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Combat in RPGs

TcheldorTcheldor Registered User regular
edited July 2011 in Games and Technology
Hey all. As some of you may remember, I made a thread a few weeks ago about formulas used for combat and asked for some help in my efforts to create a balanced and engaging combat system. For reference we're talking about turn based systems here.

I hit a stumbling block because I ran into a cyclical problem. The damage dealt by a blow is only meaningful with reference to the amount of HP a character has (since a 10 dmg hit is a big deal if you have 30 hp, but meaningless if you have 3000). However, the HP a character has is only relevant to the damage he will sustain and how many blows he should be able to take. Of course the amount of blows you can take has to be based on how long combat can last.

Anyone my point is, I have to eventually actually define something, and I have decided the question to answer is:
How long should a given combat last?

To answer that: How many turns should combat take?

So my question to my fellow PAers. What turn based combat games have you played that felt good. Combat felt like it was not taking too long, but was not way too trivial either. I'd like to base my system off the length and feel of games that people like.



League of Legends: Sorakanmyworld
FFXIV: Tchel Fay
Nintendo ID: Tortalius

Stream: twitch.tv/tortalius
Tcheldor on

Posts

  • vagrant_windsvagrant_winds Brings a Magic Infused Gun to a Swordfight. Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Important question: Are you having HP reset to full after every battle? Or are you having HP stay at current values and requiring mp/item management of out of battle healing?
    To answer the actual question for examples, SMT's Press Turn system (Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga) is pretty close to perfection for a turn, non-speed based system.

    vagrant_winds on
    // Steam: VWinds // LoL: VWinds // PSN: vagrant_winds //
    // 3DS: 4682-8868-5037 // Switch: SW-5306-0651-6424 //
  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    First of all, think of character statistics as allegorical, because that's what they are. What a stat represents in your game depends on the nature of your game, the other statistics that exist in your combat system, and the formulas you use to resolve combat.

    HP generally represents survivability, but what that can actually mean depends on how you calculate damage. If some antagonist can only cause 10 points of damage to a player character when the player character has 30 HP, then the player should pretty much look like a brick wall to this enemy when he has 3000 HP.

    Personally, I prefer systems where lower level enemies will ignore or avoid PCs of a much higher level. There is nothing worse than having, say, 3000 HP and getting attacked by rats. At least have some kind of ability in the game that the player can activate (a spell or ability or amulet or whatever) that will decrease or negate the encounter rate when the player's level is vastly different from the average level of the possible encounter set in a given area.

    Also, anything above 30 turns is annoying unless it's some kind of epic battle, and even then, 30 turns can be annoying if combat always hits that amount. I'd say for average combat, 5 is a good average. The more power a character has in relation to a potential encounter should slide that number closer to 1. If the player is underpowered, the combat should take longer (unless the player dies quickly).

    I prefer battle systems where, if I am forced to fight fodder throughout the game, I can at least put up some kind of autoattack and breeze through it in a single turn.

  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    Important question: Are you having HP reset to full after every battle? Or are you having HP stay at current values and requiring mp/item management of out of battle healing?
    To answer the actual question for examples, SMT's Press Turn system (Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga) is pretty close to perfection for a turn, non-speed based system.

    Yep. And Persona 3/4.

  • FrozenzenFrozenzen Registered User regular
    3-5 turns for a regular fight is pretty good, although this does mean mobs have to actually be a threat so I actually have to come up with a way to handle them. For bosses 20-30 turns average is nice, but if you build something up as really imposing and epic it could go on longer than that. In that case you have to decide whether you want it to be a pure battle of attrition, or that the boss has some kind of shifting gimmick, wherein you have to change your tactics during the battle depending on what the boss does. I vastly prefer the ones where there is a lot going on, a pure battle of attrition where the boss has 1-2 dangerous attacks and a bunch of harmless ones are really annoying.

  • vagrant_windsvagrant_winds Brings a Magic Infused Gun to a Swordfight. Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Drez wrote:
    Yep. And Persona 3/4.

