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Game design discussion: Fleeing 
 PostFri Aug 21, 2020 12:37 am
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Fleeing is an important part of real combat. Most wild animals and intelligent people, faced with an obvious overwhelming threat, will prefer to turn tail and run to a safer location rather than stand their ground and fight; most monsters should have a "run away" attack (self-targeting instakill with the Erase Rewards bitset) when Weak or Alone at least if not when at full health. It's when escape is blocked or you feel you overwhelm your enemy that attacking instead of running is the superior option, and fantasy monsters are allowed to A) ignore biology and physics to be stronger than the unassuming-looking humanoid heroes could logically stand up against and B) be suicidally overconfident/bloodthirsty.

Player characters should also have the option to run away, usually. However, I find that in most mainstream RPGs and most OHR games, fleeing from battle is really easy and risk-free - your characters don't drop money while fleeing, don't expend any resources, and don't get sent back a space. You basically flee around random enemies unhindered, destroying their game mechanical function of gradually grinding small bits of HP/MP/items from you on your way to the boss or treasure. There's no punishment beyond the lack of gaining experience and loot the random enemies themselves carried. The fights are so easy to not fight that they'd might as well not exist at all, which I think feeds into the strange notion so many people have that random battles shouldn't exist at all.

If your battles are so inconsequential and un-fun that players regularly want to flee or use repellant by default instead of engaging the battle mechanics (not just selecting Flee out of desperation when trying to get to an inn on a weakened team), something is probably wrong with how your standard battles play.

If your fleeing mechanic is so reliable that players are never afraid it might not work (for example, in Active Time OHR games you can just hold down the ESC key and it's almost impossible for an enemy to hit anyone even once before the party escapes and doesn't get harder when party members are dead), something is probably wrong with the escape mechanics.

Switching to Turn-Based is a good start. If one of the heroes has to spend a turn to escape, that means some monsters might be faster and get in a pot shot as you escape. Or if escape fails, the character contributed nothing offensively or defensively that turn. Historically, the majority of battlefield casualties are the winning army overrunning the losers as they retreat, which is usually initiated when they're already losing.

Other things that I think help:
- Make it cost something. It should cost less than sticking a fight through risks; reliable chip damage or MP depletion instead of risks of taking more damage from enemy attacks, but not something that can be done infinitely. In Mario RPGs, Mario/partners drop a little money as they turn tail and try to run.
- Make it take time/turns of delay. Escape as something low-priority within the turn or that takes a full turn of setup leaves it open to be punished a little by the enemies - just not as hard as standing your ground.
- Limit it to certain characters (Final Fantasy approach, sometimes). Maybe standard warriors and mages can flee, thieves and rangers have a higher success rate of escape, and brave paladins and berserkers simply refuse to back down unless all their back row teammates run away - bringing up the rear defense as they go.
- Dragon Warrior approach. Fleeing takes a turn for the entire party and success rate is lower the more of your party is dead (the heroes need to literally carry the corpses/drag the coffins of their dead allies).

Specific games where I've handled this differently:
- Trytuges. Thriff can flee, upon leveling up Knate can learn Retreat which secretly also buffs the party's Speed slightly if used in a no-escape battle - literally tactically retreating for combat advantage; Retreat costs 1 MP, IIRC, but Thriff can Escape indefinitely and is usually the first character in a fight to get a turn. Wizardbeth and Claire can't flee; if the boys in front are dead, they need to make a last stand because those guys are too heavy to drag around at a pace that'd actually let them get away.
- TutOHRial. Natalie, Warrior, and Wizardess have a Flee action with a 50/50 success rate. You can have one use it and the other two fight in case it fails, have more of them attempt to flee for cumulatively better odds (87.5% if all three make an attempt), or hire the Thief with a 100% escape rate. Still won't work in places where escape is literally impossible, such as boss battles or being boarded by sea monsters.
- The game I released on 8/8. Nathan can't flee, but many monsters flee from him as an obvious, dangerous predatory animal.
- My current game with the Zelda scrolling. Flee takes 2 turns and has low priority within the second turn; ideally you Defend on the turn before you start running to improve your odds of not getting attacked as you attempt it.




What does everyone else think about fleeing from battle in RPGs and the tangentially related repellant items to reduce or remove random encounters?
In the past, I apologized when I was in the right because I was afraid of peer pressure. For this, I apologize.

