Battle System Feedback [Dodging, Timed Counterattack, Advanced Skill]

EpicFILE

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Hi!
Before I begin, I'd like to explain some concepts in my game's battle system.

Advanced Dodging
When an enemy attacks, you can charge up a gauge to dodge enemy attack.

Battle Focus Mode (state)
When you successfully dodged an enemy attack with advanced dodging, you'll enter battle focus mode. Battle focus mode opens up a new skill type called Advanced (advanced skill). Battle focus mode also alter your counterattack rate to 100%. However, when you get hit by an enemy attack, the battle focus mode will stop and you have to do another advanced dodging to get it back.

Clock Counterattack
Counterattack will be done using a clock-based timed attack.

Advanced Skill
Advanced skill cost no MP and TP. However, you need to input some button sequences to make it work.

Here's the battle system in action (skip to 1:00 to see what I'm talking about):

In my game, I give the player an option to stealth kill enemies.
Ideally stealth kill is more preferred, since my game focuses on puzzle-solving.
I want the stealth kill to be more rewarding by creating strong enemies.
However, I also want to make the battle quicker, easier, and more fun with this system.

Do you think the battle system is fun or unnecessarily complicated?
What's the alternative if it's complicated?

EDIT
I think I posted this in the wrong forum section.
This can be moved to Game Ideas and Prototypes. Thank you!
 
Last edited:

Wavelength

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Moved to Game Ideas & Prototypes. This is the board for project-specific advice and questions (Game Mechanics Design is for general gameplay concepts that don't tie to a specific project).

I have some advice on specific parts of your goals, as well as your dilemma on "stealth":
However, I also want to make the battle quicker, easier, and more fun with this system
The animations and input in your battle system looks quite quick, which is good. However, the sheer number of actions taking place (each enemy attacks, you input the gauge to block each enemy, you input the clock to counterattack some enemies, you counterattack those enemies...) will really start to drag the pace of your battles after a while, especially where there are 4+ enemies in a troop.

Think hard about whether it's more important to make battle more depthy and skill-based, or more quick and painless. If it's the latter, or if both are equally important, I highly recommend looking for ways to reduce the number of steps. For example, you could have a the same Block gauge you have now where a medium area represents "Block", but also have a very slim area of the block gauge that represents "Block + Counterattack" (you could put it in the block area to reward perfect timing, or put it fairly low on the gauge as a risk/reward proposition). Then you could get rid of the Clock input that would need to be done after the block. This doesn't seem like a huge change, but little things add up over several turns and dozens of battles.

In my game, I give the player an option to stealth kill enemies.
Ideally stealth kill is more preferred, since my game focuses on puzzle-solving.
I want the stealth kill to be more rewarding by creating strong enemies.
You haven't really explained how "stealth kills" work, but I'm going to assume that it's something like avoiding enemy line-of-sight/detection on the map, and then engaging them from behind or using some input sequence or similar to skip combat and automatically kill the troop.

If the challenge of your battle system is designed so that the player's resources will consistently deplete throughout a dungeon (no easy healing anywhere, consumables often run low, the player needs to burn MP on attack spells to kill enemies because those enemies can deal serious damage that can't be healed easily), then simply avoiding the resource depletion that would have occured in the encounter can be a reward enough in itself.

EXP (or other rewards like Gold/Items) are also levers you can work with to make stealth kills more "rewarding". In general, I would award a fraction of the EXP and Gold (but maybe full Items) for obtaining a stealth kill on a troop, since it takes much less time and depletes far fewer resources to earn it this way than by fighting the troop head-on. However, if you want to strongly encourage stealth, you could award the full amount of EXP and Gold or even a bonus amount for doing it this way, or you could have something like rare drops that only come from enemies while you are on a "stealth kill streak" (kills without getting into an encounter) of 5 or more.

