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Ways to Display Info About Enemy Unit Types

Discussion in 'World Editor Help Zone' started by Melth, Dec 1, 2015.

  1. Melth

    Melth

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    I'm working on a singleplayer, RPG-esque map in which most of the difficulty comes from the spells and abilities rather than the raw stats of the enemy units.

    The trouble is that that's inherently somewhat beginner-unfriendly. It's easy to just click on an enemy unit to see its raw stats, but there's normally no way to find out its abilities other than trial and error. Which means players new to my map would have trouble strategizing and estimating the power of enemy groups.

    So I've been thinking about several different ways to make the needed information available to the player, but all the ones I've come up with have both pros and cons:

    1) Bestiary in the quest menu.
    +I can easily put tons of info there
    +Can use different text colors and other attractive formating
    +People often expect map information to be in the quest menu
    +Easy to make a separate, easily findable entry for each enemy type (or category of types)
    -I want to use the quest menu for actual quests, and using it for both could look messy
    -Requires potentially lengthy, boring gameplay interruptions to read

    2) Message displayed upon double-clicking a unit.
    +I can easily put tons of info there
    +Can use different text colors and other attractive formating
    +Easy for players to bring up without stopping playing
    -Floods the screen with text
    -Could trigger accidentally if the player is clicking around in battle or the like
    -Not something people are used to
    -Not so great in a time-crunch (e.g. the enemy is running at the player as they try to read)

    3) Give enemies the "Shop Sharing" ability. As I recall, this lets players view all their abilities just like their own units.
    +Has a certain elegance/prettiness to it
    +Can use nice formatting in the ability tooltips to break up the information and make it easy to read
    +Can view ability info at the same time as unit stats
    -As I recall (it's been a while since I worked with this ability), this might let the player control the units in question
    -Can't easily display as much information
    -Terrible in a time-crunch

    4) Give enemies dummy aura abilities with buff tooltips that give information.
    +Can view ability info at the same time as unit stats
    -Have to keep things EXTREMELY brief
    -Can't do much formationg
    -Not something anyone is used to
    -Bad in a time crunch

    I guess I have less a single question and more a general request for ideas about other ways to give the players needed info/ways to improve on these ideas. I'm also interested in which approach people think they would most like if they were trying out such a map for the first time.
     
  2. Kino

    Kino

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    Could you explain why your map is inherently beginner unfriendly?
    Perhaps it would be a better idea to fix it there, rather than trying to text-wall players.
     
  3. Melth

    Melth

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    The beginner-unfriendliness is what I'm trying to fix here.

    Games where the enemy creeps and such rely on their high attack, HP, etc. to pose a threat are beginner-friendly in that a new player can just click on the enemy and see how strong it is. Those games are also really boring.

    Games where the enemy creeps have powerful abilities can be more interesting (if the abilities are well-chosen), but the trouble is that a new player does not know what abilities the enemy unit has and thus cannot strategize against it.

    I'm trying to fix that problem by letting players find out what abilities the enemy units have without needing to rely on trial and error.
     
  4. KILLCIDE

    KILLCIDE

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    My suggestion would be to have a structure that has "passive" abilities that do nothing. Each "fake passive" can have the unit's icon and all their stats and abilities. You can then add a "Next Page" toggle ability that lets look through all the units. You can have 11 units per page since the 12th button will have to be the Next Page ability. It's exactly like your first option, but instead of having it in the Quest menu, you have it in a structure the player can look at.
     
  5. kingkwong

    kingkwong

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    Try a double click or a detect ability.
    Pause all units
    Move camera to face the unit being identified
    Give control of the unit
    Player can now see the tooltips of all the abilities
    Scroll text of extra stuff about the unit
    Press escape to exit
    Return control and camera
    Resume all units

    Trial and error is what makes a game fun sometimes trying to explore and understand how the monsters work. Just make it smooth so that they don't get frustrated
     
  6. Kino

    Kino

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    Not inherently.
    Explain what kind of abilities you intend to have, and be very specific.

