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Update by Josh Sawyer, Project Director and Lead Designer

 

 

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.

 

pe-josh-two-weapon-fighting.jpg

 

That's all for this week! Let us know what you think of the mechanic on our forums. Your feedback, as always, is appreciated. In our next update, in addition to our usual weekly content, we'll also be continuing our thrilling coverage of Chris Avellone's playthrough of Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.

 

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Excellent update! I can't wait for more details on this, and what all it affects/affects it. This is heavily pertinent to the Duck and Sidestep thread I just created.

 

Things like the Fighter's Defender modal ability actually engaging multiple targets in melee combat are right up the alley of what I was hoping for in terms of tactical, positional control. 8D

 

 

I wonder... will there be ways of moving the engagement, as a whole? What I mean is, can a Fighter actually draw his three (maximum of three, with the two additional?) targets over to a canyon mouth chokepoint (so as to cut off incoming reinforcements from that direction), or rotate the engagement (so as to grant other party members line-of-sight on his targets?)

 

Or, is it simply going to be "Well, here's where we're engaged, so here's where we're standing and which direction we're facing until one of us either dies or breaks engagement..."?

 

Juuuust curious. 8P

 

 

Also, apparently Josh has unlimited Targets of Engagement, as he is engaging THE ENTIRE FORUM! Nobody sign off, or we'll suffer devastating hits from both that sword AND that mace! O_O

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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So Avellone's Arcanum playthroughs are gonna take tuesday slots from game updates? :(

I thought that was just a fun bonus thing.

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So Avellone's Arcanum playthroughs are gonna take tuesday slots from game updates? :(

I thought that was just a fun bonus thing.

 

Oh sorry, it's a bonus to the update - it's not just the update! I edited that to clear that up. :)

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This is excellent. So this is basically adding "attacks of opportunity" to the combat (which the IE games never had).

 

... AND a bag o' chips. 8)

 

The flaw with Attacks of Opportunity is that they covered WAY too many opportunities. Sniffle a bit? AOO! Glance to the left because you heard a noise? AOO! Take a step wrong? AOO!

 

Okay, they weren't THAT bad. But, still. I like that this defines an actual state of engagement or non-engagement, distance/actions and all.

 

Still wondering how much positional manipulation is allowed within an engagement. Intentional repositioning (on either party's part), I should say.

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Like the concept, specifics pending. It's a sensible mechanic, it's intuitive to players whilst playing, it inherently transforms combat mechanics, and can be manipulated by advanced players for tactical complexity. This will need to be met by good, solid movement controls & characters that don't 'glide', though using IE-style 2D/3D already makes that easier. Imagine having this mechanic in Aurora Engine variants, it would be a nightmare. I imagine Engagement will be clearly marked with an icon in the player portrait and/or simple graphics on the sprites, reducing accidental move-aways.

If they implement Engagement range for longer-range weapons and give polearms some ability to 'rope in' nearby opponents into engagement that would also be a good RTwP way of simulating what Age of Decadence does in this regard (where, as it's turn-based, walking to tiles adjacent to a melee character risks getting hit and pushed back for your trouble).

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Very good to see. Pretty cool mechanic, and I like what the Defender modal ability seems to be doing.

 

My crackdown type of fighter might actually be viable, which would make me happy. Get the enemy close, keep them close, then punish them massively for staying close. 

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WOW!!! I loved the concept of this engagement system. It adds a good amount of tactics to the gameplay. I think it can make the battles more exciting too.

 

Man, i really liked the idea and i'm very excited to see it in action.

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Opportunity attacks are Good Things, and the fact that they can sort of "tie up" an opponent as opposed to just doing a bit of damage as they run by your fighter is particularly nice.

 

PBuNtLE.jpg

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jcod0.png

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I wasn't convinced at first (seemed to be overpowering melee chars)... but the awesome set up sold me right on the spot.

 

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This is my favourite update so far.

I was wondering, will this system of melee engagement work with a zone of control? More damage done to unengaged characters within that range, or is it strictly impairment of mobility?

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.

"Rookie, throw the book at him" *puts on glasses*

http://instantyeah.org/

Edited by JFSOCC
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Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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Oh man, this is gonna be a tough game!  I am playing through BG1 at the moment and I would have died so many times if I couldn't kite.  :w00t:  More tactical options are good though so I welcome the change.  I hope you can balance it well so it's not overpowered for either side (AI or PC).

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Great update and game mechanic. Was wishing to see some updates on previous mechanics (like hit/miss and armor mechs) just to see where we stand, but that's probably a WIP still. 

