Battle Mechanics Help: Battle Action Experience

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by dahlys, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. dahlys

    dahlys Meatbun Veteran

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    I'm thinking of implementing a different way of increasing player stats than just leveling up/completing quests. Basically, stats will be increased by the actions an actor takes in battle. Use a lot of physical attacks and atk increases. Use a lot of magic attacks/healing and mat increases. Receive phy/mag damage and def/mdf increases. Put your life at risk and mhp increases. Empty your mp gauge and mmp rises. Inflict abnormal status and luk increases. Crit/evade and agi increases. Use a lot of MP potions and mmp increases etc.

    Each type of action will have it's own level. When you gain enough exp (from total damage or number of times action succeeded), the action type 'levels up' and you get a parameter increase.

    Therefore, if you don't raise your characters in a balanced way, things could get very difficult as the game progresses. E.g. getting 1-hit KO'd by bosses. On the other hand, you can raise characters that are highly specialized in certain areas (an unkillable tank and a glass cannon).

    What do you think? Would such a mechanic make battles more interesting? You'll have to fight in many different ways in order to get stronger, rather than just spamming offensive skills and killing enemies. This includes using more support/curse skills and items, and doing crazy things like letting hp drop to low levels on purpose.
     
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  2. McTricky

    McTricky Veteran Veteran

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    It's interesting, however, what you should know is that Final Fantasy II did this, and it made the game SUPER broken. So maybe try looking at what that game did and see how it went wrong, so you know what to avoid.
     
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  3. mauvebutterfly

    mauvebutterfly Veteran Veteran

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    I think this would work better for offensive stats than for defensive stats and HP. To raise max HP if I have to deliberately draw out battles to let enemies reduce my health, that's making a fairly negative gameplay experience. It also makes grinding even more tedious if you have to wait for monsters to use all of their status effects and attack a bunch before finishing them off.

    If you can find a way to make gaining defensive stats an active process (skills like guard and cover, for example) this might work out better. As for HP and MP, it might just be better to have those increase every time a physical or mental stat is increased. That way a character specialised as a melee fighter will get more health, while a character using lots of magic abilities with naturally gain more mana, but you aren't relying on depleting the characters' health and mana to gain more of these stats.
     
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  4. dahlys

    dahlys Meatbun Veteran

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    Thanks for the reminder! It's been over 10 years since I last played FF2 and I couldn't remember it. I've taken a look at the way people exploit it (select-cancel bug, attacking self) and I think rmmv doesn't suffer those problems. My game also doesn't have much grinding (enemy permadeath).

    I agree! It'll also be easier to implement with offensive stats. I've got a skill called Provoke that makes all enemies target one character, I'm hoping that will make gaining defensive stats easier. Gaining defensive stats is just easier in general (less exp). Tying in attacks with HP/MP also makes sense.
     
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  5. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Even with some adjustments in the system, I think mauvebutterfly's hesitation is valid. What I think you might also risk is making it so that the player cannot really develop their own playing style. They are going to have to play this the way you, the developer, intend them to play it whether they like it or not. Unless you are really skilled in balancing across multiple elements to allow flexibility here, I suspect a number of players will not find this a satisfying way of playing.
     
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  6. dahlys

    dahlys Meatbun Veteran

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    Could I have some examples of what you mean by multiple elements and flexibility? Do you mean combining this with other ways to gain stat increases, like the normal exp gain system, or merging it with the quest system so grinding stats becomes more of a bonus than a necessity?
     
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  7. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    What I meant was that you would have to balance across all the types of action, as you said that each one would have its own level. These are the actions you mentioned.
    Physical attack
    Magic attack
    Physical damage
    Magic damage
    Put life at risk
    empty MP guage
    Inflict statuses
    Crit/evade
    Use a lot of MP potions
    etc. (very ominous sounding, that 'etc.'

    Adjusting all these possibilities against what I assume would be pre-determined enemy stats and skills would not be straightforward. For example, in a game where actor stats are determined in the database, if you reckon (based on your own play throughs and those of testers) that a player will be roughly at level 17 when they enter the fire dungeon, you can design your enemies around that because you can see what the actor stats will be. How will you know (or at least have a good idea) of what the average player who is not you will have as their stats when they hit the fire dungeon under your proposed system? What happens if they don't have the 'ideal' build?