I must be cruel, but to be kind; that bad may begin, and worse be left behind.
-Prince Hamlet of Denmark
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 PostFri Aug 21, 2020 2:07 am
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I think repellent items are a good option in RPGs. Different players have different tastes in terms of how well they tolerate random battles. Personally, it's not so much the battles themselves that are the problem, it's that if they happen too often they can make exploring dungeon or field areas downright frustrating since you only get a few seconds' worth of walking in before you get pulled off the map for at least half a minute, so having an option to reduce them is just a good idea.

That said, I think that having consumable items that wear out after maybe 20-30 seconds' worth of walking around is almost just as annoying, and that's how Repel/Fairy Water usually works. Opening the item menu and using an item over and over again if you're in the "I don't want that many battles" mood is incredibly obnoxious. Having an equippable item like an accessory that halves the random encounter rate is a much better way to go. If the game designer is super lazy, could even just make it a menu option. Yes it's less immersive but nobody's going to complain about the option if it's there and it does what it needs to do.

For fleeing, I think that having a chance of failure is good, but the amount of failed attempts should cap at around 2-3 and then the player should get a guaranteed escape after that. They'll have taken a beating at that point, so the player gambled and paid a price for trying to escape, but there's also a better chance they'll survive and the player will still have gameplay decisions to make after the fight. Getting a game over because of RNG is never fun.

Also being able to skip weak enemies is honestly a must if the game designer wants to drag their game out of the dark ages of RPGs. Earthbound handled it spectacularly, where weak enemies run the hell away from you and you even have the option of chasing them down and beating them instantly in case you wanted to try to farm enemy drops. For random encounter games like 80s-90s FF and DQ, being able to completely disable random encounters for areas with weak enemies or already cleared dungeons is great.
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 PostFri Aug 21, 2020 3:18 am
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Quote:
That said, I think that having consumable items that wear out after maybe 20-30 seconds' worth of walking around is almost just as annoying, and that's how Repel/Fairy Water usually works. Opening the item menu and using an item over and over again if you're in the "I don't want that many battles" mood is incredibly obnoxious.


At some point the Pokémon games started making a choice-box pop up when Repel wears off which immediately asks you if you wanted to go ahead and use another -- so no need to go digging in the item menu to find them every time.

Can't remember exactly when that started, but I want to say it was probably 4th (Diamond/Pearl) or 5th (Black/White) generation? I know at least one generation that I've actually played did it, and I haven't played any after the 6th.
Bok's Expedition -- DONE! Go play it!
FYS:AHS -- Underschool tunnels (west side) mapping and etc.
Puckamon -- Not until the reserve party is expanded.
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 PostFri Aug 21, 2020 4:48 am
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False Skies has a few systems going on to try and mitigate battle fatigue and trivial running from battle problems:
- you have a indicator of how close a battle is from happening on any map where you might get thrown into a battle
- running is a) not a sure bet, and b) a thing that happens at the end of a turn, so you'll be taking some damage from most enemies even if you run on the first turn
- consecutive battles in the same area get further and further spaced apart the more you win, only getting reset once you use a door or staircase [the countdown value is about doubled after the first battle, and the floor increases by 2 steps for each one after that]

It's this last one in particular that has helped a lot in making areas a lot more pleasant, especially when it comes to larger maps or rooms. I might add in something that checks your party level against some per-map value and multiplies the counter if it's exceeded, but seeing how most dungeons in False Skies are one-and-done it wouldn't affect things too much either way.

Item-based encounter rate changing is interesting as well, since I can get behind it in games where it has knock-on benefits [hunting for specific pokemon, for instance], but in games where that isn't the case I tend not to bother.

Having the ability to turn off encounters at-will in a menu feels like it's covering up design issues elsewhere. Looking at you, Bravely Default on hard mode.
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 PostSat Aug 22, 2020 2:19 am
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I've been mulling over this issue myself, though since I'm doing a not-so-standard RPG, I'll have to get a bit more creative about it. As I worked on my idea for turn-based combat on a simple grid, with things like attack range to consider, I eventually realized that stalemates could occur if the player performs poorly (lets all their long-range attackers die, leading to enemies kiting them forever) or plans poorly (only gives everyone melee-range weaponry), so the ability to run away at any time is pretty much going to be mandatory. Of course, there has to be a risk and a penalty involved in ending a battle quickly and thoughtlessly.

