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Innovative RPG Combat Design

Zizka

Member
Hello everyone,

The last few days or so I've been pondering and pondering and pondering my combat system. I've covered pages and pages of paper and realized that the only way to get to a finished design would be to actually try instead of being stuck in paralysis.

Interactive RPG battles are my favorite. I think Paper Mario and to some lesser extent Earthbound are a great source of inspiration.



I want player input to be continuous throughout fights. So this is why I'm trying to recreate. I won't show you the first two designs but I'll share the third along with some explanations.

Battle_Wheel_3.png

The wheel idea is inspired by Shadow Hearts:
1607892834050.png

...but I wanted to go further than that as I felt it was too basic.

(I've drawn everything except for the Goomba which is currently a placeholder of course).

The idea is to have the coin on top of the wheel representing either the shield (defense) or the crossed swords (offense). The game is by default in offensive mode. The enemy action bar fills up over time and when it's full, the wheel automatically shifts to defense mode. This way, the coin keeps flipping back and forth between offense and defense.

The hearts represent health, this is straightforward. In the mockup I've showed, the player has lost one heart out of six.

Energy refills over time and powers all actions in battle, both offense and defense.

1. Battle Flow:
I. Battle begins, the wheel starts spinning, quickly at first. While the wheel is spinning, energy is getting replenished and the enemy action bar is filling up.

II. The wheel slows down the longer the player waits. This is a risk/reward. The longer you wait, the more your attacks and defense are likely to be, but meanwhile the enemy is preparing its attack.

III. The player presses a button to pick the current selection on the wheel at the cost of 1 energy. A red section means a miss, a green a hit, a yellow a critical hit and so on.

IV. A positive outcome speeds up the wheel while a negative one doesn't. This is to prevent the wheel from getting too slow and keep things challenging.

V. Once the enemy is ready to attack the wheel transition to its defense setup. The colors of the wheel then have different functions, such as dodge, block and receive damage and so on.

VI. When the defense is dealt with, the wheel switches back to offense and battle continues until someone is victorious.

VII. The positive sections of the wheel disappear when they're selected. This means that the more successful attacks on the player turn, the harder it gets to combo more hits.

IX. When the wheel transitions from defense and offense and vice-versa, all the sections are back.

X. Enemies determine the content of the wheel. Agile enemies provide narrower hit areas for example.

What do I need help with?
At the moment the art is all over the place. The wheel doesn't look anywhere near ready for example.

A. Ideas to make the art more cohesive with the theme of space, planets, astronomy and so on? For instance, the moon for defense, the swords are meant to represent the sun, etc...

B. Suggestions to organize the U.I.

C. Comments and critique about the combat as it stands at the moment.

D. Any other thoughts or comments.

E. Do you think it's too complex? Is this a matter of "feature creep" where I've gone overboard?

Thank you for reading!
 
While you're discussing old-school Paper Mario's combat, I'd like to add some of my thoughts.

In and of themselves, there isn't a lot of depth to the action commands. Almost all of them are simple pass-or-fail challenges, where failing causes zero or next to zero damage, and passing causes the intended effect. If you're going to make an action-command style system, the most important things you can do are A) don't make it too complicated and B) don't make them take too long. Even down to what seems the simplest thing, freedom is what makes the battle system enjoyable. Take leveling up. Nintendo gives the player complete, 100% control over which stats increase on level up. This allows very casual players, slightly more advanced players, and high-level players to exist on the same playing field without the need for difficulty options. It is completely possible to beat TTYD without taking a single point of damage.

Badges are a huge source of depth. You can completely customize every single aspect of Mario to fit your playstyle. Like having a tool for every occasion? Equip more types of hammers/boots. Hate accidentally jumping on fire/spiky enemies? Make it so you can do that without getting hurt. Want high-risk/maximum-reward? Equip some Power Rush/Mega Rush badge, drop yourself to 1 HP, and break the game in half. Wish you would've leveled up HP or FP instead? Equip an HP/FP Plus badge and no longer regret your decision. And none of this is permanent—you can switch up your playstyle on the fly with zero punishment. The game expects you to experiment and rewards you handsomely for it.

I could go on about the depth of Stylish commands, regular vs. perfect guards, the audience, and tons of other mechanics, but you likely already know about all of them. Too many people ascribe PM's combat's beloved status to the action commands, but the truth I want to make clear is that they're only a small factor in what makes the combat so engaging. TTYD is far from perfect. There's plenty of room to improve on it, and indie games like Bug Fables are trying to fill a niche left unfilled by Nintendo. I would've loved to see more iteration from them on the combat system before they tossed it into the garbage bin. Some things I would've loved to see that add more depth: An elemental strength/weakness system; more valuable partners and more of them out at a time; 10x inflated HP/FP/BP values for more granular control over balance; some benefit to picking HP/FP from a high-level play perspective.

If you want to see an example of a game that gets action commands horribly wrong, see YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. I'm not going to go into exactly why that game's bad, since that'll take forever, and just googling the name of that game brings up reviewers and critics tearing the battle system apart far more deftly and precisely than I ever could. Considering how you're describing your system, it seems to follow the same path of over-complicating the action commands without focusing on depth outside of execution. Going back to the drawing board is likely in the cards.
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
I personally like TTYD and the n64 predecessor. However, one thing I missed from the SNES Mario RPG(Legend of the 7 stars) was the various weapons, armor, and timings. Instead of being straight up pass/fail, there was more of a range, where how closely you got determined how close to full damage you did. For the newer ones to do that though, they would likely have to do 10x inflated HP(like @nacho_chicken mentions). And then it also applied to defense as well. It is a step into more complication, but I think it isn't something that would have made it overly complex. The SNES did well with it, as there were only a few "types" of weapons with different timings, like with Mario, punches, hammers, shells, pretty much it. But it was better than the same exact hammer thing the whole game. That's just my opinion though.

