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Author Topic: Designing Tactical Combat Systems  (Read 3515 times)

tingonic

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2013, 2:41 AM »
Regarding the previous post.. I am curious. What do you mean by the words 'higher order knowledge'?

FMUD

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2013, 5:05 PM »
D20 is such a limited system it makes me laugh. It was designed for ease of use in a tabletop setting, not for online games on computers capable of billions of calculations per second.
As a programmer you should have the higher order knowledge to analyze and abstract things, reducing it into code. And if you were even a poor programmer, i dont see how you could do worse than d20.
I recognize how much work it would be to imp such a huge overhaul... But if you truly want something special, you need to break out of preconceived notions and use your own imagination.

What about Neverwinter Nights, D&D Online, KOTOR...? Are those games laughable? Players don't like to learn new systems: using a popular system reduces the entry barrier.

Abstraction tells me that it doesn't matter if your calculation is complicate and makes full use of your processor... all the player will see on her screen is success or failure.
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Not_I

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2013, 8:28 PM »

What about Neverwinter Nights, D&D Online, KOTOR...? Are those games laughable? Players don't like to learn new systems: using a popular system reduces the entry barrier.

Abstraction tells me that it doesn't matter if your calculation is complicate and makes full use of your processor... all the player will see on her screen is success or failure.
Gameplay = laughable
Popular=eye candy + advertising hype + familiarity

You are right about abstraction though, it doesnt matter how many calculations are made. What does matter is rich gameplay. The d20 system has hardly any player interaction. Success or failure is dependent on gear and level, hardly engaging to any but the most simple minded. When a script, less than a page long, can out perform a human the system has failed in my eyes. To me, the quality of gameplay is not based around the time spent grinding levels or gear, it is based on the dynamics of player interaction. The choices and options the player has at any given time to react and adapt to diverse challenges. It is this complexity which is paramount to a 'good' game. This should be the core of a game. Not its eye candy, world, and story. Not the success of similar progenitors.
Diversity is also something which shouldnt be neglected. In all its forms; enemies, tools, and the character avatar. It brings fresh choices to the player.
"Players don't like to learn new systems"
I find this statement to be most asinine. If this were true, then players would never leave previous games in the first place. I feel as if this is merely a cop out for those without the imagination to break out of the mold. And yet it does have a ring of truth to it. Human beings do seem to have a sense of sentimentality.
But when it comes down to it, you should not be building systems which attempt to draw in the most players. The value of 'popularity' should always be a tertiary consideration to actually advancing in a positive direction. A rich and engaging gameplay is this direction.

FMUD

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #18 on: December 26, 2013, 9:39 PM »
"Players don't like to learn new systems"
I find this statement to be most asinine. If this were true, then players would never leave previous games in the first place.

I didn't say that players avoid anything new, I only said that it reduces the entry barrier. If you want to appeal to a wider audience, you have to reduce the entry barrier as much as possible. The first two letters in MUD stand for Multi-User so is it really bad to try to be popular?

Also, you speak about diversity, but you are trying to force your personal ideas on other MUD developers. Gear, levels, wealth attract achievers and get players addicted. It's a decision like any other to include it.
ForgottenMUD - custom d20 MUD
http://sites.google.com/site/forgottenmud

Quixadhal

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2013, 3:09 AM »
There's a very good reason to use D20, or the older AD&D ruleset, and there's a good reason DikuMUD's became the most popular MUD type out there, being based on AD&D 2nd edition rules...

Balance.

Yeah, you heard me.  Say what you want about D&D rules being "simple" and "silly", but the system as a whole is consistent and well balanced.  The problems usually come when people who don't actually UNDERSTAND the system start inflating the numbers to try and make things more cool, or more difficult.

If you're going to design a new ruleset, you have to design it as a whole ecosystem, encompasing everything from combat mechanics, to character advancement, to what 20 copper will buy you.   Very few people even attempt that.

Just because a computer *CAN* crunch millions of numbers a second, doesn't mean it *SHOULD*.  More complex != better.

Does that mean I think AD&D is better than anything else?  Not really, but it certainly isn't laughable or stupid.  It's extremely well tested.  It's also a familiar and well known system.  D20 started changing the system to try and streamline it, ironically, for computer games.

