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Simple Fix for Many of the Game's Combat/Balance Problems


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Maybe It's just me, but all this talk of making the enemies break engagement and go for squishies just creates a chaotic battlefield where all you're doing is trying to break engagement and run away. "So build your Mages tankier" No...that's why he's a Mage and not a Fighter. "You have plenty of ways to break engagement" Yes, initially I do, but you're forgetting something. There are a lot of battles in this game in some areas, and early on your Wizard only has so many spells to cast before rest. If I'm suddenly forced to play "break engagement" for half the fight with Slicken and Dazzling lights, you better give me unlimited rest options because I'm gonna run out of spells pretty damn fast. With all this engagement breaking who is going to be dealing the damage?

 

It's not a simple fix, you'd have to change so many fundamental things about the combat system in general to alter the AI behaviors to break from the tank and go for your back row. I guess I'm not the best at explaining things, but I think the best way to describe what combat would become would be to show you a clip from Benny Hill, complete with the music. 

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Agreed on making AI smarter, thats always welcome. I don't get all this "meta" talk though. Its a single player game, It shouldn't be balanced with two progamers playing against each other in mind, you don't have to abuse the system if you don't want to. Ofc i agree that, fights should be challenging, ideally, without single tactics to win every fight. But "oh, i minmaxed me a fighter and i'm putting him into the doorway every time, damn this game\engagement system is crap" is stretching it too far.  If you don't want to use minmaxed fighter, don't use him. Its like "aw, this Power Armour on 1st level  meta is driving me nuts. Fallout 2 is crap!".

 

My meta is "Eder is tending to botanical garden at Caed Nua".

Edited by Bersercker
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The spells that CC enemies are hard counters to engagement, I'm not sure why you were having difficulty with those.  They worked 100% for me the few times an enemy went for my squishies.  I think the key is that you have to be quick about it, or even anticipate when the enemy is heading to your squishy.  You can't wait until your squishy is <30% hp to begin thinking about how to disengage.

I think you are misreading what I said. The CC spells are very useful, it's the purely defensive ones that I take issue with. For example, at level 4, you are almost always (I say "almost" because somebody will come up with some pathological case, but really, I've never seen an exception in the game) better off casting Confusion than Ironskin.

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At the very least, they could make AI disengage on higher difficulties. No one would have right to complain.

 

I could complain about how that would just result in people playing chicken for 3/4 of a fight, or about how it would just result in armored casters and naked frontliners.

 

 

You can always switch to Easy.

 

I feel like you're trying to support your own point by saying that anyone who doesn't isn't sufficiently HARDCORE PC GAMER, but my objection really has nothing to do with that. What you are proposing would make the game aesthetically displeasing, on account of things like the playing chicken and the naked frontliners and the armored squishies. If your response to that is "turn down the difficulty, nub," then that mostly sounds like an admission that those things are exactly what would happen. And the game where those things are exactly what would happen is not a game I want to play - or, frankly, a game that would bear much resemblance to the IE games that PoE is supposed to resemble.

 

Game AI really should not be in the business of dictating playstyle, and that's what the thing you're describing would do. But hey, at least we wouldn't have dedicated tanks anymore, right?

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If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

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The problem you're describing with the "backline being dead instantly" is not a problem of the engagement system, it's the result of people min-maxing their characters for the current system. I noted in the OP that one consequence of my proposal would be to disincentivize min-maxing, which is what you'd now have to do so that your squishies don't instantly die when they get looked at.

I just wanted to make a note on this part. Maybe it's because I'm not the greatest gamer in the world or because I use the npcs that have background but I'm not sure how you go about min/maxing them. The only stats you can do anything with during leveling are ones that don't directly affect combat. so if you use the pre-made npcs you're going to have 1 hit wonders in the back. They get hit once and you wonder what happened to them.

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I just wanted to make a note on this part. Maybe it's because I'm not the greatest gamer in the world or because I use the npcs that have background but I'm not sure how you go about min/maxing them. The only stats you can do anything with during leveling are ones that don't directly affect combat. so if you use the pre-made npcs you're going to have 1 hit wonders in the back. They get hit once and you wonder what happened to them.

 

 

Well, you could make your own customized party through the adventurers in taverns.

 

That aside, people are dramatizing the consequences of having your backline characters attacked. I had a wizard for main char, never used more than light armor ("Rundels Finery") and had almost no defensive spells (he had some stuff like confusion, blinding and such, though) and while he was attacked several times and got knocked out a few, he could certainly survive multiple hits - I never had chars go down in one hit (with the exception of some nasty traps and a certain fight on the lowest level of the Paths).

 

One thing I found particularly useful was to let Durance cast Withdraw if things got hairy.