As far as your system, indeed it feels pretty complex. Maybe it would grow on me if I saw the thing actually in action, but seeing it in writing, not so much.
 

Yal

🍋 *lemon noises*
GMC Elder
If you want to see an example of a game that gets action commands horribly wrong, see YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. I'm not going to go into exactly why that game's bad, since that'll take forever, and just googling the name of that game brings up reviewers and critics tearing the battle system apart far more deftly and precisely than I ever could. Considering how you're describing your system, it seems to follow the same path of over-complicating the action commands without focusing on depth outside of execution. Going back to the drawing board is likely in the cards.
I've got you covered on this! TheSnakerer's analysis of the game is almost 3 hours long, goes through the entire thing (and points out every objective flaw in the game), and he even interprets it in 3 different ways (what the game implies at face value, what the dev said it's supposed to mean, and what cut/auxilary materials imply the game was originally intended to mean) with different conclusions to make sure he gives it an objective treatment:


With that said... I don't think there's such a thing as designing - or rather manufacturing - true innovation by just analyzing things that already exist. It's a bit of a "letter vs word" thing - if you reskin mechanics from other games, you're not innovating; you need to look at the philosophy that led to the creation of those mechanics and figure out how the devs were thinking about their game, then apply the same process on your game (and get different results). Obviously that's pretty hard if you lack the original design documents or psychic powers, but there are resources for it - for instance the GDC Classic Retrospectives series (uploaded to Youtube by the GDC's official channel), where the lead designers of breakthrough games like Deus Ex and the original Diablo talk about what they were trying to achieve. (Not sure if either's relevant for your project so I won't link them here)

Side note, Darkest Dungeon very much feels like a darker, grittier Paper Mario game (without action commands)... numbers are so low you can run them in your head, every turn matters, and it's viewed in a sideview perspective. I'd say it's worth looking at it for inspiration, especially if you want to make a more traditional RPG instead of a kid-friendly spinoff.


TL;DR you can't artificially manufacture innovation, avoid repeating YIIK's mistakes.
 

Zizka

Member
Well, I was kind of hoping input on how to simplify the system I'm currently suggesting but I suppose that's up to me to figure out. :)

As far as your system, indeed it feels pretty complex.
Going back to the drawing board is likely in the cards.
This does guide however as I confirms my hunch that it was too complex.

Basically my goals are the following for combat (in order of priority):

1. Every encounter should be unique. No "fight, fight, fight" and save MP for the boss.

2. Player should have some agency in combat, it shouldn't be entirely RNG based.

3. Encourage risk/reward.

4. Should be as simple as possible while making sure #1 is respected.
 
Well, I was kind of hoping input on how to simplify the system I'm currently suggesting but I suppose that's up to me to figure out. :)

This does guide however as I confirms my hunch that it was too complex.

Basically my goals are the following for combat (in order of priority):

1. Every encounter should be unique. No "fight, fight, fight" and save MP for the boss.

2. Player should have some agency in combat, it shouldn't be entirely RNG based.

3. Encourage risk/reward.

4. Should be as simple as possible while making sure #1 is respected.
I wouldn't say for sure it's too complex. The description of your combat system was entirely in text. It's very difficult to visualize what it would actually play like, and even if I do manage to invent some images as to what it could look like, it might be different from what you intend. UI screenshots or mockups (they don't even have to be good; they can be pencil or MS Paint sketches) are downright necessary when discussing conceptual gameplay and UI.