One important thing to look out for is whether players have fun trying to stealth-kill every enemy rather than enjoying your combat system (since you seem to be putting a lot of thought and effort into combat itself). Remember that every troop the player stealth-kills is one less time they get to engage with your combat system. As you do playtesting with players, take note of how often they're using the stealth kills, why you think they're doing so, and if they ever seem to be running into battle intentionally without even trying to use stealth. Use this to balance the rewards, but if players seem to be having more fun with combat than with stealth, then you should look for a way to combine the two. Perhaps a successful "stealth kill" no longer wipes the enemy troop immediately, but puts you into that combat with a large advantage (such as a free turn, Max TP, and weakened enemy stats). Or perhaps there's even some way to integrate Stealth into your battle system itself, rather than making it only a map action.

Advanced skill cost no MP and TP. However, you need to input some button sequences to make it work.
I know this is just a demo (and I also realize most troops won't have 8 enemies), but these Advanced Skills (abbreviating as AS from here on) look like they'd probably be better than anything else you'd have access to, and the fact that they don't have a Resource Cost would mean you could use them every single turn. That sounds like a big balance-breaker to me, and if you're balancing boss combat (or any combat really) around the assumption that players will be able to use Advanced Skills, you are going to absolute screw players who don't have great hand-eye coordination and can't get the input done in time.

The usual recommendation would be to give AS a MP/TP cost, perhaps costs similar to "normal" skills. However, if your goal is for players to be able to have fun with these AS without worrying too much about long-term resource management, then maybe you could tie this into your Stealth system! Maybe by earning stealth kills (or even by stealthily sneaking past enemies without engaging them), the player builds up a Stealth Gauge (SG) that enables better and better AS in your next combat. You don't necessarily have to make AS cost any of your SG, but rather make it so that at the end of a combat, your SG decreases somewhat, encouraging the player to defeat most enemies with stealth but allowing them to use the spoils of their good work in combat every now and then. Fleeing from combat could decrease the SG by even more.

Generally, the more your gameplay elements hook into your other gameplay elements, the better. The only risk is in making individual elements (or the whole) too complex, but I don't think you're in danger of doing that from where I'm standing.
 

EpicFILE

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Thanks for the in depth input!
Think hard about whether it's more important to make battle more depthy and skill-based, or more quick and painless. If it's the latter, or if both are equally important, I highly recommend looking for ways to reduce the number of steps. For example, you could have a the same Block gauge you have now where a medium area represents "Block", but also have a very slim area of the block gauge that represents "Block + Counterattack" (you could put it in the block area to reward perfect timing, or put it fairly low on the gauge as a risk/reward proposition). Then you could get rid of the Clock input that would need to be done after the block. This doesn't seem like a huge change, but little things add up over several turns and dozens of battles.
This seems to be a good alternative for incorporating dodge and counterattack.
I do have to figure out how to make it work, though.

You haven't really explained how "stealth kills" work, but I'm going to assume that it's something like avoiding enemy line-of-sight/detection on the map, and then engaging them from behind or using some input sequence or similar to skip combat and automatically kill the troop.
Your assumption is right, my stealth kill is about avoiding enemy's line of sight.
Stealth kill can be done by approaching enemy's side or back.

EXP (or other rewards like Gold/Items) are also levers you can work with to make stealth kills more "rewarding". In general, I would award a fraction of the EXP and Gold (but maybe full Items) for obtaining a stealth kill on a troop, since it takes much less time and depletes far fewer resources to earn it this way than by fighting the troop head-on. However, if you want to strongly encourage stealth, you could award the full amount of EXP and Gold or even a bonus amount for doing it this way, or you could have something like rare drops that only come from enemies while you are on a "stealth kill streak" (kills without getting into an encounter) of 5 or more.
Stealth kill does reward player more exp,
if they're killing from the back (killing from the sides give normal exp).
However, I haven't thought about stealth kill streak reward.
I think it's a good additional reward.

