Rework polearms


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bel

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Post Thursday, 9th February 2017, 16:02

Rework polearms

I don't like polearms; they lead to all sorts of things which I consider undesirable, like poking at things from behind summons, mitigating movement costs for Nagas and chei characters, poking things from behind deep water or lava, having a spectral weapon attacking from behind you and so on. Here's an alternate mechanism, which is borrowed from Sil.

Any time some enemy moves into an adjacent position, a polearm gets a free (passive) attack.

Alternatively, evoking a polearm or resting will make you set up a defensive posture, so that you get a free attack against an enemy moving adjacent to you. Tab will work the same way as it does now; you evoke the polearm when pressing Tab against an enemy one square away.

We could also make the free attack happen if moving towards an enemy instead of (or in addition to) the enemy moving towards you (like a lunge with a rapier in Brogue, except that it's just a normal attack instead of triple damage which never misses). This will take care of monsters still using polearms effectively without changing their AI.

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Post Thursday, 9th February 2017, 17:24

Re: Rework polearms

FWIW I like polearms; they lead to all sorts of things which I consider desirable, like poking at things from behind summons, mitigating movement costs for Nagas and chei characters, poking things from behind deep water or lava, having a spectral weapon attacking from behind you and so on.
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Post Thursday, 9th February 2017, 19:34

Re: Rework polearms

Maybe you should explain WE should also consider those things undesirable. Most people just think of them as tactics

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bel

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Post Thursday, 9th February 2017, 20:46

Re: Rework polearms

That's a fair request. I thought that most people were of the same opinion as me, so I didn't spell out my reasons.

The burden of proof should be on someone who thinks reaching should exist. Why is it an interesting ability? As far as I can see, it's just simulationism. However, in the rest of the post, I'll try to list reasons I consider them undesirable:

  • Ally play is already overpowered in Crawl; allowing polearm use together with allies simply exacerbates the situation.
  • It is kludgy - why do some monsters attack from one step away while others do it from adjacent to you? It also leads to weird interactions with stairs, since gnolls with polearms will not follow you upstairs even though they were attacking you from one step away.
  • Polearms are not a limited resource like spells/wands, so allowing a player to attack a monster in melee from afar is simply bad. Ranged combat suffers from this defect as well, but there's no easy solution to fix ranged combat.
  • It leads to degenerate tactics. For instance, a centaur kiting an enemy using a polearm, or anyone with flight kiting an enemy over water.
  • I consider spectral weapon together with polearms simply broken. It mitigates one of the main disadvantages of the spell, which is that your weapon needs to be adjacent to the monster while attacking, so that it can also take damage. (It can still take damage from AOE spells). I am not a big fan of spectral weapon anyway.
  • Positioning is much easier with polearms - a 3x3 square is much smaller than a 5x5 square. This mitigates a lot of the movement disadvantages of Nagas and Chei characters, with very little cost (polearms have less base damage than maces and long blades).

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 04:15

Re: Rework polearms

bel wrote:That's a fair request. I thought that most people were of the same opinion as me, so I didn't spell out my reasons.

The burden of proof should be on someone who thinks reaching should exist. Why is it an interesting ability? As far as I can see, it's just simulationism. However, in the rest of the post, I'll try to list reasons I consider them undesirable:


I don't see why the burden of proof should be on the player who likes reaching. It changes your play style and adds new tactical options. What needs to be proven is that it does so in ways that make the game less interesting, which is not immediately evident.

bel wrote:Ally play is already overpowered in Crawl; allowing polearm use together with allies simply exacerbates the situation.

-This is subjective. What's more, Crawl is not a balanced game and features many play styles that are measurably better than others (Trog, heavy armor vs. everything else, ranged weapons, etc.). I don't think this can count as a reason by itself.
bel wrote:It is kludgy - why do some monsters attack from one step away while others do it from adjacent to you? It also leads to weird interactions with stairs, since gnolls with polearms will not follow you upstairs even though they were attacking you from one step away.