    Well, those aren't the Press Turn system, though are a related and simplified system. In press turn both you and the enemy team have a turns each of your round for each member alive in your party. If you hit a weakness or score a crit you don't use that turn and gain an extra half turn. If you are dodged or hit an immunity you lose an entire extra turn besides the ineffective one you just used. Passing a turn to the next teammate costs half a turn. Half-turns can be used just like normal turns but can't be passed without losing them (so speed is still important for your most important characters to be 1-2 in line on your team). The enemies play by the same rules 90% of the time: the only exception is bosses that have the ability to turn a turn into 2 or 4 half-turns.
    Frozenzen wrote:
    3-5 turns for a regular fight is pretty good, although this does mean mobs have to actually be a threat so I actually have to come up with a way to handle them. For bosses 20-30 turns average is nice, but if you build something up as really imposing and epic it could go on longer than that. In that case you have to decide whether you want it to be a pure battle of attrition, or that the boss has some kind of shifting gimmick, wherein you have to change your tactics during the battle depending on what the boss does. I vastly prefer the ones where there is a lot going on, a pure battle of attrition where the boss has 1-2 dangerous attacks and a bunch of harmless ones are really annoying.

    Adding onto this, it's nice when bosses have attacks you need to make defenses against. Actually having to use the defend command when you notice a powerful attack coming or having to maintain status effects or debuffs on a boss or they risk overpowering you is a good thing.

    vagrant_winds on
    // Steam: VWinds // LoL: VWinds // PSN: vagrant_winds //
    // 3DS: 4682-8868-5037 // Switch: SW-5306-0651-6424 //
  • wavecutterwavecutter Registered User regular
    What about tweaking it so that health is a very low number. That way even one hit point might represent a level of damage like a bloody nose and each combat action could have the potential to stop a fight after the first blow or the first exchange of blows.

  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck the search for the means to put an end to things an end to speech is what enables the discourse to continue ~ * ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) excelsior * ~Registered User regular
    To answer that: How many turns should combat take?

    Depends how long a turn takes, how varied the enemies are, if combat contains any other elements of gameplay and how varied the combat gameplay itself is.

    obF2Wuw.png
  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    Drez wrote:
    Yep. And Persona 3/4.

    Well, those aren't the Press Turn system, though are a related and simplified system. In press turn both you and the enemy team have a turns each of your round for each member alive in your party. If you hit a weakness or score a crit you don't use that turn and gain an extra half turn. If you are dodged or hit an immunity you lose an entire extra turn besides the ineffective one you just used. Passing a turn to the next teammate costs half a turn. Half-turns can be used just like normal turns but can't be passed without losing them (so speed is still important for your most important characters to be 1-2 in line on your team). The enemies play by the same rules 90% of the time: the only exception is bosses that have the ability to turn a turn into 2 or 4 half-turns.

    I worded my response poorly. I wasn't saying that P3/4 had the exact press turn system, but that it is also close to a perfect battle system IMO. I think they are two different but very similar systems and both are separately excellent.

  • ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    My absolute favorite turn-based systems, amusingly enough, are those in the Paper Mario / Mario & Luigi games.

    Those games are built around a system where timed button presses during your attack / defense phases drastically change the way a battle plays out. Press the right button at the right time during an attack, and your damage doubles, triples, or even quadruples. Press the right button at the right time while BEING attacked, and you can take half damage or no damage at all. It's like constant QTEs, but actually fun.

    The other thing is that those systems are designed in a way that you have multiple options for offense and defense. You can jump, use a hammer, toss a koopa shell, throw a fireball, etc. Different enemies have different weakpoints, and if you don't use the right attacks you may not do any damage at all (or even hurt yourself!). Alternatively, when you first get attacked by an enemy you always have to guess at what to do. Do you jump over the attack, or do you use the hammer to bat it away? What's the timing? Learning your enemies weakpoints and attack patterns is half the fun of the game -- you as the player are gaining "experience" along with Mario, and once you understand how your enemies tick you can defeat them within a turn.

    Other great things about these systems:

    - You have meaningful overworld "action" abilities. Jump on an enemy or smack it with a hammer, and you get a bonus attack at the outset of the attack. (And if the enemy is significantly lower level than you, defeat it outright.) Get jumped yourself, and your enemies get an extra attack themselves (that you can dodge with a well-timed QTE, if you're good enough).

    - Because there are so many ways that both your damage AND your enemies damage can be negated, HP values are actually quite low. This keeps the challenge up and gets you involved in the fight -- no mashing "Attack" until the enemy dies.

    - Items are actually useful. The games discourage hoarding because one botched defense QTE can leave you in need of a HP-restoring item, the attack-items are actually quite powerful, the stat-boosting items give you meaningful damage output or defensive capability, etc.

