Too many elements? Too many heroes?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Michael Caiola, Oct 8, 2016.

  1. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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    Hm. You all have me questioning my original choices. It was over a year ago that I did the research and came up with all this and now I'm wondering why I made the choices I did. Helios and Selene would've been much better choices. Their Roman equivalents are Sol and Luna for frick's sake. And I don't know how I didn't count Ceres/Demeter for Virgo.


    I need to rethink some of my lore here...
     
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  2. Lord Semaj

    Lord Semaj Veteran Veteran

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    I wouldn't worry about your friend claiming there's too many elements.  Let me list off the damage types in Dungeons and Dragons.


    Acid


    Fire


    Cold


    Poison


    Electricity/Lightning


    Sonic/Thunder


    Radiant/Positive


    Negative/Necrotic


    Psychic


    Force


    Bludgeoning


    Piercing


    Slashing


    Ballistic


    There are weird and obscure damage types that come from certain game effects or other books.


    Desiccation


    Subdual


    Crushing


    Sanctified


    Vile


    There are alignment-based damage types and their corresponding damage reductions along with damage types for dieties.


    Holy


    Unholy


    Axiomatic


    Anarchic


    Divine


    Sacred


    Profane


    Then there are even material damage types that some monsters have damage resistance bypass for.


    Magic


    Silver


    Adamantine


    Cold Iron


    D&D may not be a typical RPG to some but it's a classic.
     
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  3. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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    That's definitely a lot.
     
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  4. Feliaria

    Feliaria Good with Ideas, Bad with Execution Veteran

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    Yes, but also remember that D&D essentially has an entire team devoted to nothing but balance. I am a fan of their system, but even if you look at Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online the system is simplified a ton (granted D&D damage resistances are flat rather than %s, so that does make it easier to balance).


    Also though: I thought Sacred and Profane were only bonuses, not actual damage types?
     
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  5. Lord Semaj

    Lord Semaj Veteran Veteran

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    @Feliaria No, Sacred and Profane are bonuses in the core but divine damage types in later books having to do with gods and divine feats.  The god's ability would deal either sacred or profane damage depending on whether it was a good deity or an evil deity (or just divine damage if neutral).


    Sample feat: http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Divine_Flame_(3.5e_Feat)
     
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  6. Feliaria

    Feliaria Good with Ideas, Bad with Execution Veteran

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    Huh. Okay. Did not know haha!


    I've never really played D&D, but my parents played back in 2.5, so I've read the books a bit XD
     
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  7. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    I'll just quote this, because anything regarding elements that I agree on has already been said by others. I'll just have to say that I don't at all agree with what's quoted here.



    You know skills can be made to do more than just damage, right? In fact, there's so much you can do with skills, that I don't even see the need for an elemental system, apart from probably physical/magical split. From my experience, all elements really do is create a rock/paper/scissors kind of game. You meet a fire enemy, so now your fire skills are useless and your water skills are suddenly powerful. You meet a water enemy, so now your fire skills are still useless, and so are your water skills, but now your electric skills are powerful. It really doesn't do much, other than restrict the player's useful options at what they can use against the enemy.


    I wouldn't call that a puzzle. It's the most simplistic way of penalising the player for making bad decisions in a battle. All an element system achieves is creating difficulty based on the player's ability (or lack thereof) to exploit an enemy's elemental weakness. And it's either painfully obvious (hit knight with magic, hit fire with water), or it's so far-fetched that you would only figure it out by trial-and-error or reading the game guide.



    I do agree with that first part. An element system can be used to enhanced combat, if it's handled well, but I would certainly not count it as a necessary feature to an RPG's combat system.


    But skills don't have to be defined by their element. They can be defined by what effects they have on them. Just because two spells do damage, doesn't mean they function in the same way. And by the way, you can still have elemental themed skills without having actually elements in your game (for example, you can still have water themed skills do your typical water things, they just deal normal or magical damage without necessarily being weak to water enemies).
     
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  8. Feliaria

    Feliaria Good with Ideas, Bad with Execution Veteran

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    Actually, that's the way my game is set up. :3


    Because of how split up the elements are in my game (each element has its own Nation, and there is virtually zero crossover), making elemental relationships would just be a nightmare to balance.


    So while I have six elements, there are no elemental resistances/weaknesses. The only interaction with elements is one of my characters has an instant skill that makes their Fire skills hit harder while reducing their maximum health for the rest of the fight (or until the person switches, but that's getting into the nitty-gritty of my mechanics).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 13, 2016
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  9. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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    @Milennin, how do you balance damage attacks and skills, then?
     
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  10. Feliaria

    Feliaria Good with Ideas, Bad with Execution Veteran

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    Well, most of the time, the game's elements are based on resistances and weaknesses, right? It's rather simple to remove that layer. Some minor adjustment of numbers, but not much else. The skill's aesthetics and effects are where the "element" part comes in.
     
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  11. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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    Wouldn't that still effectively be elements, even if not they're not actual elements in the database?
     
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  12. hadecynn

    hadecynn Abyss of Oblivion Veteran

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    @BryanBatcher Basileus pointed this out all the way back in his/her first response, but I think you are still mixing up game mechanics with game lore/theme/flavor text.


