Longer battles!!

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How long should the average battle time in Allacrost be?

Less than 1 minute
1
8%
Between 1 and 2 minutes
2
17%
Between 2 and 3 minutes
4
33%
Between 3 and 4 minutes
2
17%
Between 4 and 5 minutes
2
17%
More than 5 minutes
1
8%
 
Total votes: 12
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Longer battles!!

Postby Roots » Tue Jan 03, 2006 7:05 am

I've been playing a lot of RPGs over my winter break (something I haven't done in years) and one thing that I've been noticing more and more is that battles are too freaking short! (normal/non-boss battles that is). Tales of Symphonia, Xenosaga 2, and FFX-2: in all three of these games my average battle time is well under one minute. Now IMO, this is absolutely ridiculous! :frustrated: The only battles where I have to use my brain are boss fights, which are few and far in-between.



So this prompts me to ask everyone, what is your ideal average completion time for a normal battle? My philosophy is the longer/harder battles are, the fewer of them that there should be. So take a stab in the poll so we can get a gauge of what our audience is looking for.




I voted for 2-3 minutes, although I think up to 4 I could be okay with. Of course with battles that long, I expect to be able to walk long distances between successive battles in dungeons. :)
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Postby roos » Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:13 pm

I don't know about an exact time length for battles, but the general idea sounds like it might be good. Random encounters always seem kind of pointless, just hacking away at hordes of puny imps all day...

How exactly are you thinking of making battles longer? I mean, you could just double all enemies' HP but that doesn't necessarily make the player think any harder.
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Postby Roots » Tue Jan 03, 2006 8:22 pm

I'm thinking about making them longer by making them harder. I don't want the player to just be able to hold down the confirm button and constantly select the "attack" option until an enemy is dead. I want them to have to constanty be on their toes, adjusting to the situation in battle. IMO, *that* is what would make a fun/purposeful battle. Not "hacking away at hordes of puny imps" as you so delicately put it. :)


One of our main goals with the game/battle system has always been on making battles require more than 2 brain cells from the player to win. No constantly selecting the "attack" option until the enemy party is vanquished. No casting "ultimate meteor spell of doom" at the beginning of each battle to wipe out all enemies in one swoop. (The skill point/skill system should take care of these two points). Yeah, so ummmm.....there. :heh:
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Postby roos » Tue Jan 03, 2006 9:47 pm

Hmm, ok let me rephrase my question :) Basically I agree with you that harder battles would be cool, but I'm wondering specifically how you are thinking about doing that.

For example:

(a) Better enemy stats (e.g. more HP, higher attack stat)
(b) Give enemies more rich/unique abilities
(c) Sophisticated AI for enemy actions (e.g. attack the weakest characters)
(d) More complex ways to kill enemies (e.g. elemental weaknesses)
(e) More complex battle flow (e.g. main enemy + 2 smaller, have to kill in certain order)

If I'm getting a bit off topic feel free to cut me off :) Just curious if you had any ideas about how we will do this.

In general, I've never really felt terribly challenged by most RPG battles, so I am a bit excited because it'd be nice to see something different. Even when I play low-level challenges (i.e. beating a game with the lowest level characters possible), the battles may have been hard, but I still don't feel like I really had to think very deeply. Battles are usually pretty deterministic- if you learn how to beat one goblin, you know how to beat them all... as opposed to say an FPS where battles are very non-predictable and there are a lot of variables... There's a ton of judgment and skill for aiming your mouse, evade enemy fire by strafing and making use of cover, predicting your enemy's movements, etc.
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Postby Roots » Wed Jan 04, 2006 2:32 am

roos wrote:Hmm, ok let me rephrase my question :) Basically I agree with you that harder battles would be cool, but I'm wondering specifically how you are thinking about doing that.

For example:

(a) Better enemy stats (e.g. more HP, higher attack stat)
(b) Give enemies more rich/unique abilities
(c) Sophisticated AI for enemy actions (e.g. attack the weakest characters)
(d) More complex ways to kill enemies (e.g. elemental weaknesses)
(e) More complex battle flow (e.g. main enemy + 2 smaller, have to kill in certain order)

If I'm getting a bit off topic feel free to cut me off :) Just curious if you had any ideas about how we will do this.