    - Fights last only as long as you allow them to last. If you're good at the QTEs, a fight will be over in 1-2 turns. If you're not, it might take 3-5. Either way, you're involved the entire time... and the more you learn about your enemies' attack pattens and weaknesses, the shorter the fights are, which is quite rewarding.

    Now, you may not really be interested in having a QTE-heavy action/turn-based hybrid like in these games. But I still think they have some interesting lessons. I really like the idea of having a few basic attack/defense options available, with proper strategy being key to doing/taking lots of damage or doing/taking none at all. I also like the idea of keeping the HP values quite low, in order to reward good strategy and discourage MP/item hoarding.

    ChopperDave on
    3DS code: 3007-8077-4055
  • JusticeJustice Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I'm not a huge turn-based RPG fan, but I think the answer is--combat shouldn't last long if the PC is doing it right, it should last long and be hard if the PC is doing it wrong. The best I've played is Earthbound. In that, if you used the right mix of spells/skills from your party based on the enemy you're fighting, you could knock out an enemy quickly w/o taking much damage. If you didn't, things dragged on and you could get screwed. By contrast, anytime I play a Dragon Quest game, it seems easy to get locked into mashing "A" (or whatever) over and over b/c the default combat selection is as effective as anything else.

    Justice on
  • TcheldorTcheldor Registered User regular
    Let me add some info since you guys were asking: First, I have played almost every SMT game and Mario RPGs. I do enjoy those systems, but I feel that the strategy element in those games is low. Mario is more fun and based on reflexes, which is good, but not my goal. SMT is all about preparedness, not actual combat skill (most of the time). You suicide into a boss the first time, and then back prepared to kick its ass the second. I'm trying to avoid that.

    Here's a list of additional facts that you guys may find interesting. Please critique as well

    1) HP/MP will recover to full between battles. This is to allow greater control over difficulty. I will also have 3 difficulty modes that can be changed anytime you're not in combat.

    2)Combat is going to be the core game play and should be rather strategic. I can go in much much more detail should people want to hear about it, but I have 7 classes created with skills etc. I'm at the point where I have to put numbers to things, but everything else is good to go combatwise. Additionally there will be a main class and subclass system (where main class is going to be story based, but subclass can be chosen during the story. Think EO3's system except you can change it more easily)

    3) I will not be doing timed hits or anything of that nature, as much as I do love those games.

    4) Inventory will be limited to 9 of any given item.

    5) Healing spells can rez the dead. However, I'm going to have a few turn rez sickness unless a special rez spell is used. This helps reduce the whole phoenix down spam that comes up sometimes.

    6)Actions will be determined via AP. You earn a certain amount per char per turn. Each action costs a fixed amount and you can save some up between turns.

    7) MP will be consumed 5, 10, or 15 per skill (based on the skill's strength basically. High end skills 15. Low end 5) and will recharge at a rate of 1 per turn. Attack command and items will not use MP. This is to add some tension to battles and prevent them from going on too long.

    8)MP consumption items will cost A LOT of AP to use and be extremely rare.

    9) Combat will take place on 2 3x3 grids. One for PC side, other for AI side. Rows in the front give offensive bonuses, the back row gives defensive. These bonuses will not be tiny, and one class will have a variety of skills to move characters around.

    10) Healing spells will rarely just heal. If it just restores HP then it will have a high AP cost.

    I think that hopefully gives you a decent lay out of some of my plans.

    League of Legends: Sorakanmyworld
    FFXIV: Tchel Fay
    Nintendo ID: Tortalius

    Stream: twitch.tv/tortalius
  • l_gl_g Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    What you do is go play Romancing SaGa (contains almost all of the elements you've described, except the spatial one) and Radiant Historia (which has the 3x3 grid with displacement skills and stat adjustments), and see how it goes.

    In Romancing SaGa, only in exceptional situations can either side go more than once. So one round entails your party doing their thing, the enemy party doing their thing, and that's it. The concept of a "round" in Radiant Historia is like 10 actions, as the order of actions is flexible between the enemy and friendly party.

    l_g on
    Cole's Law: "Thinly sliced cabbage."
  • DarisDaris Registered User regular
    One thing I really liked about Final Fantasy XI was that the party could work together to not only make fights easier and faster, but more economical. In particular, skill chains and magic bursting remain one of my favorite mechanics in an rpg to this day.

    Have you given any thought to a system of damage resistance that can be overcome through joint action rather than special moves or power?

