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Very nice editorial about turnbased combat in RPGs:

12 Ways to Improve Turnbased RPG Combat.

Here are the bullet points -- read the full article for in-depth explanations.

Originally Posted by "Craig Stern"
The Four Virtues of a good tactical turn-based combat system
  1. Emergent complexity. It creates complex gameplay out of a comparatively simple set of rules.
  2. Clarity. The immediate consequences of various tactical decisions are made clear to the player.
  3. Determinism. The system is sufficiently deterministic that skilled play using a proper strategy will nearly always result in victory.
  4. Tactical tools. If there is some randomness in the system (which there will be in most cases), the player has sufficient tactical tools at her disposal so that skilled play will almost always trump bad luck.

How can we employ these features?
  1. Use space.
  2. Give the player at least six characters.
  3. Specialize the characters.
  4. Specialize the enemies.
  5. Variable distance.
  6. Directional facing.
  7. Variable terrain.
  8. Manipulable terrain.
  9. Resource management.
  10. Give units multiple attack options.
  11. Support multiple objectives.
  12. Allow delayed attacks.


My favorite tactical RPG is King's Bounty: The Legend (one of the few I know anyway). Combat was utterly addicting in that game, and it was almost all Combat. It pretty much followed all of those bullet points.


Now, the interesting part is of course: How does Original Sin fare so far?
  1. Use space.
    This is missing. We really need a grid overlay during combat, to be able to better judge distances and plan your moves. This was mentioned somewhere already and Larian said they wanted to try it out.
  2. At least six characters.
    (edit) 2 protagonists, 2 henchmen, 2 summons.
  3. Specialize the Characters.
    We don't have classes, but players usually specialize and follow classic paths. They need to be pushed, gently, into specialization. There need to be clear roles in combat with their own advantages and disadvantages. Examples for various roles include tank, healer, physical fighters (close range, medium-range, long-range), skirmish, hit-and-run, crowd control, buffing and debuffing, magical damage (AoE and single target). Sure, one character could employ more than one role, but that muddles the waters somewhat.
  4. Specialize the Enemies.
    No worries here. Determining the capabilities of enemies would make the "identify monsters" skill rather important.
  5. Variable distance.
    Check.
  6. Directional facing.
    This is planned AFAIK (bonus for attacking from behind or the sides, etc.).
  7. Variable Terrain.
    We have variable terrain that provide natural choke points or cover. Not sure if we have terrain bonuses, or even terrain bonuses for different character types (standing in a pool reduces movement points, standing on a road increases them (like in Civilization); or even general bonuses or maluses for the current environment (forest, city, dungeon)).
  8. Manipulable terrain.
    Check. Walls of fire, ice, traps as barriers to create choke points, moving items and building your own shelter. Earth magic would probably excel in this.
  9. Resource management.
    Check. Action points that force the player to weigh actions with different cost against each other = good. Huge spells take up more than light spells, etc. There could even be really powerful stuff that requires you to do nothing for one or more round.
  10. Multiple attack options for units.
    Check. Use up your action points for a powerful blow or attack with mild force and save action points for defense? (Is "defend against next attack" in as an action? Or defensive spells / actions in general?)
  11. Support multiple objectives.
    Not sure what Original Sin offers. There should be more than win/loss situations, like classic "protect the diplomat or princess", "don't hit innocent bystanders", "keep the enemy leader from fleeing", surprises during combat like timely reinforcement (possible for both sides), enemies switching sides who provide mini quests, post-effects of the actual fight, etc.
  12. Allow delayed attacks.
    We have attacks of opportunity. Counterattacks and retaliation are also a nice mechanic (e.g. melee against melee, maybe ranged against ranged, so the player would want to attack melee enemies at range and vice versa)

Last edited by Arhu; 17/04/13 01:38 PM. Reason: changed info on party size
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Turn based combat system was perfect in Heroes of Might and Magic III and very good in the latest XCOM Enemy Unknown.

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Haven't played the latest XCOM yet. Shame on me, I know. But I have fond memories of the originals.


There's a follow-up: 6 more ways to improve turn based RPG combat systems.

Quote
  1. Elevation effects
  2. Movement-focused special abilities
  3. Item drops
  4. Zones of Danger
  5. Death countdowns and revival
  6. Character-centric consequences


For Original Sin:
  1. Elevation effects
    Don't know if we have that. Higher vantage point = combat bonus, attacking from below = malus.
  2. Movement-focused special abilities
    Fun stuff. Rescue ability for certain warrior types, spells like body switch, teleport, charge, moving or pushing enemies a step, maybe optional bonus movement at the start of combat.
  3. Item drops
    Encourage players to not stay in a corner but keep moving. Not sure if this one can be applied to Original Sin.
  4. Zones of Danger
    Dynamic environment. Sounds like we got that covered somewhat. Lava streams, puddles, occasionally active geysers, fire, smoke and other environmental oddities.
  5. Death countdowns and revival
    Unconciousness before death -- allows other characters to help their fallen comrades and revive them before it's too late.
  6. Character-centric consequences
    Direct gameplay effects during combat based on character traits like "greed", "jealousy", "compassion", etc. Read article for more about this.

