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Mr. Magniloquent

Asynchronous Combat Abilities Usage

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I'm having a bit of trouble with the asynchronous nature of combat. This is not a problem for standard attacks, but certainly makes spells and abilities unwieldy. Even with a cleric and wizard standing idle naked in reserve, they often do not have enough time to appropriately respond or apply spells both offensively and defensively. Add the necessity of armor with their own standard attacks, and it's almost as if they are acting independently of the battle conditions. The shifting melee contributes to a high degree of misses, since spells need to be cast at the edge of their periphery to avoid friendly fire. Action and equipment delays regularly necessitate a healing spell to be cast at the first sign of damage or risk it being cast on a corpse.

 

Having each actor on their own unique time-sequence with the added potential for each to be altered by interruption and movement, the exact nature of the problem is difficult to discern. The experience is reminiscent of solving multivariable calculus. If I were to guess, I would wager that the problem is with the standardized cool-down and use speed of spells/abilities. I think that they too will need some variation--likely based on spell level and attribute scores rather than weapon type. To reiterate, I'm not sure. I'm just wondering if this is a problem for others, and what their thoughts might be.

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If I could like this thread and post a hundred times I would! Precisely, the way I feel.

 

Josh will probably be reluctant to do so, but removing each combatant's unique time sequence would make every single decision for each party member (and perhaps summon, pet, whatnot) much clearer strategically, and this kind of party-based CRPG thrives on well-informed decisions, paused or not.

If it got removed, we would no longer need to keep track of those individual pips above their heads, safe in the knowledge that all actions follow the same cycle. Yes, you have probably guessed it by now. We need some kind of return of the combat round.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot
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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Combat is basically a bunch of waves that are all out of phase, and that change wavelengths frequently. The exact reason I've avoided trying to quantify the influence of Interrupt on dps, because it's hard and I get enough hard math in school. :p

 

EDIT: Not that I'd personally like to see this changed. A single, unified round for all combatants (which I don't think the IE games actually had - someone with more knowledge than I should clarify here) would look really weird, and wouldn't work with RTwP. It's kind of confusing, but that's ok. That's the sacrifice you make when you build a Real-Time game. Unified round for all and your game is literally Turn-Based, even if the turns happen automatically (i.e. illusion of Real-Time).

Edited by Matt516
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Matt516: Exactly. I second that idea of an automatic turn and the illusion of real time. It would definitely solve a lot of headaches, like one potent painkiller.


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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The point of diverse timings is create the possibility to have much more variety in skills and effects (longer animations, bigger spells). It allows much more variety, while keeping it balanced. In turn based systems there's often a single action that uses the turn in the most efficient way. It's straight and boring, while in the current PoE system every action is possible and valuable the same way, because you need to invest x amount of time on it.

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It's pretty chaotic right now, but I think this is something the player will be able to get a handle on if the devs tweak the combat info/feedback and adjust a few more things re the combat itself.

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That combat would be more boring in turn-based combat systems vs individual timed action sequences is merely subjective opinion. However, what we have right now is objectively a mess. A bold statement, I know. 

 

Take NWN1, for instance. Things were complicated under the hood, but not PoE beta complicated. In fact, you can still have individual combat rounds, while still syncing the combat in a pleasant enough way:

There was such a thing is one attack phase.

A flurry is effectively the smallest unit of time used by Neverwinter Nights, as far as players are concerned. Each flurry lasts two seconds, so there are three flurries in a round. All combat actions taken in a single flurry are essentially resolved simultaneously. In particular, all attack rolls for a given flurry are resolved before the damage from those attacks is calculated and applied. (This is known to reduce the importance of initiative.)

Due to game engine limitations, the maximum number of attacks per flurry by a single character is 5, which translates into 15 attacks per round. This is sufficient most of the time since a character can have at most 10 normal attacks per round. However bonus attacks, such as a cleave attack or an attack of opportunity, can meet or even exceed this game engine limitation.

