Magic

On the design document, there are indications that magic will be governed by mana, and there were at one point magic classes designed around which elemental plane they used magic from.
I was wondering what details of the magic system have been settled on, and the overall scope of it. Are there going to be specific spells that you can learn? Would you learn new ones from leveling, or by finding them in the world?
I can see lots of ways to handle it that could be cool. If magic spells could be found as loot, it also opens up them being learned from teachers, so you could find a wizard to teach you in exchange for services. Particularly powerful spells could be another form of artifact-level loot.
Scrying spells would also be cool to see. I could see spells that let you view obstructed areas as if you were standing there, or spells which give you peeks into the AI's thought processes, or a spell to let you communicate with a creature at long range.
Summoning could be interesting if the summoned monsters don't like you, and will try to work against you within the bounds set by the spell. Summoning demons is a classic example, in many fantasy stories it is very dangerous because if any of your protection spells fail, the demon will do horrible things to you. This could also allow you to summon a demon to question it, as they might be particularly knowledgeable.
This leads to the possibility of ritual magic, where the success is dependent on performing a series of steps in the gameworld, like putting objects in certain configurations or saying certain incantations.
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Comments

  • edited November 2014
    So... are we waiting for @gavanw to lead us off? I honestly expected this discussion to be well heated by now.

    Off the top of my head, 2 cents very quickly: most games' magic (my experience is not broad) was rather flat compared to some of the fiction I've read.
    The Bay12 take (analysis occupies the bottom portion of the text wall) on this intrigues me, but I haven't studied the Threetoe story in its entirety and Toady's implementation is to my knowledge not even begun yet.
    @Talvieno, you're welcome to step in with additional relevant DF links if you deem it appropriate.

    But maybe we should wait for Gavan first...
  • edited November 2014
    Don't look at me - DF doesn't have any magic in it yet besides necromancer abilities. :P The best I could offer would be my own fiction. I agree with you on all your other points, though. Most magic in games feels too "flat". Morrowind had a pretty good magic system, though (or so I'm told).
  • most games I can think of that really do something cool with magic have that as their core mechanic. Esp. if you have to balance it against a martial character, if you make a powerful and flexible magic system, its hard to make it play nicely alongside a guy who hits things with a sword. The main way to make that work is to make martial characters walking gods of war, which would be hard to convey in a rougelike, and out of character for what voxel quest is supposed to be. Making a magic system that is intricate but lacks real power is going to make magic seem weak anyways.
    Mana systems don't do a good job of balancing magic in my experience, at least not across a martial/mage divide with single characters. In a group setting, the mages running out of steam can be a balancing point and/or a throttle to their power, amortizing it. If you lack the divide, you basically have martial characters who can use magic, and so they can run dry on magic and still sword things, and it limits how much magic they can use. However, if you are simply playing a wizard, you can't do anything without mana. This lends itself to a sharp dichotomy- any encounter you can solve before running out of mana you can likely blast through, and if not you see a sharp difficulty spike as you have to wait for your mana to regen between castings. A way to mitigate this that works well for a turn based game is having abilities you can use which are less than your mana regen each turn. They are basically at-will ,but will slow your effective mana regen rate, and it allows your mana to build up to cast larger spells. This changes mana from a limit on "magic" and turns it into a throttle for "big spells". your mana capacity still lets you cast more/larger spells, and your regen lets you both build up to larger spells faster, and have bigger spells that are at-will.
    Ideally, I think a mage should have the advantage of flexibility, with lots of spells they can use to address the situation, while a martial character has more raw power/defense. Though, this does have the disadvantage of making mages "expert" characters, requiring advanced knowledge to play. If that is the case, you look at their potential when played fully. If that is below a martial character, mages are just weak. If it is equal, then its just a harder game with a mage. If its higher, then martial characters become weak newbie characters. Balancing mages is just tricky.
  • [Dwarf Fortress stuff]
    Talvieno said:

    Don't look at me - DF doesn't have any magic in it yet besides necromancer abilities. :P The best I could offer would be my own fiction. I agree with you on all your other points, though. Most magic in games feels too "flat". Morrowind had a pretty good magic system, though (or so I'm told).

