Aug 052014

We posted an article last year about some ideas we had for making ailments more useful in combat. We thought we’d share an update there on what we’re working with now since there have been some changes.

For starters, we’re going to be aiming for Cosmic Star Heroine to have fewer, but more meaningful battles than many RPGs. In an RPG where combat is always over quickly, direct damage is always the correct choice (defeat the enemy as quickly as possible) but when you have battles that may last longer, then more interesting strategies become viable.

With the exception of ailments that are specific to a certain type of enemy (like Rust on a robotic enemy), enemies are not immune to ailments.

Ailment success is not random. Essentially each enemy has a separate hidden ailment HP for each ailment type. For example, an enemy might have 40 “Stun HP.” If you used a Stun ability that dealt 40 Stun damage, then the enemy would be successfully stunned. Alternatively, if you used a Stun ability that only dealt 20 Stun damage, then the enemy would only be stunned after you used that ability twice on them (or combined it with another stun ability that dealt 20 or more stun damage).

Trying to Stack or repeat the same ailment on the same enemy becomes more and more difficult with each stack.

Some abilities will not just inflict ailments. For example, Alyssa’s basic “Bash” attack will deal damage and also has a small stun effect as well.

Some characters will have powerful ailment abilities that are more effective against certain enemy types. For example, Dave’s “Hack” ability is more effective at charming robotic enemies than organic or astral enemies.

Here are the ailments we’re currently planning to use. As usual, the specifics are subject to change between now and the game’s release.

General Ailments:

  • Stun – Skip a turn. Does not stack.

This takes the place of the Interrupt function that we had in our previous 2 games (Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 & 4) in that it lets you prevent the enemy from taking action.

  • Charm – Will hurt allies or help enemies. Can stack additional turns.

Note, it’s highly unlikely that any enemies will have access to inflicting this ability, just because we know how annoying this can be (from experience in other RPGs).

  • Confuse – Has a chance to act regularly (34%), do nothing (33%), or act charmed (33%). Can stack for additional turns.

Our one ailment with a random element to it. Can be very useful… or do absolutely nothing.

  • Disarm – 30% damage penalty to next attack. Cancels 1 buff. Does not stack.

Very useful if you know the enemy is charging up for a powerful move.

  • Vulnerable – Takes double damage on the next hit. Does not stack.

Very useful for setting up combos (use right before you know you’re going to unleash a powerful move) for massive damage.

  • Enraged – Will target the most recent enemy that targeted it. Reduces damage of multi-target abilities by 20% but increases the damage of single-target abilities by 30%. Can stack for additional turns.

Useful for controlling enemy movement and for weakening enemies with powerful multi-target abilities.

Enemy Type Specific:

These are ailments that only work on specific classes of enemies. All of these ailments last for the entire battle once they’re inflicted.

  • Poison – Takes damage at the end of each turn. Organic enemies only. Can stack for additional damage.

This is the only ailment where stacking the ailment increases the effect (more damage each turn) rather than adding additional turns (since it already lasts the entire battle).

  • Rust – Takes damage at the end of each turn. Lowers speed by 20%. Robotic enemies only. Does not stack.

Can’t deal as much damage as poison can (due to the multiple stacks) but deals a good amount of damage & slows down the enemy.

  • Curse – Lowers attack, defense, and speed by 20%. Astral enemies only. Does not stack.

Doesn’t deal damage like the other two ailments, but significantly weakens the enemy.

Special Ailments:

  • Fatigue – Reduces Max HP by 10% for the rest of the battle. Stacks up to 5 times.

Most of the time, fatigue is self-inflicted by using certain powerful abilities. Also most heal effects inflict fatigue on the target (the stress of rapid healing takes its toll on a body).

  • Desperate – Automatically inflicted if HP goes below 0. Dies at the end of the next turn if HP is not positive.

Under certain circumstances, player characters can survive a hit that would otherwise defeat them. When this happens, they enter desperate status and are defeated at the end of their next turn if they do not win the battle or bring their HP back to a positive amount. Certain passives & equipment may bestow additional bonuses for characters while they’re in desperate status.

  • Hypochondria – Lowers resistance to damage & ailments for the rest of the battle. Does not stack.

Hypochondria is an interesting ailment in that it cannot be directly inflicted on an enemy. Instead, enemies will automatically contract hypochondria if they are hit with enough ailments over the course of the battle. Hypochondria is inflicted faster if you hit an enemy with different ailment types rather than just stacking the same ailment multiple times.

We’re hopeful that by increasing the length of the average battle, removing the random aspect of inflicting ailments, designing useful ailments & abilities that inflict them, ailments will become an important and interesting part of combat in Cosmic Star Heroine and not the afterthought that they are in many RPGs.

