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Real-time battles, a welcome change of pace?

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What battle engine design should Allacrost implement?

(1) Traditional FF-style turn-based ATB. Stick with what works.
7
50%
(2) Blocking real-time style. I want something different and more fast-paced!
4
29%
(3) Non-blocking real-time style. Lets let it all go loose!
3
21%
 
Total votes: 14
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Real-time battles, a welcome change of pace?

Post by Roots » Mon Nov 07, 2005 12:36 pm

Okay, so here's a thought I had while replying to visage who is currently working on the battle code design.


In most RPG battle systems only one character/enemy (lets just call it an 'actor') can execute a given action at any given time. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing this in other FF-style RPG battle engines. Now let's imagine here, what if we allow actors to take actions simultaneously? For example, character A can attack enemy X while enemy Y attacks character B. Its less time the user has to "sit-and-watch", and can definitely up the tension in battles I feel, because things would be happening much faster.


Given the notion of this concept, I have three design ideas here:

1) Traditional ATB style
The system we've all seen done to death in FF-type games.

2) Blocking real-time style
Actors can execution actions simulatenously, as long as the target of the action is not execution an action itself. For example, if character A is currently in the middle of running up to whack enemy X, enemy Y has to wait for character A to finish before he can attack him. (There would be a lot of fine-details to work out here, but you get the general idea).

3) Non-blocking real-time style
Remove all blocking limitations, so that an enemy may attack a character who is in the middle of an action.


Time for the good old pros and cons:

(1)
+ Tried, tested, and true.
- Done to death and something we've seen rehashed over and over again.
+ Easy(er) to implement than the real-time styles
+/- Less tension, more strategic planning

(2)
+ Battles proceed at a higher pace, which keeps the player more engaged in the fight
- Less strategy and might even lead to the "button mashing" we see in fighting games if taken to an extreme
+ Something different! I love innovation! :bow:
- More difficult to implement than (1)

(3)
o Shares all the pros/cons of (2), as well as...
+ Actions occur as soon as they are entered instead of waiting
- Battle field could become a huge mess
- Maybe too fast-paced and confusing for the player


I've always thought we'd implement system (1) in Allacrost, but I can see system (2) working well if it's done right. But it might not work out very well either. So vote in the poll for what design you think would work the best, in terms of what you seek in a RPG battle engine. If you have alternative design ideas, please post them (and if necessary I will add them as options in the poll).
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Post by roos » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:22 pm

I vote for traditional style. The battle format we're using just isn't well suited to realtime or semi-realtime. Something like Secret of Mana could pull it off because actions are mapped directly to input (not so many menus), the player only has one character to control, and both monsters and characters are realistically animated.

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Post by Rain » Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:54 pm

If we could've implemented a final fantasy tactics style battle plan, I would've voted for that but as is stands and for what its worth, I believe the traditional side scroll view will probably be the most effective choice for the type of game we're making.  Simplicity/accessibility of the battle design will probably determine quite a bit of the game play experience.

Still, would there be a way to implement 2 without making it a button mashing sequence, and more an act of precision?  Such as making a gauge that can only be activated by hitting it in the middle at the right time via player to initiate a counterattack or block...

Just a thought.
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Post by Roots » Mon Nov 07, 2005 3:00 pm

Rain wrote:Still, would there be a way to implement 2 without making it a button mashing sequence, and more an act of precision?  Such as making a gauge that can only be activated by hitting it in the middle at the right time via player to initiate a counterattack or block...



By this you mean "timed attacks", like they had in Super Mario RPG. This only worked there because their battle system was completely turn based. We use an ATB system, which won't work because a timed attack may need to be made while the user is navigating a battle menu, which would just be awful.

The only possible solution I can think of this is to pause the action of the game whenever a menu pops up, but this would interrupt the flow of action and generally be undesirable I feel. :(
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Post by snipe714 » Mon Nov 07, 2005 4:32 pm

I vote for [3].

It is the most realistic mode IMO, and you can eliminate the button mashing thing by implementing attack speeds. For example, at first, our hero is slow and can only slash his sword once per second. But, as he progresses, his speed grows, so we decrease this time delay each time our character gains a level or something like that.

Also, not allowing (for example) an enemy to hit a hero while the hero is attacking him (or someone else) is absolutely unnatural. That's why I didn't vote for [2].
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Post by Rain » Mon Nov 07, 2005 4:48 pm

Roots wrote:
Rain wrote:Still, would there be a way to implement 2 without making it a button mashing sequence, and more an act of precision?  Such as making a gauge that can only be activated by hitting it in the middle at the right time via player to initiate a counterattack or block...



By this you mean "timed attacks", like they had in Super Mario RPG. This only worked there because their battle system was completely turn based. We use an ATB system, which won't work because a timed attack may need to be made while the user is navigating a battle menu, which would just be awful.

