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Basics of Game Design by Michael Moore

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87
CHAPTER 5
ON COMBAT
Many games focus on the clash of characters or nations in conict,
which is resolved through battle. Combat can either be central to
game play as in RPG, RTS, and wargames, or it can be nonexistent
as in sports and many simulation games. If a game features combat,
the player directly control characters or units during the ght as in
RPGs and wargames or simply direct units towards the battle as in
RTS games. In either case, the designer has to decide how combat
is resolved and what factors will aect the sides involved during the
ghting.
e designer has to spell out in detail how combat is to be re-
solved. e method selected has to be consistent and interesting
enough to keep the player involved for hours on end. During the
design process, the designer comes up with the algorithm or formula
for how a combat situation is resolved, and there can sometimes be
several forms of combat to discuss—for example, in a fantasy role-
playing game where magic combat is oen resolved dierently than
weapon combat. Testing these algorithms in both paper and interac-
tive prototype forms ensures they will work as planned once imple-
mented in code.
How combat is resolved diers for each type of game, and so this
chapter examines combat by game genre. In data-rich games discussed
in this book, the combat systems are usually more complex and re-
quire considerable calculation, whereas games that have abstract com-
bat can get by with much simpler calculations. However, even games
requiring a lot of calculations employ fairly simple math.
Rock-Paper-Scissors
One approach to creating balanced units or weapons in a game can
be seen in the simple childrens game of rock-paper-scissors. Two
players count one-two-three and then show an open hand (paper), a
On Combat
88
clenched hand (rock), or the rst two ngers sticking out (scissors).
Winning the game is simple because paper covers rock, rock breaks
scissors, and scissors cuts paper. If both players pick the same option,
the game is a draw. ere is a 33.3% chance of selecting an option,
and all three options are therefore equally viable. ere is no clear-
cut advantage in choosing one option over the others. e options in
the game are balanced.
In games with combat, the designer has to come up with a simi-
lar approach when designing weaponry and unit abilities. If one unit
or character has an overwhelming capability to destroy all others,
then players will naturally gravitate towards it, resulting in an un-
balanced game. In a combat game with a medieval theme such as
Ensemble StudiosAge of Empires II (Figure 5.1), for example, there
might be three classes of units—knights, infantry, and archers. e
knights move fast and are heavily armored, and therefore they do
well against infantry that can only attack when the enemy is close.
Archers, on the other hand, can re at the knights at a distance and
retreat before the enemy gets close enough to engage in hand ght-
ing. Infantry is slower than the knights and less well-armored, but
Figure 5.1. Ensemble Studios Age of Empires II: e Age of Kings is set in
the Middle Ages when cavalry, archery, and infantry were the primary military
units.

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