Making Front-View Battle System Interesting?

VampItUp

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As much as I'm a big fan of the dynamic-ness of Side-view, I do have a soft spot for the Front-view battle system; especially if a game has fighting elements but isn't the sole focus of the game. Although, I've been thinking if there were any other ways to make it just as appealing as the Side-view system other than adding more dynamic animations. So I'm curious to know:

How would you guys improve or what would you prefer to see in a Front-View battle system?
 

TheTitan99

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I think one of the reasons people view front view as boring is because nothing is ever moving. By default RPG Maker engine, enemies won't move, and there are no actor sprites. So, things only move during attacks. It's kinda... dull.

That's not really an issue once you get a few minor visual plugins, though. Add in some motion to the batleback, and let the enemies animate, and frontview battles can be very lively looking! I was once working on a Gameboy styled RPG, with a simple parallax scrolling battleback and a simple walking-styled animations for enemies. It looked great!

That's all visuals related, because, well, the only difference between Front and Sideview is visuals. Gameplay wise, anything Sideview can do Frontvew also can.
 

Andar

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it is always about presentation. The following basically says the same as @TheTitan99 said above but with a completely different focus:

In sideview you can use flashy display to hide a boring battle mechanic, but in front view you need a good and interesting battle mechanic for it to work.

Personally, I would also prefer frontview - if it is done with a good battlesystem.
One of the reasons for this is that the flasy displays of most sideview systems only add time-delays to the battles. After the first fewdozen battles they have no effect other than to delay the game.

unfortunately it requires a lot more work to make a battle mechanic interesting than it takes to make it flashy. and most developers are not willing to put that much work into a battlemechanic, they just follow the same old principles of hundreds of games before them.
 

Milennin

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TheTitan pretty much said what I was going to say. Frontview combat is visually lacking. I like to see my guys in combat, and especially if you use custom-made battle sprites and animations, it adds a lot to the experience. Frontview can definitely work, but you have to find other ways to make it look interesting. Animated enemies would be a good start.

Also, going to disagree with Andar for once. A boring battle system will be boring, regardless of how it's presented. Having flashy visuals will only get you so far, but the shine wears off quickly. On the other hand, a mechanically good combat system can feel boring if it lacks in presentation. You want to hook in players, especially early on where they will decide whether your game is worth spending more time on and they haven't been introduced to everything your system has to offer, that's where presentation comes in. If the combat looks boring, regardless of how good it may mechanically be/get, you'll lose players early on that might've stuck around had the presentation been better.
 

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Most of the things that would make a front-view battle system interesting are things that would make any battle system interesting - unique enemies that have a strategic identity, an interesting and diverse kit of skills that each work better in different situations, one or two extra resources beyond HP/MP that give the system a coherent set of mini-goals, etc.

With that said, if you're specifically looking for how to make a front-view system better than it would otherwise be, a few places you could look to improve are:
  • Enemy Poses and Composition - especially important because this is the only interesting thing the player's eye will have to consistently look at (don't make it look like enemy sprites were simply dropped randomly or placed in a line!)
  • Actor Faces/Portraits - these help bring some of the connection and character to your game that sideview systems normally provide, without a lot of the hassle (having the faces change in certain situations, like status effects, critically low HP, or KO Earned, goes a long way!)
  • GUI Elements - bold, stylistic (but easy to read!!) GUI elements add a lot to a front-view system and they can take up a larger amount of the screen in such a system; graphic icons rather than a list of text to represent skills is a great place to start, as are gauges rather than simple text to show resource values (like HP); a little bit of animation in the GUI is also great (note that GUI improvements are pretty hard to add in RPG Maker due to its lack of any native GUI tools; you will probably need to do a lot of customizing with plugins and that's polish that should be saved until most of your game is complete)
 

VampItUp

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I see! It sorta slipped my mind that both of the base battle systems are pretty much the same function wise lol. It's cool to learn more different ways of enhancing the visuals, also keeping interesting mechanics and their presentation in mind.

Thank you guys so much for the responses, I appreciate it! :)
 

TheoAllen

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As I have said in other SV versus FV battle systems.

SV battle system has an advantage of visual representation, and that does not mean "it has more flashy movement so it is better". But, the SV battle system has anticipation on who is attacking and who is being attacked. A casting animation, an animation to deal damage, a visual representation of this attack goes to this. Ultimately make the battle takes more time and is more readable than the FV battle system. Of course, as long as you don't make the action sequence too long.