The only possible solution I can think of this is to pause the action of the game whenever a menu pops up, but this would interrupt the flow of action and generally be undesirable I feel. :(


:)
No problem.  We shouldn't worry about making the battle system too complicated anyways.

snipe714 wrote:I vote for [3].

It is the most realistic mode IMO, and you can eliminate the button mashing thing by implementing attack speeds. For example, at first, our hero is slow and can only slash his sword once per second. But, as he progresses, his speed grows, so we decrease this time delay each time our character gains a level or something like that.


Great idea!
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Post by Roots » Mon Nov 07, 2005 5:15 pm

snipe714 wrote:I vote for [3].

It is the most realistic mode IMO, and you can eliminate the button mashing thing by implementing attack speeds. For example, at first, our hero is slow and can only slash his sword once per second. But, as he progresses, his speed grows, so we decrease this time delay each time our character gains a level or something like that.

Also, not allowing (for example) an enemy to hit a hero while the hero is attacking him (or someone else) is absolutely unnatural. That's why I didn't vote for [2].



I think artistically though this would fail. Lets imagine character A charging to attack enemy X. While he's in the middle of running, character B casts a cure spell on him. Enemy Y also attacks him during his run, so we see both postive and negative damage pop up, all while this guy is running in to execute his own action.

Plus if you think about it, if you were attacked by someone, normally you'd falter a little and not keep charging forward like nothing happened. Add to the fact that enemy sprites are not animated (except for the damage blending) and I think we could have a very weird situation on our hands. That's why I am kind of leaning towards #2 (I haven't voted yet), because its a good mix of both worlds.


As for the other options not being realistic, it's a game man! :rolleyes: I would rather make a totally unrealistic, yet incredibly fun and exciting battle system than a 100% realistic, yet complex and boring battle system. See my point? :angel:
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Post by Jetryl » Mon Nov 07, 2005 6:11 pm

:huh: It's possible to make battles more fluid by having the player -guide- them rather than directly state each command.

(Blizzard did some smart stuff with this called "autocasting," which relieved a lot of the button-mashing frenzy that crept into warcraft II.)


For example, the player would not say "Chrono attacks Lavos with sword", rather, the player would say "Lavos is Chrono's primary target."  Things like saving ammunition and mana would be done by setting the character to do just that - to conserve their stuff; a special, extra setting.

Spells could still obviously be executed the old fashioned way, but this would allow you to make fighting nearly-realtime, since the only things you'd have to focus on would be the pivotal actions.

Eg:  Lavos side-arm is near death - player makes Chrono do a lightning attack against it.

Chrono is getting beaten pretty bad - player switches Chrono to defensive mode, and sets healing character to support mode targeted at Chrono.  The healer would cast whatever was necessary.  Meanwhile player uses character Frog to distract enemy.

This latter bit *sortof* assumes a magic system made of simple, modular spells, eg. a single healing spell that gets more powerful over time, rather than specific spells which obsolete each other, and have very expensive "super-versions" - that is, the latter bit would work better with it.
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Post by roos » Mon Nov 07, 2005 6:17 pm

Roots wrote:That's why I am kind of leaning towards #2


Even with #2, we shouldn't underestimate how much of a headache it will be to make it look good. Also, let's not fool ourselves... When you hear "blocking real-time style" it sounds very cool, but essentially, you're still using a menu to control actions, and you're controlling multiple characters at once. So, the pace will only be at most 25% faster than normal. Also, I think the "feel" of the gameplay would be the same as before, it's just faster.

I think Jetryl has the right idea as to what it would take to truly make it have the "real-time feel". If you look at a game like SoM, or look at the RTS genre as a whole, that's basically what they do: less control in exchange for real-time. In the case of SoM, it means you only get to control 1 character, and the others are AI. In RTS games, you can order units around but they also have AI. Anyway, I think Jetryl's idea would be interesting... It would definitely be a Huge change from what we were targeting though, and I don't know if I'd like that loss of control.

:shrug: I can't really envision #2 or #3 working out well, but if visage is up for taking a shot at #2, I'd be curious to see how that goes. My vote though, is for sticking with traditional, and finding creative ways to improve it. For example, increasing speed stats, multiple attacks per turn (think Bl. Belt from FF1), combo attacks (think CT), Blitz (Sabin from FF6), etc.

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Post by Roots » Mon Nov 07, 2005 7:40 pm

Yeah, I know #2 would be a headache to get it to work right. I was just throwing some ideas out today while they are still relatively harmless. :angel: I understand your ideas well Jetrly, but like roos said, I don't like the idea of having that loss of control. I like being able to control my characters individually and developing strategies to defeat my foes, but I don't like the "enter a command and wait" methodology used in most RPGs, because it can easily become boring.


