Looking For Some Combat System Feedback (MV)

acidhedz

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Hi everyone.

Short version: How would you try to capture that fast paced, I could die at any moment, feel of an FPS game... In an MV RPG? Do you think it's even possible?

Long Version:
Now that I've finished with the game I was working on, I've decided on my next project. A Sci-Fantasy, Action/Survival Horror RPG.
I want to include combat of course, since I prefer Doom and Deadspace style games to Amnesia style. Or even Silent Hill.
But I'm not sure HOW I want to do it.
I'm putting this here, because it might help someone else that would like to try something similar.

Since at this point I'm just writing down plot points, and ideas, I thought I would pick your brains a bit, and see what you think.

I'd like to capture that FPS feeling, that every encounter could be deadly... Without pissing off the player because it's too easy to die. Hard, I know, but that's why I'd like some feedback.

What do you think is the best way to implement something like that? The big problem is that FPS games are all about movement, which I can't implement in an MV game.
My thought is to have the PCs with low HP and not gain much from leveling. Make their gear, and other upgrades, the main source of stat boosts. And also seriously limit the power level of magic and psy powers.
I figure if combat is going to be really fact paced, the characters wont needs tons of skills. But I'm also worried about things getting too repetitive. Of course, games like Doom and Deadspace ARE repetitive, soooo... as long as things feel fast and "scary" it might not matter much.

Any thoughts,tips, advice, etc would be highly appreciated.
 
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jobar

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Maybe you can get this feel by having very hard battles, in which the player has a roughly 50% chance of dying.

The gameplay would focus on avoiding monsters and battles. If the player is caught in a fight, he still has a chance to live if he uses most of his available resources but he would then need to spend time gather new resources while avoiding monsters.

For this gameplay to not be too frustrating, the battles should be hard but still short. And a death shouldn't be too punishing.
 
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ScientistWD

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It will be an enormous task to try and make a turn-based RPG feel stressful and fast.
One of my suggestions is making the battle system tick-based, such as with ATB or something much like it. In this way, players will have to make decisions quickly when they encounter opponents.
Another nuance is going to be in the divide between the "overworld" parts and the "in battle" parts. I would probably suggest event encounters over random encounters. While random encounters are designed to feel dangerous and surprising, if the game is going to be about avoiding foes and treading carefully, having a visible opponent to engage or not will be very helpful. Some type of stealth mechanics might be worth considering. In addition, things like overworld "back attacks" or other overworld nuances to aid in battle might help bridge the gap even more.
Finally, I might say do front-view instead of side-view. Games are generally scarier that way.

It's an enormous task but a very interesting one, for sure.
 

Skunk

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You could achieve this by relying on negative stats and buffs for the party which makes it really hard to gauge the battle. Make it random so enemies can inflict many different states so there wouldn't be a "method" to winning a battle, but you'd be forced to grind as hard as possible to win.
 

acidhedz

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First off, thanks for the replies everyone.

Maybe you can get this feel by having very hard battles, in which the player has a roughly 50% chance of dying.

The gameplay would focus on avoiding monsters and battles. If the player is caught in a fight, he still has a chance to live if he uses most of his available resources but he would then need to spend time gather new resources while avoiding monsters.

For this gameplay to not be too frustrating, the battles should be hard but still short. And a death shouldn't be too punishing.

Not sure I'd want to go as far as 50% chance of death, but then, that's the tricky bit. I prefer to try and make things hard but always survivable.

I don't want them to avoid the monsters, I want them to have to fight. For their lives.

I always let the player save from the menu, I feel they punish themselves more than enough by forgetting.

It will be an enormous task to try and make a turn-based RPG feel stressful and fast.
One of my suggestions is making the battle system tick-based, such as with ATB or something much like it. In this way, players will have to make decisions quickly when they encounter opponents.
Another nuance is going to be in the divide between the "overworld" parts and the "in battle" parts. I would probably suggest event encounters over random encounters. While random encounters are designed to feel dangerous and surprising, if the game is going to be about avoiding foes and treading carefully, having a visible opponent to engage or not will be very helpful. Some type of stealth mechanics might be worth considering. In addition, things like overworld "back attacks" or other overworld nuances to aid in battle might help bridge the gap even more.
Finally, I might say do front-view instead of side-view. Games are generally scarier that way.

It's an enormous task but a very interesting one, for sure.

Interesting idea, but I always found timed combat more annoying than stressful. I'd rather work on making sure their decisions matter.
I always use event encounters anyway. If I want random stuff to maybe pop up, I just do it in events that the player will pass over. More control that way.
I thought about using some of the Yanfly stealth and chase plug-ins, but like I said, I don't really want to go for an Outlast or Amnesia feel, more Deadspace or Doom.
I do like the idea of using the one he has for sneaking up on enemies though.