First of all, if you want to fix the FV battle system, fix the visual representation and information delivery. Make it easily readable. For example, adding a casting animation on top of the character HUD before attacking, slows the overall battle pace so you know what is going on (rely less on the battle log). This can be done by delaying each action longer, make the animation last longer, or use a completely different turn system. Also, at least in RMMZ, there is already a built-in damage popup, unlike the previous RPG Maker which relies on the battle log.

After that, the rest of it just makes a good battle system.
 
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rue669

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I’d take a look at shin Megami tensei series which uses front view battle system (especially SMT 4). It works well.

I use front view because it makes the combat system faster. So it helps with pacing. I also use custom battlers and a simple, minimalist HUD. I wanted it to look clean and professional.

I did have it so that the enemies breathe or move but thought it just looked weird so removed it.
 

Nenen

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One thing a front-view system doesn't allow you to do (easily anyway) is anything like Chrono Trigger's battle system where the locations of the characters actually affect the combat... At least the PLAYER's characters anyway, you could still do so for the enemies in some fashion.

Edit:
I have to say I like the idea of having to worry about placements and obstacles as an added part of combat, which I haven't seen done on RPG maker at all (for obvious reasons)...
One reason I'm always watching the various Tactics/Grid combat scripts/plugins.
Environmental interaction/ problems in combat is always a nice touch too, rather then the default ignoring it entirely except for visuals.

Those things could be done on most systems to some extent, but probably would be more difficult to design in a front-view system.
 
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PixeLockeT

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I prefer front-view. Maybe it's the psychology of "my characters are close to me so I feel more connected, and the enemies are over there but directly in front of me as I literally help my characters FACE them down" depth that side-view just doesn't offer. In front view I am part of the party. Side-view feels like watching it from afar or something.

My game will have front-view akin to Dragon Quest, with probably still enemies except for attack turns possibly. I do plan to have either the backs of the characters shown, or face portraits with emotions tied to attacks, damage, death state, etc.

tldr; Front view already feels/looks better than side-view does to me. It's the least boring of the options even out-of-the-box.
 

Azurose

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With games like Earthbound and such, I loved the surrealistic music and backgrounds. It added so much flavor and atmosphere to what was actually...not that complicated of a system/UI.

When using a side view system, the player will be paying a lot of attention to the player actors and the enemies, since those are on the foreground. With front view, you'll be looking at two things most of the time; The enemies and the background. You can do some fun stuff with the backgrounds.

Some attacks can also have their own little animations, they don't have to be flashy, just unique and distinct. I think that's what it eventually all comes down to. Having SOMETHING feel distinct, eye-pleasing- or catching. Mechanically, both systems are probably similar enough to ignore the small differences.
 

ArcanaMoonShine

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One thing a front-view system doesn't allow you to do (easily anyway) is anything like Chrono Trigger's battle system where the locations of the characters actually affect the combat... At least the PLAYER's characters anyway, you could still do so for the enemies in some fashion.

You can do this... all you need to do is make use for the Battle events, take this has example:

Soldier Soldier
Rampart Rampart

Those are your enemies, in the literal sense, an enemy is a rampart, the rampart have no attack, soldiers does. Using the events you can make conditional events: If Rampart is alive, Solder gain "Cover", Cover give evation and damage reduction to "ranged" attacks. Use another Event, or the Same with a "Else" to "remove Cover"

Is not easy or practical... but it can be done, working who focus ONLY on major encouters, no random enconter or whatsoever, i have to work in battles like this, and doing this is like thinking on a puzzle, is quite fun to do :)
 

YoraeRasante

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As others said, the enemies not being static, having something like faces for the actors, and a pleasing gui will already do wonders for front view.

But there is also a theme. Frontview is built on the idea of you identify yourself as one of the characters who is the commander of the others, or in some cases like in pokémon, digimon etc an external commander telling them how to act, so if your characters are all to be seen as separate individuals without one specifically being the player surrogate that can be a problem.

Which kinda makes it great for dungeon crawlers, as you are the character exploring the dungeon.
 

ArcanaMoonShine

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By the way, if you take my example to practice, make sure the event "kills" the ramparts after the enemies are killed, otherwise, you might end up fighting the ramparts afters the importan and intresting part of the fight is done
 

Ajzap

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Something I love to see in FV is to have enemies step forward (down) when they attack, and step back (up) when taking damage. Pretty simple concept that I think can add a lot. Helps the player to feel that their attacks have “weight”, and to better identify which enemy is using an attack.

I don’t think this is really possible with the default FV system, but I’m sure there are plugins out there to achieve the effect.
 

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