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Combat: What makes micro fun?


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I was thinking about what types of decisions players make when they are micromanaging combat. Specifically what type of micro work is actually fun?

This thread was inspired from the armor discussion threads, and like I mention there, the type of micro I enjoy is placement of characters, what skills to use, and when. In this post I'll just touch on positioning and how armor relates.

 

I came up with this in response to the armor questions posed in update#29.

  • Heavy armors protect the wearer from multiple angles
  • Light armor lets the wearer attack without hindrance.
  • Medium armor enjoys the benefits of both, but to a lesser degree.

What this means in-game; full plate will allow a fighter to wade into battle without having to worry about his flank. Characters wearing light attire like robes and raw hides will still be able to use shields or parry incoming blows, but only for foes directly in front of them, and will be wide open for attacks from the side. To compensate, light armor should allow for increased numbers of attacks. You can justify the reasoning using variables like DR, AC, chance to dodge, parry etc. but that should be transparent to the player. To further the importance of positioning, I'm also going to throw in the idea to make projectiles like arrows requiring direct line of sight to find it's target, but I'll come back to that later. Here are some visuals to explain how this might work.

 

The funnel of death

 

kdVXj.jpg

 

The "OH ****" formation. It leaves some gaps but it's better than nothing.

 

EBRop.jpg

 

The blue arcs represent angles that are well protected. In full plate the arc might fully wrap around the character, only leaving a small gap directly in the back.

 

Let's talk about some skills that could be designed around this idea. In the old games the only way for a fighter to save a mage being attacked by a goblin was to slay him as fast as possible. I can see abilities like bash being useful to shove the goblin aside while the fighter steps in to position himself between the enemy and the mage.

 

On the flipside, the enemy might employ blockade formations as seen above to keep you from reaching their mage who is bombarding your party. Arrows were the answer in the old days, but if the projectile mechanic I mentioned earlier is implemented the front line is going to block all of your shots, so you will need a way to disrupt the front line and create an opening to get your shot. A thief skill like tumble might be useful to slip through the blockade and disrupt their defense, or a ballsy thief might go after the mage directly.

 

These are just ideas, but I think it allows for a wide range of tactics because the lay of the land and map design is now a key factor in your decision making. Thanks for reading!

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Like the old games, characters will automatically face their opponent, so that's not an issue. I would hate to micro on that level as well. In this model you're more concerned about who's getting attacked by how many foes. If it's your tank in full plate, he's fine. The nimble thief will also be able to do ok on a 1vs1 situation too (expressed through parry and dodge), but if multiple assailants enter the picture he's in trouble. That just means he was caught out of position, and it shouldn't be too much to handle. It encourages your warriors to fight for better positioning to maintain a safe zone for your squishier characters.

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Additionally since characters wearing light armor will most likely rely on dodging, they wouldn't make good shields for mages, since a dodged arrow will end up in the mage's face.

 

@Osvir yep, so the concept of tweaking the angle you face shouldn't be too foreign to people who enjoyed the IE games. Although ideally you wouldn't have to micro that kind of detail period.

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@Osvir yep, so the concept of tweaking the angle you face shouldn't be too foreign to people who enjoyed the IE games. Although ideally you wouldn't have to micro that kind of detail period.

 

With the pause function you could very well do it quickly, but yeah ideally you just click on your target and they face it automatically. Facing is very important in turn-based games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea though.

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In addition to the group tactics, combat techniques such as tripping and disarming make for entertaining melee. Anything that helps to break up the routine of stand and hack 'n' slash until the opposition drops dead is a good thing in my book.

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In addition to the group tactics, combat techniques such as tripping and disarming make for entertaining melee. Anything that helps to break up the routine of stand and hack 'n' slash until the opposition drops dead is a good thing in my book.

 

In further addition to what you said and something I started thinking about: Skill shots are always welcome.

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To compensate, light armor should allow for increased numbers of attacks.

 

This makes no sense whatsoever from a logical standpoint. If your primary means of defense is dodging rather than letting attacks be deflected off your armor, you have far fewer opportunities to attack. If you insist on this particular kind of tradeoff, it'd make more sense that lightly-armored people have a radically increased critical chance (or much higher critical damage), due to them placing their attacks with great precision because they aren't being rattled and half-dazed by enemy blows every couple of seconds.

 

That being said, I generally only enjoy extreme micro in two situations in these types of games: rare Super Mega Colossal Boss fights (not necessarily only against a single big monster, but it should be a big, tough, and unusual fight), or when attrition has turned the battle into a duel between the Last Character Standing on my side and maybe the Last or Last Two on the other side.

 

Or, in other words, either EEEEE Big Hairies! or Can I Pull This Disaster Out Of My Ass!

 

The rest of the time I kind of enjoy throwing my characters in all willy-nilly and watching monsters faceplant on their chests.

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If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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I basically like being able to form a front line of hardened fighters and summoned creatures, then managing the ranged support: archery, healing, spell casting, sneak attacks, and so forth. The latter forms a type of reserve unit that I can target against specific threats or use to shore up weak areas of the front. To me that's the most interesting element of the fight. But then I'm an old board wargamer, so I enjoy making tactical adjustments and managing it as a small battlefield. Hence, I'd be interested in skills that allow the group to fight as a team, maintain a cohesive front, and perform special strikes against specific targets.

