Making battles more player-active

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Roots
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:53 am

Alright, as of revision #1978 idea #2 is implemented. I made a couple of changes from my draft:

1) The orange highlight does not blink/flash, it is just solid. Animating it would take a little more work and I didn't deem this a priority, so I just left it solid for now. It actually doesn't look too bad, so maybe we can just keep it this way. Of course we can always add flashing to it later if we want to compare.

2) I removed the button images entirely when the player is not allowed to select a command for the character, instead of leaving a darkened/greyed button. During testing, i found it confusing the way I had originally proposed and was never sure what buttons I needed to hit, since the [Select Target] looks like any other text and its hard to just glance and figure out which buttons I need to hit. So the new scheme is now:

- No button: can not select command for character
- White button: command can be selected for character (and needs to be)
- Grey button: command can be selected for character if needed, but character already has an action set


It certainly feels different laying it. I was indeed more active while running around fighting battle after battle. Give it a shot if you have the ability to checkout/compile. I'll be adding in idea #3 and making more adjustments and tweaks to this in the near future.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:04 pm

I consider ideas #1-3 implemented as of revision #1980. My future plans regarding work relevant to this topic involve:

1) Re-implement "wait mode" in battles. I'll make a setting stored in a save file which you can manually edit to switch between the different modes. Eventually this setting is something that the player will have to specify when they select new game, or they can change it in menu mode at any time during a game. Wait/active battle settings are retained on a per-game basis. They will not be stored in an "options profile" in boot mode along with screen resolution, audio volumes, key mappings and such.

2) Start brainstorming how we could implement interface #4. I'm going to give this some serious thought and come up with a proposal or two which I'll share. If after discussing it we generally agree on one scheme or another, I'll go ahead and implement it so we can try it out. I'm not going to be starting on this right away though.


I don't have any intentions of doing anything regarding idea #5 any time soon. I don't really intend to seriously address it until after the prologue release.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby shirish » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:18 pm

I tried the active battle mode (after updating to svn 1980 and compiling it) and was quickly lost as to how to fight. 'F' didn't work anymore. It just highlighted all the heroes but not the action buttons (which is now round) . Can somebody please explain how to try the new active mode ( a step-by-step would be good) .
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Tue Jun 28, 2011 11:08 pm

Hint: there are directional arrows on the buttons. You have directional keys on your keyboard/gamepad.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby buttink » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:01 am

First, hello!

Second, I know these two games are different but have you thought about something that works like Eternal Sonata's party levels? Instead of making the game active, wait, or something else, why not just make the battle system slowly get more and more challenging. You could start with wait, move on to active, then maybe make active faster. At the end could be idea #5 with all its chaos, or maybe make the game real time lol. Since it sounds like you already coded some of these ideas, it should be relatively easy to swap them out at run time. Then again, I have no idea how you did it so I'm guessing. Now if you did do it like that, you could increase the difficulty as the game progresses at hopefully a small cost. Which would hopefully make the game feel less repetitive.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:38 am

I've never heard of Eternal Sonata, I'll have to look it up. Does it really work as you describe, with the mechanics of its battle system changing over the course of the game? Was such a designed well-received by players and critics?


Your idea sounds interesting, but honestly I think most players would get frustrated if the mechanics of the battle suddenly changed throughout the game. They'd have to re-learn how to use the system. That doesn't sound more challenging, but more frustrating. I think that if we want to increase the challenge later in the game, we would instead want to buff up the stats of enemies and give those opponents more intelligent AI.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby buttink » Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:38 pm

Basically after a certain part of the game you would unlock Party level X. Party level X would allow you to do something new like a special attack, more abilities to use in combat, counters, etc but it would also have a slight negative effect like less time to think. The game wasn't a traditional JRPG, it has real time elements which I will admit makes it harder to see how it would work in a traditional. After you unlocked a party level, you have the option to select which one you wanted. This allowed the player to trade off between harder combat with new features or simpler combat. I will admit that the changes shouldn't be astronomical that would just piss people off. However, I think that there would be a very good reception to the idea of the combat system adding slight changes and getting incrementally more challenging.

