kranasAngel

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In the most standard form of JRPG combat, the player is given very little (if any) in the form of Target Control, or ways of controlling who enemies attack.

I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing, (there are obviously ways to turn this lack of control into an exercise in risk management by balancing the game accordingly), but I’ve been thinking about forms of Target Control for a while and am curious as to people’s thoughts.

For one, the default option I seem to find is where one character has a “Taunt” skill that redirects all enemy intents and that to me feels… not exciting, just because it feels like it boils down to “the tank character does the tank thing” with little to no strategy on the player’s part.

I think what I find more compelling is if every character has some form of single target provoke, as this opens up more strategic options I feel. If an enemy is focusing down Kai, for example, Kai’s allies could use their abilities to take the heat off of Kai for example keeping them around.

Alternatively, if a boss uses Fire and Ice attacks for example, and the player has a Fire Resist Gem, and an Ice Resist gem, they could equip them both on one character to designate that character as “the tank” while the others focussed on attacking. Or, they could equip one gem on each character to try and distribute the enemy’s damage more evenly.

But that’s just my ramblings. Curious as to what other people think. How important does Target Control feel to you, and which mechanisms for using it are useful?
 

AphoticAmaranth

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It depends on the game, but generally I think target control is useful but not necessary. Taunting is just one of the many ways you can protect a dying/squishy party member. Things like defensive buffs, debuffing the enemies' attack, immobilizing the enemies, or killing the enemies before they have a chance to attack would more or less fulfill the same purpose.

If you want taunt to be more than just "tank character does tank things", perhaps give each character weakness and resistance to certain elements? Maybe a suit of metal armour could provide great physical defense, but also, because it better conducts electricity and heat, increases the damage from those elements. That way you can't always rely on the same tank character to tank.
 

MarxMayhem

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For one, the default option I seem to find is where one character has a “Taunt” skill that redirects all enemy intents and that to me feels… not exciting, just because it feels like it boils down to “the tank character does the tank thing” with little to no strategy on the player’s part.
Games I found that do this typically have the same flaw, albeit in varying degrees: VIPs are never in real danger. Enemies do not prioritize squishies or anyone that establishes itself as a threat. They don't act smart, so the players never have to. So if you give your tanks a taunt skill, it's more convenience than necessity.
But that’s just my ramblings. Curious as to what other people think. How important does Target Control feel to you, and which mechanisms for using it are useful?
Target control should be important, moreso when it's against the player. If it's not, then players are free to ignore strategy, and the gameplay devolves into the common criticism of "mash A until you win" in JRPGs.

To build up what I said above: In my game, the squishier you are expected to be, the higher your TGR is. No armor means you have the max default TGR, light armor and "frail"-looking weapons lower TGR the least while heavy armor and "tough"-looking weapons lower it the most. Why would you exhaust your energy whittling down the big guy with the big sword and shield first, specially if there's another not-so tough looking guy who could heal them, and another ready to take advantage of the distraction?

Tanks have ways to increase their own TGR only temporarily, so it is a resource that must be managed properly. I have other taunt mechanics in place that can overwrite the TGR rule, but those would be more precious to use, so players have to think and not just mindlessly mash the Attack command.
 

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Excellent topic idea. I don't think I do anything too fancy with target rates in my game but here's how I've used it (so far).

I have 2 states: Targeted & Hidden.

Targeted makes all enemies attack the affected battler.

Hidden makes all enemies ignore the affected battler unless the attack is AOE.

Also important is that Targeted and Hidden cancel each other out so you can effectively remove Targeted from a character by gaining Hidden in some way and vise versa.

One party member has a skill that adds Targeted to herself and simultaneously activates the Defend command. This has the potential to be a very effective tanking method if you equip her with a shield.

One party member has a skill that adds Targeted to an ally of the player's choosing and another skill that allows her and 1 ally (if the player wishes) to gain Hidden. This character also has some skills that change effects when she attacks while Hidden.

I have an item called Smoke Bomb that can be used by any character to add Hidden to 1 ally.

