your DRAMATIC Moldovian uncle



Proper Enemy Design I

The stun move thing reads like the main argument for why I consider traditional turn-based should be left behind and only used for games such as Pokemon where it's more than a gimmick to frustrate the player.

Proper Enemy Design I

Ah. "Safe" as in unimaginative strategy. Gotcha, that point confused me quite a bit. A safe strategy sounds more akin to defensive turtling to me instinctively, but that's because your definition of "safe" tends to be very suboptimal in the combat systems I like.

But yeah, plenty of options that are worth using = more fun combat.

Proper Enemy Design I

Will just have to agree to disagree there. I absolutely despise the "tanking" mechanic present in MMOs. It's the kind of thing that further makes systems offense-based, as characters beyond the one meatshield don't largely have to care about their durability at all, because they rarely get hit and are getting oneshotted if they are hit anyway. Which simplifies the choice of which stat to focus on.

What ideally controls the flow of the battle in the way you mention other genres do is various non-damage abilities. A silencing ability to take care of a magical threat, speed debuff to ground the multiturning enemy, and yes, even a taunt to temporarily (this is key) make enemies concentrate their attacks on the character you want.

The "random element" or RNG is an inherent part of RPGs - how much it affects the game is up to the system. (I am fine with most RPGs in this regard, but absolutely staggered by how luck-based tabletop RPGs seem from a glance.) If you are looking for a system that entirely removes every random element? It is an interesting thought process, but probably very hard to make interesting at all.

And some invidual picks:

First, knowing what your opponent is likely to do on the next turn doesn't always require the same reaction; each round can differ and the strategy differs based on what you're fighting.

A round where:
* Enemy A is about to nuke
* Enemy B is going to defend their entire team with a shield
* Enemy C is going to heal because Enemy A is hurt

opens a lot of options; what if you have a method to take down a shield? Maybe you've buffed up the speed of one character allow them to nullify shields before the other characters go. Or your game has a mechanic where you decide player order.

Ultimately, if all of these actions are predetermined, you can retrace the steps to produce the exact same encounter and result with these three enemies, unless there's some kind of random element involved. Memorization.

I'd counter that 3 possible actions doesn't broaden your choices, it limits them. If you don't know what exactly is coming, but know what potential actions are, you need to simply use a strategy that accounts for all of them or at the least the most damaging of them. If you can't account for an average of them all you run the potential for an unavoidable game over because of a choice you couldn't have known not to make at the time.

Ideally you can approach the situation from a number of different angles, provided the actions are sufficiently close in overall harm done and not unfairly punishing. BOLTKILL/Fire 1/Ice 1 makes it an obvious non-choice, while BOLTKILL/FIREKILL/ICEKILL can be a stupid guessing game where you guess right or lose. What angle you choose and what move is actually used, what is your response, the enemy's response, the battle can unfold in a number of ways if well designed.

hate system

Rather than making it a waste of time to upgrade the first character's armor if characters two, three and four take some hits, I see it a total waste for character 1 to soak up all the hits making character 2/3/4's armor completely superfluous.

Predictability means you can more accurately control the flow of battle as you wish using a range of abilities you have.

This I agree with. Just the methods seem to be different!

In each one I can choose to do things differently based on my own level of feelings for risk vs. reward; but I never feel that choice in RPGs because the 'random' element needs to be planned into the combat system

A patterned game like Megaman holds no risk, in my opinion. You either do the pattern right or you don't. It's really hard to do right, granted, but it's still largely memorization if your reflexes don't get it right the first time. Random element forces me to adapt.

Player feedback: "Oh, this enemy is too frustrating because two unlucky turns can end up with a character dying no matter what I do!"
Developer: "Okay, toned down the enemy."

Depends. How much of a setback is a character dying in this case, anyway? Tester feedback is very valuable but going with every suggestion is just going to lead to contradictions as different testers will have different approaches to fights. If everyone's saying a mandatory boss is utterly curbstomping them, then you're most likely doing something wrong obviously.

I think a good combat system is one where I can win by thinking and concentrating to keep myself playing on the edge, and a poor one is where I'm forced to use safer strategies because that's the only level of control I have.

I definitely agree with the first part, but...what exactly do you mean by "safer" strategies? I am confused. Is encouraging defensive play a bad thing in the land where damage is king?

