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Combat system suggestion

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I'm a bit familiar with Avernum and Geneforge series. I love all these turn or step-based indie games. They have the great playability of classics. The greatest weakness of classic games is their clunky interface and extremely ugly graphics, up to ASCII. This is the wrong that indie RPGs usually set right.


I also tried making a RPG of my own. I've ran into programming issues and technical limitations that stopped me, but I've got some ideas. Everyone complain that turn-based combats are slow. I guess so, if the enemies run after me one after another, it takes forever. But why does it have to be like that?


There are things about Spiderweb games that I always admired. One of them is very powerful pathfinding system. The idea I have is




For example, if in the array of actions for the next round there are enemies who are about to perform the same action one after another (i.e. meelee attacks, ranged attacks, or movement) then the particular group of enemies can perform all the clump of actions in one round!


Instead of goblins running at my group one after another, they could show some group spirit and move together too. I'm sure the pathfinding system could handle that.


Another case, if I'm already surrounded by the goblins, and they want to slash my characters with their rusty swords, then why don't they all slash together?


And if there's a group of goblin slingers ahead, then they should shoot together too. Not one after another. "Hey, Georghul, nice shot! Better than Fredghus did in last round. OK, it's my round now, prepare, aim, fire!"


Of course, various series of attacks, ripostes, etc, may take different time, so the one round might be longer, but it will be still one round, not six, depending on the number of enemies.


Of course, if the array for actions of characters in one round is dispersed among my warriors and various enemies, then grouping of similar actions won't be always possible. But still, it's going to be all much faster than it is now.

I am actually a little inspired by the game Eschalon: Book I. I think actual combat there is still turn-based, but all enemies have the decency to walk together, not delaying the action needlessly.


I don't believe that it's all so impossibly diffcult to program. Even I think I could do that, in my opinion data management of maps, items, inventory, chests and save files is much, much more diffcult to make. And the pathfinding system too. A simple modification of this ancient primitive turn-based system would bring much more fun, because people wouldn't go away to cook coffee between the turns.


So that's it. I think I have read some time, somewhere that Spiderweb has some hidden future projects that will be hopefully on similar but hopefully different and improved turn-based engine. Hopefully my remarks are completely useless, because Spiderweb Software already saw them million times and prepared their future game engines accordingly or even better.

Or maybe that was Basilisk Software, I really don't know. So what's the situation? I think these ideas are worthy of being provisorily coded and tested in action.


Roy Dest

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This would make implementing artificial intelligence much more difficult. Suppose one of your characters has HP left within the range of possible damage that Goblin A might do with a typical strike. Goblin B is going to have to decide whether to target that character or another character before it's known whether that character survives the first blow.


Or are you suggesting that this isn't a modification of the combat system, but just how the results of combat are displayed--so that, in fact, the goblins are able to strategize the same way and their actions are simply displayed at the same time? That's be more plausible, but either the AI would have to make a lot of bad decisions or it would appear sort of cheap.

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The problem is the way the game is coded to have the monsters' actions done in order that they are listed in an array that represents all the monsters in that zone. The AI decides upon a monster's action, checks the pathfinding if needed, and then calls for the graphics commands to do the monster's actions. That's why it takes so long to get through a round.


It would take recoding the game engine to speed things up.

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OK... Please, did any of you check out Eschalon? It's demo version is a good example of what I mean. It's actually nothing else than Hack n' Slash engine that was in ADOM and all roguelike games, just nicely animated. It would be VERY interesting to see it in a party-based game.


Basically, it's a bit similar to the non-combat engine of Avernum, modified for combat. All enemy's actions and decisions are re-checked after every step. (but seamlessly) The old Avernum engine can work like that, it's similar to it does when the combat system is not switched on. It would be probably a bit demanding for computing power, but computers today are powerful.


At the very least my dream is to see a fictive animation or video of how such a combat would look like.


Yes, it would probably take recoding the engine.

But at the very least, in good strategic turn-based combat RPGs like Helherron, there's an option for quick combat. Either all needless animations are drastically shortened, or the party itself uses AI to fight in a speedy mode.


