Thursday, July 23, 2009

Game Design: Combat Themes

99% of all games made seem to have some sort of combat theme. Okay, that's so not an accurate percentage, but that's how much it FEELS like. There are obviously several very awesome games not based on combat. One of which I'm currently playing now, Harvest Moon. But enough of that pacifist style storylines, let's talk battles.
OH, and I'm totally zeroing in on Fantasy stories too. Two birds with one stone and all. :)

Dealing with Conflict
Every story needs conflict. That is what a story is after all: a series of conflicts and resolutions. In story writing books or classes, there are 3 very basic forms of conflict.
They were:
Man vs. Man
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Self

Many stories have these conflicts and when they do, it boils down that the only way to resolve the conflict is physical force. Fighting. Violence. Etc. At the very least in games and fantasy it does.

The reason for this is that it's simply the easiest and most exciting method of solving the conflict. An epic battle. When playing a game, you get to control a fighting character. Yes. There are countless versions of battling monsters and armies and aliens and ninjas and zombies.

Stories can often still be interesting and deal with the problem without resorting to just fighting. Because writing action is difficult. Playing action is fun.

Messing with the Formula
Not that there's anything wrong with combat based games, it's just that it's so...over done. But people never tire of it so onwards we march. Still, it makes me think about what OTHER ways can a game be fun and interesting and not be centered around fighting. Particularly an RPG.

There are a few examples, but most of them are "sims" or simulation style games.
Unless you count, SRS Games...I mean...Serious Games. Most of the games I've made in my program have been non-violent and non-combative style games. We created a non-violent RTS game.

Anyway, a bit of a sidetrack, what other methods can there be? Is this something just so ingrained in games in general? (Chess is military strategy and so is GO).

One of the games I have been working on tries to "mess" with the a-typical battle system. Most RPG games you just charge straight through battles with slimes, monsters and people without regard...or remorse. My game takes advantage of that mindset and turns it by making some battles (even random ones) unacceptable to kill to win. Your party will lose experience if you kill these enemies. I chose to do it this way so that the player would think about battles and the group the player controls isn't necessarily "evil" or "tainted".

Just an example of an idea. I actually haven't tested it yet so hold the thought until I do. it's your turn
It is actually impressive if you take the time to write out a descriptive fight scene. However, is facing a villain or his/her army in a fight really the only way to resolve it? No. I think you can do better. In fact I know it's true. These are novels and only limited by human imagination.
Again, resolving conflict with battle is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it really is the only way it can work in a novel.

The Point
I really felt like this blog post was going somewhere. And it ended up not where I wanted sadly. I suppose then I'll just issue my challenge to fantasy in general to stop fighting so much. Put down the swords and sorcery and let's resolve this in a different maybe more creative way.
If you can't, then at least make the battles worthwhile and meaningful.

Good luck.

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