Attacks per round are distributed as evenly as possible among the three flurries in a round.

A round is an in-game unit of time that lasts six seconds. In addition to being a general unit of time (such as for the duration of spells), a round is the basic reference time interval for combat.

Combat rounds are defined per creature rather than being global throughout the module (or even throughout a combat). Each creature's individual combat round is started the moment it makes an attack (melee or ranged) or uses an item. (Casting a spell does not start a combat round. It is possible to attack immediately after a spell is cast.)

And for the record: A turn is an ingame unit of time that lasts one minute (10 rounds).

 

All combat was structured around these pretty simple cogs.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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It's pretty chaotic right now, but I think this is something the player will be able to get a handle on if the devs tweak the combat info/feedback and adjust a few more things re the combat itself.

I'm more pessimistic: Without a solution like NWN1's flurries, where all the combatants actions are resolved simultaneously, attack roll and then damage, there will always be chaos, bordering on the masochistic level, since there are six party members, summons, pets, perhaps ten enemies... What you got then is one helluva a pip fest moving around on the screen, always completely desynchronized.


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Honestly, the "turn" concept in nwn and the IE games has always been a complete pain in the neck. Whether it was the way the online part never was designed well to fit with the turns, whether it was trying to make heartbeat scripts go off in modules, whether it was vainly trying to actually interrupt techniques, hopelessly using the spell "counter" mechanic (seriously.. million hours in nwn - never figured it out). Moving around during combat, forcing every fight and ability to be dependent on dps, fully and completely free of overall strategic input.

 

If the entire "turn" thing can be done away with, the sooner the better.

 

And from what I've seen in the PoE beta, just having a no-turn time-movement and cool-down on the abilities works perfectly. Priests actually can use "words" and "commands" semi-instantly before damage applies, etc., like they're supposed to. Wizards will be able to cast simple spells really fast, actually making difficult spells vs. lower level spells a tactical choice on a level other than "Will I cast a weak spell this turn, or a monster spell this turn? HMMMM!!!!".

 

Furthermore, combat suddenly actually makes sense. A heavy fighter with massive swings will always be able to hit really hard - but he won't be able to pull off the heavy attacks without being interrupted. A massively armored fighter moves slower and has longer ability cooldowns, increased knockdown, etc. And now that it isn't dependent on a division of "turn" units, you can actually balance the damn thing to make sense.

 

Truth is that it's dumb as **** to keep the pen and paper abstractions in the game when you have a computer that can do the calculations. You could argue that having the abstractions there gives you better strategic and tactical overview. But like explained, in NWN the abstractions were only kept for certain parts of the design, and never really worked in the game from a mechanical point of view. They really had a completely new and very complicated system underneath with new abstractions in order to keep the familiar high-level abstractions somewhat present.

 

But if that's a goal in itself, then why use a computer? Or, why not have simpler abstractions with turn-based movement that obey the familiar rules more accurately (see Paper Sorcerer, for example). What you're really asking for here is a worse and really patchy design on top that has to be tied together on the mechanical level with string, tape and rubber-bands. Trust me, you don't want that, even if it would give you more familiar top-level abstractions.

 

What do the little pips mean?

 

..probably something to do with the defenses. Could be that you can whack someone and reduce their resistance against a specific damage type.

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The point of diverse timings is create the possibility to have much more variety in skills and effects (longer animations, bigger spells). It allows much more variety, while keeping it balanced. In turn based systems there's often a single action that uses the turn in the most efficient way.

 

Lack of mechanic optimization is certainly a problem. I guess that's the entire issue I'm having. I do not feel that a masked turn based system need be the answer either. At the moment, a major problem is that ability usage (which all classes have in some form), are extremely inefficient. Disregarding poor balance of duration/damage/effectiveness, they cannot reasonably be applied in an appropriate manner because of the combat calculus. High resolve alone does not fix this, as even when not suffering risk of interruption, the character's own actions conspire against them to act in a timely fashion.