-I think the first point is very obvious -- because they're using polearms! Simulationism or an attempt to adhere to how things seem to make sense in the real world is not something that always must be eradicated. The gnoll can hit me from a tile away because he has a long, sharp stick. Problem solved. As for the second point, I can see the argument, but I think this is interesting and gives you ways to escape. I do think AI is problematic with polearms, though, and enemies shouldn't always prioritize hitting you with their reach attack.
bel wrote:Polearms are not a limited resource like spells/wands, so allowing a player to attack a monster in melee from afar is simply bad. Ranged combat suffers from this defect as well, but there's no easy solution to fix ranged combat.

-This is not a reason in itself. You give some reasons below that are tied to this, but there is nothing inherently wrong with being able to attack a short distance away an unlimited number of times. Polearms do not step on the toes of conjurations.
bel wrote:It leads to degenerate tactics. For instance, a centaur kiting an enemy using a polearm, or anyone with flight kiting an enemy over water.

-This is the only point here that I agree with completely. I don't think it's enough to remove an otherwise interesting ability.
bel wrote:I consider spectral weapon together with polearms simply broken. It mitigates one of the main disadvantages of the spell, which is that your weapon needs to be adjacent to the monster while attacking, so that it can also take damage. (It can still take damage from AOE spells). I am not a big fan of spectral weapon anyway.

-I like spectral weapon and think of this as a nice bonus, but I can understand the point. I still think removing reaching, or removing this interaction, would take away something interesting and fun for little gain.
bel wrote:Positioning is much easier with polearms - a 3x3 square is much smaller than a 5x5 square. This mitigates a lot of the movement disadvantages of Nagas and Chei characters, with very little cost (polearms have less base damage than maces and long blades).

-I fail to see how this is a reason to remove reaching and only see it as a reason to keep them.


I do think reaching is the strongest of the special abilities and can sometimes be problematic. But I've seen other people say riposte is better. And maces and flails might well still be the best weapon type overall. And plenty of people find cleaving a lot of fun. I think special weapon properties are in a good place right now in Crawl and don't need to be messed with, even if some aspects of reaching are not ideal.

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 04:41

Re: Rework polearms

Mosty agree with everything in Bel's second post, although I find polearm-using cheinagas pleasantly convenient more than anything else. "tab to evoke defensive posture" might be weird if you are fighting a very slow enemy - what if you evoke reaching with a first tab, and have time for a second before the enemy moves? But if you can't tab to evoke defensive posture then defensive posture is bad.

Gnolls with reaching are good. They should be reflavoured as having really long arms, and should get reaching with any weapon.

(Incidentally, any simulationist should want reaching removed. A big spear would be impractical for one person in close quarters. It follows that spears in Crawl are really stubby.)

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 05:08

Re: Rework polearms

The following weapons also have synergy with Chei: axes, because they allow you to hit everything around you (less repositioning) and you have good defenses; long blades, because they allow you to attack while moving and you have good EV; forms, because of Cheistats; arguably, short blades because of Cheistealth.

There's also stuff like axes having a really good synergy with health-on-kills. I thought that was the point of giving weapon class abilities, for those abilities to feel different and powerful? I guess I was wrong.

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 05:54

Re: Rework polearms

phloomp wrote:(Incidentally, any simulationist should want reaching removed. A big spear would be impractical for one person in close quarters. It follows that spears in Crawl are really stubby.)


Reach is incredibly important in considering the effectiveness any weapon. What's more, most spears can simply be held closer to the tip, and can be maneuvered far more quickly than swords or axes because of the leverage offered by the shaft. That's why polearms, from the spear to the halberd, the bill or the bayonet were almost universally accepted by soldiers and martial artists of all cultures and periods as overall the most effective weapon for close quarters fighting from the time of the ancients to the modern period. It's not uncommon to hear things like that one person with a staff weapon can handle 3-4 swordsmen or axemen of similar skill.

