endurance and a slow-and-steady approach as opposed to lots of front-loaded damage. (Considering the high damage party already has the benefit of being faster) It's very difficult to algorithmically determine when a player is stalling for time, or when it's legitimately taking them a long time to conclude a battle (say when the enemy group happens to be particularly strong against their group composition)

You don't need to make that difference; I would simply smack a timer on the battle screen, to which amount is derived from the amount of challenge the currently encountered foes are against your party (probably measure their Levels or Experience for instance). Go over, and no mana restore. Barely finish with time left over, little mana restore. Finish early, lots of mana restore.

Additionally, lots of things can naturally balance this out. High Damage classes, for instance, though may be able to deal lots of damage, are not able to last long when being dealt with damage themselves (Spellcasters, Archers, etc). Melee classes, though they don't deal much damage, are able to protect the Spellcasters by being in front of them (now I don't know how positioning works in your game, but I am going to assume this) as well as last a long time due to their high HP/Armor. And so on so forth. As long as your classes are all balanced out somehow, the player will naturally choose to mix and match their party - going all High Damage will make them drop dead quickly, while going all Melee is going to run them ragged, eventually dropping dead as well. The player is going to realize that the best party is one that is well-balanced with a mix of High Damage and Melee types. As you progress deeper in the game, the player is going to want to focus advancing the damage their High Damage party members deal, and the hitpoints of their Melee protectors have anyways.

-

Some other ways to treat mana in your game:

1. You could make mana be a resource to which is derived by absorbing the "souls" of defeated enemies. In this way, your dungeon-romping journeys are supported by a steady source of fresh new enemies you slay as you go in deeper. This is very much like your end-of-combat mana restore mechanic, except it is based on body count rather than battle count, and because body count is a much smaller and more frequent unit of measurement than battle count, it could give cause to strategies such as hit and run, etc.

2. Alongside treating mana as a resource, you could also treat mana regeneration as a resource. For instance, lets say consuming Food items will cause mana to regenerate for a period of time (time to which depends on the quality/power of the Food consumed), to which won't regenerate otherwise (part of a mechanic I presented in this game). Thus, Food will be very important in short-term encounters where resting/idling isn't such a good idea - this gives your characters the ability to do other things in the midst of combat than to mess around with items.

3. You could simply put the feeling of long-term resource diminishment on another type of resource (such as Food) rather than putting it on mana if you don't like having players to conserve mana for each battle.

[Edited by - Tangireon on April 30, 2009 12:04:13 PM]

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Original post by Zarion
To me, at least, this is not about going into 'recovery mode' versus 'delving mode'. The point of having limited resources, with the occasional recovery point, is that managing these resources when between recovery points is supposed to be part of the challenge of clearing these sections. If you can clear a little, then run back to town, clear a little more, then run back to town, you may as well just give the player their resources after combat is over and save them from having to make the trip.


Indeed.

At that point though you run into the problem of 'what happens when you fail?'. Playing through the (entire) section again because you didn't manage resources is kinda lame.

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Out of curiosity, if you were in a situation where you were dangerously low on health, but not on offensive or utility resources, would that be similarly unfun?


It is not so much the limited resources/health that I find unfun but actual adrenaline due to tension. Danger in and of itself is not fun for me (but to be fair, is very fun for many people).

Limited resources are great. I love tactical RPGs. Any of the console style variants (Disgaea, FFT, etc), PC style (XCOM, Roguelikes, etc), and even standard RPGs (D&D ports, Fallout, etc)... they're all the sort of games I love to play.

But the fun there is managing resources and making tactical decisions, not the pressure that the last few levels you've beaten will be in vain if your now weary party doesn't make it to the resupply point or because you didn't leave yourself enough mana to deal with this new threat.


Personally, I think that the traditional model of limited resources is good. Tactical resources (arrows, mana, health) last per combat. Strategic resources (how to level up your party, how to outfit your guys, who to hire/create/bring along) impact the longer term success of your play.

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The Avernum series of games have an interesting solution to this. After battle is over, "first aid" is applied which heals some health and mana. The amount actually healed depends on how many monsters were killed and maybe how strong they were, and the characters' first aid skill. In this way, excessive resource conservation is punished, because you can't gain mana from the first aid if you're at the maximum. But excessive resource use is also punished, because if you use all your mana to kill weak monsters, you will only gain some of it back at the end of the fight. I think it strikes a nice balance between resource use/conservation. Avernum is a turn-based RPG, so this type of approach works best there, but I think with some thought it could be adapted to work in a real time game.

[I have not read all the comments, so if this has already been mentioned, please forgive me.]

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Facing a bigger bad after the supposed 'biggest' bad, in which a player (or party) isn't necessarily bad. It can add a lot of drama and challenge if done correctly. In my experience, throwing a bigger bad at a party that's just wasted all of their good spells and whatnot on a supposed final boss does get moans of pain, but inevitably the battle becomes far more intense and, in the end, rewarding than the original boss fight (well, minus the casting of awesome spells). It completely changes the dynamic from 'dish out major damage' to 'try and survive, while trying to wear down the boss'.

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I've been thinking about this problem as it relates to health, but I suppose it's relevant to mana too. Suppose we have, in a sense, two mana meters. The main one is the one that regenerates quickly, as soon as you get a rest, stop fighting, or whatever. The point is that it regenerates quickly.

However, if you beat up your mana points or health or whatever, the secondary mana meter kicks in (these scales are probably represented by different colored regions on the bar on the screen). When this meter goes down, your mana won't recharge past a certain point, dictated by how much of this secondary amount you have. It basically represents your capacity to recharge your "actual" mana. Policies for recharging this one could vary. It could either restore itself very slowly, have to be restored with health packs, or more likely some combination.

