Status Effects And How To Make Them (More Engaging)

Vergel_Nikolai

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Poisons, stuns, confusions, fears, doom and death. An RPG is never complete without Status Effects. From the simplest damage-over-time effect to the impactful 5 turns 'til instant death to something wacky like turning your folks into sheep (either as a general HP and action debuff or you just want to have a spell that gives your players the POWAH to turn their mighty foes into SHEEP!), Status Effects can be tackled in anyway by the developer and it sure does impact the gameplay for their respective players.

I'm a rather uncanny person and sometimes when I see a status effect in games that are also in other games I just yawn at them. Plain start-of-turn DoT? Been there, done that. Though what if the DoT spreads to a different actor when it expires and also losing one-turn in duration? That'll be fun and wacky! So here's a thread where we could discuss about Status Effects! From casual talk in what Status Effects we have in games and their themes to improving certain pre-existing Status Effect to fit into your game.

EDIT: If the higher-ups agree, we can also maybe ask about how to make certain Status Effects in our respective RPGM engines here. This thread is mainly for conceptualizing but hey even I got an idea of a weird state and ask "So, now how do I implement this in MV?"for time to time. If this ain't the place, redirect me to a better place.
 

Trihan

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Status effects are a tricky beast. Some games make them so trivial they can be ignored, others make them so debilitating that getting one means you may as well quit and reload your last save. There is a sweet spot in the middle, but getting there takes work.

Take poison for example. It's a pain for sure; guaranteed per-turn damage is nothing to be sniffed at in what is essentially a numbers game where you're trying to reduce your opponent's numbers to 0 faster than they can reduce yours. But some games make poison so weak that it ends up being the equivalent of 1-2 hits from weak enemies over several turns, and it's roughly equivalent to just having made those weak enemies slightly stronger. Nothing's really gained or lost here; if the player can ignore a status effect, it may as well not be in the game.

Conversely, some games make poison ridiculously strong. Not quite to the point of 25% max HP per turn, but occasionally not far off it.

Regardless of the method, you then have the question of reapplication. A lot of the time, an enemy that *can* use poison in battle is able to do so multiple times in a row, so even if you use a turn curing it, you may end up just being poisoned again the turn after, thus rendering you several turns in debt to the numbers game.

So what are the big pitfalls here?

1. Lack of scale
2. Reapplication risk
3. Preservation of turn effectiveness economy (how much each turn's actions progress you towards the goal of wiping out the enemy; a turn spent healing a status effect is a turn you're not doing anything useful).

So, let's look at this as an example of how we could jazz things up for the player. First of all, lack of scale. It's always either too much or too little, and rarely does anyone hit that sweet spot in the middle...so let's fix this by having ramped-up damage, a la Agony in WoW. Poison starts out small, but each turn gets a little bit stronger. That means you can afford to ignore it for, say, a couple of turns, but after that it starts getting deadly to the point where you need to deal with it. Having this mechanic is useful because it means the player will soon learn they have a bit of grace where they can get things done without worry, but the longer they leave it there the greater a risk they're taking.

Now, reapplication. That one's easy: make status cure items render the target immune to the state they cured for a turn. That way you can spend your turn healing that poison with the knowledge that you will have at least one turn thereafter without having to worry about more poison.

And what do you know, those first two things fixed the third problem! You get more turn economy because there are more turns where you can effectively further the numbers game without having to scramble for an antidote immediately, and you don't get locked into a loop where you're antidoting every single turn while other enemies chip away your HP with impunity.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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I think the status effects work better when they fit the game and they play nice with the other battle mechanics. Most games are going to have some kind of stun effect, it's pretty much a staple status ailment in every rpg. DQ8 has the one turn stun effect right out of the first town in the form of a 'jig' or a dance or whatever, and it fits with the overall DQ theme IMO. While thematically I like that ailment, there's not much to it besides it looking different than a regular stun.

