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Author Topic: Combat Engines: Menu Based Versus Direct Input  (Read 2683 times)
Eusis
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« on: May 15, 2007, 10:55:20 PM »

Before this would be 'real time versus turn based', but then Eternal Sonata went and presented a battle system that's more less an action one ala SO (maybe /more so/ in ways) while being completely turnbased, so that just got rendered a moot point. This is basically just a long rant on my thoughts thanks to the replies in the Lost Odyssey thread.

I can enjoy action or menu based equally, to me they're just different ways of playing a game, and some things (IE pace) can screw up either. However, I don't really like this mindset with people (and companies) to move everything to a more action based system and throw turn based combat away. Part of why I don't like the move/am concerned about it is my thought that industry wide transitions like that will ultimately homogenize video games. Why have platformers in 2D? Let's make them 3D. Why have these RPGs where you just input a bunch of commands? Just make them act directly. Why keep characters/equipment static in action games? Just add stats and the ability to upgrade, etcetera etcetera.

None of that is necessarily bad of course, in fact a lot of it can and has been good. But just as I enjoy, say, the Metroid-ish Castlevanias, I like to have straight up platformers like the original games too. And what REALLY sparked the thought process behind that previous paragraph, the fact Shining Force Neo was made into a hack & slash 'because it's more suited to consoles' is just really god damned stupid. Also, I don't like how most action RPGs nowadays are either basically just action games that have stats slapped on like the recent Castlevanias, or Diablo-like hack & slash games ala BG:DA. The former's good but not how I see the genre or want it to be, and the latter is just boring, with the usually boring dungeons, brainless enemies, and repetitive action. The games just bore me to tears most of the time, and while PSO/U have been exceptions, in the end they were boring me to the point where I would zone out when playing and not really give a damn what was going on. It's possible the X-Men Legend games are exceptions, but I haven't played those yet.

However , few developers as of late have balanced menu based combat to really be enjoyable. Usually it's the often blasted 'attack and heal endlessly' strategy that's the only one worth bothering with, or combat is unnecessarily long and dragged out for whatever reason, usually drawn out animations, and I don't just mean stuff like Summons. I don't like spending forever fighting any foe that isn't a boss or major, regardless of the battle system (likely why I generally don't stick to SRPGs), and to have to spend 2 minutes fighting nigh-harmless opponents you encounter every 30 seconds is just aggravating, especially when they literally came out of nowhere. Another huge problem though, and probably the bigger one, is how so many attacks are just useless. Status attacks in almost every RPG are utterly worthless, either because the enemies are just more swiftly dispatched by not using them, or because the chance of working is too low and may even only target a single enemy.

So, yeah. It's easy to ask which people prefer, but fuck it. What do you like/hate about each, and what exactly do you think is wrong and how it can be fixed?
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Robert Boyd
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2007, 12:30:35 AM »

What would I change about them?

Menu based - make them require real thought.  Up the difficulty and give the player a lot of options for customization.  Make a wide variety of spells & special moves that actually matter instead of just attack/heal.  SMT: Nocturne is a good example of this done well.  From the look of things, Etrian Odyssey is another.

Direct Input -If you're going to make it direct input, then let's go all the way.  Too many Action/RPGs are too simplistic or clunky in the action department.  Give us an RPG where combat is as indepth as a good fighting game.  Give us Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry the RPG.
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2007, 01:29:54 AM »

Quote from: "Robert Boyd"
What would I change about them?

Menu based - make them require real thought.  Up the difficulty and give the player a lot of options for customization.  Make a wide variety of spells & special moves that actually matter instead of just attack/heal.


Seriously! How about buffs that are actually worth using on anything but boss battles? How about debuffs and status effects that enemies (especially bosses) aren't completely resistant too? How about support abilities that give provide you with monster statistics and weak points?

