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Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

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Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby Lumin » Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:16 pm

My IF-time lately has mainly been spent focusing on a pair of smaller projects I'm working on, but I still open up my Open World WIP occasionally, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how I'd like to implement certain things when I eventually get around to them.

I'm also considering releasing a demo one of these days just to prove I have something to show for the time I've spent on it, but I'm determined not to do that until I have all the technical details ironed out and the...'physics' or 'framework' of the world (if that's the right term) working as intended.

In my design document I've got a whole list of things like day/night/lunar cycles, money system, crafting details, transportation system, etc. and how all these things will work, and in some cases these are already pretty much implemented, but there are a few things I've been deliberately putting off. Most notable would be the dreaded hunger, combat, and death mechanics. These are all pretty standard features in MUDs and many simulation or RPG games but I'm at a loss when it comes to implementing them in a meaningful but non-annoying or tedious way for IF.

First off, hunger. Right now I've got the player set on what I think is a very generous timer of only having to eat once a day (once every 400 turns, though that will probably be tweaked now that I've got Xenos and Campbell's time systems to work with...). After that day you start getting hunger warnings once every 100 turns, but I'm not sure where to go from there. At the moment the warnings don't actually lead to anything. I want some kind of penalty to come into affect after about three days of starvation, but I'm having trouble coming up with good ideas as to what. I do know for sure though that I don't want hunger to have anything to do with a traditional hit point system. (honestly I really don't want even combat to have anything to do with hit points if I can avoid it...)

And speaking of combat, that's another problem. I have never ever ever played an ADRIFT game that implemented combat in an interesting way. Though I vaguely recall TDS had something in his game Light Up I liked, basically requiring the player to type actual commands instead of just 'kill whatever' and leaving the default combat system to take over. Combat in Open World will possibly work somewhat like that...you'll start off with basic commands like 'kick, hit, dodge' and gradually learn more through various methods.

I'm thinking too that it should be something the average player only runs into if they're deliberately looking for it. Joining the fighter's guild, challenging someone to a duel, entering a gladiator's competition, exploring an area of the map explicitly described as dangerous, things like that.

Other than that I'm open to any suggestions or thoughts...out of all of them this is the system I've given the least thought to, since until recently I wasn't sure if I was going to include it at all. (And I'm still not unless I can figure out a way to keep it interesting.)

Of course, combat can lead to death. I know some people can't stand the idea of dying in an IF game at all, but I think, borrowing elements from MUDs and mainstream games, I've found a good compromise where it usually takes several almost deaths (played off as getting knocked unconscious and moved to nearest friendly location with the loss of some money or items, except in the most extreme cases) to equal one real, permanent death. Which will likely be rendered moot by UNDO, but whatever. And as always you can just choose to play your character peacefully and avoid all that anyway.

Does anybody have any thoughts about any of this one way or another? As a player how would you prefer this stuff be handled?
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby ralphmerridew » Mon Dec 01, 2014 2:56 am

Lumin wrote:And speaking of combat, that's another problem. I have never ever ever played an ADRIFT game that implemented combat in an interesting way.


If you struck out the word "ADRIFT", the above sentence wouldn't change much. _Beyond Zork_ and especially _Kerkerkruip_ have interesting systems (but those involve randomized geography and unidentified objects). _Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom_ had a combat system that wasn't too distracting. Some other people liked _Magocracy_, but I didn't care for it.

As for games with bad combat systems... That's a long list...
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby Lumin » Mon Dec 01, 2014 3:34 am

I almost did say 'IF' instead but then I remembered 'oh yeah there's that game with the weird K name that plays like a roguelike' so I changed it. :)

I'm starting to think combat may just be one of those things you have to go all or nothing with. No combat at all is better than two bags of HP taking turns swinging at each other, but I'm not sure how far down the rabbit hole I'm prepared to go when it comes to adding all the modifiers and stat details and randomness that would actually make it interesting. Hopefully it's possible to find some kind of happy middle ground, but we'll see...
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby ralphmerridew » Mon Dec 01, 2014 12:05 pm

Good luck. ADRIFT tends to have trouble when things are less direct.
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby David Whyld » Tue Dec 02, 2014 12:18 pm

I don’t think combat systems will ever work well in text adventures. Most of the time they're of the KILL GOBLIN WITH SWORD variety typed over and over again which carries on until either you or the goblin run out of hit points and die, which is never very interesting no matter how much fancy text you dress it up in. Even when you add in different options – HEAD BUTT GOBLIN, KARATE CHOP GOBLIN, PUNCH GOBLIN INNA TEEF – it’s still just words on a screen repeated over and again until the combat ends. You'd be hard-pressed to make that sort of thing gripping.
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby razor77 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:56 pm

I respectfully disagree David. I have a battle system that works well for me. Plus great text games like wizardry had primarily text based systems.
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby Campbell » Tue Dec 02, 2014 3:24 pm

A Dark Room (see here) I thought was quite addictive, despite being a very basic format. Not quite a text adventure, but I thought that sort of combat system worked pretty well.
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby Lumin » Tue Dec 02, 2014 5:17 pm

David Whyld wrote:I don’t think combat systems will ever work well in text adventures.


