In The Saints of Redemption combat has a great weight, and we’re constantly working on it to be able to make it understandable, deep and have a lot of possibilities. That’s why this is the first post of a series of many... :)
First try: “Action Points”
From the beginning I had in mind that I didn’t want to stay with a basic turn battle system, I wanted to go a bit further… And I marked as a goal the following specifications:
- Use your head: underestimating your enemies will make them kick your ass and force you to think your movements carefully.
- But don’t waste your time: be able to quickly beat the least relevant enemies.
- And with diversity: rewards to a mixed party that exploits many different types of enemy weaknesses (this point is related to the skill system, we we’ll talk about this later).
Before designing I analyzed the genre’s models whose battle systems worked great. Especially Fallout and Final Fantasy X.
The first Fallouts (one of my favorite games) had an Action Points system; every action you take requires X points, and its good administration would let you make many movements on the same turn.
In Final Fantasy X, the turn order is established depending on the action you make. Your turn will come faster if you only use an item, or slower if you use a powerful skill.
These are two mechanics that I like a lot because they give depth to the system and versatility to the player. With those in mind I took a pen, a notebook and started sketching...
I worked hard to implement it. You can download the 1.2 prototype to test it.
The result is you have 6 Action Points (AP) to spend like you want. You can repeat actions as long as you don’t exceed 6 AP. For example a normal attack spends 2 AP, an ability 3 or 4 AP, using an item 1 AP… etc.
The turn order is heavily related to the amount of spent AP, so if you use your 6 AP you will have to wait a lot for your turn to arrive… But if the enemy is weak, you can use all your AP and kill him before he even gets the chance to act.
Sounds good, right? That’s awes-
The result was a disaster, chaos and destruction. Well, not that much, but in a few words only a couple of people really understood it, and as a rookie game designer my first reaction was…
Yes… There were cases in which I tried to explain how the system worked and how badly they were using it, with the moto “You’re going to die” as a banner.
Most of the players ALWAYS used every AP they had, without caring of the enemy. The turn bar didn’t help to assimilate the turn delay with that amount of actions done. They died without being able to act again, and they didn’t know why.
It was hard for me... but I eventually understood: I did it the wrong way :’(
Second try: “Fatigue”
With the devastating feedback in mind and trying to be loyal to my original idea, I grabbed my pen and notebook again and established new objectives:
- Make the system more intuitive.
- Use a more clear interface and less static.
The results were these mockup (in process of implementation and refinement, open to opinions):
The “Action Points” were replaced by “Fatigue”. Every action applies X fatigue to a character, and the turn order is ruled mainly by fatigue (the more fatigue, the more delay) being 1 the minimum and 6 the maximum fatigue.
Until now everything sound very similar… But the most significative change is that now you can only act once by turn.
“But… does that mean… that the system will lose depth??! OH NOOOOOOOOO!”
(My mind, November 2015)
To prevent from sacrificing its depth I added a new basic attack (shared by all the characters) called “Strong attack” and/or “Triple attack”. This attack inflicts a great amount of damage but also generates a higher fatigue. It would be like making three times a normal attack but spending only one action… The premise is the same, you can use it whenever you want, but if you don’t give it a smart use… “You’re going to die”.
When the system gets implemented and is functional there will be a new prototype to see how it works, so stay tuned... we want your feedback! :)
In the next days we’ll talk a bit about the new skill system. Thanks for your time!