Friday, March 07, 2008

[IF-RPG] Fast-paced Combat

Another design goal for a tactical combat system is that combat always keeps a certain pace. What you want to avoid are situations where both sides have better defence than attack, that is, situations where damage is done only rarely and in small quantities. Once you've got that, you've a protracted and boring combat.

To solve this design problem, I have introduced something called deadly combat. It works as follows:

  • There is a global variable called the deadly combat number. This is 0 at the beginning of each combat.
  • Every round that no damage is done, the deadly combat number increases by 1. (To a maximum of 5.)
  • All combatants get the deadly combat number as a bonus to both to-hit rolls and damage rolls. Thus, if nobody has been hit for 2 rounds, everybody gets a +2 to-hit bonus and deals 2 extra damage.
  • If damage is dealt, the deadly combat number is reduced by 2 at the end of the turn. (To a minimum of 0.)
As far as I can judge now, this works quite well; it injects a natural tension mechanic into the fights, since they become more and more dangerous the longer nothing happens. (And it leads to new tactics as well, since you can attempt to get the deadly combat modifier up before you attack.)

There is also a skill called "deadlier combat" which, when activated, doubles all deadly combat damage bonuses.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

[IF-RPG] Cost of Skills

The basic idea in combat is that the player has a couple of standard actions--attack, concentrate, defend, retreat, perhaps others--and a lot of other actions that are made available as he learns more skills. (Currently, there are skills like "Smashing Blow", "Anger", "Sacrifice", "Burning Hands", "Summon Imps", "Curse".) Using skills costs Zeal, and Zeal is regained by (a) winning difficult fights, and (b) doing other things that make the Gods of War happy.

But what we want is the following:
  • We want the player to be using skills often. It is boring if the player types "attack" 90% of the time, and is saving his skills for a few desperate situations.
  • We want the player to use all his skills, because that is more fun than just using the same skill again and again. Now all skills are unique tactical options; and if some options are better, or more generally useful, than others, the player will use these options more often. This means that each skills must be the best available tactical option in a fair number of situations.
Let each skill have an intrinsic cost of n Zeal. Let m be the number of times the skill has already been used in this specific encounter. Calculate the real cost of using the skill as follows: cost = n * (m - 1).

That is right, all skills are free the first time you use them during a fight. So you can do everything for free once; and for easier fights, this will be enough. If you need to use a skill more than once, the cost keeps increasing.

This will reward players who use all their skills; it will also reward players who use their skills in every encounter. I think this will lead to diverse tactics, where people weigh the pro's and con's of paying Zeal for re-using a particular skill or using another skill that is still free.

[IF-RPG] Design Diary

I'm working on a new Interactive Fiction project, which is going to be far larger than The Baron and Fate. It is, of course, going to be an ambitious literary project about violence, redemption and hope--but it is also going to feature RPG-style tactical combat. Why? Well, because tactical combat is fun, or at least can be fun if done right, and because the standard game-aspect of interactive fiction, puzzles, is just not my thing.

Okay. Now what I'm going to do is start a design blog, right here, because this thing is just too big for me to keep motivated unless I can show off what I'm doing to a couple of people now and then.

By the way, this is not just a game idea: the source code is already 45000+ words (bigger than Fate), and a working combat system is in place (though I'm sure it still requires substantial changes).

Oh, and it currently has no name. I used to call it Idols of War, but that was several iterations of the game idea ago, and it no longer fits the project. I've also thought about This Comedy's Inferno, but that's too self-conscious. So I'll just call it IF-RPG for now.