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Will we ever see an cRPG with semi-realistic combat?


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For the last few years, I've been thinking about how much I dislike some of the bog-standard rules of cRPG combat - rules which mostly spring from D&D originally.  These include:

 

1.  You can get hit dozens of times by something pointy (or even shot by a gun) without any real effect.  Your "hit points" may go down whatever that means.  In real life, if you stabbed someone they would almost invariably either be dead, dying, or so maimed as to be nearly useless in combat.  Perhaps if they were hopped up on adrenaline, and highly trained, they'd maintain focus even with a major wound.  But for the most part, you get hit and you're down for the count.  

 

2.  PCs can take on "trash mobs" which outnumber them significantly in hand-to-hand combat.  Again, this always struck me as just plain wrong, because generally speaking a three guys with no combat training at all will win a fight against one guy who knows what he is doing.  It's why peasant mobs were potentially so dangerous to knights in the middle ages.  Unless you have some serious method of crowd control (being mounted, using terrain to your advantage, etc) you simply shouldn't be able to beat bigger mobs easily, even if they are low level.

 

3.  Although not all games are like this, the kamikaze mechanic of many RPGs bothers me.  I suppose if you're talking about supernatural enemies, or trained soldiers, a frontal charge and a fight to the death is perhaps understandable.  But, for example, if you're facing down a pack of wolves, once you kill half of them the other half should attempt to cut their losses and disperse.  The same goes double for self-aware (and self-interested) enemies like bandits - they're out for easy gold, not to get slaughtered.  

 

Basically, I'd love to see an cRPG someday where traditional combat is inherently risky, tactical, and most importantly, rare.  For whatever reason, body counts have always been way too high (sometimes an order of magnitude too high) in cRPGs compared to paper and pen.  Unless you're on an active campaign taking place during a war, you shouldn't be fighting to the death with enemies every friggin day.  Hunting in the forest with ranged weapons or a spear?  Sure.  Ambushing, and even outright murdering people frequently?  If that's how you roll.  Getting into fistfights at the local tavern?  Fine.  But you shouldn't be running into random groups of mooks just waiting to charge and get bled out.  Spending less time on trash encounters would give developers more time to focus on the elements which make an RPG truly shine, such as offering a variety of roleplaying options.  

 

Anyway, that's just my two cents.  I wonder if anyone agrees with me.  

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Agreed with most strongly sir, one supposes that the harder levels of difficulty in the Witcher 2, Severance: Blade of Darkness and the Souls games sometimes qualify, but sadly I just don't think any less action oriented RPG maker will ever do this. The endless grind of slaughter is a cheap method of creating content and padding out ones game, it has become traditional now, and like many traditions there would be a great amount of resistance against changing it.

 

Personally I would like this, to have combat be a dangerous, ugly and rare form of conflict management.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Agreed with most strongly sir, one supposes that the harder levels of difficulty in the Witcher 2, Severance: Blade of Darkness and the Souls games sometimes qualify, but sadly I just don't think any less action oriented RPG maker will ever do this. The endless grind of slaughter is a cheap method of creating content and padding out ones game, it has become traditional now, and like many traditions there would be a great amount of resistance against changing it.

 

Personally I would like this, to have combat be a dangerous, ugly and rare form of conflict management.

 

Yeah, basically I'd like to see "action"-style mechanics, without it being an "action" game.  I suppose it would be a bit excessive to expect developers spend a lot of time developing a sensible combat system, only to use combat rather minimally (allowing for most encounters to be solved through diplomacy, stealth, or assassination instead of in the open field of battle, if that wasn't the player's thing. 

 

I wonder if some integration of mechanics from stealth games and survival horror would be helpful?  I've had limited experience with both genres, but it seems they both have elements of what might be needed (e.g., the ability to remain unseen, ambush, and assassinate if needed in the former, and a frail PC who can't stand up in direct combat in the latter).  

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I thought combat in Fallout New Vegas was kind of realistic, to a degree

Let's Play The Temple of Elemental Evil (Complete)
Let's Play Neverwinter Nights and Hordes of the Underdark

Let's Play Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

I was struggling to understand ths until I noticed you are from Finland. And having been educated solely by mkreku in this respect I am convinced that Finland essentially IS the wh40k universe.

