Battle Design Topics II

A discussion area for general design issues that staff would like detailed feedback on.

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Postby Roots » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:20 am

Okay, by my count so far that's 5 people who prefer the scheme I proposed versus 1 that wants it to remain the same. Should we go ahead and implement this scheme in the next couple of days, or do we want to continue debating and collecting votes?
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Postby Jetryl » Wed Jun 20, 2007 5:15 am

Roots wrote:Besides, right now a neutral alignment doesn't tell you if it should target enemies or allies by default; the battle code just arbitrarily picks a side as the default target. So we could have either GOOD and BAD and allow them to be used on the party they aren't usually meant to be used for, or we'd have to have a GOOD, BAD, GOOD_NEUTRAL, and BAD_NEUTRAL just to say "these neutral skills are special and can be used on anyone, whereas their counterparts can not". Just seems kind useless to me.


And now, roots finally comes out with the real problem - he's combining two data records into one. You have two distinct things you're dealing with, here:
- which side it can be used against
- which side it defaults to targeting

There are a large set of skills for which we will never want to deal damage to the player, like basic sword slashes - the wall technique that was mentioned earlier is weird, because its function is asymmetric. It would make sense for the function to "reflect damage back at the attacker", but in reality it seems to "reflect damage towards the enemy, regardless if the enemy initiated it or not."

All cases of combined techniques can and should be done with literal combined techniques, like chrono trigger had. Not through these goofy "attack a friend" UI hackarounds. This was an improvement in design that Square made in Chrono Trigger, over the design that was in the earlier FF4.

Let's not imitate their mistakes, dammit. :bang:

And with the undead thing, how many "straight healing" spells are we going to have? Warcraft3 had some 8 or so healing spells (two per race), but deliberately by design, only one of them affected the undead like this, and in fact one of them worked exactly in reverse, healing the dead and hurting the living (the rest healed everything, but could only be cast on allies). Only the healing spell with a "holy" source hurt the undead, not the voodoo of the trolls, and not the nature magic of the night elves. Besides, most healing spells wouldn't make sense to do damage, since they don't have a damage function built-in; we'll only have 4 "healing" spells at most (like with potions), but we'll have several other spells in the category which do other effects (cure, bless, revive). Sure, you could have those do the opposite effect on undead, but they'd be redundant with other spells we'd already have - e.g, you could make the cure spell give them a poison effect, but what about the "life/green mage", or "assassin" that already has a poison effect? What about the "revive" spell that is redundant with your existing "sleep/kill" spell? You'd only have to make 4 spells neutral for that "all healing spells" effect.


Or hey, here's a great example - what about an "unsummon" spell that takes one of your summoned monsters, kills (e.g. dispels) it, and gives a bunch of mana to the player (relative to it's current health and casting cost). Oh, hey, LOL, we can cast that on the enemy, and just unsummon him. Oh, oops, I just unsummoned claudius. Tee hee.


No matter how you slice it, certain abilities are going to have to either be specifically disabled for certain groups of units, or excluded from the game because the design doesn't support them. My design is no less extensible/flexible than yours and it's a lot less frustrating for the player.

Roots wrote:Again, there's nothing wrong with allowing a skill/item to be used against any target -- none whatsoever.


Yes, there is, like I said above. At some point in the game, statistically speaking, you will mispress a button, and you will accidentally cause damage to yourself. In fact, given my experience with such things, this will happen surprisingly often. There's a very strong change this will be major damage - "game-over" kind of damage, unless we radically change how the game is balanced (which we may).

And that's not the player's fault - it's yours. It's like designing a spoon with razor-sharp edges, and saying "lol, be more careful" when a person slashes themselves with it.
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Postby Burnsaber » Fri Jun 22, 2007 10:28 am

I'm siding with Jetryl on this one. Items that have clearly only negative effects should be only allowed to be used on enemies. OK, maybe 1 player in 1000 may find some weird situation where might want to cast "Lighting bolt" upon himself, but at the same time 10 in 1000 players have to start again from the last save point because they accidentally nuked their healer. And you all know how many hours away that save point is when something like this happens..