This way, if you fight some little guy, you stay completely in the auto-recharge zone and don't suffer much for it. If you fight a medium-difficulty enemy, you may decrease your recharge-capacity meter, and have to find some health eventually or just stay out of trouble long enough for it to come back. If you fight a big guy, though, you're going to seriously deplete both meters, leaving you permanently weakened until you get some health.

The cool thing about it is that it more realistically simulates actual human fatigue, both physical and mental. Properly calibrated, I think something like this would solve the problem, at least for health/mana type resources.

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Original post by Telastyn

It is not so much the limited resources/health that I find unfun but actual adrenaline due to tension. Danger in and of itself is not fun for me (but to be fair, is very fun for many people).


Point taken. It's sometimes worth being reminded that some things are not as universal as we might take for granted.

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Limited resources are great. I love tactical RPGs. Any of the console style variants (Disgaea, FFT, etc), PC style (XCOM, Roguelikes, etc), and even standard RPGs (D&D ports, Fallout, etc)... they're all the sort of games I love to play.

Quote:

Personally, I think that the traditional model of limited resources is good. Tactical resources (arrows, mana, health) last per combat. Strategic resources (how to level up your party, how to outfit your guys, who to hire/create/bring along) impact the longer term success of your play.


A number of the games you mention, though, have a significant number of non-regenerating resources, at least within the scope of a single area. Most tactical RPGs do not, but battles in those games are almost always designed to individually be a credible challenge (and are correspondingly few in number). The amount versus duration of battles that I conceive for this game would be somewhere between a typical jRPG and a typical tactical RPG (meaning that they probably should not all be so individually challenging)

Roguelikes have a large number of non-regenerating resources (potions, scrolls, etc.), and depending on the game, you mightn't even be able to buy replacements. And even though primary resources (health/mana) can be restored through resting, because battles are not discrete (monsters can wander along at any time), it's quite possible to be caught unexpectedly unable to rest (so resource management is also relevant outside the bounds of a single discrete combat)

I haven't played any of the Fallouts, but a number of DnD games don't allow you to recover spells freely while in dungeons, even between encounters.

Really, making tactical resources regenerate fully after each combat was my first inclination for my game. But assuming that the resultant tension of finite resources isn't universally desirable, still leaves one major issue, I think: how to make fights which neither consume resources nor have any real chance of killing the party be meaningful.

The game that most comes to mind when I think of this is Legend of Mana, actually. Health regenerated to full after each battle, and virtually no battle had a real chance of critically injuring you. Thus, battles were little but time-wasters.

I would probably implement a way to auto-resolve or skip fights that were truly trivial, but the problem lies with fights that are threatening enough to actually require you to play them, but not threatening enough to actually defeat you if you're paying attention to them. I'm generally inclined to think that anything which consumes a non-trivial amount of time, but which you can't really lose at, is basically busy-work. Obviously, you could simply make every battle difficult, but I'm not too much a fan of that, either, as explained previously.

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This topic feels a lot like the health topic, "do you want regening health or a consistent health that comes back when you pick up med-packs". The answer seems to be almost unanimously the regen system. The answer is pretty simple. The short regen system allows for each encounter to be harder.

I think your conclusion that the shorter regen system will take away from the "dread" feeling of running low on resources. This is experience game play, and I'll always advise avoiding such systems, because it forces the player to imagine himself of the shoes of the avatar. If this bond doesn't happen, the game is lost. In addition, games based on experience game play have much shorter replay values.

Give your game both if you must. A quick regen mana system with a large ammunition pack.

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Original post by Zarionhow to make fights which neither consume resources nor have any real chance of killing the party be meaningful.


Those small battles serve a purpose. Each battle is a challenge to overcome. Each challenge has a bar of ability required to overcome it. If your player (or player's character) lacks the requisite ability, the battle lets her know. If a level 1 player enters the evil bosses final dungeon of doom, then she get splattered by the wandering hell demons and learns not to attempt that area until later.

"But my game won't allow the player to wander off like that!" you say. Well, if your game is linear enough that the player is never in an area outside the scope of her abilities, then remove the trivial battles. If the battle offers no meaningful challenge, then it is merely an element of "grind." There are plenty of examples on how to achieve this. The original Dragon Warrior, for instance, had an item that would prevent weak battles from occurring. Only monsters that had a moderate change of damaging the player would appear in battles.

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One game you may want to look at is Chrono Cross for PS1. Each character had a set number of skills per skill level that they could use in any single encounter. For example, the would have something like 4 lvl1 skills, 3 lvl2 skills and maybe 1 lvl3 skill. Once the player used that skill it was no longer usuable for the rest of the combat encounter. Yet on the next encounter their skills would be back up to the maximum values. However the player still had to manage character health between fights which he could replenish with potions. He couldn't use healing skills outside combat however so if he was low on potions he'd have to willingly engage in combat and try to win the encounter with higher hp than he went in with. On top of that in combat each character gained action points as combat proceeded and skills that were higher in level would consume more action points, potentially causing the character to not be able to act for quite some time.

It basically comes down to making several different sets of resources that have to be managed, ones that only exist in the scope of a single combat encounter and ones that persist between encounters.

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Quote:
Original post by Zarion
A number of the games you mention, though, have a significant number of non-regenerating resources, at least within the scope of a single area.


Right. Having a smallish area that some resources are limited makes for tactical nuance. But those resources are largely irrelevant once you leave the area/win the fight/go back to town. I got the impression that you wanted those resources to matter over a longer period of time.

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