What do you do with elements in your game?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Lnik3500, Oct 25, 2018.

  1. Lnik3500

    Lnik3500 Master Troll Veteran

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    I've been toying with trying to implement elements into my game, but I couldn't figure out the need to implement it and was getting nowhere around it. I decided to then change it to simply Magic Damage element. What do you guys think? And how do you apply yours in your game? Do you use the traditionnal Fire, Water, etc or do you ditch them for something else that has more meaning?
     
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  2. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    I use traditional elements. Each enemy has weaknesses and resistances to some elements, all of varying degree. To add something interesting, I attach one particular state to every element:

    Fire: Burn
    Ice: Cold
    Lightning: Paralyze
    Water: Poison
    Earth: Stun
    Wind: Blind.

    It doesn't mean that every elemental attack will inflict the state, but it usually has a chance (10%-50%) and that chance can increase by leveling certain skill abilities.
     
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  3. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    I use the basic elements, but they all deal regular magical damage. Elemental skills are used for theme, not for damage typing.
     
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  4. Mystic_Enigma

    Mystic_Enigma Feeling Mousey Veteran

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    I'm a little basic with my elements. Many characters will have an element they use and are thus tolerant to, and another they are weak to and take more damage from. Most elemental attacks will have an effect attached to it as well(Fire can burn, Water can Soak, Earth can lower Speed, Wind can Confuse...to name a few). I felt making an elemental triangle would be too much work, so I made advantages depend solely on the individual!
     
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  5. OnslaughtSupply

    OnslaughtSupply Ssshhh... Veteran

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    I've used them as slash, pierce, blunt, and firearm. I have tried the elemental rock paper scissors thing and for me it was too hard to balance. In my latest project its physical, fire, water, lightning, holy, and shadow with different equipment providing different resistance and monsters who might be weak against x element but strong against another. Plus they have a small chance to inflict a state. Fire-burn damage over time, ice (water element)-freeze 50%agility 3 turns(renamed speed), lightning-stun can't move 2 turns.
     
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  6. D.L. Yomegami

    D.L. Yomegami Sanely Insane Veteran

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    I'd repost my elements from a previous topic on this subject, but I've probably changed projects ten times since then (ADD is fun). So rather than talk about any one project, I'll just go over my general thoughts on elemental systems.

    I can't say I'm fond of systems where the only difference between damaging attacks of different elements is the element. If you have a lot of different enemies that are always weak to something (e.g. Pokemon or Octopath Traveler), or if you only give each character access to one or two elements at a time, then the issue's lessened a little, but otherwise you have the problem of dealing with an enemy with no weaknesses and there being no reason to cast a spell of one element over another and all those attacks just feel really redundant.

    So what I like to do is give attacks of differing elements different properties in addition to the element. For example, having Fire attacks be more damaging than Ice or Lightning attacks, but having Ice Attacks lower the target's stats and having Lightning attacks ignore the target's defense. That way each element always has a use even when dealing with an enemy with no weaknesses. The differences don't always have to be super drastic, though; sometimes just having attacks of each element have a chance of inflicting a different state (like Fire attacks inflicting a damage-over-time burn while Ice attacks have a chance of making enemies unable to move for the following turn). Or sometimes the only difference is in targeting; Earthbound comes to mind where Freeze is single-target, Fire targets a row, and Thunder hits all enemies but with lower accuracy the fewer enemies there are.

    Also: why only have elements as something the player can exploit? Why not give the same advantage to your enemies? For example, perhaps that heavy metal armor gives great defense, but enemies with Fire attacks can exploit it to roast the party alive. Or the thin clothing that's great for agile characters is also really bad against Ice attacks since it doesn't offer much protection against the cold. Or you could go the Pokemon route and simply make elemental resistances and weaknesses innate to each character. However you do it, it's a great way to add a little more strategy to combat.

    However it's handled, an element system should really be fully integrated into the combat system rather than something that's just tacked on. If you're going the Final Fantasy route of having elemental attacks in addition to non-elemental attacks that will ultimately prove to be more useful in the end rather than trying to guess what enemy's weak to what, then you might as well not have an element system at all. At the very least, all enemies should have a weakness (even if some change it around as battles progress; barrier change bosses are always fun).

