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Default Project Eternity - Update #44, Rules of Engagement

February 27th, 2013, 16:29
In update #44 Josh Sawyer informs us of melee engagements in Project Eternity.
Last week, our art director, Rob, showed you our godlike concepts and dazzled you with an in-depth technical breakdown of how we're doing animation rigging on the project. This week, we'll be talking about a different technical subject, but one that's more connected to gameplay: engagement — specifically, melee engagement.
Melee engagement is a solution to two common problems in the Infinity Engine games: melee characters' inability to control an area and ranged characters' ability to "kite" melee characters. In the Infinity Engine games, melee characters could be quite powerful in toe-to-toe combat, but many opponents found ways to foil those characters with little difficulty. Fast characters could easily rush around a slower melee character with impunity and ranged characters could backpedal perpetually out of reach.
If you're familiar with D&D 3E/3.5/4E/Pathfinder's attack of opportunity mechanics, Project Eternity's melee engagement fills a similar role by making melee combatants "sticky". Coming near a melee combatant means being drawn into Engagement with him or her, a state that can be risky to get out of.
Here's how it works: when two opposed combatants come near each other and one of them a) has a melee weapon equipped b) is not moving and c) is not currently at his or her maximum limit of engagement targets (the standard is 1), the other character will be Engaged.
When an opponent is Engaged by an attacker, moving any significant distance away from the attacker will provoke a Disengagement Attack. A Disengagement Attack has an inherent Accuracy bonus, does significantly more damage than a standard attack, and will call a hit reaction animation while momentarily stopping the character's movement.
When it's initiated, a Disengagement Attack automatically breaks Engagement on the target, but if the target is also the attacker's current melee target, the attacker will typically be able to re-establish Engagement before the target can move farther away. In this manner, melee combatants, especially ones that have high Accuracy and damage per hit, have a solid mechanic for keeping enemies close to them — or making the cost of escape extremely expensive.
Of course, there are other ways to end Engagement. If the attacker switches to a non-melee weapon or performs a non-melee-based action, Engagement immediately ends. If the attacker moves away from their Engagement targets, is paralyzed, knocked down, or otherwise prevented from maintaining a threat, Engagement will also immediately end. If the attacker has a limited number of Engagement targets (as most do) and switches his or her attack focus to a different character, Engagement immediately ends.
We believe that Engagement can give AI a clear "decision point" where they can evaluate the threat of their new status and choose the appropriate course of action. For player-controlled characters, it makes melee enemies more potent threats and presents players with tactical challenges to solve.
We want Engagement to be a mechanic that players and enemies can mess with using a variety of class Abilities and general Talents, so we will be experimenting with a variety of elements to that end:
  • Fighters' Defender mode allows them to engage two additional targets and increases the range at which they engage targets. This gives fighters much greater capability to control the area around them.
  • The limited-use Escape ability lets rogues break Engagement without provoking a Disengagement Attack. It is generally best used when the rogue's enemy is preoccupied with another target.
  • Barbarians can use Wild Rush to temporarily ignore the movement stop and hit reactions from Engagement and Disengagement Attacks, respectively — though they can still suffer massive damage while powering through.
  • The wizards' Grimoire Slam allows them to attack an enemy in melee with their magically-charged grimoires, unleashing a concussive wave of energy on contact. If it hits, the attack knocks the target back, usually far enough to break Engagement in the process.
Additionally, creatures may have their own special abilities related to Engagement and Disengagement Attacks. We hope that the system itself is easy to understand but allows for increasingly complex tactical considerations over the course of the game.
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February 27th, 2013, 16:29
Grimoire Slam FTW!

But good lord people really don't like having to think when they play games (check kickstarter comments). I really like this Engagement system personally.
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February 27th, 2013, 16:47
Sounds like a decent anti-kiting thing, unless it lets melee hit so hard during disengange that it essentially makes disengaging impossible. I don't like infinite kiting, but on the other hand I feel there are too many RPGs that favor melee. Ranged is often very weak (for example NWN1 + 2 where archers are borderline useless).

Balancing archers vs melee is fairly difficult. Let's hope they get this engagement system right, so it doesn't favor one over the other (too much).
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February 27th, 2013, 16:47
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
Grimoire Slam FTW!

