You tried to escape...And failed! (Repeat 5 times and die). Or...How fair should running away be?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by RetroNutcase, Oct 29, 2015.

  1. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    Another option is to have each encounter trigger a common event if the party's agi is > the troop's agi, giving the player the option to avoid battle altogether.
     
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  2. Chrispy

    Chrispy Veteran Veteran

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    Combat system doesn't really matter. The art of the escape exists in virtually every game, whether its a JRPG, a more Western style game like Fallout or Dragon Age, as Legend of Zelda style or Metroid style game, or even a persistent MMO. A problem arises when game designers want to mess with a player's ability to escape to prolong fighting trash mobs. Artificially extending a player's time they have to fight non-boss enemies is always a bad design choice, no matter the game type.

    After you fight them once or twice, no amount of game design can make it interesting to fight the same group of enemies for the thousandth time. This problem is only made worse if the combat system is made too easy, or if you are running back through an area with weak enemies, or the RNG encounters are set up to where you run into a fight every 2 seconds. Many players are going to do everything they can to avoid fighting in a case like this, whether its running past enemies or hitting escape for the thousandth time. While the term "Trash Mob" started in Everquest around 17 years ago, since then, its been gradually used for any enemy that's not a boss, its still true. Trash mobs are trash. Unless they are a higher level than you, the fights take one or two turns, are generally uninteresting, require no strategy, and depending on the design, only exists to prolong play time.

    If there absolutely has to be RNG battles, I would rather that the escape function has as little RNG in it as possible if it must exist. Its a necessary evil, but it doesn't have to be ruthless in addition to being a necessary evil. Final Fantasy IX did this best I think out of any traditional combat system, because while there was a "Flee" skill that allowed to escape battle for free, you could also just escape by holding down the trigger buttons. For every second you were holding the buttons down, the game checked the players level to monster levels. The formula can be found online in many places, but generally, if the player level was the same as the monster level, the chance to escape every second was 12.5%, meaning you only had to wait 8 measly seconds to escape a battle, though it was still RNG, and could take as much as 30 seconds. Because of how the formula worked though, escape time was drastically shorter if your level was high enough over the enemy, giving you the ability to instantly escape having to battle those weak trash mobs.

    Since that would require a good amount of scripting in RPGmaker, I would rather recommend that as long as your level is higher than the enemy, using the escape command is always a 100% or greater chance, then it gradually goes down as your level gets lower and lower against the enemy. Would still require finding the function in the script, but way less effort. The current formula in RPGmaker MV is half of the party's agility divided by the monster's agility. (Personally I think it would make more sense if level was calculated instead of agility so you couldn't be a level 5 escaping from a level 50 rock monster just because you were faster.)

    Later games made by Square that still had RNG battles (like Bravely Default) actually gave you a useful option to turn off random encounters, which I think is the best design decision they could have ever made, especially since, even if you did run through the dungeon and grabbed that nice loot (which usually isn't that much better than what you already have), you're still going to get flattened by the boss for not being a high enough level or using a proper strategy. Some players prefer the encounters be turned off for a bigger challenge when fighting bosses. (I doing that during my FFVII playthrough on PS4 right now, and in my opinion, it changes everything when you actually have to use that defend command and use the back row on some bosses. Also, I should note the 'enemy away' materia in that game which turns down encounter rates in that game. After my first play through I always had that equipped)

    TL;DR - My opinion - There are better and simpler options for escape and battle mechanics instead of needlessly complicating the mechanic to artificially extend play time. If you are worried about a player cheesing a dungeon to get the loot, then you aren't designing the dungeon right. The best loot, the game changing loot, should be behind a boss or even a scripted enemy that doesn't allow escape. The best loot shouldn't just be laying around.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2015
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  3. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    @ Chrispy - fair enough but if you are really that much higher level where the enemies would be trash, then your AGI would be higher than theirs.  Personally I would prefer that escape chance be 100% ON THE CONDITION that my agi was higher than the enemies (and maybe even higher by a certain amount, to really ensure they would be considered trash) so that there's at least SOME challenge associated with non-boss encounters.  
     
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  4. Chrispy

    Chrispy Veteran Veteran

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    So, what if there was a giant, rock troll or something, that was slow to attack, taking twice as long as an equally leveled party, but attacking for much more power. If a lower leveled party runs into this enemy, they would still be able to run away, even if their level was lower, because their agility is higher. That dungeon you spent all that time designing just got cheesed.

    What if there was a crazy, ninja frog or something, that was so fast, it attacked twice for every attack a player makes. Even if you were a much higher level, you would have trouble escaping from the enemy, because your escape formula is based on agility, even if the mob was complete trash by the thousandth time fighting it. 