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That piece may be a good article, but it is not written in stone and each game does not have to slavishly obey it.

1. If Larian implements a grid overlay, I hope it's toggleable from a menu. I'd rather have it off.
2. Larian is designing this game for 2 main, 2 henchmen and 2 summons. Changing it to 6 characters would mean a lot of additional redesign and rebalancing work. They don't have to redesign everything for 6 people just because an article says 6 is the golden number.
3. Definitely not all characters can be good at everything, but one of the much-touted features is the magic combo system, so I'll probably be making my characters hybrids. My first one will probably be a STR-CON tank and my other a DEX-SPD rogue, with a smattering of INT and other stats to use magic.

11. Sure, some fights with special objectives and conditions are great - there was the demo of the skeleton bomber with a hostage, Ezio the Orc which you can use a voodoo doll on, and the skeletal mech that was more powerful than the rest of the encounter. But not every single combat has to have extra objectives.

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Of course those things don't have to be set in stone. As the author mentioned in his article, if games implemented everything it would make for one very complex game. But those items are some good pointers that can serve as inspiration for fun, tactical gameplay.

Quote
Larian is designing this game for 2 main, 2 henchmen and 2 summons.

That's 6 characters right there. Sounds good to me. smile

All in all, I do agree with you: no overkill. Every possible feature has to be weighed and considered carefully.

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XCOM was highly enjoyable but flawed (when it first came out anyway, don't know if they patched a lot)). It was a good experience from a gameplay point of view but you could really feel they could've done more with some aspects of the game, I feel.

Interesting read, btw.

Last edited by Rod Lightning; 17/04/13 01:26 PM.

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Some great suggestions which all would fair quite awesome in Original Sin. (the grid system ofcourse being able to turn on and off depending on what you like most)



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Nice read, there are some very good suggestions here are but some work better depending on what type of turn-based system you have. I'm not sure if the author had a specific system or game/series in mind but I would guess it was written from a point of view of a character can only attack once per turn and not based on action points. Here are a few examples of what I mean by different types of turn-based systems:

- No movement, just use weapons, magic, items (eg. Final Fantasy)
- Characters move in order of some initiative/speed characteristic, then they can move a certain distance and then can attack/use magic/use item, etc. (eg. Shining Force)
- One side moves, then the other, the player can chose the order of which characters to use when it's his turn (eg. Fire Emblem)
- One side vs the other where each character has a set number of action points, can use an action point, then do an action with another character and then come back to previous (eg. X-Com)

There are obviously other ones and other of these combinations, as far as I can see Original Sin is a combination of these. I'm not exactly sure how it works though. Am I right in thinking it goes in order of initiative and each character uses all their action points and then it goes to the next character? Or can you attack with one character, then use the other, and then finish using your action points with the first?

I have not played X-Com for years but I don't remember a grid overlay and I thought that was fine.
I also don't think at least 6 characters is always suitable. Space Hulk also had an action point based system and I generally rathered missions with 5 Marines best. Will less characters you feel more for each one. I think for Original Sin, if your character can attack a few times depending on their action points this really changes the optimal number. I think 2 or 3 should be fine and 6 (i.e. two henchmen and two summons) could be a bit too many but we'll see.

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I thought I remember them saying in DOS we had a maximum group size of 4 including henchmen and summons? Anyone remember this from the videos? As to the rest I agree with most of it but IMO the more ppl/mobs you need to wait on turns for makes the combat LESS fun... it makes every fight painful to sit through when you have so many actions to manage, for "trash mobs" anyways.

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1. I would like it to appear only during combat of course. I do remember enjoying temple of elemental evil and it had no grids. The spells however are detailed and their ranges and scopes are readily apparent before you cast them.

3. Depends on the player

4. Specialized enemies but the the encounter should consist of a well rounded group of enemies consisting of melee, ranged and magic (each is specialized). Only preferrably of course. The storyline can override these.

12. I would definitely like to see these.

I'm relatively inexperienced with turn based RPGs. Only had Temple of Elemental Evil to look back to and just recently finished HOMM VI. If there are any turn based game I can be considered a veteran of it would be 4x strategy games or wargames.

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I think a bit of randomness spices thing up which of course contradicts the article...

