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The Swain

Tac-Bar & Grappling

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Lay your problems about these two systems on me. Krinkels and I are going to be fixing both, but I want to get some user input before I start changing big blocks of code.

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My main issue with tac bars at the moment is the limited effectiveness of the tactics stat on your characters.  Aside from the stat having zero impact on how much tac is restored per kill, the way tac bars drain at a set rate puts an effective limit on how quickly you can kill units with tac bars.  Whether you have 50 tac or 100 tac, you still have the same down-time of mulling around and waiting for your target's tac bar to drop - It's fine for giving the player time to react to shotguns and being shot off-screen but it ultimately slows the gameplay down, at times bringing the action to a complete halt.  Although I've been told it's intentional to force players to use melee or acro to speed up fights and I totally understand if that's the case, it still puts a limit on the usefulness of tactics.  As long as there's no effective limit to any of the other core stats this remains an issue.

At the moment dexterity is far more valuable to tac bars than tactics itself, which is counter-intuitive to say the least.  I'd suggest making it so you can at least speed up the drain of pink bar, i.e. make it so your attacks drain it the same way they drain normal tac once their normal tac has run out.

Some folks on the Discord have been suggesting the return of segmented tac bar.  Bringing it back would allow a bit more room for error with partial passive regeneration, but I'm against it because it'd limit player performance by capping your ability to restore your bar and it'd slow down gameplay further against tac enemies, at least if I have the correct impression of how it'd be implemented.  Might be worth a try.

I've also heard complaints about how higher levels of gameplay are more or less impossible without tac journeyman/master, which sort of defeats the purpose of arena being "play the game how you want" as opposed to just making all of your characters Hank-lite.  Balance improvements to armor and corpus should rectify this if done properly, but if that route is taken considerations also need to be made in regards to making encumbrance more of a drawback, and characters should be forced to specialize further as well.

 

At core grapples are either completely useless or totally broken.  Dealing damage to tac and corpus via normal grapple attacks is incredibly slow, and it takes the player out of the game to just watch everyone wait for you to pound your target to death.  Your strength and your button mashing ability seem to make zero impact on the two of you taking turns slapping each other.  Disarms are similarly impotent - Because your grapple animation is slower than most high-level melee attacks and there's zero indication of when an enemy is going to fire, it's virtually impossible to disarm anyone you'd actually want to disarm.  It doesn't help that improved disarm is broken either.

On the other hand ragdolling people with grapple is totally busted.  Ragdolls in general are lethal as they let you whittle away tac and use environmental hazards easily, not to mention nuking corpus by running a ragdolled enemy into a wall.  Conversely, getting ragdolled by your enemies lets them nuke your corpus and gain tons of free positioning on you.  While there are deeper issues that I think need to be addressed in regards to stun mechanics, it doesn't help that you have access to these abilities at virtually zero cost.

I think the UI needs a lot of work as well.  While the symbols of the attacker and the victim are very pretty, they do basically nothing to explain progress being made towards either result.  How much damage are you doing?  How close is either participant close to escaping?  If strength actually does have any effect on grapple performance, it's not made any more obvious by grapple UI essentially just boiling down to a bunch of vaguely gyrating icons - At the very least, a progress bar would be helpful.  Maybe we could see their corpus too, to make grapples an effective way to gain information on enemy status.

Edited by Mezzelo
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I think most of what you've addressed are things I've taken issue with myself. A lot of it boils down to preference, but the big points that are clear problems are:

  • Grapple is too slow and stops the game while you're doing it.
  • Enemy Tac-Bar stops the game while you wait for the pink bar to drain.

I've got a few ideas on how to address this. Grapple DOES need to be a LOT faster than it is. Allowing the next hit in the chain to start more quickly would make a big difference. I might also just add a passive Corpus drain for being in Grapple in general to speed it along. The UI will get touched up eventually also, but not until we settle on the system. As always, I don't mess with UI until we know the system it represents is solid. If we just change grappling again, I've wasted a day creating UI for it.

The game requiring you to upgrade your Tac-Bar isn't a problem, since it's not like we cap you out at a max number of skills. I DO want the benefits of armor to be greater but also diminish Tac-Bar quite a bit more than it's doing now.

Definitely, the big things we're going to tackle first are those things that slow or stop gameplay. Those are big no-nos.

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As unarmed combat generally takes an auxiliary role in the player's repertoire, the strength of grapples is that players have access to it regardless of their weapon.  A delicate balance needs to be found where unarmed combat remains useful without making grapples a waste of your time, or vice versa.  Given there's almost never a paucity of melees at any given time balancing grapples may eventually involve tackling unarmed combat as a whole, including the adjunct mechanics I whinged about above.

Corpus drain might break immersion too much to be worth it - either we're passively hitting our targets, which confounds player input, or we're hugging them to death.  If just speeding up the punches isn't enough it could be worth a shot.

1 hour ago, The Swain said:

The game requiring you to upgrade your Tac-Bar isn't a problem, since it's not like we cap you out at a max number of skills.

It's less of players having to deal with constraints and more of players wanting to deal with them - There's an appeal to creating zany, specialized characters with flaws instead of cookie-cutter Hank imitations.  Even the baddest MERC units only have tac journeyman; player-made or developer-imposed there are many interesting design opportunities to be found in creating limits on character progression.
As it's in regards to the realm of sandbox gameplay a lot of this is rather subjective.  Regardless of whether you see this complaint as valid or not, ramping up the benefits and drawbacks of armor should rectify this issue for the most part.

