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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:48 pm 
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I've played through most of the game and I'm really enjoying it, but I just have some big problems with the combat. This might come off as particularly negative, please just remember that I really enjoy the non-combat portions of the game and have told everyone I know it is "a game that should be played" despite the flaws.

tl;dr version: The player is stunned waaaaaaay too much, and the combat "feel" is weak thanks to the peculiar controls.

  • The player is constantly stunned and unable to move due to either attacks, taking on damage from attacks, or various effects like the bear's "frozen in fear" ability. Stunning and/or interrupting player action in an action game for more than a split-second (and not in quick succession) will generally only serve to frustrate players rather than add challenge to a game. You are cutting off their ability to affect the game state, but they are still able to observe it. The frustration comes when a player notices danger, but is unable to avoid or counterract it due to being stunned. They feel like the game cheated them out of the opportunity to skillfully deal with the danger. In The Real Texas, just about every enemy in the game has a stun-attack (usually part of a normal attack: I'm thinking of electrical blasts), and it is practically the only non-damage effect that enemies have on the player. You will notice that in Zelda, the player is _knocked back_ when hit, which has the double purpose of improving combat "feel" (games are spatial, sudden motion suggets force, attacks should have force, thus attacks should knockback) and getting the player out of immediate danger (most of the time).
  • The stuns resulting from damage (bending over) are somewhat random, interrupt your aiming, and make it very frustrating to try to fight while damaged due to the unpredictability. The effect is that I feel like I need to immediately get out of danger and heal whenever I'm hit for even minor damage. This is compounded by the fact that I'm also being slown down and may be attacked by several enemies or stuns at once. I feel like I'm unable to run away and recover, making the difference between "highly damaged" and "dead" a just few seconds of added frustration in some cases. In the end, the message to me is "don't get hit, because you will become frustrated very quickly" versus "don't get hit, you will get closer to the fail-state of death".
  • I am not opposed to the "move, aim, then shoot, but not all at once" limitation on principle, but its implementation is frustrating. Be careful about controls that toggle an on/off state because the player may fall into an unintented state in the heat of combat. This is complicated by the fact that moving will cancel aiming, and complicated _even more_ by the fact that if you are aiming at something close to you and exit the aiming state (either by accidental clicking, movement, or getting interrupted again) you will move, which is clearly not what you intended. Honestly, I would have preferred to hold down the right mouse button to aim, being locked in place and unable to move, making the transition of moving/aiming state governed by a single action rather than two. I also think that freezing player movement while aiming, especially given the slight bit of momentum in player motion, worsens the "feel" of movment and thus the "feel" of combat. I would have probably simply reduced the player speed significantly, maybe instead only preserve the momentum, but it's not a point that I feel strongly about.
  • Towards the end of the game, I intentionally avoided combat when possible due to the frustrations above. If I were to be encouraged to avoid combat, I would prefer to simply be given circumstances like in Spelunky, where killing enemies is not inherently worthwhile but serves to remove obstacles to goals. The player then decides if the risk of combat is worth the prize or not, but the combat itself is still fair and fun.


On the plus side, however:

  • I think the way to overcome the slime attacks (following the indicator around with the mouse) is really clever. Unfortunately it means you're stunned for the entire experience while attacks still come at you, potentially another stun the very moment you leave the slime-stun. It would be nice if the one-shotting mummies would have a similar microgame so the player has a chance, however short, to avoid instant death after they come within range of a mummy.
  • The way gun-wielding enemies "aim" at you is clever. It rewards dodging in really roundabout ways instead of just getting out of the way. Having to dodge but also aim and fire trains the ability to expose yourself to danger (standing still) then to quickly draw and fire, and felt challenging rather than frustrating. No problems here.
  • Some of the other enemies are pretty well-designed. You learn through trial and error that green lizards should be shot in the eye, or you will aggro them and perhaps not be able to kill them before they close with you. The mop bandits are a classic "vulnerability window" enemy that, although a bit random, are another approach to "quick draw" combat.


I just read your Gamasutra interview (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/1736 ... _delay.php) and I'm confused that, after "simmering" and playtesting for a year no-one discovered that the combat system is amazingly frustrating and really misses the stuff I list above that I really would have expected to come up at some point during testing. I notice that my friends who have played it and this LP series by cambrianman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1qcKeI54Kc) consistently mention that the combat is frustrating.

Everyone, please share your opinions about the combat, as an enthusiast and creator of action games of all kinds this is a topic close to my heart. Tell me I'm wrong, I'm right, or somewhere in between.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:38 am 
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Hey, thank you! I do appreciate the detailed feedback. Possibly the frustration with combat issue didn't come up because at that point the other (story, puzzle) issues were much larger, relative to it. Or possibly I was somehow just more focused on the story issues.

A lot of people have mentioned the stun blocking as being a major point of frustration, so I take this quite seriously. To be honest I would nerf it at this point if I could come up with a decent way to do that and not break the rest of the game. Your rationale, that stun-blocking is somewhat antithetical to the core mechanic of action games makes sense.

What I think is that I would rather make another game with this same basic combat system, but reworked based on my experience in making and in player feedback from TRT. This way I would be working more within known parameters, but would be able to develop the ideas differently and hopefully in a more streamlined fashion.

Next version will have a few control tweaks, including an option to disable mouse movement which a few people have also suggested. Based on your comment I will also see if I can add a toggle (vs. modal) option.

Just so you know, my general philosophy is not as "creative dictator" but much more player focused. So while I have a specific vision and use that as the baseline for designing the game, I think it's also good to give the player options for how they want things to work.

So for instance if I could toggle the stun blocking I would do so, so you could choose to play it that way. Unfortunately as you might imagine it's not so simple to make that work, but nothing is out of the question! So we'll see =) 1.3 will have some of these behaviours toggle-able, as mentioned above, at least.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 7:53 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:25 am
Posts: 49
I think a good first step would be to add a second of invulnerability after taking damage. I wouldn't mention it, but you already said in another topic that there is an invulnerability flag for cutscenes, so it seems like something that might not be too troublesome to add. If you also removed the periodic stuns (bullet point #2 above) the combat would feel just fine, in my opinion. There would still be room for improvement (such as the other suggestions above), but I can understand why you'd want to save that for another game instead of completely redesigning this one.


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