The answer to 1. doesn't necessarily have to be novel mechanics. The problem with a lot of RPGs is that they don't use their combat systems to their full potential. Final Fantasy is one of the games people bring up (for good reason) when complaining about RPGs being brainless attack-fests, so I'm going to call out FFIV in particular here. These are some of the options you have in battle, and I will explain why they're false options:
  • Attack - Good option. Does damage. Might have an ailment attached to it, but those are completely useless as we'll see later. Worthless if you have access to magic attacks.
  • Defend - Bad option. Doubles defense until next turn. Random enemies don't ever do enough damage to warrant this. Bosses never require this, and there are better options for avoiding damage.
  • Swap - Bad option. Uses your turn to move back or forwards in combat. Almost always pointless since you're likely already in the correct position at the start of the battle, and doing basically anything else is more useful.
  • Magic attack - Good option. Does lots of damage. Elemental weaknesses/strengths are horribly underutilized by enemies. Non-elemental spells are the most powerful, so elements don't even matter at end-game.
  • Summon - Good option. Does lots of damage. Elemental weaknesses/strengths are horribly underutilized by enemies. Non-elemental spells are the most powerful, so elements don't even matter at end-game. You'll notice this is the exact same text as attack magic; it's because they're effectively the same thing. Summon is basically attack magic with a fancier animation, and the former replaces the latter in your rotation if your character has access to it.
  • Defensive magic - Bad option, OK during boss battles. The only battles that last long enough for this to make a difference are boss battles. You're better off killing random enemies with attack magic than wasting your time with buffs/debuffs. Some bosses have really gimmicky reactions to this, which is generally a good thing. They last pretty much the entire battle, so you just buff up once and go back to your normal rotation.
  • Status ailment magic - Terrible option. Random battles are too short for this to be useful during them. Most enemies resist a whole ton of ailments. Not a lot of variation with ailments. Bosses, almost without exception, completely resist every single ailment. The same MP could go towards attack or healing magic.
  • Healing - Good option. Only done when necessary. All the spells here are either direct-heal or status-curing. No regen, no "sacrifice self to heal and revive all others", no Pre-Raise auto-revive, no temporarily increasing max HP. Incredibly boring.
  • Item - Effectively identical to magic but consumes items instead of MP. Items are plentiful.
Effectively, you only have two practical options available at any given point during a battle: Attack and heal. You have several options for "attack", but almost never have to think about it because one is obviously the best. There are a couple of things you could do to make every encounter feel unique without adding any mechanics FFIV doesn't already have.
  • Increase status ailment effectiveness and potency - Random enemies resisting few, if any, ailments increases their usefulness as a combat tool. this gives an extra tactical option to battles besides direct-damage.
  • Remove high-powered non-elemental magic - Forces the player to interface with the element mechanics. If the best attack spell is all-target non-elemental, it's going to beat out every other option in total DPS in almost every situation.
  • Remove damage cap - FFIV's 9999 damage cap is an incredibly stupid thing to have. At end-game you're doing around 7k damage per-attack. No game should have a damage ceiling so low. The damage cap is also a soft-nerf to the element system. Say Fire3 does 5k damage by default and non-elemental Meteor does 8k, but the enemy is 3x weak to fire. Fire3 does 9999 damage, while Meteor does 8k. Pointless. By removing the damage cap, Fire3 now does 15k damage.
  • Vary enemy formations - Random enemy formations in FFIV amount to little more than sandbags that occasionally hit back. Adding enough variation to make the player unsure of which target to prioritize goes a long way in creating mechanical depth. If you're fighting an extremely tanky dragon that does damage based on current HP, a speedy ninja with a low chance of causing instant death, and a fighter that can absolutely destroy your mages,
    which do you prioritize? Making almost every single encounter cause these kinds of split-second decisions, as well as creating enough of them so as to not let the player get familiar with formations makes battles a lot less boring.
  • Heavily increase rarity of MP-restoring items - Adds a factor of resource management. Now, instead of thinking "how can I end this battle as quickly as possible?" the question becomes "how can I end this battle as efficiently as possible?" The former is easily solved. The latter can take the entire game to properly figure out.
Some examples of series that utilize the mechanical changes I suggest: Etrian Odyssey and Dragon Quest. Etrian Odyssey's complex and formidably difficult combat system is almost universally praised, while Dragon Quest's more casual take proves that you don't have to make a game palatable only to hardcore RPG fanatics to have a battle system that's engaging for the entire playthrough.

2. and 3. are the ideal in every turn-based combat system. 4. is game-dependent, but you know best about your project's goals. Stick to those guidelines, they're very good!

Side note, Darkest Dungeon very much feels like a darker, grittier Paper Mario game (without action commands)... numbers are so low you can run them in your head, every turn matters, and it's viewed in a sideview perspective. I'd say it's worth looking at it for inspiration, especially if you want to make a more traditional RPG instead of a kid-friendly spinoff.
Haha, I don't know if I'd consider Darkest Dungeon to be at all similar to Paper Mario! Only the low-value numbers involved are similar. Absolutely a great source of inspiration for seeing how a game can innovate on a turn-based battle system. Some key traits:
  • 0 HP is not death - At 0 HP, you're put into a "Death's Door" state where the character has a base 1/3 chance of dying on any consecutive damage taken. You can theoretically live forever if the dice are on your side, but it puts you on the edge of your seat the entire time regardless.
  • Stress - Doing basically anything (but especially taking damage) increases your character's stress. Reaching 100 stress has 3/4 chance of causing a long-lasting debilitating debuff and a 1/4 chance of a buff. But then you notice that stress increases past 100... Once stress reaches 200 your character has a heart attack, either putting them immediately at 0HP/Death's Door, or outright killing them if they are already at Death's Door.
  • Permanent death - Basically taken wholesale from roguelikes. Characters that die are dead. They stay dead, and you cannot revive them. Applying mechanics almost unaltered from a more niche subgenre can still be innovation!
 
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Zizka

Member
Thanks for the lengthy reply.

I'd say Darkest Dungeon isn't what I'm going for at all since there's no active input while in battle.

New version with more pictures this time:

image_2020-12-16_154642.png
Health meter: decided to go with a number as it would allow me more freedom and flexibility with variables.

image_2020-12-16_155054.png
Energy. The blue dot represents a spent energy while the bolts are currently unspent. Since the amount of energy will remain low, I prefer to use units as opposed to numbers provided it doesn't clash with having HP as numbers.

image_2020-12-16_155405.png
Enemy intention: enemies display what their upcoming action will when the round ends. In this case, increases attack by one point and increases defense one point.

image_2020-12-16_155634.png
Clock: The clock goes clockwise. When the clock is full, the round is over and the round outcome is determined.

image_2020-12-16_155838.png
Content bar: The pointer
goes left and right while the clock is ticking.

Each colored bar has a different outcome. The player presses a button to make the selection. Each selection costs one energy (see above). So three selections.

RED: One energy is lost with no further impact.
Orange: Increases defense by one.
Blur: Increases attack by one.

The player therefore needs to prepare and adapt according to the enemy's intention; i.e. building enough defense not to take any damage while dealing as much damage as possible.

I could have all sorts of colors for the bar with various outcomes. Rounds can also last shorter/longer depending on the enemy.

More interesting?
 
Thank you for adding some pictures! It really does help a lot.

If you want my honest opinion on your mechanics as described there: It doesn't sound fun.