You could achieve this by relying on negative stats and buffs for the party which makes it really hard to gauge the battle. Make it random so enemies can inflict many different states so there wouldn't be a "method" to winning a battle, but you'd be forced to grind as hard as possible to win.

This would be a good way to make things less predictable.


Perhaps I'm worrying too much about a fast pace. When what I should focus on is making it feel scary, stressful and dangerous.
 

Skunk

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Bingo.
Rpg maker can certainly be set up to be faster paced but I just dont think it would have the effect you are looking for.
I'd be interested to hear what you end up coming up with
 

cloa513

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You make it that are subtle little hints as weaknesses and strengths of the enemy and they don't cotton on to all of those then they will definitely die and if they do catch all of them then they will kill the enemy easily and in-between is just hard fought.
 

Hercanic

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Fast-paced: Cap the number of turns and decisions the player will typically go through per encounter to reach a resolution.

Threatening: Limit and starve resources. Include ways of getting said resources, but they should carry risks to other resources.

For example, zombies might drop a health item (resource 1), but it takes bullets (resource 2) to safely headshot them. If you run out of bullets, you have to melee, but that carries the risk of being bitten and infected with Disease. To cure Disease will cost (resource 3). So to get health back, you can spend another resource or take a risk that might cost yet another resource. Getting bullets and other resources should also have their own risks and costs, though aim to have a three-step cycle or greater. R1 -> R2 -> R3 -> R1. Rather than R1 -> R2 -> R1, which tends to make it too easy. Think of it like diagraming Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.

Vulnerability is what is important. Some games do this by not giving the player any weapon, so they can only run or hide. Others have high risks, like the one-shot knockdowns of Special Infected in Left 4 Dead that require a teammate to rescue you, which also emphasizes that game's other core element of teamplay. (Sidenote: Mechanics that pull double-duty like this are a hallmark of good design.)
 
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I'd say the main key to tension in a turn-based rpg is 'resource drain', each battle can be fairly simple to take on while these resources are full, but once they begin to run dry, those simple battles become extremely risky.

For example in Digital Devil Saga, most battles could be beat in a single turn with careful spell use due to the element system (hitting weakness gave extra turns). But give them the chance and the enemies could do the same to you. You had to spend MP in order to abuse the element system yourself or risk being obliterated by that same abuse. While MP was high that risk was easily removed, but as that precious MP dried up, that risk only grew. You can't survive if you don't spam their weaknesses, but you won't survive the next battles if you burn all you have left. Ultimately it came down to maintaining MP efficiency and making that final call; keep pushing on hoping there's a save/heal point not too far away, or turn back hoping you didn't leave it too late to pull back so as to 'bank' that precious exp with a save.

The same can apply in games with a heavy reliance on items. While your bag is full there is little threat, but the more you push on the emptier your bag becomes and the greater even the smallest of threats become.
 

Anthony Xue

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I don't think you can make a turn-based combat "fast-paced". That's the point of it. So let's concentrate on "can die at any moment".

Doom and Dead Space evoke this feeling partially through their atmosphere. You don't mention a setting, but being alone in cold, endless space always gets halfway there (yes, may be clichéd, but it works). More than any Earth-based place ever could, in my opinion. Limited light, i.e. lots of darkness and shadows, also adds a part.

You mention you'll be using evented encounters. May I ask about the exact implementation? My suggestion would be having the event be visible on the map, but only as a "beep", like one would see on a motion sensor. If the player doesn't know what exactly is waiting out there - or, even worse, chasing after the party - it will feel more dangerous than when the nature of the encounter could be exactly quantified. I think this is better than having the event not showing up on the map at all, because while this may evoke a feeling of constant threat, it'll also get rather frustrating if players have basically no control over their fate.

If you have "save anywhere" enabled, you might also have many, or even most, monsters have an extremely harmful attack that only comes into play like 10% of the time. This means that every encounter can be deadly, but in most cases won't (otherwise things would be too frustrating). The idea is to make things more about risk management than resource management, because resource management is, again, quantifiable, which leads focus away from the feeling of threat to strategic considerations. If there's always a risk of a super attack, the player will have to do everything to finish combats as quickly as possible to lower the risk of getting hit by it. The combat system should accommodate this, allowing players to take larger risks for the chance to end the battle earlier. Any fight where the odds ended up in the player's favor would lead to a sigh of relief. Without "save anywhere" or at least frequent saving points this might be ugly, though this might also come down to personal preference.
 
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acidhedz

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I don't think you can make a turn-based combat "fast-paced". That's the point of it. So let's concentrate on "can die at any moment".

Doom and Dead Space evoke this feeling partially through their atmosphere. You don't mention a setting, but being alone in cold, endless space always gets halfway there (yes, may be clichéd, but it works). More than any Earth-based place ever could, in my opinion. Limited light, i.e. lots of darkness and shadows, also adds a part.