Edited by El Zoido
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I just wanted to make a note on this part. Maybe it's because I'm not the greatest gamer in the world or because I use the npcs that have background but I'm not sure how you go about min/maxing them. The only stats you can do anything with during leveling are ones that don't directly affect combat. so if you use the pre-made npcs you're going to have 1 hit wonders in the back. They get hit once and you wonder what happened to them.

 

 

Well, you could make your own customized party through the adventurers in taverns.

 

That aside, people are dramatizing the consequences of having your backline characters attacked. I had a wizard for main char, never used more than light armor ("Rundels Finery") and had almost no defensive spells (he had some stuff like confusion, blinding and such, though) and while he was attacked several times and got knocked out a few, he could certainly survive multiple hits - I never had chars go down in one hit (with the exception of some nasty traps and a certain fight on the lowest level of the Paths).

 

One thing I found particularly useful was to let Durance cast Withdraw if things got hairy.

 

 

In the current system, it's not really an issue. We're discussing the implications of the OP's combat redesign in the current system. 

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Maybe It's just me, but all this talk of making the enemies break engagement and go for squishies just creates a chaotic battlefield where all you're doing is trying to break engagement and run away. "So build your Mages tankier" No...that's why he's a Mage and not a Fighter. "You have plenty of ways to break engagement" Yes, initially I do, but you're forgetting something. There are a lot of battles in this game in some areas, and early on your Wizard only has so many spells to cast before rest. If I'm suddenly forced to play "break engagement" for half the fight with Slicken and Dazzling lights, you better give me unlimited rest options because I'm gonna run out of spells pretty damn fast. With all this engagement breaking who is going to be dealing the damage?

 

It's not a simple fix, you'd have to change so many fundamental things about the combat system in general to alter the AI behaviors to break from the tank and go for your back row. I guess I'm not the best at explaining things, but I think the best way to describe what combat would become would be to show you a clip from Benny Hill, complete with the music. 

 

Making the enemies behave more intelligently would not make the battlefield "chaotic."  Sure, it'd introduce some variation between fights, but that's not the same as pure, unpredictable chaos.  If your rogue is out of position and plinking away with high-damage sneak attacks, you can bet that some enemies will move to engage him/her.  It really sounds to me that your complaint boils down to two components: (1) it would make the game harder; and (2) wizards might not be balanced for fights against intelligent enemies.  I think Point #1 is actually a plus for people who want to play POTD, and I'd be happy if this change were limited to POTD.  And point #2 may very well be a balance issue that could be looked at later on.

 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that enemies ignore engagement willy-nilly and run around all over the place.  I'm just asking that they evaluate whether or not its worth eating a disengagement attack to go after a squishier, higher-DPS target.  The answer to this question should be an obvious yes if you're using a min-maxed fighter that does 0 damage along with a min-maxed mage that has 0 defense.  Yet the enemies in this game will happily pillow-fight with your warrior while they get immolated by the wizard who can't defend himself.  If you run with a more balanced (i.e. less min-maxed) party, then enemies would probably behave very similarly to how they do now.

 

And when I said that "you have plenty of ways to break engagement," I was referring not only to your wizard's spells, but also to the abilities of your companions.  Each of your companions also have multiple skills (some of them per-encounter) that help OTHER characters disengage.  For example, your fighter can pull enemies to him (per encounter).  Rogues can cripple & blind (both per encounter).  Ciphers can paralyze, charm, dominate, or apply DR + endurance regen (multiple times per encounter).  Chanters can do an AOE knockdown with a first-level invocation, or summon a phantom that stuns on autoattacks (which allows your wizard to disengage while tying up the enemy in engagement) -- also multiple times per encounter. 

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Engagement is not "the entire problem with this combat system".  I agree it's not utilized to its full effect, but at the same time, it's a core mechanic of this game's combat system.  If you feel like Engagement fundamentally breaks the combat in this game, it's because you're trying to play another game, not this one.  Free your mind and let go of the past, accept the mechanics and figure out ways to use them, and things will get a lot more enjoyable.

Edited by Sable Phoenix
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I'm increasingly convinced that the AI is the problem. It doesn't risk disengaging, isn't great at focussing fire and rarely either buffs or debuffs meaningfully A lot of the tough fights involve mass AOE raw damage druids or Charm/Confusion because they break your confidence in your squishies/tanks dichotomy.

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Yeah, the proper response to "AI will break engagement if tank doesn't do enough damage" isn't "make wizards into tanks" it would be "don't neglect damage on your tanks."

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"Wizards do not need to be The Dudes Who Can AoE Nuke You and Gish and Take as Many Hits as a Fighter and Make all Skills Irrelevant Because Magic."

