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Encounter design is king

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Zanzoken, May 10, 2016.

  1. orcinator Liturgist

    orcinator
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    But eventually your sole ability to swing a sword or shoot a bow can change the fate of the world.

    Also having to relinquish control in a combat scenario is simply a shit idea in video games because watching the AI fight other AI is rarely fun or engaging and if you don't let the player affect the AI (or make it heavily scripted) what you have left is a luck based encounter, and that's bad, especially when your combat system is very slow paced.



    Intent is meaningless when their execution fails at not being a boring slog.
     
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  2. ZagorTeNej Arcane

    ZagorTeNej
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    That the game's NPC usually don't treat you as such and ending slides don't reflect it doesn't change that in gameplay terms you very much are the usual chosen one video game protagonist who develops from a rookie to a killing machine in a very short span of time. You're not just some soldier among dozen of others when major events in the game play out very differently without you participating in them, it's C&C course but it also showcases the heavy impact your PC's actions have.

    I mean let's examine the combat focused path, you start out as some random semi-competent bouncer and rise up to become an arena champion, activate and wear the magnificent piece of ancient technology that is Power Armor, regularly take on groups of dozen people single-handedly (and many of them compose of trained soldiers), amass a 200+ bodycount and quite possibly end up punching out Cthulhu, all in a span of a few months or so? Regardless of whether the game goes the Bioware route and gives you constant blowjobs for achieving such epic feats or like AoD insists you're still largely insignificant in the larger scheme of things it's still essentially your usual zero-to-hero progress in terms of gameplay typical of CRPGs.

    Now don't get me wrong, I love the game and consider it to be the best RPG to come out in the last 10 years but I'd say those specific design goals you mentioned are achieved only in the Teron part of the game where taking on even 3-4 people can be a nail-biting affair (as it should be in such a setting). They start to apply less so as you advance through the game and get to a point where for example one of the Centurions in Caer-Tor casually asks you to prove your worth by taking on 5 raiders on your own (whom you proceed to crush like insects with a combat oriented char).
     
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  3. ZagorTeNej Arcane

    ZagorTeNej
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    RNG is the most common deciding factor in AoD only if you aren't familiar with the system and all the options and tools you have at your disposal. Haran's pass is some good stuff, not many RPGs have you participate in a battle of such scale.
     
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  4. Perkel Arcane

    Perkel
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    Young son of nomadic tribe in few years kill millions of people.
    True story.

    AoD combat system doesn't allow for luck. If you win with someone 1vs6. IT isn't because you had luck but because you were better then them.

    Like in situation i described i didn't fought 40vs1 front assault. I used every oportunity to conquer and divide and when i needed i had to run away a bit to again not fight more than 2 people at once.

    in that fight i didn't win because my character was walking god. I won because AI wasn't able to contain me in one place and dogpile on me.

    That is the difference between chosen one and AoD. In AoD there isn't any tool that your character gets randomly. Everything he or she does comes from his background or actions he make.
     
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  5. Dead Guy Arbiter

    Dead Guy
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    The secluded temple, I walked up and pushed the guy off the cliff and fucked the rest of the bandits up, it was an average difficulty fight at best, in part because you've learned the tricks by then. Antidas fight was much harder, as an example.

    Then the temple I could casually go after the long bow guys, the only threat with high block, good armour and a good shield, and then stand surrounded by 3 half-capable guys and however many peasants you like and smash their faces in one at a time, no other tactics than taking out the archers first needed at all.

    As always, balancing the first several fights your players will get themselves into is much easier than balancing the late game, you have much less of an idea how powerful the characters will be at that point. I assume. Still love AoD, combat included, and there were still a few late game fights that were damn difficult (Zamedi Demon) or I just didn't even try seriously (Cthulu). Lots and lots of well-designed encounters throughout, some of which really made me want to try another fighting style mid-game, though I wouldn't rank the nomad horde among the very best, but still pretty fun.
     
