Wavelength

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I'm pretty happy with the use of Cooldowns (once you use a skill, you must wait some number of turns before using it again) in a game I'm developing to encourage the player to rotate between different skills during battle and add a stronger element of timing.  I have plans to go back to one of my old games and improve it, and decided that it might be a good idea to add Cooldowns to that game as well - and as I wrote up designs to do so, I started to think that maybe I could eliminate mana (MP) from the game entirely, gating the use of skills solely by the implementation of Cooldowns (hopefully having cooldowns that are long enough to force characters to use basic attacks or guard actions once in a while).


My own game has some unique mechanics (such as the complete lack of dungeons), but I wanted to ask you guys as a completely general question - in any RPG game you've designed or played where skills have cooldown periods, what benefits and drawbacks do you feel Cooldowns bring to RPG combat?  Does it ever feel contrived, restrictive, or unnecessary?  What kinds of mechanics, if any, do you think would work well with a system that used only Cooldowns and turns to gate skill use, rather than MP or any other tangible "resource"?
 

beenbaba

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I think if you were going to only use cooldowns then there must be some way to either decrease the cooldown time or increase it across all skills or any at a time.


For example, my actors could impose a state that cut's their cooldowns in half, enemies could dish out a state that doubles cooldown lengths of a certain element or physical attacks only.


In terms of strengths and drawbacks, for me at least, it's biggest strength is it's biggest weakness, and that would be strategy. I find with cool downs you have to me more proactive in thinking at a smaller to long term strategy, especially if you can be punished easy by enemies. It requires more time and more effort to make actions, some people revel in this kind of involvement.


Some people dislike it heavily and prefer to have a resource that you can recharge when you want to (kind of), with an item or such, rather than having an imposed restriction. And other times people just spam the skills when they can and don't think of strategy at all so the whole point of cooldowns become a bit irrelevant haha (which is exactly how I played Guild Wars 2, rightly or wrongly)


I think though if you could design it so that cooldowns were only a little bit restrictive so that people not into strategy as much could quite happily go along with it and like AND find a way to reward someone for playing more efficiently and more strategic that would be a real nice sweet spot.
 

ash55

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1) With cooldowns, the resource's state doesn't usually persist between battles, so you don't need to think ahead about future battles. Whereas in most games with MP, if you use up 50% of your mana, you'll have to deal with having 50% of your mana missing in the next battle. Not necessarily a pro or con, but a consideration, and it depends which you prefer.

2) Another (somewhat related) issue is that if each skill has its own individual cooldown timer, then you can simply unleash them ALL at the start of the battle. So short battles become kind of dull and reptitive once you learn the optimal "rotation". A way around this is to choose which skills start the battle on cooldown.


3) I think cooldowns work better in time-based battle systems rather tan turn-based. And I think time-based battle systems benefit from a more hotbar-esque battle UI (to reduce frantic menu surfing for skills).

4) It prevents skill spamming. If you have 9999 MP you could unleash the same high-powered spell over and over again until you run out of MP. With cooldowns this is not possible.

If I were to make a purely cooldown-based battle system, I think that I'd quite like to have a sort of dual skill system. Like each skill is either Dark or Light. If you use a Dark Skill, it goes on cooldown. Then, using another Dark Skill will make all Dark Skills cool down even slower, while Light Skills will make all Dark Skills cooldown faster. That way it adds a bit of pacing and an extra layer to consider when selecting a skill, beyond its basic effect in battle. You COULD use two Dark Skills one after the other (and maybe they're designed to combo, like one burns a target, and another deals extra damage to burned targets), but both will come back a lot slower than if you use a Light Skill. This autonomy over the pace of your cooldowns makes the system feel a lot less restrictive too. A system like that could really mix up how cooldowns work and introduce some interesting trade-offs.

If you used such a system as mentioned in my Point 2), then you could perhaps have the most powerful skills start the battle already ON cooldown. And thus when choosing whether to start with Light or Dark skills, you would determine which of your powerful skills will come off cooldown first.

Another system to explore is the global cooldown. If you use a Dark Skill, perhaps you can't use a Dark Skill again until a global timer runs out. Perhaps the global cooldown timer can be set to a longer duration if you use an especially strong skill.

Certain gear or passive abilities might reduce the cooldown of certain skills, so you can create builds that focus around a specific skill as the basis of your strategy. If you can reduce the cooldown for a defensive buff, you could create a more defensive playstyle for example.

