Real-Time & Turn-Based: A Tale of Two Combats

Hello again everyone! So I know that you’re all dying to learn more about how the game will actually play, so this week’s blog post is all about how combat is going to work in Project Resurgence!

First off, we’ve been proudly touting the fact that the game will feature two combat systems rolled into one: turn-based AND real-time combat! Turn-based combat will let you play at your own pace, with each character taking individual turns and allowing you to maximize your tactics with chessmaster precision—ala X-COM, Shadowrun Returns, or Divinity: Original Sin. Meanwhile, real-time combat will be much more frantic, forcing you to make split-second decisions as all the action happens—ala Dragon Age, Baldur’s Gate, or Pillars of Eternity. Because we love you guys, we want you to have the best of both worlds!

The first RPG that usually comes to mind when people talk about having two modes of combat is Arcanum. Though the balance between these two modes is arguably the game’s biggest issue, Arcanum is still a great (though flawed) game. Little known fact, it was actually not even designed to have real-time combat. The additional combat mode was an afterthought demanded by the publisher late in the production cycle. To avoid a similar fate, we started out with the dual forms of combat in mind and have tailored our design paradigms to match. As such, each combat ability your characters can learn will be equally useful, regardless of the current combat mode. Really, the only difference is the pace and level of control you prefer for tactical combat.

Some of the basic differences between our implementation of turn-based and real-time combat:

 Real-Time  Turn-Based
Actions cost time based on your total AP Actions cost are taken out of your total AP
Non-controlled characters have player set AI Control all characters in sequence
Time runs constantly but is can be paused Time only advances by turn
Surprised opponents are stunned for 5 seconds Surprised opponents cannot act for one round
Reaction abilities trigger instantly Reaction abilities trigger on opponent’s turn

Our turn-based combat features an Action Point (AP) system that should be reminiscent of games like Fallout, Arcanum, and Divinity: Original Sin. Combat is then divided into rounds (representing 5 seconds of real time), where each character gets an individual turn. All characters act in order of their initiative stat, and can spend up to their max AP to move, attack, and perform other actions. Any unspent AP can be saved for the following round (up to half the character’s max), or used to trigger “reaction” attacks on enemy turns such as Overwatch (counterattack) and Unravel (counterspell). Once everyone has acted, the round is over and the next one begins.

Now what about real-time combat? I’m glad you asked, because we’re trying to capture the essence of the organized chaos that is battle in a way that does not overwhelm the player. We do this by applying all the same basic rules of turn-based combat, but with every character’s turn happening simultaneously. Though AP will not be displayed in real-time, a character’s max AP is still the factor that will scale the animation time for all their actions. So a character with 10AP will move and attack twice as fast as a character with only 5AP. Action Points are really nothing more than a unit to represent how long actions take to accomplish, and characters with high Dexterity and Intellect always act quickest.

For you real-time fans, I’m sure you’re already wondering about companion character AI. This of course won’t be necessary in turn-based combat, but we’ve got you covered for real-time mode. Hence, we are implementing the revolutionary ability to be able to pause and issue commands for your companions (just like you could back in 1998)! In addition, you can also switch control to any of your companions at any time, and each has a unique Quickbar of items/talents that you can customize.

We also plan on giving you detailed customization options for your companion AIs, so that you have less micromanagement issues during combat. We don’t want you having to worry about your companions not healing themselves, not prioritizing the right enemies, hitting you with friendly fire, and other stupid antics. To this end, we plan on having an approach both simple and complex. First, you’ll be able to choose a combat role for each character, with basic inherent tactics. Then, for those who want to go even deeper, you can specify a prioritized list of triggers and responses so your characters do exactly what you need, when you need it (similar to the systems in Dragon Age: Origins and Final Fantasy 12).