Well I think the #1 reason that battles are so quick in most RPGs is because typically all you have to do is attack attack attack until you win.  Of the items you listed there, I think (c) and (d) are on my list of possibly good implementations. Here are a couple more:

(f) The player must use a broad range of their skills. A character's weakest attacks (innate skills) should do very little damage most of the time so you must rely on more powerful attacks (which consume much more SP, so you have to continually balance SP consumption versus attack power).
(g) The whole concept of mutliple attack points means that the player has to "probe" the enemy to find their weaknesses (and without relying on finding weaknesses...well the player is going to have a really tough time with the game). It will take time and effort to find out which skills work well on what enemies on their attack points.  Know what I mean?

roos wrote:Battles are usually pretty deterministic- if you learn how to beat one goblin, you know how to beat them all...


I believe you hit the nail on the head there. :)

(h) I think that enemy strengths/weaknesses should be at least somewhat random on enemies of the same type, so you can't guarantee that the weakness you found on the last slime will be the same on this one (although it may be). That might make things to complicated for the player though... :| What do you think?
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Postby visage » Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:15 am

Well, I think the difficulty here is in building the content.  A lot could be done randomly, but even then, the routine becomes "find the weak point, exploit."  Thus, it truly must be developed, built in content to prevent a natural routine from developing.  

And that is what seems difficult to me -- and how to prevent the player from exploiting the weakness on EVERY enemy once they discover it.

And what I think it comes down to is that you can't have a lot of content based battles without a lot of time.  I draw this theory from TV Anime shows (inuyasha, or something like that I suppose, which is really the only anime show I have seen).  Basically, from what I understand from omst anime shows, is that there is one big battle a show.  As well, every enemy is different.  In an RPG, in the same "time span" as one show, you normally end up fighting 40 or 50 guys.  Lets say you storm a castle...you fight 50 guards and a boss battle.  In a show like Inuyasha, it shows the hero slashing through the guards for about 10 seconds, slaughtering them, before it goes into the 15 minute long boss battle.  It is the difference in the first part that I think is the weak point of RPGs.

I dunno.  Just logorrhea.
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Postby roos » Wed Jan 04, 2006 7:42 am

Sweet... I agree 100% w/ everything you guys said.

:shrug: I may be opening a massive can of worms here, so dunno how far we want to take this thread, lol. I think that the ideas we have so far would work really well for stopping players from mashing buttons, and that's a Good Thing. If we just proceeded with the ideas as-is, that's cool as far as I'm concerned.

That said, we're still missing 2 things...

1. Battles are still pretty predictable: like visage said about "find weak point, exploit"

2. Don't really take huge amounts of skill. Making physical attacks weaker would encourage more use of SP I imagine, but that alone doesn't necessarily mean deeper strategy. For example playing with an all-mage party, you could still be very cheap and cast the same spells over and over. (Essentially no better than attack-button mashing)

Anyway I don't really have a solution so I won't say too much more... Here's a quick list of random ideas which would help w/ the above 2 points... THESE ARE NOT necessarily good ideas that I am suggesting, just some examples, food for thought:

-Environmental factors- e.g. weapon lying on the ground, rock to hide behind, etc.

-Positional factors- e.g. RTS archers, more damage from higher ground. Or, less time required to attack enemies which are nearby

-Timing- e.g. Mario RPG's timed attacks. Another example is FF1, where you have to be careful that 2 characters don't target the same monster or else you get the dreaded "Ineffective..." Timing is a bit tricky/iffy though, dunno about that.

-Player/enemy status effects- e.g. freezing an enemy into a block of ice might make them weak against a physical attack for the time that they are frozen. This is kind of like CT's combo techniques in that we can build synergies between character's individual abilities, without actually having to program combo techniques.

