In games with an "invisibility" skill, do you prefer a step-based or timer-based cost?

FirestormNeos

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In games with a stealth system (and even in some without), there is sometimes a skill or item that has limited use which prevents enemies from spotting you. In the Pokemon series, this primarily takes the form of repels, which prevents random encounters for a finite number of steps (Base 100, Super 200, Max 250). Contrast this with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with has the "Glass Skin Augment" that prevents enemies from visibly noticing you for a finite period of time (Base 3 Seconds, Upgrades all the way to 9 seconds IIRC).

In games, which kind of system do you prefer for your "invisible" meter? What do you prefer to design around?
 

TheoAllen

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The comparison is unfair. The random encounter repel is based on a game that is designed in a grid-based movement. While the timer is designed for an action-based game with more freedom of movement (and you need to move quickly). Because that decision is best for their case.
 

FirestormNeos

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The comparison is unfair. The random encounter repel is based on a game that is designed in a grid-based movement. While the timer is designed for an action-based game with more freedom of movement (and you need to move quickly). Because that decision is best for their case.
If the "invisibility" skill drained mana over time and was based around avoiding on-screen encounters in a grid-based game, which would you think would work better?
 

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If the "invisibility" skill drained mana over time and was based around avoiding on-screen encounters in a grid-based game, which would you think would work better?
Personally I would remove the grid-based movement first because I emphasize on the movement, not the encounter system. Why? The overtime drain is unfair because in a grid-based movement when you want to turn around, you need to complete the movement in another grid before taking to another turn/movement, making it less responsive. Or, simply not making an "invisibility" at all.

But if you still want my answer, I will humor you. I probably choose the drain over time.
 

Wavelength

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Both solutions are fine. I suppose I have a slight preference for Timer-based since it's a "use it or lose it" thing that I as the player have the ability to try to make the most of. But if you go with the Timer approach (and you have a separate screen for combat), make sure the time isn't running while you're in combat, where the player is supposed to be able to take time to think, to breathe a bit.

Extra tip when designing either version of a Repel or Invisibility effect - let the player know when their time is low (about 20%) and very low (about 3%) so they can plan around their next move! And if possible, do it unobtrusively - a subtle visual effect or a small HUD icon is good enough; try not to interrupt play with Message Boxes, nor to annoy the player with bright red flashes and alarm sounds.
 

FirestormNeos

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But if you go with the Timer approach (and you have a separate screen for combat), make sure the time isn't running while you're in combat, where the player is supposed to be able to take time to think, to breathe a bit.
Good thing parallel process common events don't run during combat, then... do they?

Extra tip when designing either version of a Repel or Invisibility effect - let the player know when their time is low (about 20%) and very low (about 3%) so they can plan around their next move! And if possible, do it unobtrusively - a subtle visual effect or a small HUD icon is good enough; try not to interrupt play with Message Boxes, nor to annoy the player with bright red flashes and alarm sounds.
Yeah, always hated that about Pokemon's Repels. Project I'm working on uses the mana bar. 1 point of mana = either one step or one second of invisibility, depending on which system I end up settling on. Would that help, or should I get a plugin that puts something on the out-of-menu HUD showing the player's mana bar?
 

Wavelength

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Good thing parallel process common events don't run during combat, then... do they?
Right, Common Events will stop when you get into combat. I forget exactly how things like Waits work, though - whether the event starts over after battle or whether it just picks up where it left off.

Yeah, always hated that about Pokemon's Repels. Project I'm working on uses the mana bar. 1 point of mana = either one step or one second of invisibility, depending on which system I end up settling on. Would that help, or should I get a plugin that puts something on the out-of-menu HUD showing the player's mana bar?
It's nice that the mana bar offers some way to check when you really need to squeeze every last second out of a Repel, but I would definitely try to add an actual HUD element showing the Repel length remaining. You don't even need a plugin - you could do it with pictures, showing (for example) one of twenty different pictures that represent 5% remaining, 10% remaining, 15%, 20%, and so on up to 100%.
 

Tai_MT

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I'm probably very strange in that...

I don't really care about such skills or items. In Pokemon, I tend to sell these items and never use them. In Deus Ex, I tend to spend my skill points on more valuable/useful skills than "being invisible".