Proper Enemy Design I

This is quite an interesting discussion. However, I firmly disagree with the point of set attack patterns adding strategy.

A 100% patterned fight is nothing but memorization. You figure out the correct moves once and you will have found a perfect solution to the fight, same way a 100% patterned fight in an action game would just require muscle memory. Except without the part that even requires the muscle memory. Then you just repeat the correct sequence of action ad infinitum (for however much HP the enemy has) and win.

But what if the enemy might use one of three possible actions next turn? The player does not have the 100% knowledge of how to make the perfect preparations to neutralize the next enemy attack before it even happens. They must now anticipate all three outcomes and formulate a plan from the options they have, none of them being a certain "trap card", so to speak.

The player now has choice.

Choice is vastly important. Both choice in setup to the fight as well as adapting to the flow of the battle. Perhaps the boss has a dangerous composite attack (a great way to add depth to the system - one action need not do just one thing) called Blinding Blaze that deals both heavy fire damage and blinds the target. Do you block the damage, or the status? Which are you willing to deal with? Or do you forsake both and go for a stat twinked setup?

Let's use an example about adapting to the flow of the battle with an unpredictable enemy party - let's say you have two characters hanging on at lowish health and two dead. Do you revive, hoping to gain more actions to your side to deal with the situation with the risk of the revived character getting wiped out before they can act? Do you heal the living, with the risk of getting overwhelmed with just two acting characters? Do you go for a suicidal blitz, hoping you have enough firepower to win the fight before you succumb to the enemy's offensive? Do you status out the enemy, instantly making the playing field more even but not putting you closer to winning the fight in terms of raw HP numbers? The trick is to figure out the action that will not be "wasted".

Contrast an action game boss that is not perfectly patterned. You must mind your position on the battlefield so you won't put yourself in an inescapable situation no matter what move is used next and figure out the correct time to attack, as well as dodge.

This is the element of choice.

In fact Final Fantasy Tactics is an interesting example, given the party and the enemies play mostly by the same rules. Now, vanilla FFT enemies suffer from a lack of competency and choices to make, but let's use a hack such as LFT where the enemies are on more even ground as an example. If you go in with all guns blazing with a pure attack+heal mindset, you will lose any difficult fight. The AI of FFT is near unparalleled since if it is given a sufficient number of different actions to use. Wounded warriors will retreat to the back ranks behind the meatshields to receive healing. Mages will buff and debuff, nuke and revive appropriately. You will have to consider any possible actions that can be used and adapt to the strategy used by the opposing force.

There is always a better strategy that singleminded damage damage damage, because the non-direct damage options are good enough. This is an important pitfall of design - no one cares about your enemies using a 10% defense buff or a poison status that shaves off 1% of your maximum health per turn. Make those skills matter.

And now to respond to a few lines specifically:

An enemy that is immune to Fire is not notable, one that is immune to Physical attacks is noteworthy.

This comment makes the assumption that Fire element is not a notable part of the party's offensive output, and that Physical attacks, in turn, are. Why does this have to be so? Systems should not be afraid to stray from the norm, a comment such as that should not be absolute law.

Otherwise the strategy really just resolves around killing the enemy as quickly as possible and having a certain level of healing spam since you can just completely offset any damage if you heal enough.

This is an issue completely unrelated to unpatterned fights and makes a number of assumptions about the (flawed) system used.

1. Enemies can be blitzed before they can do anything noteworthy to your team.
2. Healing can be spammed indefinitely.
3. Enemies cannot disable the healer(s).
4. Healing is as powerful as to basically be a reset button.

Sounds like this hypothetical game has an overly powerful defensive safety net. Valkyrie Profile is notorious for this - enemies can nuke your party from orbit for damage that overkills them all three times over and it will not even be threatening. Why? Because there is a high chance passive skill that keeps the character at 1 HP instead of dying if they had over 10% before the attack, auto-item, which automatically has the survivors use revival items on dead characters as a free action, and as a THIRD layer of immortality, Angel Feather accessories which automatically revive your character and have a 30% chance of breaking afterwards. And you can equip three at a time. Indeed, end- and postgame foes will overkill one or more party members every turn, but you just don't need to care.

Well, that sure was a longer post than I intended. As I said, interesting topic!
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