-Resource allocation- for example in FF7 you have a limited # of materia, limited # of materia slots, and have to maximize your effectiveness by equipping them to the right characters. (Materia if you don't know, are basically pieces of equipment which power up your stats). In FF7, materia are a huge part of the strategy, although that's all decided before you enter battle- not sure how to integrate this INTO a battle.

-Content/scripting- this is the hardest route and we probably want to steer clear of this since we already have our hands full. Though, it might work in some cases. For example in FF4, when you go with Yang to Fabul for the 1st time, you have to fight a string of continuous battles. The battles themselves are nothing special, but it's challenging/exciting because (a) they're continuous, no time to heal, and (b) the battles feel more important because they're woven into the plot instead of being random encounters. That kind of thing requires some extra coding, but not too much.

-Etc... ran out of ideas :)

Phew, sorry that was so long, takes a bit of typing to explain all those things.
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Postby Roots » Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:12 am

visage wrote:Well, I think the difficulty here is in building the content.  A lot could be done randomly, but even then, the routine becomes "find the weak point, exploit."  Thus, it truly must be developed, built in content to prevent a natural routine from developing.  

And that is what seems difficult to me -- and how to prevent the player from exploiting the weakness on EVERY enemy once they discover it.



A fabulously excellent point. :approve: I'm glad you brought that up, because I might have over-looked it.

roos wrote:Anyway I don't really have a solution so I won't say too much more... Here's a quick list of random ideas which would help w/ the above 2 points... THESE ARE NOT necessarily good ideas that I am suggesting, just some examples, food for thought:


Oh, but I still need to give my opinion for every single idea you state. :devil:

roos wrote:-Environmental factors- e.g. weapon lying on the ground, rock to hide behind, etc.


Good in theory, but I :disapprove:. It's too much of a 3D feature, and the fact is that the battle sprites can't be moved to specific locations. Great idea for a 3D RPG, but not for Allacrost unfortunately.

roos wrote:-Positional factors- e.g. RTS archers, more damage from higher ground. Or, less time required to attack enemies which are nearby


Hmmm :|. I think this gets a :disapprove: for the same reason as the environmental factors.

roos wrote:-Timing- e.g. Mario RPG's timed attacks. Another example is FF1, where you have to be careful that 2 characters don't target the same monster or else you get the dreaded "Ineffective..." Timing is a bit tricky/iffy though, dunno about that.


We talked about timing before, and gave it a :disapprove: then. The reason it worked well in SMRPG was because combat was turn-based, where we are not. So when you are about to time a hit, another character's menu may pop up and get in your way. They attempt to do this somewhat in FFX-2 (which I am currently playing) and just as I thought it's not a good idea for that type of system, because it's annoying and gets in the way.

GOD, I HATED the "Ineffective..." in FFI. :frustrated: So :disapprove: to that too.

roos wrote:-Player/enemy status effects- e.g. freezing an enemy into a block of ice might make them weak against a physical attack for the time that they are frozen. This is kind of like CT's combo techniques in that we can build synergies between character's individual abilities, without actually having to program combo techniques.


Oh, now THIS I like!!! This is an awesome idea Raj! Combo attacks that are not simulatenous like in CT are totally manageable. We'll probably not want to do this on a per-skill basis though (ie pierce only has a 20% bonus when used after ice) because it's too much to handle and too hard for the user to remember. Instead, I think we could shoot for general effects, like after using lightning a thrusting attack is effective or something. :shrug: The tricky part will be in deciding what effects what, and for how long. But yeah, I give a strong :approve: to this idea, it just needs to (eventually) be fleshed out more.

roos wrote:-Resource allocation- for example in FF7 you have a limited # of materia, limited # of materia slots, and have to maximize your effectiveness by equipping them to the right characters. (Materia if you don't know, are basically pieces of equipment which power up your stats). In FF7, materia are a huge part of the strategy, although that's all decided before you enter battle- not sure how to integrate this INTO a battle.