Depending on the game, I may find I enjoy "stealth", but most of the time I do not.

Most games, stealth has a huge problem: It is the least effective way to play a game.

Why?

1. Enemies give XP for taking them out. Even if it's not all that much, it's more than you had earlier. Compare taking out 30 mooks in Deus Ex with bypassing them via stealth. Even at, what... 25 XP for a stealth takedown, you're looking at 750 experience. That's a good chunk of a level up right there. Most areas of that game have far more than 30 mooks as well. It's insanely beneficial to take out absolutely everyone. Stealth just slows down this process a crapload.
2. Enemies give drops for taking them out. Money. Loot. Ammo. Guns. Augments. Whatever. Their loot is often far more valuable than the act of "not fighting them". Especially since, as using stealth, you're already hoarding the vast majority of your resources anyway and not using them. At least if you go in "guns blazing", you're using up the ample supplies clogging up your inventory AND receiving more or better loot after the fact.
3. Stealth takes forever to accomplish. It dramatically slows down the game. A full stealth run of a game often takes 40x longer to complete than if you just went from objective to objective and accomplishing your tasks. In games like Pokemon, with "repels", these actually speed up your progression as they get rid of encounters, but later slow it down because you're going to be underleveled if you use it too much.
4. To make stealth interesting, there are often other mechanics on top of it that just... make it tedious. Gotta hack some computer that you don't know where it is. Gotta lockpick random doors until you find the one you need. Gotta pickpocket a key off someone and you don't know who has it. Gotta disable security systems that you don't know where they are or what they cover. Gotta avoid coming into eyesight with guards on set patrols, but you don't know their patrol routes.

Anyway, I'm probably the minority on the use of stealth mechanics. I think I only ever played one game where I used them extensively and had fun... Skyrim. It was only fun there 'cause I severely broke the game with it and could stand right next to people in broad daylight, in full view, but my Stealth stat was so jacked up that they couldn't see me then. It made a lot of the game insanely easy to "speedrun" as a result, as well as nullified a lot of "I got into trouble" issues you might normally run into. I could punch someone in the face and then duck into "stealth" and they lose me instantly. I could jack everything off a table and duck down to have everyone lose me instantly. I could smash someone in the face with a sword, from stealth stance, they'd react, but be unable to find me, even as I grinded my sword against their groin and rubbed their legs with my face.

That was fun. And funny. It was great.

I really don't like playing "stealth" anywhere else. It has too many drawbacks. For me, it's more fun and engaging and less tedious to not avoid any combat, to shoot people in the face rather than evade them, and then get as much XP and loot as humanly possible so I'm overleveled by the time I'm meant to be killing some boss or something.

There's probably a reason I'm usually 20-30 levels above the Elite Four in almost every single Pokemon game I've ever played. Well, except Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver. Even in Sword/Shield with the "tapering off" XP thing I was still FOURTY levels over the Elite Four by the time I had to fight 'em. Yeah, I had several Pokemon at Level 100, and I didn't even go out of my way to grind those levels. I just fought any and everything no matter how little XP it gave me and caught every new mon I could on ever route.

The repels in Pokemon just ensure that the games aren't properly balanced.
 

ozubon

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What Tai_MT is saying. I'm not sure the minority of non stealth players is a small one or even a minority at all. In many triple A games stealth just seems arbitrary and poorly glued to the game as just feature spam. Many indie developers copy big biz game's mechanics without really putting them on the hot seat.

Imagine the scenario of a troop having to take over an outpost island from their enemies. They could take the small submarine, land the backside of the island and attempt to infiltrate it with a small number of assassins. OR they could take the large warship they have laying around that outpowers the enemy outpost by a tenfold.

The problem of stealth in games is often having it there but negating the purpose and thrill of it with the ability to just not do stealth. Sometimes it's designed tedious and overcomplicated.

For stealth costs I prefer step-based, stealth is exciting when I can plan carefully and stop to think when I need to. Timers can easily become artificial difficulty, especially for players with motor impariments or conditions that causes brain fog.

Long timers are different though, let's say you're invisible until dusk in game time. Then you encourage the player to be efficient with their time but they're not forced to mind every second. Minecraft works this way practically, you got the day to plan, move and work, then during nights you're a target again. Imagine how different Minecraft would be if mobs were around all the time but you had to constantly consume one minute invisibility potions to avoid them.
 
