THINGS THAT MAKE COMBAT BORING + SOLUTIONS

Press Attack to Win begone

You may have seen it before, both in bad RPG Maker games and in bad commercial RPGs - all the battles (or most of them) bog down to hammering the enemy and restoring your HP as needed. Some games even go a step further and cut down the second part, making you mash through battles. In this article, I'm going to explain what causes battles to be dull and ways to avoid the problem. In our article, I'm going to use a variety of slime enemies fighting a typical adventuring group as examples.


Adorableness may vary

1. Weak Enemies

Several battles become too easy simply because the enemy either lacks endurance to last long enough to be a threat or is easily ignored due to his inability to hurt your party. This is forgivable if you explain the basics of combat (which shouldn't take too long), but you shouldn't have this as a default for difficulty.

Possible Solutions

The obvious solution is, duh, make it stronger. In my case, let's say the Green Slime has 40 HP and 10 Attack and the Blue Slime has 50 HP and 4 Attack. While Blue hangs on barely when the group pummels it, Green bites the dust. So we need to bolster his HP to make him relevant.

The simplest way is the doubling approach - in our example, we raise the Green's HP to 80. If it's still too low, we double it again. But it turns out Green is too tough for our fellows, so we need to lower the HP. This time, we go halfway between the previous and current HP - 60. Now that we have a range of values in which he's balanced (40-80), we simply take the current value as the new maximum/minimum if Green's too strong/weak and go halfway between the two values.

Next, we handle Blue - Blue's HP is just fine, but he deals too little damage. The player has an easy time simply outhealing everything he does, unlike with Green.


git gud

Once again, we could buff him by giving him 8 Attack - however, even with the buff, Blue would be still weaker than Green in every aspect! So this time, we instead give him new skills to compensate. This is a difficult thing to balance, as you want the skills to be meaningful, not overpowered and also make sense for the enemy to have. In my example, I'll make Blue inflict Silence on attacking and able to heal himself and others. This way, he'll gradually turn the tides as he keeps Greens alive and limits your healing and damaging options.

As a recap, we can buff enemies by:
-Buffing their base stats
-Giving them new skills
-Adding beneficial traits

You can experiment a bit more with that, just make sure that, if a properly leveled party faces your enemies, he should at least be paying attention what is happening or he'll spend far more MP/items than he should.

2. Lack of options

Bash the Fighter hits hard in melee and takes a lot of punishment. He can wield all kinds of weapons and armor.

Arcana the Mage learns spells that hit the enemies with Fire, Ice and Lightning. She's pretty frail and does little with her normal attack.

Sanctus the Cleric can heal his friends. His durability is between Bash's and Arcana's.

Many people wouldn't object to having specialized party members like that. Characters need specialization so they're unique both in gameplay and story. However, in my case, it's going too far. The players have just one viable option at all times, with Bash only being able to attack and Sanctus only being able to heal. Arcana seems like she can do more, but one spell will be the clear best option (the one that does the most damage), making the rest seem like filler.


Overspecialization could be worse, though.

Possible Solutions

The solution is simple again - make the players able to do more. You still want to have the three to remain in their roles, so the idea is to give them more ways to fulfill their intended role.

Bash wants to protect his allies, so we give him three skills that allow a variety of protective strategies.

Shield Wall
Reduces damage taken by the party slightly.

Cover
Redirect all damage dealt to an ally to Bash.

Defensive Stance
Increase defense and counter when hit by an attack.

All of these are meant for a different situation - Shield Wall is the best option against area effects, Cover can keep an ally safe from a strong single-target skill or lets Arcana/Sanctus get healing and Defensive Stance lets him fight back if Bash himself is focused.

For Arcana, we're set with just giving Fire, Ice and Lightning additional effects to the elemental damage - Fire makes the target take damage over time, Ice makes it lose its next turn and Lightning removes buffs from the target. Now, we can decide on the effect of the spell - need to kill it faster? Need to take it out for one turn? Is it getting dangerous? - rather than just picking the strongest.

Sanctus' turn! Healing is tricky to make interesting as the healer doesn't interact with the enemies normally. There's several ways to make it more interesting, for this one, I make it so you need to combine your skills to heal effienctly:

Restore
Heals HP to one ally.

Holy Light
Target ally gains more healing from spells.

Heroic Power
Buffs an ally's attack. Stronger if the ally has more HP left.

So we now have a heal, a delay that makes healing stronger on the long term and a reward for healing effectively. That's something, at least.

