Making battles more player-active

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Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Sun Jun 19, 2011 6:56 am

A discussion on IRC a few days ago prompted me to make this topic. In #opengameart, some people expressed that they did not like menu-based battle systems in RPGs (that's us). This prompted an impromptu brainstorming session on how these types of battle systems can be made better. But what are the inherit problems with these systems in the first place? I think it boils down to two major issues:

  1. Most battles lack strategy. It is simply a matter of selecting "Attack" on all your characters until the enemies are dead.
    I think we've got this part of the problem covered with our current design. The removal of a generic "attack" option, the multitude of skills, status effects with various degrees of intensity, etc. I think that we have almost all the pieces in place to make battles strategic at this point. We just need to do a good job of designing skills/enemies and balancing the game.

  2. The player is doing nothing for a significant amount of time during each battle.
    They're usually doing nothing because either they're waiting for a character to be available to select an action, or they're watching an action execute (a spell being cast, etc). As of right now, we're doing pitifully poor at eliminating this red mark. Players are doing nothing except when they're selecting an action for a character, and during that time the battle is "paused" until they confirm their selected action and target. I've started calling this "stop-and-go" syndrome.


So point #2 is what I'd really like to address in this thread. How can we make battles more engaging (and therefore, fun) for the player? How can we keep them active during the entire battle? The ideas I put forth in this post are some suggested concepts to meet this end. Before I introduce the ideas though, we need to note a few things. First of all, everyone has a different opinion and preference for RPG gaming. Some folks might really enjoy the current system as-is, because they have as long as they please to decide their action and make a move (a sort of chess-type player if you will). So just keep in mind that nothing we decide here is going to satisfy everyone. Second, some of these ideas you may have heard before in other threads here as we've discussed battle design in the past. I don't believe we ever concluded such discussions or shut down any of these ideas (I skimmed through previous threads but didn't read them entirely). And finally, lets keep in mind these important points from our statement of purpose, which is meant to be our guide to all game design decisions.

  • Design the game such that the major focus is on gameplay and story, not advanced 3D graphics and physical simulations.
  • As much as possible, remove the tedious, meaningless, and micromanaging aspects of many historical and modern RPGs.
  • Require a high level of strategic thinking and planning from the player, and less mindless "button mashing" found in many RPGs.



Alright, now on to the good part. :) Here are the ideas I have come up with over the past few days after mulling over this issue. Note that I'm not proposing we implement all of them together. Some may work well, others may not. Try to evaluate each idea individually and imagine what combination of ideas would best work in our battle system.


Idea #1: Do not pause the battle during action selection.
We've tossed this around on the forums/IRC lately and I think we're in consensus that we do not want to pause the battle while the player is selecting an action.
This is nothing novel either, as many games have allowed the player to choose between "active" and "wait" modes. I don't want to allow the player to even be allowed to choose a "wait" option though, because there is obviously an advantage to choosing it over "active" (your actions are selected instantly rather than consuming precious seconds). I know when I'm playing a game with the choice, I always select wait if given the option because I know the battles are much more difficult without it, and I don't think these games adjust the speed of the game according to whether wait or active was chosen.

Idea #2: Allow the player to pre-select actions for their characters before those characters are ready to execute their next command.
While the characters are in their idle state, the player can select actions for their characters. This solves the problem of the player having nothing to do when no characters are ready to execute an action. Of course the player can still wait until the stamina bar is full (and the character changes from the idle to the selection state), although there's not really reason to wait, unless the player is delaying the action selection based on the state of the enemies (ie if an enemy is seen charging up for a big attack, the player will want to put their character in a defensive state).

Expanding upon this, we may consider allowing players to build up an action queue for their characters, selecting multiple actions to take. I don't like this approach particular though, so I'm not really considering it.

Idea #3: Allow the player to change pre-selected actions for their characters
This goes along with idea #2. If the player selects an action for a character during the idle state and something happens which makes the player wish to change the action for the character (such as an ally was badly hurt and needs healing immediately), then we would allow the player to do so (but only if the character is still in the idle state, the warm-up state is too late to cancel). This would also apply toward changing the target. With this idea, we have to consider whether there would be any penalty associated with changing an action/target. We could completely reset the stamina bar back to zero and force the character to go through the entire idle state again, or we could apply a less severe penalty such as a 20%-50% reduction of the current idle time that has been met, or there could be no penalty at all. I think I'd rather see a small penalty, because this will cause the player to consider whether or not they want to select an action for their characters as soon as they can (at the 0-time mark in the idle state). But I'm undecided here.

Idea #4: Populate a small action + target hot-key menu to allow the player to quickly execute actions
In our menus, we currently sort actions by category (Attack, Defend, Support, Item) and we have cursor memory implemented as well (the menu remembers the previously selected action and target). But I've been toying with the idea of having a small number (four) of "hotkey" actions and targets for characters. This idea came to me because I realized that you often only want to change between a small number of actions and targets in battle. For instance, one character might be a designated healer, and when there is no healing needed you would instead want that character to "meditate" to regain lost magic points (called skill points in the case of my game), or to attack an enemy if no healing and no SP regeneration is needed. Three actions, and three targets that the player cycles between for this character. Going through the entire action selection menu and target selection menus each time they want to switch between one of these settings is kind of a pain in the ass, so we would have this hot-key command card available for the player to quickly switch between these actions and targets. It could either be auto-generated by the game (ie saves last x number of action + target combinations) or we could allow the player to configure this, either in and out of battle.

I also had thought that maybe we could limit the character's actions to what they could fit in the command card to create an additional depth of strategy for the player, as they would need to select which skills they brought into battle (and couldn't use all the skills they learned). For our purposes though I think this would be a bad idea, because the strategic benefit is outweighed by the negative cost of additional micromanagement needed by the player, plus it could be seen as an annoying limitation for many people (not to mention it doesn't have much of a practical explanation for why skills are limited).