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Help me to understand a scenario where not having Tac-Bar would benefit a player's character they're building, because I want to see where you're coming from. And keep in mind that if a player doesn't want Tac-Bar because it conflicts with their concept, they can choose not do buy it. And also that pretty much every top-tier character in the Madness universe has a very high rating on every single skill tree. Jesus, Auditor, Tricky, Hank, Sanford, Deimos...they've all dodged bullets or somehow avoided getting shot by merit of their skill...meaning that allowing anyone to buy Tac-Bar is legit in keeping with the universe we're building (in addition to how Krinkels and I just don't like to prevent players from having the option to do things that are fun, as a rule).

The only hard limit to progression that we have planned is for Apotheosis (Legendary) trees. You won't get to have Crackpot magic AND Jesus telekinesis AND Hank combat skill AND be a mini-Mag. That's where you'll choose your direction and stick with it forever.

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There is definitely some confounding of intent due to arena's current flaws, so these options might be best addressed after armor reworks are in place and we have a better understanding of the intended arena endgame.  While you'd be better off asking people who desire novice/journeyman characters directly, I do a have a few thoughts as to why I think this perspective is worth entertaining.

 

Letting players choose whatever skills they want is a fair approach, but it's also arguably the safest and most boring.  Instead of making a totally well-rounded character, providing a motivation for players to specialize on a below-apotheosis level or even a sub-core level promotes experimentation of different types of play as opposed to finding a single be-all end-all playstyle and just sticking with it.  The result of allowing complete freedom in progression is one or few logical conclusions for strong characters that most players will gravitate to, instead of a larger variety of playstyles that might result from creating constraints.

Tom Francis' design philosophy for Heat Signature hits a lot of thoughts that I relate here - While some players go out of their way to experiment, many just take the safest, lowest effort route and roll with it to completion, which is why his games are designed around choosing difficulty and easing players out of their comfort zone.  It's also an approach followed by a lot of rogue-likes.  PN2 doesn't have the same low-commitment playthroughs but it's extremely mechanically diverse, to the point that incentivizing players to explore their options may be a necessity if you want players to experience every aspect of it.

Introducing these incentives entails an extension of playtime and a greater variety of gameplay at the cost of more grind and potentially fewer choices, and I think those are pretty valid concerns, which is why I'm just throwing these things out as suggestions rather than objective positives.  Obviously I don't think the player should ever be forced to build a mook and nothing else, but there could definitely be reasons to push players to do so and to build richer narratives in the process.

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On 9/14/2018 at 10:47 PM, Mykelgames moat.gg said:

umm im ok with this, i just with grappling can be change to a button rather than um, scrolling

 

I agree with this idea grappling assigned to a button rather than the scroll wheel would work wonders. 

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Posted (edited)

The previous system with Tac-Bar 'miniboss' like enemies who couldn't be meleed in a few hits
like A.T.P. Soldats, and Merc Sergeants and Captains seemed good for the beginning of Story Mode (and maybe arena as well?),
and special attacks and counters seemed to take them down a bit more quickly. Making multiple varied choices in a fight
was more effective against them, made the individual fight more watchable and fun to play, and made those enemy-type characters
stand out from the crowd as more skilled individuals (besides the glass cannon snipers, who still need tac-bars to be effective).

An extra good measure for keeping someone from getting tired of them could be randomly
scaling their tac-bars and maybe health bars and / or movement speed up or down, and maybe even vary their behaviors
to make some aspects and traits more or less effective / aggressive, or even randomly add or remove abilities to each one
(though it's extra work when implementing / testing). Even without doing any of this, you'd still get varied fights of varied lengths
with the AI and different circumstances alone, since they sometimes move out of the way, maybe block, dodge, counter, etc.

I prefer there to be someone in the way early game in Story Mode instead of just mowing / slashing every target
down in a second and moving to the next room. If only there was a way to do this that satisfies everyone.
Either I got too good, or as of this moment and with the latest updates, those nimble tac-bar enemies and
bosses seem to all but one of them be a non-threat (one slippery boss with a lot of health, uses magic and doesn't
get stun-locked is the exception). The rest are bullet sponges that just need you to fetch a gun or two for a quick win,
sometimes a melee weapon if nothing else or you're saving ammo, but fights with these types are often
predictable and get stale if there's too many at once.

I used to have a reason to fear some guys walking towards me for some moments,
divert my shots to others to replenish tac, hide behind walls and cover and hope my thrown weapons landed, or hope my melee and block
timing was spot-on if either of us got close, or run away until their tac-bar drained. It was a push back and forth instead of just going
through everyone and gave the AI some reasons to get noticed and feared. Imagine a classic arena shooter, but it also has sword
fights. It feels like this game used to be that. Now that you slash everyone dead easy, it's not a fight.

You could even make a second, weaker lookalike version of the Soldat for the end world of Story Mode probably easily, if you don't want to change that experience, but the beginning of the game still suffers from a lack of minibosses. A.T.P. Soldats and Merc Sergeants and Captains now don't put up more of a fight than recruits. At least you can't reach snipers with your melee, but they're the only exception. Without being given an incentive / deterrent to stop being reckless with tougher looking enemies, you could cheese the first Mag boss by stun-locking him by taking out his Corpus blocks before he has a chance to try landing a single attack. You didn't see any danger before, so why should you think there's any now? You've just been driven to focus completely on attacking without defending, timing a counter move, or holding back.

Edited by Bat Day
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