    Borderlands 2 on Steam & League of Legends: Ephemis
  • JurgJurg In a TeacupRegistered User regular
    It really depends on how frequent battles are, and the variation on strategy. Nothing's worse than frequent battles with the same enemy groups that take forever to go, because even though you are using the best strategy it takes a few rounds. If you game is based on gaining AP each round, and rewarding smart allocation of AP, I would turn the encounter rate way, way down, but make battles a bit on the long side, dynamic (enemies don't just use the same move every turn), and vary enemy groups. Maybe even pre-plan them, ala Riviera or Chrono Trigger.

    sig.gif
  • GarthorGarthor Registered User regular
    Tcheldor wrote:
    To answer that: How many turns should combat take?

    Playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest.

    This is the one and only valid answer to the vast majority of your questions. Just pick something and try it out (with somebody ELSE, not yourself, and not somebody who has tried it before). This is the ONLY way to get any meaningful data. Anything else may as well be masturbation.

  • Angry BoidAngry Boid Registered User
    Yea the only way to really come up with answers to these sort of design questions is to constantly observe your game play and make adjustments.

    Absolutely do not expect you will just get things good on paper first then implement it perfectly. That's how you get shitty games.

  • DisruptorX2DisruptorX2 Registered User regular
    Everything should be wildly and incomprehensibly random. Combat could take 1 turn or 5 minutes. Who knows, its a mystery. Likewise with enemy hp. How much do they have? Maybe 6d8+3 or something. HP not mattering at high levels because scaling doesn't work? Give the enemies random attacks that can instantly kill, drain stats, or drain levels based on a random saving throw.

    1208768734831.jpg
  • TcheldorTcheldor Registered User regular
    I enjoyed Radiant Historia.

    I do plan on play testing this to hell and back, trust me, but I thought I would poll a huge gaming community simultaneously. In the long run, I'm hoping many of you will have a chance to play this :)

    League of Legends: Sorakanmyworld
    FFXIV: Tchel Fay
    Nintendo ID: Tortalius

    Stream: twitch.tv/tortalius
  • GarthorGarthor Registered User regular
    Polling people would be more useful if people were consistently able to do anything besides provide completely and utterly wrong evaluations of game mechanics.

  • MagitekMagitek Registered User
    Tcheldor wrote:
    To answer that: How many turns should combat take?

    My personal answer: as few turns as humanly possible without making combat frustrating for the player.

    To that end, every action taken should hope to be one of the following:
    Critical and satisfying; powerful yet limited abilities emphasizing choice.
    Fast but exponential; smaller attacks and abilities linking together for chain reaction.

    Actions that have little-to-no effect are boring, even more so when repeated thousands of times.

    The real question is, how long can you make combat without it becoming tedious or boring?








  • DarisDaris Registered User regular
    Combat should be doable in one round if done right!

    Vanish, X-zone
    Skillchain, Magic Burst
    Level 5 Death
    Ultima vs Mooks
    Summons vs Mooks
    Any BAS vs Mooks.

    Borderlands 2 on Steam & League of Legends: Ephemis
  • SurikoSuriko AustraliaRegistered User regular
    I adored VC's combat system. But that was kind of a realtime/turn-based blend, so I don't know how applicable it'd be.

  • lizardlooplizardloop Registered User regular
    Something I'd like to mention is randomness and how it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    Ultimately RPG fights boil down to Rock, Paper, Scissors. If X then use Y, if Z then use A on and on and on. Even if you have a game with thousands of monsters/spells/actions the player will eventually form the rules in their head (or read a gamefaq) to always win the fight. Always winning is boring.

    In order to break that cycle randomness is needed. For me one of the best examples of this is FFVII. Throughout the game there were boss fights in which the boss had an attack that would completely decimate your party. Most of the time this attack was randomly used and you wouldn't know when it was coming or how many time they were going to use it. Each turn then became tense as you debated whether or not to heal up and prepare for the boss giving you a pounding or to carry on dishing out damage in the hopes of bringing it down before it got another killer attack in. Combine that with some stirring music and you have me sat on the edge of my seat sweating and praying that I can bring this thing down. At that point I want the battle to go on for as long as possible because it is an enjoyable experience.

    The exact opposite of that experience is where the boss has an easily predictable pattern and you feel in no danger whatsoever because you know the exact steps to counter it (attack, attack, defend, attack, attack, defend, heal, attack etc etc). At that point I'm bored and you might as well just auto win the battle for me and let me move on with the story.

    To sum up. Keep me guessing and I'm happy, make it predictable and I'm bored.

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