It's obvious that there are efforts to speed it up - like keyboard shortcuts. But in new Avernums it's sabotaged by the need to wait for already seen and microscopic, almost invisible animations.


Game: The goblin is hit by acid shower!

Goblin: *writhe* *writhe* *writhe* (-50 HP by acid damage)

Player: "Hey, when the animation is done? The round takes forever!"

Goblin: "Wait, I have to writhe some more." *writhe* *writhe* "It looks better than if I'd stand motionless like a rock, right?"

Player: "Yeah, but do it in your free time! I play this awesome game for weeks, I waited for hordes of monsters to finish writhing and it's getting a bit monotonous."


In game design, this is a classy example of realism that interferes with fun grin

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Eschalon has it's own problems with simultaneous movement. Book 2 is better, but if you have an old (low CPU speed) computer than you can see the game slow down as the AI plots out the actions of all the monsters and NPCs. Towns are a good place to see this problem and all the NPCs are doing is usally walking back and forth.

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Originally Posted By: Roy Dest
in good strategic turn-based combat RPGs... the party itself uses AI to fight

Uhhhh... no.

Yeah, if there's a need for a quick-combat system or whatever, that means that a reasonably large number of combat encounters are so dull that you can't stand to do them yourself. That blows!

That actually reminds me of the later stages of Revelations: The Demon Slayer. I was trekking away, I think up a mountain, and I kept on getting random encounters with monsters I knew I could defeat easily, and I really couldn't be bothered to do anything but the quick-combat feature.
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  • 5 months later...

OK, reviving the old topic a little.


The pathfinding system is surely awesome in it's infallibility.


But is it viable, in return of speeding up the gameplay, to switch it off? It could be replaced by very primitive code that only checks adjacent 8 fields and chooses the one that is:

- free

- closest to the wanted direction. (to the nearest one of player's party)

I have done that with my humble coding capabilities and saw it in practice. I've combined it with a fast but smooth movement and it looks nicely.


Some pros and cons:

- Enemies CAN be fooled and lost off the track, if lured into places like U-shaped corridor.


+ Surprisingly, this does not fail as often as you might think. All characters easily avoid smaller, simple or scattered obstacles and other characters. Or follow corridors that don't go much against the needed direction.


+ It is fast and it allows the enemies to do their movement SIMULTANEOUSLY as a group. Every step, they'd just plan and reserve the squares of their next step (so that they will be reserved for other characters down in roster) and they'd move all at once on the reserved squares.

Of course, all non-groupable actions like attacks would be done separately...


+ It should be simple for coding...


+ It's just an idea, but the same system of "reserving" the squares on which the character is about to move could be used for attacks, in which case two enemies next to each one in roster could attack simultaneously, if they're not attacking the same victim.



The purpose is saving the player's time. If there's 5 goblins in a group, and each one moves 10 square fields to attack, and every field takes 0.5 seconds to move, then it's 25 seconds of waiting per every combat started.

It could be less than 10 seconds for the whole group to move, even in different directions, as long as the actions of characters adjacent in roster are groupable...


Imagine water flowing down around obstacles, instead of one drop at a time. Really, I know I'm annoying with all that "improve what works" attitude... There are people who don't miss a map in Wolfenstein, don't scream bloody murder at lack of direction arrow on map in Ishar 2, (which makes you unable to tell where are you heading) and don't miss mouse in dungeons.

But even they enjoy these things once they're invented.


Originally Posted By: everyday847

Yeah, if there's a need for a quick-combat system or whatever, that means that a reasonably large number of combat encounters are so dull that you can't stand to do them yourself. That blows!


That actually reminds me of the later stages of Revelations: The Demon Slayer. I was trekking away, I think up a mountain, and I kept on getting random encounters with monsters I knew I could defeat easily, and I really couldn't be bothered to do anything but the quick-combat feature.

There's ALWAYS a need for faster, more convenient combat system, or controls, or whatever. The game can be good enough to cover that, but the feeling of "they always have to go a mile one after another before they engage in combat" will show in duller moments. Any game with minimum of these dull moments would have to be completely linear.

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