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  Combat systems in RPGs / adventure games  (Read 4073 times)
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Offline digitprop

Junior Devvie





« Posted 2004-08-22 06:23:43 »

I'd like to start a little discussion on the options for combat systems in RPGs and adventure games:

IMHO, a combat system should be
  • easy to grasp
  • offer enough options to make it tactically interesting
  • thrilling
  • balanced, i.e. combat should pose a certain risk on the avatar, but he should not be doomed
  • use player resources (such as rounds, arrows, spells, ...) in order to generate a resource sink for the game's economics

Anything else you can think of?

Now, here are the basic models for combat systems I came across:

Bard's Tale / Wasteland style: Combat is handled in text messages only. There is no visual display (apart from a static icon of the opponent) of the actual combat. The player (and party NPCs) and opponents take turns attacking each other. In each turn, a combattant has several options: Attacking, running, casting a spell, reloading, etc.

Ultima V: Quite similar (also turn-based), but there is no text display. The battle is shown on a special, top-down 2D battle arena map. This conveys a more realistic feeling for distance and constellation.

Fallout: Again, turn-based. Each combattant is assigned a number of 'action points', based on his agility, armor, etc. In each turn, he can use the APs to do almost anything he could do in non-combat mode: Accessing the inventory, reloading, unlocking doors, etc.; and of course, attacking. Each action has a different cost in terms of APs. The visuals are the same as for non-combat.

Baldur's Gate II: Real-time, with the option to pause the game. Basically, I don't like real-time combat in RPGs as it much too strongly emphasizes action. The option to pause the action interferes with my suspense of disbelief and is at least as unrealistic as a turn-based system. Without pausing, the strategic options are too few/ too difficult to make for interesting tactics.

One important aspect of any combat system is that it should be easy to implement (preferrably with as little 'specialized' code as possible). This is because combat is only a small part of any RPG / adventure game and shouldn't draw too many resources which are needed in game design / content development.

I tend towards the turn-based, action point system of Fallout. In this way, most of the game logic and visuals can be used for combat and non-combat, and the player has all the options he has in non-combat. However, the APs naturally limit his options and force him to think strategically. Also, the APs are one more tool to balance combat.

What do you think?

M. Fischer . www.digitprop.com
Offline abies

Senior Devvie





« Reply #1 - Posted 2004-08-22 09:02:29 »

Problem with AP based system is that number of AP becomes most important statistic. Somebody with twice the number of AP can make double number of attacks in one round - and even if he is a weaker combatant, he can win by sheer number of tries.

Maybe you can consider something like Troika ToEE rules ? You still had turn-based, tactical play, but instead of numeric action points, you had full attack, move/attack or move/move actions (to simplify), where move action was just a certain distance to move on floor. Faster characters could cover bigger distance in move action instead of having more move actions (or, God forbid, more attack actions).

Artur Biesiadowski
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie




for great justice!


« Reply #2 - Posted 2004-08-23 15:32:32 »

What about the Japanese RPG approach of turn-based-but-looks-real-time ? This has been quite successful in various guises and styles with different twists on it since the earliest days of Final Fantasy &co.
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Offline CaptainJester

JGO Knight


Medals: 12
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Exp: 14 years


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« Reply #3 - Posted 2004-08-30 13:08:37 »

Quote
Fallout: Again, turn-based. Each combattant is assigned a number of 'action points', based on his agility, armor, etc. In each turn, he can use the APs to do almost anything he could do in non-combat mode: Accessing the inventory, reloading, unlocking doors, etc.; and of course, attacking. Each action has a different cost in terms of APs. The visuals are the same as for non-combat.

I would have to say this is not very good.  Why should it cost points to look at your inventory?  We as the player might need to look at it, but the character would know what he/she is carrying.  I agree it should cost points to switch items in and out of the inventory.  Also, as Kevglass said, it can be easily abused.

Quote

Baldur's Gate II: Real-time, with the option to pause the game. Basically, I don't like real-time combat in RPGs as it much too strongly emphasizes action. The option to pause the action interferes with my suspense of disbelief and is at least as unrealistic as a turn-based system. Without pausing, the strategic options are too few/ too difficult to make for interesting tactics.