I prefer stuns that are the result of battle mechanics being either ignored or exploited. One example from my own game is a one turn stun that results from the actors running out of stamina (stamina being the only currency to use skills/spells). So if the player isn't careful with stamina management they might lose a turn to this mechanic; however, using some stamina drain techniques they may be able to force a stun on an enemy at the right time to avoid a powerful attack or something. Inversely, the player would want to watch and make sure their stamina doesn't get too low so the enemy doesn't use that strategy against them. Another example is when you can stun an enemy by hitting its weakspot with an element or a critical hit, as opposed to just firing off a skill that inflicts stun.

I think it's important to tie all the little bits and pieces together in the battle system.
 

Vergel_Nikolai

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@Trihan Wow, that is quite a lot that you dumped there. One thing for certain is the hustle of making enemy-applied status effects impactful as well as balanced in the strategy of players. But now how about player-applied status effects? One limitation I find in most games is how status effects are pretty much very tertiary if not secondary in the focus of the player. What's the point in adding a DoT effect on an enemy when it's more cost-efficient when you just spam attack on the enemy. One thing that sure tires me as an aspiring game dev is the RPG combat design of "ramping up numbers 'til it hits zero". Players could easily just do that with spells and attacks that do damage and even in design status effects are always just a bonus in some attacks. Might as well spam a Fireball with a chance to apply a burn than cast a Sizzle that guarantees a burn but doesn't do damage. So yeah, most devs just don't bother giving the player-controlled characters any wild and wacky status effects and focus on dumping them to the enemies since most players only care about number. And it's up to the dev and his/her design philosophy if they wanted status effect to be much in-depth in their gameplay.
 

Trihan

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You're absolutely right that a player taking a turn to apply a status effect needs to have a greater impact to the battle than taking a turn to attack would have. And that's a tough sell.

You either have to make the damage from DoT effects high enough that it deals more in the long run than attacking every turn (thus introducing the problem I outlined originally) or put enough things in that prevent the player from effectively executing a turn that having a DoT ticking while you deal with those effects makes using one an attractive option.

I think the ramping up of damage from DoT would do a couple of things to offset this, but only really in longer battles. I think I would probably stay away from having abilities that *only* inflict status effects, and rather incorporate them as additional effects from skills and weapons.
 

Kes

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If this ain't the place, redirect me to a better place.
It's not. It's been said lots of times that this section is engine neutral, and that it is for looking at mechanics at a more conceptual level. Implementation always goes into the Support forum for the engine being used.
 

Vergel_Nikolai

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@HumanNinjaToo That's an interesting take in stuns. My game is a typical turn-based RPG in terms of combat and I am constantly thinking of unique stuns that is more than a "cannot move this turn or two". One way to make it is to have a stun last very long but make it easily removable (ie Sleep, removable by attack) but not too easy that it is easily exploitable (ie Freeze, removable by Fire attacks). You can also try an make a stun that is a bit beneficial (ie Stasis, makes you not move but also invulnerable to damage) or maybe something too strong but with obvious limitation (ie Banishment, where your dislocate someone to another dimension and they will return after a few turns... or never once the battle ends, a sort of one-hit KO).
 

Vergel_Nikolai

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It's not. It's been said lots of times that this section is engine neutral, and that it is for looking at mechanics at a more conceptual level. Implementation always goes into the Support forum for the engine being used.
I see. As I expected. Well this can simply be a general discussion about status effects and maybe a sharing place for ideal status effects in game. I'll have the asking in MV Support.Thanks for the clarification.
 

Vergel_Nikolai

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@Trihan In my current game I am making sure that none of my spells and abilities have the same function and that each of them have a special quirk in them. I am pretty much against the whole "Burn, Burner, Burminate" design with spells and so I am not doing it in my RPGs. To compensate that, I've been making wacky and unique effects and conditions for each of my spells while also trying to make them be useful for the player.

In the current game I'm making I have a Level 16 spell with moderate accuracy but guarantees a 5-turn burn. The basic Fireball has a 20% chance on applying it and it only applies a 3-turn burn.

