Battle System recommendation for a modern setting game

cthulhusquid

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I hope this is the right place for this thread. Anyway, I have a post apocalyptic game I've been working on for awhile, and want to get away from the default battle system. I would prefer a turn-based tactical system like Silent Storm or XCom (cover mechanics, hit chance increases/lowers based on distance), but from what I've read those are very time consuming to make and difficult to implement. I have looked at the RA TBS and GTBS tactical systems but they have various features that I'd prefer not to use (and I don't have the scripting knowledge to modify them).

As far as my game's mechanics goes, most enemies used ranged attacks, whether it be guns or mutations (like spitting acid). I have cover mechanics implemented, where cover blocks all damage, but you can't take an action when you are behind it. If you attack or use a skill, it removes cover. It seems to be working ok, but feels too static and too much like a guessing game on whether or not enemies will be behind cover when you shoot. What are some recommendations that could make this feel better, either battle systems or mechanics?
 

Frostorm

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If you're looking for a tactical battle system, I recommend Lecode's TBS, which is what I use.

It's forum thread has a ton of views/replies, so if you need help you should look there.
 

Wavelength

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So, I'm a little bit confused because you imply that you haven't actually switched to a Tactics Battle System, but you mention that you have "cover" mechanics implemented. I'm guessing that when you say cover mechanics, you are talking about a command called Cover in a standard turn-based combat system, which adds a state that reduces incoming damage by 100% (and maybe blocks incoming states), and lasts forever until the battler uses an attack/skill?

To get rid of most of the "guessing game" element, you could give the Take Cover action a very slow speed (like -500) instead of a fast one. This way, a battler could only take cover at the end of the turn, and any other commands queued up that turn (by actors or enemies) will be able to hit first. It also means you have to plan ahead a bit more, and can't just use Cover as a bailout when you're starting a turn with 3% of your HP. The only "guessing" will be if an enemy is already currently under Cover and you decide to fire on them, hoping that they come out of their cover to attack you before you do so. That's a choice the player specifically opts into.
  • Alternatively, you could give Take Cover the "normal" action speed of 0 which will mean that Take Cover actions happen in the normal battler sequence. This will eliminate some of the guessing game, but not all of it. But it's also cool in that it rewards building high AGI, which is normally an overlooked stat - being quick means that you can take cover quickly before other battlers get the chance to fire on you, possibly even wasting their turns!
I'll just quickly bring up a system I'm working on for one of my own games, which is similar in its approach but does a few things differently. Might give you a bit of inspiration. My game has a "grid" like TBS's have (and Area of Effect attacks in different shapes), but no range restrictions on any attacks/skills in order to keep the flow of battle very fast (i.e. you can target any enemy anywhere on the battlefield) - think Skies of Arcadia. What I implemented as the defensive command is something called "Hide" - this consumes your turn (like any other action), and adds a Hidden state (unlimited duration) which prevents enemies from targeting the battler. This state does not, however, prevent damage or statuses - if the enemy targets one of your nearby allies with a large enough AoE, you will still take damage! The Hidden state is removed if you target anyone except yourself with an action, or if any allies target you with an action. Finally, in order to prevent stalemates, if all of your other allies are already Hidden (or KO'ed), then you can't Hide. Essentially, the dual purposes of this mechanic are to:
  • give the player a little more control over where enemies focus their attacks (by hiding certain characters, the others will take more of the fire)
  • allow vulnerable members of your team (or, for that matter, the Enemies) to get a reprieve from the onslaught; Hidden team members can even heal/buff themselves as their teammates fight! This must be weighed against the opportunity cost of making those team members unable to target anyone else while they're Hidden, while their foes can still make full use of their capabilities by targeting members who are not Hidden
Finally, about using a Tactics Battle System - I can totally understand the appeal of using one (it adds a lot of extra, potentially interesting wrinkles to combat), but in addition to taking more time and effort to set up (think how much trickier enemy AI will be!), you have to keep in mind that TBS combat is far, far slower than standard turn-based combat is! You have to choose 'Move', consider ranges, select a place on the grid, wait for the character to walk there, choose 'Attack' (or 'Skill' plus the desired skill), aim the attack on the grid, and then watch the animation. (Compare to Turn-based: Choose Attack/Skill, choose target, watch animation, done!)

In general, I don't think this dynamic works well with standard RPGs, unless you are specifically setting where encounters take place ("Fixed Encounters" rather than Random or Visual), and keeping that to just a few battles per dungeon. Then it could work.
  • I guess Legend of Heroes proves an exception to my advice - they use TBS combat, and it's still fun. But it does still feel a little too slow, and if it weren't so easy to avoid encounters on the adventure map, it would probably get frustrating.
The one thing in your gmae that a TBS would work really well for would be Cover, though! Instead of simply choosing a command, you could have obstacles of different sizes around the battlefield, which could block Ranged attacks that require Line of Sight (not to mention other battlers could also block LoS!). In such a system, the counterplay is interesting and not that hard - you have to move around and get to a position where you can fire on a Covered enemy, or team up with an ally to surround them so they can't hide from both of you at once!
 

cthulhusquid

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If you're looking for a tactical battle system, I recommend Lecode's TBS, which is what I use.

It's forum thread has a ton of views/replies, so if you need help you should look there.
Sorry, I should have specified that I'm using VX Ace.


