Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #5: Tactical Combat

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Tombles

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Hello everybody! Today’s Dev Diary is about the basics of tactical combat. Just like in Age of Wonders 3, combat is a very important part of playing Planetfall and one of the biggest challenges we had was keeping the feel of AoW3 combat whilst developing a system that is more focused on ranged combat than melee combat.

Dome.png

A group of marines approach a Psi-Shrine guarded by Spacer pirates

Accuracy and Hit Chances
One of the first things we decided was that we needed to bring hit chances back into the game, having ranged weapons always hit makes combat feel stale and predictable, while the chance of an attack failing adds a level of excitement and tension. It also allowed us to add more gameplay to the combat environments, long range attacks would have their accuracy reduced, as would attacks on units behind cover. The terrain now has different height levels, and shooting at a unit that’s lower than oneself grants a bonus to accuracy. Units can also deploy smoke screens to protect their units in areas without cover.

Shootup.png

Aya Sashimi, a Vanguard hero, takes a pot shot at a distant Dvar walker.

One issue is that many people really, really dislike missing attacks. To help fix this every attack has a chance to Graze a target instead of missing it. Grazing shots do half damage, and any special effects attached to the attack are either weakened or disabled entirely. The chance of a graze happening is up to 25% of the chance to miss, so:

Code:
Chance To Hit   |   Chance To Graze   |   Chance To Do Nothing
     90%        |         10%         |           0%
     75%        |         25%         |           0%
     50%        |         25%         |           25%

This gives the player more of a sense of control, since if a shot is good enough it’s guaranteed to do something, only the most reckless and ill-advised attacks have a high chance of achieving nothing at all.

Overwatch and Staggering

Overwatch was another feature that we decided early on to add. Units in overwatch guard an arc of hexes in front of them, and the first enemy unit to act or move in one of those hexes will get shot at. Melee units get a special type of multidirectional overwatch which they enter even if they attacked during their turn, giving them a free attack against any unit who tries to move past them or shoot them at point blank range.

In order to counter overwatch, we added the Impact system. High Impact attacks, such as explosives and melee attacks, can Stagger the units they hit, knocking them out of overwatch and allowing your own units to act safely. Staggering will also knock units out of guard mode, and reduce their action points, limiting their options in their next turn. Stagger a unit enough times, and it will not be able to act at all!

Explosion.png

A group of troopers are ambushed by a Spacer rocket attack

Quick Q&A

When this Dev Diary was announced, I got an awful lot of questions and requests for explanations, far more than I could fit in today. So, I’ve picked a few of the most interesting questions to answer:

Will some races (such as space dwarves) be able to drop turrets and deploy them during battle?

The Vanguard specialize in drones and autonomous robots, their engineer unit can deploy a turret while their T4 specializes in launching various types of drones in combat to provide defensive and offensive support.


Will there be the possibility to burn battlefields down, effectively creating fire barriers?

The Promethean specialize in weapons that leave areas of the battlefield on fire, providing area denial abilities. They can also mod their units to be immune to this fire, or even gain buffs from it, allowing them to reshape the battlefield to their advantage.

PheonixWalker.png

The Promethean Phoenix Walker can set large swathes of the battlefield alight, and regenerates health while standing in flames

Are there any insta-death abilities, like disintegrate in AoW3?

There are indeed! For example, the Plasma Disintegrator Module is an end game mod for laser weaponry, allowing attacks to strip armor and giving a chance to insta-kill tier 1 and 2 units.


What formula will be used to calculate damage?

AoW3’s damage formulas use flat damage reduction, which does not cope well with the wide range of damage values we need for this game, so we’re using a formula that reduces damage proportionally.

I = Incoming damage
D = Actual damage taken
R = Damage resistance (sum of shields, armor and elemental resistance)

D = I x 0.9^R


The formula also has diminishing returns; the first few points of resistance reduce damage by roughly 10% each, but as more is stacked, this decreases rapidly. The difference between 10 and 11 resistance is only 4%.


And that’s it for this week. In next week’s dev diary we’ll be taking a closer look at tactical combat mechanics and units!
 
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Leyrann

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So Tier 4 units are only racial? Or do specializations also have Tier 4 units?
 

Fluksen

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Really nice Dev Journal thanks!
Not quite sure how I feel about the damage formula, looks quite unintuitive compared to the old one. I guess weaknesses are applied like resistance but with a negative value?
But looking splendid overall!
Ps.: My favourite is the "Name shrouded in Irony" that must also be the reason why he has such a strong psionic resistance :cool: Really cool that you have flavour text already in!
 
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Bob5

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The stuff about being able to set the battlefield on fire is so cool.

Really nice Dev Journal thanks!
Not quite sure how I feel about the damage formula, looks quite unintuitive compared to the old one. I guess weaknesses are applied like resistance but with a negative value?
But looking splendid overall!

My guess is we'll keep actual damage estimations in the popups like in Age of Wonders 3, so as a player you wouldn't have to do the math yourself.
 

Draxynnic

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Hrrrmn. I do like that damage reduction formula. If I read it correctly, what's actually happening is that each point you add reduces the damage by 10% - but it's 10% of D(R-1), not 10% of I. Or to put it another way, if you add another point of resistance, the damage received is 10% less than the damage you'd take if you didn't have that point of resistance.

Which does make it far more incremental than the AoW3 system, where going from 60% to 80% means cutting the damage from that source in half...
 

Tombles

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Not quite sure how I feel about the damage formula, looks quite unintuitive compared to the old one. I guess weaknesses are applied like resistance but with a negative value?