Youtube video of combat. Its about 2-3 hours into the game so I think its Party level 1 or 2 still.
Explanation of Eternal Sonata's Party Level

Explanation of some Eternal Sonata terms
Tactical Time - Time you can stand still without the action gauge starting.
Action Time - Time you can run around and attack.

Lastly, I know these two games are very different, but I believe that the benefits of a system like this would modernize the game from the old FF1-6 style of combat that has existed since I was a kid.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby nan » Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:59 pm

Some personal feedback on current battle system.

Cons:
Having to select the character manually is very distracting. I've spent a lot of time starring at the menu to see which character is available, missing the action on the screen. I'd prefer an automatic queue selecting the next available character.

Pros:
The battles are very dynamic. The button mapping is cool(muscle memory).

What about applying it to the action selection?
UP->Support
LEFT->Item
RIGHT->Attack
DOWN->Defend

Pressing(and immediately releasing) an action button would select the first skill.
Holding the action button would display/allow to select the available skills for this action:
Action + W -> First Skill
Action + D -> Second Skill
Action + S -> Third Skill
Action + A -> Fourth Skill

This would reduce the number of skills per action to four. But they could be made mappable as slots in the armor/weapon. To be able to use a spell one would have to equip a certain magic item/gem and have reached a certain skill level. The weapons and gear could be linked with(require) a minimum strength and skill level too.

Alternatively and more flexible(though slower as requires multiple key presses):
Action + W -> Select previous skill from list
Action + S -> Select next skill from list
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby rujasu » Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:18 pm

nan wrote:I'd prefer an automatic queue selecting the next available character.


I strongly, strongly agree with this. I don't think it makes any sense not to do this, really. Rather than have one hotkey for each player, have the next character come up automatically, and if you want to skip him/her, you press one button that temporarily skips the currently selected player.

Pros:
The battles are very dynamic. The button mapping is cool(muscle memory).

What about applying it to the action selection?
UP->Support
LEFT->Item
RIGHT->Attack
DOWN->Defend


I don't like mapping hotkeys to arrows at all. The only way that would make sense to me is if the command menu is in the style of Wild ARMs and shaped like a D-pad.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby nan » Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:52 pm

command menu is in the style of Wild ARMs and shaped like a D-pad

Yeah, something like:
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:19 am

buttink wrote:Lastly, I know these two games are very different, but I believe that the benefits of a system like this would modernize the game from the old FF1-6 style of combat that has existed since I was a kid.


I'll think about it, but I'm still skeptical at this point. Our battle system is/will be "modernized" already with features like the skill system (no default "attack" command), attack points, and multiple intensities of status effects. We're already shaping things to be quite different, but I don't want to throw in too many features and make the battle system too complex.

nan wrote:Cons:
Having to select the character manually is very distracting. I've spent a lot of time starring at the menu to see which character is available, missing the action on the screen. I'd prefer an automatic queue selecting the next available character.


I agree with you here. I find my eyes constantly looking down at those buttons to see when they get highlighted. I was thinking of having a sound play when a character can select a command, that way you don't have to focus your eyes and can just use your ears to know when its time.


nan wrote:What about applying it to the action selection?
UP->Support
LEFT->Item
RIGHT->Attack
DOWN->Defend


So a Lufia-style system then? I think that's worth considering. I especially find it annoying when I want to switch between using an attack skill and an item in the current system, because I have to press left or right three times to get to the other action category. :disapprove: I'm all for minimizing the number of inputs the player has to do to achieve the same result.

My only concern is if we were to ever want another special action category. For example, for a long time we've had the plan to allow in-battle character swapping (similar to FFX) but haven't done anything to implement it as of yet because we've never had more than four characters available (and will not for quite some time). Or if we have a scripted battle sequence where we want to have temporary actions available to the player (a "Special" category for certain major battles).