In my case, for the risk, I'm thinking of implementing some kind of "escape meter" that is filled every time a party member chooses to flee, and is reset every time a party member does anything else. So, let's say you need to do this 3 times before a successful escape. The risk changes significantly depending on how many party members you have. If you just entered a fight fresh with a full party, it'd be almost effortless, especially if your party is faster than the enemy, and I think that's fair. Many Final Fantasy games and similar RPGs gave you a 100% escape chance if you fled immediately in a "pre-emptive strike" situation. On the opposite side, if the player gets too bold and doesn't try to escape until the last second before death, they won't be able to count on a random-chance bailout, since the last remaining character will still have to choose "escape" 3 times in a row. I could try to make things more fair by implementing an equipment item that makes escapes always succeed with the equipped character, with an associated opportunity cost since you won't be able to use that equipment slot on something that actually helps in battle.

As for the penalty of escaping, I'm not sure I want to use the same old "drop money when escaping" thing. Instead, I want some kind of setback on the player's progress on the map, making it to where they'll have a chance to re-engage the enemy with a different loadout, or with another chance to land the first strike on the map (I'll be using field NPCs instead of random encounters btw). The important thing is that the player won't be able to abuse invincibility frames or whatever to just slip past an enemy and skip every battle without consequence. I want to use maps with a Link to the Past-style layout, so I'm thinking that if the player escapes from a battle in one room, they'll be sent back to the entrance of the last room they entered. Or, I could keep track of "safe rooms" the player has visited, defined as rooms with no pre-existing enemies OR rooms where the player defeated every enemy, and when fleeing a battle, they'll just get sent back to the center of their most recent "safe room". I came up with that idea just now while typing this, and I like it a lot now that I'm thinking about it, so I think I'm gonna go with that!

I don't have much to say about random encounters or their associated "repellant" items, but if you're designing on an extremely tight budget/deadline and HAVE to use bog-standard randos, I think Bravely Default's menu option to adjust the rate of random encounters is a very good quality-of-life feature to have. There are better ways to approach this, but I'd rather have that menu option than nothing at all.
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 PostWed Aug 26, 2020 5:58 am
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don't do what the original version of ff3 did and make it so your defense drops to zero when you try to run
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 PostWed Aug 26, 2020 1:35 pm
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Hedera Helix wrote:
don't do what the original version of ff3 did and make it so your defense drops to zero when you try to run


This would make logical in-universe sense if A) your characters completely unarmored had a DEF/ABSORB of 0 like FF1 and B) all your DEF boosts came from your shield and breastplate, armor never coming in the form of full cuirasses, cloaks, boots, or helmets...

Yeah, definitely don't do that, I'd say.
In the past, I apologized when I was in the right because I was afraid of peer pressure. For this, I apologize.

I must be cruel, but to be kind; that bad may begin, and worse be left behind.
-Prince Hamlet of Denmark
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 PostThu Aug 27, 2020 12:56 am
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Drop dodge and def stats. Hard to avoid an attack or mitigate damage from it while running away from the attacker.
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 PostThu Aug 27, 2020 1:05 pm
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kylekrack wrote:
Drop dodge and def stats. Hard to avoid an attack or mitigate damage from it while running away from the attacker.


Dropping them some makes sense (particularly, dropping DEF by a flat amount based on what's granted by equipped shield while leaving DEF from the character's base stats, body armor, and helmet intact), dodge could go either way. Are you easier to hit because you've turned tail and started to run, or are you harder to hit because you're technically already partway through running away and in the process of moving out of melee range simultaneously with the enemies running at you to attack you?

Part of this also depends a lot on what exact abstract factors you're taking into account on characters' stats. Some games have shields only grant bonuses to Evasion and never Defense, for example, some (D&D) have body armor primarily function as Dodge with very rare interactions with what we'd call Defense in console-style RPGs; Damage Reduction isn't common but Armor Class adjustments very much are. Is a Final Fantasy 1 Black Belt's ABSORB-by-level from him going through ridiculous toughness training, basically developing an armored hide, or is it from him being a master of active guarding and parrying against blows he can see coming?

I always lean towards deciding on some set number for DEF being the equivalent injury resistance human flesh has and making most characters not gain any by level-up. That base number might be 4, 10, or 0; characters who gain DEF by level up tend to have an in-universe explanation (such as a seemingly-human warrior with secret dragon ancestry). I tend to think of HP and DEF in a lot more concrete terms than I do DOG and WIL. For dodge stat in particular, I tend to have that encompass awareness/dodging, agility, and range/distance (ranged weapons like bows or guns giving a huge buff to Evasion and having very poor accuracy while polearms have considerably less polarizing versions of the same modification). Or conversely, going "it's pure RPG abstract numbers play" if I want to use the Old Level-Up Bug. Why does wearing plate armor for two levels mean you have three times as much DEF as someone who wore leather armor for that amount of time when logically if anything you would be growing strength/agility faster to compensate for your load and he'd be growing defense faster as a result of the damage he's taking? Who cares!
In the past, I apologized when I was in the right because I was afraid of peer pressure. For this, I apologize.