A lot of D&D licensed games (Baldur's Gate, Pools of Radiance and other Gold Box games, Warriors of the Eternal Sun) make excellent use of buff, debuff, and status effect spells. For instance, things like silence, blind, charm, sleep, poison, etc. actually WORK!
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John
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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2007, 02:30:21 AM »

Willy, have you played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games?  A great deal of them use debuff and buff and status spells to the max.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2007, 03:20:01 AM »

First and most importantly, I think you're all going to hate Etrian Odyssey.

Okay, back on topic.

I don't care if genres homogenize. I don't really care about *genres*. I've never not played a game or read a book or listened to some sort of music or whatever because its genre. Individual entities within thar zhean-rahs are more important than whatever genre they're supposed to be acting as the best of breed for.

Also, RPGs aren't even a real genre. An RPG is a set of various standards or ideas or vague gaming feature concepts that nobody seems to agree on anyway. Ergo I don't see why this matters.

Anyway, whether a game is an action RPG or a menu-driven RPG isn't worth discussing to debate the subtle differences between the two. Because there aren't any. They're very different play styles.

Ooooh, I will say that certain menu based RPG don't set off any sort of "This is a game!" flag in my mind. Chrono Trigger comes to mind. I played that for an hour and it was a very mechanical experience that did not engage me in anyway. Save for the dinotank boss, I was mostly just hammering the X button to get through a bunch of fights I didn't really care about. Phantasy Star 2 was another one I played sort of semi recently. Press the confirm button, let the auto battle do whatever, go make some blintzes and fall asleep listening to the sounds of the fratboys playing cornhole int he little park between Harschmann and Kreischer.

Only thing I hate more than fratboys is cornhole. Come be my hero soon, Kunio-sama.

Of course, plenty of action RPGs that trigger the same "I am not aware" response. Dewprism, for instance. Bashing the X button to pick a menu option to attack and bashing the X button to swing your weapon thing aren't really that different, I guess.

Also, this entire argument is a bit vague. There are millions of ways to handle menu driven combat and action driven combat (CAAAAARS. vroomvroom chainsaw races). Shadow Hearts had that command wheel thing. For instance. Also ATB isn't action based, but it is real time. And Star Ocean 2's battle system is even more real time, but you're still basically dealing with menus -- or at the least, manual control is reduce. FFXII? You don't manually attack. Totally menu driven. Seeeeee?

puhuteko minusta?

merry christmas
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alonso
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2007, 03:39:59 AM »

Well what should i say, the combat systems were my least problems in any rpg till now^^. i loved Diablo 2, Nox, FF7, Baldurs Gate, Tales of symphonia. I had a way harder time to find a game that made me like its story line.
There is no perfect combat system, menu or action based, all have their strenghts and weaknesses.

My favourite one is the one used in the Tales of Games.
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Eusis
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2007, 04:49:57 AM »

Quote from: "MeshGearFox"
Also ATB isn't action based, but it is real time. And Star Ocean 2's battle system is even more real time, but you're still basically dealing with menus -- or at the least, manual control is reduce. FFXII? You don't manually attack. Totally menu driven. Seeeeee?

You've basically summed up the other half of why I made it menus versus direct input and not turn based and real time; Just as Eternal Sonata is really an action based RPG with turns, FFXII is an automated real time RPG where if you want to do anything, its either programmed, or via menus. Though that really IS turn based. And the SO games just make you automatically run up to either the closest enemy or the one you targeted, that pretty much just creates an illusion of action. And no one waste your time countering with the 'well you can unlock manual control' bit. When it takes hundreds of hours of gameplay to earn, I think it's safe to say that its irrelevant. I can't really comment on the rest of that paragraph right now though. I recognize there's plenty of variety, especially with the more action based combat systems though, and... Shadow Hearts thing doesn't fully count as an action system. It's a typical battle system where you have to have good timing to make attacked, and even then die roll may dictate whether you hit or not. More skill involved, but ultimately it's about as luck based as any other RPG. Now the first two Paper Mario games go the few extra steps that put it about in the middle, since that requires a bit of button mashing with the proper timing.

