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Removal of Combat Only - suggestions and solutions

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After the last BB update, there has been a renewed discussion about the combat only restriction on abilities in the game and some called for it's removal. Adam Brennecke commented on this a bit, which is great (Thx Adam!), because we can adress the points he mentioned.



There are 2 main reasons why combat only was introduced - no pre-buffing and ease of programming.


1. No pre-buffing reason


A) Pre-buffing in Eternity is effectively removed or at least severely limited by the short duration of buffs. Apart from food, most of the buffs are so short that you can't actually stack them, or you could (without combat only) stack like 2 of them, start combat and "exploit" the first 10 seconds with pre-buffed party. That's not the 'real' pre-buffing that was meant to be removed. Since 'real' pre-buffing is already prevented, there is no need to have a mechanic that does the same.


B) Pillars of Eternity is a role playing game, where both combat and 'story' take place in the same environment (don't know how to express it precisely), and mechanic like combat only just severely doesn't fit in a game like this. You can have combat only abilities in games like Heroes, where combat is taking place on a separate combat map, but in PoE this mechanic is too obviously just an unlovely game-y solution, that is detrimental to gameplay and breaks (YES, the I-WORD :-P ) immersion. Preventing pre-buffing with short cooldowns is ok from this perspective. Preventing it with combat only is'nt.

It's a roleplaying game. I want to role play a guy who likes to drink his speed potions in town and just run around the streets like crazy. Towns are in the game. Speed potions are in the game. Yet I can't do it? Such a shame ;(


2. Programming reasons


As Adam said in his posts, not having combat only abilities brings difficulties with save/loading. I'm not a programmer, so I can't say much about it. Since there were many save/loading issues throughout the beta, I can understand taking this solution to make things easier. However, there are many games around without this problem, and I guess Obsidian devs are experienced and skillful enough to overcome this. If there is not enough time left before release, just do it in one of the patches.


There is one issue Adam mentioned particularly:





Yeah, pretty much. There are some other reasons too - like solving the issue with per encounter abilities outside of combat. 



Right now, some of the per encounter abilities in BB aren't even combat only (Lay On Hands for example), and you can use them freely. So the obvious solution would be to make all per encounter abilities like this.


However, even though Lay on Hands doesn't have any effect outside of combat, it feels weird that you can use it repeatedly without restriction. So my solution to this would be - COOLDOWNS.


Now, we already have 1 sort of strange 'cooldown' in the game - regeneration of endurance after an encounter. What i suggest is giving per encounter abilities (and only them) a proper cooldown, that doesn't refresh during an encounter. I'm not sure about the duration, but I think it could be similar to the time needed to regen full endurance on a character. If I'm not mistaken, endurance regen speed is an integer, not a percent of full endurance, so there would be some problems with the 'right' duration of the cooldown, because more 'healthy' characters take longer to recover, but this is solvable.


Right now, I feel the game promotes classic cheesy tactic of pulling enemies one by one, because everytime you pull one, it is a new encounter and you have all per encounter abilities at your disposal. My solution would discourage this tactic a bit, because even if you didn't suffer any damage, you would have to wait a while for you abilities to refresh. Tactic still usable and viable, but less comfortable, which is actually a good thing from design perspective IMO.




Off-topic: I feel the fast regen of endurance after a fight promotes pulling one by one as well, so i would advocate slowing endurance regen (per encounter cooldowns could be shorter than full endurance regen in this case), but that's a different thing.





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Also summoned creatures will only be available in combat, and I don't see us changing it anytime soon. We did this to solve a number of design and programming problems. 


Adam, can you please be more specific about the design problems this would bring? I don't see any in BG for example. Summoned creatures can't enter building or traverse neighbouring areas, but that's just a minor thing, much better than nothing.


Thanks for the reply in advance.

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1: No pre-buffing.  You have misunderstood why they don't like pre-buffing.  They removed it not because it was "OP" or the effects lasted a long time.  They removed it because it was a non choice.  "Should I pre-buff for this fight, or just go in without?"  Non choice.  Of course I should pre-buff.  They fact that it only lasts 10 seconds is a non issue, it is still 10 seconds of buff versus 0 seconds of buff.  10 beats 0.  So there is no choice, you do it.  They want buffing to be a choice, they want you to decide that having your wizard cast party buff X is more important than throwing another fireball.  That is why there is no prebuffing.  They want to eliminate all "no brainers" and they want every choice to matter.


2: Programming reasons.  I am not a programmer, I don't know what kind of crazy programming issues they are running into with abilities outside of combat.  I know they changed paladin aura's because of something relating to the programming.  We don't know what the issues they are having are exactly so it is impossible to counter them with any argument.  Meanwhile I don't think adding yet another type of ability that requires even more programming is a good idea this late in the game.  We are less than 2 months from launch, there is unlikely to be enough time to code it, test it, add it, and test it some more.

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It's not a non-choice though. Especially if buffs have short durations, casting it before combat can mean you can miss out on one or more rounds of the buff in the IE games. I often see people spamming pre-buffs in videos and their first few buffs run out before combat begins.

Pre-buffing could be balanced with a trade off, where if you pre-buff you only get the buff for a shorter duration at the beginning of combat, but if you cast it in combat you probably get it for most of the encounter. They just chose to take the easy way out and remove it.

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Pre-buffing is fine. And should be in the game.


Fights, however, should not generally be balanced around pre-buffing. The big exception to this is if you are able to scout ahead. If you are in a lair of dragons... I would hope the game expects you to expect fire damage and adjust your strategy accordingly. If you are playing on harder difficulty... food, potion and inn buffs should be expected. Especially with a maim before death system. 


But if fights are balanced around meta-gaming and reload spam.... No no no no no



There is no reason why passives/modals should not always be on. Chanter songs being a very understandable exception. 

Edited by Bazy
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In this thread  there's some videos of higher level abilities, some of which include summoning various beasts to fight for you (Note: SPOILERS for those of you that don't want to see the spells)

One of the issues I saw was that a character would summon a creature, kill something rather quickly, and try to move to another battle before combat ends, mostly because if combat ends before the duration of the summon expires, the summon would disappear.  This seems like it's really discouraging and forces you to plow through as many enemies as quickly as possible so that your awesome spells don't go to waste.

Would it be possible to extend combat as long as the summons/buffs are active?  I'm not sure how this would affect saving but it would help reduce the frantic pace I saw there and the confusion and frustration when your buffs and summons suddenly run out without warning before you encounter the next enemy.


SPOILERS:  It's around 15:28 in the second video posted

Edited by bigsun123
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If they do enable prebuffing at some point in the future what I'd like to see is if you cast a buff within visual range of a neutral group they cast there own bufs or go hostile and attack you :), would help keep things more interesting.


I really like this. It feels like something people would actually do in a fantasy setting. Casting a combat buff on yourself is the fantasy version of drawing a gun.


Out of combat casting will always be a problem in rpg's where the combat is not separate from the main game. Recent example: In Divinity original sin out of combat casting was one of the two things that completly trivialized most encounters.

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