 

In the time it takes to invoke 1 spell/ability (just successfully use, not recover), there is the potential to have had up to 3 attacks and movement for EACH actor fielded. The variability further increases if engagement is being involved. This is problematic for timing something as straight-forward as Knockdown. It is a real conundrum for spells with radius, and a nightmare for spells which are aimed on margin due to friendly fire.

 

That's just a three second span of time with assumptions made that all actions began simultaneously--which they very rarely are. Factor in the minimum three second recovery for ability use, any recovery imposed by armor, compounded by the probability that your character was not idle and already engaged in an action with its own speed factor and recovery rates, and you have a fine mess. Responding to change in conditions through abilities is very complicated. This is the chaos that people are talking about with PoE combat.

 

Edited for grammar.

Edited by Mr. Magniloquent
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And from what I've seen in the PoE beta, just having a no-turn time-movement and cool-down on the abilities works perfectly. 

A big and resounding "nope"! :no:

 

No turns at all, it's all fine and cool in theory, letting the computer keep track of everything, and have a gazillion of overlapping info just running on dozens of individual counters. Will comptuers be able to handle it? Sure. What do we humans think of it? It get's whimsical, hectic and messy.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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No turns at all, it's all fine and cool in theory, letting the computer keeping track of everything, and have a gazillion of overlapping info just running on dozens of individual counters. Will comptuers be able to handle it? Sure. What do we humans think of it? It get's whimsical, hectic and messy.

 

Still.. what is actually difficult to see? Specifically. I absolutely agree that a million applied effects sprouting out of characters with critically borked normal mapping, slowing the game down, and killing the framerate, etc., is a mess. That the feedback scroll is generally a step ahead of the combat swings, while usually behind the trigger effects, is also a problem.

 

But imagine something like this:

1. Wizzard prepares a fireball. You can now see the signs hovering over the grimoire, and there's an auto-pause option for it as well.

2. You pause, activate burst of speed, and charge the wizard with your barbarian. 

3. You're not completely sure if he'll make it, so you add a quick first-level wizard spell against that wizard on the opposite side, who inexplicably wears no clothes for some curious non-game world related explanation.

4. Unpause. Your wizard goes first and slams the other wizard with a projectile, and the spell is interrupted. You can see this as you the spell hits in the log, and you pause.

5. The barbarian charges a second target.

6. Your priest puts the wizard to sleep with a word of command, because - again, for some inexplicable non-game world reason, the wizard has no willpower of any kind.

 

Against this:

1. Enemy redies fireball. You only see this in the combat scroll window. You pause, direct several people to attack the wizard, including the archer, four priests, three skeletons, a wizard and their pets, and unpause.

2. The one single enemy you're fighting triggers an attack of opportunity against each of your moving characters up to 15 pop.

3. The fireball goes off, because you didn't do the first attack this round against the new target and had to wait for the next one.

4. Archer, priest, and fifteen pets fight over which one will be able to interrupt the wizard the next turn.

 

It's dumb. It's broken. I hope it is never revived again.

Edited by nipsen
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I can't argue with that! Great points, Nipsen! There are broken stuff in those PnP turn-based systems adopted for computer games. And your 6-point example certainly sounds nice. How about finding out which feedback we don't need? Such stuff could be removed and become under the hood. Also, some of it may need to be simplified for us humans to feel wwe are in control, even without pause for every important event.


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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The major

 

But imagine something like this:

1. Wizzard prepares a fireball. You can now see the signs hovering over the grimoire, and there's an auto-pause option for it as well.

2. You pause, activate burst of speed, and charge the wizard with your barbarian. 

3. You're not completely sure if he'll make it, so you add a quick first-level wizard spell against that wizard on the opposite side, who inexplicably wears no clothes for some curious non-game world related explanation.

4. Unpause. Your wizard goes first and slams the other wizard with a projectile, and the spell is interrupted. You can see this as you the spell hits in the log, and you pause.