For homogenizing, I'm mostly just concerned about a lack of variety in gameplay. Yeah, you can easily make the whole genre classification seem stupid - we've pointed out about everything wrong with the term "Role Playing Game" at this point, and then things like Action Adventure are just regarded as catchall genres by groups like GameSpot. I'm thinking more of 'people don't want games like this, let's just go with something more popular', or worse when certain types of games, IE 2D and in Sega's case Strategy RPGs, are simply deemed unfit for consoles. It almost seems like if that path's followed to it's ultimate end, we'd only have FPSes  action games that follow the DMC mold, and assorted sports games. Hell, they'll figure out how to merge FPSes and DMC-like action games, or in a further extreme those with sports games, then that's all we'll have. However, I realize that's not that likely (FPS sports action adventure WTF), as grim as some can be about gaming's fate. But simply having lines blurring and getting a wide variety of mishmashed games, like Deus Ex or Valkyrie Profile is fantastic; like said, my real concern is variety.

By the way, mind elaborating on the EO statement? I'm kinda suspecting it's for the reasons I'm worried about whether I'd like the game or not, but I'd like to hear it in detail anyway. To hell with being on topic... Actually no, I think seriously talking about a new, VERY traditional hardcore RPG is pretty relevant for this topic.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2007, 05:41:16 AM »

RPGfan doesn't seem to like modern oldschool RPGs, or RPGs without stories. In spite of this, a lot of people seem really hyped about the game. I'm predicting they're going to hate it because it just seems completely at odds with the sort of thing they usually play, so I'm rather confused as to why they're all hyped up. I mean, it's basically oldschool Wizardry from what I can tell. IS Wizardry popular here? For that matter, are first person dungeons in and of themselves popular here?

And, er, honestly, I like wizardry and oldschool RPGs. Wizardry 1 I enjoy playing, and I think it has more going for it than, say, Ultima 1. But Wizardry's moved beyond that point a long time ago. 6-8 just had much, much better developed gameplay. So did Tales of the Forsaken Land. Both of those also had rather strong stories.

I don't mind oldschool at all, but oldschool for the sake of kitsch just doesn't do anything for me, because I grew up in the 90s, and the self-referential humor and metaness is lost on me. Especially bothersome, though, when people start mining the really archaic recesses of oldschool that not even oldschool gamers play much. Something like Wasteland is still fully playable, but a lot of pre Bard's Tale games are just...
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Robert Boyd
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2007, 08:16:16 AM »

Are the people who are interested in story, the same people interested in Etrian Odyssey?  Personally, all an RPG needs to interest me is to have good gameplay.  If it has a nice plot, that's just a nice bonus, hardly necessary.  Very difficult + highly customizable 5 character party = almost guaranteed awesome game in my book.
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Lard
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2007, 08:23:28 AM »

I would make every battle system like Grandia's.
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2007, 10:17:03 AM »

I'm honestly getting a little tired of the "let's make everything realtime" trend in battle engines these days.  Some of the intricacies of Megami Tensei can only be done in a dynamic turn based system.  

The realtime battle system in Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Soulless Army was horrible.  Not only did it make capturing demons needlessly frustrating, but it took away the whole Megami Tensei angle of talking to them to get them to join you.  Doing dialogue trees has to be turn-based: talk-respond-talk-respond (although Mass Effect can let you interrupt.)  

I'm a menu-based guy at heart.   I'm not 10 years old any more with the hairtrigger reflexes needed for ARPGs.  (Tangent: Both turn-based Xenogears and most ARPGs have platform jumping and I do not find platform jumping fun at all.)  

