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Default Rampant Games - Whadayamean, “Turn-Based?”

August 7th, 2013, 15:51
The Rampant Coyote has a new post talking about Turn-based games.

It seems to me that the last couple of years have brought something of a resurgence of turn-based gaming. Now, it was never truly dead or completely niche – Civilization remains one of the best-selling games on the planet, and it has (thankfully!) remained comfortably turn-based for all of this time. Meanwhile, most other “strategy” games and role-playing games went real-time (“action!”) around the mid 90′s and never looked back…

Until now. Mostly driven from the indie front, but also in part from the new XCom: Enemy Unknown (also created by the makers of Civilization). While it’s still a long way from becoming the “norm,” it is at least getting a second look. And, among the indie-set, advertising a game as turn-based can actually be a selling point.

But what does “turn-based” actually mean? At it’s heart, it means players take turns taking their actions. It is normally imagined as the polar opposite of real-time or action-based combat, where the game progresses at a fixed pace and players can issue orders to their avatar or units as quickly as they want (but said units also act at their own pace, and can’t do everything at once).

Turn-based, on the other hand, doesn’t depend upon the player’s reaction speed. The game waits for the player to declare their move(s), as in a game of chess. This provides more thoughtful game pacing, but has a pretty significant downside in a multiplayer setting, as inevitably one player must end up waiting for the other player to complete their move. Even in single-player games, there may be stretches where the player is watching the action unfold rather than actually playing the game, which is not generally considered a good thing.
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August 7th, 2013, 15:51
It started happening with BG1. I remember being so mad at it not being natively turn-based and everyone else using the "But Auto-Pause can be set up to be turn based!" excuse to shoo me and other's concerns away. Truth is, if you don't have concrete round start and round end times for all involved combatants you aren't really doing turn-based, you're doing "Game stops and lets you pick an action", which is terribly different….and IMO, unacceptable.

I learned to like these "real time" games (BG, Dragon Age, Witcher) but still greatly prefer true TB games.

Bit of a comeback now though. Original Sin, Shadowrun, Blackguards, Wasteland 2, Might and Magic X, Eternity.
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August 7th, 2013, 17:40
" . . . in single-player games, there may be stretches where the player is watching the action unfold rather than actually playing the game, which is not generally considered a good thing."


Precisely why I dislike TB games. Sit and wait for some opponent to decide how he is going to whack me. Then sit there and take it. My turn comes and I twiddle with Inventory, Weapons, Spells, etc., and finally pick what I want to do. Meanwhile, my lawn has grown 3 inches. No thanks.
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August 7th, 2013, 19:12
Originally Posted by Zephyr View Post
" . . . in single-player games, there may be stretches where the player is watching the action unfold rather than actually playing the game, which is not generally considered a good thing."


Precisely why I dislike TB games. Sit and wait for some opponent to decide how he is going to whack me. Then sit there and take it. My turn comes and I twiddle with Inventory, Weapons, Spells, etc., and finally pick what I want to do. Meanwhile, my lawn has grown 3 inches. No thanks.

Different strokes for different folks, that's fine and I can respect that…but it isn't the tortuously long affair that you and others make it out to be.

Turn based is about statistical depth, planning, strategics, micro managing and adherence to harsh rule sets. Granted, you can have some of these things to small degrees in a real time game, but turn based combat allows for features real-time cannot. Such as the 3rd edition flat-footed rule you see in ToEE or the fighter's sweep move from the old D&D goldbox games. Incorporating these would be tough in a real time game since they rely on positioning, the inactive state of your enemy and a remainder of movement points left over.

Even when a real time game has these things you often are never allowed to look under the hood and see them take place. It becomes more about hitting buttons to see the next cinema scene than it does using your knowledge to win each fight.
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August 7th, 2013, 19:19
Of course, most of the article is about different variations on "turn based" to avoid that problem.

My worst experience (to my recollection) with looooong waiting in a turn-based game was with Wizardry 8, but I think some of the old Gold Box games came pretty close (or may have exceeded it… maybe I just had more patience back then).

