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Gladiator manager game - ideas needed!

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Hey there, I'm currently working on an online gladiator manager game which could be somehow compared to football management games like hattrick.org. There is one thing I scratch my head about and this are the battles.
Usually in manager games you just get the results so you don't see the match/battle at all but I thought if it would be a good idea to give the player more possibilities to influence the outcome beside the usual stats and dice rolling for the results?
So let's talk about that Gladiator business. I know there are dozens of gladiator games out there but management games are quite rare. To make it more fun (beside the management part) I thought it could be cool to perform the battles in some kind of a turn based fashion. But that way that battles would run automated and the player is NOT forced to do them manually but he CAN join, watch and help his gladiator(s). Maybe like a trainer on the sideline like in a football match? Don't know if this makes sense at all but I'd love to her your opinion about that!

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There was an online boxing management sim I played a while back where you provided instructions for your boxer ahead of time and then the sim ran overnight. You were basically trading off 4 goals: you could just try to make lots of contact (scoring points with the judges for a win-by-decision if the match went all its rounds), go for the head (looking for a KO for points or to end the match right then), go for the body (wear out the opponent to win it in the end) or just evade your opponent (maintain a lead).

Each round you could have a few different conditional strategies: If it's the last round and I'm not too winded go all out for a KO, but if I am worn down just fight defensively and hope for a good decision.

To win, you had to consider the matchup (If your opponent won frequently by KO, maybe try to get ahead in points early and then fight defensively to survive the match), and try to guess your opponents strategy (I think he's going for score this round, so I can let my guard down and really lay into him). It created a surprisingly deep system.

You could consider what sort of strategic decisions would factor into a gladiator battle and have your players make decisions before each fight. You're up against an opponent with better reach: Should you bring a spear even though it's not your gladiators preferred weapon? Maybe a shortsword and try to fight very close range?

Or you could have each gladiator come equipped with a few tactics or special attacks, and have the players try to outthink each other: I've been using "throw sand in the eyes" lately, I bet my opponent knows and will counter with "watch for trickery" so I'll actually go into the battle with "bull rush" prepared.

There's a lot of varitions of the idea you could consider, but if you're going for asynchronous play where each manager isn't necessarily online at the same time having some method to fine tune tactics combined with each gladiator having different strengths/weaknesses can make for a pretty rich but still asynchronous system.

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This has been in the back of my mind for a project for years.

A long time back an old GM of mine came up with the idea to run gladiatorial battles between the players. We did up a random roster of characters for each player to choose from before battles began. Sometimes there were specific character parameters required to follow for a battle (level/hp/class/whatever). He would then put us into a ring whose physical features would change somewhat for each battle and you'd never know just what kind of environment you were going to be facing until the last second. Sometimes battles were one on one battles between, sometimes it was against a monster of some sort which sometimes meant it was just a straight up death sentence for the player characters. It was run through a kind of mix of loose AD&D 2nd edition rules and story telling.

It never went very far but the plan was that each player would draft up their own facilities for their gladiators that would affect their training options, medical support, and over all security of the compound.

Maybe take a look at the textual play by play of combat that's done in Dwarf Fortress for inspiration on how to resolve and communicate battles. I think being able to look at the blow by blow account of a match would give players the ability to size up opponents. And if a player is monitoring the progress of a battle as it's occurring, there should be plenty of room to provide input to the gladiator.

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So in this game, do you play more as an unseen force that controls everything, or the manager of the arena who selects fights, runs bets, etc.? Deciding which one of these you want the player to act as can really help you figure out how to style the game.

 

As it is, you can take this in a bunch of different directions.

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Gladiator management games are rare? Try nonexistent. You are breaking ground as far as I am aware. I had a few ideas... then I read polama's post. Polama's idea for a sort of "ring-side" aspect to the combat sounds absolutely perfect. This way you are still in the role of manager. Getting into turn-based combat puts the player in the role of the fighter (no-no). I also strongly agree with the shout out to Dwarf Fortress mechanics. Management games are typically geared toward a more practical player--the sort of person who appreciates realism in a game. Realistic combat physics based on anatomy (rather than hitpoints or the like) is going to appeal to this niche. Similarly, the anatomy-based combat is going to give a more satisfying experience. I couldn't care less that my gladiator took 114 points of damage, but if my UI notifies me that he is losing blood through an abdominal wound then I will be quite concerned about how much longer he can fight (or even live). I think it is extremely important that you keep the fights hands off, in the role of the manager. Break this and you break your game. A turn-based system is too involved in the actions of the fighter. The ring-side dynamic--as polama first suggested--is not only a good solution but an exciting one. I would be interested to see such a dynamic play out.