If you want some item to be a "combo piece" just make it neutral. There's nothing to stop you from having some of those. Besides, most combos that need you to chop your own leg off are simply retarted. (like that combo in FF X-2 where if you kept yourself at low health you could some superjumbo attack to hit 20000+ damage or something, can't remember the details). I mean seriosly retarted.

Hero1: Hey, you're bleeding.. from your spine. Let me heal you.
Hero2: F**c you will, I have this awesome special move I want to use. *couhgs blood*

It's like if in Naruto the main characters would suddenly notice how they fight better when in near-death state and would refuse to go to hospitals in order to fight better.

Eep, derailed again. Anyways, I'm sure that there is a way to have some cool special moves that can be used in suprising ways, without making your cutlery have razor-sharp edges, as Jetryl put it.
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Postby rujasu » Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:55 pm

Jetryl wrote:No matter how you slice it, certain abilities are going to have to either be specifically disabled for certain groups of units, or excluded from the game because the design doesn't support them. My design is no less extensible/flexible than yours and it's a lot less frustrating for the player.


Yes, this is true. SOME skills will need to only target one party or the other. I do not think this should be the default.

Roots wrote:Again, there's nothing wrong with allowing a skill/item to be used against any target -- none whatsoever.


Yes, there is, like I said above. At some point in the game, statistically speaking, you will mispress a button, and you will accidentally cause damage to yourself. In fact, given my experience with such things, this will happen surprisingly often. There's a very strong change this will be major damage - "game-over" kind of damage, unless we radically change how the game is balanced (which we may).

And that's not the player's fault - it's yours. It's like designing a spoon with razor-sharp edges, and saying "lol, be more careful" when a person slashes themselves with it.


If you're referring to Final Fantasy, I find that a little surprising, because I don't think I've ever accidentally nuked my own party... maybe that's just me, though. Still, if we set the control scheme so that "L/R select" determines the target party, it shouldn't be an issue. Those are little-used buttons; if you're mis-pressing them for some reason, map them to keys on a different section of your keyboard where you won't accidentally hit them.
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Postby Roots » Sat Jun 23, 2007 8:09 pm

Okay, I see three schemes forming in this discussion:

    1) Any skill/item can be used against any friend or foe, without restriction (Final Fantasy style)
    2) Skills/items can only be used against a friend or a foe, but not both (Chrono Trigger style)
    3) Some skills/items can be used against both friend and foe, but others can only be used against one or the other


Unless I am missing any alternatives, I think we should do an informal vote and decide which of these three schemes to implement. I'm going to do my classical pros/cons list based on what I believe/understand to be true about each scheme.

#1: PROS
+ most flexibility of the three
+ no need for game designer to design items/skills which can work both ways (since they will all work both ways by default)

#1: CONS
- (small) possibility of player harming their own party or healing their enemy by accident (I still find this to be very unlikely based on my own experiences with games using this scheme)
- some executions of action may not "make sense" (ie multiple sword strikes on self)

#2: PROS
+ most simple and straight-forward of the three schemes
+ no chance of the player accidentally misusing a skill or item in a way that is not beneficial to them
+ would eliminate the need for this awkward target alignment (we could just have 6 target types instead: 3 for friendlies and 3 for enemies (attack point, actor, party))

#2: CONS
- least amount of flexibility as far as using skills and items
- would make it difficult or impossible for certain status effects like "confuse" to happen, where the confused characters attack their own allies; or use of reflect spells

#3: PROS
+ allows for some flexibility but still leaves the designer in control
+ able to explicitly allow certain skills/items to work both ways

#3: CONS
- still possible to accidentally attack your own characters or heal your enemies
- the player had to remember which skills/items can be used both ways, and the designer has to figure out how to effectively communicate that information to the player
- designer has to figure out which skills/items should be allowed this property, and which should not


My vote goes to #2, because it is the most simple, straight-forward solution for the player and the designer. Its also probably the easiest to code up as well. :angel: It would give us less flexibility in the game design, but I'm sure we can think of some interesting item/skills/elemental/status effects to make up for that.
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Postby Jetryl » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:29 am

Roots wrote:My vote goes to #2, because it is the most simple, straight-forward solution for the player and the designer. Its also probably the easiest to code up as well. :angel: It would give us less flexibility in the game design, but I'm sure we can think of some interesting item/skills/elemental/status effects to make up for that.


