[MUD-Dev] A new combat system

John Bertoglio jb at pulsepoll.com
Thu Jul 13 02:06:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

> J C Lawrence > Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2000 11:57 PM

<much cut to get to the part I want to comment on>

> I want detailed, mutually reactive and
> intelligent behavior to be possible.  I want realtime tactics to be
> both possible and rewarding, which is a site different than just
> speed-clicking "stab/slash/kick/bash".  I want to be able to have
> the results and progress of a slowtime activity to be directly
> dependant on my human (or scripted) capabilities.
This is a reasonable goal. It is easier to do on a 100meg LAN than
over the public Internet, but not impossible if the reasonable design 
approach is taken. The current problem with game worlds of all
kinds run over networks with unpredictable and variable lag is that 
virtually all combat tactics (be it a stock mud, CounterStrike or
Diablo) include the exploitation of network lag. A graphic world
with people fighting with 3D images in real time has no choice
but to simplify the combat options. This can get fairly 
sophisticated. The latest arcade Tecken games use about 9 buttons
to control a huge number of moves. The move/counter move can be
very intricate. Watching two human players who know the game is
a lot of fun. It becomes a real (if bloody) sporting event that 
is easy to get into. 

Trying to model Tecken 3 over the Internet will simply fail. Even 
with high speed connections, the lag between command and execution
destroys the ability of the player to suspend their disbelief and
enjoy the ride. If the designer scales down the interaction to 
handle lag, the compromise can provide a decent gaming experience.

A text world has the ability to take a more leisurely pace. It
is (I believe) a requirement. The advantage of a visual environment
is the ability to serve huge amounts of information. The mind-eye
connection makes a single video frame truly worth a thousand words.
If this is true, the text game designer who is trying to emulate
a visual interface will fail. Just try this simple exercise: As
you drive down a street in a commercial district, try to describe
everything you see as you move by at 25 mph to someone with their
eyes closed. What you will find is that you can only describe a 
fraction of the detail. Imagine if there were four sword fights
going on the street when you stopped for a light. How could
you possibly describe the scene fast enough to give your 
passenger an idea in which fight they should intervene?

Combat (or any other competitive interaction) can provide a 
significant tactical challenge if it is approached correctly. The 
key is to have a much information as possible already stored on 
the server. Our system allows the player to build responses to 
various events in a database stored on the server. Combat is based
on a move/counter move using an action point system similar to 
the ones being discussed in the Diablo combat system thread. After
a round is completed, the system checks to see if it has any new
commands have been issued. If not, the default behavior from 
the character combat profiles is checked and executed. 

At any time during combat, a profile/pattern can be edited. 
Simple text commands can also change the current pattern for the
duration of the combat.

A schematic sample interaction:

[Kill Boffo 4]  you attempt to kill Boffo using attack pattern 4
... messages about how the combat is going.
... you decide to change attack patterns based on the text
[AP 2] you draw your dagger and begin using a two handed attack
... messages about how the combat is going.
... Boffo gets very aggressive
... your character is getting hit fairly hard
[Backoff] you are still using AP 2 but you are being more careful
[CH 1] you excite combat healing technique 1    
... messages about how the combat is going.
[BF] you pull back one more level
... messages about how the combat is going.
... Boffo's wild lunges are not working because of your defensive
posture so he changes his attack pattern.
[Close, AP 1] you react to his change with one of your own.
... messages about how the combat is going.
... Boffo is down. You have a default behavior for this situation
... and so on

Adding magic is easy... just another attack/defense method. Use
of magic takes action points and can be interrupted as can any
physical strike.

While I have only run combat against NPC's, the text presentation
is interesting and exciting. The ability to adjust profiles and
issue commands provides a wealth of tactical decisions. Another
advantage of this system is that it is easy to script behavior
for NPCs (In our system, NPCs are identical to player characters.
They reside in the same database and can be controlled by either
the server or an individual. An interesting result of the method
is the combats seem to follow the patterns seen in action movies
(my only point of reference for martial arts). One player attacks
in a flurry and the other defends. Then the tables turn and the
defender presses the attacker. It makes for an interesting 

I have raised these issues in the past, but perhaps the text 
above expresses it better than before.

> Note: I prefer binding much of the ability of a character to his
> human player rather than attempting to calculate and emulate them
> via locally stored statistics and weights.  Thus you don't get so
> much get "high level characters" as "high level players", or to
> dramatize my view:
>   A newbie character played by an expert should be able to best most
> high level characters played by merely competent humans (combat,
> running, game challenges, whatever).  Ditto for competent
> human/newbie character versus nerbie human/high level character.

The system described above will favor the person who understands
how to preplan based on their character's strengths and how to react
when the plans blow up. To the degree it is successful, the system
will model the subtle advantages of an expert warrior. The modest
differences between a newbie and a high level character in the system
makes this more likely. I suspect a system where high level characters
deliver blows like tactical nukes would be somewhat harder to balance.

> Providing explicit and dramatic support for slowtime/fastime just
> seems one route to provide this.  It just has problems.

My suggestion is to ignore time and just let things take as long as
they take. Attempting to synchronize time for all persons in the 
world leads to severe constraints on action. A player engaged in
combat is no different than one in the same area talking or carving

John A. Bertoglio 

PulsePoll.com <http://www.pulsepoll.com/>  
| 503.781.3563
| jb at pulsepoll.com|

> -- 
> J C Lawrence                                 Home: claw at kanga.nu
> ---------(*)                               Other: coder at kanga.nu
> http://www.kanga/nu/~claw/        Keys etc: finger claw at kanga.nu
> --=| A man is as sane as he is dangerous to his environment |=--
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