    I was thinking of the additional comments that Toady has made in DF Talk (and likely elsewhere) with respect to artifacts, afterlife, elemental planes and the like. Laziness is the chief reason I didn't hunt those down myself.
    Two things I'll note:
    - He wants the concept of Consequence to be a prevalent factor in magic use. (If I understand right, via a context sensitive side effects system)
    - He asserts that magical rule sets could be procedurally generated as a part of worldgen, using the device of themed planes.

    I look forward to his success in this, as it will certainly enhance DF's "I just generated a whole new world" shtick, as well as the fun potential for Explorer types.
    [/Dwarf Fortress stuff]


    Here's a link worth exploring, though: Flatfingers theory.
  • edited November 2014
    I hate to just drop a link without going through it, but there's just so much commentary in this reddit thread about designing magic systems. There were some insightful things mentioned, like using a Magicka-like system of constructing spells from runes but randomly generating them for each new game so the player is "forced" to explore. You could give players absolutely no knowledge about how the magic system works and let them figure it out entirely on their own. Could result in a few deaths, but hey--that fits Gavan's roguelike, doesn't it?


    I'm toying around with the possibility of modding VQ to create a first-person world that's heavily driven by magic usage and combat. So it has to be balanced somehow, of course. Here's how I would implement a magic system (this is going to be rough, so bear with me):

    I think that just like any other physical/worldly process, the energy required to use magic should be neither created nor destroyed. Being a mage/wizard/sorcerer/magic-wielding being, the player's character automatically generates magic energy at a certain rate. That energy is used up when spells are cast; more powerful spells require more energy and thus can't be used as often. Some basic spells can always be cast as long as the character isn't injured, much as a swordsmen can pretty much rely on their arm. As somebody else mentioned in the reddit thread, this is kind of like Eragon's system.

    Some spells can be cast by collecting ingredients, like mind-control or healing potions, or poison darts. Of course, that gets boring after a while. Get an apprentice who you could have collect all the stuff for you. :)

    Other objects, animals, and even characters often contain energy. So I'd like to give the player the option to "borrow" energy from other entities. Of course, that could kill them. But that comes with consequences, especially in VQ's interactive world. Suck too much energy out of your apprentice and end up killing him/her, and their family will be upset and possibly try to kill you. Or you ruin somebody's herd of cows and they starve. To make things more difficult, people who are currently attacking you have a resistance to you taking their energy (so you can't use one enemy's energy to kill another).

    That's the physical how-it-would-work part. As for actual gameplay, I want the scope of magic to be as diverse as possible. So I'd probably implement a system of combining runes like Magicka and seeing what happens. Some spells could influence the environment, some let you directly affect people by hurting, healing, comforting, seeing their thoughts, etc. Spell variety seems like a difficult thing to tackle, though you could make some it procedural by limiting which "elemental planes" can be drawn from in each new game world.

    Mages would also leave themselves open to physical harm while casting spells. So maybe a "charge time" would be useful? I feel that would disadvantage melee characters, because that would require them to cross the distance between them and the mage before actually dealing damage. Still, balancing remains a difficult hurdle. Maybe let all characters do magic, and let people specialize in one "branch" or another?


    It'll be interesting to see how Gavan does it though. Like @Mystify‌ pointed out, "balancing mages is just tricky"!
  • One thing I can suggest here is that "designing a magic system" for an RPG (rather than an abstract puzzle or action game) really means two things.

    One is the part most of us normally think about, which is the mechanics-level generation of rules of play. That certainly matters a lot; it's what players will be doing most often, so the core loop for it needs to be fun to do frequently.

    But in a roleplaying game, which is set in a literarily distinctive world, magic also -- I believe -- needs to satisfy the aesthetic goal that it "fits" the world of that game. The system of magic for that world needs to tell players something about why that world has the geographic and social and artistic and technological and economic and historical shape that it does.