Speaking of, I'm trying to diversify the statistics of each damage-over-time effect. Most of it is based on flavor but it's also to have a player something to take note of. Poison for example is weak but lasts for 5 turns while Burn is strong but lasts for 3 turns. Both of these states utilizes the origin's Attack and Magic stats as I took Yanfly's DoT Custom Damage Formula Tips and Tricks (each also having different formulae) which differentiate them from Bleed which is percent-based but still lasts 3 turns.
 

Trihan

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@Trihan In my current game I am making sure that none of my spells and abilities have the same function and that each of them have a special quirk in them. I am pretty much against the whole "Burn, Burner, Burminate" design with spells and so I am not doing it in my RPGs. To compensate that, I've been making wacky and unique effects and conditions for each of my spells while also trying to make them be useful for the player.

In the current game I'm making I have a Level 16 spell with moderate accuracy but guarantees a 5-turn burn. The basic Fireball has a 20% chance on applying it and it only applies a 3-turn burn.

Speaking of, I'm trying to diversify the statistics of each damage-over-time effect. Most of it is based on flavor but it's also to have a player something to take note of. Poison for example is weak but lasts for 5 turns while Burn is strong but lasts for 3 turns. Both of these states utilizes the origin's Attack and Magic stats as I took Yanfly's DoT Custom Damage Formula Tips and Tricks (each also having different formulae) which differentiate them from Bleed which is percent-based but still lasts 3 turns.

My game doesn't have a set spell list at all. I'm implementing a spellcrafting system where the player can create their own spells using a set of components, and can have as many as they want, but the MP cost of the spell is determined by the components that went into creating it. So you could have just simple elemental damage spells that are nice and cheap, or if you really want you can have one super mega attack spell that inflicts every status ailment in the game but also costs all of your MP.
 

Vergel_Nikolai

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My game doesn't have a set spell list at all. I'm implementing a spellcrafting system where the player can create their own spells using a set of components, and can have as many as they want, but the MP cost of the spell is determined by the components that went into creating it. So you could have just simple elemental damage spells that are nice and cheap, or if you really want you can have one super mega attack spell that inflicts every status ailment in the game but also costs all of your MP.
Seems cool! As for my spell list I had most of the offensive spells of all elements in one class. So technically the Mage class can utilize fire, ice, electric, and arcane spells where most RPGs have like 3 player classes each holding 1 or 2 elements in them. Though also in my currently developed RPG I also implemented a system where a certain spell is only available when you equip a certain weapon, which opens the player opportunity to mix and match playstyles. Do you prefer a full-on magic DPS claw build for your shaman with lightning-water spell combos or do you want a slow and heavy and gimmicky playstyle by mixing devastating fire spells and disable-applying earth spells?

Something I forgot to mention in the thing you quoted: There's several way to make a spell that only applies a status effect useful and one of them is to give the player an opportunity to set up a neat combo with other abilities. Let's say you have a player character with an ability that does more damage when the enemy is burning. You can have that plain burn ability applied firsthand and then followed by the ability to combo after it. Not only did you do some damage (and performed something cool), you also applied a DoT state that will chip on the foe's HP.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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What do people think about these two propositions? For bosses, or foes who would be too strong to nerf... what about a lesser version of an ailment? And with enemies vulnerable to those lesser ailments, perhaps skills that exploit it?

Some enemies could be outright immune to Poison for instance, such as oozes and other arcane automatons. But what about a zombie, who barely counts as being alive to where a potent venom could weaken them? In this case, I have an idea for a "Sickened" ailment that could be doled out -- give those monsters immunity to Poison, but a chance to become Sickened.

In my ideas, bog standard JRPG ailments also cause a stat debuff. Poison would cause a 15% DoT each round, but also lower ATK; Sickened only tacks on the ATK debuff. Likewise, a full-on "Stasis" effect, an illusory version of Paralysis that adds an AGI debuff, could leave unthinking monsters unfazed (again, automatons). However, demons which aren't fully fazed by illusion magic could become "Distracted" instead, which would lower AGI but still let them act.