I vote for #2.
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Postby ChopperDave » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:40 am

Its also probably the easiest to code up as well.


Well, considering support for #3 is already coded this is a moot point.

2 or 3 is fine with me. Doesn't really matter.
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Postby rujasu » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:55 pm

Honestly, I can't offer much opinion toward any of the options right now... if #2 is the popular one, that's cool with me, but I don't mind #1 or #3 either. I don't think this will have a huge effect on the overall battle design either way; any of the options should work reasonably well.
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Postby Roots » Thu Jun 28, 2007 5:41 am

ChopperDave wrote:Well, considering support for #3 is already coded this is a moot point.


Not entirely. Maybe in the battle code, yes, but not in the menu code or anywhere else. Plus we don't even mention anywhere in the game which skills have what alignments which is information the player needs to have available if we go with #3.


It looks like we're going with #2 since that's what most of the vote has leaned toward and others are mostly neutral. So unless someone states a strong rejection to the idea, I guess we will be going with scheme #2.
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Postby MindFlayer » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:32 am

Yeah, #2 it is.
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Postby prophile » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:03 pm

Given that there might be weird situations where you want to cast against yourself in where you normally wouldn't or vice versa, couldn't you just implement a key combo or something that switches sides? Like, when selecting a target with the arrow keys, hold control and it'll let you select your own guys?
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Postby Roots » Fri Jun 29, 2007 1:52 am

prophile wrote:Given that there might be weird situations where you want to cast against yourself in where you normally wouldn't or vice versa, couldn't you just implement a key combo or something that switches sides? Like, when selecting a target with the arrow keys, hold control and it'll let you select your own guys?


Did you read the last 10 posts or so? That's scheme #1
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Postby ChopperDave » Thu Jul 19, 2007 4:38 am

Alright. So I'm sorta reviving this topic in response to what people have been saying about our battle mode, in that the only thing they don't like is that they feel there is nothing really unique about it. I realize that battle mode is far from complete, and that we've got a few cool things coming down the pipeline, but I think they're looking for a unique feel to battle mode as a whole. Even when completed, our projected battle mode still follows the traditional "Wait for your turn, pick an action, pick a target, execute action, begin again" formula, and I think players are looking for something more off the wall I suppose. The problem is I don't really have any good ideas at the moment.

I'm not saying I see anything wrong with our battle design, but I figure if we're gonna entertain this notion we should do it now while battle mode is still in early stages.

Does anyone else have good ideas?
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Postby Jetryl » Thu Jul 19, 2007 5:49 am

*scratches head* Okay, since you asked for WILD speculation: :angel:

One interesting idea would be 'engagement'. It's largely a cosmetic and interface difference, although the interface would allow us to do certain things that are not very visually intuitive to do in the existing system.

Basically, each player/monster would choose to *engage* a certain opponent in combat; in cases of mismatching party sizes, certain players would be engaged by multiple monsters. If you will, imagine these units in game visually going up and grouping next to each other, in order to deliver blows. Engaging would be a 'continual' targeting - you'd keep fighting with the unit until one or the other fell over. Each time a character could make a choice, you could change orders, and you'd need to based on the following, but you'd have a simple means to continue with the status quo.


We could then enact a bunch of differences:
-- Ranged units would "target" enemies rather than "engaging" them. More or less, they'd be standing in the rear, firing at the melee units. (Laila would hold back and use her crossbow, and Claudius would charge forward with his sword). This would mean that melee units could not attack said ranged units until they were able to engage them.