I think only pikes or similar, extremely long, weapons were too unwieldy to match a sword in close combat.

If you wanted to be a proper simulationist, not only would polearms do more damage and swing faster than other weapon types, they would hit enemies approaching and often block them from getting closer. I think reaching is a nice abstraction that goes along with the fact that polearms are long weapons.
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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 06:13

Re: Rework polearms

I mean if you wanted to get really simulationist you would have varying reach on all weapons, but then you'd need like a Frozen Synapse-esque map and overview to have variable move distance(why doesn't this game exist tho)

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 09:06

Re: Rework polearms

tip: when you're about to call a melee weapon or plate armour or whatever too "cumbersome" or "unwieldy" for combat, consider that it was literally designed for combat
huiren wrote:It's not uncommon to hear things like that one person with a staff weapon can handle 3-4 swordsmen or axemen of similar skill.
Pole weapons are effective but not that effective. Even after the halberd was popularized, people continued making and using swords despite them being more expensive, and they weren't doing it just for status. The weapons have different purposes, and in any case, no melee weapon is going to let you hold off "3-4 armed attackers of similar skill" - if you want to do that you need something like an Uzi, not a medieval ages weapon.

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 11:02

I'd like to add a link to a slightly related topic/poll from March 2015: Which Weapon Type is Best?

I personally voted for polearms.

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 14:55

Re: Rework polearms

duvessa wrote:when you're about to call a melee weapon or plate armour or whatever too "cumbersome" or "unwieldy" for combat, consider that it was literally designed for combat

Counterpoint: jousting armour.
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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 22:57

Re: Rework polearms

well, that's more of highly specialized sports equipment than something designed for combat

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Post Friday, 10th February 2017, 23:07

Re: Rework polearms

It's still armour, and people confuse it with actual plate armour occasionally, you sometimes see frog helmets in video games that don't even feature jousting. But mostly, I wanted to be a smartass.

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Post Saturday, 11th February 2017, 00:12

Re: Rework polearms

bel wrote:The burden of proof should be on someone who thinks X should exist


So, pretty much everything in Crawl then? I hope you can clarify this problematic part bel

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Post Saturday, 11th February 2017, 00:15

Re: Rework polearms

To several points raised here:

  • I'm not arguing for removing reaching (then polearms would have no reason to exist). I'm arguing for replacing one mechanic with another.
  • In my opinion, the burden of proof should always be on the person who wishes to add a feature, rather than the person who wishes to remove the feature. To argue about reaching, first we have to ask: why should it exist in the first place? "You can attack two steps away" sounds arbitrary and not very interesting to me. Why not three steps away? (by the way, "uber-reaching" or "polearms of reaching" was discussed when reaching was made intrinsic to all polearms).
  • I have given several cases where I tried to demonstrate that unlimited attacks monsters from afar is simply bad design. (I forgot to mention conjure flame). None of the things I mention are deal breakers by themselves, but all of them together are bad and they are all inherent in the mechanic. The game is already aware of this, therefore it tries to kludge this by making (a) your attacks over your summons' shoulder fail half the time (b) if you try to hit a monster over the shoulder of a hostile monster, you have a chance of hitting the closer monster instead.
  • I'm not against fun and I'm not saying that polearms are always the best weapon. I am saying that the mechanic of attacking one step away is bad.
  • I am not talking about nerfing polearms. The defensive posture can be extremely powerful as well: for instance - if you set up a defensive posture and 8 enemies move adjacent to you, you get a free attack on each of them.

By the way, I looked at some of the old IRC discussions at the time reaching was implemented on all polearms (September 2011). I got mostly the sense that they just thought "let's try to implement this and see how it goes". Elliptic literally says this here. I'm not criticizing it; that's the way most things are implemented. What I'm saying is that we should look at what is really achieved by reaching and what problems arise.