    You would need to be very careful with your enemy AI so as to ensure that they did enough magic attacks and physical attacks to enable the player to level up both the stats linked to receiving those types of damage. And what happens between the 'good' player who can finish off an enemy troop quickly versus the less good player who needs longer because their strategy isn't that hot? The second one is going to be rewarded more highly, because they are going to receive more damage, use more skills/potions/whatever. It seems counter-intuitive to reward the less good player rather than the one using clever strategy.

    You would need to be extremely careful of the engine's random calculations on things like criticals, misses, evasions, so that the player isn't screwed by the RNG god. Then there's the cost and availability of potions to factor in, so how easy/affordable is it for the player to use that aspect to increase MMP?

    Those are just a few of the things that you would have to keep in mind when balancing.
     
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  8. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

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    Ys series, if you've never played it, is kind of a hack and slash/RPG mashup. Some of the later installments like Ys Seven (my favorite) include a similar system for skills but not other stats. In other words, if you use a skill called Hurricane Blade three dozen times, Hurricane Blade reaches "Skill Level 2." But your character still increases level by killing monsters and gaining experience. So the damage dealt by Hurricane Blade has a formula like this:
    Attack stats (depends on character's level), plus Weapon (depends on gold/crafting/questing), plus Skill stats (depends on Skill Level).

    If damage depended on skill level alone, players would have no incentive to try new skills; they'd just pick one to level up continuously. Combining other factors allows the player to deliver decent damage even when trying a brand new skill.

    While the Ys fomula may not be exactly right for your game, I think you can achieve workable balance by combining various factors.
     
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  9. Basileus

    Basileus Veteran Veteran

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    As much as I personally like Final Fantasy II, there is a very good reason it is the black sheep of the franchise. In fact this combat system proved so popular that FFIII completely scrapped it and went back to how FFI was.

    There are other games that do similar things, like the Elder Scrolls games having skills that level with use. But tying vital stats to arbitrary actions has a history of ending badly. If you plan on using this you need be sure that skill points are rewarded for playing well, not for playing poorly.

    The reason FFII failed so hard was not just bugs like the Select-Cancel glitch, it was the fact that gaining stats could only be done sub-optimally. Raising your evasion means dodging, which means you aren't taking damage so your health doesn't go up. Defeating enemies quickly means taking less damage so your health doesn't go up. Not wasting your MP every turn means you don't get more MP, and using your MP to nuke the enemy means you get less health. But bosses don't die in 1 turn so you need health to soak hits. So the player is forced to take damage on purpose that they don't need to take, and thus every player feels like an idiot for sitting there as wolves gnaw their limbs off just so they can build up the health buffer they need to take on the boss.

    Give stats for positive actions that show mastery of your combat system. Use formulas to condense the number of stats you actually need so each one can be gained in a good way. Make Hit/Evade/Crit all based on agility which can be gained by scoring critical hits, dodging, or ending battles quickly. Make Attack into Strength and tie it to Health so that gaining Strength from scoring physical hits also raises Health. Same for M Attack/M Def/MP which can all be based off Intelligence which can be tied to spell casts. A general stat like Luck can also be used in the formulas to help determine stat gains and effects, or can be used like a Charisma stat so you can do stat-checks in conversations so that being consistently persuasive helps you convince more difficult targets.
     
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  10. JosephSeraph

    JosephSeraph White Mage Restaff

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    Just a reminder that Final Fantasy II spawned an entire franchise whose core gameplay revolves around not having levels and increasing stats through actions (though some games also allow you to increase stats with potions, by consuming monster meat, by equipping your robots etc) and this franchise is SaGa, which started as The Final Fantasy Legend on the Gameboy.