In keeping with our main design goal of player freedom we want to give you the ability to chose how to handle (or even avoid) combat with the pace and style that you prefer. We know that what’s most fun for us may not be the most fun for you, and your enjoyment is what matters most. Like everything else in the world of Lumen, there is a choice to be made that can lead you to greatness or ruin. Will you make your mark or become a forgotten footnote in the annals of history? So tell us, which mode will you favor and why?

Please remember that everything laid out here is still in its development/testing stages and may be subject to change. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post! Please leave us a comment below, or hop on our forums and join the discussion!


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8 thoughts on “Real-Time & Turn-Based: A Tale of Two Combats”

  1. Having not played Arcanum (and I realise I probably should at this point), or any games of a similar nature, I've never played a game to feature both real-time and strategy based combat, so that is something that I'll definitely be looking forward to.

    Obviously there are a lot of games that feature real-time combat, but one of my favourite implementations of strategy combat would be Frozen Synapse. As none of the characters have their own stats and the only difference between characters is the weapon they have, the main focus of the game is the planning. A single round may only last 15-30 seconds in real time, but the planning behind each 5 second block (the strategy is planned in 5 second block as opposed to using AP) can take hours easily. I'd recommend it to anyone who hasn't had the chance to play it (and it's only £5.49 in the humble store right now).

    Also, will the player have the ability to switch between real-time and strategy mid-combat, or is it something which can only be changed outwith combat?

  2. [quote="Edsterr, post: 410"]Having not played Arcanum (and I realise I probably should at this point), or any games of a similar nature, I've never played a game to feature both real-time and strategy based combat, so that is something that I'll definitely be looking forward to.

    Obviously there are a lot of games that feature real-time combat, but one of my favourite implementations of strategy combat would be Frozen Synapse. As none of the characters have their own stats and the only difference between characters is the weapon they have, the main focus of the game is the planning. A single round may only last 15-30 seconds in real time, but the planning behind each 5 second block (the strategy is planned in 5 second block as opposed to using AP) can take hours easily. I'd recommend it to anyone who hasn't had the chance to play it (and it's only £5.49 in the humble store right now).

    Also, will the player have the ability to switch between real-time and strategy mid-combat, or is it something which can only be changed outwith combat?[/quote]Players will be able to swap as they please. Or at least, that's what we hope to accomplish. :)

    Also Frozen Synapse is an amazing game! I'll definitely reccomend the rest of the team to check it out!

  3. How do the reactions work, just trigger it on your turn and when any enemy meets the condition it triggers or is it targeted to an enemy/area? Just the 2 or will there be additional reactions?  I love the idea of unravel btw, I haven't seen a game that has a counter-spell reactions, really opens up the strategy for what to do with all your characters.

  4. [QUOTE="dittmanc, post: 412, member: 82"]How do the reactions work, just trigger it on your turn and when any enemy meets the condition it triggers or is it targeted to an enemy/area? Just the 2 or will there be additional reactions?  I love the idea of unravel btw, I haven't seen a game that has a counter-spell reactions, really opens up the strategy for what to do with all your characters.[/QUOTE]

    Answered in order: Yes that is correct, there may or may not be more depending on future iterations of the game and if we can get it working the way we want, and I'm very glad you like it! We haven't really seen games with counterspell either, hence the reason we wanted to implement it!. 😀

  5. [USER=79]@Edsterr[/USER] Yes, play Arcanum. Do some research though, because it's easy to make a character that won't survive easily. I've heard good things about Frozen Synapse too, I'll have to check it out.

    [USER=82]@dittmanc[/USER] That you Clay? Yeah, the reactions are meant to work like they do in new XCOM. So in TB mode, if you're on Overwatch, you'll automatically attack any enemies that enter your attack range. There's also a couple similar abilities in XCOM that give you reactions that I particularly like. We haven't quite worked out how reactions work in RT mode yet though. It makes sense to me if the character does the same thing, but move speed is reduced (taking out the human error of attacking an enemy as soon as possible). I also think Unravel could be really interesting, so I'm looking forward to testing that out in different circumstances :)

  6. Good luck to you guys with this… from my experience with TB and RTwP games, I foresee the following challenges, and was wondering how you were thinking about resolving them:

    1. Tuning/Balancing. To some degree, RTwP is about chaos control, and TB is all about the slow think and strategy. Encounters that could be challenging in RTwP could be a cakewalk with time to plan each phase. How will you make sure combats are sufficiently challenging for each style?

