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Update #44: The Rules of (Melee) Engagement

project eternity josh sawyer combat engagement

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#21
AGX-17

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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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#22
Archmage Silver

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@Josh

Does the size of the fighter's race affect the radius of the engagement zone?



#23
doshu

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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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#24
Ainamacar

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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, 26 February 2013 - 09:21 PM.

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#25
Tamerlane

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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, 26 February 2013 - 09:07 PM.

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#26
AwesomeOcelot

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I love this idea and Josh's weirdness. Been watching TGS Blood Bowl league on YouTube, and this seems like the tackle zone system. Just an idea to conceptualize this.

#27
Verenti

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I really like this idea. As an amateur fencer and someone who has always been interested in sword fighting, this model appeals to me. It seems like a departure from that very medival plate behemoth who just takes all the punishment to this more swashbuckler like model. It makes it seem more like how melee combat ought to be, where you have to wait for an enemy to leave an opening and then capitalise on it.

 

My only suggestion is to include some sort of tactical movement mode, that allows you to remain in combat, while moving slowly away or towards. So if you are defending a strategic location and some rogue is trying to sneak past, you could inch your engagement zone towards him without disengaging from the other guy you're also trying to keep locked down. I want to have the opportunity to put as much thought into my manuvering as a fighter, as I might have with spell selection as a wizard.


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#28
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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.

Except he also forgot this mechanic is realistic.  I can link you videos of dudes doing backflips in full plate, it is no where near as cumbersome or restricting as they see to think it is and any decent swordsman will have a host of moves they could use if you tried to simply "run past them".  Meanwhile kiting is one of the gamiest and most unrealistic tactics to ever exist.  In the real world your enemy can just not pursue you, use a shield, pull their own ranged weapon, hide behind cover, or plenty of other things.  No one is just going to stupidly follow you from just outside their attack range for eternity.  That is purely bad ai and terrible encounter design.

 

Also guns didn't replace swords for a very very long time.  Let's also not forget a flanking maneuver that took place on a hill in Pennsylvania that was defeated by a bayonet charge.  Melee weapons didn't become completely trivial until World War 1.



#29
Genghis Cunn

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Just remember, to gain  an advantage, just before you draw your sword say: "This doesn't mean we're engaged, or anything."  :-)


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#30
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.

 

I don't think the point is making kiting invalid, it is making sure it has some tradeoffs.  Remember, in the IE games if your hasted archer isn't completely blocked off he can waltz past 10 melee attackers while flipping them individually off in the face, and be fine.  In other words, kiting was often *so good* you could succeed without actually being good at kiting.



#31
aelreth

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

Could we call it a "vicious circle" instead?


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#32
Acridine Orange

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This sounds like a great mechanic!  It makes sense and I can see how you could develop a lot of deep tactics based off of preventing/exploiting "engagement" in combat.  As for the whole kiting thing that Khango was talking about...yeah kiting is one thing in gaming that has always bugged me precisely because the overpowered effects that are so exploitable.  Sure Mongols "kited" their enemies...from the back of a HORSE (man those guys were badasses).  Certainly it is possible, and it seems like it still will be a viable option in Project Eternity, but with this system it won't be so overwhelmingly effective.

 

Firearms replaced melee weapons (after hundreds of years) because it is hard to close to hand-to-hand range when you have a sucking chest wound.  Running around your enemy in a circle while shooting at him as he furiously tries to close the distance is a funny, yet completely silly thought.  The French loss at Agincourt had nothing to do with "kiting."  The terrain was really the decisive factor, that and a sky full of arrows from English longbowmen.  They had to charge down a narrow, muddy corridor (I forget how far, 300 yards or so) as the English just rained arrows down on them over and over.  The English were almost completely stationary.



#33
Rostere

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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 equilibrium 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.)

 

Those are great ideas.

 

What I like most about the update is how this creates opportunities for the different classes to have different uses with respect to engagement. I like the idea of a rogue being useful for avoiding penalties when snucking past fighters' "rings of engagement" ;)

 

On the other hand, I don't think mages should have the "grimoire slam" ability from a balance point of view. Mages are meant to be shafted from being engaged (and protected from being so by other characters), not have own non-spell protections from it.



#34
dirigible

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Created an account to comment on this. While I think you guys are moving in the right direction, I think the system you use could be a bit more powerful while also being a bit more realistic.

 

When two people are fighting each other, they are both attacking conservatively. Neither is going to wildly swing their weapon because they will probably get stabbed. So actual melee combat is a careful balance between offense and defense.

 

In a situation where one combatant is unthreatened they are able to attack much more effectively, because they do not have to worry about being counterattacked. They don't need to worry about feinting or leaving themselves open. They just swing/thrust to kill.

 

I would translate that same phenomenon to the game. If a combatant is not being threatened by their target, then they would get a large bonus to their attack. This means that simply trying to walk around a fighter will get you your **** slapped, since you are not threatening them.

 

This mechanic would also allow for things like rogue backstabs (coming out of the shadows, they are not being threatened, so they get to do a powerful attack). Or flanking attacks -  since most units could only threaten one enemy at a time, ganging up becomes very effective.

 

Just a thought.


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#35
Monte Carlo

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It captures the spirit of that thing you see in movies when one of our heroes says "run away! I'll hold 'em back!" and draws his sword.

 

So I like it.


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#36
PrimeJunta

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Oh yes. Very much yes. We are actually going to see melee fighters who are able to control space and block movement. This thing alone will make combat leaps and bounds better than any tactical cRPG so far. Favorite update so far. :thumbsup:


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#37
ryukenden

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I guess I lurk around long enough. Anyway great work guys



#38
KaineParker

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Damn, that is a great idea.

#39
PrimeJunta

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Also, I am going to have to make a combat mage who specializes in debuffs, and name him Barkley.

 

Because he jams and slams.  8)


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#40
Sensuki

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I would like the Grimoire to at least double as a weapon so you can phonebook people for 1 damage, even if just for the comical factor.

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.

YEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH





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