Fate of Io
Action vs. Strategy debate (long!)
2003/03/05 06:58:55 PST by Temporal [manager]
Edited at 2003/03/05 11:48:53 PST
[Temporal's avatar]

Well, I'm back from my vacation. As promised, I will now open the debate that started in last week's chat between Clockwork Dragon and myself.

As I see it (and I may be biased), the debate went something like this:

The current gameplay proposal calls for there to be no transitions between battles and regular gameplay. So, all actions the characters can perform outside of battle can be done during battle as well, and vice versa. Also, at any time the player can pause gameplay, and commands can still be given while play is paused (they are carried out as soon as you unpause it).

Clockwork is not happy with this system. He wants something with more action. Under the current proposal, you would be given all the time you wanted to plan. Clockwork thinks that battles should be a time for quick thinking, while puzzles should be planned out, in order to add variety to the game. He also thinks that battles should be explicitly separate somehow to facilitate this.

(I hope Clockwork has figured out the problems he was having logging in. It wouldn't be very fair if he can't post his argument... Clockwork, if you are reading this, and you still can't log in, IM me.)

I disagree, of course. The debate about separation between battles and regular gameplay is one we decided on a long time ago, although Clockwork has a somewhat different argument than I remember hearing before. As far as action goes, I would argue that Fate of Io is not an action game. Fate of Io's gameplay (as I would like to see it) is about thought and planning.

I do not think of a battle in Fate of Io as being inherently different from a puzzle. Many puzzles will involve battles. In fact, the whole point of some puzzles will be to avoid battles, as in my example puzzle in the puzzle node. I don't want battles to be a casual thing that one just gets into without thinking. I want every battle to be a life-or-death situation, and I want to encourage players to think about how to improve their chances in a battle, or even avoid them altogether.

The actual process of fighting hand-to-hand, according to my plan, would not even be very exciting. You would simply tell Syne to fight or whatever, and he'd go at it. In all likelihood, if you told Syne to fight an average human opponent, he would be seriously hurt after the battle. Syne is not a super-human, after all, so why should he be able to easily win a battle with an armored guard?

The emphasis in any battle will be to set it up so as to give yourself an advantage. With a good battle plan, the player will be able to carry out any battle with little or no injury. Good battle plans involve taking advantage of terrain, using ranged attacks, luring enemies into ambushes, etc. Hand-to-hand combat is only a small part of this.

For this type of gameplay to work, I think the ability to pause during the action is necessary. The problem with fully real-time play is that giving orders to the characters can be rather slow. In reality, Syne and co. would be able to think quickly about their movements, but the player certainly won't be able to click very quickly. Having two characters do two different things simultaneously, which could be important in some puzzles, would be nearly impossible in real time.

It is also necessary that there be no distinction whatsoever between battles and non-battles. The player should have the full range of their characters' abilities available to them at all times. In some cases, it won't even be clear whether or not a battle is taking place until the player orders an attack. We could, of course, change the background music or something in such situations, but actual gameplay abilities should not change.

Removing the ability to pause or making battles explicitly separate from normal gameplay would severely limit our possibilities for puzzles and battles.

It can well be argued that this sort of gameplay isn't as exciting as it could be. More action would add variety to the game, yes. However, I don't believe that every game should try to do everything. Some players don't like action. For those that do want action, there are other games which do it much better. Those wanting detailed combat and fast action can play Soul Caliber or Counterstrike or whatever. We could attempt to add elements of these types of games into Fate of Io, but doing so would be more work, and would not necessarily make the game any better. In fact, I am sure some players would consider the game to be worse that way. Some players hate action.

Games (or movies, TV shows, etc.) which try to be everything to everyone are usually not very good to anyone. Ever notice how popular stuff often sucks? I would rather produce a game which some people hate and some people love than one with which everyone is just satisfied. This means that some ideas will have to be flat out rejected. I don't like to do that, and I'm not saying that I'm going to do that right now... but I want to warn people that some ideas may be rejected just because they don't fit with what we are doing, even if they are good ideas that would work well in other games. "Open Source" doesn't mean that every idea is used. Don't feel bad if your idea is not.