-Josh Sawyer

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I've played 0 tank setup on PotD just fine. Druid + Wiz + 2x Ciphers + Priest + Chanter (bit tanky, but not full tank, high might, high int, dragon thrashed). I've used a fighter in this party initially, but later replaced him with a 2nd Cipher. Tbh it was even easier this way. Offense is the best defense. I honestly don't see the issue with enemies avoiding engagements in terms of playability. It would render low dps high defense classes like paladin even more useless though.

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No likes for my first post in this thread? I thought it was a good suggestion. :(

 

It's a good idea, just wondering if the devs would be interested with putting in that work. Then again, anybody with sufficient modding chops to make it happen?

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Have you considered that maybe it is intended for the players to min/max. For god's sake it even says on the hard mode tooltip: "Survival requires optimization of stats". Your suggestion would not eliminate min/maxing at all. Infact Fighters would be built exactly the same way they are built now. For your information you never want to minimize Might on Fighter Tanks because Combat Recovery's healing scales with Might. So with your suggested change Tanks would still build no Dex and no Int, only difference would be they would get their max might disengagement attacks constantly even though they have negative attack speed.

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Yeah, the proper response to "AI will break engagement if tank doesn't do enough damage" isn't "make wizards into tanks" it would be "don't neglect damage on your tanks."

 

Yes, as I mentioned near the start of the thread, an immediate consequence of the OP's change would be that tanks would put down their shields and pick up greatswords, making up the Defense loss in other ways.

 

If the most upboated suggestion was taken, to overhaul combat AI with respect to Engagement mechanics, adding tons of new conditions and checks and whatnot for the entire player party, we're getting far away from the "simple" fix promised by the thread title.

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Exoduss, on 14 Apr 2015 - 11:11 AM, said: 

 

also secret about hardmode with 6 man party is :  its a faceroll most of the fights you will Auto Attack mobs while lighting your spliff

 

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Have you considered that maybe it is intended for the players to min/max. For god's sake it even says on the hard mode tooltip: "Survival requires optimization of stats". Your suggestion would not eliminate min/maxing at all. Infact Fighters would be built exactly the same way they are built now. For your information you never want to minimize Might on Fighter Tanks because Combat Recovery's healing scales with Might. So with your suggested change Tanks would still build no Dex and no Int, only difference would be they would get their max might disengagement attacks constantly even though they have negative attack speed.

 

The tool tips also say that Hard and POTD are challenging game modes. I doubt that basic tactics and strategies are meant to trivialize encounters in these modes.

 

Currently survival in Hard does not require stat optimization, don't believe everything you read.

Edited by View619
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This fix is also not so simple for another more subtle reason.  It would require enemy units to move in curves around the tank in order to not get into engagement again!  This is surprisingly difficult to do; you generally want enemies moving in straight lines.  Between any two points there are a large  number of possible curves. The AI would have to calculate these curves, and figure out which was the best, every AI cycle, so we'd be increasing the amount of work the AI needed to do by A LOT. There is only one line between any two points, so moving in a straight line is simpler.  In turn based systems, the AI just has more time (and usually has fewer paths).  None of this is impossible, but it would not be fast, and it could lead to really bizarre pathing, since the pathing algorithms would be quite complex.  I would suggest that any improvements to combat that don't involve the AI are superior to ones that do!  

 

A lot of what the OP wants can be done through scripting, however.  Enemies that attack from multiple directions, or that have preprogrammed flanking paths could help.  So too could increasing enemy level relative to the party (i.e. making all enemies hit harder).  Generally every fight is a race against time in PoE. You need to do a sufficient amount of damage to your enemies before they take out your tank (you can buy time by for instance using healing spells, buffs, or confusion).  Right now, there might be too many ways of doing sufficient DPS on the harder difficulties.  By making enemies tougher, you constrain the available choices, and so make combat choices more meaningful.

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Have you considered that maybe it is intended for the players to min/max. For god's sake it even says on the hard mode tooltip: "Survival requires optimization of stats". Your suggestion would not eliminate min/maxing at all. Infact Fighters would be built exactly the same way they are built now. For your information you never want to minimize Might on Fighter Tanks because Combat Recovery's healing scales with Might. So with your suggested change Tanks would still build no Dex and no Int, only difference would be they would get their max might disengagement attacks constantly even though they have negative attack speed.

 

Tanks currently don't want might.  Combat recovery is unnecessary when your tank isn't getting hit, which is most fights for a properly built tank on PotD.  And for the fights where your tank is getting hit, the extra healing you'd get from combat recovery at 18 might vs 3 might is too miniscule to make a difference.  Doesn't mean you can't take might on tanks, it just means that it's currently not optimal. 

 

On a side note, I don't really care about the min-maxing issue, but some people do so I pointed out how it might be affected.  In any difficult setting, you're going to want to optimize stats.  But 3/18/x/18/x/18 or whatever wouldn't have to be the "optimal" distribution if the AI were smarter.  I mostly just want fights to be more challenging in a way that requires more tactics than just "send the tank in, then bomb the enemy."