    Furthermore, it's always a good idea to have elemental weaknesses be consistent across enemy types, just to reduce the amount of things the player has to keep track of in combat. If, for example, fish are resistant to Water and weak to Lightning, don't have a fish where it's the other way around. If your enemies are particularly varied, it might not be a bad idea to give the player access to a scan ability or simply display the elemental weaknesses outright.

    As of right now, whatever project I decide to try tackling next is likely going to do what Millenin does and have elements be simply thematic for categorization purposes. Or internally having each character's skills be a different element so I can use the element rate system for things like marking enemies to do more damage to them with a certain character. Or both, or in some fashion I haven't yet thought of.
     
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  7. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    I have no magic / physical classification in mechanic wise. Even magic is dodge-able. Instead, I use more "realistic" approach. These are classification of elemental damage in my book. Although I usually only use 5-7 of these:

    > Slash = The aftermath of the damage is being cut / slashed
    > Impact = The aftermath of the damage is crushed
    > Pierce = The aftermath of the damage is being pierced / left a hole
    > Heat = The aftermath of the damage is got burnt
    > Cold = Well... we could agree that some things won't work in cold temperature anymore.
    > Arcane = aka spirit damage. The damage isn't physical, but rather mentally (illusion, weakened life force, etc)
    > Shock = Basically electric damage.
    > Acid/Corrosion = Chemical damage / getting corroded, or some sort
    > Radiation (Scifi only) = Basically laser damage.

    Those classification above means, there's no such thing as "earth damage" or "water damage". It will be reclassified as either impact or pierce (water bullet for example). There is no wind damage as well. Depends on how the wind attack you. If you get cuts, it means it's slash.

    While I have no problem on playing a game that use elemental rps, personally, I don't feel like to make one in my game. I prefer the elemental system is just flavour addition to my game. Guessing the right elemental weakness would be a jackpot if you discovered it. But if you wish to play one element for entire game, you could. It just some of the enemies just gonna die slower.
     
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  8. Soryuju

    Soryuju Combat Balance Enthusiast Veteran

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    I use six elements: Earth, Fire, Air (wind/lightning), Water (water/ice), Light, and Dark. My elemental system isn’t really a central part of my combat, but it serves a few secondary purposes. Most notably, it’s an easy-access +50% damage modifier which doesn’t require extra buffs to set up.

    Tangent: I intend for late game offensive builds to reach the damage cap rather easily with a few buffs and smart equipment/passive ability choices. Since character build customization is a significant aspect of my game, making it relatively easy for attackers to max the damage of individual hits gives players more room to make interesting build choices about defense and utility. I find this preferable to players just choosing every ability which maximizes damage output, which is often a matter of calculation rather than creativity. The best attackers are instead defined by things like the number of times they can hit per turn, skill costs, elemental damage access, defensive capability, etc.

    Back to elements, having a widely-available, powerful damage modifier in play ultimately gives players more space to diversify their builds in the late game, a time in many RPGs when min-maxing numbers begins to infringe on build diversity. My project also features skills which will inflict elemental weaknesses of the player’s choice on enemies for a number of turns, further increasing the consistency of the damage bonus. You can even use these skills to create a certain elemental weakness on an enemy which typically resists it, but if you opt to do so, you’ll need to cast the skill multiple times to fully overcome the resistance. This allows players some flexibility when using their favorite elemental skills, but it also keeps the distinction between elements meaningful and inherent weaknesses valuable. If your favorite strategy incorporates a skill of a certain element, you can still maximize that skill’s damage potential, but you’ll lose action economy by going against the flow.

    I also plan to show players all of an enemy’s weaknesses up front - no guessing games. Since my elemental system primarily serves a practical, mechanical purpose, I don’t see any reason to potentially frustrate players with unnecessary features.

