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Help me with stressless tactical melee combat

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I need some advices in archiving a "stressless" melee combat. I'm developing a rpg playing in a dungeon. The games is played in a first person perspective and combat is interactive. The first person perspective has been choosen to create a greater sense of immersion. Well, my goal is to make combat less stressful to be more attractive to rpg gamers than to action gamers. A classic MMORPG uses some kind of auto combat to avoid such situation, a more action oriented game such like oblivion tends to stress the gamer more. I need an approach where the skill of the character and not of the gamer determines about the combat result, but on the other hand I want to avoid auto-combat. The player should control attacks and special abilities (tactical aspect) but hectic movement and wild button pressing should not result in an other combat outcome. Attack frequence In an action game, when you execute the attack you have to wait for a few seconds before starting the next attack. For optimal damage output you need to get the right attack rhythm which could alter with slower or faster weapons. My approach to avoid this is to abstract weapon statistics to a single dps(damage per second) value and to output damage independently of your attack frequency. I.e. attacking your opponent two times in a second will result only in half dps whereas if you attack just in a 2 second rhythm will result in two times damage(per hit). There will be an upper time limit of course. Movement aspect In an action game, the player tends to move away from his opponent to avoid being hit, then rushing forward to execute his own strike. This one is harder to avoid in a satisfing way. One approach to avoid this is to use some kind of attack lag, meaning that you get hit even if you move away from your opponent, but only if you were in his attack range before. An other approach would be to execute a counter attack whenever you attack your opponent, with the dps approach from above this would result in a more movement independent damage output. Tactical aspect The character and every monster is simulated by phyiscs, that results in quite nice tactical situation. To avoid being attack from too many opponents at once you hold your ground in a narrow hallway, but on the other hand being surrounded by enemies will most likely stop any escape attempt. But strength although plays a role. A mass of enemies pressing at you will push you away from the narrow hallway into more open ground, on the other hand you will be able to push weaker enemies away to escape. But I think this tactical approach only works if crowded melee combat doesn't result in hectic, panic button smashing. Keep calm and put some trust in your characters abilities. Is this a feasable approach ? Has is be already done in a game and succeed or failed ? What other approaches come to mind ? -- Ashaman

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One way to make combat less stressful is to make it that the only way to dodge/parry/block an attack is based off of player and monster stats only instead of relative positioning (assuming the monster has aggro and is in range to attack).

Thus once you're in melee range of an aggressive monster, dancing around, strafing etc, will not help you avoid attacks.

I'm pretty sure WoW is like this. Same with several other MMOs including LOTRO and WHO.

I didn't like Oblivion because there seemed to be all sorts of dancing and positioning involved to fight effectively. It was stressful.

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My quick thoughts about combat related stressors:

I am stressed if the outcome of the combat is uncertain, or if it looks like I will leave the fight with very low health and there is no or slow regen.

I am stressed if I am unable to adequately engage my opponent. For me this is a combination of the following factors:

- How complicated/fidgety the controls are (worse = more stressful)
- What the expected reaction time for dealing with the opponent's attacks is (less time to react = more stressful)
- How quickly/cleanly my character responds to my intructions (slower/stupider = more stressful)

In a sense, what you propose is removing these last two stressors. The only real issue I see is that the common trope of a first person game is that you are present and your actions translate directly into the actions of your character. I'm not saying it won't work, just be prepared to break some players assumptions (ie they will be confused).

You might want to look at this for some thoughts on what player agency is and whether or not you are making a mess of it.

Also, I dispute your assertion that first-person perspective necessarily means a more immersive experience. I personally find them less immersive, because I identify strongly with the physical sensations of my body, so seeing one thing but feeling another breaks immersion for me.

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To be perfectly honest the combat system has a huge disconnect with the player especially in a first person view. The player sees 2 equal swings happening within two seconds and later sees 1 swing happening within 2 seconds and yet both are considered to do the same amount of damage. Trying to mix reaction and rule-based combat systems tend to make things really muddy and more often than not frustrates a player because they did something but the rules say they didn't.

