Pros and Cons of having a DEF (and MDF) stat

jonthefox

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What are the benefits for using defensive (i.e. damage-mitigation variables in the damage formula) stats in a jrpg? We already have HP - we can increase defensive power and effective durability by simply increasing HP. This makes things simpler and arguably easier to balance: more HP = you can survive more damage. And you don't have to worry about too much DEF making damage trivial, or too much ATK power making DEF bonuses trivial.

One clear benefit is if you *want* defensive power to scale to the point that previously encountered enemies are now trivial. But if you don't want this, is there any reason to use these? One important game design principal is not to add/include things in your game unless you have a clear reason for it, and it seems like many games include this just because it's part of the default setup of the engine.

Would love people's thoughts and opinions.
 

ATT_Turan

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What are the benefits for using defensive (i.e. damage-mitigation variables in the damage formula) stats in a jrpg? We already have HP...One important game design principal is not to add/include things in your game unless you have a clear reason for it
The biggest reason to have Defense separate from HP is to a value you can make small changes to. If you want your next tier of equipment to let you survive, say, 4 more hits from the enemies in the next area, you could make the armor add potentially hundreds of HP or just 10 Defense.

It also allows you to have characters that are more comparable - your tanky knight doesn't have to have twice the HP of your vulnerable mage, which makes the stats look depressing. They can just have access to armor with higher Defense (and/or get a higher progression from their class).

It helps you balance physical and magical damage. With Def and MDef, you can immediately tell, as a player, "Oh, I just bashed that tortoise and did almost no damage, I bet a spell would be more effective." With just HP, you'd have to represent that as a vulnerability to magic types so you wouldn't get a good gauge of how effective you're being until you've hit that enemy with everything.

It works well with games that have a class change system. Instead of making all of the character's stats change and their HP leaps back and forth in huge amounts, they just change class and have to wear better/worse armor.

It's a stat you can buff during battle. Using just HP, you would cast a shielding spell that gives the recipient some additional amount of actual health, heal them that much also, and then...what happens when it runs out if they're low? They die from losing their shield? Or you can just buff their Defense so for some number of turns they simply take less damage.

Ultimately, you can absolutely make anything work math-wise for your game's balance, but there are smart design reasons to have the health pool and damage mitigation.

I can't really think of a con beyond it's another variable in your balance calculations...but personally, I find it helps with that.
 

TheoAllen

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The same reason why you want element resistance. It isn't in the damage formula, but it is already part of the formula.

Skills variation would be too boring if it's just damage and bigger damage.
What about increasing damage taken to the enemy and/or reducing damage taken?

Yes, DEF/MDF for me is no different than damage resistance, technically they work the same.
 

ATT_Turan

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Yes, DEF/MDF for me is no different than damage resistance, technically they work the same.
Absolutely, it's just a matter of granularity. It allows you to have a character with a given MDef to take the same damage from most spells but more from fire - and taking more from all of those than from a similar strength physical attack, because their MDef is lower than their Def.
 

Milennin

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Removing DEF means the only way you can defend yourself is by healing up. Having a DEF stat means you get to options to heal lost HP or raise the DEF stat to reduce incoming damage to survive in battle. It opens up more ways to design characters and abilities that do different stuff.
 

Tamina

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We already have HP - we can increase defensive power and effective durability by simply increasing HP.

HP is a resource that will be gone after you spend it and defense is part of damage formula, therefore they are different.

Both increases survivability but they don't work the same. Defense applies to every attack but HP is one time only.

A detailed example here:

Imagine your character has 90 base HP and the player must pick between an armor A with HP+10 or armor B defense +1(or damage taken -1)

If enemy damage is 10, enemy will need to attack 10 times before killing the player if they pick armor A since player has 100 HP. If they pick armor B the enemy will need to attack 10 times as well, since each enemy attack only deal 9 damage with 1 defense.

Does that means +10 HP is equal to defense+1 for durability?

Now if you scale up enemy damage to 49, if player pick armor A they'll have 2 HP left after 2 rounds(49*2=98, lower than 100 HP), if player pick armor B they die after 2 rounds(48*2=96, higher than 90 HP).

Next change enemy dmg to 3, but attack 10 times per round. If the player pick armor A they take 30 damage per round(3*10=30) and will die after 4 rounds(4*30=120, bigger than 100 base HP). If player pick armor B they take 20 damage per round(2*10=20) and will die after 5 rounds(5*20=100, bigger than 90 base HP).