    2. Positional issues. In RTwP, AOE attacks or positional attacks like backstabbing could be quite a challenge to set up properly, but are quite straightforward in TB. This creates a similiar issue to the balance problem.

    3. Pacing. When creating combat encounters, one wants to make sure that a dungeon or level don't feel like a slogfest, but aren't too quick either … once again, how will you balance for both?

    There are likely more…

    One of the X-COMs, I think it was Apocalypse  tried to do both, and it was pretty awful… and like you guys have already mentioned, Arcanum… ugh.

    Good luck!

  7. [QUOTE="Malakh, post: 473, member: 97"]Good luck to you guys with this… from my experience with TB and RTwP games, I foresee the following challenges, and was wondering how you were thinking about resolving them:

    1. Tuning/Balancing. To some degree, RTwP is about chaos control, and TB is all about the slow think and strategy. Encounters that could be challenging in RTwP could be a cakewalk with time to plan each phase. How will you make sure combats are sufficiently challenging for each style?

    2. Positional issues. In RTwP, AOE attacks or positional attacks like backstabbing could be quite a challenge to set up properly, but are quite straightforward in TB. This creates a similiar issue to the balance problem.

    3. Pacing. When creating combat encounters, one wants to make sure that a dungeon or level don't feel like a slogfest, but aren't too quick either … once again, how will you balance for both?

    There are likely more…

    One of the X-COMs, I think it was Apocalypse  tried to do both, and it was pretty awful… and like you guys have already mentioned, Arcanum… ugh.

    Good luck![/QUOTE]

    I think they're all valid points. It's a decision that will demand double the effort for every encounter, but in the end, if really done wholeheartedly, I think it will be marvelous to have a game that even at a fundamental level conforms to the user.

  8. [QUOTE="Malakh, post: 473, member: 97"]

    1. Tuning/Balancing. How will you make sure combats are sufficiently challenging for each style?[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for the comments Malak! That is a very valid concern, but I honestly think it's outside the scope of what we can accomplish to make both combat modes equally balanced and also equally challenging. Our first priority is to make sure the gameplay mechanics are balanced, and we will be tuning challenge based on turn-based combat. Real-time will be inherently more difficulty though because it has a much higher chance for human error. We are thinking about multiple difficulty settings though, so that will be the most practical way to reach the desired level of challenge for both combat modes.

    [QUOTE="Malakh, post: 473, member: 97"]

    2. Positional issues. In RTwP, AOE attacks or positional attacks like backstabbing could be quite a challenge to set up properly, but are quite straightforward in TB. [/QUOTE]

    Good point, but we are trying to mitigate that issue. For sneak attacks, it won't be a matter of position but rather the enemy being unaware of your character (stealth, stunned, etc). For AOEs we're still figuring out whether they should follow a target, target the ground, or possibly either.

    [QUOTE="Malakh, post: 473, member: 97"]

    3. Pacing. When creating combat encounters, one wants to make sure that a dungeon or level don't feel like a slogfest, but aren't too quick either[/QUOTE]

    Yeah, that's going to be tricky. We hope to find a happy medium through playtesting, to make sure only real-time isn't too fast and only turn-based isn't too slow. Letting players switch on the fly should hopefully avoid that sort of frustration, but we're also planning for skill uses that let you skip fighting but still get the rewards.

    Again, thanks for sharing your concerns! We definitely want to make sure the game is fun, balanced, and challenging for all players, regardless of their build and preferred playstyle :)

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