    Having different elements is also just sort of fun in that it can encourage players to use different offensive skills in different encounters, assuming there’s some diversity of weaknesses amongst enemies in an area. If I’m pushing through a dungeon, it’s a little more interesting to see different animations for each attack rather than spamming the same damage spell 100% of the time. It’s certainly nice when there’s some depth to choosing which elemental skill you attack with, but even if some of your elemental skills are clones of each other, the cosmetic differences can help keep the aesthetics of combat interesting for players.

    Lastly, not all elemental skills in my project inflict status ailments, but the different ailments of my game are often (not always) inflicted by elemental skills of certain types. These are:

    Physical: Poison
    Earth: Bleed
    Fire: Burn
    Air: Silence
    Water: Freeze
    Light: Blind
    Dark: Sleep

    So while I do have skills which are basically elemental clones of each other, sometimes the ailments which they inflict will add texture to the player’s decision about which to use. Ailments can be inflicted predictably in my project, so sometimes you may even opt not to strike a target’s weakness, because another elemental skill’s ailment would be more useful in the current situation. Both my element and ailment systems gain some extra strategic depth from these interactions.
     
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  9. lianderson

    lianderson Veteran Veteran

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  10. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    What I always say about the Elements (and their usual corresponding Weakness/Resist systems) is don't use them unless your game design makes a clear, compelling case for them. Don't include them just because most RPGs include them.

    The act of figuring out an enemy's weakness and then spamming a damage skill that inflicts that weakness is not fun nor engaging. It's either obvious and tedious (if players can reliably spot the weakness the first time), or a frustrating game of guess-and-check (if they can't and they need to rely on what you as the designer thought was "logical"). Remembering those weaknesses and resists is not fun, either. Elemental Weaknesses will make one or two skills much better than other skills against a certain Element of enemy - which also means that you are limiting the player's strategic options to only those one or two skills and now you have to balance the rest of combat around the weakness being exploited.

    Having said that, there are certainly games with designs that do make the clear, compelling case to include Elements.
    • Pokemon is a good example (particularly in competitive play) because it presents the highly compelling activity of building teams around being able to handle a wide array of elemental matchups, and lets you swap in a mon (at the cost of your turn) if you don't like the current matchup, leading to interesting mindgames.
    • The Persona series is a good example because most characters can only exploit one element, because the MP you use to exploit those weaknesses is limited, and because the Weakness system literally changes the entire way you play combat (knocking down foes for All-Out Attacks).
    • Match Land is a good example because it acts as a counterweight to choosing a party comprised of just one color (Element) of character, which would otherwise be a dominant strategy - and also because encourages players to use characters who are weaker in stats in order to exploit the weaknesses of monsters in specific levels.
    • Jade Cocoon is a good example because the Elements tend to work against each other in stylistic ways (e.g. Wind tends to inflict status effects, beaten by Water which tends to prevents status effects, but doesn't prevent damage so damage-oriented Fire tends to beat it).
    Aside from games which mimic the above examples, games which might want to include Elements are:
    • Games where each character can only use one Element, and the system encourages players to use their entire roster of characters instead of running the whole game with just 4 of them
    • Games where each character can only use one Element, and most characters can do damage, but the enemy parties tend to have diverse compositions and the point of Elements is to prevent the player from ganging up on one foe at a time.
    • Games where skills are diverse and situational enough that the decision of which skill to use and which enemy to use it against is still more about the skill's utility and situational value than it is about exploiting the weakness (or avoiding the resistance).
    • Games where the Elemental system is the single most unique and important consideration in combat.
    In most of these setups, it's a good idea to outright tell your player what the weaknesses and resists of each enemy are, so that they can use it as an interesting strategic consideration instead of a random (or even educated) guess.

    Your decision to change a complicated system into just "physical damage" vs. "magical damage" is probably a wise one, but a second question to ask yourself is whether you even need that split. Sometimes a single, untyped, class of damage is best because of the clarity it provides (you'll know exactly why you're taking a certain amount of damage).
     