The same applies to skill choice. Against enemies that attacks 10 times dealing 3 damage each hit, a skill that recovers(or increases) 10 HP is less effective than using a defensive skill that adds 1 defense. Against enemies that deals 49 damage, a skill that heal 10 HP is better than a skill that adds defense+1.

Ultimately, one stat has more advantage than another depending.


This makes things simpler and arguably easier to balance:

It's true, but having fun playing a video game isn't all about balance, but also about puzzle solving and finding the optimal strategy.

If you have both defense and HP present as skill or equipment choice, players will need to figure out when to prioritize HP and when to prioritize defense. Finding the right answer is what makes a game fun.

If you only have one stat which is HP, then there is only one answer to all the questions. What should I prioritize if the enemy hits for 49 damage? HP. What should I prioritize if the enemy hits for 3 damage? HP. There aren't any decision making.

If you really really want to remove defense, you will need to increase the choice variety in different areas. That can possibly make the game even harder to design well and balance.
 
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Redeye

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Personally, I do like to remove DEF as a stat in favor of using Max HP and Elemental Resistances to mitigate damage. For one, Elemental Resistances are more intuitive and easier to understand. "You gain 10 points of DEF" rarely tells the player much since they likely won't be able to discern the value of DEF. For all they know, 10 DEF is worth jack. "You take 25% less Physical damage" is a lot easier to understand, and sounds more appealing imo.

DEF is also tough to balance around if you use the default formula of a.atk - b.def. Instead of calculating the perfect amount of MDF for your boss fight so that your casters don't suddenly deal 0 damage, you can just say "Well this guy can take half damage from Fire, and then maybe a 10-20% resistance to everything else". This'll also save you from having to make overly complicated damage formulas.

And if you're concerned about what to replace DEF and MDF with... well, nobody said you had to use all 6 parameters in the first place!
 

ATT_Turan

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There's nothing wrong with your viewpoint, nor your way of designing your game. However, I'd put forth that several of the cons you mention are not anything to do with Defense existing, but with game design/presentation.

For one, Elemental Resistances are more intuitive and easier to understand. "You gain 10 points of DEF" rarely tells the player much since they likely won't be able to discern the value of DEF.
They should be able to discern it by seeing that the enemies hit them for less damage? :guffaw: And beyond that, if you want the numbers themselves to be meaningful, just make them function that way in your damage formulae. If you use Defense, it's worth exactly what you make it worth, no more or less - if you want it to indicate a percentage, that's easily done.

I'd say the vast majority of JRPGs do not make any attempt to convey the actual damage calculation to the players, but I don't think anyone is playing through Dragon Quest and going "Oh, I don't know what that value means, it's not worth ever upgrading my armor."

DEF is also tough to balance around if you use the default formula of a.atk - b.def.
The default formula is actually a.atk * 4 - b.def * 2, precisely to reduce/avoid the possibility of doing 0 damage if stats are in a comparable range. :wink:

Instead of calculating the perfect amount of MDF for your boss fight so that your casters don't suddenly deal 0 damage
A decent damage formula shouldn't need a perfect number to make anyone not do 0 or a godly amount. The default accomplishes this alright, but there are a number of threads on here where more mathematically inclined people have posted formulae and explained what they achieve.

I use one that imitates the behavior of Final Fantasy's scaling damage and I've typed it into a few cells of an Excel sheet so I can quickly see what compared values of atk/def or mat/mdef will produce.

It may not be your preferred method, and that is absolutely fine, but it's also not terribly difficult like you kind of make it out to be :smile:

And if you're concerned about what to replace DEF and MDF with... well, nobody said you had to use all 6 parameters in the first place!
Very true!
 

kirbwarrior

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I legitimately enjoy seeing 0 damage popups. Fire Emblem especially has this satisfying 'tink' noise to show that the enemy couldn't hurt you. And an enemy can really tell you how strong it is when you're usual 400 damage drops to 5 and you have to figure out how to get around it.

But really, it's there to expand what you can do as a developer and to expand what strategy exists for the player. To have a tough enemy, you could go the marshmallow route (high HP, low/no DEF), eggshell (low HP, hugh DEF) or somewhere in between. Small, repeatable damage takes down the marshmallow, single big strikes overcome the eggshell, and you can always have an attack that doesn't have DEF in the damage formula which is largely useless when the enemy forgot to wear armor. When you remove DEF, you only have marshmallows leftover.