Unless I'm wrong, almost the entirety of the player's interaction with the combat system is through the "content bar". Undertale's battle system works because it has enough depth to the bullet-dodging minigame to make constantly breaking its own rules interesting. There's not much you can do to make pressing A in time with an arrow interesting. It will get old fast, especially when there's zero downtime in fights. I'm assuming "continuous player input" means the clock is constantly ticking and the meter is always running. It sounds downright draining to be in a battle for any extended period of time. I can't imagine even a 10-minute boss fight where I have to pay constant attention to a meter. It would be functionally identical to basing an entire battle system on TTYD's Earth Tremor.
 

Zizka

Member
I guess you’re right, it would get tedious over time and especially diverse.

I think Undertale does defence right with the bullet hell but it doesn’t carry over in the “attack” sequences where it doesn’t innovate as much.

I’d like to either merge attack and defence sequences together or have a unique system for both separately.

So back to the drawing board then.
 

Zizka

Member
Ok, I've tried another idea.



This is inspired by Undertale but also different.

1. The player has control of the golden shield in the interactive "box" on the right. It can move left and right.

2. When the enemy clock runs full, the enemy attacks triggers. In the example above, the attack is represented by a smaller icon of the enemy. The clock serves to indicate the player when the attack will be coming.

3. Blocking an attack prevents damage while unblocked attacks (which reach the bottom of the screen) causes a set amount of damage based on the enemy.

4. This would allow me for variety in enemy attacks and I find the current could be fun.

I still need an idea for an equivalent for the attack process.

5. Regarding the attack process, I was thinking of giving the player options. Depending on the attack, the attack would take place in the interactive box. Perhaps trying to hit the enemy icon or reaching the upper part of the screen.
 

Attachments

Yal

🍋 *lemon noises*
GMC Elder
Content bar
That's where Youtubers go to drink after work, right? 🦈

The word "content" manages to dehumanize abstract concepts, so I'd really avoid it if at all possible - even if it won't be used in player-facing vocab, you don't want to steer YOUR OWN mind towards less creative territory if you can avoid it.

Also, you seriously need to learn that cool graphics isn't the same as innovation. Displaying a wheel as a straight line or an energy meter as a bunch of lightning bolts doesn't change how those mechanics fundamentally work, and players will see through this. Wrapping flat standard ideas in some pretty paper is only going to get you so far. Undertale mixing bullet hell gameplay and RPG strategy (with a focus on reading flavor text and understanding the enemy's personality to figure out what strategy will be the most effective) was innovative, pressing a button on a line is not.

Haha, I don't know if I'd consider Darkest Dungeon to be at all similar to Paper Mario! Only the low-value numbers involved are similar.
And also the perspective and hand-drawn art style :p Gameplaywise, not so much, but I try to see to the design as a whole.

The problem with a lot of RPGs is that they don't use their combat systems to their full potential.
Totally agreeing on this, and this is the largest problem with @Zizka's Content Bar idea as well - there's a very low skill floor and skill ceiling, the only thing you can really get better at is your button press timing, and there's no strategy involved! It's basically functionally the same as FF4 - if you always just hit A twice to pick "attack" and the first target as quickly as possible, it's basically a QTE to keep the content bar going.

So here's some ranting about GOOD RPGs:
  • Etrian Odyssey's bind systems: binding an enemy's limbs makes them unable to use skills using them (e.g. bind hands --> they can't grab and throw you), this also applies to the player! Using bind moves strategically after watching and learning an enemy's moveset is important, and adds immersion. And you need to build your party so that you have skills using different parts of the body, so you won't be completely useless in a bind. Again, "mixing brawn with brain" is encouraged in the game mechanics - ludonarrative consonance leads to deeper immersion.
  • Dark Souls uses the combat system for everything, including to interact with NPCs (there's untrustworthy people that will backstab you in every game, but you can just start attacking them first if you're suspicious!), detecting fake walls (attack them and see if they break), and most importantly getting past enemies. Most weapons have unique movesets and most enemies have no designated way to kill them (except some bosses with puzzles involved - Bed of Chaos, Ancient Wyvern, Yhorm the Giant - and they're universally hated among the community) so there's a lot of room for player experiementation, but it all follows very simple rules. Easy to learn, hard to master.
  • Darkest Dungeon's status ailments are guaranteed damage, and in a game with a lot of RNG manipulation against your favor (stress causing heroes to refuse obeying orders, personality quirks affecting behavior, random turn order, low base hit chances) it's really flippin' good to KNOW that the enemy will take 4 damage this turn. On top of this, damage-over-time doesn't get affected by armor, so it's objectively more efficient against armor-tanky enemies... and objectively worse against meat-tanky enemies with 0% defense but tons of HP. This adds a new layer of strategy for your overall party composition (don't bring plague doctors when fighting pigs) AND the moment-to-moment gameplay.
 