-- Engaging might require some things - maybe you couldn't engage enemy ranged units with your melee ones until you defeated their front row of melee units.
- or, perhaps you could charge through, but enemy melee units near you get a free hit at you (which might not land).
- or, perhaps movement would be tallied against time, and engaging people would cost time based on distance.

-- When engaging multiple units, new skills/stats could be counted into effect. Some units might be only good at duking it out one-on-one, other ones might be brawlers who almost do better fighting against a group (c.f. Fezzik in Princess Bride).
- Special skills, like a deck-clearing morning-star spin, or a ground-shaking slam, might affect only those units engaging the single character who delivers it, but would allow these characters to handle multiple foes at once.

-- Drawing aggro would be visibly functional. We *could* do it as it is, now, but we have no visual indication of who's attacking who until they actually strike - in this, monsters would actually flock away from their current target, and run towards their new victim; this could potentially be made more effective by costing them time to do this.

-- We could implement a play/pause system of input, where you give your orders, and have your characters go at it until they need new orders. The only two things they'd do automatically, would be to keep meleeing (which would be a seamless blend of basic attacking/blocking/dodging moves, whenever appropriate) and would automatically select new targets as they killed existing ones. This is basic enough that we'd need human intervention for practically anything else, but would eliminate the most absolutely basic button-mashing in combat. So, this would not have the flaws of FF12, where you can set up complex macros for complex battle moves, and make a game that plays itself - most necessary tasks like healing/shielding/picking good targets, would not be automatic, and you'd absolutely need to use them in pretty much every battle.

-- Ranged units could either switch to a different attack when they get engaged by enemies, or just fire their ranged weapon at point-blank range (which would require less imagery).


Integration with existing code:
The upshot of this is that this would be mostly additive to existing code/structure, and would also work perfectly with the "unique" things we'd planned for allacrost's battle system - the MAPS being the key one, but it'd also work with our elemental bonuses. In fact practically all of our stats would carry into it, intact, as well.

Visually, we'd more or less need to drop to a CT-style battle display in order to do this, but I've been pushing for that anyways... :devil:
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Postby prophile » Thu Jul 19, 2007 6:46 am

Roots wrote:Did you read the last 10 posts or so? That's scheme #1



Oops :think:
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Postby ChopperDave » Sat Jul 21, 2007 2:02 am

Nice Jetryl :D .

Can we get any more ideas?
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Postby Roots » Sat Jul 21, 2007 5:49 am

Wow, I actually really like Jetryl's idea. When I first glanced at it I thought "FFXII battle system, yuck", but now I see its different. You still have to select an action for your character, but you can't arbitrarily choose a target. Maybe you couldn't use long range attacks or magic when in melee attack mode. Actually, I'm going to take Jetryl's idea and put it through the "Dictator Vision (TM)" so I can better explain how I see such a system working.


1) At the start of the battle, the character decides two things for each character. First, they put the character in either a melee stance or a support (long-range) stance. Next, they set the default actor target for each character (not attack point, not party, just the main enemy they want that character to try and take down).

2) When the battle begins, characters in melee mode run out to meet the enemies in the middle of the battle field, while characters in support mode file up in the back. Enemies likewise move to the middle if they are melee or stay in the back if they are supporting.

3) Melee units can only target those enemies which are physically close to them, which would be either their default target, or any other enemy units which are close by. If a melee unit wants to select another target that is out of range, they have to spend a turn running over to the new enemy target.

4) Melee units from either side can only engage the support units if they manage to break through the enemy line. Breaking through can be done by either overwhelming the opposing melee units (ie one knight trying to fend off 6 giant insects; a couple might make it through past the knight), or through a special skill (teleport) or something like that.

5) When an actor is in support mode, they become weak against melee attacks. When an actor is in melee mode, they are weak against support attacks.

6) An actor may only use short-range skills when in melee mode and long-range skills when in support mode.

7) An actor can arbitrarily switch between modes at will, which may or may not take a turn to switch.