And with that, why not skills to exploit those effects? This is a concept pulled from a few games, and one I'm eager to do with the "Backstab" example as I have a character who specializes in ailments.
  • Why not a Oil status from a Final Fantasy Bomb with the serial numbers filed off? This is used for their infamous self-destruct skills, and leaves a fire vulnerability. Have Oil present a weakness to fire attacks, and have the fire attacks remove Oil.
  • Why not a Freeze effect that, if hit with a forceful attack or spell, will "shatter" the enemy for bonus damage but remove the freezing? Similar to Oil, have the Freeze bestow a weakness to impact damage, earth damage (if "earth" spells mainly bludgeon with stones), force spells like a D&D Magic Missile, et cetera. When those types of damage hit a frozen enemy, it'd also remove them.
  • Why not a Backstab skill that deals extra damage to Blind or Paralyzed enemies, those helpless to avoid damage? This rings of the Victimizer and Persecutter knife-skills in recent Dragon Quest games, and could increase the utility of daggers and ailment-dealing characters. This one may be trickier to implement in some ways, but easier in others -- you'd need to use skill formulae or a script to check for ailments on a target. You could even rig this up to work if the character has a "Hide" or "Invisible" state.
 

ATT_Turan

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A number of games have implemented status effects that don't have any inherent effect, but affect how other skills behave.

The first example of this I can think of is Star Trek Online - some skills have the chance to apply an Exposed status to the target in addition to whatever else they do. Other attacks have an Exploit ability that only happens if you hit an Exposed target.

This was done in a more complex way in Dragon Age 2, wherein each class had a specific status it inflicted with some abilities and the other classes had specific abilities to take advantage of each status (so the mage had spells that would inflict Brittle, the rogue and warrior had some skills with extra effects on Brittle targets; the warrior had skills to inflict Stagger, the mage and rogue had skills to exploit Stagger, and so on).

I believe Divinity: Original Sin had their own take on a traditional D&D grease spell that affected the enemy's ability to move, but could then also be ignited by a fire attack.
 

Vergel_Nikolai

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  • Why not a Oil status from a Final Fantasy Bomb with the serial numbers filed off? This is used for their infamous self-destruct skills, and leaves a fire vulnerability. Have Oil present a weakness to fire attacks, and have the fire attacks remove Oil.
  • Why not a Freeze effect that, if hit with a forceful attack or spell, will "shatter" the enemy for bonus damage but remove the freezing? Similar to Oil, have the Freeze bestow a weakness to impact damage, earth damage (if "earth" spells mainly bludgeon with stones), force spells like a D&D Magic Missile, et cetera. When those types of damage hit a frozen enemy, it'd also remove them.
  • Why not a Backstab skill that deals extra damage to Blind or Paralyzed enemies, those helpless to avoid damage? This rings of the Victimizer and Persecutter knife-skills in recent Dragon Quest games, and could increase the utility of daggers and ailment-dealing characters. This one may be trickier to implement in some ways, but easier in others -- you'd need to use skill formulae or a script to check for ailments on a target. You could even rig this up to work if the character has a "Hide" or "Invisible" state.
Interesting concepts!
  • For Oil, I am actually considering making it into my games though I don't know a skill that could apply it. Oiled opponents take more fire damage and any burn effects inflicted on it last longer. Still working on how to apply the last part.
  • For Freeze, I specifically create a Shatter spell that combos after freeze while also effectively removing the freeze. Your idea of earth and bludgeon damage works too.
  • For Backstab you just gave me a neat idea. Originally I was gonna have a Backstab ability just have a chance to do critical damage but it doing bonus on a Blind and Paralyzed victim also works, and maybe on an Ensnared opponent as well. I will also create an attack that does more damage on poisoned enemies called Toxic Gnash and maybe something against Confusion called Knocking Senses. I still don't know how to pull off a Hide or Invisible state.
 