Idea #5: Allow multiple actors (characters or enemies) to execute actions simultaneously
This is another idea to reduce the amount of time that the player is forced to sit and watch. Right now only one actor can execute an action at any time (in this sense the game is turn-based). But what if this was not the case, and we could have multiple characters and enemies all engaging each other at once? Perhaps we can even add a strategic element to this, and say that if two opposing actors engage each other at the same time, the one who strikes first will cancel the other's action completely.

It sounds like a promising idea I think if its implemented well, but I have a couple major concerns with it. First, it could cause battles to become very chaotic with swords and spells flying everywhere (but shouldn't battles be chaotic anyway?). Second, it may be difficult to implement both from a programming and an artistic perspective. And there may be other issues that I haven't thought of yet.



So that's some fodder for discussion I'm sure. I'm expecting some heated discussions in here, so I'm putting on my flame retardant suit prematurely. :heh: Of course if you have your own ideas to share, I/we'd love to hear them. Also you may notice that these ideas have pretty significant implications for the battle user interface (e.g. how we are going to allow the player to utilize these features), but lets avoid any interface discussions for the time being and focus on just how we're going to make battles more engaging and active. So which of these ideas do you like? Hate? Which combinations of ideas would you think would work well together, or not? Let the debate begin! :argue:
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Bertram » Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:21 am

Hi :)

IMHO,

Idea #1 is a must. You want the player to keep the eyes wide open while fighting, well, let's make him/her understand the enemies won't wait to kill the hero team.
So +1 on this one. ;)

Idea #2 is IMHO a bit nonsense to me. What is the advantage of selecting an action earlier, as it won't be executed before the stamina bar is fully passed through anyway, and as the best strategy here will be the one that is done at the latest moment in that kind of RPG.
The action queue is even worse as it makes the player fill a queue and wait for the battle end.

Idea #3 is N/A to me, as the idea #2 is born dead in my opinion.

Idea #4 (Adding favorites to players) is a quite good idea. IMHO, when your heroes in your party having each a role to play: (Healer, knight, Wizard, ...) you'll want them to do a main action (Heal, Attack, Cast a common spell), and a secondary one. (Attack in most case.)
I thought that with the cursor memory already implemented, you could implement a new favorite hotkey permitting to directly select the main character action configured elsewhere. The cursor memory would not take the favorite choice in account so that it could be used for the secondary actions.
+1 too for it :)

Idea #5: (Active Time Battles) In Final Fantasy, it's been implemented since Final Fantasy X-2 in the way that if an enemy is starting an attack on a character and that another one of your characters attacks it at the same time, the monster's attack is canceled. Same goes for the heroes of course.
Second rule is that when two people are attacking each other, the quicker wins and the other one sees his action canceled.
IMHO, very complicated for the current engine state, and not very easy to figure out with the current display (enemies and heroes don't move to each others.)
It's a no for me.


Idea #6: (Speed up the stamina fill) Goes along with Idea #1: If you speed up the stamina fill, let's say 1/4 faster (fine tuning is required of course), and that the idea #1 is implemented, I'm sure the players won't have time to get bored within the battle times.

Idea #7. You can also, use pernicious ways to force the players to react by making certain enemies parts resistant to some element, attack types, like forcing the player to remember choosing the head of a guard when fighting him as its armour prevents most physical damage to him for instance.

Idea #8: (I'm on a roll :eyespin: ) You can also make enemies able to protect the ones behind them, like skeletons protecting a wizard with deadly spells for instance, so your team must either use high range attacks (Spells, a bow attack, ...) or hurry up killing the skeletons before the wizard. This would be good if the player could do the same, by using some kind of formation menu to do that.

Here are my two cents. :)

I hope all this helped.

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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby hagabaka » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:24 am

I have some ideas that are related, but maybe not completely what is asked for in the topic:

The tolerable level of player activity per battle should be inversely proportional to the number of fights. So whatever method you use to make fights more engaging, allow the player to ignore it to a degree, but when a fight is completed with good tactics, make monsters in the same area less aggressive to the party.

It should be possible to make the game engaging without making it tedious. So I think it can be helpful to let the game suggest the best actions in some situations. For example, when a healer has low SP and also can't do much damage, it could show the menu with the cursor on "Meditate", and when there is enough SP on "Heal". Ideally this should eliminate the need for action hotkeys--I think such hotkeys would be too much trouble to set up and maintain, and hard to remember.

However, I do like the idea of hotkeys which select party members as a way to reorder the initiative chain. For example a character could have a skill to distract an enemy making all attacks on it deal doubled damage for the next 3 seconds, so it would be worth it to make other characters wait for this character to use this skill before attacking.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby gorzuate » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:26 pm

hagabaka wrote:I have some ideas that are related, but maybe not completely what is asked for in the topic:

The tolerable level of player activity per battle should be inversely proportional to the number of fights. So whatever method you use to make fights more engaging, allow the player to ignore it to a degree, but when a fight is completed with good tactics, make monsters in the same area less aggressive to the party.


Makes sense. As I was walking around the cave map trying to figure out how to get to the boss, I started avoiding enemies because I didn't want to fight them; then when one bumped into me I was like, "man, not another battle... :|"

hagabaka wrote:Ideally this should eliminate the need for action hotkeys--I think such hotkeys would be too much trouble to set up and maintain, and hard to remember.


I disagree. Especially if we decide not to pause the action, then hotkeys are a must. I think that's the only way I could live with no pausing.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Bertram » Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:32 pm

I disagree. Especially if we decide not to pause the action, then hotkeys are a must. I think that's the only way I could live with no pausing.

But you can pause the game, using space, can't you?
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:01 am

Okay, time for some responses. Oh, and congrats to hagabaka for his first forum post on his almost 4+ year old forum account. :heh:

Idea #2 is IMHO a bit nonsense to me. What is the advantage of selecting an action earlier, as it won't be executed before the stamina bar is fully passed through anyway, and as the best strategy here will be the one that is done at the latest moment in that kind of RPG.