8) Visually, we'd see the melee units next to each other in battle duking it out (and we should use animations that show the character as if they are constantly trading blows with the enemy). Support characters when not acting could be in the back seen pointing, warning their melee friendlies, reloading arrows in a bow, etc. The enemies would not be animated in their movement so it may look rather weird with the characters having lots of animation and the enemies just sitting there (or maybe they make short movements back and forth as if they were fighting), but its all good.

9) Units move across the field, but the player can not dictate where to move their character. There are 3 locations an actor may be: friendly support, front line, and foe support. If they are in friendly support, they are in support mode. If they are in front line, they are in melee mode. If they are in foe support, they are in melee mode and engaging foes that are in support mode.

10) A melee unit that is being actively targeted by an opponent can not break through the front line unless a special skill is used.

11) The player still has to select every action for each character to take (ie, its not automated a.la. FFXII). The only difference here is the limited choice of targets and the different combat modes.

12) -Maybe- we could support more than 4 characters in battle, since if we used this system, we'd no longer need to keep them in a column near the back of the screen. Although it would be difficult to squeeze in more HP/SP /status info in the character info bar at the bottom of the screen (maybe it can auto scroll, I dunno)



That's how I envision this engagement system working. I actually am really liking the idea of doing something like this instead of the tired old "line dance battle". It introduces a hell of a lot of strategy, makes the battles much more dynamic and interesting (its not just about selecting actions and targets anymore), and just seems like a lot of fun to me. I like it very much :approve: Of course, implementing all this would be a hell of a lot of work, so I dunno.
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Postby ChopperDave » Sat Jul 21, 2007 6:42 am

1) At the start of the battle, the character decides two things for each character. First, they put the character in either a melee stance or a support (long-range) stance. Next, they set the default actor target for each character (not attack point, not party, just the main enemy they want that character to try and take down).


Well, since we can give them the choice to change stance every turn, there’s really no need to make the beginning of the battle a special event. Heck, we can even let them choose a default stance from menu mode so when they enter battle they already have a stance chosen and the battle can go ahead and start (hint: the currently unused Formation option in menu mode ;)).

2) When the battle begins, characters in melee mode run out to meet the enemies in the middle of the battle field, while characters in support mode file up in the back. Enemies likewise move to the middle if they are melee or stay in the back if they are supporting.


What happens if they change their stance mid-battle, like from melee to ranged? Do they leap back to safety or stay put in the middle of danger?

3) Melee units can only target those enemies which are physically close to them, which would be either their default target, or any other enemy units which are close by. If a melee unit wants to select another target that is out of range, they have to spend a turn running over to the new enemy target.


I don’t know who here has played Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter, but they give you AP points you can spend each turn, but AP is not only used for skills but also to determine how far you can move. So if you choose not to move, you can spend all your AP for that turn on skills. If you run your maximum distance, you cannot use any skills. Or you can do half and half. I’m thinking we may want to consider something like this. But I think Roots’s above mentioned method is going to be much simpler to implement and manage.

4) Melee units from either side can only engage the support units if they manage to break through the enemy line. Breaking through can be done by either overwhelming the opposing melee units (ie one knight trying to fend off 6 giant insects; a couple might make it through past the knight), or through a special skill (teleport) or something like that.


The breakthrough from overwhelming odds seems a little too difficult to determine when it should occur. What we may want to do instead is use knockback with certain skills or critical hits to move the opposing melee unit back.

9) Units move across the field, but the player can not dictate where to move their character. There are 3 locations an actor may be: friendly support, front line, and foe support. If they are in friendly support, they are in support mode. If they are in front line, they are in melee mode. If they are in foe support, they are in melee mode and engaging foes that are in support mode.


Two support modes? Meh. I think what we should do is keep it as one support, one melee. Much easier and less confusing.

12) -Maybe- we could support more than 4 characters in battle, since if we used this system, we'd no longer need to keep them in a column near the back of the screen. Although it would be difficult to squeeze in more HP/SP /status info in the character info bar at the bottom of the screen (maybe it can auto scroll, I dunno)


Well, Jetryl did say we may need to go with a CT-style look, which means we’d have to redesign the UI completely anyway.