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  11. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I seem to recall there are already threads on this, it might be worth reading them over too. That being said, in my game I used an 8 element system, they are:

    Fire: Focuses on damage dealing and AOE spells. High variance though as Fire is hard to control.
    Water: Hybrid healing and damage dealing. Weaker though in both.
    Air: Focuses on speed and time manipulation, and also can control electricity and can invoke clouds.
    Earth: Focus on protective shields which block damage until they fall. Can also throw hard hitting rocks as well.
    Energy: Raw Energy spells. Their spells ignore the target's MDF when used.
    Mind: Focuses on status ailments and such. Almost no AOE spells though.
    Life: Your standard healer. Can also cast spells to boost your maximum HP as well as add regeneration abilities.
    Death: Drain spells and Curses. Curses stop you from being able to do certain things, or can even make it so that any time you heal, you also heal the curser the same HP.

    I actually original had 9, but element 9 didn't serve any purpose so it was axed. So far it seems to have worked in testing.

    Just be careful not to go the Persona 5 route, where about every element ends up with a Light/Medium/Heavy Single/AOE effect. I felt there was honestly no difference between Psionic vs Nuclear vs Fire vs Death vs (insert element here) by the end of that game, as they were all interchangeable except for a few exclusive spells.
     
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  12. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    The function of elements in my game include:
    • Standard damage types--fire, wind, earth, water, ice, lightning, poison, light, dark, kinetic (bomb blasts, etc), and magic. The implementation might seem rather vanilla to some, as it's similar to how they're used in classic Final Fantasy games. Match the right damage type(s) to the right creature to deal extra damage. Use the wrong damage type and you'll do less damage, no damage, or even end up healing it.
    • Racial flags, where a "Humanoid" would be set to be weak vs attacks and/or weapons utilizing "Humanoid" damage. Nothing is ever strong vs these, because that'd make little sense.
    • A control mechanism for percent-of-HP attacks. Anyone who's played Final Fantasy games has surely seen spells like Demi, Gravity, Weak, Fallen One, etc which deal damage based on the target's current HP. In this case, I have "HP Damage" assigned its own special element so I can allow percent-based HP attacks to be used against some enemies, while other (mainly bosses, as well as those intended to be more challenging) can be immune to it.
    • Some really strong attacks (mainly enemy attacks) will have abilities with a special element (tentatively called "Chaos") that every player character is weak against. This is mainly just to show the "weakness" text I plan on showing when an enemy is hit by an attack it's weak against. This is mainly to emphasize the hit as being dangerous. This element doesn't show up in libra/scan results.
    First of all, to avoid forcing players into a guess-the-elemental-weakness shell game (something I absolutely hate about so many RM-made games) scan/libra style abilities are highly accessible throughout the game. These abilities show enemy race(es), stats, elemental strengths/weaknesses, and a brief description for flavor. No guesswork required, just good party planning.

    Secondly, in order to make this something the players can use tactically, damage-oriented characters generally have a few attacks capable of inflicting specific elemental weaknesses on targets. For example, "Hurricane" deals wind damage to all enemies and applies a 150% element rate debuff to them for 3 turns. This encourages the player to 1) Use the character with Hurricane in areas where wind-vulnerable enemies are plentiful and 2) bring any other characters with wind-based attacks or use wind-based weapons to capitalize on the debuff as much as possible.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
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  13. Neka Music

    Neka Music Veteran Veteran

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    I use the 4 basic elements, fire, water, earth, thunder,

    Every element has at least one single target spells.
    Fire is usually single target / line spells, and also the highest damage
    Water focuses on medium damage and medium AoE range.
    Earth focuses on lower damage but bigger AoE range / all out attacks.
    Thunder focuses on higher damage but very narrow AoE range.

    To balance things against bosses, Every element has at least one stadard single target spell. You can now guess which element does more damage.

    and 2 extended elements : holy, and darkness. which they are not related to the 4 elements and very flexible in terms of damage and AoE.
     