    It's a moderately sucessful series that iterated on Final Fantasy II's design in very interesting ways.
    Still, what I personally wanted to make based on this system is to have the game compare the party's stats to what the game thinks they should be, and adjust the experience accordingly. So, if the game thinks you should have 500 HP but you have 400, it will give you +12 MHP instead of +10.
    Additionally, passive stats don't need to be consequence of defending or being hurt -- it could be tied to a hidden "class" for instance which the game secretly (or not secretly) assigns to each character based on their battle habits, which will in turn regulate how much HP/DEF/RES/AVD they will gain at battle end. So if a character heals a lot, is equipped with a Mace and has high RES, the game will assign the "Priest" class to said character. This could range from a complex set of conditions that keeps track of their last 100 commands, stats and etc. or it could merely be tied to a weapon. (any character equipped with a Mace counts as a Priest for stat gaining purposes) or a plethora of other inventive ways. I think the key there is making the game smart and adaptable though, adjusting itself if you're ahead or behind : P
     
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  11. dahlys

    dahlys Meatbun Veteran

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    That seems cool! It'll be fun to add that kind of adaptability in too, I'm up for a math challenge :D
     
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  12. XIIIthHarbinger

    XIIIthHarbinger Part Time Super Villain Veteran

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    You might want to consider making greater numbers of divisions & subdivisions of contributing factors.

    For example with my current project all of my player skills have a secondary common events that effect different variables; & I have a skill tree that is unlocked based upon those variable levels, with some skills being reliant upon multiple variables reaching the prerequisite amount before unlocking.

    You might want to consider having various skills, increase effect multiple parameters "experience level" but to differing degrees. For example dual wielding a pair of daggers would contribute a small amount towards attack but a much larger amount towards agility, wielding a broadsword would contribute a balanced effect towards the two parameters, & wielding a warhammer would be the inverse of the dual daggers. This can of course be applied to magical skills, & you can add effects based on armor equipment loadouts as well.
     
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  13. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I had a lot to say about why this kind of system is fraught with design danger, but @Basileus brilliantly covered most of it, summing it up with the great advice that "you need be sure that skill points are rewarded for playing well, not for playing poorly".

    I'd add to this sentiment that you also need to be sure your skill points are rewarded for doing things that are engaging, not for playing in ways that are anathema to the purpose of combat. Taking damage over and over, using MP potions, and even repeatedly inflicting status effects on enemies are unengaging things to do during combat, but they are things you will have to do if you want to build certain stats. Not only that, but players who are "good" at your actual combat system will have to go out of their way to build their stats, since otherwise they will be able to defeat enemies quickly and efficiently, taking very little damage!

    Some of your design goals are admirable here - such as allowing players to specialize their characters in ways that feel natural to the way they battle. But if you're going to do something like this, I'd highly recommend giving players stats through level-ups, and which stats they get the most of can be determined by the actions they've taken in combat since their last level! This not only fixes some of your balance issues, but it encourages players to play the way they already feel is right instead of going out of their way to get the most bonuses possible. In the same breath, also be sure to follow the advice that's been given throughout this topic about the types of actions that should determine stat gains - reward players for playing well, not poorly, and try to err on the side of Active rather than Passive goals. Instead of requiring players to take lots of damage to increase their Max HP, maybe the player can earn it by protecting their HP during battle using defense buffs, substitutions, invulnerability skills, etc.
     
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  14. dahlys

    dahlys Meatbun Veteran

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    Putting all your suggestions together, what about something like this?

    Bonuses are stacked on top of normal stat gain from leveling. With normal stat gain, all characters would end up almost identical.

    Atk, Mat, Agility
    • Ending battles in 1 turn (largest bonus)
    • Ending battles in <= 3 turns (half bonus)
    • Ending boss battles in <= 10 turns
    Def, MaxHP, Mdef, MaxMP
    • Ending battles with >90% hp (largest bonus)
    • Ending battles with >70% hp (half bonus)
    • Ending battles with all members alive (small bonus, except for boss fights)
    Atk, Luk
    • Exploiting weapon advantages against enemy weaknesses (slash/blunt/pierce) (largest bonus)
    • Keep using physical attacks (adds up like an exp curve)
    Mat, Luk
    • Exploiting elemental advantages (largest bonus)
    • Keep using magic (adds up like an exp curve. Healing, offense, and support are on different curves)
    Atk, Mat, Luk
    • Exploit weakened enemy (status/debuff inflicted)
    • Attack while buffed
    In this game, characters learn skills from masters by buying them/completing quests. Skill damage is calculated as percentages from stats. Low level skills will still deal more damage than normal attacks even at a high level but not significantly more.
     
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