It's true I've never really seen it done well in traditional IF, but then again you've got MUDs, which are entirely text based with most of them having their custom combat systems as the main draw. Ideally that style of combat is what I'd like to include, just with less emphasis on hit points. But as usual the problem is going to be that it's going to require all that advanced v5 voodoo that I'm just no good at, and even if I was there are so many factors to consider it would take up a lot of time getting even something extremely basic together.

For those of you not familiar with MUDs, even a standard cookie-cutter combat system with nothing especially unique about it lets you do things like set fighting stances (defensive, balanced, berserk, etc) and gives you special abilities based on your class or race. There's no repetitive typing; once a fight is initiated the rounds progress in real time, though there's plenty of time to type in special commands if you're not satisfied letting it auto-resolve. A thief can start a fight off by backstabbing with a poisoned dagger, then dodge any retaliation and kick dirt in an enemy's eyes to blind them, while a warrior can soak up damage and hit like a truck with power attacks, then shield-bash or headbutt an enemy to stun them for a few rounds while they finish them off. Kicking an enemy might knock them down and give you an advantage, or you might screw it up and unbalance yourself instead. Grappling will prevent either one of you from attacking, and so on.

And all that's really just the most basic sort of fight, even before you factor in equipment and magic items and potions and the like. (not that I'll be including the latter two, I'm trying to keep the setting semi-realistic)

And of course enemies always have a few tricks too...that goblin you attack might yell for help to any others in the surrounding rooms, a wizard might turn invisible and summon a demons to fight you instead, or a monster might have fire or acid attacks that damage your equipment. (And not applicable at all to an IF game, but a special kind of jerk move is when a named NPC with a set location will actually yell out on the public channel that you're attacking them, meaning all the other players suddenly know exactly where you are...)


...so yeeah, I think I might be getting in a little over my head here. :lol: But I'll try a few different ways to throw together an encounter with a bandit this weekend and we'll see what sticks.
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby David Whyld » Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:56 pm

I'm not saying a combat system can't be good, just that in all the games I've played that have featured one, the combat system hasn't been good. I loved Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom, which had an amusingly comical combat system, but after 4 or 5 combats I was finding the whole thing more than a little tedious and would have preferred an "click here to finish the combat whether you really won or not" option. I've read plenty of gamebooks over the years that have featured combat systems and while a few times I've played through the combats in the proper way - i.e. with dice and a pencil and a sheet of paper - I'd always considered it a godsend that I can simply proceed to the next section as if I'd won even if the goblin happened to have just lopped my head off.

If I was going to include a combat system in a game, I'd make it largely optional - something that can be done if you really want to, but not something you're forced into doing if you don't want to - and fast. None of this screen-after-screen-after-screen of text scrolling by while you and the goblin exchange blows, parry, duck to the side, strike glancing blows and slowly - oh so slowly - whittle down each others hit point, just BAM! BAM! BAM one dead goblin (or one dead player).
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby ralphmerridew » Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:27 am

David Whyld wrote:I'm not saying a combat system can't be good, just that in all the games I've played that have featured one, the combat system hasn't been good. I loved Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom, which had an amusingly comical combat system, but after 4 or 5 combats I was finding the whole thing more than a little tedious and would have preferred an "click here to finish the combat whether you really won or not" option.


I tend to list ToaSK and Kerkerkruip at the opposite ends of successful IF combat systems. ToaSK succeeds by having a simple combat system that doesn't distract too much from the rest of the game, and is balanced such that if you're following a good path through the "monster maze", you have a very high chance of winning your fights. (Or you could use the WIMP command to bypass the monster maze.)
Kerkerkruip succeeds by having a complex system that requires the player to plan combats carefully, and the rest of the game is simple enough that it won't distract the player from the combat.
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Re: Need your thoughts on Hunger, Combat, Death

Postby Lumin » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:26 am

David Whyld wrote:
If I was going to include a combat system in a game, I'd make it largely optional - something that can be done if you really want to, but not something you're forced into doing if you don't want to - and fast.


If I'm being realistic with myself here I'll probably have no choice but to keep it simple if I have any hope of finishing it at all. But otherwise I'd argue that the fact that fighting is largely optional means there's no harm in getting crazy with the details. If players are deliberately seeking out fights by choice it must be because they enjoy fighting.

As I envision it there are only four situations where combat will be a major part of the game: joining a guild or faction that has a clear focus on dudes hitting other dudes with weapons, entering an arena tournament, going well off the beaten path to special areas clearly marked as dangerous, or just RPing a psycho who likes to run around stabbing people for no real reason.
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