The purpose to this idea is that we don't want the player to have to sit there and do nothing during the idle state. By allowing them to pre-select their actions during the idle state, we give them the opportunity to keep themselves busy. Plus they have a small window of time to select their action, whereas if we don't let them select an action until the idle state is over, they are under pressure because every second they take to make their decision is a second of time lost. That's what I've always hated about "active" battle systems. So really we achieve two things with this concept:

1) We keep the player more active (during the idle state)
2) We relieve some of the time-pressure off the player


Idea #5: (Active Time Battles) In Final Fantasy, it's been implemented since Final Fantasy X-2 in the way that if an enemy is starting an attack on a character and that another one of your characters attacks it at the same time, the monster's attack is canceled. Same goes for the heroes of course.
Second rule is that when two people are attacking each other, the quicker wins and the other one sees his action canceled.
IMHO, very complicated for the current engine state, and not very easy to figure out with the current display (enemies and heroes don't move to each others.)
It's a no for me.


I didn't realize FFX-2 did that (I played the game, but it was years ago). Yeah, I think I agree with you here. Lets leave it aside for now. Maybe at a later date when we have a more beefed up battle system we can take a look again and see if we can make it work.


Idea #6: (Speed up the stamina fill) Goes along with Idea #1: If you speed up the stamina fill, let's say 1/4 faster (fine tuning is required of course), and that the idea #1 is implemented, I'm sure the players won't have time to get bored within the battle times.


This isn't so much of an idea as it is fine-tuning the timing of the battle, which everyone agrees needs to be done. So we will absolutely get to the point where we tweak timing so that its neither too fast nor too slow.


Idea #7. You can also, use pernicious ways to force the players to react by making certain enemies parts resistant to some element, attack types, like forcing the player to remember choosing the head of a guard when fighting him as its armour prevents most physical damage to him for instance.


We already have full support for doing that. Its just that the current enemies in the game are fairly simple and easy (as enemies at the beginning of the game should be) and we haven't introduced elementals to the player yet. This is definitely a part of the game already, its just not being used to its full potential yet on purpose.


Idea #8: (I'm on a roll :eyespin: ) You can also make enemies able to protect the ones behind them, like skeletons protecting a wizard with deadly spells for instance, so your team must either use high range attacks (Spells, a bow attack, ...) or hurry up killing the skeletons before the wizard. This would be good if the player could do the same, by using some kind of formation menu to do that.


I think we considered formations a long time ago in the past and decided against it, because it adds more complexity than what its worth. But I think we could achieve a similar effect in certain circumstances by using the right combination of skills and AI. For example, a skeleton knight with a lot of armor and HP could use a skill that lets it block hits intended for nearby targets (ie its a "protector" unit).


The tolerable level of player activity per battle should be inversely proportional to the number of fights. So whatever method you use to make fights more engaging, allow the player to ignore it to a degree, but when a fight is completed with good tactics, make monsters in the same area less aggressive to the party.


FYI, we intend to have battles in Allacrost be longer than battles in similar RPGs. And we also intend to have a few number of battles as well. I think what you are suggesting would be incredibly difficult and not worthwhile to be honest. How do we measure whether or not the player "used good tactics"? And how do we communicate to the enemies roaming the map and calculate its effect? The player probably wouldn't even notice if the game was changing the aggression level in this manner. Note that there's another thread in this forum talking about enemy sprite aggression on maps.


It should be possible to make the game engaging without making it tedious. So I think it can be helpful to let the game suggest the best actions in some situations. For example, when a healer has low SP and also can't do much damage, it could show the menu with the cursor on "Meditate", and when there is enough SP on "Heal". Ideally this should eliminate the need for action hotkeys--I think such hotkeys would be too much trouble to set up and maintain, and hard to remember.


Again, what you are suggesting would be far too difficult IMO. Its very difficult for the application to analyze the entire circumstances of the battle and suggest the best action for each character to the player. I do agree with you though that action hotkeys could become a pain to setup, maintain, and remember. But we haven't even suggested how we'd create the interface for that yet, so we can't be sure.

However, I do like the idea of hotkeys which select party members as a way to reorder the initiative chain. For example a character could have a skill to distract an enemy making all attacks on it deal doubled damage for the next 3 seconds, so it would be worth it to make other characters wait for this character to use this skill before attacking.


That's an interesting idea. To implement this though we'd have to have a way to have the characters "pause" even if their idle state is finished and they have an action selected, and then figure out a way so that the player can individually launch the action of each character. I'm concerned that this allowing the player to directly manipulate timings to coordinate actions may make the interface too complex though. :/

Bertram wrote:
I disagree. Especially if we decide not to pause the action, then hotkeys are a must. I think that's the only way I could live with no pausing.

But you can pause the game, using space, can't you?


You can pause the game, but you can't do anything while the game is paused. Gorzuate is talking about pausing the battle during action selection, which is the way battles work right now. The battle is effectively "paused" (no actors regenerate stamina, take actions, or do anything) while the player selects an action.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Bertram » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:18 am

Thanks for your consideration. :)

IMHO, the engine is ready as-is for the first 10 levels anyway. :approve:

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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby hagabaka » Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:11 am

Roots wrote:Okay, time for some responses. Oh, and congrats to hagabaka for his first forum post on his almost 4+ year old forum account. :heh:

Hehe, I'm such a lurker.

Roots wrote:
hagabaka wrote:The tolerable level of player activity per battle should be inversely proportional to the number of fights. So whatever method you use to make fights more engaging, allow the player to ignore it to a degree, but when a fight is completed with good tactics, make monsters in the same area less aggressive to the party.
FYI, we intend to have battles in Allacrost be longer than battles in similar RPGs. And we also intend to have a few number of battles as well. I think what you are suggesting would be incredibly difficult and not worthwhile to be honest. How do we measure whether or not the player "used good tactics"? And how do we communicate to the enemies roaming the map and calculate its effect? The player probably wouldn't even notice if the game was changing the aggression level in this manner. Note that there's another thread in this forum talking about enemy sprite aggression on maps.