    Coming up with a mechanic for magic that is fun in isolation is only half the job. The rest of the job is finding a mechanic for magic that makes sense for that particular world, and whose mastery explains something useful and interesting about that world that you could not have gotten in any other way.

    Nobody said good game design would be easy. :)
  • edited November 2014

    But in a roleplaying game, which is set in a literarily distinctive world, magic also -- I believe -- needs to satisfy the aesthetic goal that it "fits" the world of that game. The system of magic for that world needs to tell players something about why that world has the geographic and social and artistic and technological and economic and historical shape that it does.

    Coming up with a mechanic for magic that is fun in isolation is only half the job. The rest of the job is finding a mechanic for magic that makes sense for that particular world, and whose mastery explains something useful and interesting about that world that you could not have gotten in any other way.

    It may sound silly, but that's something that I hadn't really thought about--how intertwined gameplay has to be with the world to create a unified RPG experience. Can you give some examples of games that have used magic particularly well in this context?
  • I wish I could! I actually thought about that as I was posting those thoughts, couldn't think of any really good examples, and moved on to finish the post before I spent two hours staring into space. :)

    There are some good examples of this, but they aren't in the world of computers games -- they're in books. Ursula LeGuin's "Earthsea" books (the initial three, anyway) are a outstanding exposition of a magic mechanic that is a perfect fit for the world she created. Sheri Tepper's "True Names" series also did a very good job of this, as did Piers Anthony in his "Xanth" novels, and Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni" novels do it brilliantly. The forms of magic in those stories work as an interesting bit of plot (similar to gameplay mechanics), but they also tell you something important about the nature of the worlds in those stories. The mechanics aren't random; they're not there just because they're cool -- they fit with the world, and the world fits them.

    There may be some examples similar to this in games -- Planescape: Torment, possibly -- but I need to think about that.

    Meanwhile, maybe others have some examples they can suggest.
  • One quick note on magic:

    In quite a few games, spell casters are plagued with long recharge times for mana. For whatever reason, mana often takes a long time to recharge. This is sometimes ameliorated with potion-chugging, which is ridiculous (really, your character just chugged down 10 potions during combat??)

    In VQ, mana and stamina behave the same: as fast recharging energy bars. Most physical abilities require stamina, most mental abilities (even if not magic-related) require mana, which means I might need a better term for that.

    They recharge slowly enough that you can't spam skills which drain them, but fast enough that there is no significant wait time (in terms of turns taken). In that way, they can almost be thought of as skill-related action points.

    Again - these are just initial design thoughts, open to changes. :)
  • re: magic mechanics that speak about the world, that is a good point. Game mechanics always tell you about the wold, occasionally with silly implications.
    gavanw said:

    One quick note on magic:

    In quite a few games, spell casters are plagued with long recharge times for mana. For whatever reason, mana often takes a long time to recharge. This is sometimes ameliorated with potion-chugging, which is ridiculous (really, your character just chugged down 10 potions during combat??)

    In VQ, mana and stamina behave the same: as fast recharging energy bars. Most physical abilities require stamina, most mental abilities (even if not magic-related) require mana, which means I might need a better term for that.

    They recharge slowly enough that you can't spam skills which drain them, but fast enough that there is no significant wait time (in terms of turns taken). In that way, they can almost be thought of as skill-related action points.

    Again - these are just initial design thoughts, open to changes. :)


    That sounds workable. However, if mana and stamina work in similar ways like that, it makes it simpler to balance martial vs magic, but distinguishing them may be harder.
  • gavanw said:


    In VQ, mana and stamina behave the same: as fast recharging energy bars. Most physical abilities require stamina, most mental abilities (even if not magic-related) require mana, which means I might need a better term for that.

    I strongly approve of everything you said.

    Possible replacement terms off the top of my head:

    - Fortitude (strength of mind in the face of danger)
    - Willpower (power of will, obviously)
    - Resolve (firm determination)
    - Volition (one's ability to utilize willpower.)