This makes things simpler and arguably easier to balance
That's generally a thing for mechanics in games is you can go for simpler and easier to balance or deeper and harder balance. If you want a complicated system where armor gives flat reductions to damage, elements give multipliers to damage, overshields stop an amount of damage as a second HP, speed lessens all damage as part of a 'dodge', etc, you can have a really solid and involved combat system that takes a lot of work to make work. Or you can Paper Mario where HP and damage are the only two stats and numbers are so low that a +1 is meaningful to anything.

many games include this just because it's part of the default setup of the engine.
Many games include staples of their genre without thinking through why it's there.

I'd say the vast majority of JRPGs do not make any attempt to convey the actual damage calculation to the players,
Which to me is generally bad design, being able to estimate things and learn from the game's feedback is a huge part of playing almost any game. I love DQ, I have a lot of issues with how it is designed.
 

AphoticAmaranth

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Generally, more stats mean more options for the player. With the inclusion of HP, DEF, and MDF, a player wanting to build for tanking has a few options. They could focus primarily on HP or equally on DEF/MDF to try and make a mixed tank, or focus only on DEF or MDF for a more specialised tank.

Also worth noting is that depending on your game mechanics, focusing on HP may not be the same as focusing equally on DEF/MDF. For one, if the amount of HP healed remains constant, then increasing DEF/MDF would mean that each heal allows the target to survive more additional hits compared to increasing HP. You could also have heals that scale off HP, piercing skills that ignore DEF/MDF, adaptive/hybrid skills that calculate damage using the lower of DEF/MDF, or offensive skills that scale off user's DEF/MDF.

Defensive stats can also be used outside of damage formulae. In my recent game, I had a third defensive stat, Constitution, which increased healing received while reducing the effect of negative states, as well as reducing the agility penalty for using heavy weapons.
 
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ATT_Turan

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Fire Emblem especially has this satisfying 'tink' noise to show that the enemy couldn't hurt you.
Yes, I do enjoy that :biggrin:

Which to me is generally bad design, being able to estimate things and learn from the game's feedback is a huge part of playing almost any game.
And that's perfectly cool to be your opinion. Of the games I've played that do give you access to calculations, I have never cared enough to look at them. Again, not knowing the formula is not the same as not getting feedback...especially in the typical JRPG setup where you have distinct tiers of equipment available at specific times. The next kind of sword is obviously better, does it matter by how much?

If a game is going to offer me similar choices that come down to evaluating the math to choose between (this sword has a slightly lower DPS than the other one, but it has fire damage, so is that worth the loss)...that is not what I play video games for.

I would say that making your system so intricate that needing to know the damage formula in order to make a decision is bad design :wink:

Of course, you can always offer the math in an unobtrusive place and please customers of both mindsets.
 

kirbwarrior

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Of the games I've played that do give you access to calculations, I have never cared enough to look at them. Again, not knowing the formula is not the same as not getting feedback
I agree. The game doesn't need to show you the exact calculation (although there are upsides to it) and my apologies if I implied that, but the more complicated it is the more that would need to be shown to the player for them to understand why they did 5 damage to this unit and 70 to this other unit. If the calculation is Atk - Def, then I know the first unit has 65 more def. If this is pokemon, then I couldn't tell you why I did that much damage if it even told me. And I want to repeat that; the feedback is what is important, knowing the damage calculation is just part of it.

The next kind of sword is obviously better, does it matter by how much?
What generally matters in that kind of situation isn't "which sword should I use?" but "which enemy should I hit in what order?". Say that two of my allies already hit enemy A and a third hit enemy B while ally 4 self-buffs attack, do I know how much damage I'll do to both of them and thus have an informed decision or do I just have to hope that because my attack is bigger that it'll do more damage?
 

Popoto_milk

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Speaking as a player, fighting enemies with tons of HP can feel pretty bad. It can make fights feel like a slog, even if they aren't. Especially if enemies are meant to be beefy. That also means you'll have to have bigger numbers in general, which some people aren't into.

This reminds me of the stat squish blizz did during...maybe WoD? I thought this was an interesting little tidbit from the wowpedia page
Additionally, bosses have run into issues where their maximum health has grown too high. WoW stores health values in signed 32-bit integers, which have a maximum value of 2^31 - 1, or 2,147,483,647. Ra-den, the heroic-only boss of Throne of Thunder, starts at roughly 1,500,000,000 health in 25-player mode. As part of the fight, if players make mistakes his health could increase to the point where it would overflow. In order to avoid repeating the problem, Garrosh Hellscream must heal (from 10% to full) several times with a smaller maximum health pool than would otherwise be necessary.
 