I must be cruel, but to be kind; that bad may begin, and worse be left behind.
-Prince Hamlet of Denmark
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 PostThu Aug 27, 2020 6:27 pm
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You also have attacks of opportunity in D&D, which I think lowering dodge is a similar feature within the OHR battle system. I don't believe you can trigger enemy attacks by starting to flee, so lowering dodge (maybe even speed?) seems like the closest parallel.
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 PostFri Aug 28, 2020 2:21 am
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kylekrack wrote:
You also have attacks of opportunity in D&D, which I think lowering dodge is a similar feature within the OHR battle system. I don't believe you can trigger enemy attacks by starting to flee, so lowering dodge (maybe even speed?) seems like the closest parallel.

-Disable ESC key fleeing and make "Flee" an attack. This is preferable behavior anyway.
-Make the attack target a random enemy or the enemy formation, do no damage but connected to a "trigger counterattack" element.

There we go, Attack of Opportunity.
In the past, I apologized when I was in the right because I was afraid of peer pressure. For this, I apologize.

I must be cruel, but to be kind; that bad may begin, and worse be left behind.
-Prince Hamlet of Denmark
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 PostFri Aug 28, 2020 7:00 pm
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1. game battles are more akin to sports and not real life (where one hit KO's are the norm with weapons); think of a fighting ring or sports field: somebody must lose or forfeit for the match to be over--they are simulated abstracted fights

2. if the design calls for randoms chipping away at player health, then design for it: either enemies are obstacles player must get through or they're just goofballs who will give you a cheeky smack as you run past them and not give chase

3. be very careful with how you want to punish the player, typically people do not enjoy being punished; maybe think in terms of how you would reward them for not fleeing

4. if you have to try and force the player to play through your randoms, and they'd rather not & this is a big part of your game experience, then the real issue isn't the ease at which they can flee
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 PostFri Aug 28, 2020 11:23 pm
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Seems a lot of this thread is thinking inside the box.
There are constraints set forth by the engine's battle system in regards to most things, with running being one of them.
There are options you have, and each have draw backs.

The standard of holding down esc, is a bit stale
I think we all have played enough OHR games to be sick of that method and agree that the flaw of being able to easily run from most battles makes players skip most random stuff. And then of course we make it so players can't run from bosses. For reasons!

There's also the option to make an attack the character's have that does the running. Sometimes it's got a percent chance of missing, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes certain characters run away better than others, which is odd cause they bring everyone with them. The flaws of this one are about the same, only players tend to stop using run cause it normally results in death pretty quickly. So it's like not being able to run normally.

Next we have what dev the flaw here is that in a long maze of empty hallways, players won't want to fight every single monster.
But that's been the flaw all along.

The solution isn't the running mechanic. It's improving your dungeons. It's improving your encounters
Pokemon didn't let you run from any trainers. And, let you run from random encounters pretty easily.
Think about why Pokemon works and other games don't seem to.
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 PostSat Aug 29, 2020 7:33 pm
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charbile wrote:
1. game battles are more akin to sports and not real life (where one hit KO's are the norm with weapons); think of a fighting ring or sports field: somebody must lose or forfeit for the match to be over--they are simulated abstracted fights


Simulated and abstract, yes. Realistically, non-fatal injuries tend to still significantly hamper your ability to fight (speed, accuracy, evasion, willpower, etc. should all go down with HP lost to some extent) rather than the all-or-nothing approach HP usually takes in games. Also any wound is highly prone to secondary infection, which kills far more warriors than direct spear wounds do.

A more realistic and "gritty" combat system would also have something in the player's favor: Most blade weapons (especially swords and shields) could have their damage reduced to 0 by high DEF from armor instead of the "one point always gets through if it hits at all" we've had by default since the initial Dragon Quest hit store shelves in Japan. All armor absorbs/disperses the energy from all attacks you use on it, some better or worse against specific types of weapon; generally it's blunt implements and picks that are used against heavy armor (and "I was hit with a pickaxe while wearing a breastplate" does mean reduced damage compared to "I was hit with a pickaxe while not wearing anything" even if you die of a secondary infection after the former and die instantly from the latter). This is something that JRPGs have generally had better than D&D and games directly imitating its mechanics - not realistic for the fancy ball gown to be better armor than actual armor, but is realistic for armor's primary form of defense to be damage reduction instead of all-or-nothing attack evasion.