5. The barbarian charges a second target.

6. Your priest puts the wizard to sleep with a word of command, because - again, for some inexplicable non-game world reason, the wizard has no willpower of any kind.

 

The problem with this scenario, is that it is contrived. Your barbarian is likely to already be engaged in battle. Your countering wizard is also likely to be performing an action. They both have cooldowns of their own which must complete before they can form new ones--especially for your own wizard. Furthermore, your Wizard still has the same casting speed as the enemy wizard. For his interrupting spell to work, it needs to not only cast more quickly than the enemy spell, but so much more quickly that is has enough time to strike the opponent before they complete their own.

 

I think that departing from absolute rounds can work, and could potentially be great. However, it presently makes ability usage severely problematic. The native/inherent use and recovery times, let alone the abilities themselves are going to require significant rework.

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I guess that's the nature of things with people who are a bit too dedicated fans of Obsidian games.

 

We know there's something that works, somewhere, down there. And we're not going to be distracted by mere.. broken UI, horrible presentation, graphical glitches, actual bugs, logical code problems, implementation laziness, hangs, etc., to get to it.

 

But seriously, though. Yeah, obviously they should have a look at the way combat data is presented. I think there's two things happening here, though. We are going to be presented to each and every single detail, one at a time, in the campaign. We're going to have one character, or two characters at a time. There's not going to be many distractions, it's going to be tested and balanced initially in a way that you can spot weaknesses and things like that very quickly. Narratively, you're going to see how stamina reduction from injuries is going to make it likely your character will die, not just get knocked unconscious earlier, and so on. Weaknesses they get will be explained, or at least made obvious enough.

 

So the initial barrier isn't going to be as high as it is in the backer beta.

 

Second, it's a mess. It's a complete freaking horrifying mess. Like I said in the other thread, there are so many things that barely hang together, that it's hard to see how they're going to be able to improve it significantly without working a team to the bone for months. Just from a glance, that's the impression I'm left with. May not be the case, but that's my impression.

 

But at the moment, it's difficult to read out what's actually going on if you don't know what to look for on beforehand.

 

So what I'm wondering is that if the combat feedback was tweaked a little bit - red for incoming abilities starting and counting down, blue for outgoing trigger-effects, yellow for completed trigger and ability effects, white for combat rolls, things of that sort - if the game would suddenly be very easy to read? Even if the actual combat actions on the screen are out of sync?

 

It would at least bring it to the level of your average nwn-round. So would that make it acceptable..?

 

Past that, I really would have liked them to add more animation to distinguish preparation and movement more clearly. There are beginnings to this in the game already.. wizards have a three-stage cast, for example. And the last "hurl" can last really long depending on what sort of spell you're casting. Can these be made more obvious? Should they be? Will it make sense if you're eased into it with fewer characters in the part early on, etc..?

 

*shrug*


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The point of diverse timings is create the possibility to have much more variety in skills and effects (longer animations, bigger spells). It allows much more variety, while keeping it balanced. In turn based systems there's often a single action that uses the turn in the most efficient way. It's straight and boring, while in the current PoE system every action is possible and valuable the same way, because you need to invest x amount of time on it.

It would be more diverse if spells had different cast times and if weapon speed was not purely the result of weapon category (fast, one handed, two handed).

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Matt516: Exactly. I second that idea of an automatic turn and the illusion of real time. It would definitely solve a lot of headaches, like one potent painkiller.

I appreciate the support but I think you may have misunderstood my intent - I'm NOT in support of a de facto turn-based system for PoE. xD

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Matt516: Me neither, just the ordering effect of it, under the hood, as it were. No TB needed here. :)


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Perhaps this might be an unpopular opinion, but I feel interupts should be limited to spell casts only. Having basic attacks and physical attacks interrupted makes the game too random and honestly, hard to follow.

