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Design Topic #1: Assuming Control

Discussion in 'Iron Tower Studio' started by Vault Dweller, Mar 15, 2018.

?

Do you want to control allies in combat?

  1. Party & Allies only

    55.6%
  2. Any allies, even without your party

    20.2%
  3. Absolutely not!

    24.2%
  1. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    Now that we're slowly implementing things, different design issues start popping up, so we might as well discuss them openly and get some feedback.

    Imagine a situation where you're helping a group of armed men (Jonas and his thugs) to attack another group of armed men (Braxton and his Regulators). Let's say that Braxton has less men but they're better armed and trained (aka quality) and Jonas has more men but they're poorly armed and trained thugs (aka quantity). Let's say 8 Regulators vs 12 thugs plus your party, so it's 8 vs 14-15 avg and the Regulators have the advantage of properly fortified headquarters.

    If you control only your own party (which could be just you if you're playing solo) and you have to wait until 20 guys take turns shooting at each other, it will get boring very fast. We can reduce the Regulators to 4-5 and Jonas men to 5-6 but it won't solve the problem but make the fight less interesting. Thus it seems that the best solution is to let the player assume control over all allies and have a bit of fun, instead of waiting.

    Basically, it's like attacking Antidas and his men in AoD but controlling not only your own characters but the Imperial Guards as well.

    Let's take it a step further though:

    To make it more manageable I think we should split the attackers in two waves (the first wave will soften up the Regulators and the second wave will go in for the kill) and let you control the first wave (the suicidal thugs destined to die) as well, trying to inflict as much damage as possible before your party and the remaining allies go in.

    If you're having trouble visualizing the scenario, there was a somewhat similar situation in AoD in the thieves questline, where you recruit Rusty and some local scum, pump them full of drugs, and send them to soften up the assassins hiding in some house, before you finish them off. In AoD you're told of the outcome of this attack and then you go in. Imagine taking full control of Rusty and his crew and overseeing the attack personally. Basically, having fun instead of being told about other people having fun while you're waiting for your turn.

    Other examples of such control would be attacking several targets simultaneously (your party attacks target #1, your allies attack target #2, then combine forces) or splitting your party to lead different groups.

    I know that this design is definitely not for everyone, so we want to hear what you have to say before we start designing fights.
     
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  2. Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss Magister Patron

    Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    First vote!

    Eat dirt, Goral.
     
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  3. Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss Magister Patron

    Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    It is more interesting to fight than watch, but it is so weird to control another party. There is a tension between the narrative compromise and the fluidity of gameplay. Why not removing any actual combat that involves a third party and let the player know about the outcome of the fight (add some text-adventure scenes, art, etc.)? That way you always fight and don’t have to watch or control anyone besides your party.
     
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  4. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    It is weird (immersion-breaking), I agree, hence the question. Like I said, we can easily do it via dialogues (i.e. you tell Jonas to send some men to ambush the Regulators elsewhere or to send in the first wave, Jonas tell you that it's done and you proceed to your own fight) or we can let you take control and fight to make the quests more meaningful and interesting (i.e. the fight against Braxton isn't just one fight but a series of fights across the Pit).

    PS. If anyone votes 'absolutely not', I'd appreciate if you state your reason to help us understand your position better.
     
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  5. Daedalos Arcane The Real Fanboy

    Daedalos
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    I'm kind of torn, actually. One part of me really want to control the entire party to micro manage everything, but I played alot of single character rpgs with the usual AI tacked on party, which works great. It also gives the companions a "life" of their own in a way, without you controllingeverything.

    I ended up voting "Party and Allies".
     
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  6. Haba Harbinger of Decline Patron

    Haba
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    Just limit the player's control:
    - obscure certain details and UI elements (HP, equipment etc.)
    - give the allies in your "control" a roll to refuse your orders (acting independently, fleeing etc.)

    Doesn't feel so immersion breaking anymore.
     
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  7. Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss Magister Patron

    Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    I think a compromise needs to be made at some point. You won’t be able to create your companions in TNW, so one could argue that you shouldn’t be able to control them in battle; but that is a hassle, see FO& FO2. So you just adopt a design decision that allows your player to control them in combat and change their equipment, and move on.
     
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  8. Bohrain Savant Patron

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    Limited control seems like the best compromise between having some agency to avoid frustration and breaking immersion.
     
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  9. lukaszek the determinator Patron

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
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  10. CryptRat Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Developer

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    In Buck Rogers you have a command skill which is checked at the beginning of each battle to know which of these allies outside your party you control or not during the battle.
     
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  11. cherry blossom Arcane

    cherry blossom
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    Agreed and also don't burden the player with all the combat options that any given ally has at its disposal. Control their movement and whom to attack and let it roll.
     
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  12. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    Give me a specific example based on my scenario. 15 gunmen (including you and two party members) are getting ready to attack a building with 8 Regulators inside. Your character isn't in control, he/she was recruited to help so you aren't a general leading troops but a concerned citizen doing your duty. How should this fight play out?

