Turn Execution Experiments in the Arena

Something you never hear about in game development is the challenge of capturing footage for a trailer or some amount of publicity. Few games, particularly those with any kind of randomness or procedural generation, look 100% perfect at every moment during development. Even if there aren’t bugs, you’re trying to take a slice of time, a single image, where the game shines as what you envision it to be. It can take weeks and weeks and at the end of the process you feel a strange mixture of pride in what you have created and despair over all the things you have left to do.


So over August and September as I’ve been catching snippets for use in the Seattle Indies Expo, I got a face full of the driving experience at times when I wanted to feel the Drive Magic. However, as you drive and shoot there are stalls (put in there intentionally) as the game resolves projectiles and impacts.  That sort of turn resolution is pretty common in tactics games, it lets you see the results of your attack (or attacks against you) and process the result before moving on.  I originally set the system up that way because “that’s what Roguelikes usually do“.

However, the frequent halts during my drivin’ and skiddin’ started to bug the crap out of me, especially when there were a lot of enemies nearby. Of course I don’t pause the game when something happens offscreen, but when there are a lot of enemies it can happen often, especially in the arena where enemies were attacking each other.

So, to the experiments!  I decided to try a couple things:

  • I removed the projectile pause entirely and let attacks just resolve while the various vehicles moved to new positions. 
  • I adjusted the speed at which the turn played out based on the player speed, so turns (including those of opponents) just play out faster when the player vehicle is moving at higher speed. Turns at 25 MPH play out faster than turns at 100 MPH.

The results were interesting. Keep in mind that this is still 100% turn-based.  The only thing that has changed is how turn results are represented.

A quick experiment with turn execution

You can specifically see the lack of a delay when the player fires machineguns and rockets.

Yes, the result needs a bit of work, specifically:

  • Bullets don’t yet “lead” their targets so they are striking behind the vehicle.
  • Some slow weapons like rockets that take longer than a typical move duration (generally between a quarter and a half second) need to be converted to take multiple turns to reach their destination.
    • …but hey that’s gameplay, y’all!
  • I still need to make sure combat resolution is as readable as possible, such as:
    • Armor impacts and damage numbers are still getting obscured.
    • The armor side that gets hit isn’t as obvious as it should be
  • And of course, special moves will still need to stall the game, but that’s fine for something that doesn’t happen often.

However, in all it did improve the overall feel of driving and smoothness. This was a worthwhile experiment and I’m all in on making sure the game feels great and still has a clear turn-based combat resolution. Not sure where this will lead, and I know that a certain segment of the audience will want to be crystal clear on what’s going on in combat, in the same way that another segment will want to cut loose and skid around fluidly.  Possibly I’ll leave a toggle for the roguelike turn resolution if the player wants that (should be possible).  

More to come as the game continues to evolve!

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