    You can balance both problems through some immaculate balancing skills, or just use the default battle system that doesn't have turn orders or an atb gauge. As for me, if I absolutely have to have it, I'd rather base it off of level, so that troll can still smash your face in as punishment for being in an area that's a much higher level than you, and so you can ignore that weaker ninja frog, which otherwise would be annoying the hell out of you long after you killed his friends with every strategy imaginable and already moved on to bigger enemies to kill.
     
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  5. ATT_Turan

    ATT_Turan Villager Member

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    There are a couple of things I like in games. One is having an escape skill or spell that guarantees success but costs something (MP) so the player is still expending resources.

    I also like the system from Suikoden games wherein an enemy encounter that is below your party's level changes the escape command to "release" - indicating the monsters are scared and want to run from you, and it has a 100% success rate.
     
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  6. amerk

    amerk Veteran Member

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    Isn't this the time when running should be necessary? I mean, if you stumble upon an enemy you are too weak to fight, and you can't run, you're just wasting time waiting for the inevitable death just to restart the game, or you can reset the game manually; either way, you're going to lose whatever you accomplished.

    Personally, if a person wants to run from things, let them run. If they're too weak to fight the boss as a result, that's their problem.
     
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  7. NichG

    NichG Villager Member

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    It seems like the fundamental problem is that in terms of the big picture, escaping a fight and winning a fight put the game in (effectively) the same state. The difference in most games ends up being a bit of gold, XP, and some easily recoverable resources. 

    As long as that remains true, it's going to be hard to balance escaping against other things, because in terms of the pure game state progression, if e.g. the 'Escape' ability has lets say a 50% chance of working, its mechanically identical to a character ability that has a 50% rate of insta-killing all opponents in the fight. But at the same time, it lacks the feeling of being 'powerful' because its being presented as a failure mode rather than a success mode, so when you make it hard to escape the feeling the player gets is 'this game won't even let me fail on my terms'. Sort of lose-lose for the developer.

    So, the question could be rephrased, how do you make it so that 'escape' does not put the game into the same effective state as actually winning the fight?

    - One way would be to make winning the fight important for progression in a way that can't be replaced with grinding (as is the case with the gold/XP thing). For example, a given location might have a boss fight at the end along with a fixed list of enemy groups. Groups that the player does not defeat can show up to reinforce the boss, giving them bonuses/etc.

    - Another way would be to do away with random encounters, and have each fight act as a gate on something - possibly not main plot progression, but on unique equipment or even having certain plot branches come to fruition. So you have to fight the guard to get into the treasury, and if you run away the consequence is that you don't get into the treasury this time (but you can still proceed in other directions). A nice aspect of doing it this way is that you can actually have 'escape' sometimes let you continue the game in different ways than winning the fight would, which could be an interesting elaboration.

    - An in-between example would be to have encounters be represented by creatures on the map, and if you escape then the creature still remains active and can end up attacking the player multiple subsequent times. So winning a fight makes navigating certain areas cheaper in the future. If you have to run away from one guy 4 times to get through, it might have been better to just take the damage/resource drain of actually proceeding through.

    - In games with attrition, you can simply make escaping cost a non-renewable or slow-to-renew resource, so that running away multiple times in succession to try to sneak into a higher difficulty area than you're ready for will end up totally depleting your reserve of that resource. There are other variants of this you could do using opportunity cost as well. For example, lets say your dungeons tend to be one-time-only events, so you can't 'go back' to older dungeons. You could have certain rewards only become available under particular conditions - didn't escape more than 3 times, etc. If the player rushes through the higher difficulty dungeon using escape, they permanently lose the chance to get certain rewards of that dungeon.
     
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  8. amerk

    amerk Veteran Member

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    What about allowing the player to fight but at a cost of say... the enemy getting at least one round in, or the player has to lose a portion of health or gold? There's ways to make running less cumbersome as a game of chance, and more about the reward vs the penalty.
     
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  9. NichG

    NichG Villager Member

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    To be a meaningful decision, the cost must be of a different type and comparable scale of the resource cost of actually fighting. I think it helps if you get into the habit of thinking of 'successfully escaping' as being the same as 'winning'. So if winning in a straight up fight would have a cost (say, the enemies get to attack you for 3 rounds), then if escaping just gives them one round to attack you and doesn't depend on your relative strength vs the enemies, escaping will almost always simply be the better option outright.
     
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  10. amerk

    amerk Veteran Member

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    Well, the risk vs reward is there. Either fight and have the enemies hitting you for 2 or 3 rounds, but walk away with XP, Gold, AP, and whatever items they drop, or run right away and miss out on all that, but the player only suffers a tad bit of damage or loss of gold.

    Also the idea of buying items has been around for a bit (Wild Arms ACF I think it was Gimel Coins and Final Fantasy games have those smoke bombs). It'd be nice to see more games use such items to ensure 100% effective running.
     