Of course, implementing all this would be a hell of a lot of work, so I dunno.


Which, quite honestly, would be worth it. It’d be so much fun to make. But I’m thinking at least for the August milestone we should keep the existing battle mode setup and see what people think.

Regarding the overall idea of melee and ranged we could make it even simpler by just breaking up skills into ranged and melee. Melee skills are used on nearby targets, and ranged on those that are at least a minimum distance away (and possibly less than a max distance). This could apply to all skills, not just offensive ones. But it could be too simple. Who knows.
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Postby Roots » Sat Jul 21, 2007 10:11 am

ChopperDave wrote:Well, since we can give them the choice to change stance every turn, there’s really no need to make the beginning of the battle a special event.


Sure there is. Every battle is different, and you don't want to use the same default formation if you run into a group of 10 melee-type enemies versus 10 support-type enemies. It gives the player the opportunity to account for the battle at hand.

ChopperDave wrote:What happens if they change their stance mid-battle, like from melee to ranged? Do they leap back to safety or stay put in the middle of danger?


If they change the support mode, they'd leap back from the front lines if they were in melee mode. And if they are in support mode and change to melee, they'll come out from the supporting ranks and join the fight on the front lines.

3) Melee units can only target those enemies which are physically close to them, which would be either their default target, or any other enemy units which are close by. If a melee unit wants to select another target that is out of range, they have to spend a turn running over to the new enemy target.


ChopperDave wrote:I don’t know who here has played Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter, but they give you AP points you can spend each turn, but AP is not only used for skills but also to determine how far you can move. So if you choose not to move, you can spend all your AP for that turn on skills. If you run your maximum distance, you cannot use any skills. Or you can do half and half. I’m thinking we may want to consider something like this. But I think Roots’s above mentioned method is going to be much simpler to implement and manage.


Requiring SP to do certain actions regarding mode/target change is certainly an idea to consider. Although I think simply requiring a turn to perform the action is a simple enough penalty.

ChopperDave wrote:The breakthrough from overwhelming odds seems a little too difficult to determine when it should occur. What we may want to do instead is use knockback with certain skills or critical hits to move the opposing melee unit back.


Indeed. Determining under what conditions the front line can be broken would require some thought and likely some trial-and-error. I think making certain skills to make it easier to break the front line is a good idea (ie, a stun attack).

ChopperDave wrote:Two support modes? Meh. I think what we should do is keep it as one support, one melee. Much easier and less confusing.


I never said that there were two support modes. Characters in support mode make one location, and enemies in support mode make the other. There are only two modes that I proposed: melee and support (and I agree, two modes is probably the best).

ChopperDave wrote:Well, Jetryl did say we may need to go with a CT-style look, which means we’d have to redesign the UI completely anyway.


I remain absolutely against using map sprites for battles. This system is already sort of CT-like since we will have movement instead of typical boring FF lines of characters and enemies. Its kind of a blend of FF and CT elements in the respect that there are separate sprites for battles, it takes place on a battle background, sprites have movement and position

ChopperDave wrote:Which, quite honestly, would be worth it. It’d be so much fun to make. But I’m thinking at least for the August milestone we should keep the existing battle mode setup and see what people think.

Regarding the overall idea of melee and ranged we could make it even simpler by just breaking up skills into ranged and melee. Melee skills are used on nearby targets, and ranged on those that are at least a minimum distance away (and possibly less than a max distance). This could apply to all skills, not just offensive ones. But it could be too simple. Who knows.


I think it would be worth it too in the long run, but yeah its not feasible to implement this in the short-term. Battle mode already lacks sufficient manpower working in it, which is evidenced by the fact that I've done more work on battle mode than anyone by a long shot in nearly two months time :( (I wouldn't have done anything here unless it needed it badly, which it did).
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Postby ChopperDave » Sat Jul 21, 2007 6:36 pm

I never said that there were two support modes


There are 3 locations an actor may be: friendly support, front line, and foe support.


Why 3 locations? Two should suffice.

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