The best use of these mechanics I've had so far comes from the handful of enemies that are able to add Targeted to a member of the party. These enemies work very well in many troop configurations and add a nice shake up to the flow of the combat. It also makes the player reconsider who to target first which, with the way my battle system works, can be a challenge of its own.

I haven't experimented much beyond this small battle concept yet but there's a lot of potential there.
 

kranasAngel

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If you want taunt to be more than just "tank character does tank things", perhaps give each character weakness and resistance to certain elements? Maybe a suit of metal armour could provide great physical defense, but also, because it better conducts electricity and heat, increases the damage from those elements. That way you can't always rely on the same tank character to tank.
I really like this as a solution, especially if multiple (or every) character has a taunt ability. Because by having different characters resist different elements, especially through equipment, (or equivalently Physically resistant characters and Magically resistant characters) it makes the decision of "who blocks what" more exciting to me.
To build up what I said above: In my game, the squishier you are expected to be, the higher your TGR is. No armor means you have the max default TGR, light armor and "frail"-looking weapons lower TGR the least while heavy armor and "tough"-looking weapons lower it the most. Why would you exhaust your energy whittling down the big guy with the big sword and shield first, specially if there's another not-so tough looking guy who could heal them, and another ready to take advantage of the distraction?

Tanks have ways to increase their own TGR only temporarily, so it is a resource that must be managed properly. I have other taunt mechanics in place that can overwrite the TGR rule, but those would be more precious to use, so players have to think and not just mindlessly mash the Attack command.
I'm not convinced this is a compelling solution for a couple of reasons, but maybe you disagree and that's totally valid.
  1. In general TGR buffs are rarely noticeable. If you consider a standard 3 character party, if one character doubles their TGR, they will go from being hit 33% of the time to 50% of the time.
    1. That's not particularly noticeable as is. (and this is assuming they had even TGR to start with. If your mage has a higher TGR it's going to feel even more underwhelming.
    2. Sometimes you will buff your TGR and still never get attacked, so effectively you will waste a turn. I hate this? I'm sure some people are cool with it, but this is also the reason I never like Crit Rate buffing skills in RPGs.
  2. It can create some counter-intuitive options like dressing up your mage in full battle armor to reduce their chance of getting hit, or never putting armor on your knight so that your knight is more likely to take hits meant for the mage. You can say this is fun, and I don't even really disagree. The idea that the correct strategy is to disguise your mage as a knight, and your knight as a mage is very funny, but I think not your intention here
  3. It feels like it punishes the player for taking a reasonable course of action.
    1. The defensive investment only matters if a character actually gets hit, but by correlating defensive investment with decreased target rate, you essentially invalidate that decision. I would feel: "I invested a bunch of resources into making this character as defensive as possible, and because of that they never actually get hit. Why did I even bother?"
    2. in order for your tank to tank they have to spend every action they have trying to tank. (because otherwise you put a bunch of armor on them for nothing). This means either
      1. The character can click Taunt every turn, in which case that's the optimal choice. Instead of mindlessly clicking attack, the player is mindlessly clicking taunt.
      2. The character can't click taunt every turn, in which case putting armor on a character can be actively harmful (since it makes already vulnerable party members even more vulnerable)
There could obviously be things about this that I'm not seeing, but these are my thoughts as of rn
I have 2 states: Targeted & Hidden.

Targeted makes all enemies attack the affected battler.

Hidden makes all enemies ignore the affected battler unless the attack is AOE.

Also important is that Targeted and Hidden cancel each other out so you can effectively remove Targeted from a character by gaining Hidden in some way and vise versa.

One party member has a skill that adds Targeted to herself and simultaneously activates the Defend command. This has the potential to be a very effective tanking method if you equip her with a shield.

One party member has a skill that adds Targeted to an ally of the player's choosing and another skill that allows her and 1 ally (if the player wishes) to gain Hidden. This character also has some skills that change effects when she attacks while Hidden.

I have an item called Smoke Bomb that can be used by any character to add Hidden to 1 ally.

