Issue #1 – Combat Design
The aim in Splintered Core Tactics is to make combat terrifying. I’ve been watching a lot of war movies and reality shows featuring small unit tactics, and I think we can draw a lot of inspirations from there.
SCTA features tactical phased-based game play, and there’s a real opportunity here for us to turn the combat into something really visceral. Turn based combat removes the chaos in real-time combat, forcing more brain work into it, thus making it more tactical than twitch.
I just recently replayed Fallout 2, and noticed one thing. I played a character with low health but insane aim, and got into fights involving people with bigger guns than I have. Moving away from the opponent (tactical retreats) suddenly becomes a very important move. Why? Because I move out of their “effective range” while maintaining mine, due to my high perception and aim.
Tactical moves like this don’t happen in real life. In the military, getting closer to the enemy usually means you get a lesser chance of missing. It also means however that the enemy gets the same perks as you do.
Thus, in real life, most firefights relies on three things – shooting first, hitting on your shots, and use cover.
However, this can’t be used in our phased based gameplay. Because battles are always two phased (enemy phase and player phase), shooting first is out of the question. Utilizing cover becomes simplified due to the top-down view, leaving only accuracy being the real factor in firefights.
So how do we simulate military tactics here? There’re two concepts we need to grasp – effects of flanking maneuvers and containment.
First we talk about containment. The laws of containment requires a soldier to pin down the enemy with overwhelming fire (or the threat of fatality), while allowing their own troops freedom of movement. Simplified, the side that gets the most chances to move will eventually be the side that actually wins. While different battlefield environments might negate this concept, fire team maneuvers are still considered important, which brings us to the next point – flaking maneuvers.
Flanking an enemy has several obvious benefits. First off, a dug in enemy is a dangerous enemy to engage. In defensive operations, armies set up “killing fields” where several heavy weapons or fire positions cover an area from different angles, minimizing the effectiveness of cover in that area. Imagine running into a machine gun, and taking cover behind a rock, only to find that you’re exposed to ANOTHER machine gun.
These killing zones however, are static. They can be easily negated by identifying them and moving around them, and then hitting the entrenched enemies from a different angle, preferably one that they did not anticipate. By doing so, machine gunners will have to undeploy their guns and change directions (due to a limited field of fire), and sometimes these flanking maneuvers will force enemies to abandon well dug-in positions just to get their weapons to point at you.
Flanking can also achieve psychological damage too. With effective flanking, one force can easily generate the impression of surrounding the enemy without actually doing so, or having the manpower to do so. It’s harrowing to be shot at from one direction; what more to get shot at from multiple directions!
In our game, we need to simulate these two conditions properly. Containment is easily achieved by the suppressed fire mode (see Weekly Update 25/3, #Issue 3), but how to simulate AND encourage flanking maneuvers?
Firstly, flanking an enemy correctly will damage morale. How do we detect this? Surprise. Every unit maintains a personal memory of enemy positions. When a unit is attacked by an enemy at a known position, the only morale damage comes from the direct fire that the enemy is putting in. There’ll be no bonus damage to morale. However, if the unit is attacked by an enemy from an unknown position, the unit suffers extra morale damage.
How to do this? Direction. Each unit maintains a “field of view” (which is a cone originating from that unit) at each enemy position, where the larger the cone the less certain the unit is about the exact enemy location. The smaller the cone is, the less morale damage the unit receives from that enemy. Thus, when units are moving across the field, they trigger perception checks on ALL enemy units, and ALL enemy units update their “field of view” cones accordingly. Note that if a unit moves behind cover and succeeds all perception checks against a particular enemy unit, that enemy unit’s FOV cone will still point at the last known location, and not updated.
Now when the unit attacks that particular enemy unit from OUTSIDE that FOV cone, a flanking surprise had been achieved. Extra morale damage is calculated in.
Secondly, units will update each other by making a coordination check. Whenever a unit performs an action, the unit will update nearby friendly units (range depends on equipment) with a coordination check. This way, friendly units can share enemy position information.
The coordination check however is affected by individual units’ morale, which it is directly rolled against.
I hope to have diagrams to explain all these but I simply couldn’t find the time to write down all these things, so I’ll leave it as that.
Issue #2 – Stats and Numbers
The key to SCTA’s success is a flexible stat system which is easy to understand but provides enough room for vastly different kind of character builds.
Here’s the character stats I propose:
- Perception (PE) – movement detection and determines maximum range for firearm
- Accuracy (AC) – determines range to-hit
- Willpower (WI) – morale, status ailment resistences
- Dexterity (DE) – action points, evasion
- Endurance (EN) – hit points, bleeding & shock resistence
To simply, each attribute ranges from 3 to 8, with a maximum of 10 and minimum of 3. Attributes can only go above 8 or below 3 through drug usage or special skills.
Derived Unit Attributes
- Hit Points (5 x END) – if it’s less than 1, you’re dead
- Evasion (5% x DE) – the stat to roll against
- Base To-Hit (5% x AC) – (base to-hit + weapon to-hit bonus) – (range modifier * range) is the final to-hit
First, we discuss on how accuracy is calculated.
- Attacker calculates Total To-Hit (Base To-Hit + Weapon To-Hit) – (Range Mod * Range)
- Target calculates Total Evasion (Base Evasion + Movement Bonus) – ( Armor Weight Penalty + Stance Mod)
- Total To-Hit – Total Evasion = the Difficulty to roll against
From the stats we can derive a maximum Total To-Hit:
- Base To-Hit maximum = 50%
- Weapon To-Hit maximum = 80%
- Range Mod maximum = 1%
- Range maximum = 20 (1 tile = 40 pixels wide/high, so 20 tiles = 800 pixels )
Thus the maximum Total To-Hit = 110%
Now for evasion:
- Base Evasion maximum = 50%
- Movement Bonus maximum = 30% (if not moving, no bonus. For every subsequent tile moved, +5%)
- Armor Weight Penalty maximum = 10%
- Stance Mod maximum = 20%
Thus the maximum Total Evasion = 50%