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It really depends on the time of game.
For 2D if it's tile based it's easier if it works with steps.

But it's a tricky question. Without context it's hard to reply.
In your game, how does time work? How does time, in general, affect the gameplay and the player?
Same with steps.
If you have that answer you'll know better in which direction to go.
 

Countyoungblood

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I prefer the timer based invisibility it creates a sense of urgency though id separate invisibility and stealth.

Invisible: cant see me regardless

hidden: you havent seen me and dont know to look.

Movement based invisibility seems...really OP. Get in position and wait for the stars to align before you act.
 

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Like others, I think step-based works better for the "classic RPG" type of game, while timer-based is better for action-oriented games. For RPGs, there's really no reason to put a timer on it when everything else is action-based: encounters don't happen on a timer, they happen by step or by contact with wandering monsters
 

Countyoungblood

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Like others, I think step-based works better for the "classic RPG" type of game, while timer-based is better for action-oriented games. For RPGs, there's really no reason to put a timer on it when everything else is action-based: encounters don't happen on a timer, they happen by step or by contact with wandering monsters
That makes senseand it keeps the player inside the bubble of the game.

It'd be interesting to see more of a puzzle element come out of it since you can sit and wait
 

FirestormNeos

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But it's a tricky question. Without context it's hard to reply.
I've been hesitant to go into detail so as to keep the discussion of the topic broad and not project-specific, but if that's not necessary, I'm more than happy to clarify.
 

Wavelength

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@Tai_MT I tend to agree with you about games where the choice is between actually trying to hide/avoid enemies, vs. run in and gun them down or whatever. But I feel like you're conflating multiple concepts. Those are action games that allow for stealth approaches. The discussion here centers on Repel items (and similar skills, etc.) that simply disable battle encounters for a while, and therefore there are no issues with "It slows down the game" (it actually speeds it up dramatically), nor are their any issues with "You have to make it interesting" (it's not interesting, but it's a good way to alleviate the tedium of endless random battles that the player also doesn't find interesting).

Yes, it's usually beneficial to grind lots of encounters instead of fighting a minimal number of times, but there are diminishing returns at play in all EXP curves and diminishing returns also, in a sense, in the loot you get (you might really need that 2nd healing potion, but how badly do you really need the 78th?). After a point, the player just wants to stop being harassed on their way from A to B, so Repel items are a nice feature in a game that doesn't want to completely dispel the sense of risk and danger by having a menu slider to change the Encounter Rate to 0 anytime the player wants.

I guess there's also the "strategic" use of Repel, in games where it's legitimately possible throughout the game for a dungeon's worth of enemies to whittle the player's resources (HP, MP, restoration items, etc.) down to zero over the course of a dungeon. We don't see too many games like this anymore, but older games did use this dynamic sometimes (Dragon Quest 3 comes to mind for me). In cases like this, the Repel becomes another resource that you need to use wisely to avoid losing HP (etc.) to encounters for a couple of minutes.

Like you, in most games, I tend not to use the Repels most of the time - though I tend to just hoard them instead of selling them like you do, and then I use them one after another if I'm lost in a dungeon and REALLY tired of fighting the same troop of two Orcs and an Eyebat ad nauseum. ;)
 

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@Wavelength

The original poster also mentions Deus Ex. This is a First Person shooter game with light RPG Mechanics. So, a portion of my post reflects the question as it pertains to such games as well (since the poster included both as examples, I assume to get the feedback on both systems).

The topic itself seems to largely be about just "avoiding combat" in general and the myriad of ways that can happen.

As for "diminishing returns". I don't know. Every bit of XP adds up in the end. Pokemon has proven that, even with it's super-massive XP Reduction as you fight weaker mons. I managed to be Level 100 before the Elite Four in the newest games without grinding what-so-ever (unless you count fighting absolutely everything while I look for the 1% encounters to catch in every route). That's not just 1 mon at level 100 either. That was 3 or 4 of them. All the XP adds up in the end. May be 1 extra level... or 40 extra levels. But, it adds up even with diminishing returns.

