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Solidiication and Liquifaction

As is always the case with a design, sometimes things that you think are going to be important in the beginning sort of end up unimportant in the end. That's part of the process, but it's also why a good outline is important. I've done very little actual coding, but spent a lot of time on planning....other than a little bit of playing around here and there (mostly to make sure concepts I've got now in theory will work in practice), I've barely touched the code of Taret Blade.

Okay, so what's new?

I'm sticking to my same spirit of the original concept, but tweaking things here and there. Some of the early work on Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition has given me a new way of looking at units, and that's a big part of what my restructuring of the units and their attributes is focused on. There's other stuff, too.

Before I get into that, I've shelved (for now) the idea of having attributes heavily customizable. I might still allow them to be levelled up, but adding sub-attributes or suchlike is off the table for the moment. This should simplify things, both for the player and for me.

Putting the Role in Roleplaying
Okay, sort of a misleading title, because this has little to do with roleplaying in the traditional sense, though it does go right back to D&D, like I said before.

4th Edition is introducing (or rather, codifying) the idea of characters playing roles in the party (as opposed to roles in the story). MMORPG fans are already familiar with the idea--Tanks, Nukes, Healers, etc. The talk they had about it really made me realize how big a help that sort of thing could be for AI, and for introducing players who aren't used to tactical games and the necessity of building specialist units.

So I've got five roles now for any unit to fill. A player might obviously use any unit for any purpose, but the game's AI will play enemy units the way the roles are expected to behave.

Breacher - Breachers are units designed to deal massive damage to single targets, and to avoid getting hit in the process. Like ninjas! In addition to strong attacks, Breachers get abilities that let them avoid getting hit or that let them slip around enemy defenses.
Keeper - As in "Gatekeeper." Keepers are about getting in enemies' ways and drawing enemy fire away from weaker teammates. They're classic tanks, but they also tend to get neato counterattack abilities, and a lot of movement potential, so they can get to the units that need protecting.
Peacemaker - Peacemakers are about keeping the enemy from overwhelming the hero party. They get attacks that hit a lot of enemies for okay damage, and also debuffs and trap-like abilities, so that the person controlling the Peacemaker can control the battlefield.
Mender - Menders are healers and buffers. Their abilities are primarily devoted to keeping allies and themselves alive when a Keeper just isn't enough.
Coordinator - This is the one that doesn't have an easy corallary to other games I'm familiar with. Let me rephrase that....they don't have an easy named corallary. The idea is universal to RPGs--the main character in most games is a Coordinator.
Coordinators are sort of jacks of all trade, but their focus is teamwork. A coordinator involved in a combo attack can increase damage by tons. In place of Buffs, Coordinators get Aura effects. If you've played Warcraft III, you should have some idea how this will work. Unlike WC3, though, auras have to be activated for Coordinators, since they might have the Attribute for more than one, and with enough stacking, those could become pretty game breaking.
Coordinators also get the summoning spells--which aren't just fancy magic (sometimes they're not even magic at all), but techniques that bring new units onto the field.

AI, Ai, AI yAI...
So how does the AI tell how to use a unit, if there aren't classes and the like?

Each attribute has a set of five hidden scores, each respectively representing one of the roles. These values are added together for all the unit's attributes (including ones on items he has equipped) and then he gets assigned a "Suggested Role," which will appear on the status menu. Enemies and Neutral units have five different AI scripts and will use the one that corresponds to the correct Suggested Role.
Player units will also get a field called "Favored Role." This will just be an indicator of how you have tended to use the unit in the past, and won't have an effect on gameplay.

It sounds complicated, but I think once it's actually seen in the context of the game, it'll be surprisingly simple for the player.

Some Other Possible Changes
I'm considering what to do about the "Background" attributes. In the context of story/gameworld they make sense, but in the context of the game they really limit the player's choices of how to use their characters.

In Closing
So yeah. Those are my thoughts for now. These posts are really meandering, huh? Shows you what happens when you work without an outline, I guess. I need to start making them more frequently so I can make each post shorter.