I was also thinking we could do a ring system, like Secret of Mana. Basically all the action categories would be in a big circle that you could cycle between.

nan wrote:This would reduce the number of skills per action to four. But they could be made mappable as slots in the armor/weapon. To be able to use a spell one would have to equip a certain magic item/gem and have reached a certain skill level. The weapons and gear could be linked with(require) a minimum strength and skill level too.


This I am against. Its not that I don't like it, but its that I think the cons outweight the pros.

PROS:
- Player requires more strategy to consider what skills to bring into battle
- Equipment plays a bigger role in the game

CONS:
- Player spends a lot more time doing micromanagement work configuring their skills and equipment
- More difficult to balance the game since skills and equipment would now have a level value associated with them
- More coding work for a team that is already stretched much too thin

rujasu wrote:
nan wrote:I'd prefer an automatic queue selecting the next available character.


I strongly, strongly agree with this. I don't think it makes any sense not to do this, really. Rather than have one hotkey for each player, have the next character come up automatically, and if you want to skip him/her, you press one button that temporarily skips the currently selected player.


I'm still very uncertain about this. My major concern is that the player can select an action for a character during the idle state. Does that mean that the command menu is almost always going to be up, seeing as the characters spend the majority of their time in the idle state? What happens when the player selects a command because the menu auto-pops up, and they decide they want to change it? How can they see which characters have an action set and which do not (since the command menu will be covering the space where currently all character actions and targets are listed)?

I don't have an answer to these types of questions. I like the ability to select commands during the idle state, and the fact that such an ability remains optional for the player (they can select wait mode and simply choose not to take advantage of it). This system feels like it forces you to select an action for a character when you may not want to. Maybe you're waiting for an enemy to make their move because you want to see if you need to heal, or maybe you're waiting to see if the action one of your characters is about to execute is going to kill one of the enemies so you can focus future attacks on a different target? And what if an enemy uses a skill that moves back your idle timer a lot or cancels the action you were about to execute during warm-up? What happens then?

Until someone writes up an exact description of what they think an "automatic queuing" system is, how it will function with this battle system, puts together a pro/con list analyzing its effect on the player, and has given at least some thought into how its going to interact with the other features we have in the battle system, I'm not going to be writing any code to experiment with this design.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby rujasu » Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:07 pm

Roots wrote:I'm still very uncertain about this. My major concern is that the player can select an action for a character during the idle state. Does that mean that the command menu is almost always going to be up, seeing as the characters spend the majority of their time in the idle state? What happens when the player selects a command because the menu auto-pops up, and they decide they want to change it? How can they see which characters have an action set and which do not (since the command menu will be covering the space where currently all character actions and targets are listed)?


Are these really "major concerns"? They sound like serious edge cases to me.

I don't have an answer to these types of questions. I like the ability to select commands during the idle state, and the fact that such an ability remains optional for the player (they can select wait mode and simply choose not to take advantage of it). This system feels like it forces you to select an action for a character when you may not want to. Maybe you're waiting for an enemy to make their move because you want to see if you need to heal, or maybe you're waiting to see if the action one of your characters is about to execute is going to kill one of the enemies so you can focus future attacks on a different target?


That's what the skip button is for.

And what if an enemy uses a skill that moves back your idle timer a lot or cancels the action you were about to execute during warm-up? What happens then?


Not sure what you're getting at here. If the enemy is pushing back your idle timer, that should be a bit disruptive.

Until someone writes up an exact description of what they think an "automatic queuing" system is, how it will function with this battle system, puts together a pro/con list analyzing its effect on the player, and has given at least some thought into how its going to interact with the other features we have in the battle system, I'm not going to be writing any code to experiment with this design.


I'll be happy to put together a list (might have time tomorrow) and I'll be happy to write the damn code myself.
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Re: Making battles more player-active

Postby Roots » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:11 am

I'm not opposing this for the hell of it you know. I honestly, truly don't see how it would work. But if you're willing to write the code for it, that's great. It will be a lot better for you, who has a clear picture of how this should operate, to implement it so I and others can see it in action. Can we wait until after the July release to implement this though? That way we can get a release out with the current battle system and get feedback, then perhaps the following month we can do another release with your auto-queuing feature and see how players feel about that.
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