 

:cat:

Edited by rjshae
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I kinda do the opposite--I prefer to micromanage my quasi-invulnerable "tank" and setup all my support/dps to run on autopilot. Which is why it pisses me off when I can't make my PC of any class be the "tank", because I want to be running my PC.

 

I HATE playing a glass cannon.

Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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I kinda do the opposite--I prefer to micromanage my quasi-invulnerable "tank" and setup all my support/dps to run on autopilot. Which is why it pisses me off when I can't make my PC of any class be the "tank", because I want to be running my PC.

 

I HATE playing a glass cannon.

 

:blink:

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I don't like the concept of tanking in single player games. It's completely artificial and redundant and there is no enjoyment in it what-so-ever, except in MMOs. Same goes for dedicated healers. NWN2 seemed quite stale and rolls really got in the way of combat flow. Too many checks, too much minmaxing required to make stuff work reliably, too frustrating if you got your build all wrong. DAO was plain boring, because it seemed a middle ground between tactical and action RPG, which made it both long and non-dynamic.

 

I liked the tactics aspects in BG2 and IWD2. It was a combination of managing spellcasting (buffs, CC, attacks, disspelling), frontline combatants, who go into the fray against the enemy meat shield, and a dedicated magekiller to give enemy spellcasters a hard time.

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In general, I prefer a slightly more high-level strategy-type control and assume my characters will do relatively reasonable things most of the time. If you're standing there and a bandit walks up to you, please stab him. But no, don't chase him into that trap. So, rule-based/script-based controls work well for 90% of the fights, with an option to pause and get in there and really micromanage for tricky bits.

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To compensate, light armor should allow for increased numbers of attacks.

 

This makes no sense whatsoever from a logical standpoint. If your primary means of defense is dodging rather than letting attacks be deflected off your armor, you have far fewer opportunities to attack. If you insist on this particular kind of tradeoff, it'd make more sense that lightly-armored people have a radically increased critical chance (or much higher critical damage), due to them placing their attacks with great precision because they aren't being rattled and half-dazed by enemy blows every couple of seconds.

 

That being said, I generally only enjoy extreme micro in two situations in these types of games: rare Super Mega Colossal Boss fights (not necessarily only against a single big monster, but it should be a big, tough, and unusual fight), or when attrition has turned the battle into a duel between the Last Character Standing on my side and maybe the Last or Last Two on the other side.

 

Sure that makes sense, I'm not completely tied up on the details. For light armor I just asked myself "What kind of bonus would I to consider parting with a heavy suit of armor?" More actions (skills/spells/attacks) seems fair to me. But like I said those are just details that can be worked out, as long as both paths retain their merit.

 

As for microing formations, I think the UI would need to meet the player in the middle here. Creating a linear blockade should only require you to draw a line while having the fighters selected (the same way you draw straight lines in MS paint). Having to worry about formation and positioning for every battle might sound like a chore, but it's something I found myself doing in IE games all the time anyway. (using the crude interface at that) I'm sure most of you remember moving your fighters around to protect the weak mages in the back. I'm not saying every trashmob encounter needs to turn into a starcraft 2 micro fest, and sure you'll get away with A-moving on the enemy most of the time. But what it offers is another way for the devs to ramp up difficulty. For example the lone kobold archer you defeated with ease might be a tougher opponent when mixed with meaty tanks to soak up damage in the front.

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I think micromanaging becomes fun when your party members can be more effective by utilizing class-based skills in combat. I really don't like hack and slash, and I see a lot of that. But I'd really like to see fighters/rogues/barbarians/etc being able to have abilities in combat that run on cooldowns. It's sort of Action-rpg, but with an actual tactical reason for doing a certain thing. Stuns shouldn't work on everyone, rage shouldn't work everytime, etc.

 

Oh and micromanaging doesn't become fun if having to utilize these combat skills is too unwieldy. If the skills are 4 or 5 clicks away (several menu options before you can stun) then the become less useful and less used during combat. Similar with spells. These things are usually poorly implemented in the UI and actually performing certain actions that are combat related are difficult to do. Hotkeys help, so does a innovative UI.

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These things are usually poorly implemented in the UI and actually performing certain actions that are combat related are difficult to do. Hotkeys help, so does a innovative UI.

Man, I didn't know how to put my feeling to words but this is it.

I love a good tactical challenge, but recently playing PS:T and BG2....the controls just feel muddy and the UI is...well frankly it's ugly as hell.

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Starcraft 2 is the go-to example of "game with a lot of micro" now?

 

Daaaaaamn.

 

Starcraft 1 is the only starcraft I played, but watching some of those players in tournaments is so exciting in and of itself, because of the beauty in which they control their units. I've always liked those starcraft custom maps where it was sort of a puzzle and you had to use your units casting to figure out a way to pass that level. I feel that cavalier-oblique/isometric style cRPGs have a lot that they can learn from SC and its successors.

