Environmental Battle Mechanics

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Nobody King, Mar 1, 2018.

  1. Nobody King

    Nobody King Villager Member

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    I've been thinking about how rare it is for RPGs to have environments that actually affect combat. The difference between a frozen tundra and an active volcano doesn't really exist outside of the enemies you encounter, they're basically just backdrops for the battle. There will be plenty of ways for the player to interact with the environment in the overworld, but that stops the moment they hit a battle.

    Off the top of my head Pokemon and Final Fantasy X are the only RPGs I can think of that use their environments in any substantial way. Pokemon had weather that changed the properties of certain moves With FFX you had bosses with all sorts of environment gimmicks, fighting by a cliff meant you could be pushed off, you could move your ship closer or farther away, use a looping corridor to do a pincer attack, etc. It's really neat, but normal enemies don't get anything like it and really only specific bosses get them.

    So I'm wondering if you all have ever thought of ways to make the environment matter in fights, or if you can think of any other games that do.

    Edit: Some extra examples of what I mean using the tundra and volcano.

    • Tundra: Ice spells have an increase chance to cause freeze. Water-based spells now have a chance to cause freeze. Attacks that use the ground to attack deal ice damage instead of earth.
    • Volcano: Cold-blooded enemies move faster (agility/evade buff) thanks to the warmth. Ice attacks deal less damage. Fire absorbing enemies gain a regen.
    Course these are just quick examples so they aren't perfect, but you get the gist.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
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  2. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    In my current project the terrain makes some skills unusable, and also the weather . The terrain can also increase the strength of skills or add an additional feature or affect an actor's stats. Is that the sort of thing you are referring to?
     
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  3. Eschaton

    Eschaton Hack Fraud Veteran

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    Those games really just used "context sensitive skills" and weather-related states/buffs to make any real impact. Doesn't feel very different from skills and states, just those that aren't under the player's control. Modern games incorporate the environment into the gameplay by making creative use of highly robust physics and chemistry engines.
     
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  4. Nobody King

    Nobody King Villager Member

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    Yes, that is exactly the type of thing I'm talking about. Maybe I should have listed some more examples in my initial post to make it clearer what I meant.

    Yeah, in the case of FFX that's pretty much all they are, but the idea is there. Even if they ultimately are just new states, I think having the environment you fight in play a role would help to make the world feel more integrated into the gameplay.

    And when I talk about this I do mainly mean more traditional RPGs. Physics engines can do a lot and that's a really cool aspect of modern games, but not really what I'm referring to.
     
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  5. nomotog

    nomotog Villager Member

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    I played with this idea for a bit. My take was to spawn in a second set of passive monsters to act as terrain elements. Like if you started a battle in a tile that was a junk yard you started the battle with oil barrles mixed in with the combatants. The other idea I came up with latter was like @Kes when the terrain would lock and unlock diffrent party/monster skills. Like if your in a forest you have a skill that lets you hide in the trees or how if you fight the crab monster on land then they cant dive.

    I also paired this with visual encounters where you could try and rig the battle to happen on the terrain you want
     
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  6. Frogboy

    Frogboy I'm not weak to fire Veteran

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    Ogre Battle did this to a very limited degree. Because you sent out up to 10 units and the enemy would send out even more, fighting in that game was just mostly about strategic positioning on the terrain that a particular unit was well suited for. A water unit with Mermaids and an Octopus in it would get crushed on land but in the water, would perform quite well. Dragons and Hell Hounds did well in the mountains. Flying creatures could get over walled fortifications. Terrain played a big part. Ogre Battle is more of a hybrid between an RPG and a tower defense game, though, so I'm not sure how much it counts.
     
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  7. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

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    I remember those battles in FFX, but I did not enjoy them. The player does not have a chance to practice under these conditions before the boss match, and it's a scramble to compensate.
    Pokemon is a much better example. If you look into the specific mechanics of weather in Pokemon, they are surprisingly detailed and realistic. Usually there's an overarching effect, like rain powering up water moves. On another level individual Pokemon have passive abilities that benefit from rain, such as Hydration, which cures status ailments, and Swift Swim, which boosts speed. Rain also affects alternate elements; for example boosting the accuracy of the Thunder attack. Another very important feature is that Pokemon can create Rain, either with abilities or the Rain Dance move.

    I agree weather and terrain effects are like status and buff changes, but they can also be much more comprehensive--not to mention visually stimulating! My current project has very team-oriented combat, so I have reduced the number of individual status ailments like Poison or Blind, and expanded weather and terrain conditions, which affect both allies and enemies. I don't want to give too many spoilers, but here is one example.

    Mud (Terrain)
    -Occurs in swamps and during Storm weather conditions
    -Can be indirectly created by excessive use of Water spells
    -Reduces Speed of all creatures
    -Speed reduction is negated by the Traction and Flying abilities
    -Increases the effectiveness of Ice spells
    -Allows Druids to summon an Earth Golem ally

    Note: Effects of weather and terrain are stackable and sometimes complimentary. Storm (Weather) both creates Mud (Terrain) and cancels the advantages of the Flying ability, thus making Flying creatures susceptible to Speed reduction.
     
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  8. Eschaton

    Eschaton Hack Fraud Veteran

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    Anything that can cause the player to lose a turn, or that randomly penalizes them for using certain strategies is only going to anger the player.