(One point about the interface was discussed at that point, which still remains: in console there's no way to indicate that an orc warrior is wielding a polearm. dpeg suggested making the glyph have an umlaut; but it wasn't accepted because not all terminals can handle it.)

Or to put it another way: suppose there was a choice between reaching and the mechanic I proposed. Why would you choose one over the other?

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Post Saturday, 11th February 2017, 00:54

Re: Rework polearms

I like being able to reach over my friends and also being able to have my spectral weapon attack from behind me in a hallway.

It is definitely true that polearms having something bound to "evoke" is awkward. Is there even anything else which uses that now that rods are gone? If not, making polearms get an automatic passive attack on closing enemies would mean that the 'evoke' key could be euthanized, which is definitely a positive in my opinion(much the same way as not needing a separate "pray" key anymore). You could make it so you only get the attack if you didn't move last turn, and maybe limit the number of times it was done per turn, though I doubt that's needed.

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Post Saturday, 11th February 2017, 08:20

Re: Rework polearms

I think reaching changes the way you play the game and gives more options than what you propose would. I think what you suggest would mostly be like a passive bonus that only comes up sometimes and lets you do some extra damage, not something that informs how your character fights. I also think your proposed mechanic would amount to a significant nerf. Yes, it could work against multiple enemies, but you presumably very rarely want to just stand there and let eight enemies walk up to you.

I don't completely disagree with you. Reaching is flawed. But I don't think it's a trivial problem to substitute another ability that is both interesting and definitive of a polearm character's playstyle like reaching is. Sil's flanking or controlled retreat might meet those requirements, but flanking is already in IJC and doesn't make much sense thematically for polearms anyway. Controlled retreat really wouldn't work in crawl because of the fine grained speed system and the player's different relationship to level geometry (corridors are generally safe in crawl, but can be terrifying in Sil). Maybe something like a combination of an automatically activated polearm mastery and zone of control would work?

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Post Sunday, 12th February 2017, 18:26

Re: Rework polearms

I rarely use polearms just because i hate hitting v and entering target mode when i could just be using a mace and the numpad. Balance/design aside i dislike polearms because they fall into the category of 'powerful w/ tediousness as a downside'
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Post Sunday, 12th February 2017, 19:01

Re: Rework polearms

amaril wrote:I rarely use polearms just because i hate hitting v and entering target mode when i could just be using a mace and the numpad. Balance/design aside i dislike polearms because they fall into the category of 'powerful w/ tediousness as a downside'


Just macro some key to v+Enter, so you'll be attacking with the press of a key, much like a regular attack.
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Post Sunday, 12th February 2017, 19:19

Re: Rework polearms

The issue is the targeter though. Arguably im just lazy--i dont like animating every skeleton individually either.

Spears are especially miserable is you move fast, but then again dcss in general is miserable if you move fast.

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Post Tuesday, 14th February 2017, 21:19

Re: Rework polearms

Tab already reaches when you have a polearm, so the only time you'd need to use v + select a monster is if there's multiple targets and tab is selecting the wrong one and they are dangerous enough to matter. It can cause an issue when a reaching monster is 3 spaces away (ie, two empty tiles between you) and tab will move you closer, then they get the first hit on you, when you should have rested and then you can attack first. But that's more of an issue with spamming tab than something I'd blame polearms for. I think polearms work quite well and reaching is a significant enough damage boost to make the loss of base damage worthwhile. The only real complaint I have was already mentioned - centaurs kiting things with polearms, but that's more the issue with fast races, not polearms. Centaurs have been doing that with bows ever since I've been playing crawl, anyways.

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Post Tuesday, 14th February 2017, 21:33

Re: Rework polearms

tasonir wrote:Tab already reaches when you have a polearm, so the only time you'd need to use v + select a monster is if there's multiple targets and tab is selecting the wrong one and they are dangerous enough to matter. It can cause an issue when a reaching monster is 3 spaces away (ie, two empty tiles between you) and tab will move you closer, then they get the first hit on you, when you should have rested and then you can attack first. But that's more of an issue with spamming tab than something I'd blame polearms for.


