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How to design a great combat system + mechanics? (PvP)

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Most games I've played have had imbalanced or good enough or sometimes even terrible combat systems + mechanics.
Pretty much just one game I think that had a outstanding combat system + mechs.

I won't get into the argument about why I think class based games are doomed to be imbalanced in the 1v1 aspect.
For sake of avoiding that let's assume in this thread that class based games can be balanced as well.

So why is it so rare to find great combat systems + mechanics in games?
I'm sure the designers thought they had created a great great combat s+m.

So this means that most designers are terrible when it comes to PvP.
And I've actually had the opportunity to fight a few devs in different indy games so I know it's true.

So how can we design better combat systems?
First thing I think we all have to just assume is that we designers SUCK at PvP.
Maybe you are great.. But you have to assume you suck.

Another thing before I'll leave it up to us all to start discussing how to design a great combat system + mechanics..
It's already extremely tough to create an interesting, complex, advanced, hard to master etc etc combat s+m..
but if your game has classes in it as well, then you face the additional challenge of balancing these classes.. Which I've never seen accomplished in any game I've played so far.

So if you make a skill based game (no classes) then you only need to worry about creating a good combat system without without sweating about class imbalances.

Discuss!

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Most games I've played have had imbalanced or good enough or sometimes even terrible combat systems + mechanics.
Pretty much just one game I think that had a outstanding combat system + mechs.

I won't get into the argument about why I think class based games are doomed to be imbalanced in the 1v1 aspect.
For sake of avoiding that let's assume in this thread that class based games can be balanced as well.

So why is it so rare to find great combat systems + mechanics in games?
I'm sure the designers thought they had created a great great combat s+m.

So this means that most designers are terrible when it comes to PvP.
And I've actually had the opportunity to fight a few devs in different indy games so I know it's true.

So how can we design better combat systems?
First thing I think we all have to just assume is that we designers SUCK at PvP.
Maybe you are great.. But you have to assume you suck.

Another thing before I'll leave it up to us all to start discussing how to design a great combat system + mechanics..
It's already extremely tough to create an interesting, complex, advanced, hard to master etc etc combat s+m..
but if your game has classes in it as well, then you face the additional challenge of balancing these classes.. Which I've never seen accomplished in any game I've played so far.

So if you make a skill based game (no classes) then you only need to worry about creating a good combat system without without sweating about class imbalances.

Discuss!


You then replace class imbalances with skill imbalances. Balance is key to any game, class or skill based. Balancing properly is something that most dev teams aren't super great at.

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You then replace class imbalances with skill imbalances. Balance is key to any game, class or skill based. Balancing properly is something that most dev teams aren't super great at.


I'm assuming you mean an in-game skill such as swordsmanship just as an example.
But it's just not true.. Everyone has access to the same skills.
If it's a pvp focused game.. then everyone will probably have the same skills.. balanced.
Or maybe they chose skills more fitting for another part of PvP.. but then it's their choice to focus on that part of PvP instead of 1v1 duels.
Maybe they chose 1v1 skills but meant for ganking instead of dueling.

But they have the possibility of choosing skills for 1v1 duels... and then it's going to be balanced.

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If you want to have a class based game..
IMO the best way of balancing is to make each class for a different role.
Such as one that is best as a 1v1 duelist, one that is a support class, one that is a ganking class maybe one that is jack of all master of none.. etc

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Games with different classes never balance completely at all, afaik thats part of the system. Take a game like starcraft, there are still balance issues a year after release. Or Leagues of legends/Dota that have countless of heroes all with there own unique strategies, stats and abilities. But hey those games still play very well due to the fact they keep balancing the game. There will always come a player that exploits somekind of trait belonging to a certain character/race that is just something you keep having to deal with.

A little outbalanced is not a great deal if the game is deep enough and skill gets more involved. Some people will be able to deal with certain overpowered abilities more then others it's up to the developer to see what has to be changed and what not.

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Games with different classes never balance completely at all, afaik thats part of the system. Take a game like starcraft, there are still balance issues a year after release. Or Leagues of legends/Dota that have countless of heroes all with there own unique strategies, stats and abilities. But hey those games still play very well due to the fact they keep balancing the game. There will always come a player that exploits somekind of trait belonging to a certain character/race that is just something you keep having to deal with.

