Steal Mechanics and Rates

Cythera

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I don't know if you can call it 'good' at this moment, since I just changed my steal mechanics and haven't released it for player feedback yet haha, but I think I found a reasonable balance.
All enemies have 90%-100% steal chance for healing items at that point in the game. So an end-game enemy isn't going to drop a basic Potion; it'll drop an upgraded version that's viable for that stage. And a 90%-100% steal chance for crafting items - something very useful in my game.
Most those items can be bought, but this gives an option to replenish supplies in the field.
After that, some enemies have extra items in their steal pools, but the rates do decrease.
To offset that, steal rates can be increased by +10% for every 25 agility faster than the target, up to +50%. The character in question already uses agility for damage, so it's not an otherwise-useless stat that is needed for stealing only. Chances are, a lot of people will hit +20% or +30%+ with little effort.

I think it will work out well. You can get useable items for free in the field, and can actually do something to better your chances of getting rarer items from enemies.
 

Wavelength

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((stealing potions/consumables))...
Most those items can be bought, but this gives an option to replenish supplies in the field.
After that, some enemies have extra items in their steal pools, but the rates do decrease.
To offset that...
So to be clear, this means that all of your enemies have a potion/consumable that can be stolen, but then some (but not all) enemies also have a better item you can steal, and to get that better item you have to steal the easy consumable first?

If this is a correct read of your mechanic, it sounds kind of dicey. How will players know that they are not wasting their time trying to steal a second, better item from an enemy that doesn't have one at all, for example?
 

Trihan

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For anyone who champions a 100% steal rate (and I do share in your hatred of success-or-failure RNG rolls!), how do you make the things you Steal significant enough to be worth the slight annoyance of prolonging combat to obtain, while also ensuring your game's combat and economy are well-balanced whether or not the player decides to steal the equips/consumables from each enemy?

This was the major issue I was thinking about for hours when I responded last week; I'm kind of happy with my "low RNG chance to enable the Steal action against an enemy; 100% chance to steal once enabled" solution, but honestly I can't think of too many more ways that a 100% steal chance would work well in practice!

A few other ways I can personally think of to maybe make a 100% steal chance work:
  • Entire combat system built around Stealing stuff and using the stuff you steal
  • Mechanic that requires skillful play to steal (such as an action battle system where you can only use a Steal action on an enemy that hasn't noticed you yet)
  • The Steal action requires a Resource that is built up by your other actions (such as a Stealth resource that is earned by killing enemies or accumulated by using consumable items)
These are somewhat unique and specific ways to design it, so I'm interested whether anyone has found success designing something that offers a 100% steal rate, interesting/useful steals, and good game balance regardless of players' choice to Steal from each enemy they encounter.
One of the characters in Tundra, Guile, is going to have a Plunder/Pillage mechanic. The Plunder skill steals a small amount of money, and Pillage uses up all money stolen in the battle to increase its damage at the expense of not getting that money at the end of the fight.
 

Cythera

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How will players know that they are not wasting their time trying to steal a second, better item from an enemy that doesn't have one at all, for example?
I have a very clear divide on regular enemies and 'elite', I guess you could say, enemies. The stronger enemies of the area. Those are the ones that hold extra items in their steal pools.
Additionally, the steal skills actually have a viable use in combat, ignoring defense and inflicting Confuse, which means players can actually use the steal skills and still feel like they didn't waste a turn, regardless of if they got something or not. I get the feeling that's a big point to players in general on if they use a game's steal mechanic; yay, I got an item, but was it really worth using my turn? Steal has to be combat-viable as well.
I'll see how it plays out, and how people respond to the changes to the steal mechanic.
 

CraneSoft

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For anyone who champions a 100% steal rate (and I do share in your hatred of success-or-failure RNG rolls!), how do you make the things you Steal significant enough to be worth the slight annoyance of prolonging combat to obtain, while also ensuring your game's combat and economy are well-balanced whether or not the player decides to steal the equips/consumables from each enemy?
The reason I champion a 100% steal rate is that the act of stealing itself is already a gamble since 90% of the time, you as the player, are not aware of what you can steal from the enemy, even disregarding the actual rates. Thus, the player are never informed the significance of stealing until they actually bothered to bring a character that can steal to every boss (and such characters are usually not the best combatants).

For stealing to truly matter, the target items need to be significantly more useful than stuff they can find elsewhere - something that is unavailable otherwise or at least incredibly difficult to obtain, so the player that actually bothered to steal feels rewarded for their efforts. The player is already prolonging every fight with stealing attempts, no need to add RNGesus on top of that.

IMHO, Final Fantasy 8 has a well-balanced stealing mechanic for a variety of reasons:
  1. It is an efficient way to farm for specific materials you need in large quantities, and every enemy can only be stolen once. (If they carry 10 bear asses for example, you will get them all on your first successful steal for example) It is offset by the fact that enemies that have their stuff stolen will drop nothing once they die - so stealing becomes a choice whether you want Item A, or possibly Item B/C/D that the enemy may otherwise drop when killed normally.
  2. Stealing, known as "Mug" in this game, replaces the "Attack" command (which is your primary source of offense in this game that aren't limit breaks) when you have it equipped as a skill, meaning even if the steal attempt fails, you still attacked the enemy normally so your turn isn't wasted.
  3. Certain bosses offer good steals in the form of rare items that aren't easily available otherwise.
  4. The actual stealing success rate, while not 100%, is high enough that it is unlikely to fail repeatedly since stealing becomes your regular attacks due to 2), and the player never feels they are prolonging the fight artificially.
  5. It is entirely optional, you can go through the whole game without doing it and not miss anything significant.
 