    Look at Laws from *Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.* Nobody liked that.
     
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  9. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    Oh, I liked it. What I HATED was the laws DIDN'T APPLY TO THE ENEMIES. Oh, sure, they could sometimes get yellow cards, but no ejections or anything. Even when you could force them take actions. Even when you could force a specific law onto the books to screw them over.

    My problem with the system was that it was touted as the rules apply to everyone, when in reality, the rules apply to ONLY THE FREAKIN' PLAYER.

    So, the system suffered immensely from inherent lack of strategy or skill involved in it. It had no depth as a result.

    ---

    Going back to the original topic here. I wouldn't mind a system in which the "weather" or the "environment" did things in combat. I frequently suggest the same thing for "Roguelikes" or "Dungeon Crawlers".

    However, when you put that into a traditional Western or even JRPG, it feels very "punishing" for no reason. Namely, you have to make the environments punishing to warrant their use. Unless freezing cold is a serious detriment, it adds zero to combat, right? So, then you have to put things into the game to nullify or minimize the environmental effects. Which... the player will use... Which renders them again... pointless to a combat system.

    The problem with putting these features into a traditionally designed RPG is that you're going to run into that problem a lot. Either the system is going to be so easy and forgiving that it offers nothing to the experience and is simply a minor inconvenience... Or, it's so severely punishing that the player just doesn't like dealing with it and will avoid combat as often as possible because of how punishing they are.

    If you want them to work, you need to design an entire combat system around those mechanics. Maybe even ways to mitigate them in battle that don't involve equipment. Maybe even these mechanics do things to the enemies. I can't think of a plausible way to put them into a combat system have them be part of combat to a compelling degree, but I haven't thought about it that hard. I'm sure there'd be a way to do it. What if enemies could change the weather too, maybe? What if you're near lava and fighting Fire elementals... and they change the weather from, "scorching heat" to "ash storm"?

    I dunno, maybe I'd just design a game around those effects. Like, "Atmomancer: The Power of Weather" or something. You could manipulate the environment as well as battle. Make changes on the field to solve puzzles and create bridges or whatever else.

    Just spitballing here.

    But, seriously, I think it would only ever work as a major mechanic and would need to be used constantly. Like, every single battle. Every skill would need to revolve around those mechanics.
     
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  10. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    Honestly I personally am not a fan of anything that can randomly penalize, or even give an advantage, to players. However, weather effects do add to the level of depth and immersion to the game. If well implemented, it can be something to take into consideration when battling (best example is pokemon).

    However, it will be another factor and element that makes the battle system more complicate. If you already modified, or even created your own complex battle system, adding another system in it might make it more complicated and hard for the player to grasp every component in the battle. For example, I use a battle system with action sequencing, hero abilities with levels, skills with abilities, semi-tactical positioning, and magic casting. This is already bombarding the player with a lot of stuff to learn and master. Adding another element would mean another element the player has to learn and incorporate in his knowledge of the battle system. I'm not saying it's bad, but it must be significant enough for the player to have to learn another element of the battle system.
     
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  11. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

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    Weather and Terrain effects are not punishing. They're just like any element of a battle system. It's no more arbitrary than choosing which monsters the player is going to fight, or which attacks monsters can resist. We simply haven't seen enough games use these elements, so there's a shortage of good examples.
     
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  12. Harosata

    Harosata Dramatic Lightning's BFF Veteran

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    I recall Paper Mario Color something having a quicksand area where if you simply do nothing, you'll sink and die. In fact, the old Paper Mario and 1000 were pretty much fighting on stages (with naysayers too), plus some of the occasional fog to make you miss your attacks. Oh, and falling backdrops too.

    Anyway, here's my example of an environmental battle mechanic: I have these enemies called Mudballs, and their main attack will increase your stack of Muddy which will also increase their damage to you. You ought to finish the battle quickly before stacks get too high, but ideally, you're suppose to avoid them due to having a bit more HP at this point. In fact, considering that the place you find them has a lot of muddy off-trails, going off the safe paths means buillding up stackes of Muddy, which makes Mudball encounters very deadly.
     
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  13. ScientistWD

    ScientistWD Innocuous Veteran

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    Oh, oh! I did this...! Using Yanfly's Selection Control and State Categories. I make "enemies" that can't be attacked nor do they need to be killed in order to win. It's like they're part of the environment. I have two or three examples!

    One of my levels is a Forest Fire. When you're in the forest normally, you fight trees and butterflies and stuff. But, when the fire starts, "Flame" enemies spawn in the troops. They harm all combatants, and set the trees on fire which boosts their Attack and changes their AI.
    Next is the Moon Valley. All troops here include "The Moon", which fills both teams' Party Limit Gauge really quickly. Like I said, you can't actually attack "The Moon," it's just there, takes a turn in battle, and doesn't need to be killed to defeat the troop.
    I have an idea for "Thunderclouds" that occur during thunderstorms. They strike any combatant that uses too much magic with deadly accuracy.
    I'm having another one for "Berry Bushes". They heal you when attacked, as long as they have a "berry" state. Some smart enemies might try to eat them, too.

    Stuff like that! I love this idea and honestly, I should include more of them.... hmm....
     
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