The best use of these mechanics I've had so far comes from the handful of enemies that are able to add Targeted to a member of the party. These enemies work very well in many troop configurations and add a nice shake up to the flow of the combat. It also makes the player reconsider who to target first which, with the way my battle system works, can be a challenge of its own.
I agree, I was experimenting with a similar idea for a game I was making about Pirates that I called "Wanted" (cause you know, Pirates... wanted). Some ideas I had that might be useful to you are
  • Wanted could be a cost to abilities as well. Like maybe a big flashy spell, in addition to costing MP gives the character Wanted. It's another way of inflicting a defensive debuff on the user after attacking (since the end result is that they take more damage), and maybe creates some timing situations.
  • Getting hit by an attack reduced Wanted stacks by 1. This was because I realized, sometimes you don't want to taunt 10 enemies at once (you just die). Also creates fun timing puzzles with turn manipulation. (To take the earlier flashy spell example, you want to use the big flashy spell after the dangerous enemy attacks so that you don't provoke their big attack)
 
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Some good discussion so far! As someone currently working on a game featuring the MMO 'holy trinity' (tank/healer/DPS) I'd like to add some ways that the default 'taunt' skill can be made more interesting:

-Give tank characters multiple options for how to mitigate their damage taken, and make the enemy single-target attacks powerful enough that these options are required. For example, is it more efficient to boost my own DEF or lower the enemy's ATK in this situation? Do I use a high-MP move that makes me invincible for one turn, or just take the hit and use another characters MP to heal myself next turn? Do I equip a shield for more defence, or do I think I can get away with bringing a two-handed sword into this battle for more damage?

-Have fights that require swapping between multiple taunt users. Maybe a boss has a move that disables your taunt for one turn, so next turn you need someone else to step up and take the hit. Maybe the enemy's attack lowers your DEF / max HP each time it hits you, and eventually you'll need to let someone else take over tanking duty.

-Allow taunts to block stuff other than just damage. Have an enemy that charges up a powerful status effect, and you can decide who gets it by having that character taunt (assuming taunting is available to all characters)
 

MarxMayhem

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In general TGR buffs are rarely noticeable. If you consider a standard 3 character party, if one character doubles their TGR, they will go from being hit 33% of the time to 50% of the time.
I did forget to mention that I have plugins, so if I need to make numbers very noticable, I can.
It can create some counter-intuitive options like dressing up your mage in full battle armor to reduce their chance of getting hit, or never putting armor on your knight so that your knight is more likely to take hits meant for the mage. You can say this is fun, and I don't even really disagree. The idea that the correct strategy is to disguise your mage as a knight, and your knight as a mage is very funny, but I think not your intention here
Dressing a knight as a mage and a mage as a knight... If the player wants to do that, they could. There are downsides to doing that of course, but if they want to try and make that work, they can.
The defensive investment only matters if a character actually gets hit, but by correlating defensive investment with decreased target rate, you essentially invalidate that decision. I would feel: "I invested a bunch of resources into making this character as defensive as possible, and because of that they never actually get hit. Why did I even bother?"
I don't see why that's a bad thing. It is a problem, yes, but I think that should be the kind of problem you want to give your players. I'll explain below.
in order for your tank to tank they have to spend every action they have trying to tank. (because otherwise you put a bunch of armor on them for nothing). This means either
  1. The character can click Taunt every turn, in which case that's the optimal choice. Instead of mindlessly clicking attack, the player is mindlessly clicking taunt.
  2. The character can't click taunt every turn, in which case putting armor on a character can be actively harmful (since it makes already vulnerable party members even m
You actually hit the nail on the head with 2.2! I have given the players options, but those options are not foolproof, and more importantly they're not perfect. Players must be conscious that there is an ideal time to use the party abilities, and failure to use it wisely means they're gonna have a bad time. Some players are risk-averse by nature, so if you give them something that they can consistently use to eliminate a consistent amount of risk, they would. As designers, we have to find that sweet middle spot between caution and recklessness that players deviate between. If that is not obvious in the start of the battle and they progressively learn how hard should they slide in one side of the scale, then we have the makings of a good encounter methinks.
 

