Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

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Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby Roots » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:10 pm

I've had some ideas about the design of the demo lately but couldn't really find an appropriate thread to share them in. So I created this one for all of us to suggest our thoughts and ideas about how to make the current demo better. Lets keep the ideas reasonable though, not some grandiose suggestions that will take weeks or months to implement.


Idea #1: Allow party to regenerate health in the barracks
The only way to regain health right now is through potions, and they are rather expensive on top of that. I think we need some sort of way to regenerate characters to full health. At first I thought about an inn, but that doesn't make sense because Claudius + Kyle live in the barracks. So maybe they could talk to a Karlate in the barracks to take a quick nap. I'm not sure if we want to regenerate health completely for free though. Perhaps we could have the karlate "charge" the party a modest fee to sleep, because soldiers are not supposed to sleep during the day and so they need cover from someone who is awake, or maybe there's a secret napping spot somewhere? :shrug:


Idea #2: Increase threat by local enemy spawning
Now the problem with idea #1 is that it essentially allows the player to regenerate to full health at any time during the demo, because the enemies are so easy to dodge in both the desert and the cave. Actually this is a problem with the game design in general right now. I never feel any sense of danger on any hostile maps because I know I can just dodge my way around every foe I come across. Not to mention there are wide open areas in both maps where no enemies spawn or venture. Then today I had the following idea:

In addition to having enemies spawn in local zones, lets also have enemies spawn randomly around the player sprite. So say I'm standing motionless at the cave entrance. A timer will be used to randomly generate a new enemy close by, say maybe a circular radius between 3 and 7 tiles away from the player. If the player gets far enough away from a locally spawned enemy, it disappears and a new one spawns in. If the player gets into a battle with a locally spawned enemy, after the battle is over all spawned enemies vanish and after a buffer waiting period begin spawning in again.

This simple algorithm can be surprisingly effective. For example, if the player is in a tight space like a passage way or crossing a bridge, enemies can only spawn on the walkable areas and can easily trap the player, which is just what you would expect if you were to go through a narrow space. The major difficulty we'll face is determining what enemies to spawn locally. Perhaps deeper in a cave we want to spawn harder enemies and near the entrance we want to spawn easier enemies. This could be easily accomplished with creating invisible map zones that trigger different sets of enemies to spawn, so its not too difficult.



Sometime later I'd like to start a discussion here on the equipment, treasures, and skills in the demo because we haven't had any discussion on that and I feel the current choices here are not nearly as good as they could be.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby rujasu » Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:27 pm

Roots wrote:Idea #1: Allow party to regenerate health in the barracks
The only way to regain health right now is through potions, and they are rather expensive on top of that. I think we need some sort of way to regenerate characters to full health. At first I thought about an inn, but that doesn't make sense because Claudius + Kyle live in the barracks. So maybe they could talk to a Karlate in the barracks to take a quick nap. I'm not sure if we want to regenerate health completely for free though. Perhaps we could have the karlate "charge" the party a modest fee to sleep, because soldiers are not supposed to sleep during the day and so they need cover from someone who is awake, or maybe there's a secret napping spot somewhere? :shrug:


Yes, I'm aware we need this. My suggestion is to avoid the "sleeping during the day" issue by just having a doctor in the barracks who heals the party's wounds, at no cost.

Idea #2: Increase threat by local enemy spawningIn addition to having enemies spawn in local zones, lets also have enemies spawn randomly around the player sprite. So say I'm standing motionless at the cave entrance. A timer will be used to randomly generate a new enemy close by, say maybe a circular radius between 3 and 7 tiles away from the player. If the player gets far enough away from a locally spawned enemy, it disappears and a new one spawns in. If the player gets into a battle with a locally spawned enemy, after the battle is over all spawned enemies vanish and after a buffer waiting period begin spawning in again.


:disapprove: I will make the enemies faster and more plentiful once the engine bugs are taken care of. Enemies spawning randomly around the player sprite makes no sense and is annoying for the player.