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  14. Canini

    Canini Veteran Veteran

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    My game does not use elemental damage at all. My game is uses a ABS, so all standard spells are basically tools that have to be resources managed by MP. Normally all weapons are short-ranged but by using magic the player can:

    Throw the weapon as a projectile (fire)
    Throw it around corners (water)
    Throw it underground and have it erupt from below the enemy (earth)

    Etc etc
     
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  15. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I believe this is the approach that all of the Persona games take (not just 5), and I'd make the argument that Persona's combat system actually justifies its use of "interchangeable" Elements. Not only does each character except the MC specialize in a single element (meaning that the ability to hit Weaknesses is rationed amongst a roster of characters that's too big to fit in one battle party), but - importantly - the strategy of Persona's battles lies not in making use of rare, situational status effects like Freeze and Shock, but directly in hitting the enemies' Weaknesses and avoiding hits on your own Weaknesses.

    Persona's 1-More and All-Out Attack systems put Weaknesses front-and-center in Persona's combat, and therefore I think it's best to make sure that each Element has the basic tools to deal single-target damage or AoE-damage that is relevant at any stage of the game. On a related note, giving these skills situational utility probably wouldn't change a lot of decisions because it would still be more important to hit the enemy's Weakness where possible - it would represent added complexity without a lot of usable depth. The situational utility would probably be nice to have in a lot of the game's boss fights, but most of Persona's battle time is not spent in boss fights, and there are enough gimmicks in P5's bosses in particular to make the experience feel novel enough even in the absence of interesting skills.

    I do wholeheartedly agree with you that using the standard Fire 1-Fire 2-Fire 3, Ice 1-Ice 2-Ice 3 kind of system - where the elements differ only by the type of damage they deal (and maybe a standard status effect that they occasionally apply) - is really boring in general, and represents bad design in most RPGs. Like you, I always design elements to each have their own "feel" and style. If you're new to game design, don't try to copy Persona because you're going to miss some of the other design decisions that make its magic system shine (and without those other decisions around it, its magic system would fall flat). But I think that Persona is actually a great example of how designers who really know what they're doing can afford to ignore some of the rules-of-thumb of good design, as long as they do it with a strong and clear purpose.
     
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  16. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    Okay, I haven't read everyone post in here, so I'm not responding to any of that. I'm responding simply to this post here, since it's asking what I think as well as what I did with my own.

    Personally, I think it's a good idea to just have a "physical" and "magical" Element if you have no plans to really utilize Elements all that much. If, to you and your game world, it doesn't matter what magic someone gets hit with and only that they did get hit with it... Then, hey, it's a system that works for your game and your world. It's likely that you could do some interesting things by limiting how many Elements you're playing with.

    However, I tend to move towards the "I want to do a lot with my Elements" side of things, so... I've done a lot with them. I've got six "Elemental" magics, with three "Rare Magics". I changed "Holy" typing to simply "Life" as it makes sense according to the story (and there's nothing holy or deity related about it) and I also changed "Evil" or "Dark" magic to simply "Death" magic as it makes more sense when it comes from Necromancers in the setting. Plus, neither magic type do the traditional things these elements do in normal RPGs.

    I then split up "basic damage types" into Strength, Magic, and Speed elements so that each character had a personal strength in combat BEYOND their stats. I further split up the Physical damage into "Slashing", "Bashing", and "Piercing". Adding these six separate elements allowed me more versatility in combat as well as in creating and managing weaponry/armors. Some armors resist Slashing better than anything else... others resist Piercing better than anything else... This works against enemies as well as against players (heavily armored enemies, for instance, are very weak to Bashing, while medium armored enemies tend to be weak to Piercing... and lightly armored enemies tend to be weak to Slashing). The other three work despite what stats you're using. Most "speed" type characters will use Agility and Luck (offense and defense, respectively), but skills don't necessarily work the same way. It is entirely possible for a speed character to use a Strength skill. So, they may hit against your Luck stat, but they may get a bonus because the skill itself is a Strength type skill and they're weak to Strength. Likewise, some weapons carry these traits as well, which can provide bonuses to characters that they might not otherwise have. A strength character may not otherwise be able to hurt an enemy that is weak to Magic, but strong against Strength and the other 3 Physical Elements. However, if they've equipped a weapon that is simply "Magic" and hit "Attack", they are suddenly doing a lot of damage to an enemy weak to Magic without being hindered by normal RPG tropes of "in this instance, your mages are worthless, while in this other instance, warriors are worthless". It adds versatility and strategy to combat and equipment.