A little outbalanced is not a great deal if the game is deep enough and skill gets more involved. Some people will be able to deal with certain overpowered abilities more then others it's up to the developer to see what has to be changed and what not.


I agree that class based games can't be balanced but like I said in OP, Let's assume in this thread that it can be balanced but not easily.

Also another issue you brought up, I didn't really want to say in the OP.
But like I said we have to assume us designers suck at PvP.. And the question is, What do we do then?
We can't just listen to what all the players are saying on the forums.. Majority of them are also bad/don't know what they are talking about.
Even players that reach the top rankings can be completely clueless to how they are winning etc. It's pretty funny.

So there's we can't trust ourselves and we don't know which players actually know what they are talking about..
What do we then do?

Recap: We can't trust ourselves, we have to assume we don't know exactly what we're doing. We don't know which players know how to do it the right way. So my conclusion, I hate it but.. We have to design the combat so that the majority, mass players enjoy it. Aka simpify it, add RNG and classes for lots of diversity and randomness etc.

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Imbalanced systems come from simplification. Most online RPGs are dumbed down so much that all fights become a race to 0 HP. If you deal more damage, you win. If a class ends up dealing more damage overall, it's seen as imbalanced. Randomness will make other classes feel like they stand a chance, but overall, the more powerful class will win more often.

To get a balanced system, you need to offer players a choice that will put the combat in their favor at any point. Even if they lost a part of the battle, they can still come victorious because they used the right skill at the right time. It should be like playing rock paper scissor until someone wins 5 times. Because you lose the first 3 rounds do not mean you lost the battle, just that you are unlikely to win it. For that, you need to add other mechanics, but that ends up adding complexity because it doesn't follow the standard damage race battle system.

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Imbalanced systems come from simplification. Most online RPGs are dumbed down so much that all fights become a race to 0 HP. If you deal more damage, you win. If a class ends up dealing more damage overall, it's seen as imbalanced. Randomness will make other classes feel like they stand a chance, but overall, the more powerful class will win more often.

To get a balanced system, you need to offer players a choice that will put the combat in their favor at any point. Even if they lost a part of the battle, they can still come victorious because they used the right skill at the right time. It should be like playing rock paper scissor until someone wins 5 times. Because you lose the first 3 rounds do not mean you lost the battle, just that you are unlikely to win it. For that, you need to add other mechanics, but that ends up adding complexity because it doesn't follow the standard damage race battle system.


I like what you are saying, but rock paper scissor was a poor example since it's luck based.

I think Mount and Blade: Warband is an awesome game to use as an example.
If you wear medium armor you can take 5+ hits.. This allows exactly what you said... if you fail/made a few mistakes that let him hit you 2 or 3 times... you can still win if you get your shit together and stop failing.

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Rock Paper Scissor is as much luck based than a game where you can choose between a few actions and the result will depend on what action the other guy did. Fighting games are fancy RPS implementations and they are not considered luck based.

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Rock Paper Scissor is as much luck based than a game where you can choose between a few actions and the result will depend on what action the other guy did. Fighting games are fancy RPS implementations and they are not considered luck based.


Not really. Pure RPS is luck based because you choose your moves simultaneously and blind - so barring any deviations from pure randomness due to people trying outguess one another, is effectively dumb luck.

A fighting game has non-simultaneous moves, each of which require a certain element of skill to pull off in the first place. A skilled player can identify what his opponent is doing and pull off a suitable (counter)attack - and do it successfully - before the opponent's attack lands. This is just move-by-move level tactics - on the scale of a whole match the player can identify which moves his opponent favours (unlike RPS, the number of moves and the skill required to pull them off means that not all moves will be chosen equally) and use that knowledge to his own advantage.

So to break that down into a list of things that you are likely to want:

• A broad selection of options to deal with any situation
• different options have different 'costs' and/or skill requirements to pull off
• moves have a window of opportunity during which they maybe countered or avoided
• audio/visual cues to reveal information about your opponents moves, strengths and weaknesses. Choice is worthless without information - however information should not entirely trivialise the player's choices.

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