So in summary. A game with no MP and just cooldowns could work for sure, but there aren't as many examples to follow in the footsteps of (except for MMOs which are a different beast), so it's a less safe option. You'd need to really think about the balance of your battle system and plan it out intelligently.
 
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Almost all of the games I've played where skills have cooldowns are far more action-based, stuff like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. In these games, powers are heavily tactical, either hindering enemies or being more effective against certain enemies or under certain conditions.


Of course, games like that are quite different from RPG Maker games. There's at least one RPG Maker game I've played where the cooldowns felt merely like a way to keep me from using the only skill I'd ever want to use otherwise or to keep me from using a vital ability as often as I needed to.


So I can't really say that I have any interest in cooldowns in a turn-based RPG, or any particular thoughts on how it could be implemented in a way I wouldn't find annoying or restrictive.
 

HeathRiley

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Hello!


As I've said before I'm a very big newb to rpgmaker. Mv is my first and I'm simply just working on a first project for now. 


With that said, one of my characters is a ninja that uses hand-signs and plays like a red mage from the FF games. The hand signs timers are tied so only one can be used at a time. With a final tier hand sign that sets all their timers back a bit further. I use this in conjunction with mp to cast the ninjutsu. The hand signs are:


1Next attack ninjutsu has higher potency.


2Next hits aoe


3Adds enfeebles to melee attacks


4And the final one adds a high damage special skill only use able while the hand sign is up but sets cool downs farther back.


The actual spells are basic nukes, 1 enfeeb, 1 heal, 1 buff.


I'm sure that could be expanded on but that's all I'm planning for this. It was a lot of fun to make and slowly opens more playing options each time the hand sign is learned. Tying the cool downs helps prevent them from being too overpowered for that char. While every game may not need cooldowns, it can be a nice extra layer.
 
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Chaos Avian

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I believe Cooldowns can also work well with Warmups. Just as you can't spam your strongest skill over and over, it would makes sense that you can't use said skill the moment battle starts. I can also see limited uses working well with this by scrapping the MP resource, so I suppose it could lead to smart skill rotation or even situational needs. @beenbaba's point on reducing Cooldowns with skills is a nice tactic as well (that could benefit from limited use). I would definitely play around with Global Cooldowns. Oh that super powered skill you just used? Yeah, but that just put all your skills of that element/ skill type of Cooldown. Whoops~


So a system I can come up with is eliminating MP and TP, having skills with various Cooldowns/ Warmups and a few that reduce Cooldowns/ Warmups (that have limited uses). The Attack command can be an option to deal damage if others skills are still unusable (perhaps Weapons Unleash can spice up monotony?) and the Guard option is the same as always but perhaps restore (by chance?) a used Ability use. Items are items, nothing new there.


Now as for this working well without being annoying in a standard turn based RPG without it being annoying? I'll be honest I'm not entirely sure, you'll probably have to make battles VERY unique, interesting and strategic to pull it off. Equipment would play a larger role than just bolstering your stats with this system and passive skills/ effects would be key.
 

hadecynn

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As many other people have said, using CDs as another variable for resource management adds a new level of depth to gameplay. However, as some have also pointed out, a poor implementation of this might not work in turn-based RPGs. The question, then, is WHY a CD system might not be compatible with turn-based, and I personally think that most of the problem isn't with the implementation of CDs on the player's side, but rather with the lack of adjustments in accordance to this system on the enemy's side in an encounter. Consider:


In the traditional MP-only world, because the resource is (relatively) easily recoverable, players have the incentives to unleash their biggest offensive and defensive actions with great freedom. As a result, game difficulty and challenge had to be manipulated by giving enemies the same sort of pattern as the players; that is, relatively unlimited uses of hard-hitting skills that forces players to use their strongest heals every turn. So what happens when you replace the player's side of the mechanic with a CD system, but don't adjust the enemy's patterns? You will likely end up frustrating the players because the CD doesn't actually add anything to the combat; every player will default to using the CD skill as soon as it is usable because it is STILL the best option, all you've done is added artificial difficulty; you haven't changed the foundations of gameplay.


So how do we address this issue? Encounters should have mechanics that creates decision points which forces some sort of trade-off which makes the TIMING of using CD-based skills meaningful.


Imagine you have a boss that: (numbers are for illustrative purposes only)


1. Uses a very strong, party-wide attack every 5 turns.


2. Changes attack patterns based on remaining HP left (e.g. lots of hard-hitting single-target attacks from 100% ~ 30% health, focuses on party-wide attacks from 30% ~ 15%, has a balanced probability of using either skill from 15% ~ 0%.