Which, honestly, is part of the reason I never refuse pennies with change (or change in general) and why I sell things I won't use and use everything that can be used (I never sell crafting materials, for example, I craft them into something and sell the finished product, even if that finished product is only worth 3 GP). It is also the reason I need that 78th potion. To sell it. For extra cash I can use to buy things I want/need. It's also one less cast of Cure, and the game gave it to me for free (hooray for effective HP!).

The problems inherent with items like "Repel", is that they are very often (or almost never) used to "escape a dungeon". Nor are they used to "avoid weak enemies". Most often, they are used as a method of moving forward, rather than backtracking. This, in turn, nerfs the player levels. I think for this reason, Repels on Pokemon don't last all that long. To prevent their use as a "bypassing" mechanic. Or, at least, to make it difficult to use them as a Bypassing Mechanic without sacrificing large amounts of your money.

The "Bypassing" portion of these items is why I say they "slow you down". They just do it in the opposite direction as action games and stealth do. If you skip a bunch of fights, you now have to stop what you're doing, dead in your tracks, to grind some levels just to be able to tackle an area again. Or, to tackle the boss. It speeds up the gameplay right now, but will slow you down and even stop you later. You'll then have to grind some levels. So... really... you're still doing the appropriate amount of combat (often, it's the exact same amount of battles, unless you've jumped VERY far ahead), though not necessarily the same amount of "time". Constant progression forward feels better to a player than being forced to stop later and walk in circles for an hour just so they can return to progressing.

That's sort of the issue with items like Repels. They aren't used with the best of intentions, because players don't use items like that. Players don't even leave a Dungeon when they've used up half of their resources. Instead, they push forward. Looking for the boss. Looking for the save point. To this end, they aren't using a Repel to "backtrack to the entrance" all that much. They're using it to push forward in the game.

Now, I'm not knocking people who want to put these mechanics in games. They are free to do so. However, I've never really used them unless there was a fantastic incentive to do so. I don't stealth in video games unless there's an achievement for doing so. I don't use Repels in video games at all and instead sell them, because the extra levels, money, and items add up by the end of the game and render me absolutely insanely overpowered. Even without intentional grinding. Even with minimal amounts of encounters. I find such systems a colossal waste of my time as a player and a waste of my inventory space. They are pretty good cash for selling though. Let me sell your Repel and buy a couple Ethers... far more valuable. Or, sell a few Repel items and buy a Full Restore. Infinitely more useful.

But, that's just me as a player. I play games only two ways: Careful or Brute Force. If resource management is important, I play Carefully and waste nothing. If the game asks me to do nothing except progress... I Brute Force and become insanely overpowered so as to do as the game asks of me (just complete the game). "Stealth" and "Repels" aren't useful for either playstyle. On top of which... I just find them as really incredibly boring ways to play video games.

I guess at least the Deus Ex games incentivized stealth to a pretty good degree. Many of the mechanics in the game could be done alongside all the slaughter to maximize XP. Granted, you didn't get the 1000 XP for "no kills and weren't detected", but... you could get more than that by gunning everyone down and hacking everything and breaking everything anyway. I mean, you wouldn't normally hack terminals to open doors if you'd slaughtered everyone for the keycards, but if you did hack the terminals anyway... extra XP on top of the people you killed.

For a player like me, there's just very little incentive to avoid combat at all. The rewards for engaging in it are too valuable. Every battle is XP, Currency, and possibly Loot. Each avoided combat makes me that much weaker by the end of the game. Each item in my inventory to make me stealthy just eats up carry weight or backpack slots and is one more thing to scroll passed or have to sell to get rid of. Each Perk Point used to make me more stealthy is a waste when I can take things like, "kill everything in the room within a radius of me" instead. Or I can take things like, "succeed in skill checks easier". Or, "Get much better with my weapons". After all, I can't "stealth" by the bosses. So, what's the point in Stealth?

I'd rather have the rewards than get the reward of getting no rewards.
 

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I have permanent enemy repel accessories. The Elven Cloak makes enemy encounters 50% less probable, and the Ring of Shadows turns them off outright. These items are meant for those who want to explore the game without fighting random battles, but using them (particularly the Ring of Shadows) in the main quest is not advised because it will make you underleveled for the bosses.
 

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