    I'm going to call it willpower for now, as it's the simplest.
    Combining mana + mental strength has a strange side effect... Running out basically means you're too afraid to carry on. This has some interesting implications. Some monsters might be particularly scary, and radiate a field that causes the willpower bar to refill more slowly. Some particularly powerful monsters might have the capacity to drain willpower - something that could be countered by putting more points into, perhaps, the speed your bar refills (courage, perhaps). Seeing your companions or loved ones die might have a very negative effect on your willpower as well. Putting more points into the length of your bar could be thought of as increasing your mental strength - your fortitude, more or less. And, finally, leaders with a "rallying cry" ability might be able to make their allies regenerate willpower more quickly for a time.

    That's just off the top of my head, though. I'm sure there are many more intricacies in the system to be discovered. I rather like it.
  • I don't know if it would add to the complexity too much, but building off what @Talvieno‌ said:

    Assuming your characters have the ability to use strength-based and magic-based abilities, what if you had three "attributes" or pools of energy:
    1) strength: for melee attacks and feats of physical exertion like running faster or jumping
    2) mana: energy used up with magical abilities. enables things like teleportation, casting fireballs, telekinetically throwing boulders, etc
    3) willpower: this is where it gets interesting. Willpower acts character's morale and affects the rate of regeneration of both the stamina and mana pools. It depends on your character's "happiness", so to speak--if they've been alone for a long time or out in the rain or hungry, they get depressed and the rate of regeneration of mana and strength drop (also see what @Talvieno suggested). Maybe losing all your willpower altogether could halve your stamina and mana. Willpower could also encompass the effects of mental fortitude--higher willpower could increase the character's awareness or intelligence (lockpicking, disabling traps, etc).

    Willpower can tie into both strength and magic systems in ways other than regen. Perhaps certain spells, enchantments, or attacks could require a certain amount of willpower. "Mental magic" like mind control could require a certain level of willpower, and having a high pool of willpower could equate to a resistance to mind control. Willpower wouldn't necessarily have a rate of regeneration, but could be a somewhat static representation of your character's morale and willingness to do difficult things.


    This kind of system might be a way to balance characters without limiting them to melee or magic. Maybe races could be skewed to start with differently-sized pools and regen levels, but the character could grow and adapt flexibly depending on playstyle.
  • willpower is handled via discipline that I have the design doc. Discipline allows you to overcome discomforts, focus on tasks in the face of danger, etc.
  • Sweet! I'll read through the design doc again, maybe make a list of what the community has suggested as well (just to have an easily-sorted record).
  • Ah well, I thought it might be an interesting mechanic.
  • edited November 2014
    Mana/stamina bars and cooldown timers are conventional mechanics applied to prevent characters from spamming abilities. There's nothing inherently wrong with them; they do the job... but I do wonder if becoming conventions makes it harder to consider other possibilities.

    If the design need is to prevent ability-spamming, why not look at it the other way around? Instead of making the consequence pretty much instantaneous after the triggering action, then imposing some artificial system for delaying the next trigger action, why not make the trigger action itself take time to execute?

    For melee, that would mean characters take time swinging their weapon. Weapon size would matter, and you could still apply a stamina effect, but as soon as the consequence is applied you can start your next action. In fact, you might even allow advanced characters to be able to start queuing up their next action before the current one is done -- that wouldn't be too far off from how actual CQB works, albeit at a slightly slower pace in a game so that the player can make choices.

    This could work for magic as well. The complexity of the spell would increase the duration of the "wind-up," while the caster's skill would decrease it. The wind-up time might also be affected by environmental features: maybe a caster allied with the elemental spirit of water can cast those spells much more quickly when on a ship.

    There would be the question of interruptability to be addressed. In melee, that's part of the game; it's what a stop-thrust is for. A game might need to make different arrangements for casting spells, though. Maybe there's a don't-interrupt-me spell, which the caster can choose to apply before casting his next spell. That would give you the choice of a tradeoff: take the extra time to not be interrupted, or cast the spell you really want more quickly but risk having it fizzle because somebody ventilated you with an arrow.