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  1. Is armor penetration an important dynamic?
  2. Is it important to specialize vulnerabilities between physical, magical, or elements?
  3. Does healing scale up as fast as damage, and should it be harder to heal a big buff guy than a frail, sickly mage?
Does your system take those into account? What do you lose by taking them out?
 

jonthefox

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Removing DEF means the only way you can defend yourself is by healing up. Having a DEF stat means you get to options to heal lost HP or raise the DEF stat to reduce incoming damage to survive in battle. It opens up more ways to design characters and abilities that do different stuff.

You can give yourself elemental and physical damage resistance? "For 3 turns, take X% less damage"
 

TheoAllen

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You can give yourself elemental and physical damage resistance? "For 3 turns, take X% less damage"
Exactly what Milennin said.
 

Tamina

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I'd say the vast majority of JRPGs do not make any attempt to convey the actual damage calculation to the players, but I don't think anyone is playing through Dragon Quest and going "Oh, I don't know what that value means, it's not worth ever upgrading my armor."

I believe that is mostly because in DQ type of old school RPG, getting better armor for better survivability is the obvious chocie. If the player wants to increase offense they upgrade weapons. In the end most players upgrade both armor and weapons so no decision making is required in this case.

If the game force the player to make a choice: Armor A has defense +20 and armor B has attack +20, now the player must decide if attack +20 is worth sacrificing defense+20 for.

If how damage forumla works isn't obvious, most of the time the player will probably guesstimate and pick attack, unless defense is overwhelming the better choice. Ultimately they aren't "making decisions" but only guessing the correct choice. And I think that makes the game less interesting.

IMO, not conveying how damage calculation work is an outdated design and from what I've seen, many newer successful turn based games that doesn't target old school JRPG player(who can often tolerate old school game designs) often avoid it. It doesn't really add much "fun" to gameplay.
 

Aoi Ninami

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IMO, not conveying how damage calculation work is an outdated design and from what I've seen, many newer successful turn based games that doesn't target old school JRPG player(who can often tolerate old school game designs) often avoid it. It doesn't really add much "fun" to gameplay.

I don't think anyone has been arguing that hiding the damage calculation directly adds fun in and of itself. It's just that when the damage formula exceeds a certain complexity, it may as well be hidden.

My damage formula is (2 * ATK^2) / (ATK + 2*DEF), and I have seen ones that get much more complicated than this. The player isn't expected to crunch the numbers to work out exactly how much a sword with 2 more ATK would benefit them right now. It just works out that increasing one's ATK decreases the number of hits it takes to kill enemies, so the player gets the satisfaction of gradually making enemies that had earlier been a serious threat become easy.

If how damage forumla works isn't obvious, most of the time the player will probably guesstimate and pick attack, unless defense is overwhelming the better choice. Ultimately they aren't "making decisions" but only guessing the correct choice. And I think that makes the game less interesting.

Even if how the damage formula works is obvious, all of the time the player has to estimate, rather than exactly calculate, which choice is better.

Are you going to be fighting enemies with high HP? Then fights will be longer and DEF is worth more, because it subtracts from every hit and you will take more hits. Enemies with low HP? Then it makes a big difference if you can gain enough ATK to kill them in two hits rather than one -- but if, say, the enemy has 80 HP and your damage per turn goes from 30 to 35, that extra ATK has done you no good at all.

And in the majority of games, when you make these decisions about which equipment to upgrade, you don't know precisely what enemies will lie ahead, and so you have to make choices based on intelligent guesswork and an overall feeling for the game rather than precise calculation. To me at least, that makes the game much more interesting.
 
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ATT_Turan

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IMO, not conveying how damage calculation work is an outdated design and from what I've seen, many newer successful turn based games that doesn't target old school JRPG player(who can often tolerate old school game designs) often avoid it.
I'm curious - which games are you using as a point of reference? Note that we're specifically talking about JRPGs, not SRPGs which even traditionally have shown things like your chance to hit or your expected damage when previewing the attack.
 

Tamina

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I'm curious - which games are you using as a point of reference? Note that we're specifically talking about JRPGs, not SRPGs which even traditionally have shown things like your chance to hit or your expected damage when previewing the attack.

I haven't play it personally, but crystal project: has a battle system that displays important info in the battle. From the gameplay video and screenshot I can see damage and hit rate info display.

This game's battle system is highly praised by the players, safe to say it worked.

Another example is Slay the Spire, one of my personal favorite turn based battle system. Every move is displayed including the damage. It's a deck building roguelike though, not JRPG. But personally I think the same design concept can work well in a turned based JRPG game.
 

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