Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Concept: Action Tactics

Hello! Today I'd like to talk about an idea I had for a game. I'll go over the basic concept and then some specific details of how it should work. And most importantly, I'll talk about why. For one, I think this is a neat sort-of-hybrid-idea and I'd like to share it. And for two, I think it's good, as developers, to share the thought process that goes behind design decisions. So, here we go!

This idea focuses on the action(or battle, if you will) system in a game. It's a combination of what I like about both action games and turn-based games. In action games, you get high-tension combat with a focus on mechanical skill.(usually!) In turn-based games(particularly RPGs, I suppose) you get to coordinate groups of people and plan strategically. But for me, I've always wanted an action game where I control a party. That's very difficult, of course, since in an action game the action never stops. Well, this idea is kind of a cheat.

You have two groups on a playing field, presumably the player's party and the enemies. There are turns. Each whole party gets their own "phase" where they coordinate their team's actions. Within a phase each unit in a party has a turn. During their turn the player controls them like they would in an action game. Turns are limited based on time. Time, because, in an action game the action always goes on. Limiting by time is the most logical conclusion because you don't want the flow to stop. Time also happens to be a key balancing factor in most action games, so you keep that element. Overall, it helps the battle feel much more like you're playing an action game.

When a single unit's turn is done, it very quickly switches to the next unit. When everyone's turn is done there is a phase switch. There is never a pause.

Units can also "wait", forfeit their turn. Doing so adds the current time they had left to their next turn, so they can do even more actions. There are a few reasons for this. One, so that the player is not left waiting for their character's turn to end if they don't need the rest of their time. Two, to add another element of strategy to time. For instance, some powerful attacks may require more time to execute. It also rewards the player for using their time efficiently, another element of action game pacing.

For spells/skills/etc there would be hotkeys rather than menus. Menus take time to scroll through, and that really doesn't work with a time-based system.(that's why action games don't really have them!)

There would be no way to survey the battle and gain your bearings. It all just happens. During the enemy team's phase the camera does not shift focus to their units. Instead, you keep an eye on your own. In an action game you're never really afforded omniscience-- You have to observe with your own eyes, so the same concept is applied here. This also lets elements of stealth and deception come into play, which do sometimes play a role in action games.

Remember the goal here is to bring the turn-based game elements and benefits while maintaining the vibe and pace of an action game. If I wanted to do it the other way, and make a turn-based game with action game elements, I might do things like add menus to choose skills from and let the player be omniscient of the playfield. But in this case, I want to keep those action game elements. Where you're not some puppeteer, but instead directly in the action.

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