You mention you'll be using evented encounters. May I ask about the exact implementation? My suggestion would be having the event be visible on the map, but only as a "beep", like one would see on a motion sensor. If the player doesn't know what exactly is waiting out there - or, even worse, chasing after the party - it will feel more dangerous than when the nature of the encounter could be exactly quantified. I think this is better than having the event not showing up on the map at all, because while this may evoke a feeling of constant threat, it'll also get rather frustrating if players have basically no control over their fate.

If you have "save anywhere" enabled, you might also have many, or even most, monsters have an extremely harmful attack that only comes into play like 10% of the time. This means that every encounter can be deadly, but in most cases won't (otherwise things would be too frustrating). The idea is to make things more about risk management than resource management, because resource management is, again, quantifiable, which leads focus away from the feeling of threat to strategic considerations. If there's always a risk of a super attack, the player will have to do everything to finish combats as quickly as possible to lower the risk of getting hit by it. The combat system should accommodate this, allowing players to take larger risks for the chance to end the battle earlier. Any fight where the odds ended up in the player's favor would lead to a sigh of relief. Without "save anywhere" or at least frequent saving points this might be ugly, though this might also come down to personal preference.

I'm leaning towards that conclusion as well. The only way they are fast, is if they are too easy or too hard.

This particular game's story is about a place where there are 4 cities. One above the other. God's Breath, Fair Breath, Ill Breath and The Undercity. With things like airships moving between them. So there will be different types of areas, with different atmospheres.

Some wandering around and only bothering anyone who bothers them, some chasing the player, some popping out of things like vents, etc. I like the idea of a motion sensor a la Aliens, but I'm not sure how it would be implemented. Do you suggest having a mini-map? Or would it require some sort of LoS system so they can only see what they're looking at? Or just not allow them to see what anything is till they're fighting it?

With me having a chance of one turn wipe outs is pretty much a given. The combat in my last game is all about forcing the player to make cost-risk assessments on what skills to use and when to use them. After the first three or so areas anyway.
So I get what you mean, and that's how I pretty much like to try and do combat anyway. I just wasn't sure what I should focus on to try and get more of a horror FPS feel.

So far my thoughts are to use the same basic approach from my last game, but lower stats all around. Aiming to make it so enemies die faster, but can still kill fast. That'll give me a little bit of the faster paced action feel. Then introduce some resource management, with things like ammo, and make healing reliant on items. No healer in the party. Probably have a crafting system for resources rather than easy places to buy stuff. To force them to explore. Then make it nice and scary so they don't want to.
Horror Game 101, make the player not want to do something, then force them to do it.
Probably add in some enemies you simply do not want to deal with, and are best to avoid. So there's some stealth/chase gameplay. Never instant death, but a few seriously nasty enemies.
Use Skunk's idea for highly randomized enemies so things are unpredictable, along with lots of DoT's, and negative effects, which I like to do anyway. Probably make them NOT end when the battle does, so the player will always need to find and carry items to deal with them.
 

Aoi Ninami

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Let's Play Curse of Saria - Part 20

Pay attention to Dark Transient, the last boss in the linked video. This is one of the best examples I know of this being done right.

Dark Transient has an entirely fixed cycle of attacks, which I don't remember all of. Early on, it uses Hellspawn, which inflicts Zombie status on the whole party. This status basically makes you "undead" -- healing hurts you, but you are invulnerable to instant-death attacks. Midway through the cycle, it uses Trauma, a powerful whole-party physical that can inflict a variety of negative statuses. The last attack of its cycle, Deathly Rain, is simply a whole-party instant death attack.

There are a few viable ways to defeat it. One is to cure the Zombie status and heal up, then use Curse to put Zombie back on at least one party member so that he survives Deathly Rain, then resurrect the others. Another is to switch party members so that Trauma affects the ones who are not Zombied, heal them, and switch back before Deathly Rain. Either way, you have a lot to get done in the limited turns before Dark Transient gets its next turn. Even with a turn-based battle system that gives you as much thinking time as you like, and Dark Transient having an entirely fixed pattern, it's really intense and you are constantly aware that getting things wrong at any step would mean death.

Of course, this is not just any old encounter -- it's the climax of a boss gauntlet in one of the most intense sections of the game. Still, maybe you can take hints from it to get some ideas for your "normal" bosses, and regular encounters, as well. I suppose the key features are:

* Monsters hit hard, but not too hard. A physical attack won't one-shot a party member at full health. But after taking a couple of hits, you need to make the right call about whether to heal or continue with your main strategy.
* Monsters have more powerful attacks that you must prepare for, and have "tells" for when they are about to do those attacks. This is what prevents "heal every time you take damage, otherwise spam attack" being a viable strategy.
* The player's resources are sufficient to defeat the challenge, but not by a wide margin.
* There is some randomness (e.g. Trauma's status infliction) but it's in the right places (Dark Transient cannot use instant death without having given the "tell").
 

jade_angel

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I think the tell, and some kind of counter, is critical - dying to a low-probability cheapshot is not much fun.