Sometime later I'd like to start a discussion here on the equipment, treasures, and skills in the demo because we haven't had any discussion on that and I feel the current choices here are not nearly as good as they could be.


In terms of items/equipment, we're in good shape, I'm satisfied with the selection, art, naming, and balance. We don't need to spend time revising those for the demo, and it's not an efficient use of our time, better to wait until after the demo and come up with a long list of items that will actually span the entire game or at least the first half of it.

In terms of skills, my main priority is balancing, but I'm open to suggestions in general.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby Roots » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:33 pm

rujasu wrote:Yes, I'm aware we need this. My suggestion is to avoid the "sleeping during the day" issue by just having a doctor in the barracks who heals the party's wounds, at no cost.


I like your idea better than mine. Still not sure about making it available at no cost though.


:disapprove: I will make the enemies faster and more plentiful once the engine bugs are taken care of. Enemies spawning randomly around the player sprite makes no sense and is annoying for the player.


I :disapprove: your disapproval. :heh: Adding more enemies and making them faster doesn't address the core issues. If the player can run around in a cave crawling with enemies without being attacked, I call that a design flaw unless there are intentional "safe zones". Otherwise you'd have to make sure that you place enough enemy sprites crawling around on the map to cover the entire map. That's a lot of zones to add (or a few very large zones). I don't see how enemies spawning near the player makes no sense. Enemies already spawn at random locations on the map. I don't see it as annoying either. I see it as adding a sufficient challenge for an otherwise complacent player.


In terms of items/equipment, we're in good shape, I'm satisfied with the selection, art, naming, and balance. We don't need to spend time revising those for the demo, and it's not an efficient use of our time, better to wait until after the demo and come up with a long list of items that will actually span the entire game or at least the first half of it.

In terms of skills, my main priority is balancing, but I'm open to suggestions in general.


I'm mostly satisfied myself and I'm certainly not going to debate every little thing. Skills are what concern me the most because I think some are useless (like Kyle's "Dodge enemies") and I hate the names of pretty much all of them. But I'm also questioning the purpose/use of certain items and I don't think the cave should contain every single piece of "tier 2" equipment. The player should have to buy something.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby rujasu » Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:16 am

Roots wrote:I :disapprove: your disapproval. :heh: Adding more enemies and making them faster doesn't address the core issues. If the player can run around in a cave crawling with enemies without being attacked, I call that a design flaw unless there are intentional "safe zones". Otherwise you'd have to make sure that you place enough enemy sprites crawling around on the map to cover the entire map. That's a lot of zones to add (or a few very large zones). I don't see how enemies spawning near the player makes no sense. Enemies already spawn at random locations on the map. I don't see it as annoying either. I see it as adding a sufficient challenge for an otherwise complacent player.


The whole idea of having enemies on the map rather than the old FF-style "random battle out of thin air" idea is that the enemies actually become a part of the level, and you actually have to try to sneak/run past them or otherwise take a strategic approach to your path. The idea of enemies spawning around the player rips us back to the "old way" where you have to fight battles every few steps just because the random number generator said so. It takes the player out of the game and makes it less interactive.

And yeah, it's annoying -- more annoying than regular random battles even, because you have to pause or bring up MenuMode if you want to stop and think about which way you're going. If I had enemies spawning in a halo around me while I was trying to figure out what direction to go, I think I'd be tempted to ragequit.

And yeah, there will be a lot of enemy zones, that's the idea. Ideally, you cover about half the map, so that there are spots where the player can pause for a breather (literally, he has to replenish his stamina bar at some point). And then there are spots where the player has to either engage, or try to avoid, a bunch of enemies. Ideally, there should be few/no non-boss battles that the player is explicitly forced to fight, rather, they should be so difficult to dodge that the player inevitably hits a few of them even if he or she is among the most skilled 1% of players.

As for enemies spawning out of random locations already, yeah, because that's the limitation we have right now. Given infinite resources, I'd have more creative spawning animations, with slime dripping down from the walls/ceiling, spiders coming out from walls/pits, inanimate skeletons coming to life... but obviously we're not at that level right now and won't be at any point in the near future.