Maybe I'm just too "old school," but in spite of my love for RTS games, I still feel like the whole real-time / action-based gameplay in RPGs is an excuse for cheap, easy AI. The AI has no problem timing the "block" command perfectly, but the player will never be so perfect, so BAM! Easy challenge!

That's not to say turn-based is AI nirvana, either. A lot of the old (and new) TB games just throw in cheap, overpowered bad guys that still aren't all that clever, but they have zillions of hit points and cheap abilities, so the player has to pull every resource they can think of out of a hat to beat them.

That's a big part of why I was such a big fan of Knights of the Chalice. While you could argue that the AI was "cheap" in that it seemed to access knowledge it shouldn't have (how does that bear know to go after my mage first!?!?), I have lots of fond memories of particularly vicious, clever battles in that game. I think the combat in that game was far more interesting than any other 3rd edition D&D based game out there, and it wasn't even an officially licensed game! (Maybe there's a causal relationship there).
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August 7th, 2013, 19:48
I'll always favour true TB over so-called action rpg's, and I'm not very fond of hybrids either. The Knights of the Chalice is my favourite game of the past 5 yrs, and I'd pay a lot to see a sequel that follows the same ruleset. I want the AI to be smart, to go after vulnerable classes, the challenge is worth it to me.



-Carn
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August 7th, 2013, 21:04
Originally Posted by Carnifex View Post
I want the AI to be smart, to go after vulnerable classes, the challenge is worth it to me.
-Carn
Better yet, I want enemies (or enemy types) to have individual personalities. Both with strengths and weaknesses that I can exploit. And of course everything should be fuzzy.
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August 7th, 2013, 21:18
While I don't like TB, I'm not a fan of button-mashing either. I generally play a stealth type character, a Ranger or Sniper. Skulking around and getting the lay of the land, probing for weaknesses, and finding a safe perch to pick off enemies. Just charging in, running and gunning like some idiotic Tank is no fun. I like to use terrain to my strategic advantage. Whistling death to enemies is a rush. They never see it coming.
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August 8th, 2013, 00:45
Originally Posted by DungeonHack View Post
Bit of a comeback now though. Original Sin, Shadowrun, Blackguards, Wasteland 2, Might and Magic X, Eternity.
Project Eternity is actually realtime with pause, sadly.

Could also throw in a few lesser-known names like Jagged Alliance: Flashback and Dead State (both from Kickstarter), and Age of Decadence assuming it ever gets released.
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August 8th, 2013, 02:13
Realtime with pause is fine by me.

I don't know about AI but the big thing turn based systems do for me is that they allow MUCH more complex situations. In RTS games you can tell units to move, to shoot at something, and maybe to take some special action - though that last tends to be difficult to pull off. If you put in something turn based then you can issue much more complex orders, analyze much more complex situations, and even look up things when you've gone and forgotten part of the complexity.

That deep complexity is what I really crave. The turn system is just a consequence of that. If somebody were to mod Diablo to force in a turn based system, I don't think I would like the game any better. Mod it so there's a turn based system, four characters to control, a host of offensive and defensive powers, and more complex enemies to fight and I bet I'll have a lot more fun. Mod it so all those things are put in but keep the turn based system out and I'll just get creamed.
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August 8th, 2013, 02:41
Agreed, in more simplistic games where you just control one character, turn-based combat doesn't necessarily add a whole lot. Divine Divinity is a good example. Was a great game, and I don't think turn-based combat would have added much.

Having a big party to control, complicated abilities to use, and needing tactics, is what truly makes RPGs great though, in my book, and turn-based makes all that way more manageable. Some RTwP systems are better than others, but in almost all of them, your characters end up doing things you didn't intend (or wasting turns), and it's often hard to tell in advance exactly how many "turns" certain actions (such as moving) are going to take, which can be a big problem when trying to use precise tactics.
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August 8th, 2013, 03:43
Loves me some turn based. And I also jump all over that rarer bird, WeGo, whenever I actually see it.
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August 8th, 2013, 14:59
Originally Posted by DungeonHack View Post
Turn based is about statistical depth, planning, strategics, micro managing and adherence to harsh rule sets. Granted, you can have some of these things to small degrees in a real time game, but turn based combat allows for features real-time cannot.
Is starcraft a real time game? Since some players call turn based games like Baldur Gate real time with pause (which means nothing by the same way as the game is turn based, the difference is it is played by sequences of turns and not forcefully one turn after another) and that you can pause Starcraft, it is worth asking.