 

In terms of Engagement, I'm hoping that the computer AI is smart about this and isn't open to work arounds or players being able to take advantage of the mechanic. For example, having enemies constantly switching engagement between enemies and thus limiting the usefulness of this. I can't come up with actual examples right now, but computer AI is notorious for sucking when complex mechanics are put in place. Just wanted to give a heads up on this and wondering if the devs had anything particular to say about this.

 

EDIT: Also, I'm loving the camera work and the new style of updates. Very professional and it seems like this would be a great addition for developer commentary on some DVD in the future ... ;)

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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First post here.

 

As a typical combo-geek (martial arts/rpgs), I have advocated "engagement" for a long, long time.  Kiting is real and kiting is good, but you don't just waltz in and out of swiping range without risk of getting whacked in the face.

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I like the idea behind this mechanic...just make sure it takes spellcasting and other "interuptible actions" into account so that it doesn't become an exploit. Otherwise I can easily see fighters being used as casting disruptors just by "engaging" without even having to swing their weapons.

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I like how melee characters take more important role in combat's tactical side. It looks that especially break through enemy lines will become more interesting than what it is in IE games.

 

And engagement areas could give good way make spear, halberd or some other pole arm better choice than sword or hammer. And of course I hope that this means that I can make wizard like Gandalf who can say to demon that "You shall not pass"  :D.

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Would the on-screen indicator for the radius of the engagement area be... the Engagement Ring? 8)

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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I encourage the move away from the Infinity Engine's melee limitations, however, I'm curious as to how Obsidian will avoid exploitation of the AI with the engagement system. I would think if you could force an enemy to disengage a warrior (from either a ranged attack or fear spell perhaps) it would cause an (in)finite loop of engaging, forcing a disengage, and reaping the benfits of a free attack.

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I'm not so thrilled about this. Kiting should be a very viable strategy. This is why the Mongols destroyed all their enemies. It's why the French lost at Agincourt. And it's why swords went out of style when guns came about. To oversimplify.

 

In IE games, I always thought that is was somewhat realistic how you had to clog or surround doors or send your attack in with specific waves in order to keep your weak-but-powerful characters from getting clobbered or targeted, and how ranged weapons were often more practical than melee.

 

It makes perfect sense that a thief with no armor to speak of can pretty much run circles around some guy with a heavy weapons and a hundred pounds of plate and baggage, especially in a wide open area, but that he loses that advantage as it becomes more enclosed. 

 

Yes, there should be an area around someone with a melee weapon that you can't speed through without risking a hit, but for the average sword you're talking maybe 6 to 10 ft. radius, and if the the person who wants to make a run of can get their opponent  to take a swing or make a parry is probably home free. Likewise, the mechanics change once you've closed inside of a weapon's effective range. This is why many sword styles teach techniques like pommeling for emergencies when you've failed to keep your measure.

 

In general, lightly armored people have a pretty good chance of not being troubled by heavily armored people if there's enough space or if they can use the speed/maneuverability advantage to keep their enemy out of proper measure. For most weapons there's a distance where the weapon becomes too awkward to use, while still being too far away to easily grapple.

 

The viable strategies for protecting your non-melee characters who aren't able to run ought to amount to blocking entrances and constraining access, or stacking up near them (body-guarding) so that anybody can't make a  melee attack on them without being stuck in clobbering range of your heavies, not leaving loads of open approaches that game mechanics prevent attackers from taking advantage of.

Edited by khango

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That's an awesome mug.

Would the on-screen indicator for the radius of the engagement area be... the Engagement Ring? 8)

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
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I'm not so thrilled about this. Kiting should be a very viable strategy. This is why the Mongols destroyed all their enemies. It's why the French lost at Agincourt. And it's why swords went out of style when guns came about. To oversimplify.

 

In IE games, I always thought that is was somewhat realistic how you had to clog or surround doors or send your attack in with specific waves in order to keep your weak-but-powerful characters from getting clobbered or targeted, and how ranged weapons were often more practical than melee.

 

It makes perfect sense that a thief with no armor to speak of can pretty much run circles around some guy with a heavy weapons and a hundred pounds of plate and baggage, especially in a wide open area, but that he loses that advantage as it becomes more enclosed. 

 

Yes, there should be an area around someone with a melee weapon that you can't speed through without risking a hit, but for the average sword you're talking maybe 6 to 10 ft. radius, and if the the person who wants to make a run of can get their opponent  to take a swing or make a parry is probably home free. Likewise, the mechanics change once you've closed inside of a weapon's effective range. This is why many sword styles teach techniques like pommeling for emergencies when you've failed to keep your measure.

 

In general, lightly armored people have a pretty good chance of not being troubled by heavily armored people if there's enough space or if they can use the speed/maneuverability advantage to keep their enemy out of proper measure. For most weapons there's a distance where the weapon becomes too awkward to use, while still being too far away to easily grapple.