So, I'm a little bit confused because you imply that you haven't actually switched to a Tactics Battle System, but you mention that you have "cover" mechanics implemented. I'm guessing that when you say cover mechanics, you are talking about a command called Cover in a standard turn-based combat system, which adds a state that reduces incoming damage by 100% (and maybe blocks incoming states), and lasts forever until the battler uses an attack/skill?

To get rid of most of the "guessing game" element, you could give the Take Cover action a very slow speed (like -500) instead of a fast one. This way, a battler could only take cover at the end of the turn, and any other commands queued up that turn (by actors or enemies) will be able to hit first. It also means you have to plan ahead a bit more, and can't just use Cover as a bailout when you're starting a turn with 3% of your HP. The only "guessing" will be if an enemy is already currently under Cover and you decide to fire on them, hoping that they come out of their cover to attack you before you do so. That's a choice the player specifically opts into.
  • Alternatively, you could give Take Cover the "normal" action speed of 0 which will mean that Take Cover actions happen in the normal battler sequence. This will eliminate some of the guessing game, but not all of it. But it's also cool in that it rewards building high AGI, which is normally an overlooked stat - being quick means that you can take cover quickly before other battlers get the chance to fire on you, possibly even wasting their turns!
I'll just quickly bring up a system I'm working on for one of my own games, which is similar in its approach but does a few things differently. Might give you a bit of inspiration. My game has a "grid" like TBS's have (and Area of Effect attacks in different shapes), but no range restrictions on any attacks/skills in order to keep the flow of battle very fast (i.e. you can target any enemy anywhere on the battlefield) - think Skies of Arcadia. What I implemented as the defensive command is something called "Hide" - this consumes your turn (like any other action), and adds a Hidden state (unlimited duration) which prevents enemies from targeting the battler. This state does not, however, prevent damage or statuses - if the enemy targets one of your nearby allies with a large enough AoE, you will still take damage! The Hidden state is removed if you target anyone except yourself with an action, or if any allies target you with an action. Finally, in order to prevent stalemates, if all of your other allies are already Hidden (or KO'ed), then you can't Hide. Essentially, the dual purposes of this mechanic are to:
  • give the player a little more control over where enemies focus their attacks (by hiding certain characters, the others will take more of the fire)
  • allow vulnerable members of your team (or, for that matter, the Enemies) to get a reprieve from the onslaught; Hidden team members can even heal/buff themselves as their teammates fight! This must be weighed against the opportunity cost of making those team members unable to target anyone else while they're Hidden, while their foes can still make full use of their capabilities by targeting members who are not Hidden
Finally, about using a Tactics Battle System - I can totally understand the appeal of using one (it adds a lot of extra, potentially interesting wrinkles to combat), but in addition to taking more time and effort to set up (think how much trickier enemy AI will be!), you have to keep in mind that TBS combat is far, far slower than standard turn-based combat is! You have to choose 'Move', consider ranges, select a place on the grid, wait for the character to walk there, choose 'Attack' (or 'Skill' plus the desired skill), aim the attack on the grid, and then watch the animation. (Compare to Turn-based: Choose Attack/Skill, choose target, watch animation, done!)

In general, I don't think this dynamic works well with standard RPGs, unless you are specifically setting where encounters take place ("Fixed Encounters" rather than Random or Visual), and keeping that to just a few battles per dungeon. Then it could work.
  • I guess Legend of Heroes proves an exception to my advice - they use TBS combat, and it's still fun. But it does still feel a little too slow, and if it weren't so easy to avoid encounters on the adventure map, it would probably get frustrating.
The one thing in your gmae that a TBS would work really well for would be Cover, though! Instead of simply choosing a command, you could have obstacles of different sizes around the battlefield, which could block Ranged attacks that require Line of Sight (not to mention other battlers could also block LoS!). In such a system, the counterplay is interesting and not that hard - you have to move around and get to a position where you can fire on a Covered enemy, or team up with an ally to surround them so they can't hide from both of you at once!
What you mentioned at the bottom with line of sight and physical cover obstacles is what I really want to do, but neither of the grid based systems I looked at had that feature.

The rest of what you said is interesting, I'm going to have to do some experimenting.
 

TheoAllen

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Here is a funny idea that I had in mind while it probably is still hard to implement but may not as hard as creating the whole battle system (I think).

Make a visual encounter and how you engage the enemy is by "shooting" or for them to shoot you to initialize the battle. Then all the bonus is calculated before the battle begins. For example, if the battle is initialized when you're in a specific region you're manually marked as "safe zone", you gain cover bonus. This goes the same as the enemy. So you could make sure you will always flank them before initializing the battle. However, you have a range of choice on how the cover implementation works
  1. It boosts your defense
  2. It boosts your evasion rate
  3. You only have an option to use the cover in a limited amount depends on where you initialize the battle. For example, you have a party of four, and two of them can only do cover while the other one left exposed.
  4. Whether or not the enemy may blow the cover so you lose the bonus.
The battle will be as quick as many as your standard turn-based RPG, not as long as 15 ~ 30 minutes of one session battle in XCOM, which, in my opinion, could be good.
 

Frostorm

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Lecode's TBS has line of sight built in.

Edit: Oh sry, just noticed you're using VXAce...that's unfortunate. :/
 

Wavelength

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Moving this thread to Game Ideas & Prototypes, since it's somewhat specific to your project.

(GMD wasn't a bad place to post it, but after discussion we feel Ideas & Prototypes is the better fit.)
 

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