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Interesting conversation. Kinda tempted to test out how TGR works with high numbers (aka. 600%+) and see how I can shake it up with the ideas you guys are proposing here.

Though I will add in a few ideas of my own, just based on the scripts I've played with:

* An attack that will always go after a specific person, regardless of what their TGR rating is. Patterns are good for this.

* Healing actions raising TGR, so heal-bots get punished.

* Attacks that will always go after people who have specific states like paralyze, confusion, poison, etc. So the main enemy (or their minions) will try to feed you with those statuses, and if you didn't protect against those statuses through armor or mid-battle item use then you might be in trouble.

* Certain characters having higher TGR by default, or it raising in certain fights where the enemy would be able to deduce how much of a threat [x] actor is. You can do this with troop events without scripting if you're clever enough.

* Something that visibly shows you how high certain charatcers target rates are, either through something simple like an state icon or a bar that fills up next to the character. This way your players can actually see if there's an aggro system of some kind of in place, as opposed to just guessing.

(I.e character A has 100% TGR, but character B has 500% TGR, etc.)
 

kranasAngel

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-Give tank characters multiple options for how to mitigate their damage taken, and make the enemy single-target attacks powerful enough that these options are required. For example, is it more efficient to boost my own DEF or lower the enemy's ATK in this situation? Do I use a high-MP move that makes me invincible for one turn, or just take the hit and use another characters MP to heal myself next turn? Do I equip a shield for more defence, or do I think I can get away with bringing a two-handed sword into this battle for more damage?

-Have fights that require swapping between multiple taunt users. Maybe a boss has a move that disables your taunt for one turn, so next turn you need someone else to step up and take the hit. Maybe the enemy's attack lowers your DEF / max HP each time it hits you, and eventually you'll need to let someone else take over tanking duty.
All of these are cool ideas, don't have much more to say about it, but I like em. Am a big fan of swapping between multiple taunt users being an optimal strategy. It could even be as simple as "the boss deals a lot of damage, so you can't tank all of the hits"
I don't see why that's a bad thing. It is a problem, yes, but I think that should be the kind of problem you want to give your players. I'll explain below.
I think the specific reason I find this to be an issue is because you put armor on the character hoping to make them a better tank, but by putting armor on them and lowering their target rate, you have actually made them a worse tank. You punish the specific thing the player is trying to do which isn't a tradeoff in my eyes, as TGR and Defense serve a very similar mechanical role.
  • Compare this to say, heavy armor giving a character more Physical resistance, but lower Magical resistance. There's a tradeoff here because the character gets better at doing one thing, but worse at the other
  • It's the exact same for me as "an attack buff that lowers the user's accuracy." Here, by trying to make your character more aggressive, you lower their chance of actually landing a hit, which makes them less able to actually be aggressive
  • I am not fond of this type of dichotomy, but you can say that's personal preference.

I feel like, rather than promoting any sort of strategy, this construction encourages leaning on randomness and hoping the dice lean in your favor. But maybe you disagree, and that's fair enough.
Dressing a knight as a mage and a mage as a knight... If the player wants to do that, they could. There are downsides to doing that of course, but if they want to try and make that work, they can.
I'm sure there will be downsides, and obviously it's hard for me to judge your game without actually playing it. But in abstract, solely looking at the targeting system, this feels like the optimal course of action.
You actually hit the nail on the head with 2.2! I have given the players options, but those options are not foolproof, and more importantly they're not perfect. Players must be conscious that there is an ideal time to use the party abilities, and failure to use it wisely means they're gonna have a bad time
Let's use some numbers to explain it. Maybe without heavy armor my knight has a 33% chance of being hit, and my mage has a 67% chance of being hit. And with heavy armor, the knight has a 25% chance of being hit, and the mage has a 75% chance of being hit.
I want to note the following
  1. Putting on heavy armor is inherently risky since the base case (where I don't click taunt), is worse if I'm wearing armor than if I'm not wearing armor. So what's the reward for putting heavy armor on? In terms of the Mage's survivability, so there's not really any advantage.
  2. It feels like the gameplay loop for the knight ends up boiling down to "click taunt when the enemy is about to attack" as a result which for me isn't what I find interesting.
I have some thoughts as to how I would attempt this sort of system, but I also don't wanna give unsolicited design advice, so lemme know if you're curious I guess, but we can also just agree to disagree, and move on.
I'm not convinced giving Armor TGR penalties works that well, but I also haven't played your game, so who knows. It's super dependent on how the rest of the systems work, so if you're confident, go for it. I'm just a random person on the internet after all.
* Attacks that will always go after people who have specific states like paralyze, confusion, poison, etc. So the main enemy (or their minions) will try to feed you with those statuses, and if you didn't protect against those statuses through armor or mid-battle item use then you might be in trouble.
Makes a lot of sense to me, and gives another way for statuses to matter as well
 