Edited by Hormalakh

My blog is where I'm keeping a record of all of my suggestions and bug mentions.

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/  UPDATED 9/26/2014

My DXdiag:

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/2014/08/beta-begins-v257.html

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When I think back to the combat in the IE games character placement was pretty important, yet movement felt very nebulous and glitchy at times, especially in tight hallways and small rooms. You'd often see characters try to cram into a spot, fail to do so, and walk back and forth around the battle until they found a spot to squeeze in. This sort of thing was frustrating because every second my fighter is glitching around I'm getting hit by mobs. Another example is blockades. I would often wall off choke points using my fighters to protect my mage, but sometimes enemies would slip though because I misjudged the gap between my fighters. Grrr.

 

I think having info like who can move where should be clearly defined and communicated to the player somehow. This might sound a bit extreme but how about a hex grid overlay on the battlefield which you can toggle with the Alt key while in combat? It would make movement during combat feel less nebulous, and if you wanted to create a blockade the player will have a visual tool to help him execute his tactics in confidence. No more, I'm going to place my fighters here and *hope* these goblins don't run past me.

 

Hex grids.. too much? :p

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Starcraft 2 is the go-to example of "game with a lot of micro" now?

 

Daaaaaamn.

 

Starcraft 1 is the only starcraft I played, but watching some of those players in tournaments is so exciting in and of itself, because of the beauty in which they control their units. I've always liked those starcraft custom maps where it was sort of a puzzle and you had to use your units casting to figure out a way to pass that level. I feel that cavalier-oblique/isometric style cRPGs have a lot that they can learn from SC and its successors.

Oh, absolutely.

 

I was just saying that as far as micro goes, Brood War and Warcraft 3 are the examples you want to use, not Starcraft 2. I mean, I enjoy Starcraft 2 well enough, but it just does not have this:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqsSrWZciY0

 

****. Can mages or rogues or someone, anyone get a spider mine ability in PE? You have no idea how much I miss those things.

jcod0.png

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That's a loaded title, because it assumes micromanagement can be fun. I guess there are managers/sadomasochists out there in the business/Korean competetive gaming world that think it is, but I also think humans (especially the ones being micromanaged by the aforementioned MBAs,) don't think micromanagement is fun or can be fun.

 

But it also appears as though what you're really referring to is tactical positioning rather than micromanagement. In my experience, if it's a game such as an IE classic it's not really micromanagement because it's a small team tactics situation. Controlling up to a half dozen characters is decidedly different from controlling and producing hundreds of characters as well as building and maintaining the support infrastructure and resource supply lines for those hundreds of characters in realtime without pause.

 

It's a misnomer to call RTS games Strategy games, because success hinges on reflexes and micromanagement, not actual strategy or strategic thinking.

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That's a loaded title, because it assumes micromanagement can be fun. I guess there are managers/sadomasochists out there in the business/Korean competetive gaming world that think it is, but I also think humans (especially the ones being micromanaged by the aforementioned MBAs,) don't think micromanagement is fun or can be fun.

 

But it also appears as though what you're really referring to is tactical positioning rather than micromanagement. In my experience, if it's a game such as an IE classic it's not really micromanagement because it's a small team tactics situation. Controlling up to a half dozen characters is decidedly different from controlling and producing hundreds of characters as well as building and maintaining the support infrastructure and resource supply lines for those hundreds of characters in realtime without pause.

 

It's a misnomer to call RTS games Strategy games, because success hinges on reflexes and micromanagement, not actual strategy or strategic thinking.

 

I encounter lots of situation in Baldur's Gate where I just drop the pausing and put my micro to a test. It works! It's just clunky. I wouldn't mind some more active control on top of the pause function without straying too far away from the core gameplay.

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Yeah... it's just clunky. I love playing BG/BG2 without pause and it feels so much more satisfying. Warcraft 3 is a better example, because you have "heroes." It would feel so awesome having my 6 party members actually fighting off hordes of enemies like you would in an RTS game. Actual hordes. Like 100s of goblins. And destroying 20 or 30 at a time with a well placed trap (spider-mine trap) from my rogue. Oh so satisfying. And you don't have to worry about experience imbalance because kills won't give exp :)

Edited by Hormalakh

My blog is where I'm keeping a record of all of my suggestions and bug mentions.

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/  UPDATED 9/26/2014

My DXdiag:

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/2014/08/beta-begins-v257.html

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Yeah... it's just clunky. I love playing BG/BG2 without pause and it feels so much more satisfying. Warcraft 3 is a better example, because you have "heroes." It would feel so awesome having my 6 party members actually fighting off hordes of enemies like you would in an RTS game. Actual hordes. Like 100s of goblins. And destroying 20 or 30 at a time with a well placed trap (spider-mine trap) from my rogue. Oh so satisfying. And you don't have to worry about experience imbalance because kills won't give exp :)

 

Yes I agree but I wouldn't want to enter the "Dynasty Warrior" style gameplay where I'm just too damn powerful to be stopped. If a 100 enemies corner me to the wall I want to fight my way out of it like a boss, perhaps have to move through the army of Goblins and only take out 20-30 of them so that I can get to the other side of the army and escape.

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