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  6. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    Age of Decadence has one of the best encounter designs in any RPG I know and it's certainly better combat-wise than Underrail. Almost all fights are challenging and are interestingly set up. In AoD you have 8 pure combat skills and each one makes your run different (playing as a spearman and playing as an axeman is quite different, it requires using different tactics and you get unique attack types, the same goes for a bowman/crossbowman and a throwing master). Also, there are always opponents that force you to change your tactics, e.g. if you fight Mack The Knife it's better to use a lighter weapon because even though your hits won't be as devastating you will make more damage due to higher chance of hitting a dodge master.
    In UR you can use the same tactic for every opponent, there is no one that will force you to do things differently. The very first build I made was a gunslinger and I played a bit with it during EA. I knew what my mistake was when making this build so I took it into account and created my 2nd build once the game was released in 1.0 state and what do you know, every single encounter looked basically the same. And somewhere in the middle of the game I could one-shot any opponent (and I didn't even know that sniper would be so powerful). It's similar with other builds.

    What's more in AoD the initiative, your positioning and the sequence of your actions matters more than in UR. Often moving away is the most optimal move because it's a proper turn-based game and the sequence of your actions do matter. Let's check this fight for example: http://cloud-4.steamusercontent.com/ugc/28482212341397668/EF4B7336AD21FCFA4B24174AD42449CF2C8EEA40/
    Firstly, it matters who you kill first. Killing the wrong guy might make it easier for others to flank you (plus you can lose more HP because you left someone with high THC and damage per turn alive). Secondly, it matters what initiative your opponents have and in the case of the screenshot above if I go to the right square I can get rid of one opponent for a while because he has to take the long way since his comrades who had higher initiative blocked him passage so they could attack me. No such thing in UR. Sure, there are opponents that you should get rid off first (e.g. a sniper that can one-shot you or a psi-master that can make you think you're a vegetable) but these things aren't as important as in AoD.

    Furthermore in UR there are way too many trashmobs or very annoying set-ups that aren't challenging but are tedious. Also, what's the point of having many different builds available if in the end every encounter looks basically the same? Every build is using traps, grenades and energy shield (if you don't you're either stupid or you want the challenge), these things make everything much much easier and you can use them at ANY level. Alchemy, crafting and nets/bolas make fights easier in AoD too but not every build can use them to their advantage due to limited amount of skill points (and in the case of alchemy, bolas and nets limited amount of them). In UR you can spam your enemy with traps and watch how retarded the AI is. But the thing that makes AoD much more enjoyable to me is that they're dynamic and fast contrary to UR ones where everything is in slow motion.
    And this is where Underrail fails. It has still better combat than most RPGsbut not as good as AoD.
     
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  7. ZagorTeNej Arcane

    ZagorTeNej
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    Yes, by leading a great army, not regularly taking on groups of enemies all by himself like some comic book superhero.

    Yes and as far as I'm concerned in a setting/environment such as AoD's a char specialized entirely for combat and wearing the best gear game can provide should barely scrape by in a 1vs6 (or even less) scenario and taking on more enemies that that should be suicidal (especially if facing any sort of organized military).

    My point is that going from a bouncer in some shitty bar to a Power Armor wearing demigod is still your average "chosen one" trajectory as far as gameplay is concerned. Your end-game character would swat away starting version of himself like a fly.
     
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  8. vean Scholar

    vean
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    Looking at the RPG Codex Top 70 RPGs of all time, it's pretty apparent that neither "combat mechanics" nor "encounter design" is king.

    Instead Codexers seem to judge their RPGs by aesthetics and setting.

    This is so important that sometimes even games with no RPG elements whatsoever get promoted to RPG status just so we can have them on the list, like DXHR which is the #56th best RPG of all time apparently.
     
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  9. Perkel Arcane

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    Tell me what those elements are
     
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  10. vean Scholar

    vean
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    Why don't you tell us first what you think they are.
     