Also hit_closest_nomove exists, and is bound to shift-tab by default, there is even an option in your rc to make regular tab not move by default. (Really i am pretty convinced that nobody should ever use the version of the tab key that moves closer)
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Post Tuesday, 14th February 2017, 23:37

Re: Rework polearms

Maybe I should make that rcfile edit. Also worth pointing out this happens with regular, non-reaching weapons when the space is 1 tile, so really it isn't related to polearms much at all. I usually just step right up to monsters anyways unless I'm with chei and it's still early game, where the two free hits might actually be significant damage.

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Post Wednesday, 15th February 2017, 20:10

Re: Rework polearms

The burden of proof is always on the case for changing an aspect of the game, not on the case for leaving it as it is. Because you have to convince someone to code it and others to accept it.
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Post Sunday, 5th March 2017, 06:56

Re: Rework polearms

I think every object should have at least one unique attribute. This can be demonstrated through the game calculations/text output, the spatial units or the imagery.

reach is valid to pole-arms b/c pole-arms can literally reach further than other weapons. I think reach for all weapons should be looked into more depth to make melee more interesting and maybe more independent to spells.

Do pole arms reach far enough? Do whips reach far enough? Do some 2-handers reach further then 1-handers?

Several spells and god abilities and races provide solid tactical use for reaching affects as well. I think it makes use of those things more wanted to hybrids.

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Post Monday, 6th March 2017, 23:19

Re: Rework polearms

Shard1697 wrote:I mean if you wanted to get really simulationist you would have varying reach on all weapons, but then you'd need like a Frozen Synapse-esque map and overview to have variable move distance(why doesn't this game exist tho)

While I don't want to clutter the thread with the details, diablo 2 did this - melee weapons had a range from 1 to 5, and it made a significant difference to some builds.

Imho polearms having range 2 is a great thing.

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Post Saturday, 6th July 2019, 09:34

Re: Rework polearms

Reaching is still bad. I was inspired to necro this thread when I saw that Brogue implemented reaching on polearms in its latest version.

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Post Saturday, 6th July 2019, 16:58

Re: Rework polearms

So basically all the same arguments still exist.

Pros:
Interesting mechanic
Changes tactical behavior

Cons:
Encourages tedious/degenerate behavior
Has a lot of weird, broken interactions (speed, flying, swimming, conjure flame, etc.)


I'd have to put myself in the "replace reaching with something else" group, at least in part because it's basically impossible to fix the problems with the current design without retooling tons of other mechanics.

Could give it the "free hit" mechanic mentioned above, but that could also lead to some degenerate behavior - e.g. use extra speed to retreat, then enemy moves forward giving you a free hit.

My suggestion: Give polearms a chance to "impale" an enemy. Impaled enemy has cannot move, and has reduced EV vs successive attacks. Impaled status remains until player moves away or attacks another target. Basically something between a single-target constrict and a deforming/corrosion mechanic.
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Post Sunday, 7th July 2019, 04:42

Re: Rework polearms

I would be against any change that makes polearms less busted because axes are nearly always the wins most choice outside of 0 skill weapon use. I don't want another long blades situation where all it does is punish already weaker races cursed with aptitudes not suited for axe wielding by giving them worse weapons.

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Post Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 01:15

Re: Rework polearms

braveplatypus wrote:I would be against any change that makes polearms less busted because axes are nearly always the wins most choice outside of 0 skill weapon use. I don't want another long blades situation where all it does is punish already weaker races cursed with aptitudes not suited for axe wielding by giving them worse weapons.


