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On the topic of sudden instant kills


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The impression I get from reading the combat threads is that this kind of thing is frowned upon. People have issues if you're able to do it to enemies, and they'll certainly have issues if enemies are able to do it to you.

 

My first issue with that is, it's unrealistic. The history of actual combat in this world is one that's largely a story of sudden kills. I.e. a combatant's life would typically end not due to a large collection of minor wounds, but a few severe wounds. Often just a single fatal wound. And even if the wound wasn't instantly fatal it would at least be incapacitating, i.e., a guy couldn't just shrug off a crossbow bolt to the chest as though it was some minor annoyance and go rejoin the fight, which is generally what we seem to expect in fantasy combat. And even the crudest of attacks carried out by the most inept of people - e.g. a small rock thrown by some drunk - at least have the chance, no matter how small, of instantly taking someone out.

 

The realism itself isn't the main basis for my argument though. My real issue is that it sanitizes combat a bit too much, and takes out the surprises. The feeling of euphoria when I land a lucky hit (or of frustration when my opponent does the same) is diminished beause there isn't that much difference in the end between a lucky hit and a regular hit. In my humble opinion, instant kills shouldn't be reserved for special WWE-style "finishing moves"; it should at least have the possibility of happening anytime, anywhere and by any opponent.

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The impression I get from reading the combat threads is that this kind of thing is frowned upon. People have issues if you're able to do it to enemies, and they'll certainly have issues if enemies are able to do it to you.

 

My first issue with that is, it's unrealistic. The history of actual combat in this world is one that's largely a story of sudden kills. I.e. a combatant's life would typically end not due to a large collection of minor wounds, but a few severe wounds. Often just a single fatal wound. And even if the wound wasn't instantly fatal it would at least be incapacitating, i.e., a guy couldn't just shrug off a crossbow bolt to the chest as though it was some minor annoyance and go rejoin the fight, which is generally what we seem to expect in fantasy combat. And even the crudest of attacks carried out by the most inept of people - e.g. a small rock thrown by some drunk - at least have the chance, no matter how small, of instantly taking someone out.

 

The realism itself isn't the main basis for my argument though. My real issue is that it sanitizes combat a bit too much, and takes out the surprises. The feeling of euphoria when I land a lucky hit (or of frustration when my opponent does the same) is diminished beause there isn't that much difference in the end between a lucky hit and a regular hit. In my humble opinion, instant kills shouldn't be reserved for special WWE-style "finishing moves"; it should at least have the possibility of happening anytime, anywhere and by any opponent.

Maybe  it should be handled like in D&D with some random Chance of death.  for example a critical saving throw will kill you instantly.

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Maybe  it should be handled like in D&D with some random Chance of death.  for example a critical saving throw will kill you instantly.

 

 

That's how I'd handle it. Though in my experience the D&D-based games suffered from the same problem. True, they did have more instakill abilities like petrification etc. but ordinary combat with weapons was generally quite predictable.

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Real life =/= great gameplay.

 

Yes, in reality one or two hits tend to decide most fights, but if PoE played that way the variance of every battle would be huge, and the outcome would depends less on player skill than on random chance. All that would accomplish is a lot of reloading autosaves and hoping for better dice rolls.

 

Action games like dark souls can employ very lethal attacks because player skill can mitigate against damage, but for a 3rd person isometric RPG it would not be much fun IMO.

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The more your game is based on randomness, the less your game is based on tactics or strategy.

 

I would rather have a fun, tactical game than a realistic, random game.

 

I disagree that tactics would be diminished with this added realism. It would still be relevant, but what it would do is change how we think. I.e. we would start thinking in terms of who's expendable and have them face the risks. We would put a great deal of thought into how long the combat lasts, so as to limit the risk of something going catastrophically wrong. And if we're not willing to sacrifice anyone, it would make us genuinely think about avoiding combat, which itself is an important decision which I feel we're not forced to make often enough in games.

 

That said, I don't think it should be mandatory, it should be a toggleable thing. Even though I personally love it, there will be times when it'll be a pain (e.g. if I'm replaying an area due to some bug, and I just want to breeze through the combat rather than having to slog through it all over again).