But good lord people really don't like having to think when they play games (check kickstarter comments). I really like this Engagement system personally.
And for a lot of them, even just reading the whole update post is too complicated it seems. Based on comments like "so characters are essentially stuck in combat once melee begins? sux!" it seems they missed the various ways you can break engagement.
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February 27th, 2013, 22:37
What gives, I liked my melee characters in the Infinity Engine games
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February 28th, 2013, 01:02
Originally Posted by jhwisner View Post
And for a lot of them, even just reading the whole update post is too complicated it seems. Based on comments like "so characters are essentially stuck in combat once melee begins? sux!" it seems they missed the various ways you can break engagement.
…a 'few', not a 'lot'.
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February 28th, 2013, 01:49
I didn't use the kiting thing in those classic games because I thought it was an exploit, and would have made things too easy. So I like the sound of this new melee engagement system in the project eternity game, it sounds like a logical way to have a penalty for someone trying to run away from a melee encounter, which makes sense - the guy being fled from would get an easy shot to the other guys back. That said, don't make any "impossible" melee encounters and the combat balance better be good, otherwise people could get frustrated with this.
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February 28th, 2013, 03:27
The engagement system sounds good to me. Always good to add a strategic element to combat.

Which suddenly reminds me to play Temple of Elemental Evil one day. All the D&D goodness you can expect plus immensely satisfying tactical turn-based combat. Kudoz to CO8 for keeping it alive!
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February 28th, 2013, 09:13
The Engagement system sounds just like D&D's attack of oprotunity (like he said). Where a melee character gets 1 free basic attack against the one whos running away. Sounds good.
Gives the melee character that extra stickiness they need, while ranged character would most likely have their own way of getting away without trigger the AO. (like they do in D&D)
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February 28th, 2013, 18:03
What I'm not clear about is the mechanism for performing a defensive fighting withdrawal. That seems like a realistic thing to do, yet this mechanic doesn't readily allow for it. You just get slammed with a Disengagement Attack.
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February 28th, 2013, 18:15
Originally Posted by rjshae View Post
What I'm not clear about is the mechanism for performing a defensive fighting withdrawal. That seems like a realistic thing to do, yet this mechanic doesn't readily allow for it. You just get slammed with a Disengagement Attack.
Escape and Grimoire Slam are all abilities that allow you to ignore the disengagement attack. You will have to use them properly though.

Also, defensive fighting withdrawal would mean putting your defender(s) in the right spot to engage most of the melee attackers while you take the other party members to safety. There will probably be spells and buff that helps as well. If you know that moving party member A pass enemy X mean he will get hit like a truck, why aren't you putting a shield/speed buff on him to counter most of the disengagement attack effect?
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March 1st, 2013, 23:38
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
Also, defensive fighting withdrawal would mean putting your defender(s) in the right spot to engage most of the melee attackers while you take the other party members to safety. There will probably be spells and buff that helps as well. If you know that moving party member A pass enemy X mean he will get hit like a truck, why aren't you putting a shield/speed buff on him to counter most of the disengagement attack effect?
Well true, but that's besides the point. This mechanic doesn't allow for a normal fighting withdrawal. Backing away is a standard tactic in just about any melee. But with this mechanic, you try to back away and you get smacked… unless you have some special means to disengage. I can see getting whacked if you turn your back and run, but not if you are incrementally pulling away and using the space to improve your defense. This seems borked.
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March 1st, 2013, 23:45
Nothing wrong with Disengagement Attacks. You should keep those party members you don't want to get "smacked" out of range and not engage a melee enemy to begin with. It adds a nice strategy of trying to stay out of harm's way. I like it.

Then again, the only real turn-based combat I've played has been in JRPGs, so what do I know .
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March 2nd, 2013, 00:38
Usually there is a defensive ability to disengage. Sacrifice an attack to protect against attacks of opportunity. That sort of thing.
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March 2nd, 2013, 04:36
Originally Posted by rjshae View Post
Well true, but that's besides the point. This mechanic doesn't allow for a normal fighting withdrawal. Backing away is a standard tactic in just about any melee. But with this mechanic, you try to back away and you get smacked… unless you have some special means to disengage. I can see getting whacked if you turn your back and run, but not if you are incrementally pulling away and using the space to improve your defense. This seems borked.
This is easily solved by introducing 5-foot step or shift mechanic, where instead of moving, you just move one square away (and don't suffer the attack).
This doesn't translate well in real time combat, so I think they will have each class an escape ability of some kind. Like the wizards Grimoire Slam, or whatever rogue did in the video.
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March 2nd, 2013, 05:18
Or the chanter's Exit Stage Left maneuver. Yeah probably.
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