Basically, with how things tend to be, it's extremely abstract (even when not taken to such a joke that a barrette is better than a helmet and a bikini is better than a breastplate, or where fishing poles and umbrellas are viable weapons sold by arms dealers with as much variety and power tiers neatly aligning to the swords and axes)

charbile wrote:
3. be very careful with how you want to punish the player, typically people do not enjoy being punished; maybe think in terms of how you would reward them for not fleeing


My preference is definitely "experience points and a high item drop rate" as a reward for not fleeing.

Bad idea: Doing what the FF3 Remkake on Castle Paradox did and have fleeing cause you to lose more HP than a battle would even if the enemy hit you every single time. Run from battle once or twice and you game over. (Possibly not even the worst design decision it had, considering it was a fan-made remake of the inferior 3DS remake of the already-mediocre Famicom original)

charbile wrote:
4. if you have to try and force the player to play through your randoms, and they'd rather not & this is a big part of your game experience, then the real issue isn't the ease at which they can flee


Definitely this. Games in which fleeing is dead easy and combat rewards are little or even literally nothing means there's no point in doing anything but fleeing, meaning any work put into the monsters or for that matter the heroes' battle capabilities goes to waste. Games where there are tradeoffs between running away, risks and rewards, are a better idea.

There have been a lot of OHR games where I was moderately curious about playing to see where the story went but because the combat wasn't fun/was too hard I had little reason not to just hit F7 as soon as the battle screen popped up.

Spoonweaver wrote:
Next we have what dev the flaw here is that in a long maze of empty hallways, players won't want to fight every single monster.
But that's been the flaw all along.

The solution isn't the running mechanic. It's improving your dungeons. It's improving your encounters


Definitely this. If the player can escape basically any battle with no consequence and doesn't get much reward from victory anyway, the fights might as well not be there.

If the fights are tedious and un-fun so people don't actually want to do them, the fights probably need to be redesigned.

If the map is designed to encourage exploration but doesn't actually reward it, players won't like exploring it and thus probably won't want to fight the battles they come across in it.

Spoonweaver wrote:
Pokemon didn't let you run from any trainers. And, let you run from random encounters pretty easily.
Think about why Pokemon works and other games don't seem to.


What's at all unusual about "encounters you can actually see on the map can't be fled from, random battles can be fled from with basically no consequences"? That's how most RPGs work, and personally I don't think Pokemon even does a particularly good job of this.
In the past, I apologized when I was in the right because I was afraid of peer pressure. For this, I apologize.

I must be cruel, but to be kind; that bad may begin, and worse be left behind.
-Prince Hamlet of Denmark
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 PostSat Aug 29, 2020 9:37 pm
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very interesting debates! has inspired some thoughts in this noggin of mine

realistically, we should be asking WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR(etc.,)?
typically there is a reward or impetus for the player, in gameplay terms
the severity of failure conditions, their permanence, and the players perception of failure
the player's willingness to play the way the designer intended
the designer's foresight to make play appropriate for a player

Why should a player flee?

- accessibility of fleeing to the player
its availability is the main factor
its effectiveness is the secondary factor
any costs, (mp usage, item usage, increased damage while running, quest/objective failure) can be important.

- risk analysis of fighting...
player wants to be efficient! they dont want to waste time
if they have the ability to avoid or mitigate encounters... choice
if encounters are worthless. a waste of time!
if they perceive or assess the encounter as too threatening
they might also re-engage again later on...

- impelled by circumstance.
such as time constraint etc.,
these are explicit/implicit conditions you put on the player. game design
if the player has no reason to stay, due to having seen everything. running out of content.
these are also the conditions the player puts on themselves, namely: playstyle
the players mood is a circumstance XD such as boredom, or intrigue
the player might play the game in a specific manner


Why should a player not flee?

- something the player wishes to experience
that they can only get from this encounter or game in general
behaviour/function, art/design, narrative/story, description/information, approach/presentation, clue/hint,

- player has to make an estimation
of encounter. incl. difficulty, costs/resources and time-frame of combat and after-combat effects (where applicable)
enemies can signal their function, behaviour, implications etc., or it can be made explicit to the player

- player must meet objectives,
collect things, power up, or whatever.
how do we measure this "progress"? it has a lot of implications
soft; the game is based around encounters
hard; you fail if you don't complete (the) encounter(s)
"Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters:
united with reason, is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."
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