Sorry for the confusion, but I actually meant "good tactics" according to simple measures such as length of the fight and finishing HP of characters. So sometimes just smashing "attack" can be "good tactics", but if the monsters are that easy for the player, they should avoid the players naturally.

Roots wrote:
hagabaka wrote:However, I do like the idea of hotkeys which select party members as a way to reorder the initiative chain. For example a character could have a skill to distract an enemy making all attacks on it deal doubled damage for the next 3 seconds, so it would be worth it to make other characters wait for this character to use this skill before attacking.
That's an interesting idea. To implement this though we'd have to have a way to have the characters "pause" even if their idle state is finished and they have an action selected, and then figure out a way so that the player can individually launch the action of each character. I'm concerned that this allowing the player to directly manipulate timings to coordinate actions may make the interface too complex though. :/

I guess this idea isn't very compatible with the current implementation. However I think to solve the problem of "The player is doing nothing for a significant amount of time during each battle", some way of making the turn order more dynamic is necessary. The goal should not be to make the player constantly do things, but to make the player need to watch the screen and think most of the time, and act at the right times.

gorzuate wrote:
hagabaka wrote:Ideally this should eliminate the need for action hotkeys--I think such hotkeys would be too much trouble to set up and maintain, and hard to remember.
I disagree. Especially if we decide not to pause the action, then hotkeys are a must. I think that's the only way I could live with no pausing.

I think it would be a problem if setting up hotkeys is necessary. It seems counter-productive to make the game not wait for player choices, but also make everyone set up hot keys to keep up with the pace of the game. By "too much trouble to set up and maintain", I mean when a character learns new abilities or a party member leaves or joins. Of course I don't know how often such situations are planned to happen in the game.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Wed Jun 22, 2011 6:16 am

Roots wrote:Sorry for the confusion, but I actually meant "good tactics" according to simple measures such as length of the fight and finishing HP of characters. So sometimes just smashing "attack" can be "good tactics", but if the monsters are that easy for the player, they should avoid the players naturally.


Completely agree and we tend to implement this. Refer to this thread: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5402

hagabaka wrote:I guess this idea isn't very compatible with the current implementation. However I think to solve the problem of "The player is doing nothing for a significant amount of time during each battle", some way of making the turn order more dynamic is necessary. The goal should not be to make the player constantly do things, but to make the player need to watch the screen and think most of the time, and act at the right times.


That's a sound argument and I do not disagree. Still, implementing a dynamic turn order seems like it would be a very complex interface for the player in a real-time system. If we were using a turn-based system like FFX, I would definitely be more enthusiastic about this suggestion. If you want to think of how to implement this into the interface in an easy-to-understand and simple-to-use fashion for the player, I'm willing to hear it out. I've been unable to think of a good way to implement it myself, though I didn't sit down for hours mulling over it so who knows, maybe there is a way.

gorzuate wrote:
hagabaka wrote:Ideally this should eliminate the need for action hotkeys--I think such hotkeys would be too much trouble to set up and maintain, and hard to remember.
I disagree. Especially if we decide not to pause the action, then hotkeys are a must. I think that's the only way I could live with no pausing.

I think it would be a problem if setting up hotkeys is necessary. It seems counter-productive to make the game not wait for player choices, but also make everyone set up hot keys to keep up with the pace of the game. By "too much trouble to set up and maintain", I mean when a character learns new abilities or a party member leaves or joins. Of course I don't know how often such situations are planned to happen in the game.[/quote]

I don't think hotkeys are necessary, I just think they are a nice convenience to the player. Think of it this way. In a typical RPG in late game, you typically have dozens of skills and items available to use. But you only really need to use say a handful of those in the common case. Navigating through a menu with dozens of options, even if the skill/item list is intelligently sorted, is a pain. The hotkey command card basically gives you a "tiny" menu with the stuff that you really need to use, so you don't have to press the up/down keys a bunch of times to find the command that you want. Its already there and visible right on your hotkey command card, so no searching is required.

Does that make sense? I mean I totally understand your point about this concept and I agree with you for the most part. But one of the annoying things about menu-based battles is the menus themselves, which can get heavily populated with skills and items. We want to leave the lists populated (allowing the player more choices about the actions to take) while at the same time making it easier to navigate through them and allow the player to quickly choose their previous selections without forcing them to navigate those burly menus every time. Its sort of a compromise between "lots of choices, hard to navigate" and "few choices, easy to navigate". And of course, the hotkey feature would be entirely optional so the player may choose not to use it at all if they so desire. I don't view this as being a feature of necessity, but one of player convenience.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Wed Jun 22, 2011 6:34 am

So I've implemented idea #1 on my local checkout (its a one-line change to the code :heh: ). I think that I'm going to produce some sample interface drafts for how I imagine idea #2 working and post them here, then implement it and we can test it out in the next development release (or sooner, if you are willing to compile the code yourself). I don't think its going to be too difficult to implement idea #2 actually. Should take me just a few hours I hope to get a rough first shot in. After all, the best way to see whether or not these ideas are good or not is to actually implement them and try them out. :)


I'm not going to go crazy with this though and spend a bunch of time hacking the battle code to try out different concepts and settings, since we still have a big release goal and a lot of work to do to get there. But if its easy to implement like I believe idea #2 is, I'm willing to give it a shot and try it out. Idea #2 is probably the most significant change I'm proposing as well, so its also really important to test it out and gauge the reaction.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby nemesis » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:30 am

Yesterday in the evening I spent some time doing a few battles (also to see, if I can reproduce some of the bugs). However, all the turned out to be in the end a repeated pressing of 'f' without the need of any thoughts. There, you all were right, this is not the way it should be.

However, at least I am completely against a real time battles. The reason is simply that a player should not have less chance in a battle simply due to the fact that he is not fast enough in pressing buttons. So when you are not going the give the player the choice to choose between different modes (which definitely makes sense for exactly the reasons Roots you gave) you should fix the game the easier way for playing the game and increase the difficulty by having tougher enemies.