As for statiscal depth, planning, strategies,(the use of tactics), micro managing and adherence to harsh rule sets, it is the reverse. For extensive use, real time is the way to go. But it is also the most difficult way.

Turn based structures, especially the UGOIGO turn sequence, curbs the demand for statistical depth, planning, strategics, micro managing and adherence to harsh rule sets.

It confines all this in an easily predictable set. That is why developpers enjoy it so much. It makes implementing an AI so much easier.

The statistical analysis of a turn based "IGOUGO" game is so clearer.
Every turn, eliminate all the randomness in damage for example, and you've got the maximum damage possible in all cases. It allows to determine a limit of turns to be played. If enemies have more damage resistance than the total damage, you can be sure that a game will last that many turns.

You can do the same for every other variable to be analyzed. As a player, you might do the same actually, which in the end, makes IGOUGO (and certain other turn based sequences) so boring.

So easier for an AI to read and understand.

When real time is involved, the statistical analysis grows so harder. The variation over the mean time resolution of an event grows much larger due to the large increase in possibilities a player is offered.

In a turn based game, you might determine easily the minimum number of turns an event is going to last. And also a upper limit the resolution of turns is going to converge to. This for all the players' skill levels.

In a real time game, you might determine a lower limit and an upper limit, but that the variation between them is much bigger.

It is quite an irony that a design deviced to saddle the human intellect to bring it down to the level of what a video game AI is able to manipulate is considered to be a pinnacle in statistical depth, planning, strategics, micro managing and adherence to harsh rule sets over real time.

Real time suffers two big drawbacks:
-very, very hard to implement an AI able to manipulate the higher level of understanding required by real time gaming
-human head to heads solve that point but demand such an involment in training that professional gamers stand as the majority of players who can reach that level. The others simply do not have time enough.
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August 8th, 2013, 15:55
Originally Posted by DungeonHack View Post
Even when a real time game has these things you often are never allowed to look under the hood and see them take place. It becomes more about hitting buttons to see the next cinema scene than it does using your knowledge to win each fight.
I'm sorry, but that's just complete nonsense. Have you actually played any of the Infinity Engine games, Dragon Age, or Drakensang? It doesn't sound like it.

Unless I misunderstood and you're only talking about pure real-time and not rtwp. In that case, I would agree somewhat.
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August 8th, 2013, 16:01
The thing of it is that each approach has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Turn-based almost inevitably means more control (and more detail in terms of the tactical arsenal) - and real-time inevitably means less time spent waiting and a more natural flow of gameplay.

It all comes down to what matters most to each individual player.

To some people, turn-based does indeed feel like an eternal borefest - and we have to accept that.

Personally, I tend to enjoy both ways when done well - but I'd probably lean towards turn-based in singleplayer games and real-time in multiplayer games.
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August 8th, 2013, 16:35
Well, I have to say I hate real-time with pause, I either want real-time or turn-based.

Real-time with pause is the worst of two worlds in my opinion, it breaks immersion to just pause in the middle of a huge fight, and also what happens even if you try to micromanagement each character is usually that everything becomes chaos, and it doesn't become nearly as tactical and challenging as a real turn-based game.
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August 8th, 2013, 17:00
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The thing of it is that each approach has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Turn-based almost inevitably means more control (and more detail in terms of the tactical arsenal) - and real-time inevitably means less time spent waiting and a more natural flow of gameplay.

It all comes down to what matters most to each individual player.

To some people, turn-based does indeed feel like an eternal borefest - and we have to accept that.

Personally, I tend to enjoy both ways when done well - but I'd probably lean towards turn-based in singleplayer games and real-time in multiplayer games.
I mostly agree with you. I have however been able to enjoy a few TB games in multiplayer with friends (HOMMIII - hotseat & Civ3,4,5 - times MP).

Playing with friends can be great as you can shout at them to move faster
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