I personally liked this style.  Since computer interfaces can only do so much, sometimes it is necesary to pause the game to convey orders.

ie.  In "reality" Joe might yell at Jim "Cast a fireball!!"  As the player you have to click on Jim ,then switch to the spell, then cast it.  What happens if you thought you were pointing at Jim, but you were one pixel off?  Instead Joe starts to walk over there.  The ability to pause overcomes the limitations of the computer interface, while still being able to maintain an enjoyable real time experience.  I never used the pause that often anyway, but when I did, it was invaluable.

Offline digitprop

Junior Devvie





« Reply #4 - Posted 2004-09-01 04:45:19 »

Thanks for the valuable input. I lean towards a turn-based approach, which IMHO fits better with the general pace of traditional RPGs (as compared to first person 'action' RPGs where realtime combat is more appropriate).

I like the idea of restricted movement, based on the agility of the player.

M. Fischer . www.digitprop.com
Offline t_larkworthy

Senior Devvie


Medals: 1
Projects: 1


Google App Engine Rocks!


« Reply #5 - Posted 2004-09-09 19:21:10 »

Nah if you want a realistic battle but still with the depth of turn based combat you have to pause it. I was definatly in the turn based camp until shogun and baulders gate. You get the best of both world with pause.
Fallout was a good game in its time. But its horrible trundling along in real time then when you say something to upset a man and crunch, some time phenominon breaks out. It also messes up if people are  fighting nearby. Should the player get stufck in turn based or real time?
I found an interesting game on special the other day and I felt overwhelmed to buy it as I had missed it fist time. It was Dark throne .. is that right? (it was £4 in a shop!).
That RPG has very interesting combat becuase it is in real time, yet attempts to retain strategic depth, by allowing the user to set predecided battle tactics, and its reletively easy to switch between them.  Reviews when it came out said it was a truly strategic RPG. It certainly had elements I had never seen in that kind of game. See if you can find a cheap copy where you are and play it. I think it has academic value for people serious about designing an RPG

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Offline blahblahblahh

JGO Coder


Medals: 1


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« Reply #6 - Posted 2004-09-09 19:45:54 »

Quote
Nah if you want a realistic battle but still with the depth of turn based combat you have to pause it. I was definatly in the turn based camp until shogun  


Great game; CRAP real-time controls. Not so much "controls" as "dental anaesthetic that makes your jaw go numb, so when you shout orders at your troops all they hear is 'blurlbae. Blub. Ughgs. Blube! Lubble!' and they run round in chaos and get slaughtered".

But you only get forced to go realtime in multiplayer - and then everyone's in teh same boat - so it's not so bad. But...shogun multiplayer would be a LOT more skilful if it had decent realtime controls...

(nb: Shogun is a game where the precise pixel-positioning of troops matters; furthermore, you can easily win when outnumberd 10 to 1 if you just get your troops to attack at the precise right time in the precise right places at the right speeds! So, precision and accuracy are extremely valuable!)

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline DannyFromTower

Senior Newbie




Java games rock!


« Reply #7 - Posted 2004-09-10 22:53:15 »

I've never much liked realtime combat games because the controls you get are always too tactical while the immediacy of being there in the avatars body is absent. A real time combat system should have more general controls that represent intentions, "Get that guy by any means possible", "Help Fred pin that monster down", "Sneak over here fast and shoot at the first target of opportunity". Of course, designing general enough controls for a grammer of intention will be hard, and the AI to support it harder still, but hey, we all like a challenge or we wouldn't be doing this stuff, right? ;-)
Offline DannyFromTower

Senior Newbie




Java games rock!


« Reply #8 - Posted 2004-09-10 23:03:41 »

Quote
balanced, i.e. combat should pose a certain risk on the avatar, but he should not be doomed


Well, actually, in a good RPG players will get into situations that are out of their league from time to time. The game should give them hints that they are not up for it before the encounter or help them realise it during the encounter. Then the system had better let the players choose one of (at least) three options:
  • Run away quick
  • Talk their way out or trick the enemy in some way
  • Fight and die heroicly, perhaps doing some useful damage on the way down.


The "run away quick" option should have the possibility of a persiut. I rarely come across a good chase in RPGs.
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie




for great justice!


« Reply #9 - Posted 2004-09-11 19:39:00 »

Being chased would also add a real feeling of immediacy to the whole thing. A game that did that would kick ass...
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