I'm mostly satisfied myself and I'm certainly not going to debate every little thing. Skills are what concern me the most because I think some are useless (like Kyle's "Dodge enemies") and I hate the names of pretty much all of them. But I'm also questioning the purpose/use of certain items and I don't think the cave should contain every single piece of "tier 2" equipment. The player should have to buy something.


Yeah, that's fine. I'm all for refining what's there already, and if you can come up with better names that's fine.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby Roots » Thu Mar 04, 2010 7:05 am

rujasu wrote:.....


Your last post made it obvious that we have two very different ideas about how this will work. Let me explain as best as I can my own vision of how this would work and why I think it would be good.

1) Player enters a new map with enemies. They do not move their character initially, watching the intro graphic/text at the top of the screen and getting a feel for the map.

2) The player begins moving their character sprite. After a few seconds of being in motion (and that time does not have to be consecutive), the player sees an enemy spawn nearby. Before it completely spawns in to play, the player moves his sprite away because he does not wish to engage it.

3) The player keeps moving along, ducking the "local spawn" enemies as well as avoiding the "zone spawn" enemies. Their stamina is quickly depleting and they continue to use bursts of speed to outrun the enemies. Every few seconds the player stays in motion, another local enemy is spawned (up to a certain maximum).

4) As the player puts plenty of distance between their character and the local spawn enemies, the distant enemies fade away.

5) The player has a difficult time trying to find a place where they can rest now because enemies are crawling everywhere. Sometimes the player gets lucky and the local spawns stay far enough away that they can stay still and recover stamina.

6) Eventually the player is forced into a battle. After the battle is over, the map is devoid of all local spawn enemies and they will not begin spawning in again until after the player has started moving again for a few seconds.

*) There's also an idea we've thrown around in the past about when the player is strong enough to be a tough fight for enemies in a certain area, the enemies actually try to run away rather than engage the player. Also the enemies that spawn in may sometimes be harder or easier battles (glowing blue or red to indicate this) to help the player make an informed decision about the threat level and whether or not they want to engage the enemy party. This would work well for local enemy spawns.


So with this idea and with regard to the points you brought up:

rujasu wrote:The idea of enemies spawning around the player rips us back to the "old way" where you have to fight battles every few steps just because the random number generator said so.


Wrong. The player still has plenty of time to see the local enemies spawning in and has to quickly choose a route around the obstruction if they want to avoid the battle. The only random part about this is where those enemies spawn. An enemy will not pop up right in front of the character and immediately trigger a battle. Ever.

rujasu wrote:It takes the player out of the game and makes it less interactive.


Wrong. The player can still avoid battles but the local spawning actually makes the maps more interactive. Instead of standing from afar and watching and waiting the zone spawned enemies to get far enough away from the path you want to take, you have to also worry about those local spawn enemies. I find the current "watch and wait" mechanics of our maps to be quite annoying and boring. There's no threat, no danger, just doing nothing while waiting there for an opportunity.


rujasu wrote:And yeah, it's annoying -- more annoying than regular random battles even, because you have to pause or bring up MenuMode if you want to stop and think about which way you're going. If I had enemies spawning in a halo around me while I was trying to figure out what direction to go, I think I'd be tempted to ragequit.


This isn't going to be a Left 4 Dead-style mass zombie attack. Just something to keep the players on their toes. Like I said there will be moments to rest, but you're never completely safe unless you just came out of a battle and there are no zone spawn enemies nearby. I do see where you are coming from here though and I can imagine getting frustrated with this as well if we're not careful about how this is done, if we decide to give it a shot.

rujasu wrote:And yeah, there will be a lot of enemy zones, that's the idea. Ideally, you cover about half the map, so that there are spots where the player can pause for a breather (literally, he has to replenish his stamina bar at some point).


