Ventura – Combat Week – Days 5 & 6

Greetings and salutations,

I was in Qingdao the home of Tsingtao beer for a short break, so apologies for the lack of posting.

Here’s post 5 of my Ventura Combat System progress.

Some quick context for new readers as to what the combat system is trying to achieve…

  • 1v1 combat with teams of 5 Mercenaries
  • Simultaneous Turns, with a Planning phase (making moves) and a Resolution phase (witnessing the outcomes)
  • Two Maneuvers per Turn
  • In your Maneuver you can Move, Attack, or Idle
  • There are no targeted attacks, you select a direction and your character’s attack ‘template’ will affect tiles and enemies below it
  • There are plenty of more details, but not for version 1!

 

Combat Week – Day 5-6

Last week we were introduced to Maneuvers; the two orders you can give your Units in a turn. On Day 4 we got a single unit moving; Lucina, who could select two tiles and move along a path towards each destination sequentially.

Day 5 & 6 involved inputting Maneuvers for all other members of the player’s team. This was much harder than I imagined, as there is a lot of logic I didn’t really think through when the initial thought seed begun.

Maneuvers are planned, they do not begin as soon as they are inputted. The moves are made and then, when each unit has locked in their 2 Maneuvers, all the movement has occurs at the same time; first Maneuver 1, then Maneuver 2.

Day 5-6 Movement
Day 5-6 Movement and Multiple Units

What’s tricky about this is that the Units need to sync up at the end of each Maneuver. If Lucina is moving 1 tile to the right, but Basilio is moving 5 tiles up and 3 tiles across… Lucina has to wait at her Maneuver 1 destination before beginning Maneuver 2.

Remember the order of the outcome phase?

  1. Maneuver 1: Idle
  2. Maneuver 1: Attack
  3. Maneuver 1: Move
  4. Maneuver 2: Idle
  5. Maneuver 2: Attack
  6. Maneuver 2: Move

If Units are not waiting at the end of their Maneuver 1 for the other Units to sync up, they might move out of the way of a Maneuver 1 enemy who is still attacking. There are also plenty of opportunities for tiles to contain 2 Units in them (which needs to be forbidden), so to keep the game fair I have to make sure that when Units ‘clash’ they’re clashing at the correct point. We’ll talk about clashing in the future.

My ideal situation is that eventually I will be able to increase/decrease the speed of each Unit so that they all arrive at the same time regardless of distance traveled. For now that’s not necessary though, so I spent most of Days 5 and 6 implementing the ‘waiting’ logic.

As a side note; I’ve discovered that as a Designer who was forced into Programming, the perspective you get from coding is truly valuable. I used to naysay the idea that designers should know how to code. I still don’t think an extreme level of knowledge is needed, but it definitely helps to have my crappy level of ability. It helps so much with logic and ensuring that your design doesn’t have gaping loopholes and conflicts.

Programming the waiting logic was tricky, especially when I have to perform both players’ actions (a logic that isn’t used in the finished product). When the 5th Unit completes their 2nd Maneuver, the team needs to switch to Player 2’s first Unit. Then, when the 5th Unit of the 2nd Team completes their 2nd Maneuver… the Outcome phase begins.

Here’s how I coded it;

  • The Combat Controller (an object that watches and maintains states) is constantly looking at the Maneuvers that are taken.
  • Each time a Unit completes a Maneuver order, it adds +1 to the controller’s tracker variable.
  • There are 5 Units and 2 Maneuvers per Unit, plus 2 Teams.
  • So, when the tracker variable reaches 10, Team 1’s Maneuvers are all ready.
  • When the tracker variable reaches 20, both teams have completed their orders.
  • At this point, the Phase changes from Planning to Outcome.
  • This phase change triggers Maneuver 1’s path for every Unit, at the same time, on both teams.
  • Units start moving.
  • At this point, we start tracking another variable.
  • At the end of every movement path, the Unit will add +1 to the new tracker.
  • As before, the Tracker is searching for a value of 10 before it can say that Maneuver 1 has been concluded (5 units, 2 teams, 1 Maneuver)
  • Once 10 is reached, all the Units that have already complete their path will then begin their Maneuver 2. This syncs up all units on both teams.
  • Once 20 is reached, the Outcome phase is over and the Combat Controller switches back to Planning mode for player 1.

So a couple of mornings worth of work and I can now move every Unit twice and turns will complete themselves. It’s quite cool to see it in motion, although a little confusing to display with my alpha art and lack of VFX

Design Decisions RE: Maneuvers Pt.II

Last time we talked about Frozen Synapse and how its Simultaneous Turn Based system was a big influence on my concept for Ventura’s combat. The second influence, related to Maneuvers, is XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Ventura’s combat system is a like a hybrid of XCOM‘s two-manuever system and Frozen Synapse‘s Plan/Outcome system. Like Ventura, in XCOM you can also perform 2 moves per turn.

  • You can move twice
  • Or you can attack twice
  • Or you can move once and attack once.

You can also use an ability or an item in place of a movement or attack. I haven’t played it in a while, so I have to confirm, but I believe that you can’t attack and THEN move unless you have a certain perk on your Unit.

Move to a safe position? Attack twice but leave yourself open?
Move to a safe high-ground position, Attack twice but leave yourself open, or Move then Attack but risk retaliation?

This system creates a nice strategic resource to plan around. Positioning is extremely important in XCOM, as cover creates an imbalanced situation for Units standing in it (they’re very powerful compared to being completely screwed in the open). Using 2 moves to quickly grab hold of a piece of terrain is a valid strategy, but to do that you give up both that Unit’s offensive and defensive capabilities for a turn. If you choose to attack twice, you have a large sphere of area denial, but can be out-maneuvered by more mobile foes… especially as cover is destructible.

I plan to have terrain on my Combat Grid, which will simulate similar effects as in XCOM, but the real takeaway is the question; “Do I stay mobile or do I try to punish the foe?”.

To stand still in Ventura is very risky, as Units are attacking tiles and not targets. A moving Unit in Ventura needs to be pre-empted with an Attack Maneuver. They could move to any tile within their movement range, so it’s a guessing game for the enemy. A static Unit is easier to predict. You know that if a Unit decides to Attack, they will be standing on that tile for that Maneuver.

This Unit has plenty of cover and the enemy is ripe for the picking
This Unit has plenty of cover and the enemy is ripe for the taking

I’m hoping Ventura will be an intense and strategic battle of minds, as you try to predict how each of the enemy’s 5 units will use their Maneuvers. Predicting where the enemy units will be moving, and when they’ll be attacking (therefore standing still), is half the battle… the other half is trying to surprise your opponent by acting unpredictably while still trying to intercept and damage their units.

Perhaps standing still and attacking twice in a terrible battlefield position is so unpredictable that you come out unscathed and cause vicious damage to an enemy!

This is what I’m trying to achieve with my combat system. The speed and mind-games nature of Frozen Synapse, with the simplicity and readability of XCOM. One fear I have is that while going for very short turns, I still have too many variables and possibilities that hinder the speed of action. 5 Units perhaps is too many, so we’ll have to see in playtesting whether it truly works or not.

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