Author Topic: Combat Systems  (Read 4990 times)

requerent

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Combat Systems
« on: February 13, 2013, 08:47:24 PM »
As I see it, there are two objectives in deciding a combat system- coherence and fun. Too much random is unfun while complicated algorithms are incoherent, resulting in incoherent player decision-making. Too much determinism, however, can also be unfun- as it produces a bit too much tedium and chess-like stress.

I suspect that many use a probability distribution in combat to ensure that things are mostly predictable, but allow for the occasional random win/fail.

I've been fooling around with the source code in Brogue, which is a very mechanically transparent game, and realized that the way the combat actually works isn't particularly communicated well to the player. Specifically- how much Armor, Life, Damage output, and Accuracy are necessary to be successful at any given depth. Brogue diminishes the importance of knowing the precise numbers with the various staves/wands/consumables you find- but it can be difficult to know what trade-off is actually being made when you use a Scroll of Enchanting. If I put an enchant into my Broadsword over my Plate Armor- how does that effect my ability to survive?

I particularly enjoy Brogue's system, which is why I've been looking into it. I don't want to talk about Brogue specifically in this, but rather what systems, in a general sense, make good sense. One issue I see with Brogue is that it uses a number of internal mechanics that the player doesn't really know about- particularly in how hit probability is determined. Defense, for example, has diminishing returns, while attack (the relationship between accuracy and damage) has increasing returns.

The numbers for the individual monsters, however, are so finely tuned to the system, that it really isn't clear which is best to enchant. And in fact, against the most dangerous monster (Tentacle Horror) with top-tier vanilla gear and 10 enchants to go around, it makes very little difference where you distribute enchants- you'll win by ~1 turn worth of damage (1.5-.5, favoring armor) assuming average damage relative to hit-probability is dealt each turn (in other words, if you do win, you'll die if anything breathes on you shortly after). In a balance sense, this is problematic because it leaves much less flexibility to deal with long-range flame attacks. In Brogue, there are essentially 3 problems you have to solve to succeed- A solution for dealing with Revenants (immune to physical damage- not really a big problem but still pertinent), a solution for surviving Fire-breathing (from dragons and other deep-dwelling denizens), and a solution for horrors. So we run into other balancing issues for solving each problem as each problem demands a certain number of enchants in different categories of gear.


There are two real issues here-- One is affordance. How can we communicate to the player that what they're doing actually improves their odds for surviving, and two, how can we produce a game experience that doesn't appear to be tailored for the player but still provide opportunities to advance without compromising a diverse experience?


So-- A sort of general question-- What makes sense? What sort of combat system is simple enough to grasp but allows for interesting and emergent scenarios for the player to deal with without promoting a 'hunt' for particular gear for particular solutions? What examples do you think are most successful, equitable, interesting, and diverse?

I suspect that the D20 system is a popular answer to this problem because of how familiar it is- but at the extremes (high and low levels), the system is wholly uninteresting- too random or not random enough.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 08:52:13 PM by requerent »

Omnomnom

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Re: Combat Systems
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 01:29:50 AM »
There's the survival tricks you learn from the game itself, eg in brogue learning that fire kills zombies real easy and also that you better have room to backtrack if you ignite one. Then there are the survival tricks you learn from laboriously diving into the hidden game mechanics much as you have done to figure out eg the optimal way of assigning enchanting objects, etc.

The perfect player would have to master both methods. And that means die-hard players who do challenges beyond just ascending are going to inevitably have to dive into the mechanics to get a necessary edge. But I think the more typical players (like me) don't want to have to (or can't) do that. That doesn't mean I want a game's mechanics fully transparent. It just means I want the game to give a large scope for improving by trying and dying, so much so that it overshadows the point of diving into and understanding detailed combat mechanics. So I am happy to remain in ignorance and not understand whether enchanting armor or weapon is better. I will work off the premise that both are roughly equal in terms of survival (even if they are not). All my survival skill will come from the interesting stuff I learn through dying and trying, and I think in a good game this should be sufficient to master the game.

Lets say 90% of survival tricks in a game can be obtained by just trying and dying and only 10% of survival tricks require detailed knowledge of the combat mechanics. I would think the game in that case should be tuned to masterable at 80-90%, or something like that. The game shouldn't be too hard that players are forced to obtain over 90% of the survival tricks which would demand they dive into mechanics to master it.

Specifically with enchantments and the question of whether to level up the armor or the weapon, I guess part of that problem is it's just leveling up equipment with numbers, boring numbers. 215% melee up from 120% vs higher armor count which increases defense by ?% Yawn. I can't be bothered to figure out which is the better choice, so I happily just guess what my character is most deficient in. I prefer the kind of choices where you choose a new skill from a set of separate distinct skills where there is more than just a math comparison (eg do I want the ability to summon allies or the ability to heal, there's no clear math comparison that can be made there...the player is forced to rely on interesting human decision..which is perfect)

"there are essentially 3 problems you have to solve to succeed- A solution for dealing with Revenants (immune to physical damage- not really a big problem but still pertinent), a solution for surviving Fire-breathing (from dragons and other deep-dwelling denizens), and a solution for horrors."

It's probably a bad strategy but I like going full on mage and enchanting a ring of wisdom, staffs and armor. So I can deal with all those monsters quite easily (except dragons which I just run away from...I didn't know there was a solution for surviving fire-breathing other than just burn). The killer problem monster for me is golems which just reflect my staff attacks although I am not great at the game so I might just not have discovered a way to kill them easily yet.

requerent

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Re: Combat Systems
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 03:32:29 AM »
Specifically with enchantments and the question of whether to level up the armor or the weapon, I guess part of that problem is it's just leveling up equipment with numbers, boring numbers. 215% melee up from 120% vs higher armor count which increases defense by ?% Yawn. I can't be bothered to figure out which is the better choice, so I happily just guess what my character is most deficient in. I prefer the kind of choices where you choose a new skill from a set of separate distinct skills where there is more than just a math comparison (eg do I want the ability to summon allies or the ability to heal, there's no clear math comparison that can be made there...the player is forced to rely on interesting human decision..which is perfect)

This is more or less what I want to achieve. I want the player to have interesting decisions and not have to think about the stats. Brogue does this for you by telling you if something is going to kill you or not when you highlight it-- however, Brogue depends heavily on previous decisions to determine if you progress or not.

Still- that's what the game is about: Survival. It isn't about the combat. Which is another issue I've been thinking about separately...


Quote
It's probably a bad strategy but I like going full on mage and enchanting a ring of wisdom, staffs and armor. So I can deal with all those monsters quite easily (except dragons which I just run away from...I didn't know there was a solution for surviving fire-breathing other than just burn). The killer problem monster for me is golems which just reflect my staff attacks although I am not great at the game so I might just not have discovered a way to kill them easily yet.

On a side note: With 90 HP (6 life potions) and a Regen ring +6, you gain as much per turn as you lose from fire. There  are also invisibility charms, which make you untargetable from ranged attacks, stealth, fire immunity charms, blinking, and other ways to close a dragon without getting hit at range.