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Thoughts on implementing four damage types in an action-strategy game

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#1 onfu   Members   


Posted 07 October 2013 - 06:56 PM

I'm prototyping an action/strategy game with four damage types, and before going further I thought I'd look for some input on how people would react to such a design. By contrast, many similar games have simply a singular measure of "damage", or some cases dual damage types (e.g. physical/magical).


Four types, in my mind, represents some nice opportunities to create interesting strategic situations, which I can hopefully explain here.


The gameplay:

Mixes Tower Defense & RTS - you have a squad of three moveable "hero" units on the battlefield (before a mission they can be equipped with custom guns and armour), that form the most vital aspect of passing each level.


Rather than just having plain damage, and some amount of armour leading to "plain damage resistance", I've opted to have:

  • physical DMG (bullets / ballistic)
  • energy DMG (sci-fi type weapons - pulse cannon, phaser rifle etc)
  • fire DMG (grenades, missiles, rockets, napalm)
  • chemical DMG (special weapons, acid, toxic, etc)

The above listed types are not augmenters or additional effects - these are THE damage applied - one of the above depending on the weapon (also considering weapons with more than one type).


Additionally, each hero and enemy has one or more resistances to the above DMG types ranging from 0 (not resistant) to 100 (immunity), depending on equipped armour and innate class traits. Heroes and enemies can have any combination of multiple resistances.


Some reasons for this design:

With a lot diversity in what various enemy units can be resistant to (and what they inflict), the constantly changing strategic importance of different weapons and hero classes can maintain a kind of depth that keeps the player adapting, and (hopefully) engaged.


One reason for four types specifically, is that with a squad of three, levels can (theoretically) be designed that no amount of over-levelling or extreme supergear can simply breeze through. In an extreme example, a level could be created with at least one enemy per dmg type that's invulnerable to all but one type of weapon, meaning the player might annihilate 75% of the level easily but still need to resourceful and use good tactics against the remaining element.


My concerns:

FIrst and foremost, four damage types is a difficult thing to depict in the game's UI/menus in a way that won't confuse some people. I feel at risk of creating a system that others won't understand, and depth is only depth if it's actually understood.


Second, and this is something I'd love to hear feedback on; is this design too far outside genre norms? I'm not looking to break any genre rules just for the hell of it. I'm designing a system that I think I'd love to play myself, but there's no sense alienating others. One example of a game with this type of dmg system is Ni No Kuni (iirc, familiars have varying dmg types and inflict that type only). On the flip-side, I think of Borderlands - which has "damage", in a basic sense, and then ADDITIONAL dmg, e.g. fire, as an augmenter.




I think that about sums up where I'm at. I'd love to hear thoughts from others on this. And if there are any other reference examples (particularly in games that were successful and well known), they would make a really useful case study for me.


Hope all of that made sense.

Edited by multiplang, 07 October 2013 - 06:59 PM.

#2 Shane C   Members   


Posted 07 October 2013 - 07:02 PM

I actually tried to do the slight opposite of you in simplifying games rather than making them more complex. Something I wanted to do was combine HP and MP in a RPG so that when you cast magic, it hurts you. Curious, I got a bunch of people together such as gamers and asked them what was best. It turns out they hated my idea and thought games should actually be more complex rather than simpler, and that complexity and depth makes a fun game. So despite what I think, if you make this game, you may have some or many gamers enjoying it.

#3 Ludus   Members   


Posted 07 October 2013 - 10:19 PM

I don't see much difference between this and what RPGs have been doing for decades with things like elemental damage and resistances. With that in mind, the success of this system really depends on how it is implemented. You will need to take even more care in balancing out the different damage types with units' armour capabilities as this system introduces greater opportunities for game breaking strategies to go undetected in initial play testing.

#4 Sandman   Members   


Posted 08 October 2013 - 03:18 AM

With a lot diversity in what various enemy units can be resistant to (and what they inflict), the constantly changing strategic importance of different weapons and hero classes can maintain a kind of depth that keeps the player adapting, and (hopefully) engaged.


As Ludus says, this is quite similar to what RPGs have been doing for a long time. To be honest, I've never felt that the depth you describe above ever really emerges. All too often it boils down to learning which weapons are good vs. which enemies, and swapping out equipment accordingly. And that's just inventory management.


For me, depth is more likely to come from weapons which could affect the battlefield in much more strategically interesting ways. A napalm weapon for example, might set a unit on fire which can spread to other units. Perhaps you could also use it to target the ground, creating a patch of fire that damages anything moving across it and acting as an area denial type weapon. And of course, it could burn away vegetation, turning dense cover into open ground.


You could still have special resistances and weaknesses, but I still think they can and should be more interesting than just "takes 10% more damage from fire". Suppose there was a bombardier unit - perhaps they explode when killed with napalm, putting out nearby fires, but doing blast damage at the same time. Now things are starting to get interesting - killing a bombardier unit with napalm might kill other nearby units, but it might damage your own/put out some of your area denial fires, etc.

#5 onfu   Members   


Posted 08 October 2013 - 07:28 PM

RPGs have been doing for a long time definitely, but it's not something I can remember seeing in an RTS title before, and as for the Tower Defense genre, some dual-damage type systems are common, but I'd say greater than that is pretty uncommon.


@Sandman - I agree that if all it brought was inventory management it wouldn't constitute any real depth, but it should be easy to do better than that.


as a (simple) example: enemy A can only be killed with energy damage, and is flanked/guarded by henchling units that can only be killed with fire damage. It creates a threat that occupies two of your three hero units working together (that might simultaneously be otherwise needed elsewhere), or that demands a certain tower arrangement, or a combination of the two.


Another example, borrowing from the TD trope of one unit becoming another one (kill an orcish wolf-rider, the kill the orc on foot that fell off), a unit that transforms four times, with drastic resistance changes at each transformation. You need your entire team, plus lean on a tower configuration that makes up whatever difference you've left yourself open to.


I like your examples, but they wouldn't necessarily require specific damage types as much as just being special effects that certain weapons have. That kind of thing could be done additionally once the core is sorted out.


Bear in mind, I am in no way hinging the entire game off this four damage types thing, it's just one feature of a fairly involved game (more-so than most TD) with a considerable amount to do and manage.


I'm confident multiple damage types could be used in lots of ways to create interesting and fun gameplay, my concern is just that people don't get overwhelmed with info in the heat of battle, and also how to depict this mechanic in sensible, intuitive ways.

Edited by multiplang, 08 October 2013 - 07:29 PM.

#6 wodinoneeye   Members   


Posted 08 October 2013 - 07:52 PM

The damage types you list are largely variations of the same effects.


You might consider additional classification  as  impulse damage (projectiles/beams) versus continuous environmental damage (chemical/energy cloud).


Also there is persistant damage where the initial effect causes a continued sapping of the objects 'health'  (ie-bleeding)


Another variant might be delivery of the damage  - whether it is single point (like bullet) or multiple point (schrapnel)  which potentially can effect varying points on the body  from a single 'damage incident' (similar consideration is single point versus an area-effect weapon which can deliver effects to multiple targets)

--------------------------------------------Ratings are Opinion, not Fact

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