Therefore would like to propose another way. :angel:

Basically as you told, the battles are some kind of round based (which in my oppinion is the best battle mode for any RPG). But why not making the battle more smooth by not asking the player for an action everytime the stamina bar reaches maximum as you also proposed. The player should have the possibility to stop the battle every time he wants and (here it differs ;) ) is allowed to change the actual action for each character exactly in the break. Once he is finished, he the battle continues without any breaks. Each time one the the players characters can perform an action, the action selected in the last break will be performed. Doing this, no unnecessary breask will occure anymore and the battle is more fluently. The player can watch the battle and see, if the set of actions applied to each character leads to victory or not. In the latter case, the player can think about a new tactic (without losing time by pausing the battle) and change the action for each character accordingly.

However, this will not make the battle more player active (as stated in the subject of this thread) but it will make the battles way faster but still easy to control for the player.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Wed Jun 22, 2011 6:54 pm

nemesis wrote:However, all the turned out to be in the end a repeated pressing of 'f' without the need of any thoughts. There, you all were right, this is not the way it should be.


And to be fair though, the game has not undergone any balancing work at all so yes, battles are extremely easy right now. The battles will still be easy even after we do balance work because the game shouldn't be difficult in the beginning.

nemesis wrote:However, at least I am completely against a real time battles. The reason is simply that a player should not have less chance in a battle simply due to the fact that he is not fast enough in pressing buttons. So when you are not going the give the player the choice to choose between different modes (which definitely makes sense for exactly the reasons Roots you gave) you should fix the game the easier way for playing the game and increase the difficulty by having tougher enemies.


I've thought about this as well, making the enemies tougher if the player selects "wait" mode instead of "active" to compensate for the player effectively giving themselves an advantage by giving themselves infinite time. The problem with doing this though is it creates a lot of more balancing work for us, to make sure that the difficulty is "appropriate" for both wait and active modes. So while I'd like to do something like this, for practical reasons I think its best that we not do so.


nemesis wrote:Basically as you told, the battles are some kind of round based (which in my oppinion is the best battle mode for any RPG). But why not making the battle more smooth by not asking the player for an action everytime the stamina bar reaches maximum as you also proposed. The player should have the possibility to stop the battle every time he wants and (here it differs ;) ) is allowed to change the actual action for each character exactly in the break. Once he is finished, he the battle continues without any breaks. Each time one the the players characters can perform an action, the action selected in the last break will be performed. Doing this, no unnecessary breask will occure anymore and the battle is more fluently. The player can watch the battle and see, if the set of actions applied to each character leads to victory or not. In the latter case, the player can think about a new tactic (without losing time by pausing the battle) and change the action for each character accordingly.

However, this will not make the battle more player active (as stated in the subject of this thread) but it will make the battles way faster but still easy to control for the player.


This is an interesting idea. So basically, once the player sets an action for a character, the character will continue to perform that action every turn until the player explicitly intervenes and tells that character to do something else. I like that it minimizes redundency of the player continuing to select the same action, same target for a character several turns in a row, but I dislike that (as you said) it decreases player activity. Effectively for simple/easy battles, the player could just select actions for all characters once and then go grab a cup of coffee or something and come back with a victory. Another minor issue I can imagine is the player might get busy setting action for one character and then the other one with its "auto re-use" in effect will re-execute a skill that the player no longer wishes the sprite to do.

I think I'd still like the player to have to manually confirm each command for their characters, but we could have a short-cut for "repeat last action" that would be very quick and easy for the player select. Maybe we could just require the user to hit the "menu" key (S) twice to select the last action (hitting it once displays the last action/target, hitting it again selects it).

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There's another idea I'd like to propose which I think we should consider, and that is letting the user select the battle speed. We could have 3-5 different speed settings, which have a global effect on all battles on how fast it takes for actors to go through their timed states (idle, warm-up, and cool-down). In addition to this setting we could have the "wait" mode option. We were discussing whether or not to allow the player to select between active and wait modes at all on IRC last night, and after considering the discussion that was had, I think we should go ahead and allow both wait and active options and let the player choose the experience that they prefer. The difference would be that the active option would have those multiple speed settings, and with the addition of ideas #2 and #3 (allowing the player to select actions during the idle state), I think that would make the active option a viable selection for players without letting wait mode have that overwhelming competitive advantage over active mode that it normally has.


So feedback questions:
A) Do you agree that we should allow the player to choose the option between wait and active battle modes?
B) Do you agree that the player should be allowed to select from a small number of battle speed settings?


Here's an interesting thought that just came to me. If we allow wait mode to also apply speed settings (I was assuming we'd just use normal speed with wait mode), then the player can effectively turn the battle system into more of a turn-based system by choosing wait mode with the highest speed. This means turns pop up like boom boom boom right in a row (assuming the highest speed is fairly fast). So we can really cover a broad range of play styles here, with fast-paced active battles on one extreme, and tactical and very calculated decision-making (with no time pressure) on the other extreme. This seems.....really really cool to me. I don't think that either extreme would have a devastating effect on balance either. Sure wait mode gives an advantage to the player because they have infinite time to make their decisions, but since the active-mode players can select their actions before they are ready to execute (per idea #2), the advantage is not drastic.

What do you think? Could it actually be possible to satisfy both the calculated tactician-type players and the high-speed action players at once without compromising game balance? :think:


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Finally, here's a little draft I put together for how I'd like to implement idea #2.

Image

Here's an explanation. The four circles to the right of the character SP meters are the four keys you hit to bring up that character's action menu. I decided to stick with the four arrow keys here, since its fairly intuitive for the player to see those arrow keys and correspond them with the character on the same line, and knowing that that key selects the command menu for that character. When a character is available to be given a command (when it is in the idle state or finished with the idle state and still awaiting an action), the arrow button is highlighted (white in this case). When the player can not select a command for a character, the button is dimmed or greyed out.