Wavelength

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One of the characters in Tundra, Guile, is going to have a Plunder/Pillage mechanic. The Plunder skill steals a small amount of money, and Pillage uses up all money stolen in the battle to increase its damage at the expense of not getting that money at the end of the fight.
Sounds pretty cool! While I don't see it often in games, I do think a lot of the most fun mechanics for Stealing or Creating anything mid-battle are the ones that are paired with mechanics that encourage the player to use those stolen/created things "right away", i.e. during that combat.

I have a very clear divide on regular enemies and 'elite', I guess you could say, enemies. The stronger enemies of the area. Those are the ones that hold extra items in their steal pools.
Additionally, the steal skills actually have a viable use in combat, ignoring defense and inflicting Confuse, which means players can actually use the steal skills and still feel like they didn't waste a turn, regardless of if they got something or not. I get the feeling that's a big point to players in general on if they use a game's steal mechanic; yay, I got an item, but was it really worth using my turn? Steal has to be combat-viable as well.
I'll see how it plays out, and how people respond to the changes to the steal mechanic.
You've thought through it pretty well, it seems like! The clear dichotomy between enemies with 1 item and enemies with multiple items is nice (if the 'elite' enemies hold different numbers of items from other 'elite' enemies, you still may want to signpost that the player has stolen everything he possibly can), and adding other combat utility to the Steal move means that using it will feel good - grabbing the item will be more of a "bonus" than failing to get it will be a "waste".

Two things you'll want to look out for when having people playtest are Stalling and Crowding Out. If players feel like they're being "inefficient" by not getting every item an enemy has, they may just stall the end of a clearly-winning battle and keep (for example) having other characters defend/heal while the character(s) who can steal keep trying to get the items. That may be mitigated by the limited number of times it can be tried (due to damage) or by the fact that Elite enemies actually provide a threat if you're stalling, but just watch out for players doing it because it makes the experience a lot less fun. And if the Steal skills are useful enough that they'd be good choices even without the Steal bonus, you have to consider that players might just use them every single turn, since why not use a skill that's just as good as my other option plus gives me these cool items sometimes? - this would crowd out all of the other cool skills you made for the character.

The reason I champion a 100% steal rate is that the act of stealing itself is already a gamble since 90% of the time, you as the player, are not aware of what you can steal from the enemy, even disregarding the actual rates. Thus, the player are never informed the significance of stealing until they actually bothered to bring a character that can steal to every boss (and such characters are usually not the best combatants).

For stealing to truly matter, the target items need to be significantly more useful than stuff they can find elsewhere - something that is unavailable otherwise or at least incredibly difficult to obtain, so the player that actually bothered to steal feels rewarded for their efforts. The player is already prolonging every fight with stealing attempts, no need to add RNGesus on top of that.

IMHO, Final Fantasy 8 has a well-balanced stealing mechanic for a variety of reasons:
  1. It is an efficient way to farm for specific materials you need in large quantities, and every enemy can only be stolen once. (If they carry 10 bear asses for example, you will get them all on your first successful steal for example) It is offset by the fact that enemies that have their stuff stolen will drop nothing once they die - so stealing becomes a choice whether you want Item A, or possibly Item B/C/D that the enemy may otherwise drop when killed normally.
  2. Stealing, known as "Mug" in this game, replaces the "Attack" command (which is your primary source of offense in this game that aren't limit breaks) when you have it equipped as a skill, meaning even if the steal attempt fails, you still attacked the enemy normally so your turn isn't wasted.
  3. Certain bosses offer good steals in the form of rare items that aren't easily available otherwise.
  4. The actual stealing success rate, while not 100%, is high enough that it is unlikely to fail repeatedly since stealing becomes your regular attacks due to 2), and the player never feels they are prolonging the fight artificially.
  5. It is entirely optional, you can go through the whole game without doing it and not miss anything significant.
I gave the "Mug" solution a shout-out in my first post here, and yeah, I do think it offers some design advantages over the standard Steal moves. It definitely did some work in FF8 where you could sometimes use it as a normal combat move and "get lucky" with receiving an item (or summon or whatever), because there was almost no signposting over what rare content might be hiding in which enemies' pockets. (While I agree it was wholly optional, I know a lot of more compulsive players felt the need to keep checking every enemy in fear they'd miss something.)

One of the coolest points you bring up is that the item you Steal is different than, but also removes, whatever item you would get as Loot for killing that enemy. That's really cool because it allows you to offer rare content (maybe even more powerful than the normal things you'd get for fighting these enemies), without making the divide between steal vs. don't steal too huge (e.g. one golden armor vs. two golden armors).
 

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