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  11. stupid enough to like FF13

    stupid enough to like FF13 Veteran Veteran

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    In games where you can drop money by running away, it never seems like a meaningful amount in the first place. It also makes, say, Cecil look like (more of) an idiot whenever he spills a few gil fleeing in terror from a pair of Goblins.
     
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  12. arcthemonkey

    arcthemonkey Veteran Veteran

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    Chrispy, you seem to be saying that instant, 100% running away is necessary just in case the game is poorly designed and boring in the first place? I would counter that a better response would be to run away from the game, and not play it anymore.

    I mean, I may fail as a designer or fail at balancing my game, but I am not overly tempted to assume my game will be tedious to play. If it is, then the problem lies elsewhere. That's a point I've reiterated a couple of times here - if your game is otherwise poorly designed or poorly balanced, it doesn't matter what escape mechanic you have... your game will still be bad.

    Note that I am a proponent of taking RNG out of running away, but it isn't even slightly inspired by a fear that my game is boring or tedious. It's more inspired by player satisfaction - specifically, failing to run away because of RNG is annoying and kind of dumb. I mean, what, did I run into an invisible wall? Did I trip over a ghost? Why did I fail to fun? It's not even that I failed because I was slower than the enemy, because for all you know my agility is much higher. No, I failed because the game randomly decided I failed and that's stupid.

    But I also believe, as I've mentioned before (and this is mostly directed @NichG), that I don't like the idea of a player being able to run away from battle as a way of progressing through boring content. Again, I'm going to assume that my game is not boring, and if it is boring then please stop playing and let me know. As far as I'm concerned, if the player runs away, they lost the battle. I've also discussed that running away has an inherent penalty (no experience or money or alchemical wonder sprockets), but I don't want my players to use it to skip things. Because of that, I'm moving forward with the design that you can 100% run away from non-boss battles at the beginning of your turn, but running away from battle returns the player to the entrance of the dungeon (or some other checkpoint), instead of where they were when they ran. I like to look at running away as a tactical death that lets you retain your money and experience.

    Sure, maybe there are some areas (hey, there's a timer on the screen! Get to point B as fast as you can!) where I might want to turn it off, but in general I think it's fair and appropriate and predictable.

    Obviously there are a lot of different ways to approach this, but ultimately, unless running away is a central part of your gameplay (like dying and starting over again in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter), then running away should be a secondary consideration to whether or not your game is boring or poorly balanced. I also think that every game that doesn't give you the ability to flee without having to deal with RNG should have an item or ability that gives them that power.

    Like I said, the best way to combat boredom is to run away and play something else.

    And Lilywhite, that's precisely why I don't like the idea of running away from battle as a way of skipping content. It is conceptually silly. If that's a big concern people have, they should make it possible to avoid combat altogether (I liked that Wild Arms system where you could basically shun random battles if you wanted to). It gave this nice implication of "Hey, there's monsters there, but I don't want to fight them so I'm not going to engage them" that running away simply doesn't.
     
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  13. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    Just to play devil's advocate for a second regarding the RNG...it could be justified in the sense that you started to flee, teh enemies pursued you, maybe you were able to get far enough or hide somewhere where you "lost them", or maybe not.  And, if the chance was based on your and their AGI, then it's presumably also based on how fast/agile you are vs. how fast/agile the enemy is.  So I definitely think the random factor is plausible; it's just more of a question to me as to whether it's satisfying gameplay.  I could envision a really challenging game where battles are infrequent but dangerous, being just fine to have RNG in the escape chance.  For a more typical jrpg though, it usually would just lead to frustration.  

    I strongly agree with your main point though, which is that "the game may be boring or tedious, so the player needs to be able to run away 100% always" is not a good reason for making a design choice.    I like your idea of it being a "tactical death" that returns you to the entrance of a dungeon -- though again i think the context of the game matters.  i think it would work better in dungeons that have random encounters (or if they're visible, they would have to respawn after you escape)...otherwise the player is teleported to the entrance but could then just walk back to where he was and it was kind of pointless.
     
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  14. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    There probably is a point to be made here about the frustration of weak enemies, but we're also making much ado about nothing.  It wouldn't be too hard to make an auto-escape option for use in battles where you clearly outclass the enemy, or allow the player to ignore the battle screen entirely in such a scenario, or allow an instant "simulate" of the entire battle where you kill off the enemies and take an appropriately small amount of damage.

    Other mechanics can also solve such a problem implicitly.  A well-designed Visual Encounters system (which I personally feel almost every RPG should have) would make it easy for an experienced player to avoid combat with trash mobs.  A few of the Tales games take it one step further and actually have much weaker monsters run away from you on the map once you've killed enough of them!  A well-designed Action RPG system will make it such that fighting through encounters with weak monsters is fun and can be completed within a few seconds (about the time it takes to run away on Turn 1 in a standard JRPG system).
     