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I thought combat in Fallout New Vegas was kind of realistic, to a degree

 

My bad experience in Fallout: New Vegas was in part an inspiration for writing this.  

 

I remember I had a mission to take out a group of enemies.  Several of them were asleep in their tents.  I figured I'd finish them off with headshots before they could even wake up.  I snuck into their tent, crouched down, aimed straight for their heads, and let loose.

 

Even trying a dozen times, I was unable to kill.  I could not kill a sleeping target with a sub-machine gun!

 

Obviously the reason was because the combat mechanics in no way reflected how reality actually works.  But it pretty much broke immersion in the game for me.  I lost the will to play after that.  

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In real life, if you stabbed someone they would almost invariably either be dead, dying, or so maimed as to be nearly useless in combat.

While I agree in principle (certainly not realistic original.gif ) the problem tends to be that if you make it so the player can kill something in 1 stab to the face, you (should) play fair and also let the enemy kill your character with one hit of something as well.

 

While there are some hardcore folk who would enjoy combat encounters which 1-hit kills you on a constant basis, my guess is that's not going to be appealing to most, at least not on a mass scale. Cries of "cheese" "not fun" and "cheating AI" would abound, heh. Which = low sales. There are exceptions of course, but in general.

 

I definitely dislike massive hp sponges and the current combat mechanics so often used "forever" are pretty stale, so I know what you mean, but I also don't like games that 1-shot me just for poking my head in a doorway, so I'm ok with a middle-ground. Depends on the purpose of the game tho...

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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Thief!

 

Thief isn't an RPG. You cannot progress your character nor play dress up with him so you're stuck with tap dancing shoes and a specialisation in sneaking around rather than my preferred magic user specialisation, nor can you talk to people- except yourself which suggests you're a bit on the mad side- and it doesn't really have realistic combat, you can just swing your sword three ways, block and shoot arrows/ throw bombs. On the plus side, there's a romance in its sequel, so at least one RPG box is ticked. It's a romance with a tree, but I'm fairly progressive so didn't mind.

 

A lot of those problems are fixed in its modernised version, Thiaf, though.

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I'm wondering if the combat of Sui Generis/Examina might be offering something similar to this, some of the demo videos certainly seem to show a realistic level of danger from any weapon, but the control scheme seems very...floaty and imprecise. I've yet to see a lunge executed in that game, or good use of the shield and armour. Age of Decadence might also be a good candidate, i've heard very good things about the lethality of its combat for those whom are not purely focused upon it.

 

In such a theoretical game where skin and flesh requires but a few pounds of pressure to cleave, and wounds are sometimes mortal, armour would seem to be a pre-requisite especially the helm and shield. Also grappling would need to be implemented I think for when you are faced by multiple opponents whom simply overpower you. Ranged weapons would become invaluable and game changing in all probability. Stealth would be the ideal murderous opportunity though as pointed out, a knife in the spine, a billy club to the skull, a slit throat in ones sleep etc.

 

I have to say however that the rewards of violence would have to be commensurate to those of the pacifistic route, in Deus Ex: Human Revolution one sees that only one gameplay style is optimal, it's made stunningly obvious and so largely one simply follows that path logically. I objected to this, but strangely enough I did not object to the expert mode of Thief where no killings were allowed at all, as they were the sign of a sloppy amateur. I suppose that was a case of differing expectations, I enjoyed a few of the gunfights in the original Deus Ex and missed the sting of combat.

 

I've got to say however that it would be daring and refreshing to see such a system brought to fruition, in a game where combat is risky and a last resort, but profitable and effective. Instead of fighting through a dungeon, slaughtering guards on the way and following a linear path to the big bad, simply wait for him to venture home and put a crossbow bolt through his head from a nearby rooftop. Or use poison, instigate a rival into attacking, render your enemy powerless through political maneuvering etc.

 

The New Vegas dlc Dead Money was actually quite effective at this in retrospect, I felt vulnerable there, it certainly helped that I was stripped and unprepared but almost every gameplay mechanic was tied neatly into making one feel if not weak, fragile, paranoid and wary. Unlike the base game I spent my time creeping around, peeking around corners, listening for the terrifying sussurations of the ghost people and scavenging everything I could find like it was mana from heaven. The mist and alarms also helped with the feeling of fragility as they rendered one vulnerable no matter the endurance, health or stims carried. I can't help but think that Mr Avellone was feeling the same frustrations as Mr Eschaton with the base game and experimenting to change it, through the addition of survival and horror game elements.