EDIT: A few points I forgot:

Final Fantasy X and Chrono Cross both use turn-based battles (where you are given all the time you want to make your decisions). Personally, I think FFX has the best battle system of any of the FF's, and have heard many others say the same. As for CC, I haven't played it in awhile, but I seem to remember liking it there, too.

Also, we could have a few specific scenes which do put time-based pressure on the player. We could have timed sequences, where a timer is displayed on the screen and the player has to do something before time runs out. I would avocate allowing the player to use the pause function as usual, except that the timer would keep ticking while the action was paused. This would be less realistic, of course, but realism is beside the point.

2003/03/05 16:17:24 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
Awards: 1 from Dev
[mystik3eb's avatar]

I think I just had an apostrophy (Hook fans, please laugh). I agree with absolutely everything you've said Temp, but I just had an idea I really like (so far), and I want to see what you guys think.

To satisfy those who do want some form of an RPG-like battle, I suggest one of the options (among many others, like talking to them, hitting them from afar, distracting them, etc.) to be a "fight it" option. You would enter into a open-window battle (think Dragon Warrior, yea that really old Nintendo version), and would carry out an FFX style turn-based battle (since I agree, I loved the battle system in that game). There would be options like using items, casting magic, attacking (maybe an option of choosing which weapon to attack with?), and quitting the battle (though to make the game harder/make fighting an unpopular option, we could take OUT the quit/run away option, and make the battle a fight to the finish for one side or the other, since that makes most sense to me personally).

Well, what do you guys think? I like it...but that doesn't mean anything unless you guys like it.

Also, about the pausing and assigning orders while paused, I don't think this option should open up too many options for the player. They should assign orders, hoping they go out the way they should, but when they unpause and the orders are being carried out, they suddenly see something new and different, realize their plan isn't going to work that way, and will have to repause and reassign orders. I want it to be something like that, something convenient, but that enforces "trial and error" stuff...you know what I'm saying?

Yea, my thoughts on the subject. Where ARE you Clockwork?

2003/03/05 17:42:57 PST by Temporal [manager]
[Temporal's avatar]

Well, Mystik, as to your first idea... You are proposing that battles be separate from gameplay. That is exactly what I don't want. :P I guess my argument above has two points: That we should emphasize planning over quick thinking, and that battles should not be separated from other gameplay in any way.

Again, I want the player to always have the characters' complete range of abilities available for use. If battles are at all separate, then you are implying that any sort of offensive moves cannot be performed outside of battle. You are also implying that the characters cannot move around the terrain in battle, which severely limits the range of tactics one can use.

How would you represent Enna firing arrows from a ledge where the enemies can't get at her? How would you smack an enemy to get its attention, and then run away, luring it into an ambush? What if you want two characters to distract an enemy by attacking it while the others go around it? Remember that characters can split up. If one character gets in a battle while the others are far away, what happens to those others while the battle is in progress? Do they have to stand still and do nothing?

Also, coding an entire separate battle system would be a lot of work, especially considering that "dual use" spell and abilities (which can be used in battle or for non-battle purposes) would have to be coded twice. Integrating battles with gameplay would be much easier.

As for your second idea, regarding pausing... I'm not sure what you are getting at. I think the player should be able to pause at any time. While paused, the player should be able to give all the same commands that they could give when not paused -- no more, no less. These will usually (if not always) be simple commands like "fight this guy" or "move here", not complex sequences. So, yes, the player will have to issue new commands as circumstances change, or when the characters complete their previous commands. (We may add a waypoint system to allow multiple commands to be queued up, but that would just be an extra feature.)

2003/03/05 22:14:47 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
[mystik3eb's avatar]

Ok, I meant something more of a "melee" option. With the turn-based option, we could, while it's still the character's turn, have the player leave the "melee" window and change to other characters and allow the player to give commands to them, and then go back to the melee later (ideas I came up with while reading your response). Though if this doesn't work out with you, then we'll just drop the whole thing. I kinda like the more options outlook, but whatever, ain't mah call.