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Real life =/= great gameplay.

 

Yes, in reality one or two hits tend to decide most fights, but if PoE played that way the variance of every battle would be huge, and the outcome would depends less on player skill than on random chance. All that would accomplish is a lot of reloading autosaves and hoping for better dice rolls.

 

Action games like dark souls can employ very lethal attacks because player skill can mitigate against damage, but for a 3rd person isometric RPG it would not be much fun IMO.

 

I disagree that the only outcome would be save-scumming. That would only apply if I was going through a playthrough where I was intent on clearing all levels, completing every possible quest and keeping all companions alive. If I was willing to avoid combat, and to accept the consequences of a combat gone poorly (and if I took the precautions necessary to make sure "my" character didn't die), I could easily get through an entire game without any serious issue. And I agree, if implemented it should be toggleable, I would most likely leave it off and go for a more casual combat style if I was trying a completionist run.

 

As for appropriateness for isometric RPGs, I think Fallout handled this well, with the "shoot at the eyes" kind of stuff. It wasn't completely realistic, since both you and your opponents were shielded from the worst aspects of randomness (like my example of being instantly taken out by someone throwing a rock), while still leaving plenty of room for a combat situation to evolve in interesting ways.

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The more your game is based on randomness, the less your game is based on tactics or strategy.

 

I would rather have a fun, tactical game than a realistic, random game.

 

I disagree that tactics would be diminished with this added realism. It would still be relevant, but what it would do is change how we think. I.e. we would start thinking in terms of who's expendable and have them face the risks. We would put a great deal of thought into how long the combat lasts, so as to limit the risk of something going catastrophically wrong. And if we're not willing to sacrifice anyone, it would make us genuinely think about avoiding combat, which itself is an important decision which I feel we're not forced to make often enough in games.

 

That said, I don't think it should be mandatory, it should be a toggleable thing. Even though I personally love it, there will be times when it'll be a pain (e.g. if I'm replaying an area due to some bug, and I just want to breeze through the combat rather than having to slog through it all over again).

 

Problem is, this just isn't that type of game.

First of all, NOBODY is expendable.

Second of all, combat is - by design - a huge part of this game. Discouraging players from engaging in combat won't make this game better.

 

Now there are SOME games where what you're saying makes sense. In X-Com, for instance, combat is x-tremely lethal, and the optimal play style means playing cautiously and minimizing your risk-taking by ending firefights as quickly as possible.

But this isn't that type of game.

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Problem is, this just isn't that type of game.

First of all, NOBODY is expendable.

Second of all, combat is - by design - a huge part of this game. Discouraging players from engaging in combat won't make this game better.

 

Now there are SOME games where what you're saying makes sense. In X-Com, for instance, combat is x-tremely lethal, and the optimal play style means playing cautiously and minimizing your risk-taking by ending firefights as quickly as possible.

But this isn't that type of game.

 

 

It's not about discouraging from combat at all, it's about making the decision about whether or not to engage in combat a meaningful one. It kind of goes to a philosophical issue I've had with RPGs in general. In every game you go through a spiel of "Oh what a dangerous world this is, death lurks around every corner" while at the same time there's the expecation that we'll be able to go everywhere and completely kill everything with not much real effort. That creates a bit of a dissonance that I find hard to ignore.

 

This game was actually a big step forward in that regard because it played up the concept of areas that you couldn't complete right away, it toned down the facerolling aspect which was a big plus. My suggestion would just be taking that idea to another level. And again, I don't want it to be mandatory, just an option (I don't know much about the mechanics of this game, so I might be wrong about this, but I don't think it would be incredibly hard to put in a "chance of death" bit on normal attacks). As it stands, there are plenty of combats in the game where the only way I'm at any risk at all is if I deliberately play poorly or handicap myself, and that doesn't feel authentic at all.

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The more your game is based on randomness, the less your game is based on tactics or strategy.

 

No, this simplistic view is just flat-out untrue.