    Just some thoughts because nothing can ever be simple. :D
  • There's already a turn-by-turn mechanic that Gavan plans to implement, which would basically accomplish the same thing - no spell caster can attack any faster than a melee user.

    However, if we were to assume that the greater majority of players didn't like this idea, and don't like turn-based gameplay (few games are turn-based now except for tabletop games, 4x games, and roguelikes)... then this would work rather well.

    One primary complaint I've heard from games, though, is how long spells take to cast - some games like Skyrim have people complain that the highest-level spells are practically useless because it takes x-seconds to charge, and getting hit during that period of time almost guarantees the cast will fail. I've heard the same complaint from players of other games as well. It seems to me that this is a design flaw - after all, if the majority of your playerbase complains about any one area of your game, there is likely something about it that isn't optimally done. The question then becomes, "How do we fix it?" But to answer that question, we must first ask, "What are we doing wrong?"

    Obviously, if players are complaining that spells are taking too long to cast, then what we're doing wrong is making spells take too long to cast - anyone could figure that out - but we need to dig deeper and take apart the game to figure out why they made spells take such a long time to cast. The fastest way to tell is to simply imagine how the game would play out if we remove the problem completely. For example: if you were to remove the spellcast time in Skyrim, you're suddenly able to spam high-level spells at an insane rate, because while the high-level spells take an extraordinary amount of mana, the mana bar can be made to refill at ridiculous rates by endgame. This is because Skyrim items can be enchanted to refill the mana bar not in points-per-second, but in percentage-per-second. It's hardly any trouble at all by endgame to come up with a set of items that can refill your mana bar within a second, and I would say this is where the real trouble lies.

    So, taking that knowledge to VQ, it's a little more difficult to determine exactly what needs to be done because we haven't seen the gameplay yet. Magic needs to be just as viable as melee or ranged weaponry, of course, but balancing may be simpler than you'd think:


    1. Magic and melee takes a set period of time to wind up - but it's very small - just enough time for the other players to attack you.
    2. Magic takes Resolve to cast. Melee takes Stamina to use. Both refill at what defaults to a similar rate.
    3. Running out of Resolve causes you to flee or cower. Running out of Stamina causes you to become too tired to move. Running out of either is dangerous and should therefore be avoided - but it shouldn't be an immediate "game over". There should always be a potential reason to use that last bit - for instance, landing that last blow or spell to end the enemy or scare him enough to make him retreat. Choices are everything. The more choices, the more fun the game is to play. Some games encourage these choices by having special abilities that, for instance, cause your character to become far more powerful while low on health.
    4. Getting hit while attacking with melee can make you miss or stumble. Similarly, getting hit while casting with magic can make your spell fizzle out. I would suggest whatever value is used for each is inherently easier for the other type to get; for example: A soldier might be able to keep his balance better if he has higher Resolve, while a mage might need Stamina in order to continue casting after being struck. (Not exactly like this, but something that I feel should be avoided is saying, "The stronger your soldier is, the better chance he has of staying upright after you hit him". It shouldn't be that simple because then it takes that choice out of the game entirely. You should need to choose - "do I want my mage to be more powerful, or do I want to make it easier for him to cast while under fire?" "Do I want my soldier to be able to get more hits in, or do I want to keep him from stumbling anymore?")