Lame. So basically we are designing this game (as it currently is) to be a bunch of stop-and go. Watch one group of enemies waiting for a chance to get by, then sprint past them, stop and regenerate stamina. Then repeat for the next group. And the next. And so on.



To reiterate, my core concerns right now are the following:
  • The player can pass through any map without having to fight a single enemy, except for scripted battles.
  • The player has virtually infinite breathing room on a map and there's no sense of danger
  • For players who want to avoid battles we pretty much force them to "wait and do nothing". They sit there waiting for an opportunity to get by the next group of enemies and sit there waiting to regenerate stamina when there's no local threat. I feel that its a bad design.

Like I said, making more enemy zones, more enemies in the zones, and making the enemies faster doesn't really address these core problems. In fact it may even make them worse, forcing the player to wait an even longer amount of time before they can sneak by a group of enemies. The plan may be pretty effective in maps with narrow passages and choke points like the cave, but for very wide open environments like the desert map this will fail hard. You need to convince me that this plan will work well before I abandon this idea.

Who knows, maybe there's a better solution somewhere in between the two? Maybe local spawns can be enabled for some maps and not others? :shrug: It would be nice to get more opinions and ideas on this topic in here. I'd like to hear how others feel about this design topic.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby gorzuate » Thu Mar 04, 2010 6:52 pm

Should be moved to the design forum I think if you want more ideas; myself, I'm torn between the two, firstly heavily leaning towards rujasu's idea, but your last post did make some valid points, like the cave map choke points vs. an open desert map. ... Must think more about this... :huh:
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby Roots » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:25 pm

gorzuate wrote:Should be moved to the design forum I think if you want more ideas;


Good point. I think we should make this discussion public. People who have played the 20120228 unstable release would be in a good position to give us feedback and suggest ideas for how we can improve the content and presentation to make the final version better. I think I will move it, and maybe we can even post something on the website pointing to this thread and welcome ideas.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby rujasu » Fri Mar 05, 2010 12:38 am

Roots wrote:Wrong. The player still has plenty of time to see the local enemies spawning in and has to quickly choose a route around the obstruction if they want to avoid the battle. The only random part about this is where those enemies spawn. An enemy will not pop up right in front of the character and immediately trigger a battle. Ever.


Okay, it moves us closer to the random battle mechanic, not all the way back. Still not a fan.

Wrong. The player can still avoid battles but the local spawning actually makes the maps more interactive. Instead of standing from afar and watching and waiting the zone spawned enemies to get far enough away from the path you want to take, you have to also worry about those local spawn enemies. I find the current "watch and wait" mechanics of our maps to be quite annoying and boring. There's no threat, no danger, just doing nothing while waiting there for an opportunity.


It's annoying and boring because there aren't that many enemies and they're too slow. As for watching and waiting, if we design well in terms of enemy layout, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll work on improving the enemy layout in the maps so maybe we can get a better idea of how it works with our current system.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby Roots » Fri Mar 05, 2010 12:45 am

rujasu wrote:It's annoying and boring because there aren't that many enemies and they're too slow. As for watching and waiting, if we design well in terms of enemy layout, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll work on improving the enemy layout in the maps so maybe we can get a better idea of how it works with our current system.


I think that's a good idea. We can talk ideas all day long but its always best to test something and see how it works. I look forward to seeing your improvements.
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Re: Demo 1.0 General Design Suggestions

Postby Bertram » Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:59 am

Hmm, I couldn't resist :angel: :

First of all, I think that, yes, the current maps should have a bit more enemies in it, as they seem to be quite
empty for now.

Also, why not slowly increasing the enemies speed and aggressiveness radius while in walking sequence?
That way, enemies could be more and more difficult to avoid.

Also, I remember the excellent Breath of Fire II where maps had a different enemies activity value.
(symbolized by a little dancing fool in the status menu, for those who know the game ;) ).

I wonder if the maps could also get a dangerousness value which scale whatever game feature you choose to make the player fight monsters along his/her way.

Ah, and about the HP refilling: After winning a battle, the characters are fully healed atm with latest SVN.

Best regards.

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