Ohh, damn I just had this idea the other day and I forgot to post it in this forum! Although I didn't necessarily come up with it for this purpose (making battles more strategic). I'll post a seperate thread about the topic after this one, because it's more of a "customization" type-discussion rather than strictly for increasing battle strategy options.

roos wrote:-Content/scripting- this is the hardest route and we probably want to steer clear of this since we already have our hands full. Though, it might work in some cases. For example in FF4, when you go with Yang to Fabul for the 1st time, you have to fight a string of continuous battles. The battles themselves are nothing special, but it's challenging/exciting because (a) they're continuous, no time to heal, and (b) the battles feel more important because they're woven into the plot instead of being random encounters. That kind of thing requires some extra coding, but not too much.


I give a strong :approve: on this one as well. I remember that series of battles from FFIV all to well. It was intense! I remember the first time I was like "Ahh, running out of potions! Oh noes! :ohnoes:" :heh: Yeah the code requirements here are minimal at best, so I think it can be used sparingly to spice up some sequenced fights.



Good round of ideas there! I'm starting to get that "pumped" feeling about Allacrost again lately. :D
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Postby roos » Wed Jan 04, 2006 4:43 pm

Heh, cool, I agree w/ everything you said. I also hated the 1st 3 examples (like "ineffective" from FF1, ugh)... Positional/environmental/timing stuff is hard to incorporate nicely, but I listed them in case someone has a brilliant idea :) Btw, I thought of 1 positional factor which IS used already- back row / front row, although it's something you usually set up before the battle even starts.

As for status effects, the idea I was getting at is, how do we alter the state of the battle? Roots wrote "I want them to have to constantly be on their toes, adjusting to the situation in battle." This would be awesome- but, what "situation" is there to adjust to? Everything is fixed from the outset- positions, # of enemies, equipment, everyone's stats/weaknesses. There's not much to react to, you rarely have to think ahead about consequences of a move, or about teamwork.

So, status effects alter the state of the battle so that a character can do something in one turn which affects his next turn, and his teammates next turns. It's been done like Vivi's "concentrate" in FF9, or enchanting swords with fire in SoM, etc, but IMO it hasn't been used very well. I rarely cast "Sleep", the miss rate is too high. Anyway, it'd be cool to add more of these "situational strategy" elements, though for now status effects is the only idea I can think of :)
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Postby Burnsaber » Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:59 pm

Idea about longer and more challenging RND- encounters is good. Less meaningless button smashing!

Roots wrote:
roos wrote:-Player/enemy status effects- e.g. freezing an enemy into a block of ice might make them weak against a physical attack for the time that they are frozen. This is kind of like CT's combo techniques in that we can build synergies between character's individual abilities, without actually having to program combo techniques.


Oh, now THIS I like!!! This is an awesome idea Raj! Combo attacks that are not simulatenous like in CT are totally manageable. We'll probably not want to do this on a per-skill basis though (ie pierce only has a 20% bonus when used after ice) because it's too much to handle and too hard for the user to remember. Instead, I think we could shoot for general effects, like after using lightning a thrusting attack is effective or something. :shrug: The tricky part will be in deciding what effects what, and for how long. But yeah, I give a strong :approve: to this idea, it just needs to (eventually) be fleshed out more.


Dont know how much my opinion is worth, but i like this. This also gives an opportunity to make more spells and/or special abilities. Sure "Freezing Wind" deals less damage than "Ice3", but it has longer freeze duration! Ice3 route will win you the encounter quickly, but it also devours SP, "Freezing Wind" allows you to save SP by making more damage with regular no SP using attacks. Damage over time with "Burning Lava" or more damage now with "Fireball"?

Some random ideas on the topic:

- Electricity spell after "water"- spell (can you say ZZAAAP!  :devil: )
- Throw a fire spell on a wet enemy. Instant fog! (maybe a miss chance for the monster?)
-Throw an oil potion on the monster for massive fire damage on the next round!
- Ice spell after a water spell, do you know if monsters can skate on ice? (hmm.. I seem to like water spells).
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Postby roos » Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:44 pm

Your opinion is worth a lot :) Those are some great ideas. I hadn't thought much about how items come into play, but that idea about throwing oil and then fire is pretty interesting.
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Postby visage » Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:18 pm

Those are some pretty stelar ideas if you ask me.  I love the idea of combinational damage, thinking on your feet.  "Shit, this enemy has a ton of health, and all I have is this stupid health potion...wait, isn't a health potion combustable?  What if I throw it at him?  Sweet, fireball."