 

It's certainly something to think upon and heaven knows I spent enough time punishing myself in Volgarr the Viking.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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While I agree in principle (certainly not realistic original.gif ) the problem tends to be that if you make it so the player can kill something in 1 stab to the face, you (should) play fair and also let the enemy kill your character with one hit of something as well.

 

While there are some hardcore folk who would enjoy combat encounters which 1-hit kills you on a constant basis, my guess is that's not going to be appealing to most, at least not on a mass scale. Cries of "cheese" "not fun" and "cheating AI" would abound, heh. Which = low sales. There are exceptions of course, but in general.

 

I definitely dislike massive hp sponges and the current combat mechanics so often used "forever" are pretty stale, so I know what you mean, but I also don't like games that 1-shot me just for poking my head in a doorway, so I'm ok with a middle-ground. Depends on the purpose of the game tho...

 

 

There are ways around this though - realistic ways - much more so than the concept of hit points anyway.

 

The first is of course armor.  There's a reason why full plate, despite the weight and mobility limitations, was so commonly used by fighters who could afford it in the late middle ages and renaissance.  It made you basically invulnerable to swords, and was pretty good protection against other weapons as well until the flintlock musket was perfected.  If anything, the effects of armor in a lot of RPG settings are underemphasized.  

 

Then there is dodging and parrying.  Honestly this is what I'd like to see improve with leveling up.  After all, as a warrior gets more experience, they do not get harder to kill because it takes more blows to knock them down.  They get harder to kill because they've gotten very, very good at making sure they don't get hit.  Since KOTOR we've had RPG engines advanced enough to show the PC parry correctly.  

 

In a pinch, there's conditioning.  A well-trained fighter, under a rush of adrenaline, can ignore even serious wounds for a time.  Again, as a PC gets more experienced, they should be able to be better at shrugging off minor wounds - ensuring they can still fight even if they get hit.  After battle, they still might be in a world of hurt of course.

 

You could also work magic into defense depending upon the setting of course.  I'd be careful with this however.  If you're dealing with a setting with semi-realistic battle physics you either want to ensure magic is rare overall, or that every character can use magic.  Otherwise you severely gimp non-magical characters.  

 

The bottom line though is there are many ways to ensure, as a character gets more experienced in combat, that they won't have a 50/50 shot of dying every combat encounter (provided they use sensible tactics, and don't just charge large mobs).  

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I would argue that stats didn't make the genre at all but had been a necessity in the tabletop days of yore. 

Let's Play The Temple of Elemental Evil (Complete)
Let's Play Neverwinter Nights and Hordes of the Underdark

Let's Play Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

I was struggling to understand ths until I noticed you are from Finland. And having been educated solely by mkreku in this respect I am convinced that Finland essentially IS the wh40k universe.

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Someone needs to make an RPG with Bushido Blade's combat system.(One hit kill fighting game with limb damage.)

The area between the balls and the butt is a hotbed of terrorist activity.

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The problem with armor/dodge/parry as a main solution (this holds true to a degree even in current rpg's) is you then end up with these weird stalemates, where you can't hit them and they can't hit you, so you're standing there swinging until one of you finally hits the right number (or whatever) that decides one of you has gotten a hit on the weak spot in the armor and gets that killing blow in.

 

I'm not sure that's fun either, if taken to extremes at any rate. It certainly takes away any combat strategy, outside of "pump dodge and wear only uber plate."

 

Unless you're talking about actual fancy dodge/parry combo moves that one does via key press combinations, which is something I personally can't stand and I think mostly works best in 3D 1st person games to boot. Not really good for party-based rpg's for example, imo. Might work for stuff like Skyrim.

 

I think one of the basic issues with computer game combat is that most of the time it's all based on RNG formulas, regardless of whether you have a 5% chance or 20% chance to hit or it takes 3 whacks or 300 whacks to down an opponent.

 

edit: nothing so fun as having a supposed 99% chance to hit and still missing what feels like 75% of the time.

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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Firstly, a realistic ruleset heavily favors ranged stealth builds not to mention the fact that mages would be way overpowered. Secondly, I find this discussion about realistic combat moot since I doubt of us has any actual medieval combat experience. Now if you excuse me, I"m going to buff my stats to prevent dysentery. 

