Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Better Ranged Combat Model / General Improvements

I've noticed
that one of the features that seems to lack the most in action RPGs is ranged combat.

I'm not really addressing first-person shooters. They tend to work on an ifHit then thisMuchDamage type of model, which works well in that genre; No reason to muddy up its simplicity.

I'm more interested in bows and slings type of combat. Throwing knives. Firearms could fit into my proposal, especially muzzle-loaders.

What I'm suggesting is that individual weapons gain in their To Hit ratios and their Damage the more a player-character uses them. Essentially, each weapon earns its own level (a system used in the La Pucelle family of strategy games), customizing to the individual.

In addition to levels, there would be earned marksman skills. Think of Final Fantasy Tactics, only in real time. Each weapon would have a certain number of skill slots available that would increase with the weapon's level. You could then choose to attach skills into those slots or randomize the feature through different sets.

Skills would cause obvious effects.

If you earn the Disable Legs skill, your shots would go low. A successful hit would cause damage but not necessarily be a successful skill activation.

However, if your Disable Legs shot works, then the enemy's movement is hampered based upon the skill's development.

Another example: You learn Vital Organ. A successful skill activation hit would cause a gradual decrease in the enemy's function, eventually knocking them out or killing them. Their hits would cause less damage and connect less frequently.

This may be similar to what Guild Wars is after (hell, it may be exactly what they use).

I'm just tired of playing games where my bowman takes one well-aimed shot, then I frantically reload as the enemy closes to melee distance and proceeds to bash my brains in. There's just no need for that.

And why does that seem to be the norm for enemy behavior? Close and destroy? How about avoid and perform strike-and-fade attacks? Or seek cover and use a ranged weapon? Or just avoidance behavior versus straight-line fleeing? Woah, ok, wrong rant.

Let's say you select your ranged skills and head out for some fighting: as you mouse over an enemy a radial menu pops up. Move your cursor over a skill; It will become active. Certain skills can be activated simultaneously, others only singly.

The leveling up and skill gain of weapons allows basic weapons to become useful. This somewhat reduces the 'kill monsters to gain loot to kill monsters to gain loot', though I may have just replaced that treadmill with one based upon skills.

Another interesting feature to add would change the effects of your weapons based upon what sort of skills you favor and enemies you kill.

For example: You use your arrows to kill a giant poisonous adder. After you've killed, let's say, twenty, your arrows become Narcotican Arrows, with a slowing effect and extra damage to creatures sensitive to poison. Again, the number of effects that can be added depend upon the weapon's level.

A similar but opposite system can be used with armors. A number of specific attacks give the armor extra defense against those types of attacks. So the more you go after spear-bearing kobolds, the more your armor ends up protecting you against stabbing weapons. Bear the brunt of many icy breath attacks and you earn a good set of cold weather gear.

This sort of system connects the decisions you make regarding your favored enemies. If you wish to become the ultimate dragon hunter, then go after creatures that will sharpen the skills and defenses you need.

The important thing when presenting a complex game system is the options for simplification; Those who wish to micromanage should be given that control. You could choose to completely automate the earning of skills and the order they are attempted in combat. Or you could go on an attack-by-attack basis. This also ensures that the player is not burdened during simple battles but must utilize what they have earned.

Just trying to make things more interesting.

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