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Originally Posted by Voodoou
I thought I remember them saying in DOS we had a maximum group size of 4 including henchmen and summons? Anyone remember this from the videos? As to the rest I agree with most of it but IMO the more ppl/mobs you need to wait on turns for makes the combat LESS fun... it makes every fight painful to sit through when you have so many actions to manage, for "trash mobs" anyways.


there are 2 heroes, 2 heroes can both have a henchman, thus having 4 people.. aside from that the heroes can both use a summon spell to get a summon.. thus allowing for maximal 6 allies while in battle. But ofcourse you can keep it as low as you want.

However in my opinion the turnbased way of D:OS is very little waiting and alot of action.
It does not feel like you are waiting for something to happen.. more like a smooth battle. And still.. the more people you have, the more things you will need to control yourself to :P



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Originally Posted by Timeraider
Originally Posted by Voodoou
I thought I remember them saying in DOS we had a maximum group size of 4 including henchmen and summons? Anyone remember this from the videos? As to the rest I agree with most of it but IMO the more ppl/mobs you need to wait on turns for makes the combat LESS fun... it makes every fight painful to sit through when you have so many actions to manage, for "trash mobs" anyways.


there are 2 heroes, 2 heroes can both have a henchman, thus having 4 people.. aside from that the heroes can both use a summon spell to get a summon.. thus allowing for maximal 6 allies while in battle. But ofcourse you can keep it as low as you want.

However in my opinion the turnbased way of D:OS is very little waiting and alot of action.
It does not feel like you are waiting for something to happen.. more like a smooth battle. And still.. the more people you have, the more things you will need to control yourself to :P


ok I still swear I heard 4 but after hours of watching DOS vids on youtube and not finding the one I remember it in.. I give up.. also I think I wasn't thinking of this clearly when I made my first post. I was thinking OLD school turn based.. you know the ones where no one moves and its boring =P but then I was thinking.. wait this isn't like that at all.. this is more like Fallout 1/2 which you loved.. so yea. Thank you for the response and hell maybe the vid I remember was incorrect anyways.. ppl make slip ups like that all the time =D

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Originally Posted by Arhu
3. Item drops
Encourage players to not stay in a corner but keep moving. Not sure if this one can be applied to Original Sin.

It takes action points to loot during combat, and you can toss gold on the ground to distract greedy or stupid characters (lava, being 'shiny' can also distract stupid characters, or normal characters under a curse that lowers their intelligence).


Originally Posted by moktira
as far as I can see Original Sin is a combination of these. I'm not exactly sure how it works though. Am I right in thinking it goes in order of initiative and each character uses all their action points and then it goes to the next character?

Yes. The initiative for the first round is also dependent on whether it was a surprise attack, or not, so if you initiate combat without the opponent(s) seeing you, you go first (and vise versa).

Originally Posted by moktira
I think for Original Sin, if your character can attack a few times depending on their action points this really changes the optimal number.

Yes, you can attack multiple times if you have enough action points. A level 1 character in the initial area shown in the gameplay videos can move a longer distance, move and attack, or attack twice (presumably higher level characters, depending on their stats, will be able to either attack additional times or use stronger attacks that take more action points).


Originally Posted by Voodoou
ok I still swear I heard 4 but after hours of watching DOS vids on youtube and not finding the one I remember it in.

Multi-player is limited to 4 people (main characters and henchmen). Maybe you were thinking of that?

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My guide to Turn Based in 2013:

Make sure you update/innovate the UI vs yesteryear.

Those systems, for things like wizards took too many clicks to fire off a spell/commands.

I think each time a character has their turn a UI for that character should auto-appear and it is super simple to execute command.

The trick to turn based in 2013, is to play fast and elegant within a turn base framework. Making turn-base too many clicks per command will be a fail. We have plenty of resolution now6 and things learned to make it so.

For example Wizardry 8:
1. Click spell book
2. Click spell
3. Click power
4. Click Target
5. Fire

That could be:
1.When it's the wizards turn display all spells on a side bar or something. Not only do you show the spell but it shows a gradient of power for each. You click once to choose spell and power together.
2. Click Target / Auto-Fire

What took 5 clicks now takes 2. That is what I mean make turn based quick.

Not that DOS should mimic XCom, but they really updated their UI/presentation of a turn based game and it's the big difference. That is how you do it in 2013. That is how you get a new generation hooked. Not uphill, barefoot both ways.

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Originally Posted by meme
I think a bit of randomness spices thing up which of course contradicts the article...

Not at all. Virtue #4 above only says that if there is randomness involved, the player should get the strategic tools to overcome bad luck. A bit of randomness is good and spices things up, as you said.

Originally Posted by Raze
Originally Posted by moktira
(..) Am I right in thinking it goes in order of initiative and each character uses all their action points and then it goes to the next character?

Yes. The initiative for the first round is also dependent on whether it was a surprise attack, or not, so if you initiate combat without the opponent(s) seeing you, you go first (and vise versa).