    The reason I suggested to use two waves is to reduce the number of attackers into two manageable groups, let's say 7 and 8. The reason we need 15 attackers in the first place is to make it a proper conflict between two relatively large groups able to control the town (a Regulators patrol will be attacked by Lord's Mercy (a third crew) elsewhere, mainly to indicate that the Regulators are a strong enough outfit to defend the Pit against the Brotherhood.

    That's how this discussion started internally: how to handle large numbers of combatants.
     
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  13. PlanHex Arcane Patron

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    Are the non-party-members distinct, each with their own skills, abilities and items, or are they all just clones?
    Can we view their character screens and inventory and if so, how much time would you have to spend acquainting yourself with what they can do?
    Is the combat encounter tuned for players that spend a lot of time figuring them out in order to use them optimally, or for players that never bother with that?
     
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  14. agentorange Arcane Patron

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    It should be situation dependent (which seems to be what you are describing in the first post). Like in the example you used from AoD, you were assigned two men who were specifically asked to assist you by a higher authority, so it makes sense that they would listen to what you say. Same goes for if, say, you are a renowned, powerful presence in the game, and decide to help some downtrodden folks rebel against a cruel oppressor, it would make sense that they would listen to your commands, it's in their best interest to do so. On the other hand if you are a mercenary and you join a band of mercenaries to take on a job, it doesn't make sense that the rest of them would suddenly start taking orders from you. Like the case with the Regulators Vs. The Blades in Fallout 1, in such a case you are a participant in the conflict, not a leader.

    As for being boring, one of the strengths of AoD was how few large scale combat encounters there were (I assume New World will be the same), so at least for me in the few cases where there was a large scale conflict with a lot of AI controlled actions going on I didn't mind having to wait. It made sense in a rational way since in most of said large encounters you were merely a participant, and it also added another element of RNG intensity as you couldn't predict exactly how the people on your side were going to act. So long as I have control over my character at all times, and there aren't that many of these types of combat scenarios, I don't mind that I have to wait.

    In AoD you also usually had some control over the outcome of the ensuing fight based on skills checks made before the encounter. So even if you weren't controlling the AI fighters themselves, you held some sway over the outcome.
     
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  15. lukaszek the determinator Patron

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
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  16. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    The player not the character. The character's control should be done via issuing commands and running a CHA/reputation check to see if the party member or ally gives a fuck. The player controls every aspect: movement, attack types, target selection, etc.

    Personally, I've never liked such designs as it takes away control by giving me arbitrary tasks such as make a distraction within 2 turns or reach the entrance in 3 turns. What if I want to keep my distance for 4 turns because my party is equipped with rifles? What if I'm inside, killing the Regulators left and right but I forgot to make a distraction?

    Still, the main issue is that you have to wait for 20 people taking their turns. That's a problem even if we max the animation speed. It has to be solved somehow.

    We assign fitting stats, skills, feats, and equipment to each character, so no clones.

    No.

    The former, of course.

    I agree, so we are talking about giving control to the player not the player's character.
     
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  17. Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss Magister Patron

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    It depends what you mean by it. The player alone against big groups was the main attraction, but Antida’s and Ordu’s battles were a slog.

    There, you have your answer. You could also include new set-pieces and text-adventures as the battle progresses to include new enemies.

    Speaking personally, I could care less about the quantity, though. I would prefer to face an elite team of six memorable enemies than bigger teams of generic combatants. But that's just me.

    The problem is that you were being too literal in your approach, Vince. Just because a war needs to happen, it doesn’t mean that the player needs to be in the middle of it. In these cases it’s either expensive CGI combined with mini-games or text-adventures. Implementing a bunch of copy-pasta enemies to kill doesn’t work.


    Think in terms of cities. Cities in cRPGs are abstractions, simplifications of the real world. A populated city has 10 NPCs? That’s enough for a city in a game. With battles is the same thing. You need to abstract, simplify. Just because in the real world you would include teams of 15 or more combatants, it doesn’t mean that in actual game you need that exact number.
     
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  18. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    We can but it doesn't hurt to ask what people want. I like text adventures but there isn't much text adventuring in being told that something happened while you waited for your turn.

    I'm not going for epic battles here. In the end you'll be fighting Braxton and his top men (one of whom would have joined your party had you picked a different side), but the conflict must be presented properly, imo.


    Who said anything about copy-pasted enemies?


    We can't reduce a group strong enough to hold a town in check and the Regulators at bay to 3-4 guys (plus your 1-4 party). Abstraction or not, that's just silly.

    Later on you'll be dealing with more powerful factions trying to stop you and storm your base of operations. They can't send 5-6 guys either.
     
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  19. ~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸-AIN'T Arcane Patron

    ~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸-AIN'T
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    From a narrative perspective, the problem with giving the player full control of allies in combat is that they are pretty much by definition less valuable than actual party members. So you're much more likely to take risks with allies knowing that if they die, well it isn't your problem lol. And not just risks, but you can actively manipulate things so that the ally takes a hit for your party member and gets killed instead of the guy you care about, since full control means they are just puppets for your whim, not actual people with their own goals, motivations, and of course survival instinct.

