Forecasting Enemy Intent (Slay the Spire-like battle flow)

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Wavelength, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,381
    Likes Received:
    3,656
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    After a couple weeks of playing Slay the Spire, one thing really stuck out to me about its battle system, and it had nothing to do with the fact that you fight using collectible cards.

    What I really liked was that the game shows you each enemy's General Intent for this coming turn, before you take your action. The Intent is clearly shown in a GUI symbol above the enemy's head, and will always be one (or two) of the following: Deal Damage, Inflict Status Effect, Aid Allies, Defend, or ??? ("???" means it's a special enemy-specific mechanic, but never dealing damage).
    • "Normal" enemies usually do one of these things per turn; "Boss" enemies usually do two per turn, such as Deal Damage + Defend
    • The actual skill the enemy will use is not forecast. For example, a boss with a Strength Buff and a Dexterity Buff might use either one when "Aid Allies" is shown as their Intent
    • The player always goes first on each turn, so that they can use tools to prepare for the enemy's forecasted move
    Having this Intent available adds an informed decision-making dynamic to the battle - the player can choose their offensive or defensive tools on a given turn, and choose their targets, based on what the enemies intend to do. Instead of allowing only for battle-wide strategies, the Intents foster unique and interesting decisions on every turn.

    A bad implementation of this system could result in very reflexive decisions (they're going to attack? defend. they're going to heal? attack first), but the way that enemies within a party usually have different Intents from each other, and the way that bosses generally do two things at once, means that you often have to decide between different priorities on your turn, which (in addition to the semi-randomized "skills" available to you each turn) keeps things from getting stale in StS.

    Since it inspires such a strategic and rewarding dynamic, I'm wondering if enemy Intent could be added to RPG combat systems to create a more satisfying experience. It would remove a lot of the frustrations of AI Roulette, specifically giving the player an indication of whether it will be wise or wasteful to use their defensive tools, such as Guards and Heals. It would also remove some of the frustration associated with bosses blindsiding you with moves you don't expect, giving you a turn to prepare for whatever's coming, and create interesting decisions about whether you want to take down Slime A or Slime C first.

    Do you think that enemy Intent could move traditional RPG combat systems forward? What do you think needs to be done to ensure that it creates good play experiences?

    Discussion of other types of "Intent" systems (such as Xenoblade's "Visions") is also welcome here. Discussion of "Aggro Systems" might even fit the conversation, as well, if you feel those can bring the same dynamics that Intent systems offer.
     
    #1
    atoms and TheoAllen like this.
  2. shockra

    shockra Slightly Crazy Programmer Veteran

    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    US
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    I think the reason that Intents work in Slay the Spire is that the turns are in a fixed order. The player takes his or her actions, then the enemies take theirs. The more complex nature of a "standard" RPG can complicate Intents since a typical RPG has multiple PCs.

    Still, it can work if turns are done in a predictable fashion. Let's consider the default format of an RPG Maker battle. The player decides character actions at the start of the turn. For Intents to have a purpose, the enemies must decide what actions to take before that point.
     
    #2
  3. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    390
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    It would be possible to broadcast their upcoming intentions before the start of a turn. I think in order to do it, you would need to attach a common event to their skills that inflicts a state on themselves. The information of the intentions would be in the state. Then in the enemy behavior tab, attach the majority of their actions in there to states. Then on the next turn when the player is selecting actions, they can strategize based on what they saw the preivious turn

    Hey. All this is possible without scripts!

    Edit: Wait! no. A better way to handle this would be at the end of each turn, a battle event would call a common event that would randomly inflict one of the states on each enemy. I'll make a template and post it
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
    #3
  4. BlueMage

    BlueMage Slime Lv99 Veteran

    Messages:
    110
    Likes Received:
    136
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVX
    It's just a different way to give player a predict pattern of enemies, similar to actionRPG game where you have to observe enemies' stance to guess what is he doing next and re-act before too late
     
    #4
  5. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    390
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    Here's what i came up with. Just put the broadcast message in when the state is applied

    Edit: Forgot to mention you dont need any other info in the state except making sure it expires when it's supposed to. You could also do an icon instead of text to let people know which state was applied. Either one would work

    Broadcast1.png Broadcast 2.png Broadcast3.png
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
    #5
    woootbm and caethyril like this.
  6. kairi_key

    kairi_key Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    44
    First Language:
    thai
    I cannot think of how it can move RPG forward that much yet... (as of now)
    I think Aggro System is the closest thing in RPG to that.

    Given how obviously telegraphed this "intent" system is, I think being restricted in what you can do each turn is a must as you mentioned how that game also have some random factor in the skills you can use.

    I think of tactics style game like FFT, where enemies' intent can be grasp with where they are moving toward in the board, or even when they finally cast spells and charge times are needed. However, in that game you also play by the same rule so any skills you came up with to interact will that is still going through charge time.
     
    #6
  7. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    390
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    An aggro system could be achived with any plugin that allows states to stack. Just make a state that increases the target rate of the battler by 200% (1000% could work, though less flexability) and a state that puts it 80%. Then have them wear off in maybe like 2-3 actions, and skills that add the states in their damage formulas
     
    #7
  8. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

    Messages:
    4,385
    Likes Received:
    4,955
    Location:
    Riftverse
    First Language:
    Indonesian
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I'm going to put more fuel in this discussion instead of answering the questions. Because it's a cool concept and I would like to try it someday.
    • Does the enemy's target need to be displayed as well? i.e, enemy A is going to attack and it's attacking actor B. Or does it need to be a mystery?
    • How about the area of effect attack or random hit attack? Does it need to be shown as well? Or is it only enough to show it by using a single normal attack icon? Or is it a bad enemy attack pattern that you shouldn't do it?
    • How are we going to streamline the intent forecast? "Aid allies" can be broken down into: "Heal", "Buff" because they're a two different thing. Does it need to be separated or merged?
    • How about special attack that deal damage but also buff itself? Does it need to be shown as "attack intent" or "???" intent? or is it a bad enemy pattern design?
    • Because we're going to show the enemy intent, what is the limitation? What you can do and what you can't do for designing the enemy pattern? I mean, of course, it needs to be streamlined and a certain enemy attack pattern probably is going to break the rule.
     
