single target vs. multiple target magic spells

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by jonthefox, Oct 10, 2016.

  1. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    Most games follow the following pattern.  Let's say we're talking about lightning magic.   The first spell might be called "bolt strike" and deal damage to a single enemy.  The second spell might be called "chain lightning" and deal damage to 3 random enemies.  The third spell might be called "thunderstorm" and deal damage to all enemies.  

    In such a pattern, the spells usually also progress in terms of their damage power / formulas.   To compensate, the earlier spells might cost less MP, so they still have use in some situations where using the stronger, more costly, multiple-target spells would not be cost efficient.

    Here's what I'm wondering though - how often do you include a late game spell that is not multiple target, but just very high single target damage?  It would either have the same damage ratio as the strongest multiple target pell (but reduced cost, since it's only striking 1 target), or it could have a higher damage ratio at the same MP cost (again, since it's only striking 1 target).   

    I notice that in most games, the late game elemental spells are all multiple target.  Is this because it is generally inefficient for a mage, who consumes a lot of resources, to be striking only one target at a time?   

    In your games, do you tend to make all end-game elemental spells strike all enemies, or do you include really powerful single-target spells?  Why or why not?
  2. Waterguy

    Waterguy Veteran Veteran

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    I make the multi-target cost the same as about three enemies with the single target, since it is the average number of enemies in my groups, but do less damage to each than three separate single-targets.

    Because by itself a multi-target it a huge upgrade already. You see, yes, there is the higher cost that not always compensates using it... on the other hand, it is using many times the skill in one turn.

    I use the the same logic with upgrades. Let's say the upgrade causes double the damage, it is the equivalent of using twice the weaker version in one turn on the same enemy. That means that it either causes slightly less damage or costs more than twice the weaker spell. It is a balance thing.
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  3. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I very often see a different pattern of magic spells in games, where you have something like:

    Level 1: Minor damage to one enemy

    Level 5: Medium damage to one enemy

    Level 7: Minor damage to all enemies

    Level 12: Medium damage to all enemies

    Level 15: Heavy damage to one enemy

    Level 25: Heavy damage to all enemies

    This means that if the spell costs are not so high that they seriously threaten the mage's MP pool, then the Heavy Damage to All Enemies spell is going to be your bread and butter in every battle that contains more than one enemy, once you hit Level 25.  It's kind of a shame that a lot of games are designed like this, because there were some interesting choices before you hit that point (at level 8, for instance, do you want to do Medium Damage to One Enemy or Minor Damage to All Enemies?).

    Honestly, I find that "all enemies" spells tend to make it hard to balance skills (and "3 random enemies" skills, etc., are impossible to balance if they can hit hte same enemy multiple times).  When designing my games, I usually stick with single-target for a majority of skills, and give skills that target all enemies either low power, low utility, high cooldown, or exorbitantly high cost - to ensure that they don't completely crowed out other skills in a battle against like three or four enemies.
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  4. Basileus

    Basileus Veteran Veteran

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    I actually prefer the Dragon Quest style where single-target and multi-target are kept separate, or the single-target version just upgrades into the full-party version for things like buffs. 

    Blaze -> BlazeMore -> BlazeMost: Single target fire spell that does 10 / 80 / 180 damage

    Firebal -> FireBane -> FireVolt: Strikes all enemies in a single group (there can be multiple groups in battle) for 20 / 35 / 100 damage

    Upper -> Increase: Boosts the DEF of 1 party member / entire party

    Spells like the Firebal (sic) series are good for clearing mob enemies and cost about the same as the Blaze series but spread out the damage. The Blaze series concentrates that power to nuke a single tough enemy like a boss. The cost goes up but not tremendously, so it's not a problem to have the upgrades replace the weaker variants. Each spell is its own series so you'll always have a single-target or multi-target option depending on the fight.

    Spells like the Upper series are super useful, but you'll never want the single-target version after you learn the full-party version so its fine to have it get replaced. There could be some gameplay in deciding between stronger buffs for 1 party member or weaker buffs for everyone like the attack spells, but you're just plain better off buffing the entire party so it's more of a false choice. Unless you make single-target buffs have additional effects. I prefer the simple style for buffs since I find it annoying to apply buffs one at a time - boosting the Mage's DEF early on is okay, but for boss fights later in the game I'd rather just cast once or twice and hit the whole party so I can use my turns to actually do soem damage.
  5. Lord Semaj

    Lord Semaj Veteran Veteran

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    Single target vs multi-target isn't really an issue since it's more about how much mana you want to spend for efficiency and how many targets their are.

    A single target spell late game is low mana cost so you can spam it turn after turn after turn in a boss fight or as a basic attack against normal mobs.  The random 3 one is a hybrid that doubles as an AOE and a stronger single target since it can hit the same target three times in a row (like against solo bosses).  This lets you use it as a stronger attack for boss fights at the cost of slightly more mana.  Then the AOE attacks are too mana hungry to use unless the boss has lots of minions, and generally don't do more damage anyway.  It's more efficient to use one of the other two spells.

    There are however powerful endgame single target spells.  Holy is one of them, common in final fantasy games, as is Flare.  There usually aren't strong ELEMENTAL attacks unless you have wind/water elements or count Bio but that's because enemies start getting more resistances so elemental damage is worse than non-elemental damage or mostly unresistable damage types (like Holy).

    By the very very end game, even Flare is only for staple boss damage because you have access to things like Death or Break, the ability to just outright KILL enemies instantly which is much more efficient since their health is like 60,000.

    That's just one take on the reason for how spells progress.
  6. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    Well, in general, multi-target skills should be weaker on individual targets than single-target skills. So if you are up against a lone boss, your single-target skill is going to be more effective.