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  15. amerk

    amerk Veteran Member

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    Or you could just make it so that touch encounters are triggered through an action button rather than simple touch, or at minimum have the player touch the encounter rather than the encounter touching the player.

    At least that way the player has a bit more control of when to trigger the combat, and in most cases the battle is started when the player wants to fight the enemy; otherwise they can just walk on by.

    You can still have surprise attacks through traps, secrets, treasures and what not, and those could be designed to be a bit more challenging to the player.

    Where I find running to be the most cumbersome, though, and where I think players tend to get more frustrated, is random encounters. At least with touch, even if it's touched by the enemy versus what I mentioned above, the player has an idea of what to expect and form a plan of evasion if necessary; with random, you can't, unless there is a sort of radar telling you that a random encounter is about to be triggered.
     
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  16. ShadowHawkDragon

    ShadowHawkDragon Veteran Veteran

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    compared to traditional chance driven escapes, I would prefer visual encounters which I can actually attempt to avoid. I would even contemplate removing in-battle escapes completely, as long as there were enough tools to 'dodge' enough of these encounters if wanted/needed.

    Usually the only times I ever run from battles are when:

    • I'm just tired of five step encounters while 'mapping' the dungeon.
    • don't want to fight that one super annoying gimmicky troop. (this may be more a balancing/design point)
    • or simply want to reach the next save point before I quit for the day.
    The way I see it, even with random encounters, if I'm stuck in battle with no more healing then that's my own stupid fault (yes its annoying but I could have avoided it by returning to 'base' sooner). The same goes for being in a dungeon beyond my current level.
     
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  17. AMGLime

    AMGLime Veteran Veteran

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    I like how Xenosaga did it. If you wanted to escape you either had to learn the skill for it, or use an Escape Pack. That way if you keep running away, you wont have the money to keep buying Escape Packs to run away.
     
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  18. trevers18

    trevers18 #hippomaster Veteran

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    To me, if the battle isn't important (a boss/sub-boss/battle required for in-game story progression), I should be allowed to skip it and not have to deal with chance escapes that make me waste time/possibly get brutally slaughtered.
     
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  19. NichG

    NichG Villager Member

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    I think in terms of this preference, it would be better to just not have random battles at all at that point, and to perhaps have an arena or training mode to allow the player to interact with the battle system outside of story progression.

    Basically, there are a couple of things that non-essential encounters do for the game.

    - Provide feedback to the player as to the current difficulty

    - Give the player a 'safe' environment to learn the battle system and experiment with abilities

    - Make the player lose/expend resources in an attrition manner so that they must make long-term strategic decisions about resource usage. This allows the bosses to be weaker while still presenting the same degree of challenge, because the player will not reach the boss at full strength.

    - Provide a soft barrier to the player entering areas that are beyond their current power level (but at the same time, reward players who figure out how to survive despite that with additional/early access to content)

    - Give a sense of ambient danger.

     

    So if you're going to be able to safely skip all random encounters, the first two things can be supplied by a player-activated training mode, rather than have the game serve up random encounters just to force you to hit 'run' each time when you didn't actually want them. The third point can be handled by making it so that you have sequences of essential fights that you can't interrupt to retreat and restock/heal, so that resource conservation is still a factor; for risk/reward decision-making, you can have things where you can either continue to the next fight and risk losing your gains, or interrupt the fight sequence but not be able to return back to that point without going through the previous fights again. The fourth point can be handled by having a few extra essential fights as preconditions for being allowed to access or progress through the area. The last point is pretty much lost if you do this though.

    There's also practical aspects:

    - Give the player the option to grind if they have difficulty advancing

    - Extend the length of the game

    - Make empty areas feel less empty

    The first point would be good to just come up with alternatives for in general, since relying on grinding to balance things tends to make for self-induced boredom in players. The next two points are related, but there are a variety of ways to deal with them - design the battle system to be more strategic so that each fight goes further in terms of gameplay, have sets of fixed fights, etc.
     
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  20. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    Just a thought, but...

    Is it fair to say that opinions of this seem to largely be divided along the lines of "what should be the role of non-boss Encounters in an RPG"?

    I'm noticing a trend, especially now that NichG pointed out why s/he feels encounters should exist in the first place, that people who view encounters as part of the challenge of a game tend to believe that exploration should be risky and escapes either costly or unreliable, whereas people who see encounters as filler or grinding material tend to believe exploration should be safe (barring really dumb player actions) and escapes should be guaranteed and clean.

    (Personally, I tend to view encounters as both part of the challenge and part of the fun of a game, so I like escape systems that remove every bit of tedium but don't remove too much risk.)

    There are games that serve both aesthetics and maybe this is more of a matter of "what kind of RPGs do we like" moreso than one solution being generally better than the other.

    Does this sound about right?  I feel like there's a deeper, more profound discussion to be had here!
     
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