|2003/03/05 06:58:55 PST by Temporal [manager]
Edited at 2003/03/05 11:48:53 PST
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.