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Josh Sawyer on the Road to Better Armor Systems

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Josh Sawyer on the Road to Better Armor Systems

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Mon 23 May 2022, 22:00:00

Tags: Fallout: New Vegas; Josh Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Following up on his 2020 presentation about reputation mechanics, Josh Sawyer was supposed to have given a talk about RPG armor systems last year. Somehow it took him until this week to finally get around to it, but here we go at last. He begins by outlining a rough history of armor system design in CRPGs. Classic D&D armor simply makes characters harder to hit, but in video games there's been a trend towards a more simulationist approach in which armor absorbs damage while possibly making characters easier to hit. However, Josh is not a fan of armor systems that are primarily based on the dichotomy of "dodge vs block". He also disapproves of systems that use a single overly abstract numeric representation for armor effectiveness.

Josh's favored approach to armor is a Damage Threshold or Damage Reduction-based system, and preferably a combination of both as seen in Fallout 1 & 2. Fallout: New Vegas primarily used DT, but given more development time he probably would have assigned a larger role to DR in its systems (as he eventually did with his JSawyer mod). Pillars of Eternity also had DT-based armor, but Josh believes the game's profusion of damage types and generally higher damage values made the system unwieldy. For Pillars of Eternity II, he replaced this with a penetration-based system inspired by Darklands, but that turned out to be even more confusing to players.

In future titles, Josh plans to use a more straightforward combination of DT and DR, with the former scaling over the course of the game and the latter using fixed percentage values depending on armor type. Alternatively, he might revisit the penetration concept but use a small number of categories (Low/Medium/High) instead of numeric values to make things easier to understand. Of course, all of this probably isn't relevant to his next game, which isn't going to have a combat system at all.

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