Zizka

Member
  • Etrian Odyssey's bind systems: binding an enemy's limbs makes them unable to use skills using them (e.g. bind hands --> they can't grab and throw you), this also applies to the player! Using bind moves strategically after watching and learning an enemy's moveset is important, and adds immersion. And you need to build your party so that you have skills using different parts of the body, so you won't be completely useless in a bind. Again, "mixing brawn with brain" is encouraged in the game mechanics - ludonarrative consonance leads to deeper immersion.
  • Dark Souls uses the combat system for everything, including to interact with NPCs (there's untrustworthy people that will backstab you in every game, but you can just start attacking them first if you're suspicious!), detecting fake walls (attack them and see if they break), and most importantly getting past enemies. Most weapons have unique movesets and most enemies have no designated way to kill them (except some bosses with puzzles involved - Bed of Chaos, Ancient Wyvern, Yhorm the Giant - and they're universally hated among the community) so there's a lot of room for player experiementation, but it all follows very simple rules. Easy to learn, hard to master.
  • Darkest Dungeon's status ailments are guaranteed damage, and in a game with a lot of RNG manipulation against your favor (stress causing heroes to refuse obeying orders, personality quirks affecting behavior, random turn order, low base hit chances) it's really flippin' good to KNOW that the enemy will take 4 damage this turn. On top of this, damage-over-time doesn't get affected by armor, so it's objectively more efficient against armor-tanky enemies... and objectively worse against meat-tanky enemies with 0% defense but tons of HP. This adds a new layer of strategy for your overall party composition (don't bring plague doctors when fighting pigs) AND the moment-to-moment gameplay.
The problem is that the suggestions you are making do not tailor to the objectives I've set for myself. :oops: In other words, the mechanics you've described above are all good but it's sort of beside the point so to speak. So yes, I agree that the above are all good mechanics, Etrian Odyssey being one of my favorite series (so is Dark Soul and Darkest Dungeon to a lesser extent).

Maybe I wasn't clear so that's on me. I've added more information to clarify everything.

1. Every encounter should be unique. No "fight, fight, fight" and save MP for the boss.
Every enemy has a different setup. Meaning that enemy variety doesn't solely rest of different graphics and different stats.

I'm also not looking for an A-RPG like Dark Souls or Zelda.


2. Player should have some agency in combat, it shouldn't be entirely RNG based.
By agency I mean skill based input. While strategy is a likely element, reflexes should also play a role. This is why Etrian Odyssey and Darkest Dungeon do not apply here.

3. Encourage risk/reward.

4. Should be as simple as possible while making sure #1 is respected.


It's basically functionally the same as FF4 - if you always just hit A twice to pick "attack" and the first target as quickly as possible, it's basically a QTE to keep the content bar going.
I disagree, I don't think it's the same thing. For instance, in Paper Mario some skill is required, some good timing to land your consecutive jumps right. Having good timing is different than selecting a fight option with automated results. One require players agency (through timing) while the other doesn't.
 

Zizka

Member
Another attempt.

Battle_System_12.gif

Background is a place holder.

image_2020-12-21_110659.png
1. Everything in battle requires energy from defense to offense.

2. In the thought balloon is a list of the currently known skills/attack. The cost is indicated next to each skill along with an icon.

image_2020-12-21_110906.png
3. This is the defense bar with the moving star. The star actually moves along the whole bar, not just on the marked areas.

The shield represents blocking. The closer to the middle of the shield icon the star is, the higher % the damage is reduced although it cannot reach 100%. Blocking is therefore easier but doesn't block all damage.

The "running man" icon is the dodge icon. In order to dodge, the star needs to be perfectly timed to the icon, right in the middle. Being off, means taking full damage but timing it perfectly means a successful dodge and negates all damage. This is where risk/reward comes into play.

image_2020-12-21_111312.png
4. Finally, the attack wheel. Each enemy influence the content of the attack wheel differently. The tip of the sword indicates the pointing area. The red means a miss, the green a hit and the yellow a critical hit.
 
Another attempt.

View attachment 36492

Background is a place holder.

View attachment 36493
1. Everything in battle requires energy from defense to offense.

2. In the thought balloon is a list of the currently known skills/attack. The cost is indicated next to each skill along with an icon.

View attachment 36494
3. This is the defense bar with the moving star. The star actually moves along the whole bar, not just on the marked areas.

The shield represents blocking. The closer to the middle of the shield icon the star is, the higher % the damage is reduced although it cannot reach 100%. Blocking is therefore easier but doesn't block all damage.

The "running man" icon is the dodge icon. In order to dodge, the star needs to be perfectly timed to the icon, right in the middle. Being off, means taking full damage but timing it perfectly means a successful dodge and negates all damage. This is where risk/reward comes into play.

View attachment 36495
4. Finally, the attack wheel. Each enemy influence the content of the attack wheel differently. The tip of the sword indicates the pointing area. The red means a miss, the green a hit and the yellow a critical hit.
I don't understand; this seems to just be the "content bar" from before but with a prettier UI. The primary method of interacting with the battle system is still just a singular button press timed with a meter.
 

Yal

🍋 *lemon noises*
GMC Elder
The problem is that the suggestions you are making do not tailor to the objectives I've set for myself.
I'm reading that as "You don't just unconditionally praise my ideas, so I'll ignore your input". If you don't want constructive feedback, what are you doing here? You might as well have a devblog with comments disabled, only a like button - then you'll get what you're looking for.
 

Zizka

Member
I'm reading that as "You don't just unconditionally praise my ideas, so I'll ignore your input".
Then you’re reading it wrong.

Let me clarify:

I want to have a combat system which involves player reflexes as part of the combat. Neither Darkest Dungeon or Etrian Odyssey do that, ergo what you are referencing to do not relate to the goal I’ve set for my combat design.

Darkest Dungeon and Etrian Odyssey are both oriented on strategy while Paper Mario on a variety of QTE events. As I’ve said, they both are great games with awesome combat mechanics, just not the type I’m looking for. To give you an idea, it’s as if I replied to the comment about your magical cloud idea with “You should use a magic sword like Sword of Mana because of x, y and z.” It’d be off topic.

I hope you understand better.

@nacho_chicken
Well, I’m trying to make the QTE more complex than simple button input but if you’re pointing out that they’re still too similar I think that’s a fair point and good feedback. I’m starting to think that the only way to implement QTE in a RPG battle is to have a wide variety of them and then calibrate them. So maybe it’s time to explore new avenues.