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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Firstly, a realistic ruleset heavily favors ranged stealth builds not to mention the fact that mages would be way overpowered. Secondly, I find this discussion about realistic combat moot since I doubt of us has any actual medieval combat experience. Now if you excuse me, I"m going to buff my stats to prevent dysentery. 

I'm going to buff my ability to take more damage by eating some chicken. Mmmm chicken.

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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If your game had guns as the chief combat weapon then it could work a lot easier than with melee weaponry heavy ones. An RPG with solid damage modeling would be nice, though I suppose one couldn't make it combat heavy else it becomes some sort of nightmarish R6.

Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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This would go against the stat-based nature of the genre in general.

 

Not really.  Moving away from HP, or at least gaining them upon levels, doesn't mean you couldn't have room for other stats.  As I said, as one levels up, you could take ranks in dodge, parry, or combat conditioning, which would make you harder to hit and perform better in combat if you sustain a non-mortal injury.  

 

I have to admit, I do not like how stat systems have been utilized in general.  Most game models either have stats be essentially static (minus a few in-game boosts) across your entire play experience, or add a few points each level.  Neither one is fully accurate, because a person can go to the gym and buff up their strength, but intelligence is essentially immutable (unless you get brain damage or something).  I'm not completely sure what the best answer here would be - perhaps simply renaming the stats so they more accurately portrayed the range of base capabilities of your character, and using feats/skills to further modify them as needed.  

 

 

The problem with armor/dodge/parry as a main solution (this holds true to a degree even in current rpg's) is you then end up with these weird stalemates, where you can't hit them and they can't hit you, so you're standing there swinging until one of you finally hits the right number (or whatever) that decides one of you has gotten a hit on the weak spot in the armor and gets that killing blow in.

 

I'm not sure that's fun either, if taken to extremes at any rate. It certainly takes away any combat strategy, outside of "pump dodge and wear only uber plate."

 

Unless you're talking about actual fancy dodge/parry combo moves that one does via key press combinations, which is something I personally can't stand and I think mostly works best in 3D 1st person games to boot. Not really good for party-based rpg's for example, imo. Might work for stuff like Skyrim.

 

I think one of the basic issues with computer game combat is that most of the time it's all based on RNG formulas, regardless of whether you have a 5% chance or 20% chance to hit or it takes 3 whacks or 300 whacks to down an opponent.

 

edit: nothing so fun as having a supposed 99% chance to hit and still missing what feels like 75% of the time.

 

I understand what you mean here.  But provided formalized duels against skilled and/or heavily armored opponents were rare (say the option of 2-4 per chapter) I don't think it would get too boring.  Movies, after all, have had long swordfight scenes for decades (although this has also been lampooned of course, as in The Princess Bride).

 

To be clear, I am fine with some level of unrealism in cRPGs.  For example, I don't think it's wrong if the PC mostly meets enemies which are significantly weaker than they are, and the enemies scale up as the game goes on.  I just want the body count of the PC to be more like a fantasy novel.  To have real - tension - when going into combat, because combat is a rare and chancy thing.  

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Secondly, I find this discussion about realistic combat moot since I doubt of us has any actual medieval combat experience.

 

I may not have medieval combat experience, but I have had experience casting magic missles, fireballs and horrid wilting.

 

Totally legit.

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I've fought with my mother in law, afterwards Skyrim Dragons seemed quite unimpressive.

 

On the suject of armoured combat one sees a few methods of resolving it, one using various massive damage weapons such as the Pollax, two various accurate weapons that can be used against weak areas in the harness (such as halfswording a Longsword,) three various wrestling maneuvers followed by finishers with a poinard or what have you, four simply overpower.

 

However in such a system i'd also like to see expert duelling, based on reactivity, positioning and a variety of well simulated weapons, with or without armour. From the old English traditions we know that duelling under the law allowed various weaponry, including a smiths heaviest hammers, for smashing through armour as well as more traditional armaments.

 

I think this is a nice appropriate video for the strength and vulnerability of armour:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hlIUrd7d1Q

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Secondly, I find this discussion about realistic combat moot since I doubt of us has any actual medieval combat experience.

 

I may not have medieval combat experience, but I have had experience casting magic missles, fireballs and horrid wilting.

 

Totally legit.

 

Was it Tacos night?

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I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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