One important thing to look out for is whether players have fun trying to stealth-kill every enemy rather than enjoying your combat system (since you seem to be putting a lot of thought and effort into combat itself). Remember that every troop the player stealth-kills is one less time they get to engage with your combat system. As you do playtesting with players, take note of how often they're using the stealth kills, why you think they're doing so, and if they ever seem to be running into battle intentionally without even trying to use stealth. Use this to balance the rewards, but if players seem to be having more fun with combat than with stealth, then you should look for a way to combine the two. Perhaps a successful "stealth kill" no longer wipes the enemy troop immediately, but puts you into that combat with a large advantage (such as a free turn, Max TP, and weakened enemy stats). Or perhaps there's even some way to integrate Stealth into your battle system itself, rather than making it only a map action.
This is something I haven't thought about. My assumption is always "stealth kill is better",
but maybe some people find the combat more enjoyable.
I haven't mentioned that every time you get into enemy line of sight and
engage in battle, an "outrage mode" will occur after the battle (something like Metal Gear's alert).
Basically it activates the random encounter (at every 15 seconds).
It will end in 1 minute, but the time counter will reset to 1 minute
if you happen to encounter another in-map enemy.
Should I remove this "outrage mode", as it seems like a punishment
for engaging in battle?

However, if your goal is for players to be able to have fun with these AS without worrying too much about long-term resource management, then maybe you could tie this into your Stealth system! Maybe by earning stealth kills (or even by stealthily sneaking past enemies without engaging them), the player builds up a Stealth Gauge (SG) that enables better and better AS in your next combat. You don't necessarily have to make AS cost any of your SG, but rather make it so that at the end of a combat, your SG decreases somewhat, encouraging the player to defeat most enemies with stealth but allowing them to use the spoils of their good work in combat every now and then. Fleeing from combat could decrease the SG by even more.
This seems to be a brilliant concept,
I think this can be an alternative workaround.

Generally, the more your gameplay elements hook into your other gameplay elements, the better. The only risk is in making individual elements (or the whole) too complex, but I don't think you're in danger of doing that from where I'm standing.
I'm always leaning into "less is more", but I have to keep it fun.
Thank you for this great tips. :D
 

Wavelength

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No problem! And glad you liked a lot of the ideas - hopefully they will serve as some good food for thought as you adjust your mechanics to make sure that each one is serving the purpose you were actually hoping it would.

To answer your follow-up question:
This is something I haven't thought about. My assumption is always "stealth kill is better",
but maybe some people find the combat more enjoyable.
I haven't mentioned that every time you get into enemy line of sight and
engage in battle, an "outrage mode" will occur after the battle (something like Metal Gear's alert).
Basically it activates the random encounter (at every 15 seconds).
It will end in 1 minute, but the time counter will reset to 1 minute
if you happen to encounter another in-map enemy.
Should I remove this "outrage mode", as it seems like a punishment
for engaging in battle?
My initial instinct is that yes, I would probably get rid of it because it may be overly punishing and also may represent several minutes where players can't properly engage in stealth gameplay (just for getting in one initial encounter by mistake).

There may be a legitimate reason to keep it (maybe reworking it slightly) - and that comes down to, what was your original reason for designing this in? What are you hoping it will add to the gameplay experience? Was it to serve as additional punishment for getting caught, or to be more realistic about what happens after you're spotted, or maybe it was just because you liked MGS and wanted to imitate some of its gameplay? Then you should probably get rid of it. Was it to set up situations where the stealth gameplay worked differently, or to encourage some kind of risk-vs.-reward dynamic against a mission timer? Then there's likely a case for keeping it.
 

EpicFILE

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There may be a legitimate reason to keep it (maybe reworking it slightly) - and that comes down to, what was your original reason for designing this in? What are you hoping it will add to the gameplay experience? Was it to serve as additional punishment for getting caught, or to be more realistic about what happens after you're spotted, or maybe it was just because you liked MGS and wanted to imitate some of its gameplay? Then you should probably get rid of it. Was it to set up situations where the stealth gameplay worked differently, or to encourage some kind of risk-vs.-reward dynamic against a mission timer? Then there's likely a case for keeping it.
My original reason is pretty much the same,
to make stealth kill more rewarding (also to create more suspense).
But after I give more thought about it, the "alert" mechanic is more fitting for
100% stealth game like Metal Gear or Tenchu.

After some playtests, alert mechanic + RPG battle seems
to be more of a chore rather than suspense
(maybe it works for certain places, for example final boss pallace).
It also possibly distract the players from solving puzzles (the game's main focus).
 

Wavelength

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Sounds like you've got a very clear idea of what you want to do. :) :thumbsup-right:
 

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