As for the system being mostly gear and levels, that says you don't actually understand how it works.  Maybe D20 changes thing more than I think it did, but I can tell you that my old AD&D 2nd edition game was certainly not gear based.  The most powerful weapon in the game did, I think, 3d8+4 damage.  A big improvement over a newbie weapon that did 1d6, but not the kind of inflationary nonsense we see in MMO's where each swing does thousands.

In short, if you don't want the game to be about gear and levels, don't put the emphasis on gear and levels.  You don't need to scrap the entire system because the implementation YOU saw emphasised those things.

Not_I

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #20 on: December 27, 2013, 8:03 AM »
There's a very good reason to use D20, or the older AD&D ruleset, and there's a good reason DikuMUD's became the most popular MUD type out there, being based on AD&D 2nd edition rules...

Balance.

Yeah, you heard me.  Say what you want about D&D rules being "simple" and "silly", but the system as a whole is consistent and well balanced.  The problems usually come when people who don't actually UNDERSTAND the system start inflating the numbers to try and make things more cool, or more difficult.

If you're going to design a new ruleset, you have to design it as a whole ecosystem, encompasing everything from combat mechanics, to character advancement, to what 20 copper will buy you.   Very few people even attempt that.

Just because a computer *CAN* crunch millions of numbers a second, doesn't mean it *SHOULD*.  More complex != better.

Does that mean I think AD&D is better than anything else?  Not really, but it certainly isn't laughable or stupid.  It's extremely well tested.  It's also a familiar and well known system.  D20 started changing the system to try and streamline it, ironically, for computer games.

As for the system being mostly gear and levels, that says you don't actually understand how it works.  Maybe D20 changes thing more than I think it did, but I can tell you that my old AD&D 2nd edition game was certainly not gear based.  The most powerful weapon in the game did, I think, 3d8+4 damage.  A big improvement over a newbie weapon that did 1d6, but not the kind of inflationary nonsense we see in MMO's where each swing does thousands.

In short, if you don't want the game to be about gear and levels, don't put the emphasis on gear and levels.  You don't need to scrap the entire system because the implementation YOU saw emphasised those things.

Well of course what is stupid or silly is entirely subjective. I feel as if i am cursed with a vivid imagination, and most everything i see seems somewhat crude. You are right of course in many of your points, but only in so far as they apply to less gifted members of the game making community.
I dont want to come across as negatively impacting this community though: so i will offer more insight into combat. Something i hope will be embraced as a gift. You see, the d20 system imo abstracted things far far to much away from reality in the terms of its combat system. Something many would consider the core of the game. It's one step away from being a i (win/lose) roll when the combat is initiated. It is dumbed to far down for the purpose of ease of use in a tabletop setting. And because of this it misses out on many aspects which can lead to engaging, dynamic, and fun choices for the player.
1) endurance/fatigue is a very important part of real life combat. It actually takes less energy to block a hit than to make one. And as endurance falters, so do your physical capabilities. From the players perspective this opens up the realm of resource management, how best to expend their energy and yet still win.
2) Combat in real life isnt about blindly trading blows. there are several approaches which could be considered techniques;
a) defend and exploit- this is the typical standard of a seasoned fighter. Wait for your opening and then strike.
b) full defense- this is method most chosen for the tired,losing, or wounded fighter.
c) stick and move- this is the method best chosen when your opponent is much stronger and/or you are much quicker.
d) berserker- this is the most effective(yet risky) way to quickly dispatch unskilled or weaker opponents.
e) unprepared- for those unfamiliar with combat, this is the only option. It is also the default for those not expecting combat, to be constantly in a battle stance is unrealistic and offers up the chance for surprise attacks. Your defenses and offenses are poor.
f) defenseless- an immobile foe should be a near guaranteed hit for maximum damage.
Using such techniques grants more player interaction. A dynamic system in which the best option is dependent on the game state. With an element of risk for attempting to finish your foe off quickly.
3) Awareness is paramount to battle readiness. Being able to read where your allies and enemies are located is crucial. You cannot block or dodge an attack you dont see coming. And friendly hits happen in the chaos of battle. Any veteran can tell you to look in your opponents eyes to read what hes thinking. Know what your opponent will do allows for quicker responses and countermeasures.
Being surrounded by even weak foes, is just as dangerous as facing a singular strong foe. Numbers are power because of limited awareness and because you are limited to only so many blocks/dodges per a given time period.
Skills should be available to characters; to allow them to try and single out a member of a group, to position yourself so your enemies block each others view, and to avoid being surrounded.
4) One on one in an arena situation is much different from several forces fighting en masse. Organization skills help groups fight as one cohesive unit. Positions within the formation each carry with it their own unique subset of skills which grants benefits to the unit as a whole.
5) Knowledge/skill of anatomy allows for placing strikes where they do the most damage, or create unusual effects to hinder your target
6) armor changes the dynamic of battle considerably. Now, unless you have a pick, you have to strike in the gaps in the armor. And your defense skills can be tuned to more protect your reduced openings. But on the flip side, the mass you carry(including armor) slows your movement on every level; attack, defense, and mobility.
Drawbacks to wearing armor (through weight) gives an interesting choice to the player, rather than systems i have seen where you always want 'the best' armor possible offering the most stats.
7) Instead of auto attacks, i suggest a vast multitude of attack routine skills each with their own properties, diversified so that for any given situation there exists a countermeasure and a counter-counter etc. . General advantages in specific situations for some skills. In general conforming to an equation which balances defense, speed, power, and cost(fatigue). With each skill being trained to a level which determines its effectiveness. Perhaps with an in game skill editor so that players can make their own skills to be vetted by the admins before being accepted into the system.
8) consciousness is limited, at any given time a real person can only store 7 chunks of information in short term memory at a time. So i suggest a similar feature for characters, where they can only have 7 groups of skills(tightly related skills) available at a time in their consciousness. Although having access to virtually an unlimited number of learned skills in long term memory. This limit helps prevent a player from being able to do everything and thus trivializing content.