    With the above, magic and melee are equal, and still provide a decent number of choices. Increasing the count of magic types (destructive, enchantment, illusion, etc.) and weapon types (piercing, bashing, slashing, etc.) would make the game even more interesting while still keeping it possible to balance - but a MAJOR pitfall many games have is that while they have different weapon types, they are all experientially the same - i.e. you feel nothing different from hitting with a slashing weapon than you do a bashing weapon. Some games, like Skyrim (bad example, they don't do it quite well enough) overcome this issue by providing different effects - axes cause bleeding damage, swords have a better chance to sever heads, etc. A better way to handle this might be to have bashing weapons have a chance to cause your opponent to fall, piercing weapons have a chance to pierce armor, slashing weapons have a chance to cause bleeding damage, chopping weapons have a chance to impair functions, etc. This would make both spells and weapons equally viable, but in different areas: It would always be good to have a melee user in your party in the same way it would always be good to have a mage, not because some opponents are weak to magic or melee, but because it's useful to have someone that can cause your opponent to stumble, or pierce their armor, or impair the use of their chopping arm... in much the same way as you want a mage around to cast illusion or stun spells.
  • The problem with having magic and melee operate on mirrored systems is that, while easy to balance, they become hard to distinguish. I use x mana to cast a damage spell on this guy, vs. I use y stamina to fire an arrow at him. If they are both on the same resource model, and they both use it as the balance point, it is even harder to seperate the two to be interestingly different. Listing ways to make them the same isn't really productive, imo. You first need to establish what makes them different. What are their basic qualities? Why would I pick one over the other? What makes each one interesting to play? After you have figured that out, you can look at ways to balance the systems against each other.
  • Yeah, I'm all for having spell casting and melee be totally different experiences (in fact, this philosophy applies to any classification throughout the game). Picking on one game: Warcraft 2. The experience was so mirrored that it really did not make a huge difference if you picked Orcs or Humans, and this pulled away from what could have been an even more interesting game.

    That said, I still don't want spell casters to suffer from long wait times (either on wind-up or cool down) - I think there are other things that can be differentiated. I'm open to suggestions as to what this could be. Drawing from CCGs again (ugh, I know) - some CCGs have interesting combo systems that are not always intended but often accidentally emerge. For example, in Hearthstone many minions have the "enrage" trait - when they get hit, then get "angry" and start dealing double damage or something. One strategy is to attack your own minion (say with your hero's fireball) in order to enrage it. Similarly, say an ally had a weapon that did crushing damage, and frozen minions took twice as much damage from crushing weapons. You could help set up your ally by casting a freeze spell on the target minion. This is just one idea of a mechanic that can be used to differentiate - stressing the power of combo attacks versus direct use of skills one by one. There are many other basic aspects that can be differentiated: ranged/close, area/single target/line of targets, weakness/strength against physical/magical, speed of movement (or number of available actions per turn), etc.
  • I like the warcraft example. It is a great example of balance via mirroring, which is simple to do, but ends up being boring and makes the distinction cosmetic. In contrast, starcraft, a game from the same developers in the same genre, had 3 sides, all of which work substantially differently, yet were balanced against each other. It was harder to do, but the results were far more interesting.
  • I think I may not have been clear enough. I wasn't talking about mirroring at all - I was just talking about balance. I'm actually very much against actual mirroring. Pairing most physical traits with one, and most mental traits with the other, means that mages might be better in conversation, while soldiers might be better at construction/demolition - that's not really mirroring in any way. :P Or if it is, I can't see how it is. In addition, soldiers have a large variety of weapons in their arsenal and can potentially switch between them at will with only minor setbacks for new weapon types (if that's done - hypothetical example), but only really do melee damage, while mages would have a very wide variety of spells, but would have to pick and choose which spells they wanted to become better at. Mages = more options, more inflexible; Warriors = fewer options, more versatile. Mages would also probably have a hard time defending themselves (part of the reason I don't like games where mages can use their spells to make themselves beefier), while warriors might be a little too gruff to be much use in negotiations. I'm not suggesting mirroring - I'm suggesting balance through minor systems that loosely imitate each other.

