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October 24, 2014, 03:18:48 AM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeDesignSimple tactics mechanics
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Skull
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« on: May 03, 2013, 06:14:02 AM »

Yo people. I'm currently thinking about how to make Tactics RPG mechanics work in a mobile/casual environment.

So, my first intuition was to simplify the battle mechanics by taking the often present overcomplicated statistics and boiling them down to a few easily digested stats, namely: Attack, Defense, Movement, Health Points, Special Points. The stats would have low values, usually below ten, so that calculations would be simple, and the whole battles could take place in a small area completely confined to the screen of your phone.

So, here are some mockups of what I have in mind:



So I went on and prototyped it on paper and tried it out a few times with a couple friends.



The stats I've given each unit is as follows:

RED GUYS
Skeleton |
HP 3
SP 0

ATK 4
DEF 1
MOV 3
Slime |
HP 3
SP 0

ATK 3
DEF 0
MOV 2
BLUE GUYS
Knight |
HP 5
SP 3

ATK 2
DEF 2
MOV 2
Mage
HP 3
SP 4

ATK 3
DEF 1
MOV 2

Now, for some of the rules. Movement turn happens by team, such as in Fire Emblem, and the blue team (the playable one) always moves first, in a way that a speed statistic doesn't have to factor into the movement order.

In each turn, you can move any of your units to any of the squares within your move range that are not blocked (in the prototype, blocked areas are the blank cardboard squares, in the mockup it's the rocks and crystals and stuff). If, after moving, a unit lands in a square adjacent to an opponent, it may attack it. Attacks are unidirectional (no counters) and the damage formula is pretty straighforward: DMG = ( attacker's ATK - defender's DEF ) -> defender's HP -= DMG.

Mages may chose to attack either from an adjacent square as well as from one square away. If they do a ranged attack, they spend one SP. That's the only way SP factors into the game mechanics at all so far.

I have yet to decide how exactly chests and potions work, and what else SP do. Also, after a few rounds with the prototype it seemed to be that the game may be too easily predictable - almost in a tic-tac-toe manner - and that the usual optimal strategy is just to stay out of range until an opposing unit gets into your range of attack.

I'm looking for any feedback and/or ideas that could make this game more interesting and add more to the strategy without overcomplicating the mechanics, please. Also, if any of you know of a game that does this right, I'd love to know more about it!

Thanks in advance!
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JasonPickering
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2013, 11:25:52 AM »

love the art!

so how many guys can I have on screen? it might be a bit much if I am moving this enormous force of enemies. Hero Academy and Outwitters both escape this by giving the player points to spend each turn on attacks and moves.

you kept the numbers very small and I think that's a great idea. I think the larger the numbers get the harder it will be.
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Gimym JIMBERT
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2013, 12:00:44 PM »

Dont' speak about the stat first, talk about the desired gameplay flow.
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ILLOGICAL, random guy on internet, do not trust (lelebĉcülo dum borobürükiss)
keith.burgun
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2013, 12:23:45 PM »

Quote
I have yet to decide how exactly chests and potions work, and what else SP do. Also, after a few rounds with the prototype it seemed to be that the game may be too easily predictable - almost in a tic-tac-toe manner - and that the usual optimal strategy is just to stay out of range until an opposing unit gets into your range of attack.

This is like, the STARTING POINT for game design.  It's very easy to make a system that's easily solvable.

It's also easy to make a system that's full of randomness or execution barriers which is IMPOSSIBLE to solve.

What's hard is to keep doing what you're doing now, keep it deterministic, but still make the choices be ambiguous.  This is a MASSIVE task, that most video game designers don't even ATTEMPT.  I really hope that you continue pursuing it.

By the way, artwork looks awesome!
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Skull
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2013, 02:46:53 PM »

@JasonPickering Thanks! The plan is to make it something like a mini-TRPG, so few unities, low stat points and such so it can enjoy what's compelling about this kind of game but still be a tad easier and more accessible to the overall casual player.

@Gimym TILBERT You're right, I got a little ahead of myself.

This is supposed to be a game playable by the casual audience - but not necessarily be a casual game - in that it should have simple enough mechanics so that someone with no experience in TRPGs can learn the main rules fairly quickly.

It's actually part of a bigger transgaming project of mine, where one player will play the role of the adventurer (this one) and the other will play as a merchant and affect the available items for the player. However I don't want to get to much into that, because I want to get the tactics portion of the game down before anything else. The reason I brought that up though is because, since I want it to be a cooperative local-multiplayer game at some point, I want it to happen in "sessions" of a predetermined duration (I'm guessing one hour for now, but that needs more thought).

The goal of the game would be make the best use of that hour to gather nice equipment/units as preparation for a cataclysmic event to take place at the end of the session, in sort of a Majora's Mask way.

The fact that all of the looting, leveling and such will take place in such a short period of time implies that battles need to happen fast, moves should be intuitive and their implications should be clear. At the same time I would like this game to allow for more tactical depth and advanced strategies if you take the time to look into it carefully. Think of it kind of like chess: the rules are simple enough for you to learn in one afternoon and play a couple rounds. However, it has enough depth that, to this day, there are hundreds of books on the matter, and mastering it is still out of reach for the vast majority of players.

Of course I don't expect my game to have as much depth as chess, but also I don't want all that complexity. I know this must be looking pretty megalomaniac by now, but I plan to take my time with this project and work on it for as long as I need.