Yeah, it's an odd one. The main goal I had was that it needed to be proportional, but not allow player to easily stack so much defense that they would be immune to damage. The game itself will tell you how much damage an attack will do, so that will help a lot.

And yes, damage vulnerability simply subtracts from armor/shields.

Or to put it another way, if you add another point of resistance, the damage received is 10% less than the damage you'd take if you didn't have that point of resistance.

That's exactly it, yes.
 

BTAxis

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The thing I took away from the damage formula is that shields and armor are mostly indistinguishable, except that attacks may (presumably) choose to ignore one or the other. That is probably fine, but from other games I've learned that shields tend to deplete as they take damage, something I didn't see reflected here.
 

sikbok

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Not quite sure how I feel about the damage formula, looks quite unintuitive compared to the old one.
Actually, the one in AoW3 was a lot trickier than you'd think when you dive into the math.

My guess is we'll keep actual damage estimations in the popups like in Age of Wonders 3, so as a player you wouldn't have to do the math yourself.
Yes, no math needed. We just give to formula's so people that are really into this can have some fun.

Which does make it far more incremental than the AoW3 system, where going from 60% to 80% means cutting the damage from that source in half...
Yes, that's correct. One of the many improvements to AoW3's systems. Imho a lot of the weird edge cases present in AoW3 have been ironed out in this iteration of the combat system.

Will now stop answering questions a second time and let Tombles do his thing : )>
 

Tombles

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The thing I took away from the damage formula is that shields and armor are mostly indistinguishable, except that attacks may (presumably) choose to ignore one or the other. That is probably fine, but from other games I've learned that shields tend to deplete as they take damage, something I didn't see reflected here.

This is correct, armor and shields reduce damage in an identical way. The main differences between them are what types of attack bypass them (shields do not protect you against melee attacks, for example) and what special attacks destroy them (many biochemical attacks can melt off armor). I'll probably go into more detail here in another dev diary though!
 

Bob5

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One thing I'm just now thinking about. With this damage formula, damage can scale quite fast if you stack a lot of weakness together on a target unit because the damage will increase exponentially rather than linearly. Will it be harder to stack weakness modifiers here? In Age of Wonders 3 you could for instance bring in a Frost Queen, use Ice Nova to break enemy guards and Inflict Chilling on enemy units at the same time, which stacked with the Dome of Frost to give enemies 60% frost weakness. Then you brought in a Frost Tank or two and sprayed the area for massive damage. Other things like Degenerate, Weakening, Despair, and Skin of Oil were also adept at stacking weaknesses quickly.
 

Tombles

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Weaknesses also have diminishing returns, the formula I posted doesn't work for negative values of R.

You need:

D = I + (I x (1 - 0.9^-R))
 

Rhaeg

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What's that building in the background of the 2nd screenshot? It looks awesome!
 

Tombles

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It's a Dvar colony! The artists have been working really hard to give each race their own architecture and stuff.
 

mr_stibbons

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So do flying units just exist at a set height, or are they relative to the terrain?
 

Rhaeg

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So do flying units just exist at a set height, or are they relative to the terrain?

I'd assume the latter, or else your infantry would bump their heads on the flyer/gunship from the 1st screenshot if it were on the raised platform of the 2nd screenshot :p
 

AwesomeLion

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This all sounds great to me! And the screenshots are looking VERY promising. Already looking forward to the next one
 

Jolly Joker

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Apart from a strong urge to PLAY THIS, two things on the unit screen make me wonder:
1) The Incinerator Phoenix Walker is a T3 - and has 50 HPs only, whilst having attacks of 20 and 26. A point blank salvo will obviously have massive trash value.
2) The unit has 0/8 XP. This seems to indicate that a somewhat different XP gaining mechanic is used...
 

Tombles

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1) The Incinerator Phoenix Walker is a T3 - and has 50 HPs only, whilst having attacks of 20 and 26. A point blank salvo will obviously have massive trash value.

Balance is still in its early phases here! That said, it's extremely rare for an attack to do full damage, the walker has 8 armor so a 26 damage attack will only do 11 damage to it. Also, the unit is heavily modded so it's damage is much higher than a vanilla units.


2) The unit has 0/8 XP. This seems to indicate that a somewhat different XP gaining mechanic is used...

There is!
 

Jolly Joker

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In this case I would like to point out something:

Generally spoken, higher numbers allow better, more detailed adjustments. In AoW3 the XP gain that comes with hitting or being hit is equal to the tier of the unit that hits, which is 1, 2, 3, (which is what heroes are considered in this regard as well) and 4. If you have adjustments in place (like Fast Learner for specific units, say, or a general XP learning bonus for AI players (which I modded into the game and which works quite fine, but I hope you'll do that as a regular game feature)), it's obviously better to have higher numbers. If you have a 50% bonus in place, it's fine with T2 and T4s, but for T1 and T3s a significant part of that is either rounded up or down.
You can also differentiate better for special units.
I experimented a bit, and in the end settled on triple the XP (3,6,9,12) and put heroes on 7 and Leaders on 8 points per action (of course with changed values for level-ups - but the main thing here is that higher values allow finer adjustment and better account for fractional (percentage) values.
I mean, it's not so different from damage and HP calculations that are chosen so that reductions still make sense; if units had only 10 HPs and would do 3 damage, then a fractional damage reduction would often have no effect or would be too heavily rounded.

That said, for a T3 EIGHT XP for a level seems excessively low, no matter the system, because it suggests that the XP gain is based on very low numbers (like 1).

I think, it might be worth to think about that and maybe multiplay things by 5 or 10 or something like that.