 

The viable strategies for protecting your non-melee characters who aren't able to run ought to amount to blocking entrances and constraining access, or stacking up near them (body-guarding) so that anybody can't make a  melee attack on them without being stuck in clobbering range of your heavies, not leaving loads of open approaches that game mechanics prevent attackers from taking advantage of.

 

You seem to forget one thing: realistic or not is NOT the main aspect taken into thought here, gameplay mechanics are! Josh said it a while ago that combat design in PE strives to be fun and interesting to play, not especially realistic.

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Think this is a great way to approach one of the qualitative aspects of melee combat, or at least fantasy melee combat.  I dabbled with a similarly stateful mechanic in a PNP setting, but the maintenance required at the table ended up outweighing its benefits.  After all, given {k, m} combatants partitioned into two teams and assuming engagement is directed (i.e. engagement is not necessarily mutual for any pair of combatants), there are 2*k*m individual engagement states to track.  Even though most of them would be trivially non-engaged, that is still a lot to worry about.  Perfect for a computer, however, and as long as there is clear feedback from the interface the user should have no trouble seeing when engagement is a consideration.

 

One could probably leverage such a system to build a lot of depth.  Some possibilities might be:

1) Special engagement zones.  Perhaps reach weapons engage at range but not right up close, while dagger wielders need to be glued to the target.  Thus, different combinations of weapons will tend toward different equilibria in terms of effectiveness.  A character dual-wielding a one-handed spear and a dagger might have a wide range of engagement at expense of a particularly deadly point, while someone with two longswords might want to stick carefully to a moderate distance.  Depending on what the enemy is wielding this might lead to quite different considerations, and it would mean that a primary consideration for a weapon system is not just the target's armor but also the weapons they wield, which has the potential for more interesting tradeoffs.  One could tell characters to focus on maximizing damage by engaging at their optimal distance, focus on minimizing damage by attacking from where the enemy's weapons aren't so effective, or any balance in between.  This needn't be an exercise of position micromanagement, just let the computer calculate or move toward an equilibrium based on what the targets have and how they are told to attack, but give the player high-level control of what they would like optimized.  Or possibly not in the case of raging barbarians, taunted/bluffed/intimidated characters, and so on.

2) Various melee abilities when creatures are mutually engaged, which is the essence of dueling.

3) Various abilities when only one creature in a pair is considered to be engaged.  The notion of the sneak attack is often that the attacker has engaged the defender, but the defender cannot defend effectively.  Ganging up on somebody would be ideal for the rogue, but a fighter or other character that learns to engage many creatures would eventually be less easy to harass in that way.

4) Smart ways of "passing" engagement between allies, or abilities that depend on allies both engaging the same target.

5) Other notions of engagement that rely on the same basic idea.  For example, when can a rogue hide?  Coming from D&D roots, usually the answer is when no one is watching them.  That is a sense of visual engagement, which could potentially be leveraged for skills, spells, etc.

6) A primary utility of some summoned creatures might be as a means to create engagement, rather than to simply do damage.  Since balancing summons is always difficult anyway, it might be nice if at least some were less about doing or soaking damage and more about creating opportunities for those things.

7) Elaborate traps could "engage" characters in a similar fashion, which prevents, limits, or locks-in the means the creature has for escaping the trap.  If engagement is passed around creatively the party as a whole may have to adapt their escape strategy.  (No idea whether this would actually work.)

 

Anyway, I look forward to seeing where this mechanic is going.

Edited by Ainamacar
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I'm not so thrilled about this. Kiting should be a very viable strategy. This is why the Mongols destroyed all their enemies. It's why the French lost at Agincourt. And it's why swords went out of style when guns came about. To oversimplify.

You'll note that the Mongols were pretty damn careful not to get within skull-bashing range on their horses. Same for English archers and Parthian cavalry and whatever other historic examples. You can still kite, you just can't be right by someone (unless they aren't using a melee weapon or you use an ability that lets you disengage or you have someone to distract them).

 

Kiting is not inherently a bad thing, but leading an enemy on a merry chase when he's in pig-sticker range of your back is a bad thing. So is being able to run by a sword dude without consequence just because his body his not physically occupying the exact space you want to go through.

 

Even if it's not totally realistic - not differentiating between enemies at maximum effective melee range and minimum, for example - it's still a hell of a lot more realistic than the IE games or any of their spiritual successors thus far. If realism's your thang.

 

EDIT: And I'd never claim to be particularly knowledgeable about the Battle of Agincourt, but... what? My understanding was that it was a combination of the longbow, horrible mud, and a crazy bottleneck, not any sort of attack-retreat tactic from the English that could be compared to "kiting".

Edited by Tamerlane
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