 

 

This fix is also not so simple for another more subtle reason.  It would require enemy units to move in curves around the tank in order to not get into engagement again!  This is surprisingly difficult to do; you generally want enemies moving in straight lines.  Between any two points there are a large  number of possible curves. The AI would have to calculate these curves, and figure out which was the best, every AI cycle, so we'd be increasing the amount of work the AI needed to do by A LOT. There is only one line between any two points, so moving in a straight line is simpler.  In turn based systems, the AI just has more time (and usually has fewer paths).  None of this is impossible, but it would not be fast, and it could lead to really bizarre pathing, since the pathing algorithms would be quite complex.  I would suggest that any improvements to combat that don't involve the AI are superior to ones that do!  

 

A lot of what the OP wants can be done through scripting, however.  Enemies that attack from multiple directions, or that have preprogrammed flanking paths could help.  So too could increasing enemy level relative to the party (i.e. making all enemies hit harder).  Generally every fight is a race against time in PoE. You need to do a sufficient amount of damage to your enemies before they take out your tank (you can buy time by for instance using healing spells, buffs, or confusion).  Right now, there might be too many ways of doing sufficient DPS on the harder difficulties.  By making enemies tougher, you constrain the available choices, and so make combat choices more meaningful.

 

If you can code an AI that can navigate around a round boulder, why would it not be able to navigate around a character's spherical engagement circle of roughly the same shape and size?  The AI also doesn't have to calculate every possibility to figure out its pathing.  In terms of coding, you could just treat the circle as a hexagon, or an octagon, or even a square for pathing purposes.  This means that the AI might take a very slightly longer path, but the coding would be a lot simpler.

 

Artificially increasing enemy stats is a crude way of injecting artificial difficulty into the game.  I'd rather a fight be hard because the enemies behave intelligently, rather than because the street thugs mysteriously all have better stats and gear than my characters. 

 

Your suggestion about attacking from multiple directions was something I mentioned in an earlier post re: map design, so I fully agree with you on that.  Map design and scripting in general are ways to make enemies appear to behave more intelligently, and I would love if the devs played around with that a lot more in an expansion.

 

But fixing the AI so it gives at least some minimal thought to target selection seems like a no-brainer.  Imagine if you were in a boss fight against two targets: one is an Ironwood Fern that constantly misses or grazes you for 2-3 points of damage, but it has 30 DR and 110 deflection/reflex/will/etc.  The other is a Wizard with moderate defenses and health that will roast your party in about 5 turns.  The Ironwood Furn currently has your entire party engaged.  Would you sit there attacking the Ironwood Fern to avoid a 5-damage disengagement attack?  Or would you just walk away from it and focus the wizard?  The decision seems obvious, yet the AI right now never even considers it.

Edited by ResJudicator
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I think the current implementation is good for a part 1 (introduction to the system, etc) but the xpac and PoE2 should have more clever AI.

 

For the xpac and part 2, AI should be varied. Some should be smart enough to either break engagement (or even eat the engagement attack) and go for the squishies. Not all should be clever enough to do this though. There should always be room in encounter design for the dumb ass enemy. The key is to keep enemy AI varied so that would additional elements to the encounter design. Some of this is already in there (fampyrs seem to bum rush the squishies) but the key is both to add more in the xpac and also add in better enemy disengagement tactics while also keeping in some stupid enemies as well. 

 

Also, I cant help but wonder why more people dont wonder at the real issue with PoE combat at present: the over abundance of xp which allows for leveling and the low difficulty tuning of the critical path (enemy resistances, etc).

Edited by Shevek
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 Free your mind and let go of the past, accept the mechanics and figure out ways to use them, and things will get a lot more enjoyable.

 

It almost sounds like some of these complaints are because people are too used to other games, want this to be the same or still think it is, and aren't able to or don't want to change or adjust accordingly to the new system.

Edited by philby
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The OP Is completely right.

 

This game exhibits no AI, no combat scripts even for your own toons.

Only AI spellcasters seem to have any kind of logic, but their spell uses are probably scripted too, rather than chosen appropriately for a tactical situation.

 

 

An even rudimentary AI that allows enemies to calculate the cost-benefit of disengaging and selecting a new target would make the game much much better. But also incredibly hectic. It would pretty much cause enemies to ALWAYS disengage and go for the squishy bows/casters... So I suppose it needs to be a little more than rudimentary.. but whatever

 

 

I don't think obsidian is going to support this game in the same way that other indie companies are supporting theirs, with constant patching and improvement over Steam.. I think they're going to make it "ok", without fixing any of these core issues, and move on

Edited by Lightzy
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