To the right of the arrow buttons is the action that is currently selected for each character. This text remains up there until the character finishes the action. When the character is in the cool-down state (as Lukar is assumed to be in this image), the text for this area is blank. Once the character enters the idle state, then the text "[Select Action]" appears, indicating to the player that the character needs an action selected. In this case, Mark needs an action selected. Now if the character completes their idle state and still has no action selected (again, Mark in this example), then we highlight the character's name with an orange bar and slowly flash it, indiciating to the player that "hey, this guy needs an action selected right now!". If the player has configured battle for wait mode instead of active mode though, we don't need to flash this at all (since the battle is paused until Mark has his action selected).

Further to the right of the action text for each character is the target text. Quite intuitively, this is the target for the action that the character is set to execute. If there is no action selected, then this area remains blank as you can see for Mark and Lukar. Dester is executing an attack point target type skill, so his target text displays the actor's name "Spider" and the specific attack point he is targetting "Leg", seperated by a hyphen. For actor type targets, only the actor's name is displayed. For example Claudius is going to use the Healing Potion item on Lukar, so Lukar is his action target. For party type targets, we can simply put "Enemy Party" or "Ally Party" in this space.

So what happens when you hit an arrow key to select the action for a character? Well that's when we get back to the familiar command interface. All of these buttons and action/target text are obscured by the command selection menu, and from there we operate exactly as we've done before. The only exception is that from the highest level of the command menu (where the action categories are displayed: Attack, Defend, Support, Item), you can hit the cancel key (D) and the command menu will close with no action entered for the character (or no changed action if an action was already set). Implementing idea #3 should be fairly trivial to do as well once I have this all in place.


So, what do you think of this draft? Do you like the interface? Hate it? Want something radically different? Lets hear it. Possible food for thought:

1) Do you think the orange bar flashing for characters that have completed their idle state but still have no action may be annoying or distracting? I considered this, but I think the information this conveys is important because it lets players know that they are losing precious time. I think if it flashes slowly and gently (think: softly pulsating) it won't be too much of a visual distraction.

2) Should the SP cost for each skill be included in the action text (ie, "(6SP)" for Blade Rush in this example)? It appears kind of jarring to me and I'm not sure if the information it conveys to the player is necessary or not (the player should have known the SP cost when they selected the action).

3) I'd like to possibly change the color of the text for actions and targets selected based on circumstances. For example, if I had selected to use a skill that cost 10SP but then an enemy targeted that character with a SP drain skill, and now suddenly I have only 4SP and can not execute the skill, that needs to be conveyed to the player somehow that they need to select a new skill, or target the character with something that will replenish SP so that they can use that skill again. Maybe grey it out or display it in red or something.

4) Same deal for the target text. If I was targeting the spider and the spider has since perished, I'd like to see the target text displayed in a different color to indicate that the target is now invalid. So then the player can either choose a new target for the skill, or let the skill execute anyway and it will select a random alternative target. Or if Claudius was about to use that healing potion on Lukar, but then Lukar died before he could do so, that healing potion can no longer be used on that target and the player will want to change the item to something that revives dead party members.



PS: This took a really really long time to write. :eyespin:
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby nemesis » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:59 pm

PS: This took a really really long time to write. :eyespin:

And also a long time to read...

Also bascially I'm still against real-time battles, I really do like to idea of multiple available speeds. Therefore, definitely a yes for B).

I'm still not convinced in giving the player the choice between two modes. But you maybe right that the largest amount of possible players can be addressed by this. So I'll give neither a yes nor a no to A).

Towards balancing between modes we should not have a strong focus on. Lets make battles difficult but not too difficult. If we decide for both modes and one mode makes battles easier, why not. :shrug: In almost any game the player can decide between different difficulty level, why not also here. Some player may not like the battle system. They will be happy, if battles are not too hard. There might be other who really want a chalange, they can make battles tougher (by one of both options combined with with higher speed).

To your questions regarding the interface:
First of all, this is not bad, really. :bow:
1) Let it flash or simply put it in a different color (e.g. red). However, the player can easily see, something is to do.
2) Yeah, remove this. They player will know to SP needed for an action very soon.
3,4) Same as 1). Put it in a different color so the player knows, something to do.

However, back to the both modes. I think RT battles can be done in the way you proposed. That may work. However, I am a bit afraid, the number of menus to go through (Attack -> Skill -> Enemy -> Point) may be something to deep for the short amount of time. Remember, if two characters have the same speed, the player has to do really a lot in probably a short amount of time (especially for high battle speeds). It really must be tested if this is feasible.

Having a really high speed in round based battle (wait mode) to avoid unnecessary waiting is a great idea. :bow: However, for this I still prefer the way I proposed in my last post. However, it strongly depends what other might say. And if most agree to you, that each action should be confirmed each time it is done, this is not an option. A good point on your proposal is, that the mode is already almost completely implemented.

However, to finalize this:
To be honest I don't really like to have to different modes and if I have to decide for one of your ideas, it will definitely be the active mode (with all your ideas) simple due to the fact, that in the wait mode the number of breaks in the battle is too high.
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Just an EDIT:
However, I am a bit afraid, the number of menus to go through (Attack -> Skill -> Enemy -> Point) may be something to deep for the short amount of time.

Obviously this issue can be weakend by the planned hotkeys and the redo last action function. But nevertheless, even with hotkeys you may have to select an enemy and an attack point.

if I have to decide for one of your ideas, it will definitely be the active mode

And if there should be a choice for the gamer, then use the planned active mode and the (I will call it) repeated mode, where the character repeats the last action until he gets ne orders in during a pause. So the wait mode with battle stops until the player gives new order is dead in my eyes since it is by far not fluently enough compared to both other options.

However, I'm excited if there will be more completely different approaches. :rolleyes:
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:50 am

nemesis wrote:Also bascially I'm still against real-time battles,


Well there's not much we can do about that. Some people like real-time battle systems and others do not. We can't design a game that makes everyone completely happy. And to go from an ATB to turn-based system at this point would throw away a lot of work we've done with the stamina bar and related features. Plus, since the very beginning Allacrost was made with the intent to be an ATB-style battle system, and this is clearly shown on our website.