I wouldn't mind having character skills requiring unique user input to be made more effective. For example, entering a cprrect series of commands as fast as possible to increase effectiveness of the attack. We initially considered CT-style combo attacks way back in the early days, but threw them out because they would be too complex to implement, and I don't think it would work as well in a FF-style battle as they did in CT.
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Post by Shadow » Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:04 pm

The old system might be boring but it is approved I must admit I hate it if I must learn thousand shortcuts and break my fingers on the keybord just to keep in action. Well it's more realistic but it is quite annoying if you just want to play a calm game and you loose because you missed the damned button.
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Post by Roots » Tue Dec 27, 2005 2:56 am

Here's an idea I thought of the other day. What if we allowed both types and let the player pick one? Just like how the player can usually chose if they want battles to be "active" or "wait" (in terms of the battle action pausing when the player is selecting an item or spell). That way I think we might be able to satisfy everyone. The fast-action players can play the way they want and the strategy players can play the way that they want. :shrug:
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Post by Loodwig » Tue Dec 27, 2005 11:47 am

IMO strategy good... button mashing bad

I do not like ATB because I have to quickly make up my mind (usually attack) in a battle.  What I do like is having to think strategically.  However, the better real time games I've seen require a great deal of strategy other than hit and run (no diablo II, please).  What comes to mind is having to fight someone, blocking their attack, trying to do a series of different moves which each have an equal counterattack and require quick thinking... but most importantly, thinking.

So I would say do it or don't (in terms of real time versus waiting), but whatever you do, make it strategic.
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Post by visage » Tue Dec 27, 2005 11:48 pm

I don't like ATB because it is harder to program  :D
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Post by Roots » Mon Jan 02, 2006 11:35 pm

I bought FFX-2 the other day and noticed that it has pretty much the exact style I was talking about: non-blocking real-time attacks. The battles are really fast-paced with it, but they aren't much more fun (all I typically do is hold down the X button and keep attacking until I win. Woopdeedoo). Just
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Post by Nimbrush » Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:49 am

Stick to the 1st one--besides, the other 2 sound like a ton of work for the artists.  :bash:

As to the button mashing, maybe we could have the enemy counter in some way if the player has a tendency to do that. Like keep a record of how many times the player is button-bashing/speed rate of finger to keyboard, then have the enemy dole out the fitting punishment. :devil:
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Post by Roots » Tue Jan 10, 2006 9:20 am

Nimbrush wrote:Stick to the 1st one--besides, the other 2 sound like a ton of work for the artists.  :bash:


Actually the other 2 won't require any additional art at all. It is strictly a programming / gameplay issue, and I don't even think it would be that much work to code. visage can verify that for me though. :eyebrow:

Nimbrush wrote:As to the button mashing, maybe we could have the enemy counter in some way if the player has a tendency to do that. Like keep a record of how many times the player is button-bashing/speed rate of finger to keyboard, then have the enemy dole out the fitting punishment. :devil:


That has to be the most saddistic game suggestion I've ever heard. :ohnoes: If we do that, then what motivation does the player have to button-mash? (BTW: we are trying to avoid brain-less mashing in the first-place). In fact, this suggestion kind of reminds me of the GRE test. The more questions you get right on that test, the harder the questions that the computer gives you get. :frustrated:
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Post by Nimbrush » Tue Jan 10, 2006 9:31 am

Hehe, it's supposed to be sadistic. But if the artwork's no problem, I'm after #3. :D I like games that are fast-paced. Hmm, one way to slow down the battle and allow the player to check out the enemies in a second or two is how you start off the battles. I'm thinking of how the camera revolves first around the scene of battle, like in Golden Sun. (Might be mistaken, but I think they do that.) Or how they ease in the player into the battlefield in Star Ocean II by panning the camera from the enemy field lines to the player field lines.
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Post by visage » Tue Jan 10, 2006 7:50 pm

Truthfully, they are in descending order of "difficult to program."  I pretty much set up the system so all three could be done, its just a matter of calculations as far as displaying animations.  The stuff you see on the screen is just a visual representation of the backend.  Same applies here...the only real differences are the difficulties in getting animations in synch.
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Post by Ray » Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:11 pm

I would prefer the turn based system. While real time combat might be an interesting change, battles that require tactical choices to be made would be an even more welcome change, and that lends itself more towards the turn based method.

Something similar to FF6's combat system might provide some of the advantages of turn based and real time combat.  Each character has a time meter that takes n seconds to fill (where n is calculated from the character's speed). The character can only act when it's full. When a character selects an action, it's entered into a queue, which is executed sequentially. (and the time meter is reset.)  If the player opens up a menu, such as items or magic, both the time meters and the action queue are paused until the menu is exited.  That allows for strategic selection of actions, but also allows for elements of real time combat, such as a character waiting for an enemy to act before deciding how to respond.
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