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January 23rd, 2008, 13:13
In our latest Side Quest, Josh "Moxie" Sprague delves into the "feel" of a game and how it comes together from the design choices:
This isn't to say that turn-based or active RPGs fall cleanly along these lines. Compare Eschalon: Book I to Final Fantasy VII. Both are turn-based, but the combat of each has a much different feel. In Eschalon, my avatar swings his sword or casts a spell as quickly as I click on an enemy. The game allows me to consider my turn as long as I want, but as soon as I make a decision, it's ready. If I make my decisions quickly, the game feels much like an action game, but with some added control. In a game like Final Fantasy VII, the player gives orders to his characters, but must wait as the turns execute. The battle here becomes more of a stageplay where they player is a director offering input.
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January 23rd, 2008, 13:13
Nice article; one of those things that got me nodding in agreement almost all through.

I was actually thinking along very similar lines in magerette's recent genre-related thread.

Specifically, I strongly dislike the "feel" of the gameplay (specifically, the combat) in Planescape: Torment, moderately dislike the "feel" of combat in Fallout, but strongly like the "feel" of The Witcher.

Then I got to thinking, is the problem that I like real-time but dislike turn-based, and dislike the indirect real-time-with-pause in Infinity Engine even more?

The answer is "no."

For example, I very much enjoy the feel of NetHack. And the reason is exactly what Moxie says — it's immediately responsive. I type h to move left; if there's a monster there, I hit it with whatever I'm wielding. I type z-e-h to z(ap) inventory item e (a wand, presumably) to the left. I type Z-c-h to cast spell c (presumably something like a fireball) to the left. The speed of my gameplay is constrained by my typing speed and my ability to remember which usable item is in which inventory slot.

OTOH with Fallout it's a lot more work to execute an attack, especially later in the game when you're good enough to get some targeted shots. Click on the attack button, click on the monster, click on the body part, repeat until out of action points, click "end turn." This is much slower and more cumbersome, and when fighting mobs it gets old real quick. As to the IE games, they're more or less the same, except with added randomness and terrible pathfinding thrown in. Not that NWN or NWN2 are much better in this respect.

To pick some real-time examples, the "feel" in Morrowind was pretty damn terrible, whereas in Oblivion it was pretty damn good. VtM: Bloodlines was pretty bad in terms of "feel," while Dark Messiah of Might and Magic was pretty damn good. (OK, I only played the demo, but it *was* fun kicking orcs off ledges or into spikes.)

I've been meaning to give Eschalon a shot, and this article is one more push in that direction: it sounds like a TB system that I would enjoy.
Last edited by Prime Junta; January 23rd, 2008 at 13:29. Reason: c, not e.
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January 23rd, 2008, 14:12
The "feel" of a game is not defined purely by it's combat alone though. I don't think the "feel" of Fallout & Torment are only defined by their combat systems.
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January 23rd, 2008, 14:34
I think we're talking about a different kind of "feel" here; "atmosphere" and such perhaps. That certainly has little to do with the combat system (and, indeed, both games were among the best ever in this respect).
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January 23rd, 2008, 14:45
It's always a problem when rating rpgs because sometimes input is your own imagination. You can create your own "fell".
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January 23rd, 2008, 14:50
Prime Junta, have you tried TOEE ?

I ask, because it's turn-based, too, and I liked the "feel" of its combat a lot.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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January 23rd, 2008, 15:16
I haven't. I've been looking for a copy on the used market, but haven't come across one. I would like to; I've heard a lot of good things about it.
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January 23rd, 2008, 16:38
Unfortunately the combat is the only good part about ToEE. The actual adventure is dull and lifeless.
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January 23rd, 2008, 16:43
Well, I had some fun with it, anyway.

The only visual drawback is that almost all tenants are inside their houses - you hardly won't ever see people running around in the village.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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January 23rd, 2008, 16:47
Originally Posted by Josh "Moxie" Sprague
Final Fantasy VII. Both are turn-based
Final Fantasy is Round-based - not turn-based.

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January 23rd, 2008, 17:21
Gothic's alternate controls are mouse/keyboard, and the keyboard keys can be remapped. Gothic 2's controls were nearly identical to the ones I used for the original game.

I point that out, because one of the best things about Gothic was its controls and the "feel" of them. It was very responsive, very satisfying.

Swink's analysis is good stuff but doesn't go far enough for us, because there's more to these games than just steering yourself around and interacting with whatever's there. Unlike the others, your identity in an RPG should feel like a life. There needs to be a lot that's beyond your control.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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January 23rd, 2008, 17:34
Originally Posted by bkrueger View Post
So, when discussion, what a game should do for the combat responsiveness, you should have a fully player controlled party in mind, otherwise there is an obvious bias to non-party games - they have a by far easier task.
Obviously it's simpler to create an interface where you only control one actor, but that doesn't mean that multi-actor games are necessarily less fluid or responsive.