The only issue I see is "why else  does the player have oil?"  I think it is better if the player makes connections themselves with items they normally wouldn't use.  Something like your "water + fire = fog" or "metallic dye + electricity = huge shock."  Maybe the metallic dye is used to customize a players look...but it is metallic, so why not use it in battle?

A Gamedev forum member, EDI, recently finished his indie project called "Morning's Wrath," in which you end up recieving "runes."  The runes are all fairly generic, like "fire" or "water" or "spread" and "bolt" -- but you can combine up to 5 (or something like that) to CREATE YOUR OWN SPELLS.

When I first saw the system, I was in awe.  And it is pretty simple: the element, the verb, and a couple modifiers.

Those sorts of things allow total player immersion, customization, and lots of replay value.  Especially if the items the player uses to create these effects or more random, not not bought at stores and that sort of thing.



These things are pretty sweet, and honestly not to difficult to work into the battle engine.  Quite simply, everything would just be given an "elemental status," and a 2D table of what elements affect what.  The only difficulty in the system is how the items can be used.  Can they only be "splashed" on other characters?  What if I used tar on a sock, filled it with plastic explosives, and threw it?  Now that would be sick, right?  Sounds more like an adventure game, but the line needs to be drawn as to how items can be combined as well as used in battle.  Is it the kind of thing where it is "attach" only?  Can things be put on the ground infront of you?  What if you want to protect yourself in some way, by putting...sticky paper on the ground?  

Makes it seem more like a tactical rpg once you begin to affect the surroundings, but makes the battle seem cooler to me.
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Postby BigPapaN0z » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:39 am

Burnsaber wrote:-Throw an oil potion on the monster for massive fire damage on the next round!

That actually reminds me of something I pulled off years ago while playing traditional Pen & Paper AD&D.  Picture this:

Level 3 Gnome Illusionist, rogue party member gets arrested and tossed in jail.  No clear way to get him out.  He is somehow framed for a city-wide crime spree and a public town hearing is held to decide his fate.  We (3 others) can't take on the whole town, and we can't break him free.  So I had one of the other players run in the town hall and start yelling about some kind of werewolves approaching the city.  Everyone comes outside to see what's going on.  I cast a minor illusion of sound-less werewolves (enough townsfolk miss their intelligence check) and starts a panic.  I cast Grease on the area around the people and another player throws a lit torch on the grease.  *POOF* No more townpeople.  :)

Anyways, about an idea that I had.  What about if during battle, other monsters may be able to come join their 'friends' and/or certain enemies could cast summon creature?  Just a thought, but if you find a group of enemies are weak vs something, and another enemy shows up that is strong/immune vs what the characters have been doing, that might help spice things up a bit.
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Postby roos » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:50 am

Haha, awesome AD&D story :)

Yeah, I was also thinking a bit about monsters summoning other monsters. The example I had in mind was in FF6, there was one type of monster who just stood around and summoned a monster. Once you killed that monster, he'd summon another monster. So you had to kill the summoner first. Not much of a strategy I guess, but at least somewhat interesting. (I forgot what the name of that monster was, sorry)
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Postby Rain » Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:53 am

roos wrote:Hmm, ok let me rephrase my question :) Basically I agree with you that harder battles would be cool, but I'm wondering specifically how you are thinking about doing that.

For example:

(a) Better enemy stats (e.g. more HP, higher attack stat)
(b) Give enemies more rich/unique abilities
(c) Sophisticated AI for enemy actions (e.g. attack the weakest characters)
(d) More complex ways to kill enemies (e.g. elemental weaknesses)
(e) More complex battle flow (e.g. main enemy + 2 smaller, have to kill in certain order)

If I'm getting a bit off topic feel free to cut me off :) Just curious if you had any ideas about how we will do this.



