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

Infinitron

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Tags: Bard's Tale IV; Brian Fargo; Chris Keenan; InXile Entertainment

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.
 
Self-Ejected

theSavant

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Fine and simple tactical system. Even in Wiz8 I never used more than 2 rows.

Though I wonder if more than 8 enemies could happen this way... 8 is simply too few.

Reminds me of MMX, when they said they had to subdivide cells in small/medium/large as well. Let's say it allows 2 small enemies per grid cell, then 8 grid slots can hold a maximum of 16 opponents. Meh... please make it 32 at least :P want to crush bugs. A lot of them.
 

Hobz

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They don't mention skills or spells that screws up enemy positioning but I suppose (hope) they have that in mind too.
 

Dorateen

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Sounds like it could be an interesting approach to combat positioning. But they better provide a damn good incentive for a party's mage to wander into the front ranks. Either a spell like Burning Hands that needs to be cast at close range, or a weapon like Olin's quarterstaff.

Hobz now that you mention it, I would expect opponents who can "juggle" the party's order and mess with the player's positioning.
 

Brother None

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They don't mention skills or spells that screws up enemy positioning but I suppose (hope) they have that in mind too.
I brought up the same idea in the design talk on this particular mechanics, I like it a lot. It's too early to say on design details like those, that's a matter of iteration, but yeah it's been brought up.
 

Iri

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Alright, I'm gonna throw out a new conspiracy theory about why this kickstarter seems mismanaged and weirdly focused on social media:

They have learned learned not to promise too much too early. Things like making hugely complicated goals (unlimited c&c! thousands of joinable npcs with backstories! a trillion percent more game for 40k() was an understanble rookie-type bad move. It creates an expectation and guarantees people not being happy later (i wanted to write my own npc, get a golden box on the release date and smoke weed with brian fargo in a jacuzzi!!! waaah i had to wait) They have avoided all of this and been very conservative, which I respect.

The real situation is they also realized they could keep raising funds without kickstarter taking 10%. If they focus on generating early hype and hitting an impressive financial target (a million bucks is alot of money) it buys them time to roll out assets/announcements at their own leisure without a countdown to race against and with a fully greased hype machine made up of die-hards (fellow codexians talking shit the entire time, natch) and can save the really big announcements for later- when they are in complete control of intake of funds as well as what tech and systems/story they are ready to share. Kickstarter is functioning as it should- a stepping stone for groups of interested individuals finding out about projects they are interested in and helping fund them. I think this campaign is not a mistake- it is fucking brilliant and conservative.

PS
To all the haters who shit on crowdfunding and think in a capitalist model we fuction as "investors" without any return, go fuck yourselves. Good games are a rarity in the era of AAA because so much emphasis is put on returns on investments and risk vs. reward etc. Some people just want good games to get made and are willing to trust a good pitch and risk $30 to see if we can help secure another classic in our generation. It gets boring having to compare everything to XCOM, JA2, U7, Fallout and all that.
 

Zed

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That explains their talk about summons and grid slots before.
Yup. But it doesn't explain if this will take place in first person, or if the camera will pan out and show the fight as a game board.
 

mindx2

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That explains their talk about summons and grid slots before.
Yup. But it doesn't explain if this will take place in first person, or if the camera will pan out and show the fight as a game board.
Wasn't it mentioned somewhere that they would have to hit a higher funding goal for that to be implemented...? Which unfortunately means I hope they don't hit that funding goal.
 
Last edited:

Alchemist

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I like what they describe of the tactical combat layout so far - it's good to see some clarification on this topic.
That explains their talk about summons and grid slots before.
Yup. But it doesn't explain if this will take place in first person, or if the camera will pan out and show the fight as a game board.
Wasn't it mentioned somewhere that they would have to hit a higher funding goal for that to be implemented...? Which unfortunately means I hope they don't hit that funding goal.
Yeah, I really hope they don't go for the zoomed-out third-person combat. Ironically, I think it will be less immersive to see the party lined up like chess pieces doing their animations. Much better just to read what happens in the combat log and let our imaginations paint a better picture. In fact, this could allow for a wider and more intricate range of combat actions and descriptions because they aren't limited by an animation budget.
 

Shevek

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I dont see the problem with zoomed out third person combat so long as the exploration remains first person. It can look a bit odd to see the characters standing about like that it in combat but it is gratifying to see them decked out in the gear you find for them.

Its a minor thing either way. Its kinda sad that we have gotten so little info about their plans for this game that we have to debate this entirely cosmetic non issue.
 

Drax

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bWHgdjx.jpg
 

Zed

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none of those guys will end up being involved in this game LOLL
 

Darkzone

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none of those guys will end up being involved in this game LOLL
Long and Zeits are full employees of inXile. The Question is about the skinny bold head one and short straw one. While the bold head has still a chance the short one is perhaps only wishful thinking.
 

Bester

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It's going to be the first kickstarter in history with no "last 2 days surge".
 

Themadcow

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Lets face it, nearly everyone who fondly remembers the original BT either backed this project in week 1 or is dead / dribbling in a retirement home.

Grid based combat is a poor choice IMO. Love it in some games, but BT didn't need to be like other games - it could just be itself (*ahem, or Wizardry*). The system they're outlining makes two things very difficult:

1. Large groups of opponents (a staple of BT games)
2. Spellbinding (which seems to be combat only)
 

Infinitron

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Love it in some games,

What games?

Are you confusing this with isometric tactical combat on a grid? This isn't that. It seems pretty unique to me. I guess Wizardry 8's system is similar?
 

Themadcow

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Etrian Odyssey has a front / back system in a 2 x 3 grid format so you have to choose whether to place 3 up front or 2 upfront as most of the time you have 5 party members. Putting 2 up front means those characters tend to take more damage so have to be more tanky = reduced damage output, putting 3 often means having at least one more squishy damage dealer up front (risk) or taking a combat medic type. As with the proposed BT system, the empty slots on the grid can be taken up by a summoned creature, one-off guest NPC or occassionally a 'mirror' of one of the other characters. Equally, like the new BT system, there are some ranged abilities that are stronger (or only available) if launched from the front row even if the character is fundamentally a back row archetype.

Where this differs considerably is the idea of a neutral area in the middle of the grid which I haven't seen in a system of this type before - it offers some interesting options along the lines of seals, traps or shields - a bit like infinity engine games / pillars etc but in a more rigid playing field.
 

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