From the About section on our main site
Hero of Allacrost is a single player 2D role-playing game inspired by classic console RPGs. In Hero of Allacrost, the player will explore rich environments, solve challenging dungeon puzzles, and fight strategic battles in an active-time based system.


nemesis wrote:Towards balancing between modes we should not have a strong focus on. Lets make battles difficult but not too difficult. If we decide for both modes and one mode makes battles easier, why not. :shrug: In almost any game the player can decide between different difficulty level, why not also here. Some player may not like the battle system. They will be happy, if battles are not too hard. There might be other who really want a chalange, they can make battles tougher (by one of both options combined with with higher speed).


Agreed. We could always implement different game difficulty settings later if we wanted to as well. But for now we should be designing a game that is neither very easy nor very difficult.

nemesis wrote:However, back to the both modes. I think RT battles can be done in the way you proposed. That may work. However, I am a bit afraid, the number of menus to go through (Attack -> Skill -> Enemy -> Point) may be something to deep for the short amount of time. Remember, if two characters have the same speed, the player has to do really a lot in probably a short amount of time (especially for high battle speeds). It really must be tested if this is feasible.


I have the same concern. The hot-key command card idea was put forth to address the menu depth problem you were talking about. It doesn't completely fix the problem, but it makes the "common case" for battle action and target selection much faster. As for characters with the same speed, I think that they may be naturally spaced out enough on the stamina that its not a huge problem, but you're right that we're going to need to test it and see.

Also note, I don't know if I said this directly or not but I was also under the assumption that we'd have a similar hot-key card for targets as well as actions. Although really I don't know if its necessary, since the number of targets will always been pretty small (less than 5 on average) and not every action targets an attack point.

nemesis wrote:However, to finalize this:
To be honest I don't really like to have to different modes and if I have to decide for one of your ideas, it will definitely be the active mode (with all your ideas) simple due to the fact, that in the wait mode the number of breaks in the battle is too high.


Its true that in wait mode the number of breaks in the battle is high, but that "penalty" if you will is chosen by the player themselves. They choose to want infinite time to make their tactical decisions, and thus the battle pace is dependent on the player. If the player doesn't like all these breaks in action, then they can choose the active mode and adjust the speed setting to find a pace that is comfortable to them.

nemesis wrote:And if there should be a choice for the gamer, then use the planned active mode and the (I will call it) repeated mode, where the character repeats the last action until he gets ne orders in during a pause. So the wait mode with battle stops until the player gives new order is dead in my eyes since it is by far not fluently enough compared to both other options.


Now there I'm concerned about adding the repeated mode as a third option due to the "paradox of choice". Most players familiar with RPGs will be familiar with active versus wait modes, but they may get confused by seeing a repeated mode option. Not to mention they aren't going to initially know what settings fit them best until they try a few battles out and see what mode and battle speed they prefer most. Plus implementing that repeat mode would require a decent amount of work on the code and interface which I don't think is a wise investment at this point in time. I think we can come back to considering whether we want to add support in for repeated mode in the future, but for now I'm trying to keep the changes to our battle system that have a big cost/effect payout (that is, it takes little work to implement the feature, but the change it presents to the gameplay is significantly large).
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby nemesis » Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:24 am

Roots wrote:
nemesis wrote:Also bascially I'm still against real-time battles,


Well there's not much we can do about that. Some people like real-time battle systems and others do not. We can't design a game that makes everyone completely happy. And to go from an ATB to turn-based system at this point would throw away a lot of work we've done with the stamina bar and related features. Plus, since the very beginning Allacrost was made with the intent to be an ATB-style battle system, and this is clearly shown on our website.

From the About section on our main site
Hero of Allacrost is a single player 2D role-playing game inspired by classic console RPGs. In Hero of Allacrost, the player will explore rich environments, solve challenging dungeon puzzles, and fight strategic battles in an active-time based system.


It was just my oppinion. That's what I wrote later, if the active mode is implemented well and and the menu level can be managed, this may definitely be a good option (indepent of if I like this or not, this doesn't matter).

Roots wrote:
nemesis wrote:And if there should be a choice for the gamer, then use the planned active mode and the (I will call it) repeated mode, where the character repeats the last action until he gets ne orders in during a pause. So the wait mode with battle stops until the player gives new order is dead in my eyes since it is by far not fluently enough compared to both other options.


Now there I'm concerned about adding the repeated mode as a third option due to the "paradox of choice". Most players familiar with RPGs will be familiar with active versus wait modes, but they may get confused by seeing a repeated mode option. Not to mention they aren't going to initially know what settings fit them best until they try a few battles out and see what mode and battle speed they prefer most. Plus implementing that repeat mode would require a decent amount of work on the code and interface which I don't think is a wise investment at this point in time. I think we can come back to considering whether we want to add support in for repeated mode in the future, but for now I'm trying to keep the changes to our battle system that have a big cost/effect payout (that is, it takes little work to implement the feature, but the change it presents to the gameplay is significantly large).

No, three modes will be too much, I'm even not convinced that two modes are really necessary. But you are right, if we want to have two modes, your active and wait mode will be the more natural choice, since both are quite similar.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby rujasu » Sat Jun 25, 2011 3:39 am

:shrug: I don't know, this interface just doesn't seem like an intuitive or natural one for the player, and I'm also concerned that the player will be overwhelmed with trying to make a decisions while the other party members are flying by executing commands while he's entering a command for someone else. I just think this is going to be highly frustrating for players and doesn't make the game more fun. Honestly, I really recommend having active/wait but otherwise sticking with our battle mode as-is. More complexity is not always better, and this to me just comes off as adding a random feature in the hopes that it will work.

Sorry, not trying to be difficult here but I just don't like it. :sad:
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Sat Jun 25, 2011 4:34 am

I think there will be a very short initial period where the player is trying to understand it, but after a handful of battles I think they'll "get it". The interface itself seems pretty intuitive to me personally, and I think everyone else so far that has bothered to comment on it agrees. I mean an additional four buttons and eight pieces of text on the GUI when the command menu is not being displayed is not overwhelming. Are "not intuitive" describes what you feel about it? Maybe "unfamiliar" is a better description? Most games have the Portrait/Name/HP/MP display that we do so of course you'd feel familiar and comfortable with that part.