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Wow thanks so much for all of your answers! I really appreciate it, lots of very valuable stuff in it! :)

 

Personally I think Gladiators should not have levels and their hitpoints for instance will stay the same for their lifespan. Additionally the weapons should not have funny attributes like +4 poison damage or whatever. A hammer will be just a hammer.

 

I'm going to take the route like the old PBM game Duel Master. Your gladiators will gain experience with every fight and will increase their skills. You can set kind of a script of actions your gladiator shall do in the first minutes of the fight and then just let it go. I'll let you know more details if you're interested. ;)

 

@Gamer_Jack_Gameson: Well there are quite some manager games out there even with Gladiators but most of them are crap or f2p or both. ;)

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It's a little bit more 'fantasy' then historic gladiatorial combat, but you could dig up an old version of Lucas Arts Gladius for some inspiration, it has a turn based gladiator mode as it's core, but that could be automated, but also has school and gladiator mangement and rpg themes as well.

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I had this idea a while back and went quite far with it. I had 90% of a working prototype, but then age of gladiators came out with a similar concept and I got quite disheartened. The game is quite well received and has plenty of those elements, though not the online part.

There is also a facebook game online for it.

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The old 'asynch' gameplay question again.

It is one very tough to handle, and it is at least as old as bulletin board system games (mid 80s).

 

The problem with granting advantages if you attend the combat is that you're trading away the 'fair' aspect of the game. If the opponent can't attend, they're giving you an advantage, and it quickly turns into loss of interest for both parties.

 

A few solutions I've seen over the years that handled the asynch gameplay well:

 

- In Yu-Gi-Oh BAM (a TCG) you end up fighting the opponent's deck, which is controlled by an AI. The outcome of the fight benefits you, but does nothing to the opponent. Quickly, that model was replaced with an actual real-time mini-game where players would engage from an active player pool looking for a match.

 

- The above is very similar to Clash Royale which deals with 3-4 minutes real-time segments from a random player pool. The game is essentially 'offline' (deck building, etc.) but battles are in real-time. They can only work because they are very short segments, which meshes particularly well with the mobile market. More importantly, you can fight anyone anytime so long as they're online and fit within your bracket.

 

- In VGA Planets (later Planets Nu), players take turns throughout the course of 1 or 2 days, and once all turns are 'locked in', they are actually carried out. Players essentially give out order but don't get to see the outcome until the turn takes effect. Battles can't be user-influenced but are relatively deterministic overall.This game revolved entirely about decisions taken outside of the fight, and to date, is actually my favorite 4X game for this reason (I don't need to be a good low-level tactician, I only need to field the units I need when and where I need them, trusting that my commander will take it from there).

 

- A game project I was involved with a few years back had something similar to what Paloma mentioned. You would issue out a combat, and have a predefined AI for that combat which would act as a predetermined deck of moves that would get done. Either as a static sequence (action 1, action 2, action 3, action 4, action 4, action 2, action 2, loop) or as a more complex system where you define circumstances:

If I'm under 20% HP, I use action 3

If I'm above the opponent's HP, I use action 1

etc.

 

From the looks of it, a small realtime component would probably suit your idea best: you exit from your solo experience for a short period of time only when you want to challenge another gladiator. Then, you have some meaningful control over the match.

Assuming this is to be mobile, I would advise against actual character controls, and focus on a more deck-oriented solution, or something along the lines of Sword and Soul where your character attacks (regular attacks, and few random goodies) but you get to choose when to trigger each and any of your character abilities (which, if abstracted, is no different from the Clash Royale solution).

 

The caveat with this approach is that it requires a healthy community and traffic so that there's not an endless queue between matches. Or, you could alternatively create AI bots which take over as opponents if the player has been waiting in queue for more than 10 seconds without a legal matchup.

 

Without knowing more about your concept, it is hard to propose any other alternative...

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I had this idea a while back and went quite far with it. I had 90% of a working prototype, but then age of gladiators came out with a similar concept and I got quite disheartened. The game is quite well received and has plenty of those elements, though not the online part.

There is also a facebook game online for it.

 

Well I doubt you would have executed the same gameplay. Age of gladiators was quite simple and not that engaging IMO, so I was surprised at the game being fairly positively received. Combat was all "A hits B for 345 damage! B misses A!" repetitively.

 

Think of "lone survivor in a sci-fi installation". There are many different games from that concept. Half-life, Dead Space and Subterrain are all different expressions of the same concept.

Edited by dustbiter

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