Is it possible to "wait"? In King's Bounty you could wait once per round for other units to make their move first. After every unit had a chance to spend action points, the units that waited would resume control until all waiting characters had their turn in reversed order.

Example 1: Character with highest initiative moves first, decides to wait. He will be the last one this round to spend any remaining action points.
Example 2: Character with lowest initiative moves last, decides to wait, but will have to move now.

This works really well. A ranger for example, could fire a cheap shot at his target, wait for others to take their turn, and after that move somewhere else with his remaining action points.

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well prb somebody mentioned it already but they really should look to whan guys did with XCOM Enemy Unknown, because i havent played turnbased rpg game with better gameplay and i played many turnbased games. I know that u cant make battles as tense as XCOM missions but there are some elements they could include like cover for archers/mages, shield-wall for melee fighters, covering fire, increased hit possibility and cover for characters on elevated terrain etc.
All to make combat more tactical and smart. Also Age of decadence has some good approaches for melee fighters specially light weight rouge like characters.

Last edited by Fanest; 18/04/13 01:03 PM.
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Interesting article, 3 things in particular caught my interest :

- Soul harvesting : In order to resurrect your fallen partner, you'll need to consum a Soul. These souls can be harvested on monsters when they're weak enough, through a special action.
- Environmental damages and bonuses/Dynamic environments, though it's already considered IIRC.
I'm curious, however, to see how will the bonuses be handled here (the example of Super Smash Bros. is interesting but it's quite hard to figure out how, in D:OS, a bonus could appear out of nowhere).
- Movement-focused special abilities. I hope it'll be taken into account, it clearly adds to the tactical depth.

Globally, I think the author had a specific genre in mind (Fire Emblem).
The RPG part is clearly set aside from the battle part. They can't influence each other.
In D:OS, there's a more tangible link. The battles can occur anywhere, you can even "lure" the monsters wherever you want and choose your own battlefield.
We can take advantage of it. What I have in mind is a palliative to point 2, above, where I said it can be hard to figure out how can we "receive" a bonus out of nowhere.
Since we have a link between the "RPG aspect" and the "Battle aspect", what happens in the first one can have consequences on the second.

Example : You lure a group of monsters to the nearest city. Citizen panics, guards intervene.
You then join the battle. The citizen could help you and throw a bonus from their hiding place, in whatsoever shape you want (for instance, a bottle of mana, a crate of explosives, a barrel,...).
A short cinematic would occur, showing the NPC throwing the bonus and the landing of the said bonus (plus, it could be an opportunity to lighten the tone of the fight with a comical intervention).

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Please NO grid overlay in D:OS, at least not forced (no, no , never). I hate all these immersion breaking on-screen visuals in many turn-based games. You should never have the feeling to play on some kind of "chess field". I always support good gameplay, but that is a complete no-go. I would mean that you have to sacrifice a lot of creativity in level design and visuals (and therefore immerison) and I cannot support that.


@Fanest
XCOM:EU was quite good but the cover mechanics were just broken. This was a huge letdown for me I had to admit (though I love the game).

@Arhu
I appreciate improvements and complex thoughts on turn-based gameplay but I don't like these academic apporach. IMO there is no "golden way" to make the perfect turn-based game (as there is no way to make the perfect CRPG). There is only one BIG goal in game development: the game should be fun. A too systemic and theoretical approach could really hurt other important parts of the game and the capability of the devs to fit all their design choices together in a way which is still fun in the end. I would rather vote for a coherent gameplay with flaws in turn-based mechanics than a soulless kind of chess game with some fantasy visuals.
That being said I have indeed some doubts/fear that the turn-based combat in D:OS will be not that well balanced as it should be and that there will be design mistakes in the actual combat system. BUT I don't think that an even more complex view is the right way to focus on the most important points here.


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I always find it amusing when some people state their opinions as facts. Instead of "I like/don't like" something, or "I want/don't want" something, often it's "this is wrong" or "unacceptable".


Originally Posted by LordCrash

XCOM:EU was quite good but the cover mechanics were just broken.


If a game is working as designed it cannot be "broken".
You may not like some parts of the game as they chose it to operate it, but that's a different topic.

Personally, I like how XCOM:EU works, just as it is. smile


Originally Posted by LordCrash

There is only one BIG goal in game development: the game should be fun.


Yes, but according to whom? It's difficult to make any design fun for everyone, so perhaps the best choice is as the developer wants to tell the story and play the game, with some tempering based on input from others.

From what little I have seen demonstrated of D:OS so far, I like much of what the game seems to be about.
I am certain I won't like every detail, but then again, it's not my game and story, so I want to see how they want to play it, instead of trying to bend the game just to my liking.


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