I do think you have a very valid point about the player possibly feeling overwhelmed and frustrated if the pace is too frantic and they have too much to do. This is my greatest concern about this concept as well. That's why: A) wait mode will still be an option for players who prefer the standard type of play, and B) I suggested the possibility of an adjustable battle timer, so that the pace of the battle matches the player's preference. If people choose wait mode, they can ignore everything about this interface and do not have to use it at all. The game will work for them as it does now, and when the stamina bar fills up, the command menu will automatically pop up and force the player to select a command. The only difference will be that they have the option to select their actions earlier (which will reduce the amount of time the battle takes from start to finish) and the elements of the interface I posted will still be visible.


I'm still viewing everything that I'm planning to do as experimental. No, more complexity is not always better (often times its worse). But I think I've provided more than enough justification for what and why I'm proposing we take a look at here. I've been playing a lot of old RPGs lately that play pretty much the same way Allacrost does now. Battles are extremely boring and slow (even the easy ones) because I have to wait for my turn, hit enter, wait for a turn, hit enter, and repeat until everything is dead. Old-school RPG battles were never much fun to me for these reasons, and I don't want to repeat the mistakes of games of the past due to laziness/convenience. We have a chance to improve upon an old formula and I think we should at least give it a shot. If it turns out that the feature does not play well and the majority of our players express disapproval of it, we can remove it just as easy as we added it. Implementing ideas #2 and #3 (which is all I'm planning to do right now) from my original post is not a lot of work.


I'm not asking you to like these changes right off the bat. I'm asking for a chance to see what they are like. You and I and everyone else here could argue benefits and downfalls of these ideas all day long, but the only action that is really going to be the deciding factor is to implement it and actually try it out and see how it feels. I think we can at least give it a shot in our next development release and get feedback on it before we dismiss it entirely. :eyebrow:
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby rujasu » Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:15 pm

Roots wrote:I think there will be a very short initial period where the player is trying to understand it, but after a handful of battles I think they'll "get it". The interface itself seems pretty intuitive to me personally, and I think everyone else so far that has bothered to comment on it agrees. I mean an additional four buttons and eight pieces of text on the GUI when the command menu is not being displayed is not overwhelming. Are "not intuitive" describes what you feel about it? Maybe "unfamiliar" is a better description? Most games have the Portrait/Name/HP/MP display that we do so of course you'd feel familiar and comfortable with that part.


Actually, "not intuitive" is exactly what I meant. I'm kind of surprised that others feel differently, but I have been wrong before. Still, I think this design is just naturally confusing for players, and not just because it's new and different. I fear this would have a steep learning curve for most people. :shrug:

I'm still viewing everything that I'm planning to do as experimental. No, more complexity is not always better (often times its worse). But I think I've provided more than enough justification for what and why I'm proposing we take a look at here. I've been playing a lot of old RPGs lately that play pretty much the same way Allacrost does now. Battles are extremely boring and slow (even the easy ones) because I have to wait for my turn, hit enter, wait for a turn, hit enter, and repeat until everything is dead. Old-school RPG battles were never much fun to me for these reasons, and I don't want to repeat the mistakes of games of the past due to laziness/convenience. We have a chance to improve upon an old formula and I think we should at least give it a shot. If it turns out that the feature does not play well and the majority of our players express disapproval of it, we can remove it just as easy as we added it. Implementing ideas #2 and #3 (which is all I'm planning to do right now) from my original post is not a lot of work.


See, to me, the biggest problem with older RPG battles wasn't that the interface was boring (though I'm all for an improvement there if we can get it right), but the fact that there were too many battles, most of which required too little strategy. I'd like if we could make battles less frequent but more challenging. That's easier said than done, of course.

I'm not asking you to like these changes right off the bat. I'm asking for a chance to see what they are like. You and I and everyone else here could argue benefits and downfalls of these ideas all day long, but the only action that is really going to be the deciding factor is to implement it and actually try it out and see how it feels. I think we can at least give it a shot in our next development release and get feedback on it before we dismiss it entirely. :eyebrow:


I'm fine with prototyping, but likewise I don't want us to rush into a poor design and not be able to go back on it. That's all.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby shirish » Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:00 am

<rambling>

I have been thinking whether I should post or not.

First up, something that you guys may find interesting.

http://techreport.com/discussions.x/21105

Quite a bit of it is relevant here.

Now about the battling I find the whole thing confusing.

Most of the fun and being able to complete RPG's were those which were non-serious, took themselves light and there was quite a bit of customization I could do to it.

Frankly I find it quite boring that each time I start at the cave I start running into enemies/monsters and so often. It frankly makes me go to sleep.

What would be/have been interesting is to have the easy way, the medium way and the hard way for different kinds of people.

Also as you go higher levels you want to have more battles or/and quests so you do good in boss fights. Otherwise fighting a stray monster is good but otherwise becomes boring.

Also even though I have made quite a few battles, I do not know/see any difference in amount of hit done by using either of the cuts. The only difference is of how many SP as of now.

Enemies have vulnerabilities (atleast in quite a few RPG's I have played) , knowing and using them should make the process quicker, easier and more strategic. For instance the snake has the head, stomach (forget the word atm) and tail. Let's say a quick swipe at the stomach does makes the kill easy then that would be something to remember/file away in the cabinet. Things like that would go a longer way in engaging the hero. There could also be a hint system sharing with the hero and his/her party as well.

The other thing which people could look is the dropping. For instance when killing the snake, snakeskin could be found and snake poison could be valuable too (to make anti-venom).

Another thing, is there possibility of having crafting as well in the game sometime ?

</rambling>

just my 2 paise.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:31 am

That link, while insightful, doesn't have a lot of relevance to this discussion. If you want to ramble on about your random thoughts and ideas, please share them elsewhere. You're way, way off topic here. :nono:
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