So in general, i suggest more interplay of various skills. Rather than a boring 'combat wall of text'. Situational skills gives rise to actual thought be invested by the player, rather than automated. I look to guildwars( the original) as a near ideal system where it is not the gear or level which determines success, but the players foresight and execution.

Quixadhal

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #21 on: December 27, 2013, 11:40 AM »
AD&D has an endurance mechanic.  Perhaps this was removed in D20.  My MUD also makes use of it in terms of "movement points".  Each room you move through removes some number of them, based on the terrain type.  You regenerate them along with health, if you're well fed and not thirsty.  Every combat action you take ALSO removes one movement point.  If you are reduced to 0 points, you cannot move, nor can you continue combat... effectively, you stand there and take a beating until you regenerate a small amount, at which point you can try to flee or take a few swings, or cast a spell.

I've seen MUD systems try to implement more "realistic" combat systems.  The kind you describe tends to bore the players to death.  Nobody really enjoys combat where the majority of the time, they have to just watch text scroll either telling them they missed (and their opponant missed), or that they didn't find an opening to use for an attack.

I *will* grant you the surrounded issue.  While AD&D (2nd edition) does deal with positional damage and flanking, the fact is that a higher level character can and will wade through a sea of much lower level creatures.  This isn't realistic, but that's not really the goal, is it?

To ask the question directly... do you think your players WANT to play a realistic game, where they're likely to die any time they are in even a slightly uncontrolled environment?  Or do you think your players want to feel "heroic"?

If you, as a level 10 fighter, can walk into a mob of 20 level 1 goblins and end up slaughtering them all, it's not very realistic, but it does feel heroic.  That's part of what I meant when I brought up balance.  If you make it too easy for players to ignore low level creatures, they're too powerful and you lose the sense of danger they should feel.  If you make it too hard (realistic), then it becomes too frustrating when even a single "add" can get you killed when you were doing fine.

AD&D (2nd edition) also had both weapon speed AND encumberance, so again... maybe D20 removed those, but your example of the armor was already dealt with in the ruleset.  Each class had armor and weapon proficiencies, and trying to use items from other classes gave you fairly large penalties.  In addition, wearing heavy armor removed your dexterity bonus, the ability to dodge, and increased the rate you became exhaused at (slowing your weapon speed).