Now the RPG player will be frustrated even more when he catches on to what's going on behind the scenes and all he will do is frantically click the attack button to get the most optimal damage out because he doesn't want to miss a single second of time where he could be doing damage. This is why auto-attack is put in place. The player can still interrupt the auto-attack and use a skill a certain time but he should go right back to auto-attacking afterward. These players will always however be looking to get the maximum output because they don't have much real control over their characters, only certain variables in a a formula.

Morrowind tried a combat system similar to what you're describing and it was absurd to see my swords and arrows pass through an enemy and not damage it a bit because my character's skill level with that weapon was too low for that monster.

If you want to make combat be based solely on a character's skills and not a player's reaction and accuracy and you don't want to use an auto-combat sytem then you really can't use any real-time combat because enemies are not going to wait for you to decide what to do. If they are waiting then you don't have real-time you have turn-based combat.

Combat by its very nature is stressful, people don't want to get hurt or die and they will use all their willpower to see that doesn't happen. Even turn-based combat can be stressful because you'll agonize over which is the right decision for the current setup. Even after you've made your decision you'll still be wondering if it was the right one until combat is over. If you remove tension and stress from combat it become boring. Combat is supposed to be a challenge which involves stress because there's a possibility of failure. If you get rid of that stress(such as making failure not possible) you might as well be filing papers in folders.

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Yep, that's what I mean. I play FPS (i.e. BF series) where jumping, running, strafing is just a major fun factor of the game. But in games, where I want to evolve a character, like in oblivion, it is disturbing.


I took a look at the other thread. There you wrote:

I would break the continuum of agency down roughly so:

1 - You are trying to communicate to the player that he is the character; inputs map directly to actions on the part of the character. Then 'scaring the character' really means scaring the player. Arguably the most difficult thing to do, suspension of disbelief is probably your biggest tool here... go look at Half-Life, even though it's not an RPG.

2 - You are trying to communicate to the player that he controls the character's intention, but is not embodied by her (Diablo roughly represents this). Then 'scaring the character' might mean a UI element that measures fear, and as fear rises the character's responses to inputs become more sluggish, or some inputs (attack the source of the fear) are responded to with a clear 'I can't bring myself to do that' behavior.

3 - You are trying to communicate to the player that he directs the character(s), so inputs are 'orders' and whether those orders are fulfilled is the game's determination, think Warcraft 3 (I know, it's an RTS, but the RPG elements closely resemble this idea). Here, 'scaring the character' is probably best represented as a debuff of some kind. The little 'fear' effect appears around the character, and she becomes unresponsive to orders, may run around randomly or attack indiscriminately.

Although the topic targets in an other direction, I would say, that I want to target the first approach (direct control).

Choosing the right perspective has great impact on control and perception. I choose to rise perception over control, because with a FP perspective your are able to show and hide information more accurate. Using a none FP perspective (iso/3rd person) you gain often too much visual information (you see what hides behind a door or corner) and almost no audio infomation at all (just some nice sound effects, but without much information).

On the other hand , with a FP perspective you are able to hear your environment (moving mobs, creaking doors, water) which delivers important informations about resources, mob location, door activities etc. Additionally you have to get around a corner to see what hides there, whereas with an other perspective you could use some camera tricks to gain a safe preview.


- What the expected reaction time for dealing with the opponent's attacks is (less time to react = more stressful)

This is the major balance problem I'm trying to get right. There are turn based games with almost infinit time to make your decisions, on the other hand there are pure action games with almost no real decisions but pure reactions.
I'm not willing to accept, that a FP perspective enforces an action game. With multiplayer in mind an approach like fallout 3 is not a option.

Well this leaves me to add more tolerant direct interactions like auto-aiming in a shooter by
- removing or easing time critical interactions,
- adding aiming support (attack cone vs. accurate aiming),
- adding higher tolerance in range limits.

I want to support the player without destroying the FP experience. Even if I add more tolerant controls I will try to hide it. By hiding I mean that I don't want to display direct damage output.

Most melee combat abilities, like swinging a weapon or a magic "close" combat spell, will target what is in front of you instead of just one single aimed opponent (=>age of conan). After all there will be abilities which will target only a single entity. In this case this abilities should not be time critical (i.e. support spells).

Thinking about age of conan, that is an approach which goes into the right direction. But I want to take it a step further: less hectic, more tactic


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