    Also, the "Resolve" thing above should show that pretty well, as mages would also be looked upon as fearful - keeping them away from the scary big bad guys would become something you'd want to do to keep their spellcasting ability from diminishing, but at the same time, they'd be most effective where they could cast the most spells from. Warriors would be better closer to the front lines, but would need help from the mages to escape if they ever got in trouble. There's give and take here.
  • My point was more that establishing the balance is premature when you don't even know how the systems will function. starting out with "well, they will both use a recharging bar mechanic" instnatly limits you from saying "mages will handle groups via limited aoes while martial characers will handle them through endurance", for instance. Now both have the same endurance, and that can't distinguish them. Maybe it doesn't need to, but I wouldn't start out with forbidding it.
    Don't get me wrong, I think having stamina and mana reserves can work out fine. It just feels like its getting ahead of itself.
  • Mystify said:

    My point was more that establishing the balance is premature when you don't even know how the systems will function. starting out with "well, they will both use a recharging bar mechanic" instnatly limits you from saying "mages will handle groups via limited aoes while martial characers will handle them through endurance", for instance. Now both have the same endurance, and that can't distinguish them. Maybe it doesn't need to, but I wouldn't start out with forbidding it.
    Don't get me wrong, I think having stamina and mana reserves can work out fine. It just feels like its getting ahead of itself.

    With game design, you have to actively plan ahead - there is no "throwing things together and seeing what happens" because then you have to rework and rewrite rules to try to balance them. It's far better to plan ahead, balance beforehand, then see how the actual game plays out and re-balance/tweak accordingly. This is how most game developers handle it. There's a reason for it, too: like flying a plane, the slightest deviation in your course can path you miles away from your intended destination. Tweaks are better than large corrections; better to aim for where you're headed and correct later than jumble systems together and hope it fits. I know I'm not explaining it well, though... hmm. @Flatfingers could probably provide more useful insight and/or helpful links than I could.

    In your example, if mages handle groups via weak AoEs, it makes them difficult to use in virtually any combat situation without warrior-types for backup. In essence, it would be wise to have a party full of martial warriors, have them all target the same enemy, and pick them off one at a time, with perhaps a single mage around for group heals/slows. (making mages a very poor class choice.) In my example, mages become as useful as (and symbiotic with) fighters. Fighters alone wouldn't be able to handle a mixed group, nor would mages alone.
  • I'm not saying don't plan ahead. I am saying figure out what the overall structure you are aiming for is before you decide on how to balance it. The balance should occur in the design phase, yes, but it is generally not the starting point. Setting up mana and stamina rules without understanding what they will be balancing them isn't planning ahead, its arbitrating a system. Its taking the first steps before you know where you are going.

    the AoE example was a specific case; there are a group of enemies, how would each playstyle handle it. I didn't mean to imply that AoEs were their primary purpose. I didn't even mean to imply that is the dynamic that should be strived for, just an example of a reasonable dynamic that is excluded by establishing the balancing mechanism before the dynamics.
    I have also been operating under the assumption that the player should be able to function solo. group dynamics are all fine and good, but if you are fighting by yourself you can't rely on a meatshield in front of you. The different playstyles need to be able to stand on their own.
  • edited November 2014
    No, with game design it's generally best to never focus solely on any one aspect at a time. It's like screwing the lug nuts on a car tire: you want to do them all at once to ensure the tire stays straight, so you go around them in a circle, tightening each a bit more each time. With this, you can see how the system will play out as you continue adding more and more on to the game.

    edit: That's not to say you should focus primarily on balance at the start. Not meaning to say that at all. I'm just saying to keep it in mind.
    Mystify said:

    Setting up mana and stamina rules without understanding what they will be balancing them isn't planning ahead, its arbitrating a system. Its taking the first steps before you know where you are going.

    mmm... Normally I would agree with you, but in this case it's my inability to fully explain what's going on in my head. I was actually thinking pretty far ahead when I laid out the system idea I had... Point conceded, though, as I have nothing to show for it. :\
    Mystify said:

    I have also been operating under the assumption that the player should be able to function solo. group dynamics are all fine and good, but if you are fighting by yourself you can't rely on a meatshield in front of you. The different playstyles need to be able to stand on their own.