I think, mainly in a strategy...as a general rule of thumb, its the skill level of the opposing AI which truly determines the challenge of the battle.

I play final fantasy tactics all the time.  The computer is smart, it finds your weakness during the battles and exploits the hell out of it.  This makes play much more stimulating! Choice: 1) A party's 'exploited' character learns to quickly fortify a defense. 2) Requires a party to move a healer next to the 'exploited' character in order to heal him in times of dire need. 3) Etc.
 It just opens up a multitude of depth in the gameplay.  I get my biggest kicks out of outguessing/outmaneuvering my opponent.   Think of the amount of strategy that good A.I. encourages.  

Then again, what's to to be considered too challenging?  At what point does challenge contribute to a 'inaccessible' game?
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Postby Roots » Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:06 am

Yes, I agree that AI should and will be a big focus in this game. From what I've seen in most other RPGs, it seems like the majority of enemy AI does the following:

1) Pick a random action
2) Pick a random target


:disapprove: No way in hell do I want to see that anywhere in our game, except for place-holder material while we develop some really good AI algorithms. We've talked a little bit about AI in the staff programming section before (long ago), but we aren't really at the point yet where we should start focusing our programming efforts toward AI.
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Postby Roots » Tue Jan 10, 2006 6:46 pm

Here's an idea. What if we made mages/spells require longer amounts of time than what the player may be used to thinking in other RPGs? I'm talking maybe a mage gets one spell cast in for every 2-3 attacks that a warrior can get in (on average). To compensate, we make spells very powerful, so on average the damage caused may be around the same.


Why do this? Because mages are more succeptable to attack when they are casting, and the enemies may see this and seek to target them more. Thus, we'd need to provide support.


To be honest, what I just said sounds tedious to me. Especially if you always have to defend a mage while they are casting a spell (although it seems realistic). The intent though is to require more strategic planning from the player. So the idea definitely needs refinement, if it's any good at all.


Oh, and I put this in this thread because this only works if we have longer battles. If battles are incredibly short, it probably won't be worth our time to talk about any of this. :rolleyes:
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Postby roos » Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:34 pm

Sounds like a good idea. I'm wondering if that would make the battles feel too slow paced, maybe we could slightly reduce the time it takes to do physical attacks, and slightly increase the time it takes to cast spells.. :shrug:
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Postby Roots » Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:39 pm

roos wrote:Sounds like a good idea. I'm wondering if that would make the battles feel too slow paced, maybe we could slightly reduce the time it takes to do physical attacks, and slightly increase the time it takes to cast spells.. :shrug:


That thought was on my mind as well, because if mages are casting spells so frequently and for such long periods of time, there may not be much the player actually does. It would almost be like a calculating game of chess. :heh:
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Postby Ray » Fri Feb 10, 2006 3:40 am

roos wrote:For example:
(a) Better enemy stats (e.g. more HP, higher attack stat)
(b) Give enemies more rich/unique abilities
(c) Sophisticated AI for enemy actions (e.g. attack the weakest characters)

An AI wouldn't need to be particularly sophisticated to pick good targets. A simple example of a targetting function might simply give each character a targetting priority based on the percent of the total damage that character's done, perhaps modified by other simple factors like how injured the character is. (percent of total health)

So instead of a party of four having a 25% chance each of being targetted, the wounded mage who keeps casting those fireballs might be targetted 50% of the time, the veteran fighter causing significant melee damage 30% of the time, and the two characters in rusty armor who are out of SP and wielding wooden daggers are each only attacked 10% of the time.

This wouldn't require much code, only a running total of how much damage each character's done in the battle, a random number or two, and some arithmetic, but would result in much more directed attacks than a purely random function.

The downside of this sort of system is that it would largely ignore supporting characters such as healers, but this could potentially be worked around (perhaps by counting healing allies as the same as damaging enemies when calculating the base percentage).

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