@Mr Magnus:
I think you’re saying I should be more clear in my explanations. Thank you, I’ll do that in the next version.
 
I'm reading that as "You don't just unconditionally praise my ideas, so I'll ignore your input". If you don't want constructive feedback, what are you doing here? You might as well have a devblog with comments disabled, only a like button - then you'll get what you're looking for.
I think this went over the line. Zizka has made several high-quality topics over the past year or so, and every time he has been consistently open and accepting to criticism and has always shown screenshots/mockups of progress where he made improvements based off those criticisms. I see no reason why, given his history, the assumption shouldn't be that he just didn't understand the criticism properly, and that's fair—I know I'm never 100% clear when delivering it.

Well, I’m trying to make the QTE more complex than simple button input but if you’re pointing out that they’re still too similar I think that’s a fair point and good feedback. I’m starting to think that the only way to implement QTE in a RPG battle is to have a wide variety of them and then calibrate them. So maybe it’s time to explore new avenues.
I think this is the right track. Every RPG I know of that successfully uses a action commands in their combat system has something different for every type of action. If you're looking into doing something a bit out-of-the-norm, I suggest taking a page from the Mario & Luigi games instead of Paper Mario. Very few (if any, I can't remember any) of the action commands have any kind of on-screen HUD element telling you when to press/release a button. The animations themselves show you when to act. This would absolutely require more planning, though. You can't really change animations on-the-fly as easily as a HUD.
 

Zizka

Member
I've spent the last two days reworking everything from the ground up for one main reason:

Production wise, I would need to do a ton more animations which are very time consuming. Honestly, I think that would be the best approach but I've dropped too many projects because I was over-ambitious so I've learned to be mindful of what I intend to implement something.

I would also need to do the same for each enemy, design their attack patterns, calibrate them and most likely deal with a lot of bugs resulting from the character interactions.

I used to find that the attacks in Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga to be limited. If I were to have a good variety, it would had a lot of issues: finding the QTE for each one, make sure each one provided a challenge, animate each one, etc...

In my other project I have a dice based mechanic. I decided to explore this approach once again but make it simpler. I had to redo a lot of art, make new one, redesign everything and reorganize the U.I.

I'm not definitely crossing out the idea, but I'd need to find a way so that it remains manageable for a solo project.

5th Design:
Explanations:


Setup
Each die is a regular 6-faced die. Following is a breakdown of each die for the player (the astronaut).


image_2020-12-25_110452.png
Defense:
2 out of the sides. Each shield increase defense by 1.

image_2020-12-25_110623.png
Attack:
2 out of the sides. Each crossed swords increases attack 1.

image_2020-12-25_110931.png
Miss!:
1 out of 6. This doesn't provide anything, it's essentially a bad roll.

image_2020-12-25_111121.png
Special Ability:
1 out of 6. This increases the ability point by one. Ability points can traded to trigger special abilities which are meant to be powerful. Since they don't provide any attack or defense, proper timing to use them is important.

Abilities:
Abilities are displayed in the cloud menu at the very bottom:

For instance, in order to trigger Super Punch, the player would need to roll 3 stars in total.

Process:
Both player and enemy have a first, initial roll.

The player then can re-roll any result, both his or the enemies. Each re-roll costs one energy, which is where energy comes into play:


While energy is replenished at the beginning of each fight, it is limited in battle. It is therefore important to ration it appropriately.


Fangs is the equivalent for the crossed swords for the player. It increases the attack power of the enemy by 1. Each defense negates one attack point.


Evil Shield is the equivalent of the moon shield for the player. It negates one attack point from the player. If the player rolled two crossed swords (total attack power 2) and the enemy rolls 2 evil shield, no damage is done.


Skull is the equivalent of the star. Each enemy has its own arsenal of special abilities (seen in the cloud at the bottom).
 

Zizka

Member

Custom Face this is an example of a special dice icon. This gives me the option to have special die for enemies which opens up plenty of room of customization.


This rerolls whichever dice the player wants to re-roll (previously selected dice).


This ends the round, committing to the decisions made and triggering special abilities for both parties, comparing attack and defense, etc...

Then, the second round begins with another initial roll and the process continues until the health of the player or enemy reaches 0.
 

Zizka

Member
Alright then, another update, the 6th one.

I've reworked the whole UI, changing the health and energy bars. Also, for health, the top row equates to 10 small squares. In the example below, the player has 30 health points. This was inspired by Metroid.

Everything has been made more uniform.

Instead of having a re-roll button, I just added a re-roll button under each dice which the player wants to be re-rolled. I don't know if this makes everything look too cluttered? Not sure.

Star Points can be banked, thus the star bar. This would allow the player to save up on star points for a more potent action.

I've also added a sort of text box which will give information about the various elements of the interface. The finger icon determines what is displayed in the text box:

image_2020-12-30_110314.png

V. 6.0:
 

Zizka

Member
So I had put this on the back burner a bit. Something was bothering me about the current system and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Current Flaws:
1. Non-sensical reactions:
As it turns out, something does bother me. The thing is that some actions wouldn't make sense, here's why.

Suppose both parties end up rolling all defense, the round is essentially a waste as nothing essentially happens. This isn't a big deal per se but it doesn't make sense how both would just go in full defense.

2. Cluttering:
There's a lot of stuff on the screen at the moment which might come across as overbearing.

V. 7: What's New?
So what I did is to first of all, clear all of the clutter from the screen and attempted to streamline things further.