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  11. Mustawd Arcane

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    He never said he knew what they are or that he even has a clue what you are referring to. You're the one that made the statement in the first place. :roll:
     
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  12. orcinator Liturgist

    orcinator
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    Is this some epic injoke or something? AoD most definitely lets you win harder fights and lose easier ones if the dice love/hate you.
     
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  13. Sigourn Futa Lover

    Sigourn
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    Encounter design is to combat what choice & consequence is to the roleplaying.

    Ideally encounter design, as well as combat system, should make different encounters feel very different. In Torment, all my fights go exactly the same: spam attacks, pause and heal, repeat. In The Witcher, it goes like: switch to correct sword, pick correct style, hack away.

    If I had to mention the best encounter design I've experienced in ANY game... it would probably have to be low-level Final Fantasy XII. Enemies had their weaknesses, even if they were extremely barebones and followed Pokémon's classic "this enemy is weak against this element" formula (which is present in every single game, to a different degree). And when you were low level, it was key exploting those weaknesses, using crowd control to manage many enemies, running when fighting was not an option, and more.

    The thing is games are very easy nowadays, and when they are not, they still don't make the player give two thoughts about their strategy. That's the one thing I like about the IE games (sans PS:T): the difference between a casual player unacquaintanced with the mechanics (me) and a good player is instantly noticeable. It pays to know the game, more than in any other game I've played so far with the exception of low-level FFXII and possibly Vagrant Story (though the game relies more in weapon-building).
     
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  14. vean Scholar

    vean
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    You're on RPG Codex and you don't know what an RPG is?
     
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  15. Perkel Arcane

    Perkel
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    Comeon tell us.
     
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  16. deuxhero Arcane

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    Trash mobs are indeed abominations. The only real purpose of large numbers of weak enemies can ever serve is to keep players out of higher level areas, but few games are non-linear enough for that to work.

    I disagree. Storm of Zeheir has some great encounter designs, but the system is so bad it's still not all that fun.

    Temple of Elemental Evil's many shit encounters do detract from it, though the middle segments of the temple are still playable (though having the boss fights, which are all well done, to look forward to helps).
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2016
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  17. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    Could you enlighten us all on what a rpg is?

    We still don't know.
     
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  18. Lilura RPG Codex Dragon Lady

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    BG1 did this best. Lots and lots of rival adventuring parties to discover, the best of which was the Iron Throne crew atop the tower.

    It doesn't have to be an epic foe like a dragon; so BG1 wins here as well. Davaeorn is the best mage duel in the IE RPGs. Then you have the Demonknight and Aec-Lectic in TotSC, which have no parallel. In BG2 you have too many resources at your disposal, and options out the ass.

    Siege of Dragonspear and the IWD series ruin it by having non-existent rest restrictions. RAVAge tactics mod for DA:O succeeds in sustained encounters (map-wide converging aggro), as does Jagged Alliance 2.

    Aielund Saga and Swordflight Series employ all three encounter types, and the former has the best sieges outside of Warband. So again, NWN mods win.
     
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  19. vean Scholar

    vean
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    You don't know what an RPG is either?
     
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  20. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    No we don't know. We need you, the one to finally enlighten us and tell us what a RPG is.

    We have been waiting for you. All these years.
     
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  21. Lilura RPG Codex Dragon Lady

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    Oh, that's EZ! The definition of RPGs is Fallout. :P
     
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  22. vean Scholar

    vean
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    Let me get this straight:

    you've been here for 12 years talking about RPGs and you don't know what an RPG is?
     
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  23. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    Are you going to tell us, or just keep quoting ?
     
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  24. Perkel Arcane

    Perkel
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    He is jew. He only knows how to make money so tell us.
     
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  25. vean Scholar

    vean
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    Maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Maybe you're just saying that you don't have the definite answer to what an RPG is.

    But surely you have an opinion on what an RPG is right? So what is your opinion?

    What - in your mind - makes an RPG?
     
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