And yeah, that's basically what I was saying about pausing. I just don't want the player to be able to look all around the map/dungeon during pause (at least, not with everything revealed), and know exactly what to do...when they haven't even entered the dungeon yet. I want things to open up as the characters advance through the dungeon. I'm really thinking warcraft/starcraft/strategy styles, where the map is unveiled and units/buildings seen when characters are close enough to see them. But in the long run, we're basically just repeating ourselves =)

2003/03/06 03:33:53 PST by bond4154 [0/10]

Temporal, what your suggesting would be very difficult to actually think of, programming not even needed to be mentioned, for a game that's going to be kind of 2D. But at any rate, this is what I see (correct me if I'm wrong).

This game is going to be a mix between a strategy game and an RPG. Like a strategy game, you select your character just as you would select a unit in strategy games. You can command the character to do something after it being selected, but unlike strategy games, there is a list of commands you can give it (Fight, Magic, Items, that kind of thing), and because of it, you can fight even without going through an interval. If I have confirmation that this is correct, I'll keep my point going in a later post.

2003/03/06 13:47:03 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
[mystik3eb's avatar]

Yea, that's pretty correct...where you going with it all?

2003/03/06 13:54:16 PST by Temporal [manager]
[Temporal's avatar]

Mystik: I see what you're getting at now, but I think that would be sort of difficult to integrate and sort of confusing... we'll see.

bond: Yes, that it what I'm going for.

2003/03/06 21:18:12 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
[mystik3eb's avatar]

Do you like the idea at all Temp? Cuz if it's not something that would work, then I'd rather us not worry too much about it. I just thought I'd give the action people something to shoot for, since I'd like to have it myself. Also, you're the one doing the programming, make sure your boundaries and understood; unless you're an extreme powerhouse of amazing programming capabilities (which I'm sure you come at least close to =) ), then I don't think you are probably capable of EVERYTHING we'll come up with here...just let me know if I get carried away, that's all =)

2003/03/06 22:17:34 PST by Temporal [manager]
[Temporal's avatar]

I think it would be confusing and hard to integrate with the rest of the system... if characters not involved in the battle are still able to move around outside, which I want, then the battles can't be turn based. They have to be real time (other than the ability to pause) so that timing syncs up for everyone.

2003/03/06 22:24:32 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
[mystik3eb's avatar]

Hmm, yea...maybe we could still do turn-based, but act as though choosing an option in melee was the same as pausing, and the carrying out of the action is real time. Then maybe integrate a timer for choosing an option (like a short pause). I dunno, you get what I'm saying? Just some ideas that could be a little more reasonable.

2003/03/06 22:48:48 PST by Temporal [manager]
[Temporal's avatar]

ehhh... I think that would be annoying. What if you just want Syne to keep some enemies busy while you order someone else to do something? All the pausing and decisions would get in the way. I just don't think it fits with our gameplay.

2003/03/07 01:29:38 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
[mystik3eb's avatar]

Yea I agree, it doesn't really fit in...but then, think of boss battles. What will there be to do except really just fight the guy? Yes we could implement strategies on what methods to use and things like that, but what about with Kydran? During the battles where he keeps coming back, wouldn't it be a little nicer to just keep using an attack or spell on him in some battle type thing? Well whatever, maybe I'm the only one thinking that's better...but I do see your point.

2003/03/07 04:29:54 PST by Temporal [manager]
[Temporal's avatar]

What makes you think boss battles wouldn't involve tactics? Sure, the point is to kill the guy, but there's a lot of ways to do that other than just attacking him directly.

2003/03/07 13:52:06 PST by mystik3eb [0/43]
[mystik3eb's avatar]

No, I know most boss battles DO involve tactics...alright, never mind. This option is dead to me.

So...what else were we discussing in this thread? =)

2003/03/07 16:22:38 PST by Temporal [manager]
[Temporal's avatar]

Where's Clockwork? This thread isn't done until Clockwork has his say...

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