3. Making most options useless
When our trinity of adventurers meets the Gold Slime, they feel bad again because their strategic options let them down - he is immune to Arcana's damage over time and stun, has no boosts she could remove and Bash and Sanctus are prevented from their plays as Gold dispels their buffs before each attack.


"Wait, what's this? You only have status-inducing magic spells? Why, those suck!"

This is a common misconception as many people believe that crippling a boss in some way is making you cruise to victory easily. As you may think, this isn't needed.

Possible Solutions

Here's a few things that make Gold less annoying and maximize the number of viable options:

-Let him get burned and stunned. Burn ain't going to kill him that fast. However, Arcana could now use Ice every turn and Gold won't be able to do a thing. Now, he does do two actions each turn, right? You could make it so that the stun only takes away one action instead of both. Arcana still wants to use Fire sometimes in order to keep the damage high.

-Give him an attack that also buffs his strength, which he'll follow up with an area attack. On those turns, you'll want to use Lightning so your group can take it. Of course, you're free to give him other buffing skills (like a regen skill), just make sure Arcana's Lightning is worth using.

-Space out the dispelling. If he doesn't do it all the time, Bash's buffs and Sanctus' heal bonus can stick around and be actually useful. Of course, making him use it at random can make him still use it all the time.


Remember Disruptive Wave?

Instead, make it possible to telegraph the dispels - Gold buffs himself all the time, right? How about each time his buffs are dispelled, he does the same to the group? And, to grab earlier examples, how about he uses an attack that provides a stun immunity buff every time you take one of his actions?

Now Gold Slime has a variety of moves he can hurt with, reacts to certain actions in a certain way (feel free to think up more yourself) and you're not restricted to hit him until he falls over.

There's many more things that can make combat boring (too much HP, no point in doing the fights, too many battles in a row...), but this should cover the main issues, which applies to individual, self-contained battles.

Bash, Arcana and Sanctus wish you good luck on your combat design~

Posts

Pages: 1
iddalai
RPG Maker 2k/2k3 for life, baby!!
2160
Some of these concepts are really good!

I've been thinking about a "pick your party game" like Final Fantasy Legends or Dragon Warrior III for some time now and some of the classes were going to be pretty unorthodox, like an "undead" class not being able to be healed by healing spells (possibly having the opposite effect) and having a specific way to do so (biting/drain enemies, eating meat), but it never crossed my mind to make a "healing buff spell"!

Nice.
author=iddalai
Some of these concepts are really good!

I've been thinking about a "pick your party game" like Final Fantasy Legends or Dragon Warrior III for some time now and some of the classes were going to be pretty unorthodox, like an "undead" class not being able to be healed by healing spells (possibly having the opposite effect) and having a specific way to do so (biting/drain enemies, eating meat), but it never crossed my mind to make a "healing buff spell"!

Nice.


Make sure the opponents are threatening enough (either with dispels or damage) that throwing healing buffs on everyone is always the best option. The point of it is to make the healer actually pay attention to what the opponents are doing.
iddalai
RPG Maker 2k/2k3 for life, baby!!
2160
It makes the healer character much more fun to use, it becomes dynamic instead of just restoring HP when needed.
Easy to understand and good building blocks. Nice article!
There are other ways to balance crowd control, too.
Like giving crowd control abilities cooldowns, or making an enemy immune to crowd control for a set amount of turns after being afflicted by a stun/freeze/whatever.

Then there's also what guild wars 2 does: every major enemy or boss gets several stacks of a buff that makes it immune to crowd control. whenever the enemy gets hit by a crowd control ability, it loses a stack, and once it loses all the stacks, it becomes vulnerable to the next crowd control ability, then it gets all the stacks back after it's hit by one. This will probably require scripting, though.

The simplest option would be to make the boss only resistant to the states, but personally I think this solution is too luck-based.
author=Reavenator
There are other ways to balance crowd control, too.
Like giving crowd control abilities cooldowns, or making an enemy immune to crowd control for a set amount of turns after being afflicted by a stun/freeze/whatever.

Then there's also what guild wars 2 does: every major enemy or boss gets several stacks of a buff that makes it immune to crowd control. whenever the enemy gets hit by a crowd control ability, it loses a stack, and once it loses all the stacks, it becomes vulnerable to the next crowd control ability, then it gets all the stacks back after it's hit by one. This will probably require scripting, though.

The simplest option would be to make the boss only resistant to the states, but personally I think this solution is too luck-based.


Indeed, there's far more that could be done to make them more useful - thing is, you want the ability to be neither completely useless, nor do you want it to completely remove the gameplay of the fight.
Pages: 1