In Dragon Quest 2, there's an enemy called Gold Batboon. They have very high agility and have a chance of casting the Sacrifice spell, which destroys your entire party in one shot. It's a pretty low-probability occurrence, but there's no way to counter it: you just have to hope you can kill the Batboons before they use it, or that their AI Roulette never uses it.

However, if there's a tell and/or an effective counter - but you have to be paying attention - then I think that can be an effective mechanic for keeping players on their toes and maintaining tension.
 

Basileus

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My most important take away is this: You want the player to feel like they could die at any moment.

The most important thing here is feeling. When the player knows they have X turns to do Y strategy there is a safety net so the tension is never really there. It's fair, it may even be good, but that's not the feeling you seem to want the player to have. You seem to want that pulse-pounding tension, that "Oh God, oh God, oh God, I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die" panic attack moment.

These moments don't happen with carefully planned and easily predicted attack patterns. They happen when unexpected things are allowed to happen, when a situation that looks like it's under control suddenly spirals into near-defeat.

I've had a lot of these moments in Dragon Quest, and not just due to unlucky critical hits. In order to even out numbers, most bosses have multiple moves per round. Sometimes the boss will attack two party members once each - not too bad. But sometimes the boss hits the same party member twice - bad, but not crippling. But bosses have utility skills as well, so often the boss will buff his attack or lower my defense. If the boss doubles up on a party member after that - bam, instant drop into the red if not an instant kill if they were a squishy mage. Is it "unfair"? Yeah, probably. But it's not like there is nothing I can do to stop it either.

The key difference in the Dragon Quest style is that utility actually matters a lot. It's not just Attack > Attack > Heal > Attack. That'll get you killed. To succeed you need to manage important buffs, debuffs, and status effects. The "Debuff > Double Attack" combo kills one of your party members only if you fail to maintain defense buffs. If the boss heals, then your damage might not out-pace his sustain but only if you fail to keep your attack buffed. Some bosses require you to slap on a few buffs and just lay as much damage as you possibly can, but others require you to turtle up with only a single party member allocated to attacking and the others all working to keep the attacker going and not die. And since each party member has their own niche, each one has their own needs to function and will screw you over in a different way if they die.

It's tense because the entire party needs to work together to win, and anything that breaks that perfect teamwork even a little can lead to utter defeat.

For 1-on-1 combat, I think most of us have some experience with Pokemon. Even without critical hits I'm sure most of us have some memories to battles that were super tense with a close back and forth that was won by the skin of our teeth. The single best reason that Pokemon works this way is that it has health bars that deplete visually. This is way better than just watching one set of numbers change to another set of numbers. You get hit and then you watch your health bar get lower and lower and lower. And just when you panic and think that your Pokemon went down...the bar stops with just the tiniest sliver left. This also applies to catching wild Pokemon where you and trying NOT to kill the enemy but while still trying to get it's health as low as possible.

Catching Pokemon offers an interesting strategy that I think can be transferred into other games - Get the enemy's health low...but not too low. In addition to the normal patterns of combat, you can have enemies "Turn Red" and go into a Berserker state if their health falls into the red. This means the player can't just throw out damage without caring. Now they'll have to consider how hard each hit is and how to hit that sweet spot where the enemy falls into the low end of the yellow without hitting red so they can take out the enemy while bypassing the "Danger" state. You can throw all kinds of stuff onto this too - have some status effects that work only in certain "stages" (green, yellow, red), changing the enemies' skill sets a bit in different stages, enabling extra effects for red and yellow stages, etc.

Make enemies more dangerous the lower their health gets and you'll have plenty of tension as long as you don't mind slightly longer battles.
 
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acidhedz

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Catching Pokemon offers an interesting strategy that I think can be transferred into other games - Get the enemy's health low...but not too low. In addition to the normal patterns of combat, you can have enemies "Turn Red" and go into a Berserker state if their health falls into the red. This means the player can't just throw out damage without caring. Now they'll have to consider how hard each hit is and how to hit that sweet spot where the enemy falls into the low end of the yellow without hitting red so they can take out the enemy while bypassing the "Danger" state. You can throw all kinds of stuff onto this too - have some status effects that work only in certain "stages" (green, yellow, red), changing the enemies' skill sets a bit in different stages, enabling extra effects for red and yellow stages, etc.

Make enemies more dangerous the lower their health gets and you'll have plenty of tension as long as you don't mind slightly longer battles.

I like that. Since some enemies will be infected with a demonic "virus", they could get more and more deadly, the more hurt they get. Certainly something to consider at any rate.

Thanks!
 

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