    #8
    BlueMage likes this.
  9. Eschaton

    Eschaton Hack Fraud Veteran

    Messages:
    2,029
    Likes Received:
    529
    Location:
    Kansas City, Missouri
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    I'd prefer a system in which I can learn enemy patterns and exploit them. Most players will learn enemy behavior patterns and which enemies to prioritize due to enemy damage output, debuffing, or healing through trial and error. In the end, the goal of turn-based battle is to have more damage-per-turn than the enemy has hit points and adding to that core gameplay experience can be difficult to make fun.

    I think telegraphing enemy behavior comes back to pattern recognition. An enemy does something fairly innocuous or even harmless before it does something very dangerous on its following turn, and for it to be effective it would have to happen every time.

    As for getting telegraphed who the enemy's target is, that's probably trickier, but I still think it leans mostly on pattern recognition.
     
    #9
    FirestormNeos likes this.
  10. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    390
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    Like every other JRPG? So all we have to do to make an interesting battle system is to make skills that just do damage or heal or reduce damage? Got it. BTW, that was sarcasm
     
    #10
    JosephSeraph and Zizka like this.
  11. Basileus

    Basileus Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    398
    First Language:
    English
    This reminds me a little of Fate/Extra, which had a system where the player and enemy each had 6 actions per turn with some telegraphing. There were 3 basic attack commands (Attack, Guard, Break which have a rock-paper-scissors triangle) plus Skills, Items, and Code Casts. During the planning phase, the player can see some of the actions the enemy will take next turn. Fighting the same enemy many times results inthe MC learning more about the enemy's patterns and becoming able to see/predict more of their actions each turn. In the case of bosses, the player will instead need to investigate them outside of battle to learn more about them before the fight.

    The reward for doing this is making battles safer by using Guard to nullify Attack damage, using Attack to interrupt the enemy's Break, and using Break to prevent the counterattack from the enemy's Guard. Correctly countering 3 moves in a row also results in an Extra attack which deals bonus damage before the next "phase" (i.e. if you successfully counter the first 3 actions then you will get an Extra attack before continuing to the 4th actions in the round). Items and Code Casts (abilities tied to the player's equipment) go before the actions in that "phase" while Skills take up one of the 6 action slots for that turn.

    The gameplay certainly becomes reactive so it may be what you are referring to as poor implementations. However, I haven't played Slay the Spire so I'm not sure how much better it works there. I'd say that it can be kind of neat to have the information to make good decisions but can become stale if you can predict and counter everything. Adding in some randomization would prevent the player from always having the correct answer, but I feel like it might be really annoying to know what you need to do but not be able to do it because you didn't draw the right card ("I'd love to block this big attack but my character forgot how to raise his shield because he didn't draw the card for it").

    Would less information be more engaging in this case? Like instead of saying the boss will do a basic attack they could have a windup animation playing to show they are going to do something physical, or a spellcasting animation for spells. I'm thinking more like how enemy actions in a game like Dark Souls are telegraphed rather than just text boxes, but that would also require the art assets to do it so it may not always be viable.
     
    #11
    Wavelength likes this.
  12. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

    Messages:
    2,197
    Likes Received:
    1,255
    Location:
    Fiore
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    I did this with enemy charged attacks in my last game. It's basically a telegraphed attack indicated by a status icon above them the turn before that, when hits, deals massive damage (or heals enemies by a lot in the case of support units). Player characters have skillsets to deal with this, such as stuns, opportunity attacks or highly defensive moves that gain extra effect on charging enemies. I think it worked really well, but I never thought about doing it for any other type of behaviour.
     
    #12
    atoms and Eschaton like this.
  13. JosephSeraph

    JosephSeraph White Mage Restaff

    Messages:
    811
    Likes Received:
    668
    Location:
    Santos, Brasil
    First Language:
    Portuguese
    A lot of RPGs have some sort of way to allude to enemy intent, especially modern ones -- Brave Exvius being the one that comes to mind, with enemies having clear, predictable patterns -- but the game never goes as far as telling you, having you learn it through looking at the wiki repeated attempts. I think even that game would benefit a lot from it.

    But now that I think of it, I think if there's one game I'd like to bring to that conversation (and urge everyone to play!), it's Helen's Mysterious Castle. Not only it showcases enemy intent very clearly, but the game's main mechanic is that every action (yours or theirs) has a Defense stat and a Wait stat. So, when you use an action, your defense becomes that Action's defense, and your Wait is set to that number as well -- moving down to zero, where you'll execute the action. Some actions can be stuff like Shields -- time the Shield right and you'll block your enemy's powerful attack. Time your spell correctly and you'll kill that enemy before they have the chance to obliterate your long charging time. It starts of pretty lenient and becomes progressively tougher, as well as open, as you're allowed a lot of different Actions, and you can upgrade them (linearily) in the order you wish.

    It's probably the only game I know whose main mechanic is this.
     
    #13
    atoms and Wavelength like this.

Share This Page