    Here are two mechanically different attacks that serve to add combat depth and strategy:


    Attack A - Deals 100 damage upon use.


    Attack B - Deals 25 damage upon use, and continues to inflict 25 damage for 4 additional turns, totaling 125 damage.


    The design of these two attacks is to give players choice between power versus speed. In an encounter with multiple enemies and different HP, players who chooses to take advantage of this design might be able to finish the battle more efficiently. Say, by strategically using Attack B on enemies with higher HP first, before using Attack A to one-shot enemies with lower HP while the damage-over-time takes effect on the former enemy. Alternatively, in an encounter where the enemies hit really hard, it might be in the player's best interest to use Attack A to eliminate one or two targets first, even though it is not the optimal nor most efficient damage output. These are just two examples, but it should be enough to get across how, even by just having one straight-up damage skill and one damage-over-time skill, the developer can add complexity to battles and avoid the "mash-attack-button" problem.


    Note how the mechanics are not constrained within any sort of thematic framework. If I choose to, by adding a touch of creativity, I can package the mechanic in pretty much whatever flavor I want. For Attack B, I can explain the "cause" for the damage-over-time effect as I see fit:


    Poison - This is probably the default go-to and traditional name for an attack that inflicts the damage-over-time effect.


    Burn - Now I've made it "Fire Element Based"


    Frostbite - Or Ice if you prefer


    Bleed - If you want to go dark and edgy in your game setting


    Corrosion - If "Acid" was the image you are going for


    Hunger - Why not?


    Even if you assigned all six of these as different "elements" in your game, as far as the player is concerned, there's still only one mechanic here. In which case, as long as you make it clear that all these things function the same way (but perhaps to different degrees of potency), you could have as many different "elements/flavor text/animations" as your creativity allows for.


    I hope this illustrates why it's very important to understand this distinction before going forward. Ultimately, are you trying to give players 12 (or more) separate mechanics to interact with, or are you trying to cover a set of mechanics in 12 different layers of paint that aligns with your lore and narrative?
     
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  13. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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    It would still kind of have a "big stick" feel to it. If you have stronger and stronger versions of Attack B, there's no strategy. But once you add the "flavors" then you can give it strategies. That's pretty much the same as elements.

    Um... I think somewhere in between.
     
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  14. Feliaria

    Feliaria Good with Ideas, Bad with Execution Veteran

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    Well, that's mostly because you're still thinking of it strictly in terms of damage per round. Don't forget that effects don't simply have to deal damage.


    For example, in my game, Burn does deal damage, but also reduces Endurance and Strength (DEF and ATK), while Poison reduces Endurance and Strength by more than Burn rather than dealing damage. Suppress is an effect caused by certain abilities, and it reduces one or more stats by 2. 


    The goal of damage is to incapacitate enemies, but that can be done by making the enemy so weak it can't do anything to you just as much as it can mean killing them (Actually, that gives me an idea...). Also, keep in mind that Fire spells, in my game, include Backlash which does negative effects to the caster as well as the enemy. It's less "big stick" as it is "what can I do with my stick".


    And it is, and at the same time it isn't. There is a difference between aesthetics and mechanics. It can look like a Fireball, it can Burn like a Fireball, but if it deals Water damage, it isn't a Fireball.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2016
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  15. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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    Ahhhh, my head. I have once again confused damage types and elements.
     
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  16. Basileus

    Basileus Veteran Veteran

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    @Feliaria


    I see what you're talking about, and I'm a huge fan of buffs, debuffs, and utility spells personally, but the battle system you've been describing still seems pretty "big stick, bigger stick" to me.


    The goal of any combat encounter is to win. The only way to win is to deal damage. Burn effects and other Damage Over Time (DOT) effects are nice, but nevertheless it's still damage. Lowering enemy stats is good to reduce the damage they dish out to your party or increase how much damage they take from your party's attacks, but at the end of the day it's all pointless if you aren't doing any damage and the enemy kills you. 


    From a player perspective; "Why bother with non-damage spells/abilities? Just hit them with my biggest stick until I win". Anyone who has ever played Pokemon knows exactly what this is like - you'll have some move like Tail Whip that does no damage and you'll replace it with something like Ember or Water Gun as soon as possible. By the time you hit the Elite Four each of you're Pokemon will have either 4 attack moves or 3 attack moves and a powerful buff/debuff. And your team will probably consist entirely of "sweepers" that hit for massive damage but go down fast if they go up against the wrong type match-up, and any Pokemon focused on defense and boosting defensive stats at the expense of damage will stay in the PC. Because tanking damage but not being able to dish it out is not how you actually win. And that's in a game with Elemental type-matching as a core focus of gameplay. If there was only generic "damage" or even a "physical/magical" split then it's even easier. Just use the skills that give the best Damage to Cost ratio - in any action-oriented combat system this is usually done in the form of an "optimal combo" and any skills not part of it don't get used. Period.