1. Went back to using ATB to determine whose turn it is to act. You know the idea, once the bar is full, it's that character turn to act.
image_2021-01-10_115145.png

2. I decided to opt for practicability over esthetics. Numbers are quicker to take in than counting bars. Same thing for energy. The idea is to have the same mechanics as a meter from a gas pump, with the numbers rolling up or down.
image_2021-01-10_115423.png

3. I've gotten rid of star points as well to simplify things as much as possible. I'd rather stick to as few units as possible. Energy will therefore be used for both re-rolling and special abilities.

4. The core idea has been changed somewhat as well. I've decided to treat offense and defense as two distinct entities.

In other words, when it's the player's turn, offensive dice will be used to determine outcome of an attack. Alternatively, defense dice will be used when enemies attack.

I'd need to organize the screen to have some room for the result of the enemies attack to show up as well as their defense.
 

Zizka

Member
V. 8: Almost there:
I've simplified things some more and moved things around to make the UI generally better looking and more practical.

As mentioned in my previous message, the player ultimately has two stances: active and reactive.

Active:
krita_mA96gWr8uS.png
This happens when the action bar fills up for the player.

The player then has two options: either use a special ability in the thought cloud or go for an attack by selecting which enemy to strike with the cursor icon.

Instead of rolling multiple dice, I'm thinking of using a single one.

image_2021-01-12_094015.png Fumble: 1/6: missed attack, lost turn. I'm undecided if I would allow a re-roll or not.

image_2021-01-12_094122.png Glancing blow: 2/6: partially successful blow. Lowest damage.

image_2021-01-12_094219.pngStandard blow: 2/6: Standard attack. Medium damage.

image_2021-01-12_094338.png Critical hit: 1/6: Maximum damage.


Selecting an enemy will give the player all of the information needed about the possible outcome of the enemy die result.

Re-Active:
Anything re-active is usually a reaction to an enemy attack of some sort, either a status effect or direct attack.

From left to right:
Glancing defense: reduce incoming damage minimally.

Standard defense: medium damage reduction.

Critical defense: maximum defense reduction.

Fumble: No damage reduction.

Other Changes:

I've gotten rid of the dice tray. There was no point in keeping it beside waiting space and adding clutter.

As it stands, the screen is still unbalanced with that wide gap at the bottom right of the screen.



The set of dice for the player will be limited to one as opposed to the four being displayed right now, this is just to show you what the art looks like.
 

Zizka

Member
V. 9: Ever Closer:
⭐: I've created a little animation to indicate to the player that the dice is about to be re-rolled, this allows me not too use a big bulky button to indicate a re-roll: Untitled.gif. The idea is to put it either on top of the dice icon or next to it.

⭐: I've removed some more clutter. The defense/offense icon now displays according to the context. Same thing for the enemies.

⭐: I've reworked the ATB to make it look better. You can see the difference between the old bar under the enemies and the new one under Cosmo (the astronaut protagonist).

⭐: I've reworked both the player defense and offense icons to make them more discreet.

⭐: I've cleaned up the information box in the lower right and made the skills thought cloud about the same size to sort of balance the screen out.

⭐: I've slightly improved the look of the health meter and worked on the animation when the player takes damage.
Health Meter.gif

The idea is for the health meter to actually roll down slower than that. Much like Earthbound I'd like for the health to take time to take into affect when it comes to the negative. In other words, suppose the player takes fatal damage (10 damage for example) but manages to finish the fight before it reaches 0, the player lives on and the health remains at the number it had reached when the fight ended.

I think it's about it more or less, I think I'll now have to wait an see how it plays out in-game to make further modifications.

 

Attachments

Zizka

Member
V. 10: Ever Closer 2.0

So it dawned on me that I could improve things even further.

⭐ It dawned on me that the current layout could easily be fixed by structuring things like in Dragon Quest:
1610896494570.png


The idea being of having the enemies in the middle and the player at the bottom. This way I could properly set the layout.

⭐ I also realized I could streamline things even more. In this case, I could remove moving the cursor all over the player again.

Either by a text box (like above) or by using keyboard shortcuts. This way, I could limit the cursor movement to a box as opposed to having it all over the place.



Also the "Psioniks" cloud wouldn't be showed unless the player select the option to keep clutter to a minimum, something like this:

Psi Cloud.gif

I still need to tweak the enemies representations since it's clashing at the moment but it's improving every time I find.
 

Zizka

Member
Thanks nacho.

V.11:

⭐ Instead of having the defense/offense logo just hover out of nowhere, I decided to make it appear in Cosmo's helmet since there's some room there:
Offense_defense_switch.gif
Another option is to have it on top of the dice frame to make it coherent with the foes layout.

⭐ I've added a frame to the dice so that it doesn't seem to just float there out of nowhere. I'm not sure if this is final or not or the way it looks as is.
image_2021-01-18_135353.png

⭐ I've reworked the enemies layout. I tried to stack all of the information on top of another but it didn't look right so I tried a new way.

image_2021-01-18_151330.png

I'm happy with it, mostly. Health now looks good even with two digits crammed in there provided the font is slightly smaller.

Fonts, fonts, fonts:
So now have to find a good font for the game. There so many around, it's like picking food on a menu when you can't make up your mind.

Dafonts.com has a lot of fonts but there isn't really quality control in the sense that some fonts are missing a lot of characters (numbers even!). This mean it's important to scan through to make sure the font doesn't only look right but that it's also sufficiently complete.

So what I did is to try various fonts to figure out how it would look in-game to find the perfect match.

I'm posting this here with my comments. If you want you can let me know which font you prefer as a potential reader. I'm looking for a font which has personality and a handwriting vibe going on.