Remember Close Combat? That was twelve years ago. You controlled a "party" — a squad, technically speaking — in combat in varied terrain. It was very fast, fluid, and responsive. I see no reason why this type of RT combat couldn't be implemented in a role-playing game (other than it'd be a fair bit of work). There are plenty of other tactical games, both real-time and turn-based, to look at for inspiration.

The unfortunate fact is that party combat in most role-playing games is just pretty badly done. The reasons are historical — you take a system that works, sort of, for a single character game, and then add more characters. This makes a mess of it. What should have been done is a complete redesign based on multi-character combat to start with.

This means better AI and a different design paradigm. For example, take your classic D&D-style RPG. What I'd *want* to be able to do is give each party member "standing orders" — for example, my sorcerer should look for cover, hang back, and be the artillery; my rogue should look for high ground and attempt to sneak around and be the sniper; my tank should face the enemy head-on, and my cleric should support and heal the tank.

I should not have to micro-manage this behavior — whenever combat starts, they should look for appropriate positions and take them. As combat proceeds, I should be able to order individual members, a part of the party, or the entire party to take up new positions by designating a new target area. If necessary, I should be able to give individual members specific orders — for example, to tell the sorcerer to break cover and move to a new position, or give the rogue a new target area — say, behind the enemy — and get her to sneak her way there, using cover intelligently.

Note that this would work equally well in turn-based and real-time. The main change is pretty simple, really — better AI and a squad-based command interface. Nothing that hasn't been done very well many times over.
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January 23rd, 2008, 17:54
Originally Posted by bkrueger View Post
Unlike you I do like to micromanage each party member, I don't want AI for them (or at least only as an option). And with "fully controlled party" I meant exactly that - control over every move of every party member.
There's no reason you couldn't have both. Just implement the AI and squad-based interface, but include the option of switching off AI for any or all party members.
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January 23rd, 2008, 20:14
Originally Posted by Sir_Brennus View Post
Final Fantasy is Round-based - not turn-based.
What's the difference ?

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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January 23rd, 2008, 22:06
I'll tell you what I think would make these game feel better. Enable characters to perceive things differently. That would spice it up.

Remember the blind master in the old "Kung Fu" TV show who could anticipate your every move and beat you to the punch? Or Galadriel who observed and considered what only the wisest could perceive? Or Brainiac 5 whose super power was his amazing intellect?

I'd like to experience the feeling of an assassin's deadly insights or a cleric’s close connection with his deity. I'd like wizards to have more options than anyone else. And I'd like combat to slow down for veteran warriors who can skin goblins in their sleep.

It’s all a level playing field right now. Every character gets a turn or a twitch. Maybe roles should have a bigger impact on the game. Change that and then worry about the turns or twitches or whatever.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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January 23rd, 2008, 22:38
Don't know if this is exactly your point, Squeek, but I agree that different types of characters should feel different to play, and use different approaches, and they should be realistic to the specific character type.

I'd also like to feel differently playing a thief, have different choices and different responses than a paladin. I think the rules-set the game follows determines how far you can go here. Purely mechanically, I'd like to see situations where my primary skillset was appropriate, and others where I had to avoid an encounter and pursue it another way, because a shot of well-implemented realism is as good as a jug of conventional imagination for identifying you with your character.

For example, one of the things I dislike is to play a master archer, but have to put thirty arrows into something before it falls. I can understand that even a Legolas might occasionally miss a target, but nothing should be able to walk up and kill me after I've put a woodpile's worth of shafts through it unless it's a dragon. Meanwhile, the apprentice wizard is roasting twenty goblins with a level 3 fireball spell. A little realism done right adds a layer of challenge and reigns in your boredom at another predictable encounter also.

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January 24th, 2008, 09:08
I was thinking more about Prime Junta's Fallout example. A quick fix for the excessive clicks could be making the enemy's target zones clickable from the original combat screen rather than bringing up a separate interface (even though the PIP boy targeting had a cool look).

This may be redundant on the party comments, but I was thinking about how Might & Magic III (and IV and V) did a good job of letting you barrel through combat at your own pace. You could spend time thinking with your casters or you could just set a default spell and use that on the fly. However, those and first-person party games still kind of function as a single character with multiple personalities.

When characters can move independently of each other, party systems get more interesting. I actually liked the old Ultimas' style for this (III, IV, and V). Move and attack were your basic options with different options for the attack. Even fleeing combat was executed by physically moving characters out of the battlefield. Comparing this to the Japanese-style tactics games, its no contest for which one I enjoy more. The speed of the computer's moves in Final Fantasy Tactics was crippling boredom for me. Even my own moves require 4+ button presses for the simplest actions.
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January 24th, 2008, 15:09
That's probably the reason why the feel of the Witcher is so good -
It sure has lots of Polish.

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January 24th, 2008, 15:21
Originally Posted by Vio View Post
It sure has lots of Polish.
Was this pun intended ?

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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January 25th, 2008, 16:52
Good article, I agree with a lot of the points. Simple example, intellectually I believe I should enjoy Fallout a lot but it just doesn't click with me in some way. And the interface is partly to blame, it is slightly unwieldy.

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