Auto-attacks aren't really a problem in the AD&D system.  There is no such thing in the ruleset, but it was added to many MUDs because players would end up spamming a "default" attack anyways.  In my MUD, because of the endurance cost, an auto-attack can actually be a bad thing, but the system would need to be re-balanced if it were removed.

One tip I'll give here is, don't try for realism.  People play games to have fun, not to be impressed by the incredible simulation.  Instead, focus on making your combat system predictable and balanced.  You should be able to design encounters for the amount of time they last, the effort they require (in terms of active skill use, spells, items, etc... vs. just auto-attack), and the risk to the player or party (how close to death do you want them to be at the end).

In AD&D, the "standard" encounter is designed so a classic party (fighter, mage, healer, thief) of a given level can defeat the encounter in a reasonable amount of time and come out of it at about half health OR half mana (or burn half their spells, since D&D used memorization/prayer, not points).

As a result, the typical party could run through two or three encounters in a given period of time (a day in the paper RPG), before they'd have to hide and rest, or start dying.

Now, in a MUD, you don't get that daily resting option.  Players *HATE* downtime.  If you try to make them "sleep" for more than a few minutes, they'll just leave.  So, instead, you have to focus on making it harder for them to continue spamming through content in other ways.

My game used equipment damage.  Wear and tear on gear would both reduce how effective it was AND eventually destroy it.  That, coupled with slow endurance and mana regen, meant players either rested often enough to risk zone resets (and thus have the path they just cleared filled back up again), or spend lots of gold on potions and repairs.

Maybe D20 has changed.  I have a whole shelf full of 2nd edition AD&D books, and another shelf of 3rd edition (3.0 and 3.5) D&D books.  If they've watered it down in later editions, then I suggest finding the earlier versions. :)

Not_I

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #22 on: December 27, 2013, 11:55 PM »
Its not about trying to be realistic. Its about going beyond issuing the kill command followed by the highest dps skill available. Its about shifting the boring passive character skills to player involvement and player skill. Giving the player tools to maximizing performance in a dynamic environment.

FMUD

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2013, 12:57 AM »
Now, in a MUD, you don't get that daily resting option.  Players *HATE* downtime.  If you try to make them "sleep" for more than a few minutes, they'll just leave.

This is exactly why I hate movement points.

Quote from: Not_I
a) defend and exploit- this is the typical standard of a seasoned fighter. Wait for your opening and then strike.
b) full defense- this is method most chosen for the tired,losing, or wounded fighter.
c) stick and move- this is the method best chosen when your opponent is much stronger and/or you are much quicker.
d) berserker- this is the most effective(yet risky) way to quickly dispatch unskilled or weaker opponents.
e) unprepared- for those unfamiliar with combat, this is the only option. It is also the default for those not expecting combat, to be constantly in a battle stance is unrealistic and offers up the chance for surprise attacks. Your defenses and offenses are poor.
f) defenseless- an immobile foe should be a near guaranteed hit for maximum damage.

That sounds like  D&D Online.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2013, 1:50 AM by FMUD »
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Quixadhal

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Re: Designing Tactical Combat Systems
« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2013, 7:35 AM »
Its not about trying to be realistic. Its about going beyond issuing the kill command followed by the highest dps skill available. Its about shifting the boring passive character skills to player involvement and player skill. Giving the player tools to maximizing performance in a dynamic environment.

Maybe you haven't played very many RPG's in general, or different kinds of MUD's.  LPMUD's in particular, tend to have more varied and complex encounters, because every single object is coded in LPC, allowing the builders to design new mechanics on the fly without needing an admin to compile it into the game driver and reboot.

Even World of Warcraft, which seems to be the poster child for "simplistic" in many gaming communities, has plenty of situational commands that you have to use for various encounters.

However, your premise was that D20 was the reason all these games sucked, and that it was an inferior gaming system.  Most of the complaints you brought up were, in fact, NOT issues of AD&D, nor earlier versions of the D20 system, as I showed.  If the D20-based games you've encountered boiled down to "kill orc; /repeat 10 cast 'fireball'", that's an issue with the specific games you've played, not the system as a whole.