    In general
    - If something looks dangerous, make it so: a more intense explosion should hit harder than a more mild one. Similarly, an effect that is friendly should not looks hostile. A skills that takes a long windup should be more impactful than an instant one.
    - Use distinct effects for player skills and monster skills; If both can throw fireballs, make the fireballs look distinct.
    - Wc3 doesn't handle complex buff interactions well: avoid mechanics that require counting stacks or timed dispels.
    - Avoid mechanics where the outcomes are binary, this is doubly important if players have no idea what to expect. If you have a trap switch that looks identical to the harmless versions, don't make it an instant-kill.

    Ultimately, it is impossible to completely make a game that is completely beginner friendly. And if you do go the route of explaining everything in its entirety, ask yourself what the point of figuring out the combat is.
     
  7. Dr Super Good

    Dr Super Good

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    You could have a "tutorial" for every unit type the player encounters on their first encounter (becomes visible) with that unit type. This is a short cinematic and is only show to the player on the lowest difficulty (so will not annoy pros or people on their second playthrough). It could also be made skippable like all cinematics should be in case someone really does not want to watch it.

    The short cinematic would demonstrate all the unit has to offer. This includes showing off all its abilities and anything else special about it as well as giving hints how to fight it. It could possibly be made interactive but that might require too much effort. A dialog or display area could be added that the player can use to replay a tutorial for a certain unit type if they do not get the mechanics first time round.
     
  8. Dat-C3

    Dat-C3

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    You can use the status bar to display abilities through the use of buffs and debuffs. Tornado slow aura ability becomes very handy here however you'll have a limit of somewhere around 11 icons I am pretty sure however it might be higher or lower. Though you can combine ability info in the buff/debuff tooltips.

    Otherwise almost everything else lags too much or causes too much strain on the player. Especially dialogs where you can't select anything right away. You could try a method where you make bubbled text or white box text models with the info inside.
     
  9. Dr Super Good

    Dr Super Good

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    Unit properties could display in a multiboard (top right of screen) when selected. This would mirror many target information mechanics from real RPGs where a dedicated area of the screen is used to display target information.
     
  10. Dat-C3

    Dat-C3

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    Selection events are very slow and can be exploited to create lag however it is a good idea as long as you remember to put in something to counter spam clickers.
     
  11. Melth

    Melth

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    There's already 20 types of distinct enemy units and there will be dozens more when the map is finished. Every one of them has at least one special ability. To give a few examples:


    Ebon Cave Spider:

    Killed in 1-2 hits and inflicts miniscule damage at melee range.

    First, the unit has Shadow Meld and is really tiny so that unwary players can be surprised by them and they're tricky to individually target in battle. But a canny player can spot them as they're springing from ambush and can try to take them down by ordering an attack-move or by firing off an AoE spell.

    Second, the unit has a "paralyzing bite" (actually a 100% Bash with a duration longer than the spider's attack cooldown). Thus the spider is no threat on its own, but is very dangerous in a bigger fight in that it can completely lock down a single player unit/hero if the player is unwary and lets it get in close.


    Scent Spitter

    Fairly fragile and deals moderate damage at range.

    Marks the unit it attacks for focus fire and lowers the victim's armor by a massive 8 with an Orb of Corruption type debuff.

    Because they make all other enemies in the group deal much more damage, it's best to try to try to find ways to take them down early.


    Spider Matriarch

    Rare, durable, moderately damaging melee enemy.

    First, it has a strong, small AoE Devotion Aura.

    Second, it has a small AoE Command Aura that gives a flat +10 bonus to damage. Notably, this means that feeble enemies like Ebon Cave Spiders can actually do real damage.

    Third and most important, it can summon small packs of any other spider type (with a spell based on Dark portal).

    So of course players can easily see that the big spider has some auras, but it's important that they also know it can summon significant numbers of powered up enemies (but can usually only do so once due to a long spell cooldown). And on one hand the rest of the group will get much weaker once this master unit is taken out, but on the other hand this is by far the most durable unit in its group. So whether its better to try to focus on the matriarch first or to take down its minions is a key strategy decision that depends on what spells and units the player has on hand.


    Gargantuan Sumpspawn

    Miniboss level enemy which is fairly sturdy and inflicts substantial melee damage.

    It rapidly regenerates, so it can't be worn down.

    It has an ability based on Hardened Skin which subtracts 16 damage from all incoming attacks. That makes it relatively tough to defeat with numerous small, rapid-attacking units and relatively easy to beat with spell damage or with a few slow but powerful attackers.