3. Has an increase in attack power for the duration of the last 25% ~ 0% of its health


As you can probably see, the difficulty of this encounter is dynamic and heavily dependent on the play style and strategy of the player. Specifically, if a player causes the boss's HP to fall below the 30% AND 25% mark on the same turn number that is divisible by 5, the player has a high probability of being hit with a buffed super strong attack, followed with a barrage of party-wide attacks for the successive turns that the healers might or might not be able to handle. This would be a time where players could decide:


1. For defensive CDs, do I want to blow them all to survive this party-wide assault until I hit 15%?


2. For offensive CDs, do I want to push the boss from 30% ~ 15%, or is it better to push from 15% to 0%?


Of course, its a lot deeper than this, but hopefully this can help getting you thinking about how you would need to spice up the other half of the encounter as well, if you want to replace the traditional MP-based designs with a CD-based design.


Hope this helps.
 

jonthefox

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I don't have much to add that other people haven't already said so I'll just say that I tend to like cooldowns as a short-term (within the battle) gate mechanic, but I also like to use MP to gate the *long-term* use of skills (across lots of battles).   


It's possible that, depending on the nature of your game, there is no need for MP if you don't have a need for a long-term gate.   That would depend on the specifics of your game.   The only other thing I'd say with regard to using cooldowns in place of mana is, it could become problematic if you had a large variety of skills--you need to make sure it's very clear and intuitive re: the cooldown of each skill and how many turns are remaining, or it become tedious to navigate all of that (as opposed to the intuitive nature of MP).  
 
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TheRiotInside

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With cooldowns you essentially force the player's hand regarding when a skill can be used, which isn't necessarily good or bad. Another option might be to provide incentive to mix up skills or to use them in certain orders, instead of directly restricting certain behaviour. This is more challenging to implement properly, and can be done in many ways.


For example, say you have a character with a strong sword skill, a fire AoE skill, and a healing skill, and you want to provide incentive to not spam the AoE skill over and over. You could have the skill buff the user's healing rate for a turn, encouraging a healing skill next turn. Likewise, you could have it invigorate the user, buffing their Attack for a couple turns, encouraging default attacks or the sword skill. If improving other options isn't a strong enough incentive, you could do the opposite, where you debuff the user's fire rate, making repeated uses of the fire skill weaker.


In other situations, you can have skills that combo into each other (one skill providing a state that increases the damage of another specific skill via damage formula), or healing skills that start off potent, but diminish in efficacy when used repeatedly on the same ally. With methods like these, you aren't directly preventing the player from performing certain actions more than you'd like, but rather you are merely suggesting that they don't. :)
 

Snayff

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I think some really interesting points have been raised. I agree with most that a pure CD system often becomes a game of muscle memory, hitting the skill that is next in the line. 


Someone mentioned that mana (or similar) can work as a gate across battles, which is absolutely true within certain conditions. A lack of healing on the field map, for example. Often the ability to regenerate these gauges (through potions or skills) makes it a moot point after the first few hours. How many of us have not hit x99 potions or similar in a FF-style game? Even ethers (or whatever mana regen) makes it a simple matter of getting back to full. On the flip side, when the mana is empty, a lot of characters become useless and personally i dont see the fun in that. If the game is based around managing resources then i would suggest it needs more depth than just CDs, but in most other circumstances I think that as a gate cooldowns have a place.


Something I am looking in to at the moment is a low total mana bar (say enough for 1-2 skills) and if the cost cannot be paid in mana it is paid by placing the skill on CD. So you could use the same skill two turns in a row but the second puts it on CD. I hope that will give it some tactical depth while allowing the player to make interesting decisions.  
 

jonthefox

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I actually think it's really poor game design to have trivially easy access to things like mana potions, if mana is being used to gate long-term use...Totally defeats the purpose.  This is one of the things that many classic Final Fantasy games got wrong.    I feel like a lot of the flaws of those games came from not trusting the player to be somewhat competent, and so the challenge was pretty lacking.
 

Snayff

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@jonthefox interestingly though, if i remember correctly, later FF games (7 and up) had quite a challenging post game. Odd that they would make the base game so simple and the post-game so much more challenging. Though (moving back to the topic) in my opinion  there was little depth within FF and they had a few resource methods over the years. Can't say I remember a cooldown system. TO build on what OP said, has anyone seen a successful implementation of a cooldown setup?
 

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