 

Managing probability and planning for failure is a major branch of tactics and strategy. If you just eliminate random chance entirely, you lose a lot of strategic depth. Also, a certain amount of unpredictability requires much higher analytical skills from players.

 

Unsurprisingly, in ideal conditions there's a good balance between randomness and predictability.

 

EDIT: That said, simply adding a random kill chance to a game is not good design. And while I love realism in games, I don't love it as much as I love good gameplay.

Edited by Caerdon
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The impression I get from reading the combat threads is that this kind of thing is frowned upon. People have issues if you're able to do it to enemies, and they'll certainly have issues if enemies are able to do it to you.

 

My first issue with that is, it's unrealistic. The history of actual combat in this world is one that's largely a story of sudden kills. I.e. a combatant's life would typically end not due to a large collection of minor wounds, but a few severe wounds. Often just a single fatal wound. And even if the wound wasn't instantly fatal it would at least be incapacitating, i.e., a guy couldn't just shrug off a crossbow bolt to the chest as though it was some minor annoyance and go rejoin the fight, which is generally what we seem to expect in fantasy combat. And even the crudest of attacks carried out by the most inept of people - e.g. a small rock thrown by some drunk - at least have the chance, no matter how small, of instantly taking someone out.

 

The realism itself isn't the main basis for my argument though. My real issue is that it sanitizes combat a bit too much, and takes out the surprises. The feeling of euphoria when I land a lucky hit (or of frustration when my opponent does the same) is diminished beause there isn't that much difference in the end between a lucky hit and a regular hit. In my humble opinion, instant kills shouldn't be reserved for special WWE-style "finishing moves"; it should at least have the possibility of happening anytime, anywhere and by any opponent.

 

This is actually a good time to explain why hit points were created in the first place :D

 

Once upon a time, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, RPG's were played with pen and paper and sometimes calculators.  

 

Now a real fight consists of many swings, blocks, parries, feints, etc.  Trying to do all the math and dice rolls manually would be a serious bookkeeping PITA.  So a couple of those dinosaurs, a wizard named Gary of Gygax and a warrior Dave Son of Arne, came up with hit points.

 

Instead of having to track each individual swing and whether it was a mortal blow, grazing blow, whatever, each roll of the dice now simulated a period of time in the fight during which many swings, feints, parries, etc. were made.  Hit points gave the rolls meaning.  They showed the character slowly wearing down before a mortal blow was finally landed.

 

They were never meant to represent a single real health statistic.

 

And while I personally think hit points should go the way of the dinosaur since computers have no problem at all with detailed PITA bookeeping, and animation is more than capable of showing all the individual swings, parries, and whatnot, I'm definitely a minority opinion on the subject.

 

(side note for the OP: if you want your OHKO - one hit knock out - create a rogue focused on pure damage traits and give him a big, nasty heavily enchanted two-handed melee weapon and let him attack from behind)

Edited by Xavori
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The more your game is based on randomness, the less your game is based on tactics or strategy.

 

No, this simplistic view is just flat-out untrue.

 

Managing probability and planning for failure is a major branch of tactics and strategy. If you just eliminate random chance entirely, you lose a lot of strategic depth. Also, a certain amount of unpredictability requires much higher analytical skills from players.

 

Unsurprisingly, in ideal conditions there's a good balance between randomness and predictability.

 

EDIT: That said, simply adding a random kill chance to a game is not good design. And while I love realism in games, I don't love it as much as I love good gameplay.

 

Managing unknowns and uncontrollables and minimizing risks are - indeed - major branches of tactics and strategy. For instance, ensuring that your troops have proper clothing and equipment for all types of weather is a form of strategic planning, while throwing a flashbang before breaching a room is a form of risk-minimizing tactics.

 

HOWEVER, both of these deal with a lack of information, not a randomly generated outcome. Creating a battle system in which you have a 50% chance of dying and a 50% chance of winning (no matter what you do) would destroy all other strategic and tactical concerns. The less the player is able to control the outcome of the game, the less the game is based on strategy or tactics.

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