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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #19: The Combat Grid + Final Days Gamification

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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #19: The Combat Grid + Final Days Gamification

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 8 July 2015, 20:33:57

Tags: Brian Fargo; Chris Keenan; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

With two days left on the clock, the Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter campaign introduces another juicier-than-usual update, courtesy of project lead Chris Keenan. First of all, inXile are running a new set of social media achievements for the final days, and they've also announced the next reward for the regular ones:

In these final days, if you get us 500 retweets of this tweet and 100 shares of this Facebook post we will unlock a special new reward: The Lute of Compulsory Cavorting, a special flavor item which when played will make certain characters in the game do a little dance, whether they want to or not!

Of course our other social media achievements are still ongoing. You’re closing in on room 20, and through the shadows you can see the treasure you’re after: in room 20, you will unlock the all-new Exclusive Brian Fargo Bard Skin for use in the game for all backers! Always wanted to play as Bardic Brian? Well now you can!

This one took quite a bit of nagging and cajoling to get Brian to agree to. He is not a fan of the idea, but personally, I think it will be hilarious. We can finally get him in a kilt and give him some glorious, flowing long hair. Besides, isn’t it slightly more funny that he’s uncomfortable with it?
But the important part of the update (for us) is this treatise on the game's combat positioning system, which explains what Chris was referring to earlier when he spoke of "grid slots":

Many dungeon crawls, including the original Bard’s Tales, make use of a front row/back row system within combat encounters. This type of system allows you some tactical choice to how your party is presented in combat. For example, you can shield some “softer” characters like ranged casters in the back row, which allow them to be protected by stronger adventurers like a warrior. The rules generally state that if there are player characters (PCs) in the front rows, they will take short melee damage before the PC’s in the back do. Of course, ranged weapons and spells can hit back row PC’s regardless of the front row. Commonly this would also apply to the player’s attacks, the back row only able to use spells and ranged attacks.

This system has been used many times prior, with varying levels of modification and effectiveness. It has been rooted in dungeon crawl history and so we will of course have it as a core mechanic in BT4 combat, but there’s also some improvements we can make. For example, it tends to introduce an overly limiting “hard rule set” to the type of party you can make, restricting your choices during character creation. As stated in a previous update, an overarching design goal is to allow players to experiment with many different party make-ups.

To that end, we’ve been working on a system that satisfies the following design goals:

1) Stays true to the spirit of the front/back row positional system
2) Doesn’t overly limit the positions that various PCs are “supposed” to occupy
3) Increases the strategic elements of PC positioning by designing class skills that promote positional movement
4) Feels dynamic while not turning into a chore

First, a vision image of the (WIP) player positioning system. Do keep in mind that at this point in pre-production, nothing is set in stone, but hopefully this will give you an idea of where we are generally pointed…

The large square is representative of a single grid square that the PC’s will occupy (in 1st person POV) while moving around the world. Inside the large grid square are sub-grids. While we haven’t decided on our large grid sizes yet, for the purposes of this explanation, let’s assume it's 12’ x 12’. That would mean each sub-grid is 3’ wide by 5’ long, with a 2 foot “neutral zone” left to fill in the remaining large grid square.

Notice the facing direction pointing up. If you were in combat with enemies, there would be an identical but mirrored grid, but facing down. This leaves a theoretical 4’ of a neutral zone in between the two battling groups. While we have some interesting ideas for things that can occupy the neutral zone, the PC’s will not be able to do so as a usable position. The neutral zone would be a great spot for things like magical shields or other non-player character physical spells.

With 6 party members taking up “sub-grids”, that leaves at least two sub-grids free for summons. During combat, you might want to move a casting character to the front row to execute a short range, but particularly devastating spell. The trade-off is that your caster is now sitting in a vulnerable position. If the user interface is smooth and elegant for moving your adventurers during combat, this could give some interesting strategic options in addition to your party’s skills and spells.

With an easy to understand UI element based on PC positioning, we have a huge opportunity to play with some exciting design ideas based on where PC’s are in the sub-grid. Paladin buffs could give additional bonuses to PCs in adjacent sub-grid slots. Rogues could be masters of movement, swapping places with other heroes or summons, giving more positional freedom. Some skills or spells could even require you to have an open sub-grid slot in front of your PC to cast. We love to hear your ideas on different skills and spells from the Bard’s Tale universe that would be unique to a system like this. Please head over to our forums and let us know what you think!​

That's what I like to see! In addition to all of that, the update also reveals one of the game's areas, the toxic Sulphur Springs, which sounds like it comes out of Wasteland but was apparently a location in Bard's Tale III. And there's a link to this half hour Google Hangouts Q&A session that Brian Fargo just finished doing with a nice lady from Kickstarter, where he confirms that the game's save system will not be checkpoint-based. He says they're considering a positive reinforcement-based system where the player gets rewarded for not saving. Maybe that'll cool down the Kickstarter comment whiners.

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