Friday, June 25, 2010

Attack Profiles

I probably won't have time to update this over the weekend so I'm doing a second post today that's "right in the middle of things."

The question on the table is: In order for the game to work properly and be interesting we want combinations of Standard Attacks (which the character can always do) and Unusual Attacks (which may have limitations on Rate of Fire and such). We want these to work out correctly and be balanced. We want this kind of design to be a viable (interesting) character strategy.

The Concept
The problem is this: imagine a 32 AP character who has decided to spend 16 AP on attack powers. Furthermore, let's say that they want one standard attack (super strength) and one attack that takes a round to charge up and can only fire once (plasma vision). The player presumes that when the character is fighting in close they'll use their strength but, against ranged opponents or against really tough characters they'll go to the plasma vision since it hits harder.

We like this and, even if the character always uses their plasma vision when it's available (we don't stop people from firing ranged weapons at point-blank-range generally) it still results in a more interesting action profile than punch-punch-punch-punch-punch-punchpunchpunch-punch ... punch.

The Problem
The problem is this: given the points the player has to spend (16) according to our testing, the most likely divisor looks like this:

  • Super Strength (12 AP): 20 IMP Damage Hand-to-Hand (Short Range)
  • Plasma Vision (4 AP): 14 IMP Damage Ranged
Now, this isn't bad: the split gives the player reasonable damage with both attacks and some versatility (the ability to hit at range). The problem comes in when the character compares himself to other builds:

  • Super Strength Alone (16 AP): 27 IMP Damage Hand-to-Hand (Short Range)
  • Plasma Vision Alone (16 AP): 21 IMP Damage Ranged
In both cases the character hits significantly harder for their single investment. The cost for versatility is roughly 14 IMP per turn in either case. That's no small deal. Furthermore, because the character will be facing armored opponents, the damage that is dealt "above armor" is doubly valuable. This means that small damage amounts (the 14 IMP Ranged Blast) diminish in value more than the linear difference in values would indicate.

Why Not Pump Up The Damage?
Ideally the 4 AP Plasma Vision would hit for, let's say, 32 IMP Damage. That's more than a full investment in STR. The character's Standard back-up Super Strength is underpowered but, once every other Round, the character can really blast someone. The character would be trading constant damage for less-often extreme damage. We think that's reasonable.

We can't do that.

Why not? The reason is that absent some other rule that we haven't discovered yet (watch this space) the cost multiplier for the One-Time-Every-Other-Round plasma vision is something like AP-Cost/.57. That's what's balanced if the person put all their available points into the plasma vision. If we "pump up" the effectiveness of plasma vision so that the split character works the way we'd like it? We get this:

  • Plasma Vision Alone (16 AP):  128 Ranged Impact Damage
Our simulator says that even firing once every other round this guy would win like 80+ percent of the time against his peers. So that's not an option.

What Else Is On The Table?
Right now the solution seems to be to allow very effective investments in alternate attacks so long as the amount of AP you get to invest is restricted. For example, suppose that we had a rule that said "you can double the damage of a once-every-other-round-one-time-around attack so long as you invest no more than 1/3 the points you have in your most expensive standard attack (round down)?

We could do something like that. It would confuse people and be rules-heavy and complex but it might work.

There are a few other things to take into account that I'll hint at here--but they'll be explained later.

Low Damage Characters
Right now if a character has spent no more than 1/4th their Total AP on attack powers (and we have a slightly more sophisticated way of measuring this) then you can get some special breaks on things like extra speed, being really hard to hit, and having a lot of extra Damage Points (actually The Ablative Damage Points, ADP, that we discussed earlier).

We need to determine how things like "extra damage" for limited attacks effects this. If the guy above spends 6 AP on Super Strength and 2 AP on plasma vision, he has spent only 8 AP and "qualifies" for the Low Damage defenses cost-break. But does he really? We're not sure.

Resisted Attacks And These Rules
Resisted Attacks (think "Sleep Ray" or "Poison Gas") are very good for characters who want to be able to have unusual attack profiles. Although they do work based on how many Damage Points the target has they don't (always) care about things like how much armor they have. This can be very handy if you are facing a character who has all their points in armor and none in DP.

We want to encourage versatility to a point where the characters are interesting. We don't want everyone to have a sleep ray just in case they run into Mr. Armor. While we can simply give you "no cost break" on Resisted Attacks there might be a better way. Can we find some adjusted cost that allows you to take a Resisted Attack (or more than one) without paying full price if you have already invested in other attacks? Or will we forever force characters contemplating them to go "all in" (wherein they spend a majority of their points on the Resisted Attack since, as it's pretty much all they've got, they need to ensure it'll work as often as possible)?


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