1. Ok but a little on the thin side.
2. Same problem.
3. Bolder but lacking the height on #1.
4. This is the one I'm considering right now.

I personally don't think it has the same charm as the previous font but it's fairly close. FOT-POPJOYSTD-B.OTF, the original font (incidentally the font used in Paper Mario) just has a lot of personality going for it which, as far as I'm concerned, is unsurpassed. The font also supports other languages which is really incredible (including Japanese).

⭐ I've changed the evil shield as well, the previous one was dodgy.

 
Thanks nacho.

V.11:

⭐ Instead of having the defense/offense logo just hover out of nowhere, I decided to make it appear in Cosmo's helmet since there's some room there:
View attachment 37185
Another option is to have it on top of the dice frame to make it coherent with the foes layout.

⭐ I've added a frame to the dice so that it doesn't seem to just float there out of nowhere. I'm not sure if this is final or not or the way it looks as is.
View attachment 37186

⭐ I've reworked the enemies layout. I tried to stack all of the information on top of another but it didn't look right so I tried a new way.

View attachment 37187

I'm happy with it, mostly. Health now looks good even with two digits crammed in there provided the font is slightly smaller.

Fonts, fonts, fonts:
So now have to find a good font for the game. There so many around, it's like picking food on a menu when you can't make up your mind.

Dafonts.com has a lot of fonts but there isn't really quality control in the sense that some fonts are missing a lot of characters (numbers even!). This mean it's important to scan through to make sure the font doesn't only look right but that it's also sufficiently complete.

So what I did is to try various fonts to figure out how it would look in-game to find the perfect match.

I'm posting this here with my comments. If you want you can let me know which font you prefer as a potential reader. I'm looking for a font which has personality and a handwriting vibe going on.


1. Ok but a little on the thin side.
2. Same problem.
3. Bolder but lacking the height on #1.
4. This is the one I'm considering right now.
4 looks really nice.

EDIT: I came back to this and wanted to add some reasons why I said that, as that'd be helpful.
Feels cartoony and imparts a slightly childlike mood without going overboard. Meaning, it matches the aesthetic you're going for perfectly. I honestly think it fits even better than the previous font you were using.
 
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Zizka

Member
Thanks for the explanations regarding the font, it does help.
V. 12:
Not much new this time around but I want to keep doing updates.

⭐ : I reworked the evil shield because I still didn't like the previous version but I like this new one.

⭐: I've reduced the transparency of the windows a bit. I noticed this is what they did in Dragon Quest VII and thought it was a good idea as my previous version might have been a bit hard on the eyes for reading purposes.

⭐: I've moved around the enemies some more which would allow me to fit four enemies at once should I elect to do so.

 

Zizka

Member
V. 13:

This update is mostly aimed to clear up the mechanics and ground the structure of the game.

⭐: I've added a 'confirm' animation for the hand. The idea is to press once to trigger the animation and press again to confirm it:
Selection Icon.gif
(there's an artifact on the right there which I can't get rid of for some reason but I'll get to it eventually of course).

⭐: The idea is for the current defense or offense to appear on top of the frame, like so:
image_2021-01-21_092826.png
...which is compared to the opponent's defense:

image_2021-01-21_093052.png

The discrepancy between the two numbers indicate how much damage is dealt. If the offensive (yellow number) is below the defensive number, no damage is dealt. This is then deducted from the health of the player or the enemy accordingly. As usual, an enemy is defeated at 0 hp and the player loses at 0 hp.

It is essentially the equivalent of a ''fight'' option in any rpg, the difference being that the outcome can be controlled/inflluenced.

⭐ The 'Psioniks' tab is essentially 'magic' in any rpg. It is the alternative to attacking and where part of the strategy comes into play.

This gives me plenty of room to add variety to battles. For instance, 'Zapper' could add a shock status and 'Pyro Blast' a burn status. Various status having various effects. For example, a 'burn' status could deal damage every turn for a certain amount of time (like poison) while being shocked could prevent re-rolls or increase the energy cost to re-roll.

⭐ There is one thing I'm still undecided about is whether or not to allow an automatic roll every turn, let me explain:

A. The attack is rolled automatically every turn. The player can then decide to either re-roll (as shown in the options), to use Psioniks or to confirm the current roll.

This pros of this is that if a player is dealt a bad roll, there are two opportunities: default to Psioniks or re-roll. If the roll is good, the player might decide to delay using Psioniks in order not to waste that roll.

B. The player must decide beforehand whether or not to attack and roll or to use psioniks.

This means that once the player has decided to attack, he can't resort to psioniks anymore. This means that the player must moves more because if there's a bad roll, energy must be spent to re-roll for a better result or go for Psioniks and default an attack for this turn.

On one hand, I find A more attractive gameplay wise but makes less sense than B. It doesn't really make sense to know the result of the attack before committing to it...

Then again, since the protagonist is essentially a psychic, I guess I could justify this as a some sort of premonition gift.

I currently think I'd for B. In this case, I would rework the frame with the re-roll and confirm option. I like the way it looks:

image_2021-01-21_101103.png

This would also mean I rework the information window:

You'll notice I've replaced the confirm button with the attack button. I've also added a ''run away'' option.

EDIT: I've redone the defense shield as well.


⭐: One thing I'm considering is adding a third dice set to determine the outcome of Psioniks. I need to be constantly wary of feature creep otherwise things will get too complex to manage.

Do you guys have a preference for A. or B.? If so, why?


Animation when choosing to re-roll or to confirm.

Thought bubble animation:
 
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