In this series of articles, I’ll be spotlighting individual mechanics in Ventura; explaining why and how I’ve made them. I’m hoping this will not only give you guys insight into the design process, but also help me clarify and distill my own mechanics!
Part I: The Best Offense is a Good Defense
From my experience, most TBT games have completely open attacking. As long as your target is within attack range, you can attack them. It does not matter if there are 5 units between your current unit and his/her target, you can magically hit them.
I don’t like this, and a lot of it comes down to my love of Tanking and what the implications of open attacking are for defensive plays. When I’m thinking of the sort of experience I want to provide in Ventura, I am always pushing the interaction between units and the importance of positioning.
Tanking was first introduced to me in World of Warcraft. As my first MMORPG it was incredibly refreshing to play a character whose sole role was to protect allies by putting themself in danger. World of Warcraft uses the classic Aggro system of tanking; using a semi-transparent resource that the Tank can build up against enemies. These enemies then attack whoever has the most Aggro on their list. Allies using Heals will generate a lot of Aggro, so the Tank needs to have the ability to build up plenty of counter-aggro to make sure they stay on top of the Aggro List for each enemy.
Naturally this only works in PvE situations. Human opponents do not have an Aggro List that can be manipulated by another player. Skilled human opponents know the natural threat level of each enemy and choose who to put on their personal aggro list. No amount of bluster will make a human attack a super defensive target… it’s madness to do so!
Dota-likes (or MOBAs) also attempted to create tanks that work in PvP situations. As a tank cannot force humans to attack him, they must incentivize humans to attack them. This is done in a few ways…
Crowd Control: Being stunned and silenced is usually a major pain in the ass. PvP Tanks tend to have abilities that mess up enemy formations and combos. This makes them a high priority target in many situations, as they shut down your team’s strategy.
Sustained Damage: This is the classic “Deal with me now or you’re going to regret it!” technique. Tanks are horrible to attack because every 100 damage you do to a tank is reduced heavily compared to a squishy mage. You need a reason to attack the tank before the mage, so what if the tank eventually does more damage than a mage? Sustained Damage or ramping up damage is a really nice way to create interesting decisions for dealing with a Tank. Do you ignore them and deal with more high priority threats? Or do you take them down before they become a problem?
Taunts: Lazy design, but literally forcing enemies to attack a Tank does technically work. In most cases this is just a thematic skin of Crowd Control. Hearthstone utilizes Taunt in a much more interesting way, but with multiple throwaway units it’s hard for me to draw much inspiration from it.
These techniques have varying degrees of success. League of Legends is a game that heavily promotes tanking and bruiser-type characters. Dota, on the other hand, has some fat dudes but typically the game is not balanced around having many of them.
Part II: Attacking in Ventura
In Ventura, I will be using Crowd Control and Sustained Damage for that PvP ‘threat’ to incentivize attacking a tank. These are smart and strategically interesting ways to create a dynamic battlefield.
As Ventura is on a grid though, I can use another way to tank. Standing in front of an ally.
In this example, Axe (the big red dude) wants to attack Lina (the ginger) but there’s another of Lina’s allies standing in front of her. In Ventura, Axe therefore cannot attack Lina from this position.
The way the game currently works is that any unit will block line of sight to the target, meaning that allies will block your current hero from attacking. I will probably remove ally blocking, but for now let’s see some more examples.
Zeus can attack Axe in this example, using diagonal positioning to get clear line of sight. Diagonals are always a real pain in Turn Based Tactical games, but I feel that having diagonals allow line of sight gives them an interesting tactical usage and doesn’t feel too weird.
I was worried that this would be too hard to understand, but as the grid is made of squares and the line is drawn from the center… there shouldn’t be many cases where weird angles allow attacks that shouldn’t be possible. A direct Bishop-like angle should provide a means of attack.
This angle, clearly shouldn’t allow attacking. Remember, at the moment allies block each other. This is likely to change.
What I absolutely love about unit blocking is that positioning becomes extremely important. Each tile not only acts as a position from where to launch attacks, but it also acts as a defensive position from which a unit can block attacks and defend allies. This makes positioning abilities a very useful tool for tanking and therefore gives me another technique for creating high priority tank targets.