    Finally, I have two remaining elements. "Lead" and "Silver". These are typically modifiers to player held equipment. These two elements essentially work as a "bonus" to very specific enemies. Werewolves, vampires, or whatever else I decide is weak to Silver? Silver Weaponry will add a bonus. Heavily Armored enemies with thick shells though? You want "Lead" as it's dense and allows for very hard hits that would crack defense. Traditionally, you'll find these modifiers on "Bashing" type weaponry. Hammers and Maces and the like. I'd settled on "Lead" weaponry reducing character speed by roughly 65% of whatever they have while having a 400% damage bonus against shelled enemies (Turtles and the like... anything with a shell like that). "Silver" weaponry would reduce character speed by like 45% while giving a damage bonus against shelled enemies of 200% and against enemies particularly weak to Silver (Werewolves and the like), a bonus of 300%.

    The last thing I implemented with my elements is a "Revenge" system. This is a system in which if you use the "wrong" element on a boss or particularly strong enemy... they retaliate. Typically with a unique skill to them that is very powerful. How it works is like this: Every Skill or weapon that has an "Element" attached to it, also has an Invisible State at 1000% infliction rate attached to it as well. When the enemy is inflicted with this invisible state (they're basically immune to all of these invisible states unless I want them to retaliate), they prioritize using a specific skill they have. Each invisible state, when inflicted, simply delivers a message of "(enemy) counters (element)!" The states last two turns only so that the enemy will use their skill at least once, even if they are faster than the whole party.

    What does it look like to the player?

    Fire Elemental Appears!
    Main Character casts Water on Fire Elemental!
    208 Damage!
    Fire Elemental counters Water!
    Fire Elemental casts Superheated Steam!
    Main Character takes 250 Damage.
    Second Character takes 210 Damage.
    Third Character takes 400 Damage.
    Fourth Character takes 280 Damage.
    Second Character is Severely Burned!
    Fourth Character is Mildly Burned!

    In this case, it's a punishment for exploiting an obvious weakness. Perhaps the player should've used the "Earth" element instead. In other cases, it can exist to punish a player who wasn't talking to NPC's and learned that a particular enemy could channel the Magic element through their sword and hit the player back with it. Perhaps in a third case, being hit with a particular element "scares" an enemy and they immediately use their next action to "Escape" combat. This allows quite a bit of versatility and easily communicates to my players that a particular element hitting an enemy might get them into trouble... or trigger something interesting.

    I try to use Elements to make my combat more interesting.

    I'm not even getting into the "States" I've linked to the Magic Elements either. Fire inflicts Burn (level 1 through level 4), Water inflicts either Confusion or Charm (I took the idea from Bloodbending in Avatar: The Last Airbender… sort of), Earth inflicts Blind (sand in your eyes!), Air inflicts Sleep (lack of oxygen puts you to sleep!), Lightning inflicts Stun or Paralyze (because... well... it's lightning!), Ice inflicts "Frozen", because... well... ICE!!! Death can inflict "Zombie", which is far deadlier than most forms of "Zombie" in an RPG... as it actually spreads across the battlefield from friend to foe and back again, until it's an uncontrolled melee and RNG determines the winner. Nature inflicts Poison... Life basically inflicts my games' version of "Silence".

    I've actually done a lot with my Elements... most of it exists to "telegraph" to the player specific mechanics they can use.
     
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  17. mauvebutterfly

    mauvebutterfly Veteran Veteran

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    Simplifying the elemental system can be good, but it's possible to get stuck in a strange middle-ground that feels awkward. As an example, I want to talk about Warlock, which is a TBS, not an RPG, but the same concepts apply.

    In Warlock there are 6 "elements": melee, ranged, life, death, spirit, and elemental. There are some weird things that arise from this. The strangest is that fire elementals are weak to elemental attacks, which includes both fire and ice spells. Since undead are immune to death magic, having fire elementals be weak to fire magic feels strange.

    Honestly, this might have been better if all four magic types were just reduced to "magic" as an element. Alternatively fire, ice, and lightning could have been separated out.