    I like to give options for both. Like, if one character has multi-target, then give another character single-target, so the player has options to go for either.

    For my game, I have the main guy learn 2 abilities. One that's single-target, the other multi-target. But they both work in completely different ways, so it's not always just a matter if choosing between doing single- or multi-target damage, but also dependant on what the rest of the situation asks for.

    For example, his single-target skill deals more damage to a target for every consecutive use, up to a total of 5 times (fifth time is the big finisher). So while it's great for dealing huge damage to a single target, it requires time to build up and leaves him drained of MP after using it for 5 turns, requiring you to set up before being able to use it. In addition, he can't use any of his supportive abilities during this time, without interrupting his combo, so it might not be worth it if the party is in a bad state.

    His multi-target skill deals multi-targeted damage over the course of 2 turns, and then returns part of his MP on the 2nd turn. Thanks to this, it's more spammable than his single-target skill, and also has him free to do other things for 3 more turns. But overall, it's not as devastatingly powerful, and obviously, it's less effective when he's up against only 1 or 2 enemies at a time.

    Another character gets the best of both world, as his endgame skill adds 2 extra skills to his skill-pool after using it, one being powerful single-target damage, and the other powerful multi-target damage (after using either, they are removed again and the opening skill must be cast before they become free to use again).

    Basically, I like it when the player has the choice between using single- or multi-target skills, and doesn't feel forced to use one of either, because the other option is always inferior.
  7. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    Generally speaking, I avoid "multi-target" abilities.  The main reason for such is because for me, it feels too much like the "mash attack forever" mode of play favored by players uninterested in combat (or as a symptom of bad combat design in general).  Most players, once they obtain a "multi-target" spell, won't really cast anything except that spell.  Even if it does half the damage of a single target spell, you're still doing a lot more damage than your single target.

    Let me put it this way:  Single target Fire spell does 100 damage to an enemy and kills it, because it has 100 HP.  Takes two more turns to kill the other two monsters with the same spell.  Multi-target Fire spell does 50 damage to all enemies (we'll go with the 3 enemy format).  Okay, it doesn't kill anyone.  Next turn, you've killed 3 enemies instead of 2.  To reduce a "multi-target" spell to "just as good as the single target", you'd have to reduce the power to something like 30-40% of the damage of the single target spell.  Otherwise, just by sheer numbers, it's the better "mana cost to effectiveness" ratio you can get in pretty much any RPG ever.

    It only gets worse when you realize you've probably never played an RPG where mana cost was ever really an issue once you got passed level 10.  You're tripping over mana recovery items by the dozens, stealing them every few fights, and buying them on the cheap (or staying at an Inn on the cheap!) to recover your mana.  So, even at a "triple cost", it really isn't much of an issue.

    The only "multi-target" skills I even have in my game are usually full party buffs or special rare skills that hit all enemies.  My "Lightning" spell starts out only hitting a single random enemy, but it can be changed into a spell that hits 4 random enemies or one random enemy four times (my skills level up as you progress in the game, effectively deleting older versions of the spell/skill and letting you choose how it now works instead).  It ends up doing something like 37% of the total damage of any other single target elemental spell on average, with the "single target" ones being the most powerful version, but the other end that hits all enemies is much weaker.  The full power output is still more damage than a single target skill, but it gets spread around.  One of the other most notable spells I have that is multi-target is always that way.  It's a water spell that hits all enemies, but at something like 20% of the damage of any normal single-target spell.  This is to prevent spell spam, as well as to let you hit lots of targets all at once (more than 1 and more than 4).

    Mostly, I'm avoiding "multi-target" spells/skills because I want the player to be interacting more in combat and making tactical choices instead of spamming whatever is the most powerful to win every single fight.

    But, I'm an oldschool gamer.  I grew up on games that let you multi-target every spell, and remember how easy it was to just spam magic everywhere you went and win every fight without issue.  That's just not the kind of game I enjoy playing.  So, pretty much all my spells/skills are single-target, even late game.  I'm not sure that makes "a better game", but it makes a game I prefer playing.

    I just feel multi-target skills/spells make RPGs too easy most of the time.  Especially with the abundance of restorative items in any given RPG.
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  8. cekobico

    cekobico Veteran Veteran

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  9. InBlast

    InBlast The Mad Hamster Veteran

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    I really don't like to have upgraded skills, like "Fire 1, Fire 2,..." or "Fire, SuperFire,MegaFire,...".

    I think each spell should be adapted to one or more situations.

    Spells that just make a direct hit or/and apply a state are just boring. Why casting a single target fire spell which only deals damages if you can do a simple attack (for the damages, yes, but it's not really fun). It's the same for multi-target spells. 

    Yanfly Lunatic mode allow us to make really complex skills with interesting mechanics. Why don't use it ? Single target or multi-targets, personnally I don't care, as long as the skills make the player cogitate.
  10. BloodletterQ

    BloodletterQ Chaotic Neutral Assassin Veteran

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    How about this possibility?

    Fire is single target and does decent damage.

    Fira attacks a row (based on Yanfly's plugins) but then does a lot more damage if there's multiple targets.

    Firaga attacks all but does severe damage on a single target.

    Should I ask on a specific board if this is possible? Would the damage to a large group of foes even out so that Firaga is effectively Fire on large groups?

    Of course, there's more to that than just elemental damage of course...
  11. primeless

    primeless Villager Member

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    Midgame im making an hability for my barbarian class called "Ejecute". Maybe i'll call it Axecute. If the bad guy has less than 1/3 of his live, ejecute will kill it.

    For late game, im looking for a (passive) hability for this barbarian: if he kills a target with any of his powers, i'll have other turn.

    The combo with a cooldown refresh could be brutal. But thats how the barbarian works.

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