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MarxMayhem

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I think the specific reason I find this to be an issue is because you put armor on the character hoping to make them a better tank, but by putting armor on them and lowering their target rate, you have actually made them a worse tank. You punish the specific thing the player is trying to do which isn't a tradeoff in my eyes, as TGR and Defense serve a very similar mechanical role.
Did I mention I have taunt mechanics as well? No I didn't, so that's my fault. But yes, I have ways of managing aggro apart from TGR, and that includes proper taunt mechanics. I also use some of the things RCXDan listed, with heal/buff/debuff skills attached to tanks so they can draw aggro to them as well.

Also, I do not think of TGR as mechanically similar as Defense, so that's already a misalign of expectations.
Putting on heavy armor is inherently risky since the base case (where I don't click taunt), is worse if I'm wearing armor than if I'm not wearing armor. So what's the reward for putting heavy armor on? In terms of the Mage's survivability, so there's not really any advantage.
The reward of putting heavy armor on is so that the character in question can survive hits when they get hit. How the player would get their tank character to get hit instead is something they should actively think about, not passively.

Light armor has worse protection, but it still offers some protection, and it does not hamper with EVA and offense-based stats. It is for characters whose role is to deal damage, not take it. If you are worried of the survivability of the mage when the tank can't use tank skills and they could become the next target of attack, that's what everything else is for- items, skills, other party members that could draw the aggro to them or buff the target before an attack hits.
It feels like the gameplay loop for the knight ends up boiling down to "click taunt when the enemy is about to attack" as a result which for me isn't what I find interesting.
Let's talk about the inverse of this: If the tank never has to do anything to ensure hits are aimed at them and not the mages and clerics... when what's the point of having different characters with specialties? It devolves into a battle of attrition, which is another criticism of RPG combat- both parties slap each other with big number skills, then heal if necessary, and if tanks are the ones who is almost always taking damage, then they are the ones who will only need the heals and defensive buffs. In other words, mages and clerics are never in danger.

I treat combat in varying degrees of the Kobayashi Maru- a no-win scenario, or more kindly phrased as "the bad guys want to win". Because the bad guys want to win, they would use smarter tactics and play onto their strength and the party's weakness that they can identify. After all, if the players can use their brain in combat, why can't the enemy? Why do we even bother putting Taunt skills in if the enemy cannot or will not prioritize targets (Without Taunt, enemies may randomly attack the mage once in a while, and that is more inconvenience than a cause for concern)? Is this not the sort of thing when we talk about "Target Control"? This is also why I still use TGR- it is something that players are aware of, and can plan on even when their Taunt skills are down.

But it's clear that our philosophies do not align, so I'll leave my thoughts as that.
 

kranasAngel

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The reward of putting heavy armor on is so that the character in question can survive hits when they get hit. How the player would get their tank character to get hit instead is something they should actively think about, not passively.
Oh yeah, I 100% agree. I think we're in alignment on wanting target control to be an active decision rather than a passive one, we're just misaligned on how best to achieve that (I prefer the active choice to be deciding which character should get take the damage rather than how to get the tank character to take the damage).

But I digress, I don't mean to come across as dismissive of your angle. I'm trying to ask questions
'cause I genuinely think it's an interesting approach, and I'm trying to refine my own understanding a bit more. I'll refrain from diving further.
 

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