Finally, on another note, here’s an update on the video preview that we mentioned earlier. The two areas that we’re planning on showing off have all of their maps finished (9 maps total) so right now, we’re adding story events, and working on the battles for those areas. Not sure how long it’ll be until we’re ready to show it off, but it shouldn’t be much longer. 🙂

 Posted by at 2:22 pm

  2 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Status Ailments”

  1. This post has nothing to do with CSH, but everything to do with Zeboyd… Tried to post this on the kickstarter update page, but it seems the post has been locked by admin. My intentions weren’t to start a “knife fight” on your site… All I wanted is for my “brothers and sisters” of deving to come together, and not tear each other down. Both Zeboyd and team ES site the old school RPG “Chrono Trigger” as an inspiration, so naturally I assumed you guys would be aware of each other and have mutual respect for one another as well. We need more unity in the deving community, and no I don’t mean the share/shovel ware tool. I mean indie devs need to help each other out, and stop throwing salt at another team’s project because A) the idea is beneath your skill set or B) it’s not a project you would hang your hat on, personally. If the latter is the case, then find a PC way of expressing your disapproval with the project. Stating what you found to be “distasteful” and following it with a “instead of doing/using this, I would have suggested this… See? You get your point across without sounding like an entitled brat. Not calling you guys that, just making a point for all to see what I’m getting at. Never meant to start any drama between two dev companies that I have the utmost respect for… Was only trying to be a link in the chain that binds us together. Sounds super corny, but that’s my take on this situation… @Bill: I’m glad you posted your opinion on the ES project. I’ve never met Falco (or team ES for that matter) but from what I’ve seen online, dude is very passionate about his craft. I’m sure he would respect your comments about his team. In hindsight, that was extremely classy of you sir 🙂

  2. The big thing that pops out at me when I read this is that it seems like way too much. Like, what here actually improves a game? Let’s look at a few things:

    1. Stun – Yeah, that is always good. It’s clearly useful in any game when you can prevent someone from taking action, and you see this in any sort of RPG, from the SaGa series, to Grandia, and even interrupts and CC in World of Warcraft and other MMOs. You feel smart for using it properly and it’s very easy to incorporate into most games. But then, you have…

    2. Disarm – This just sounds like a strictly worse version of Stun. The only reason this sounds useful is because it becomes harder to trigger an ailment each time you succeed. So, an emergent strategy would just be something like, “Start the fight by focusing on Stun attacks, and after a successful Stun, focus on Disarm attacks. If the enemy isn’t dead by then, just go for the second Stun, or even something else that disrupts an enemy, like…

    3. Charm – If Charm isn’t much, much harder to “proc” than Stun or Disarm, this might be even better than both. Of course, that brings up the second possible emergent strategy, which is to determine which of these disables are the easiest to proc, and go by order of which ones you and proc faster.

    Of course, you then have…

    4. Confuse – Like Stun and Disarm sound functionally similar (stop an enemy from dealing so much damage), Confuse and Charm really don’t sound all too different, either. And, if you’re worried about Charm being obnoxious to have cast on an ally, I’d still argue that it’s not much better if your ally is confused and has a 1/3 chance of doing something obnoxious. I have to wonder if having both are really necessary.

    5. Vulnerable – This sounds good, too; but, if this is too easy to proc, it might encourage people to go for a “direct damage” strategy that it sounds like you’re trying to avoid.

    6. Enraged – This is essentially “Disarm” for people with attacks that hit multiple-targets. Also, the way this works isn’t very clear. If an Enraged character focuses the last person to target them, but it lowers the potency of their multi-target attacks, what exactly happens when you are Enraged? Do you (or your opponent) still have access to all your abilities, but any multi-target attacks are just weaker? Or, can you only do attacks that focus a single target, but there are AoE abilities?

    The next set of ailments – the ones specific to certain enemy types – also sound sort of non-negotiable. If an enemy is organic, it makes the most sense to start stacking Poison right away and refreshing it as it’s about to fall off…unless Poison does negligible damage, in which case the opposite problem exists. There seems to be absolutely no reason, either, why you wouldn’t apply/refresh Rust and Curse.

    The special ailments actually sound really cool. Fatigue is something I’d like to see in more non-traditional RPGs, so that there’s a greater emphasis on how you approach a fight in a strategic sense (in traditional JRPGs, damage is random and rarely avoidable, so Fatigue would likely just be frustrating). Desperate also sounds cool, and it has been fun and thrilling in the very few RPGs I’ve seen it used (Breath of Fire 3 comes to mind immediately). Hypochondria sounds…superfluous, I guess? Like, it would be the thing to do to try and inflict it if it were too easy to proc, and basically worthless if it’s too hard or too random.

    Sorry to sound so critical, especially when I have no idea what the game plays like. I just used to be a game critic, and I’m also a big fan of your work. You’ve probably thought about all of this, and kept it in mind when designing the combat. I just have never been a proponent of status ailments (I’m much bigger on combat that focuses on attack types and positioning), and I’ve seen status effects seriously break some games (or, allow you to do some ridiculous things), so it’s something I’m always wary about.

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