    So if you were to implement full control of allies in combat, it would be best to either provide an obvious incentive for you to keep them alive, or a good reason they would follow your orders to the letter (or both). Otherwise you could implement some sort of partial control where they could do their own thing if your order isn't to their liking, but to be honest this sounds very hard to get right without being completely frustrating and you'd probably be better off without any control.
     
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  20. lukaszek the determinator Patron

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
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  21. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    That sounds like phase-based combat, which works best for blobbers like Wiz. Anyway, after reading the comments here (thanks for the insights, everyone), on Steam, and our forums, I'm leaning toward "control your own party" only. We can treat Jonas' and Mercy's men as resources used to reduce the Regulators' forces at their headquarters by ambushing patrols and creating disturbances to lure more patrols to investigate them. That would create the impression of large gangs and reduce the key fight to manageable numbers.
     
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  22. lukaszek the determinator Patron

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
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  23. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    I support the idea that, when possible, it's better to have a large fight play out, rather than cutting combatants, or artificially dividing the level, or artificially dividing enemies into 'waves'.

    My problem is that when you start controlling 15 dudes, no matter how good the AI is, the exponential growth in flexibility often makes such fights extremely trivial. And if you were to increase the difficulty to compensate, I think balancing it becomes much more tricky because there's a larger variance of outcomes, and because, depending on the rest of the system, you can end up snowballing - e.g. player loses couple dudes then is increasingly outflanked.

    My reference point would be the AOD fight outside Maadoran, where you talk to the dude at the gate, you go to the desert, and the enemy party waylays you. If you were to blow up the number of each party x2 then give full control, I would wipe the floor with them, and you'd have to up the enemy power a lot. But if you do, you might get a battle where small mistakes make the fights seem truly unwinnable.

    Perhaps you're confident, for various reasons, that this can be resolved. From my armchair, my personal vote is to let big fights happen, let the player control a restricted number of personnel. If it's 8 vs 12 (+ party), then maybe I end up controlling the party and a couple of Jonas' men that I know better, while Jonas himself and others act independently. Sure, waiting for enemies to take their turn isn't exciting, but (1) I hope we get faster animations slider this time round jesus christ, (2) it is a lesser evil to have 'loading times' than to compromise the actual combat gameplay.

    After all, I wasn't very bored by the big fights in AOD, even when it sometimes meant 1 v. 15 (like the pass), because the difficulty meant I was often in such a precarious position, and I needed to carefully watch enemy actions. And in fights with allied combatants, I was watching with baited breath for what they were going to do. I would much rather perceive the battlefield as a giant, organic mess that me and my posse need to navigate smartly, rather than perceive it as an artificially reduced 'set piece' puzzle, or perceive it as a strategy game.
     
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  24. NotAGolfer Arcane Patron

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    I don't want to control 15 units per turn. 4 to 6 is the sweet spot, more just gets tiresome with all the micromanagement.
    Also since designing a good TB combat AI is teh hard these 15 guys will probably face 30 enemies to even out the odds. No thanks.

    And normal TB combat where units move one by one is probably not the best tool for resolving bigger fights.
    Maybe let all units move and act simultaneously (at least during the AI's turn) so the player doesn't have that much idle time miserably staring at an endless succession of NPC units doing their thing...
    Also designing something like that would have the additional benefit to force you to put some effort into making the AI not utterly retarded. :smug:
    Don't wanna let the melee guy run into the firing line of the heavy gunner or the blast radius of a grenade thrown by one of his allies after all.
    Such a game would need a well-structured and informative combat log so the player can keep track of what's happening on screen though.
    Or something like little flags on the battlefield that you can click on and that tell you what happened at that spot.


    another argument against controlling allies:
    This could possibly hamper story-telling opportunities during combat. Like scripted events where your allies betray you.
    If you can't control them at the start then it's a dead giveaway for you that they might not be on your side entirely. If the game takes away control mid-fight then have fun coming up with ways to make them hurt themselves in any way you can. Which isn't a good thing here, that shit is just too gamey to be allowed but players will of course do it if they know the twist from previous playthroughs.
     
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  25. Bester ⚰️☠️⚱️ Patron Vatnik

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    1. You can decide on the plan of attack from a dialogue, which can be a sum of 4-5 different replies to 4-5 different questions.
    2. During combat, you can give pointers to allies (prioritize this target, get away from this area, etc), which they can execute to various degrees of obedience based on various stats, i.e. your charisma/guns-skill vs their charisma/guns-skill, or if they're panicked because of low hp, they don't follow your commands. If they're far, they can miss what you yelled to them, etc.

    I'd say even with a 15 vs 15 fight based on just #1 would be interesting, since it'd be like groundhog day. You'd be exploring different tactics every time you reload. If you introduce some randomness into it, even better.

    I would find this the most interesting approach.
     
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