    It also has a slow spell and a few other minor debuffs.

    Most importantly, it has a powerful Cleaving Attack (50% damage in a substantial AoE). This means that good formation is absolutely critical for beating it. Tough melee units can withstand its attacks, but fragile short-ranged units (including the one with the best damage for beating it) which stand too close to the melee unit under attack can be shredded en-masse.

    Upon death it splits into smaller units which also split into smaller units which also split into smaller units. These actually maintain the same total damage and HP as the unit they split from, but their abilities other than their rapid regeneration are substantially weaker. Therefore, later in the fight formation matters less than rapidly coordinated focus firing.


    Godslayer

    Moderately fragile, weak ranged unit.

    Has a powerful Slow Poison attack which makes the victim unit fairly useless. Therefore it's best to try to make them focus-fire a single target rather than debuff several of your troops.

    However, they also have a 100% chance of dealing a 10x Critical Strike to heroes. Which makes their damage go from weak to quite devastating, so one has to try to tank them with units other than one's hero (and make sure that if they do target him, he retreats quickly).


    That basically sounds like my idea #4 unless I misunderstood you.
     
  12. Dr Super Good

    Dr Super Good

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    Except...
    So this does not apply to him as singleplayer is not really affected by such lag and even if it is the results certainly are not desireable for the player.
     
  13. Kino

    Kino

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    Perma-bash aside, I don't see anything unusually hard to understand about any of those creeps.
    Just make sure attack passives like cleave or armour reduction have a suitable SFX.
     
  14. Death Adder

    Death Adder

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    Edit: You basically already said this in #3, though shop sharing only work for allies. I'd argue that if a player gets screwed over by running in first without taking a second to read the info on a new unit type then that's their fault, assuming they know that they can do it, and generally normal units won't be as tech heavy anyway so I'm assuming that there won't be any problem with little space for random encounters.

    And I've already suggested to let players preview the info of bosses/special encounters before entering the room / coming within range.

    Side note: If you want to have some hidden bosses or something then to spice it up you could have their information not as readily acquirable to emphasise on the "hidden" part of hidden bosses, forcing players to go the trial and error route as a part of their difficulty, which matches the "hidden boss" theme imo. Their descriptions could then be rare drops from other mobs/units in the area, found from secrets or perhaps bought from NPCs if the hidden boss isn't as "Hidden" as the rest :p.

    Obviously there might not be any hidden bosses or plans for them so some random thoughts of mine might be complete bogus but who knows.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Initial reply:

    How about having all the real abilities (That can be activated) inside hidden spellbooks and then show copies of them as passives; to display their info add the select unit/hero ability to the NPCs so players can click the units and they'll see the ability icons and can read their tooltips to know what the units do.

    Pro: You learn each unit as you encounter them instead of being frontloaded with a wall of text which nobody reads.

    Con: If it's a boss or some other special encounter/area then perhaps entering the area starts the fight and that's not the best time to be reading what's to come after it's already happened. Though if there are no encounters like this or if you have a preview unit with the boss details outside of the encounter / boss room you'd basically remove this problem.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  15. Ceday

    Ceday

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    This is why most games first show player the weaker version of a minion which will not be able to kill player fast enough to cause a wtf moment.

    If dying does not have an important impact on the player you can just let them fight vs normal version of minion and die once anyway, but I suspect that is not the case since there are 10 posts here.
     
  16. kingkwong

    kingkwong

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    Whats the point in fighting a weakened minion? After you defeat it, you think to yourself ("Oh, that wasn't too bad, I'll go fight another one>") but then the next one is stronger and it kills you. why not just fight a normal one so you can gauge how strong the enemy is compared with your current state.

    The abilities are pretty simple and any of the methods mentioned above would work. I would't recommend the flashy options since they take time except for bosses. The only real dangerous one I see is the spider which is you dont hit first or have an ally, you just get perma stunned and die slowly.
     
  17. Melth

    Melth

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    Well if the normal enemy is strong enough to be a serious problem if you don't know what abilities it has, having to fight it blindly is not reasonable. But I dislike the idea of wasting time and space with lots of mini practice fights and the like, which is the big problem with fighting weakened versions of most enemies first.