 

Does it make sense in real life? Sure. In an RPG? I just feel it takes too much away from the player. Imagine this scenario:

 

A rogue is about to backstab (or whatever) a really low health caster. Just before, she gets hit by an arrow from a ranged creature, and her backstab is interrupted. The caster finishes his spell and kills the rogue / some other party member. 

 

While an interesting read, for sure, it does not make good gameplay. In order for classes like the Rogue, and Fighter, to be useful they have to be reliable. Sure, the backstab might not have killed the caster, but at least you know the attempt was made. She gets interrupted in a complex fight, and you may never know, even if the interrupt was easy to read with flashing lights and red text or some such thing.

 

Same thing for fighters, usually the most reliable class. If they are interrupted, then their damaged output is also unreliable.

 

Add to this an already confusing system, such as the asynchronous characters, and it makes combat pretty clunky. If a mage is interrupted, where does their "combat timer" go? What about those three spell casters I just hit with a fireball? Those archers that ran into a trap? Sure, it's possible to display it all as HUD elements, but that just increases the clutter and clunkiness.

 

It's a broken system, I'm afraid.

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It's a broken system, I'm afraid because I don't like it.

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Perhaps this might be an unpopular opinion, but I feel interupts should be limited to spell casts only. Having basic attacks and physical attacks interrupted makes the game too random and honestly, hard to follow.

 

Does it make sense in real life? Sure. In an RPG? I just feel it takes too much away from the player. Imagine this scenario:

 

A rogue is about to backstab (or whatever) a really low health caster. Just before, she gets hit by an arrow from a ranged creature, and her backstab is interrupted. The caster finishes his spell and kills the rogue / some other party member. 

 

 

That situation sounds fantastic, much better than if the rogue still went through with the kill despite the wizard's team mate putting an arrow through the rogue's rotator cuff. This isn't an MMO/MOBA and removing interrupts in favor of a more 'flat', 'reliable' real time combat system(or making all turns synchronized because you're too used to turn-based combat to adjust) would kill a major tactical part of the game.

 

If the wizard gets shot and is interrupted, his timer starts over of course. Hit those three casters with a fireball and if they were in the middle of casting AND you interrupted them, their timers start over too. It seems perfectly natural to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's a broken system, I'm afraid because I don't like it.

 

 

This hits the mark, I think.

Edited by Panteleimon

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The system was clearly designed around and emphasizes standard attack melee combat, which is why abilities come across awkwardly. I believe Obsidian is going to need to retool the activation speed and recovery times of abilities/spells to be based on [Ability Tier] + [Armor Modifier] + [Talent]. Abilities would be tiered according to their power/frequency of use/etc. to have them resemble the current staggering of weapon action/recovery speeds. Significant balancing would be required, but that's already in dire need anyway. I think it would be an elegant solution to a severe problem with combat.

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Does it make sense in real life? Sure. In an RPG? I just feel it takes too much away from the player. Imagine this scenario:

 

A rogue is about to backstab (or whatever) a really low health caster. Just before, she gets hit by an arrow from a ranged creature, and her backstab is interrupted. The caster finishes his spell and kills the rogue / some other party member. 

 

While an interesting read, for sure, it does not make good gameplay.

 

That sounds pretty cool to me, honestly.

 

There's an added tactical layer here: is it best to perform some action now to maximize character actions, or is it best to delay an action in order to interrupt - reduce - enemy actions later? Is a delay better than an action if the action is likely to be interrupted itself?

 

To misquote HL2, "The right action at the wrong time can make all the difference in the world."

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The problem I find is two-fold.

 

First, each character finishes their "turn" asynchronously.

Second, each character has "abilities" that require player input.

 

What you end up with is a battle that takes 20s in-game but about 20 minutes IRL due to having to pause every 0.8s for each character's next instruction.

 

Possible solutions

1. Ability queues such as in KOTOR.

2. Build characters with as few player-input decisions as possible (auto-attackers).

3. Complete overhaul of the combat system.

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