This is so true. I get annoyed that weapons other than axes are so much inferior overall. If polearms must be fiddled with, they should be made more powerful (not less). The biggest issue I have with them is that to get all you can from them as-is, you have to use rest, then evoke when things are at range 3. It's not that the ability is bad, I think it's unique and nice that it is differentiated from other weapons, just that the interface can be tedious. I do not like tab (and it doesn't work perfectly with polearms either) due to the general lack of control/decision making and automatic movement that comes along with it, so sometimes just because I get sick of the rest/evoke/move repetition, I wind up just using the movement keys to move/attack and give up the extra attack at range. I can't think of an easy fix for this annoyance off the top of my head. The idea of giving an extra first strike is interesting, but not really at the expense of taking away their short range. Maybe there ought to be an extra first-strike if you move into a monster with movement keys and you didn't just previously evoke range, and leave the ability to strike at range intact.

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Post Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 02:05

Re: Rework polearms

svendre wrote:The biggest issue I have with them is that to get all you can from them as-is, you have to use rest, then evoke when things are at range 3. It's not that the ability is bad, I think it's unique and nice that it is differentiated from other weapons, just that the interface can be tedious.

Note that if you map a key to ===hit_closest_nomove with polearms (and ranged/thrown weapons for that matter) it works in 90% of cases, as long as you are drawing things back and want to hit the closest thing (if you want to reach over stuff, or pick which of more than one option, you still have to use v and the targeter, but you can eliminate a very large portion of the tedium as long as you get used to what hit_closest_nomove does). That way you can plink stuff at range to get it to walk towards you (you do have to use ' to swap weapons if you're using a launcher) and then start whacking it with your polearm all with one key press. Of course picking up ammo is annoying if you don't like to use 'o' too, so there's that.
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Post Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 18:41

Re: Rework polearms

Weapon power is not directly dependent on weapon mechanics. If I make every mace do 100 base damage will you still use axes? I am not commenting on whether "Axes are the best weapon type" here.

The issues are:
  • For polearms, is the "interesting" aspect bigger than the "degenerate" aspect?
  • Can ways of differentiating polearms be found, which are still interesting but less degenerate?

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Post Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 05:24

Re: Rework polearms

bel wrote:Weapon power is not directly dependent on weapon mechanics. If I make every mace do 100 base damage will you still use axes? I am not commenting on whether "Axes are the best weapon type" here.

The issues are:
  • For polearms, is the "interesting" aspect bigger than the "degenerate" aspect?
  • Can ways of differentiating polearms be found, which are still interesting but less degenerate?


Maces would be very attractive with 100 base damage for sure. They'd be for sure better to use for any 1v1 combat, but if the axe is already nearly killing 6 monsters in one swing with it's current base damage, I'm not sure that the mace would still always be the best choice for a number of tactical reasons, probably, but that I'd still question it even a tiny bit puts quite an emphasis on the importance of the mechanics for me. If someone were to suggest, hey let's nerf axes by making other weapons more extreme, it would be missing the real opportunity to fix things which lies at a lower level - for example, if 1v1 fights were more often critical fights where you were assured not being swarmed on all sides, it would tip the scales, but in a more indirect manner. Rarely are 1v1 fights as dangerous as being swarmed.

That aside, I understand that you're trying to improve the polearm mechanic, and I think it's good to try. There's no question that they suffer from some tedium issues. Even if there are some band-aids to get to 90% better, most of the time, if I tried to relearn some habits which don't apply to much of anything else, it's still tedium of one sort or another in the end.

* I think the interesting aspect is currently bigger than the degenerate aspect
* I think polearms can have their interesting aspect(s) improved in ways which reduce the degenerate aspects (which I think are the more minor issues), and more importantly reduce the tedious aspects without shredding their current functionality.

That only leaves the how to do it, but I think you've got a pretty tall order to figure that one out. I think the key is focusing on how they could be changed to gain back the advantage they potentially currently have under circumstances where they are used only in conjunction with normal movement/attacking. So, to me that means it has to be something like I previously mentioned: if you move into a monster, and you didn't use your ranged attack when you could, it translates into that they are somehow impaled once automatically, and then you still get an attack after that--just don't take away the ranged attack if the player wants to use it.

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