    I fully agree, but I also think it should be more optimal to mix various "types" of characters so that you're encouraged to build a balanced party instead of just adding whoever you see because "everybody is just as good". Thus, while each type supplements the others in different ways, they can still stand on their own - but it's more effective if you mix them intelligently instead of randomly - or worse, focus on only one type. The thing discouraging you shouldn't be "We might come across something resistant to magic", it should be, "If I only use mages, I won't have anyone to guard them" or "If I don't have mages, I can't take advantage of their buffs, stuns and AoEs".
  • I didn't say to focus on one aspect at a time. I said its best to get an overview of what you are trying to achieve before working on specifics for it.
    You sound like you already have such an overview, so please, share what you are thinking of, I'd love to hear it.
  • gavanw said:

    That said, I still don't want spell casters to suffer from long wait times (either on wind-up or cool down) - I think there are other things that can be differentiated. I'm open to suggestions as to what this could be.

    I'm inclined to believe that magic offers the most flexibility in terms of player experience and playstyle -- if it were up to me, every character would have magic affect their abilities.


    Examples of possible differentiation in the form of skills:

    Slowing down all movement in area: lets all characters "charge" their abilities, can be used strategically to save allies (but also gives enemies extra time)

    Mind control of enemies (or allies! Direct them to fulfill certain strategies, etc)

    Changing environment to your advantage: warp terrain, throw boulders. This is one of VQ's coolest features, in my opinion--how the environment can be molded on the fly. Combine this with systems like flammability or the ability to divert rivers/wind, and you have the basis for strongly strategic combat. Of course, as @Flatfingers‌ has mentioned, this kind of system has to make sense with regards to the world.

    Teleportation: of yourself, allies, enemies.

    Transmutation: of weapons, items (mama regen potions into alcohol, anyone?).

    Ability to take weapons items and a character's inventory and scatter them on the ground--there are a lot of things that open up if you let characters interact with what other characters own or carry, like thievery or literal backstabbing.

    I'll come back to this later, but I think VQ has plenty of possibilities in terms of differentiation.
  • All I would remark about magic is that it should compliment the voxely nature of the world. Maybe fireball spells can flow like dynamic lights do. Maybe acid spells can dissolve voxels and seep through terrain. Maybe ice spells can freeze enemies into voxel statues.

    Regardless of how powerful they are or how they work, Magic that works with the world will always be more impressive than static magic.
  • I very strongly agree with this. Stylistically, it should mesh well with the rest of the game - I like the voxel idea. Voxel Quest isn't too boxy of a game, but it does have smaller "cube" voxels that make up the majority of the terrain - I think this would be the best thing to go with, like you said. I think giving the voxels a slightly beveled edge would make them seem a little more flowing... as well as perhaps giving them a "glow" or "shine" bloom effect - the end result could look pretty magical.
  • I'm strongly biased towards magic-users, personally, but I don't think a character should have to use magic in order to be successful, or conversely, that a character shouldn't be able to succeed by focusing exclusively on magic. I like having a variety of genuinely diverse skillsets, both magical and nonmagical, that one can mix and match to suit their preferences.

    I agree that making terrain relevant to combat is a very good thing. Any factors that can shake up the tactical equation help keep combat fresh. This doesn't have to be limited to magic, either. Maybe an agile archer character could have stamina-based moves for scaling cliffs or leaping over pits. Maybe a strong character could throw enemies over the cliffs or into pits. Maybe some kind of reaction ability (thinking in FFT terms) could only trigger if the terrain suited it, e.g. a jump-back dodge ability that would move directly away from a melee attack, but only if the ground behind the character were safe and unoccupied and the ground under the character didn't apply a movement penalty.

    In terms of progression, level-based character growth can work since this isn't an MMORPG, but personally I prefer having success or failure determined by gameplay choices and rather than simply being higher level than the opponent. Of course, this is entirely possible with a level-based system, but if a level 3 character can use a strategy to consistently win a fight, but a level 2 character using the same strategy will consistently lose, then I feel like I never really earned any of my wins because the victories were the result of character stats rather than player decisions.
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