SoftCloud

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I've been wanting to, and like, the idea of radiation damage. Not only does it affect the person afflicted but Actors or Enemies near them take damage as well. Either the effect only affecting whatever team is affected, or, if the battle system permits, damaging all nearby. It could make the status effect a double edged sword.
 

Pix3M

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With my current 1-dungeon project, I have a poison, a sleep, a blind. I found that status ailments feel so much more meaningful the longer the battles last. I also modded my scripts so debuffs carry over to the next battle so now it becomes a game where you have to micromanage your status e.g. I have a mob that inflicts poison AND debuffs magic defense which doesn't really cripple you but will snowball if you ignore it. With proper micromanagement the damage I'd take is minimal.
 

Nohmaan

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I have spells/skills that inflict the basics (poison, para, slow, etc.) and then compound "micro status effects" that have a lesser percent success rate on each spell/skill attack that set up combos or damage chains.

For example, when casting the Ice spell there's a 30% chance to inflict Freeze for 2 to 3 turns which causes the following effects:
  • 8% increase to wind damage taken
  • 15% penalty to agility (lesser slow effect)
  • +15% MP cost
  • Removed if hit by fire type spell/skill
When casting Fire, it deals more damage up front than Ice but only has a 15% chance to inflict the status Burn for 2 turns, which has the following effects:
  • 1% DoT
  • 8% increase to fire damage taken
  • Removed if hit by water type spell/skill
  • Decreases resistance to all status effects 5%
When casting Bolt, it deals less damage than Fire and Ice but the casting time is significantly lower. It does the following:
  • 15% chance to stun/interrupt the target (reset ATB gauge or cancel casting)
  • 10% chance to inflict paralyze
  • While status is active, bolt damage chains AoE bolt damage to all enemies (8% damage AoE to all other targets)
  • Removed if hit by earth type spell/skill

When casting Water, it deals less damage than fire but has a 20% chance to Dispel a beneficial effect and a 50% chance to absorb some MP from the attack.

When casting Cure, there is a small chance Regen also gets applied. Etc.

So I have more status effects, but they are applied in different ways and more frequently that set up the party to take advantage of the change for a few rounds to stack damage and chain skills together. Certain skills have a higher (or certain) chance of applying effects, but it sets up the battle so that at any given point there are slightly more advantageous or disadvantageous moves to follow up with.
 

Milennin

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I don't got anything special, except for statuses that heal or damage trigger every time a character or enemy makes an action in combat, instead of once per turn. So things like HP regen or Bleed become a lot more effective, the more enemies are on the field.
I prefer to keep my visible states simple and to the point. But I work with a lot of invisible states to control a lot of behind the scene things during combat.
 

LightBorneX

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Ways to make status effects more useful-

Increasing power per application- Hit with poison once? No big deal. Maybe 1% health per turn. Second enemy hits you with poison? Now it's Lv. 2- 5% hp per turn. 3rd enemy? You're now at 10%. This would vary depending on how combat is setup in your game.

Have some enemies that are a lot easier to beat with status effects- enemies with high def but weakness to poisons. Also- enemies that hide or put up barriers. Players would have to choose between carrying status moves or waiting around bored (or having builds that focus on massive burst damage).

If the enemies in your game can move in battle, I like location-based status effects like quicksand or an ice patch.

Also- self-damaging status effects, like you could control an enemy directly but it wreaks havoc on your mind and leaves you open to harder hits from enemies, or the skill could keep all minions asleep but you take a portion of the damage they get hit with each turn. If balanced correctly, the situational overpoweredness could add variety and challenge to the game (you thought you were hot til the weakness got you one-shotted).

I also like illusions as status effects- the enemy thinks there are more/duplicate players, so it attacks the illusions at times. It allows me to imagine that my control character's mental powers are so strong that they are on the edge of creating realities.
 

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