Also, none of those design choices are set in stone (and plenty are pretty arbitrary stuff I just felt would look cool), and I'm willing to sacrifice my original ideas for ones that work better gameplay-wise.

@keith.burgun Thanks! What I mean by not being sure about the chests and potions isn't that I haven't given them any thought. All it means is that I've tried out a few combinations with my paper prototypes but none of them seemed to really fit in the fast paced tone I want this game to have.

That said, I'm fully open to any ideas, and am willing to accept the removal of this elements from the game if that's what works out the best for this game. As I said, nothing set in stone.  Smiley

Thanks for all the feedback so far people, please keep it coming!
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antoniodamala
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2013, 04:27:51 PM »

Gonna throw some ideas here:
  • Don't use stats. Use rock-paper-scissor types of attack instead, and/or weapon level.
  • Lots of types of tiles (buff tiles, moving tiles, trap tiles, etc).
  • Enemies with movement patterns instead of just following player.
  • Classes are cool, but instead of a char being locked to one, could be based on a equipped item.
  • Itens with very low usage limit.
  • Visual feedback instead of numbers/words
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Gregg Williams
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« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2013, 09:48:22 PM »

I'd think Shining Force II is a fine model for a casual audience. Unless you're going ultra casual.
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Gimym JIMBERT
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2013, 08:35:42 AM »

making game is megalomaniac so you lost that point already :shrug: join the obscure side of the force
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dirtyhand
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2013, 10:01:16 AM »

Skull, this looks awesome. I've also just started prototyping a 2D tactics game with Unity + the 2D toolkit plugin. Do you mind sharing what tools you're using? Or is this just at the mocks + real life prototype stage?

Regarding how to make your game more interesting... have you played the new XCOM? If not, you should. The beauty of the game is that your soldiers have a short life expectancy (and you can't rollback to a save point). If you get attached to a favorite character, the game becomes very intense... but that probably crosses the "casual" boundary Smiley

I would recommend picking up some of the squad based classics to get inspired, like Final Fantasy Tactics.
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thunderhead.hierophant
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2013, 06:33:39 AM »

My first thought would be adding (for some uncertainty) an evade stat, 0-9.  0 being no evade, 9 being 90% evade.  Spell casters could have 0-2 evade, Warriors 1-3, Ninjas 3-5, or something.

I'd also scratch XP and have players buy progression with gold found in chests.  The contents of chests would be either gold or healing potions.
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FamousAspect
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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2013, 04:20:41 PM »

The art looks great! Already from the mockup stage the game is appealing and I know I'd want to play a demo.

In terms of basic mechanics, I recommend throwing out your current stat system completely and starting with more of a blank page. It's easy to default to D&D type stats because that's what games do; that's what we are familiar with. I would also recommend tossing out character types. This is just for prototyping purposes.

Now that you're at more of a blank page, you can start searching for your innovation. Set a goal "When a player plays this game, I would like him to feel ..." Now introduce one rule that may move you towards that goal, play a few turns. Evaluate it & modify it or remove. Now introduce another rule. Do this iterative process a bunch of times and see if you can find YOUR innovation.

For all I know, this process will lead you exactly where you are right now. But I have followed it a number of times in the past and have always been surprised (and delighted) by the results.

Best of luck, I look forward to seeing your game progress.
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Graham-
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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2013, 05:58:34 PM »

^ shrug. General advice you gave. I give it too sometimes, but like, what do you do _then_? We are all game designers here. We try to design games. I think we cling to the DnD crap far too often, and I think we should iterate more, but also like, how interesting is a game that isn't interesting? Then you don't want to design that! You must design the fun, then it make it more fun. Then realize it's crap and start all over again, because then you will have self-confidence, or at least self-delusion. That's where real game design is found.

Anyway, I recommend two pronged approach. Just continue iterating _and_ sometimes develop from scratch on the side, in parallel. I love the cardboard stuff. Prototypes rock, and the physical approach is very valuable, especially when it happens beside the game itself. A game is beautiful - it represents a finished product - but a tactile experience (of playing with your hands) is freeing. Everything is worth the effort. Speed on good sir! I have nothing else to say.

Also, make more games. I'll do it too. That's our team cheer. Go games. Yeah! Hahahha...... boing. Now I can't stop.
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FamousAspect
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2013, 10:44:41 AM »

^ shrug. General advice you gave. I give it too sometimes, but like, what do you do _then_? We are all game designers here. We try to design games.

K, let me be specific. Since coding is the most resource intensive part of game development, I like to move a pen and paper as far along as possible before hitting the keyboard. So I:

  • Start by writing down a list of goals I want my prototype to acheive
  • Iterate like crazy using the process I described above
  • When I have a build I think is the answer -reevaluate it in light of my goals. Normally, what I think is a "magic build" falls down on successive playthroughs
  • Continue to iterate till all goals are met
  • Ask myself "Have I moved this as far forward without code as possible?" If there ideas I want to test that can't be tested without going digital, then it is time to move past pen&paper and into a digital game

I hope that is a more specific and meaningful workflow. We used it on my current game, and we had two or three false positives before we were confident we had met our goals and it was time to start coding.
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Graham-
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2013, 07:15:32 PM »

I wasn't criticizing you. I just went on a springboard. That was you.

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