And as someone else said, +1 on Grandia's battle system.  Even though I'm not the biggest Grandia fan in the world (I didn't like Grandia or Grandia 2 as much as others here at the 'Fan), I still played them to the end because the combat was so much fun.
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2007, 10:25:08 AM »

Quote from: "KeeperX"
Willy, have you played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games?  A great deal of them use debuff and buff and status spells to the max.


I've got SMT: Digital Devil Saga sitting by my PS2 right now. But the PS2 is broken! Maybe that should be incentive to fix it. I've never heard anyone do anything but praise the series.

Quote from: "MeshGearFox"
I don't mind oldschool at all, but oldschool for the sake of kitsch just doesn't do anything for me, because I grew up in the 90s, and the self-referential humor and metaness is lost on me. Especially bothersome, though, when people start mining the really archaic recesses of oldschool that not even oldschool gamers play much. Something like Wasteland is still fully playable, but a lot of pre Bard's Tale games are just...


I'm not sure that Etrian Odyssey is being old school for old school's sake. We'll have see how sincere it seems when it comes out. And before Bard's Tale there was Rogue (as well as many games with comparative dungeon crawling game play), and those games are still being copied by developers today (Diablo, Izuna, Phantasy Star Online, etc. etc. etc.) and definitely not for the sake of kitsch.

I'm trying to think of an RPG that is old school for the purpose of kitsch but I'm having trouble. To me, developers don't ever seem to reference old school RPGs directly or all that often. In fact, as far as I can tell, the RPG world is very "out with the old, in with the new". Mostly, no one seems to care about old school-style series (at least in the U.S.). King's Field is a great example.
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Lard
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2007, 10:45:53 AM »

I'm a turn based guy at heart too, and while I enjoy action games (I love MGS 3 for instance), I <3 turn based RPGs. I'm glad I wasn't the only one a bit disappointed with Devil Summoner.

I just hope Suikoden 6 (when it eventually comes) doesn't forsake the turn based system like alot of recent RPGs have.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2007, 12:03:01 PM »

Quote
Not only did it make capturing demons needlessly frustrating, but it took away the whole Megami Tensei angle of talking to them to get them to join you.


Oh, that's not the problem. You know how easy it would be to inplement a turn based talky system? Stun the enemy, walk up to them, and instead of throwing out a poke electric green tube, just pause the combat, and popup some sort of talking interface.

I think the real problem with that combat sysem is the terrible camera angle, cramped interface, cramped battlefield, and the fact that raidou's attacks never get more interesting. Also it's slow as hell and has really strange feeling controls.

If it'd had Battles More like Rogue Galaxy it would've been a lot better. I mean, let's just imagine that, say, Raidou could jump and smush enemies, and that the battlefield was... actually large enough to play in.

Also why even include demon loyalty if they can't get LESS loyal through lack of proper care? Or if, for that matter, it doesn't do anything anyway?
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« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2007, 12:49:20 PM »

Quote from: "Lard"
I'm a turn based guy at heart too, and while I enjoy action games (I love MGS 3 for instance), I <3 turn based RPGs. I'm glad I wasn't the only one a bit disappointed with Devil Summoner.


I thought Devil Summoner was a good game, but the battle system brought it down. I couldn't bring myself to play it anymore after about 20-25 hours. All they needed to do was give Raidou the option of learning new skills in battle, then I would have been okay with it. But it was of a focus on the monsters, and even then, they didn't have very many options in battle. It was too stale.

As far as turn/menu based battles go, I think Digital Devil Saga has done the best so far. It's simple, but the twist they added with exploiting enemy weaknesses to get extra turns is really cool and keeps the battles moving along.

But, I also enjoy the old school turn based battles like Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest VIII made it a little better by adding the options to power up any attack by skipping a turn.

Oh, and Chrono Trigger is another excellent menu based system. No need for switching to seperate screens either. I take back what I said about DDS. That's the second best. CT is the best menu based battle system.

My copy of Etrian Odyssey is on it's way. I'm sure that's another old school battle sytem that I'm going to enjoy.
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