    Actually, Warlock did something else that was questionable: lightning spells had a hidden effect of becoming AoE when cast on someone in metal armour. This isn't mentioned anywhere in-game. Given that they already have an in-game way to differentiate different "elemental" skills it might have been better to make fire elementals resist elemental skills but then give ice a hidden bonus against them.

    TLDR: If elements are going to do different things it probably is clearer to the player if you don't simplify your system too much by condensing damage categories. But if elements aren't functionally different in most cases, it may be better to look at the few cases where there are differences and removing them somehow rather than have elements that are entirely indistinguishable outside of a few edge cases.
     
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  18. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    About @mauvebutterfly's Warlock example directly above, I think that's a great example of an Elements system done wrong. To play Devil's Advocate about why the system didn't work well, I'd present that it wasn't the "halfway" efforts to simplify the system that caused its failure, but rather that it broke a fundamental and universal rule of game design, which is: Keep the rules consistent.

    Essentially, instead of a clean set of rules with a large number of opposing elements, it sounds like they opted for a smaller number of elements (while trying to cover the widest number of possible creature types), but in doing so, they obfuscated and complicated the rule set. So players can expect a creature to be strong against its own type and weak against opposing types... except if the 'logical' opposing type is combined into the same type, in which case now the creature is weak against its own type... this kind of inconsistency in the rules makes it very hard for a system to ever find success, because the player has to focus so much more on understanding the system itself, and doing the mental bookkeeping to avoid messing up - when their focus should always be on how to use the system to their advantage and how to interact with it in fun, creative, or strategic ways.

    Twists, gimmicks, and variations can always be added in to keep things fresh (as long as the rules are "consistent" - easy to learn and in-play for most of the game), as long as these variations are clearly communicated to the player in advance. Surprises aren't good when the surprise is that the game has arbitrarily broken its own rules and you're being punished for it. (They can be fine, however, in "sandbox" type of games that focus on discovery rather than challenge or progression - this necessitates, however, that the player isn't punished along the way.) This was a flaw in Warlock's design, and it's also the reason why I find @Tai_MT's "Revenge" system to be an extremely risky feature to add from a design perspective. If an element system presents finding and exploiting a weakness as an objective that helps you win battles, then a player who does this successfully shouldn't find themselves being punished, unless there is a clear telegraph presented to the player beforehand.
     
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  19. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    @Wavelength

    Yep, I can be honest here. It is a risky thing to do. I, personally, find it to be part of the fun, however. To avoid most frustration, the player is often "telegraphed" important information about enemies before-hand. Namely, I put that information in NPC dialogue. For instances when I do not "telegraph" the information, it is for two reasons (whether these are good reasons or not is probably up to opinion):

    1. It's to "surprise" the player when something has gotten "too easy". In the case of my Fire Elemental, most players will throw water at it, because... hey... every RPG trope in existence ever. This "Revenge" mechanic on the Fire Elemental turns what a player perceives to be a relatively easy and straightforward fight... into one they now have to think about. However, these sorts of "cheap shots" are never meant to be "nukes" that kill a party (unless the player is not playing very well). I've been attempting to balance these so that while they are things a player wants to avoid, they are not "you lose" mechanics. Trickier than it sounds, but doable, I think.
    2. My game is largely a "sandbox" where Exploration, Discovery, and Choices are themes for the entire work. While I'm not 100% sure that such a mechanic meshes well with those three, I feel it's worth exploring. Sort of an extension of "actions have consequences" (this is the main theme of my game) and "the easy way out might not be so easy" (another theme of my game). I want the player to consider choices more, even inside of combat. To experiment a little. Maybe, out of fear of "Revenge", they try a less obvious tactic and win anyway. I simply don't know what a player will do with such a mechanic or how they might react.

    But, I do like trying to add things on top of elements beyond what most people typically do. "This just makes them weak to X... the spells and skills are otherwise indistinguishable from each other except for typing"... etcetera. I use the Elemental System to try to provoke players into using Skills more often than they'd hit "Attack", since you can get a wide array of effects and advantages in battle just by having them.