    From a developer perspective; "Why bother giving the player these non-damage spells/abilities in the first place?" If the goal of combat is to win - and it is - then why bother with anything that does not immediately bring you closer to winning the battle? Is there some purpose for me making the player waste a turn dealing no damage now just to deal a little more damage later? You need to seriously consider turn-efficiency when designing, because your players absolutely will be. Say my basic "Fight" command can hit for 100 damage and I have two abilities - one is a non-damaging poison debuff that lowers the enemy's defense and the other is a fireball spell that deals damage. This makes me think of a couple possibilities for the player:


    1. The poison debuff means I use a turn doing 0 damage and my basic attack next turn deals less damage than just using the "Fight" command twice. The poison skill is therefore useless.


    2. The poison debuff means I use a turn doing 0 damage and my basic attack next turn deals more damage than if I had just used the "Fight" command twice. The poison skill is therefore optimal and it is the best choice 100% of the time to end battles faster.


    3. The fireball spell does less damage than my basic "Fight" command attack. The fireball spell is therefore worthless and will never be used.


    4. The fireball spell does more damage than my basic "Fight" command attack. The fireball spell is therefore optimal and it is the best choice 100% of the time...provided I have the MP and if I do not have or need to conserve it then I will mash the "Fight" command while wishing I had more MP.


    The main problem I see is that if there is only Physical Attack/Defense and Magical Attack/Defense, then only one kind of damage is ever needed. Ever. If an enemy has high physical defense, then I hit it with my biggest magical stick. If the enemy has high magical defense, then I hit it with my biggest regular stick. If physical damage is the most effective then why use anything besides my basic "Fight" command attack since it has no resource? If magic damage is the answer then why use anything that isn't my biggest spell, or at least the one with the best damage-to-cost ratio? If Fireball does more damage than Icebolt, then Icebolt has no reason to exist. If both spells do the same damage then why would you ever need more than 1 of them?


    Status effects and debuffs will only get you so far. As the League of Legends community says "The best CC is death". What's the point of any status effect? To lower the damage the party takes or increase the damage they deal. Paralysis, Frozen, Rooted, Stunned, Immobilized, whatever you want to call it - it only exists to stall the enemy for 1 or more turns. But what's the point if it means dragging out the fight? Ending the fight faster by doing more damage also means your party takes less damage. There is never a reason NOT to try and end the fight as fast as you can. Since damage is the only way to actually WIN a fight, there are ultimately not many times that dragging the fight out with non-damaging status effects or delayed burn/poison damage is actually helpful. 


    The purpose of an "Elemental System" is so that the player has more tools that MIGHT be the correct, optimal choice. If you have the player encounter a new enemy type and they do not know what type of damage is most effective they will have an incentive to try out a wide variety of spells to find out how to take them down in the fewest number of turns. The more tools they have the longer this experimentation will take. This means they can encounter the same enemy type - or even the exact same troop composition - without getting bored since they haven't found the best strategy yet. The player's kit and each different enemy troop composition form a puzzle, with the "answer" being the method to defeat them with as little MP as possible, or taking as little damage as possible, or in the fewest number of turns as possible. What was once a tough fight at the start of a dungeon could become a one-round stomp by the end of it, and the player can feel good for figuring out the best use of his turns to make it happen.


    The biggest consideration will always be; "How long do I want my mob encounters to last?" If you, as the developer, want the player to HAVE to spend say 5 rounds fighting a specific enemy troop composition then you could force this to happen by making your random encounter enemies all tanks that require multiple rounds of status debuffs and effects to start dealing decent damage to. If you would rather have battles that end quickly then there is almost 0 point to having tons of status effects and debuffs since the player will not be using them except possibly on bosses. Having different types of damage allows the developer to make fights artificially tougher when the player first encounters them which become much faster as the player becomes accustomed to their weaknesses and how to most effectively deal damage to them. This is extremely important as it can make new areas interesting and engaging while also making it much less tedious by the time the player is finishing up or if they have to backtrack at some point.
     
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  17. Lars Ulrika

    Lars Ulrika I punch Therefore I am Harvest the land Taking the Veteran

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    It really depends on how well it's done. Chrono Cross had a crazy number of playable characters (48 if I remember well) but the game worked out pretty well. What I would strongly advice you though is to make sure you can flesh out every one of them. Will you have the time and courage to make reactions and dialogues for every single one of them in cutscenes etc?


    About elements, are they ALL really useful? Do they have specific effects? Will they all get accessories , equipment etc altering resistance to them? You need to think this out carefully. Having tons of ideas is good but make sure every one of them is REALLY relevant and will add something to your game without being a hassle.
    If it's your first project, I would strongly advice you to try to keep things a bit simpler and keep your idea of zodiac heroes etc for a later project.
    For a first project, you'll want to keep it straight to the point and simple , which doesn't mean making a sub-par game.
     
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  18. cekobico

    cekobico Veteran Veteran

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  19. Feliaria

    Feliaria Good with Ideas, Bad with Execution Veteran

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    @BryanBatcher, here's the multi-character attack plug-in I was referring to. I hope it works for you! :D
     
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  20. Michael Caiola

    Michael Caiola The Stone Bull Veteran

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