Combat In Shards

Since combat is tied in with so much, I am going to limit this as to a brief overview of how combat works in Shards.

The shards combat system is a tactical, interactive system in which player skill plays an important role.

Skills, attributes, and equipment determine a baseline for your combat performance. This baseline is further influenced by the same statistics of your opponent. So in a completely passive sense you have a predictable trend that the fight will follow. This is similar to the DPS (Damage Per Second) mechanic used by most games as the derived statistic of utmost import in combat. This is where Shards segues into the tactical domain.

One of the trends which most games is that the DPS number tends to be the driving force behind everything else combat related. There’s that one item that gives the best DPS, that everyone has to get, in addition to an ability or set of abilities that provides the best combination for raising the DPS and keeping it that way. The result is that there is a small subset of items and abilities which get used, and everything else is either useless or place holder until you get those items. In WoW there are item sets and ability trees which must be used for each class/task that are just better than any other choice. In UO with its sandbox nature there may be any number of templates, but in reality in terms of effectiveness there is a small subset and when looking at the wide range of weapons and armor available, the final subset actually used is minute.

To address this the combat system is designed to cater to and accentuate playstyles, so rather than having a best skill and item configuration for your specific character, there is rather an equipment/skill/ and ability combination which is more enjoyable to your style of play, while still being effective. So if you favor hit and run tactics, positioning and strategy, or down and dirty brawling, you can play that way successfully.

The meat of the combat system sandwich

The passive aspects of combat give your character a baseline of expected performance. The passive aspects, being your equipment, attributes, and skills. That baseline will shift up or down depending on additional passive but dynamic aspects of your combat scenario such as your opponent, and their equipment, attributes and skills. So if you are playing as a knight, with full plate mail, shield and long sword your damage per hit, damage per second, or damage per minute, when factoring your skills and attributes in, all can be considered baseline performance stats. If you go up against another fighter their, skill, attributes, and equipment all together affect the damage you are capable of inflicting on them giving an adjustment to your baseline performance.

This “baseline” performance expectation is the meat of the system.

Using combat abilities, players are able to temporarily and sometimes dramatically alter the baseline. The abilities in Shards vary by execution, effect, and use conditions, so there are no global cooldowns, some abilities can be spammed constantly, others may have a cooldown, some may cost something others may only be used at certain times. What this means to players is that they can passively expect a certain level of performance by just sitting back, but they can expect better results through more interactive participation. Additionally by utilizing multiple methods of activation and effect of these abilities, we get around the spray and pray, or ability spam present in other games.

While you could go around spamming abilities as much as you can, you will have better results using tactical sense to figure out the best time to execute them, and what combination is most effective for your situation.

The surface is very straight forward and simple, but there is always more depth for those seeking to truly master their craft.

6 responses

  1. It almost seems like the direction you guys are going is close to the basics of Leagues of Legend type combat. Some skills are spam-able, some have cool-downs, and yet they are best/worst times to use them all depending on the situation and who it is you are attacking or defending against. Not to mention item build but that goes into much more detail than I need to.

    Thing I like the most is how you talk about (offhandedly at least) about the crucial timing for skills. Throwing the most powerful one out as much as you can seems like a quick way to loose, just as in LoL.

    I really like what’s being said here, I’ve never seen devs go so in depth with a system not ready to be shared yet until a finished state is reached. This gives me hope that you guys are committed to your promises. I hope to see that invite in my mail soon!

    • Bruce Bonnick

      Some of the key aspects of MOBA/ARTS functionality are inspiring things in this instance of combat design. Item build more maps to play style than ability enhancement. I like to stay away from saying what’s bad or good, rather instead prefer the terms more effective or less effective. So you build you skills for what you want to be able to do, then choose your items based on how you want to do it.
      I’m chomping at the bit, since I’m proud of the combat system and really looking forward to player’s getting in and messing with it.
      I’ll give a bit more detail later but one thing that is really important is that Shards is being designed from the ground up to be HIGHLY moddable. I think I’ll write a short blog entry on that today.

      The combat system for the initial shards could vary easily from shard to shard, so you could have a shard that used DoTA/ LoL combat style instead which is one of the reasons I haven’t gone too in depth into the combat system. Its there, it works, I think its freaking awesome, revolutionary, amazing.(I may be slightly biased.)

      Another important aspects of the combat design was a certain ebb/flow to battle. So while we don’t want fights to stretch out incredibly long, there should be potential for some back and forth for some excitement.

      Tactically the combat system is about managing damage (dealing and receiving), so that the temporary changes are most effective. So if you were to hit someone really hard at the start of a fight, you get the bonus of surprise and a head start on damage which is a tactical bonus. You could also just hit them a few times with other abilities holding your haymaker in reserve until you are sure you can land it which is also a tactical decision. Or you could possibly your strongest blow every swing until you got tired, but then you’d be in a tight spot if you hadn’t defeated your opponent and worn yourself out.

  2. Don

    I’m curious to know how combat interacts with terrain. Could I be better off picking a fight where there is some cover, like a large tree, or would I do as well to fight on an open plain in broad daylight? Or is that the subject of a future mod?

    I’m also curious to know whether projectiles sometimes hit unintended targets, friendly or otherwise. It would greatly change my battle tactics with a ranged weapon if, for example, I can miss the enemy I’m firing at but hit the enemy standing behind him.

    • Bruce Bonnick

      So there are abilities which behave like projectiles which would allow you to effectively “dodge” them or hide from them. That capability of projectiles missing one target and hitting another is existent though we haven’t put it on any of our spells yet (it is in the list for a few spells and abilities which are designed but not coded yet).

      All our current projectiles (not abilities) are of the homing nature (skill shots are definitely planned) but they are not guaranteed hit. That is, fireballs can be dodged with the dodging skill, parried with a weapon, or blocked with a shield.

      • Don

        I imagine it’s an order of magnitude more difficult to make a projectile miss its intended target and hit terrain, let alone an unintended character target. Glad you’re leaving the option open.

        You can see the appeal. If I can do a ranged attack from behind some kind of partial cover, then some terrain will be defensible than other terrain, and a battle can turn on who chose the right battlefield. If my ranged attack might hit friendly targets, then I have to be concerned about a flanking maneuvers by my enemy, and must think about movement during battle if I want to win..

  3. Bruce Bonnick

    Depends on how it is implemented. True collision detection between models, would be very complicated because the server would then be required to calculate that, or estimate it based on progression/prediction of movement of player and projectile. (Client side checking would be open to exploits). However a simple implementation would be just to make the projectile have radius or range check and set it to path to a destination. That way if something enters effective range before it reaches its destination that would be a hit.

    If you were able to catch our Dev Jam where we did a bunch of random chaotic changes just to showcase what you can do with quick mods. I made rabbit projectiles. This was using actual rabbit mobiles, which would path toward their target, and when they entered range explode. This could be made into “dumb” projectile by removing the pathing, and just having it move straight at the destination location, that way if you aimed at a moving target, or if something came into range before your projectile hit the target, you could miss and hit something else.
    The partial coverage on terrain may be a little bit more tricky, but it could be accomplished by terrain collison (encountering impassable terrain) at a given height.

    You could also do multiple line of sight checks at different level to determine how much of an object is exposed.

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