    Maybe that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I don't know. But, it's something I want to try anyway. Succeed or fail. If it fails, maybe I can find a better or more interesting way to implement the systems. If it succeeds, maybe someone can take my ideas and build on them to make them even more fun or interesting.
     
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  20. Sixth

    Sixth Veteran Veteran

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    I made an element system that is not a typical "element1 weak VS element2", at the very least, it's not just about that.
    Actually, my latest "project" (I call them projects, but I never finish any of them, so they end up on my forgotten idea list sooner or later with around half of the code for them made) relies heavily on elements and their correct usage in battle.

    It's worth to note that in this "project" there is no "Attack" button, not even a "Guard" button. There are only skills, and each party member can only take 4 of them into battle. Battle skills are changeable freely during the game, of course, but doing it in battle will cost a lot of time and AP. There are also items, but each actor can only take 2 types of items to battle, in a limited amount, and they are mostly restorative items. It's a kind of real-time battle system, closest to an ATB, I guess. Skills have cooldowns, charge times (some of them anyway), and they cost AP (action points - these regenerate during the battle). Certain skills can also make combo skills with others, and they can even interrupt enemy skills based on the timing they are used during the battle.
    But lets get back to the elements, right? :D

    I have the usual weak/strong aspect, as expected from most RPGs.
    Than I have the - also commonly used nowadays - element/state pairs (fire inflicts burn, ice inflicts freeze, etc).
    And I have the "element level" system.
    If a target is attacked with the same element over and over again, their element level will increase. The higher a target's element level is, the weaker it gets against the element which is strong against it (I have an "element triangle" with 4 elements, so the terms here can be confusing without a visual explanation, I guess). For example:
    • [Ally 1] targets [Enemy 2] with [Fireball] continuously. [Enemy 2]'s [Fire] element level will get raised by a lot.
    • [Ally 2] will now use [Earthquake] on [Enemy 2]. The damage done will be much higher now, because [Fire] is weak against [Earth] (in my project anyway), and [Enemy 2]'s [Fire] level is high.
    Applying the connected state is also easier on targets with higher element levels.
    And finally, I have the "element break" system, which is connected to the element level system. If the target's element level reaches a certain point, and than it gets attacked by the opposing element, the element break happens. This will usually yield giant damage bonuses until the element level "cools down" (the element level that triggered the break can not be raised in this phase), and, depending on the enemy, it can trigger additional effects, such as breaking special shields on enemies, make the enemy drop special items, make the enemy use different skills/change it's behaviour, make the enemy split to multiple enemies, and so on.

    It's also important that all the above can be applied to the party members as well (within reason, they can't be split, for example :D), so your members can get high element levels, and they can get element break triggers too from enemies.

    Nowadays I find myself bored with games that don't have any "thinking" element in their battle systems. I just don't see the point of "number wars" if that is what the battle system is all about. For that reason, I tried to make a system that will make the player think about their skill usage, experiment with them and time them right. With that being said, most encounters won't rely solely on these element tactics, the player can finish them off even without much strategy, but it will take longer that way, significantly longer.

    I realize that some people will find this tedious, but I have seen enough gamers and their opinions about games to know that we, as developers, can't please everyone, so we might as well focus on specific groups instead. For example, CrossCode (a pretty awesome game, btw) uses a similar battle system (well, it's a full action battle system, but that's not the point here) that heavily relies on elements and strategic usage of skills to the point that it's flat out impossible to defeat some enemies without the right tactic. Some people found this discouraging, and some found it very entertaining. I'm in the latter group, of course.

    In the end, it all depends on what you want your game to be. If you want it to be a simple game with simple battle system, go for that. If you want it to be a more complex game with more complex battle system (not strictly related to elements only, but as a whole system), go for that. But before you choose, you should be aware that pulling off a more complex battle system is (almost) infinitely harder than doing a simple one, and it's even harder to make it right. It has to be interesting, it has to be logical (as far as your game's "logic" goes), and it has to be consistent (this last point has been discussed here already, I think).

    And I'm out of coffee, so that's it for me. Excuse the typos if there are some, I'm too lazy to re-check my post. :p
     
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