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The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 8:09 am
by sear
Today's update from our Lead Systems Designer, David Rogers, goes into more detail on the game's combat system, something we've touched on previously but haven't gone into detail about. This one gives an overview of our mechanics and how we build attacks and character synergies, as well as details such as positioning of characters and enemies.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/in ... ts/1562643
We discussed our 4x4 battlefield grid in a previous Kickstarter update. Accentuating the role that the battlefield plays in combat is one element we're focusing on. To briefly recap, during combat our battlefield is a 4x4 grid where the players' party occupies one half of the grid and the enemies' party occupies the other half. Because we want to show your enemies (and the bloody pulp you beat them into) in all of their glory, their half of the grid exists in 3D space. Your party, in classic blobber fashion, lives on your HUD. It looks a little something like this:

Image

This is what our board looks like while we're playtesting our paper prototype. After our art director gave it a little love it started to look a little something like this:

Image
This is an example mockup, not an in-game screenshot, but should give a sense for our intended combat presentation.

There's a lot to talk about, so let's start with the grid. As you can see, the grid does a great job of blending the 3D space and the HUD together into a single battlefield. Where your character sits on this grid in relation to the enemy is of vital import. For instance, by positioning a resilient warrior in front of your frail conjurer, you can protect him from direct physical attacks, allowing him to spell-sling with relative impunity. Even beyond the classic front row/back row dynamic, characters can generally only attack enemies that are in front of them. Of course, there are exceptions to this, particularly when we start talking about magic. This heavy emphasis on your party's position has a lot of really cool implications that makes each combat a real strategic puzzle to be solved.

Which characters should I use to tank damage from each enemy? If an enemy is charging up a powerful attack, should I try to move someone into position to interrupt him or should I move everyone out of the way? Should I move my character into position to attack a critical target next turn, or should I just stay put and attack whoever is in front of me this turn? Should I cluster my team together to share short range buffs, or should I spread them out to avoid AOE damage?

These are choices we've not been able to present in past Bard's Tale games and we're finding them to be really fun and rewarding.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 8:42 am
by Vainamoinen
Don't let anyone give you that "It's not the Bard's Tale" sermon, it looks really nice up to now. Just make sure that depending on player and combat situation, a battle can be conducted in a really quick way. No immensely drawn out SFX please. :)

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 10:12 am
by terrmathor
On the system itself, I see it as completely fine.

Just one thing: I think it would be good, in-game, to have an option to disable the grid lines.
Kind of anti-climatic, to me. But rest of the screenshot looks good and totally understandable.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 10:25 am
by sear
terrmathor wrote:On the system itself, I see it as completely fine.

Just one thing: I think it would be good, in-game, to have an option to disable the grid lines.
Kind of anti-climatic, to me. But rest of the screenshot looks good and totally understandable.
We'll probably have some kind of contextual setup where the grid lines only appear when you are targeting attacks etc. These are mostly just for illustration - all the UI and graphics are mockups and will likely change quite a bit.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 10:56 am
by IHaveHugeNick
That screenshot looks amazing. I understand it's a mockup, but wow. You might just convince me to actually get this when it comes out.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 11:43 am
by Sacred_Path
What a great read. More of these meaty updates, please!

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 12:41 pm
by Drool
I... I'm a little torn.

Visually, it looks quite nice, and I really like the combination of 2D and 3D so the party stays (essentially) a blob or a HUD element. This is kind of like early Might and Magic, honestly. And again, it looks nice.

It also looks like we'll never face more than about 8 enemies at a time. Even weak, early battles in the originals would have more than 8 foes. To say nothing of the later levels where you'd face hundreds, or the infamous Barbarian fight. I don't need to fight 400 barbarians, but I'd like to face more than 8 dudes at a time.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 12:54 pm
by sear
Drool wrote:It also looks like we'll never face more than about 8 enemies at a time. Even weak, early battles in the originals would have more than 8 foes. To say nothing of the later levels where you'd face hundreds, or the infamous Barbarian fight. I don't need to fight 400 barbarians, but I'd like to face more than 8 dudes at a time.
There are many more ways to add depth and challenge to combat than by simply giving you huge mobs to fight. Our talking about positioning, tactics, status effects, attack range, etc. and so on was meant to illustrate that.

That said, there will be fights with more than 8 enemies at once, and we're basically obligated by fate to include some kind of 99 Berserker fight. :P

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 1:21 pm
by paultakeda
BT enemies were blobs of 1 to 99 anyway, so I can easily see how they are visually represented by a single piece on a square but could still be 99 berserkers (granted 99 may be too high these days where combat is visualized).

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 2:37 pm
by Drool
sear wrote:There are many more ways to add depth and challenge to combat than by simply giving you huge mobs to fight. Our talking about positioning, tactics, status effects, attack range, etc. and so on was meant to illustrate that.
I'm not arguing that at all. And you're completely right. That said, one of the things that stuck out in Bard's Tale was the huge battles. Nobody else really had them, so it was something that set BT aside from the other big names of that era.

Again, it doesn't need to be four groups of 99 barbarians. But I distinctly remember panicking when I saw 15 Black Hobbits roaming the streets of Skara Brae in BT3, because I didn't have any way to deal with that many enemies at once.

Removing large groups of monsters to fight would be like... removing the Bard. Or rolling all the magicians, wizards, and sorcerers into a generic spellcaster class.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 3:01 pm
by Lucius
Great update! The combat system sounds really promising in theory. Hopefully it plays just as well.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 3:18 pm
by dblade
sear wrote: There are many more ways to add depth and challenge to combat than by simply giving you huge mobs to fight. Our talking about positioning, tactics, status effects, attack range, etc. and so on was meant to illustrate that.

