Combat System Musings

hey guys – i sat down one bored day at work and as a game designer/dev in another lifetime i started really putting some thought into combat systems and what i've liked and not liked in various games…and i'll sum this up with some musings on a new combat system (i'm sure stuff has been discussed before) , that rewards skill but also can slow down the pace a touch

so a couple bits of info to tell where i'm coming from – i've never played mount and blade, i've never played for honor – i've played skyrim, jedi knights academy which i'll talk briefly about both

Skyrim

melee combat was unrewarding and lackluster- it felt like even though myself and an emeny are both standing there decked out with massive weapons and massive armor and msassive shields, it just came down to who hit more often and dealt more base damage with their weapons of choice – little to no skill involved

it seemed like they tried to start some advanced mechanics to improve the combat with the shield block and stagger systems, but i felt they never went far enough, almost felt like the devs had to stop work in that area – a successful block with the shield still had the player take large amounts of damage, but it did stagger opponents but again staggers just werent enough – combat usually devolved into button mashing the attack button and seeing who dropped first

Jedi Knights Academy

i specifically bring this game up because i feel like it captured flawlessly(especially in multiplayer) one of the craziest aspects from the prequels – the ability for two lightsaber wielding maniacs to stand two inches away from each other and swing their sabers in seemingly random flurries but ultimately block each other with each swing, offensive parries

to a user who just watches that JKA combat on screen you have no idea whats going on, colors are flashing and ridiculousness is happening but no one is taking damage and no one is stopping – to a user playing there is a crazy counter of directional swings and starts of katas that the higher level players had to watch, study, master, and identify when a player starts attacks and which attack that was

directional attacks (attack clicks combined with movement direction keys WASD) could be directly countered by directional attacks, or directional katas or chained flurries of attacks, the weapon hitboxes were the actual geometry of the sabers and when they connected with a player they did damage – it was crazy but i loved it

some multiplayer matches the two greatest duelist would literally mow down the other team in one or two swings to each uneducated victim then find each other in the middle of the battlefield and commence fighting each other for the next three minutes, rarely stepping more than 5ft away from eachother, constantly dancing around each other for different positioning advantages… it would all end when someone made a mistake and left their guard open for a brief second, the other would capitalize on that and end it all with a heavy blow or kata

it was super fast crazy, but it was magical – it really felt skilled if you knew what you were doing

So that brings us to Conan… what do we want to achieve with the combat system here – it seems like at least there are vocal players who are looking for something a little deeper, but the devs have mentioned that they arent looking to go to something crazy realistic – what if we found some happy medium that isnt so arcadey and button mashy, by adding in some directional type attacks, offensive parries, and then figuring out if we want to go any further with directional blocks and slowing combat down a bit… i'll lay them all out below

Directional Attacks there are a few things we can do here, but i think to simplify the control scheme to not require a million differnet keybinds, lets just keep the left click as our basic dominant hand attach button – i'm ok with that – i dont think we need a keybind for left swing and another keybind for right swing or anything crazy like that… lets have all these swings be conditional upon what directional button you are also pressing at the time of attack

for sake of argument all scenarios listed below have a right handed dominant person with the sword in the right hand, all players are righties – and all controls for the moment will use a keyboard

Directional Feints an advancement on this system taking it to the next level would be to not have an attack beautomatically performed onClick of the left mouse button, but to fire onRelease – this could set up a system where a player could click and hold and have the stance and holding of the weapon change based on their currently pressed directional button – so a player could almost feint, simply by holding down the mouse button and switching the way he moves, this would have the different direction hold animations blend from one to the other based on directional button presses

Directional Parries this directional attack system could also have timed offensive parries built in as well – for instance if two players fighting each other perform an attack to the same side (the mirrored side) at about the same time, that would cancel out that attack for both people

Directional Active Block this directonal attack system could if we wanted to upgrade the system a bit more be brought in to an active directional block system using the same WASD movement keys combined with a instead of a and now you get a directional active blockign system

Stagger/Counter this could further be combined with a stagger/counter system so that an oponent recently directionally active blocked would stagger a few frames and the person who did the blocking could get a free stamina swing (possibly with a knockdown chance or some other bonus)

Combat Pace Changes if we wanted to totally change the pace of the current combat system we could drastically slow down the movement speed when in 'combat mode' right now pressing only sheathes/unsheathes your weapons of choice – instead of that i propose that it places you into 'combat mode' whereby your character focuses on fighting footwork instead of moving and reduce overall movement speed as well as turn speed, but lets them able to do active directional blocking and directional attacks

this will prevent people from just trying to run around in circles of each other while swinging wildly but instead will provide people with a visceral combat engagement whereby they can plan and think and strategize, not just run and gun – obviously SAVAGES would augment and speed up some of these numbers, whereby more agile characters can move quicker in combat mode, also this can be augmented by armor type, lighter/faster etc

OOC Attacks weapons attacks outside of combat mode i would imagine could functionally simmilar to how they do now but if they ever swung at a person in combat mode there would be grave consequences, for instance any active block to a non directional attack by someone not in combat mode could results in a knockdown as the attacker was not paying attention to their footwork – or any random swing could be offensively parried (any direction) by the combat mode other player for a critical parry, disarming the person (simmilar to how skeletons sometimes do that now) unequipping the active weapon

So what do you guys all think about something like this – it will definitely change up combat, but i think a more visceral, engaged, strategic system could be something that really sets this game apart from other types of survival combat games

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