    Since Ebon Cave Spiders in particular could be very hard to even notice in a big fight, I made sure to introduce one on its own as one of the first fights (which is kind of like what Ceday is suggesting). That way the player has some idea of what to be on the lookout for and doesn't just wonder why some of their troops are stunlocked during bigger battles later.

    Don't worry though, there are basically no circumstances in this game where one wouldn't have at least one ally nearby to help out. Hence an Ebon Cave Spider really is no threat on its own. The danger is that as part of a group they can lock down important people while other monsters kill them.

    All this talk of specific abilities is kind of a digression though.


    To sum up people's suggestions so far:

    5) KILLCIDE suggests having a bestiary unit or building with multiple pages of dummy abilities detailing stats and spells for various monsters.
    +I do have a building which could fill this role
    +I could use spellbooks instead of cycling "next page" buttons to put various monsters in convenient categories, as I could with the quest menu option
    +Just like with the quest menu, the player could read through whichever information they wanted at their leisure ahead of time
    -Unlike with the quest menu, they couldn't really read anything while the game is paused
    -The amount of info I can include is more limited without giving multiple tooltips per unit, which could be a bit ugly

    Kingkwong suggests sort of a modification of 2 and 3 where one can double-click an enemy to basically pause the game and get information about them. This has the advantage of letting the player figure out what they need to know without danger, but on the other hand it would be rather disruptive- particularly if the player is clicking around a lot and triggers it accidentally. Kind of like some of the problem of cinematic scenes in the Dwarf Campaign triggering while one is trying to fight.

    6) Dr Super Good suggests having a tutorial cinematic for every enemy unit type
    +Slightly less dry than just having text to read through
    -Dozens of times more work to put together
    -Really disruptive
    -Not as easy for players to just look up the one point they wanted to refresh their memory on

    7) Dr Super Good suggests using a multiboard to display information about selected enemies
    +Displays easily on screen during play
    +Can have pretty formatting
    -Can't easily give much detail about abilities (which is the main issue)
    -I'd like to use a multiboard to track something else

    Death Adder, I'm actually a bit confused about your suggestion. Could you clarify that?

    8 ) Ceday suggests what would be essentially practice fights against weaker versions of enemies where they can demonstrate their abilities without posing a major threat
    +Less dry than just giving the players text to read
    +Doesn't necessarily feel like a disruption at all; people learn as they play
    -Takes up time and map space, slowing things down
    -If the player uses lots of stuns or silences or the like, they might defeat the enemy without finding out what they're supposed to.
     
  18. kingkwong

    kingkwong

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    Is double clicking that likely to accidentally trigger? I don't often get players that spam left click all over the map. Here is a trigger and you can change the timer so that accidental right clicks are unlikely.

    • Untitled Trigger 004
      • Events
        • Player - Player 1 (Red) Selects a unit
      • Conditions
      • Actions
        • Set unit[0] = (Triggering unit)
        • If (All Conditions are True) then do (Then Actions) else do (Else Actions)
          • If - Conditions
            • (Triggering unit) Equal to unit[0]
            • (Remaining time for double_click_timer) Greater than 0.00
          • Then - Actions
            • Game - Display to (All players) the text: Double click
          • Else - Actions
        • Countdown Timer - Start double_click_timer as a One-shot timer that will expire in 0.25 seconds


    Another suggestion would be to press escape while the unit is selected (player skips cinematic). Or have a non-target skill that does something but when grouped (ctr + click) with another unit, it will pause and display the information.

    Add command where players can turn it off as well. Chat string and change a boolean.
     
  19. Dat-C3

    Dat-C3

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  20. Melth

    Melth

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    I didn't miss it; it's the same as my idea #4.


    Double clicking could occur accidentally under several circumstances (particularly for users of those annoying mac mouses where you only have one button and need to hold down a key to get a right click). Triple clicking could also very easily occur while trying to double click under pressure. I was planning to use two triggers to do basically what you suggest, with a few added details like momentarily disabling itself when it activates to prevent triple clicking from flooding the screen and so on.

    I hadn't thought of the escape key option and I'll consider that. Since all abilities use the Q, W, E, R hotkeys in my games, people probably have their fingers in that general area of the keyboard anyway.