That said, there will be fights with more than 8 enemies at once, and we're basically obligated by fate to include some kind of 99 Berserker fight. :P
at once or lined up for their turn when a slot opens up?
or is there a chance to be attacked from the sides and rear?

EDIT: and please forgive my manners, the update was truly a great read.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 3:39 pm
by Lord of Riva
this looks really good.

i see that as a confirmation that player characters as actual models didnt make the cut?

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 5:27 pm
by _noblesse_oblige_
As others have noted, the visuals do look nice.

But, I have to agree with Drool on the size of the encounters though - limiting them so much is not really faithful to the original series. Also, adding elements like positioning and stances can well tend towards micromanagement or, at least, prolonged diversions from the business of exploring.

Some other notes:
  • The best defense is a good offense. Kill your enemies quickly lest they kill you first. In most gaming systems I've experienced, poisoning and bleeding effects don't remove enemies from the battlefield as quickly as direct damage. If the use of these mechanics is desired, then they need to be carefully balanced with the direct damage mechanics. But, more importantly, they set a different pace for the game and have the potential to really slow down combat compared to the original series, turning this into a very different game.
  • Combat was not a deeply involved exercise in the original series. In his opening paragraph, Mr. Rogers' advances the thesis that:
    David Rogers wrote:I know I don't have to tell any of you that combat is a core pillar of The Bard's Tale.
    While combat was an essential part of the original series, it was something fairly abstract and quite simple. What is now being proposed is using phrases like "attack pattern", "combat stances", "charge-up attack", etc.... While ideas such as this might be interesting to explore in a more tactically-oriented game, this is a fundamental break from the original series.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 5:58 pm
by dblade
@_noblesse_oblige_
DOT's would slow down combat if they were the only damage type. Are you saying a round used for a DOT attack is a round wasted?

I'm not sure that saying combat is a core pillar demands that the combat must be not deeply involved / abstract and quite simple -- I agree with your claim of departure, but would prefer to see things evolve quite a bit on this front.

Are you suggesting the same semi static picture with scrolling combat text or something else? Would it be something like Myst + old school combat log and encounter window? :)

EDIT: I realize DOT is not the best choice of word when it's based on movement as per the update, but maybe this damage type also proc's when the mob attacks (any movement and not only to a different position)

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 2nd, 2016, 8:36 pm
by Crosmando
Holy crap, even if that screenshot was a real and not a mock-up I wouldn't care, looks amazing, exactly what I wanted to see.

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 3rd, 2016, 5:42 am
by cyseal
Will combat have something in common with playstyle in Fall of the Dungeon Guardians (altough this is grid based)?

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 3rd, 2016, 7:37 am
by Crosmando
Because we want to show your enemies (and the bloody pulp you beat them into) in all of their glory, their half of the grid exists in 3D space. Your party, in classic blobber fashion, lives on your HUD.
Is this a confirmation the game will be fully first-person?

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 3rd, 2016, 7:51 am
by thebruce
sear wrote:That said, there will be fights with more than 8 enemies at once, and we're basically obligated by fate to include some kind of 99 Berserker fight. :P
This is exactly what I wanted to hear. Is this on the record? ;)

I echo the sentiments of others here - there were a few elements that to me set BT apart from others in the area of combat. eg, quantity of enemies, and speed (relative simplicity) of combat. If we can, as you imply, face large numbers of foes like the 99*n berserkers, then the former is checked off my list. So it's now just a matter of seeing how combat will play out. Given the update mentioned quite a number of new 'strategies' for various character types and mechanics, my hope is that (per another thread in which we discuss it, iirc) there would be some way of progressing rapidly through combat phases; whether by macros, or remembering a kind of 'favourite' attack or defend command, or what have you.

I might wish to have my front line warriors have a favourite attack that may not do the most damage but affects the most within range, and just use that by default unless I want face an enemy and I need a different strategy. I won't want to keep having to select a certain type of attack from a list of available strategies.

In a way, the classics already did this. If you hit "A" to attack, the 'default' was to use the equipped weapon. If you wanted to use a different strategy, you'd hit "U" or "C". Expand that idea with more alternative combat strategies available to each character, and I'll be quite satisfied :)

I'd love a 'speed' mode, or 'classic' mode in that case, where you could actually end up hitting A-A-A-A-D-D-D and each character would do their 'favourite' thing, and skipping all the (although beautiful) animations.

If that can be a feature, then my combat concern #2 will be checked off my list :)

Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 29: Glorious Combat

Posted: May 3rd, 2016, 10:42 am
by Themadcow
Quite honestly this is probably the best update I could have hoped for apart from the line about static damage rather than an element of randomness.

"Damage comes from the character's stats, which are sourced from a variety of places including gear, skills, level, etc. Most of the time, damage is a fixed amount instead of a random range. This really allows you to plan out the perfect combo, that will for sure take that ogre down before he crushes your skull in. There are some abilities that do random damage, but that random element is something special about the ability that makes it unique."

That paragraph would also suggest that enemy health is either known or static. I always quite liked in BT that you could hit one conjurer for 7 damage and kill them but another would survive 9 damage. Also it suggests that damage is largely unaffected by armor modifiers which opens up a question (not a criticism) about the role of armor / dodge / parry etc.

All in all a very pleasing update, even if some of the claims of innovation are a little contentious in the light of other blobbers / crawlers I've played in the last 10 years.