Ideas for the new battle system.

ChipNoir

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The following is my brainstorm of what I think (Or at least hope) the new ATB system will be.

Active Turn Battle
The ATB system is a hybrid between real time melee and turn order, allowing to precisely decide a battle mode, while also allowing the player to decide the blow for blow flow of each attack within a limited time frame before a cool down.
Before combat, the player decides their primary leader, who will be the character they play as when combat initiates. When not commited to a Turn, the player can switch between any of the four party members (including guess) at will.
When combat initiates, the player is provided with the following default Turns;
Attack: Engage in a series of melee attacks
Magic: Engage in the casting of a spell, charging, commiting, and directing.
Summon: Engage in the casting, charging, and Boosting of a summon\
Item: Use an Item from the item menu.

Turn Modes
Attack: When engaging in Turn, the player will select a target through L1 or R1, and then select their attack combinations. Each character has their own unique set of attacks, but in general;
Square: Strong Attack
Circle: Light Attack
Triangle: Charge/Blast

Attack Combos: During an Attack turn, the player can input seamless attack commands, in the spirit of games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, allowing the character to active special attacks with the right combination
For example
Cloud strife performing Cyclone as seen in the PSX trailer
Cyclone: Circle+Circle+Square: Activates three strong attacks in a swirling pattern that paries away any active attacks.
Aerial combat:
If one presses X, they'll make the character perform a jump based on their Dexterity, as certain weak points may not be available from ground melee. From there they have a limited hang time, and their attacks will change in behavior accordingly.
High Jump Tier: Cid, Yuffie, Red XIII
Medium Jump Tier: Cloud, Tifa, Vincent
Low Jump Tier: Barret, Cait Sith, Aerith most guest characters.
The Warp Materia will enable non ranged-characters to be boosted through the aid of the holder of the Warp materia, and other materia may provide enhanced aerial combat. Characters like Barret, Yuffie and Vincent will of course have ranged abilities by default.

ATB
The ATB will rise and fall according to the attack patterns engaged. As the Turn attacks ensue, the meter will fill up according to the frequency of the attacks, and the strength category. In short, attack often, or with stronger attacks, and the bar will eventually fill and turn red. At this time you have the choice of pressing any of the attack buttons for a finishers that have been preassigned before combat can be switched out as they're learned via Materia Gems, which can be found or produced in game.
There is a catch to this: Engaging in a Finisher will produce a powerful attack that will usually kill enemies of same or lesser levels than your character. However, it also enforces a Cool Down time, in which no attack or defensive manuevers can be made. The player can choose to use magic, summon, item, or switch to another player and start a new Attack turn.
Wait Mode: If the player chooses, the Wait Mode will make all characters and enemies wait until the player has engaged a Turn.
Magic: Selecting the Magic will open a menu from which you can select from a personally organized selection of spells based on equipped materia. After selecting your spell, you may charge it by rapidly pressing the X button until the desired strength is reached. Each tier of spell has it's own behavior, so it's important to decide how long to charge so you don't waste the time. However, charging to the full ATB meter means activating special attributes to the spell. Lower tier spells (Fire, Blizzard, Thunder) can be rapidly fired off. although Some spells, like Fourth Tier Elements (Firaja, Blizzaja, Thundaja) cannot be charged.

Summon: Similar to Magic, you engage with Summons by first selecting the Summon command, and then selecting the summon you wish to engage with. After that selection, the character will be inactive during the summoning period, before unleashing the summon to fight in their stead. Summons will act on their own, and after a certain period, will perform their final massive attack, and disengaging. There is no cool down after a summon is completed.

Command Materia: Command Materia allows characters to engage in a variety of instanced attacks or special magic. Selecting the Command menu will bring up the list of abilities available. Selecting a command will alter the behavior of the Triangle attack. Note that Command abilities will max out the ATB, without the option for a Finisher, although the cool down time is 1/4th the cool down, or lesser depending on materia augments.
 

ZaXo Ken'Ichi

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Saw this thread a few days ago but couldn't reply at the time. Then I almost forgot about it (shame on me!). Definitely don't want to do that, because discussions like this are by far my favorite.

That being said, I first have to ask if this is the idea you would prefer despite what we've already seen, or if you think this is how the game might work? Based on the footage (which is target render, and things could definitely change drastically mind you), I think we're getting a more straight up action RPG as far as basic combat and movement goes. I don't think there will be anything even resembling turns. I don't think basic attacks will be limited in any way mechanically.

As an idea though, this is interesting. For the sake of 'testing' the idea, might was well play a bit of devil's advocate.

1. With such a cooldown, you're going to have points where you just have nothing to do. Yes, you can use magic and summons. But do magic and summons use MP (please say no, lol)? If so, many players will want to conserve it, leading to more time just waiting for cooldown. What about spell uses? In FFVII, uses for many Materia were limited by what level they were. A two-star All Materia can only be used twice per battle. Does that carry over? Point is, with a cooldown in place, players may often find themselves just standing around trying not to die. That waiting is not a particularly engaging aspect to gameplay as it would be now.

Well, the obvious solution would be to let players move between controlling each character at will, as you said. This doesn't solve the waiting problem entirely mind you; AI will still end up in cooldown, doing nothing but waiting. And it generally really sucks in action oriented games when AI just stands around. You end up in a particularly strange position as a designer. Make the wait too long, and you always have AI or players standing around at some point (we'll get to the brick wall this faces a bit later). Make it too short, and there's little point in having a cooldown at all.

2. Another problem that would stem from allowing players to switch between the characters, would be the sheer speed of it all. Controlling four+ characters during an action-oriented battle is extraordinarily difficult for the player. That's why some games opt for incredibly complex AI control, others make AI completely inconsequential in battle, etc. To allow immediate full control of any one character at once, you'd need an incredibly smooth system, and it would almost always take some control out of the hands of the AI or the player in a detrimental manner (or at least a perceptually detrimental manner... look at the Auto-Battle button in XIII for an example of a perfectly good design idea that was perceived as the game being 'ruined' based on arbitrary criteria and surface level semantics).

3. How would you set up the AI to deal with cooldown situations like those described above? Do they spam magic and summons? Do they just dodge and survive? Some mixture of the two based on a system like in XIII or Dragon's Dogma (where they learn an enemy as they fight, and alter decisions based on that)? Obviously, the most elegant solution is to allow for gambits like in XII, so the player has complete control over the AI patterns. But that largely worked in XII because the player could also opt to just pause the action and make every decision themselves. That way if they didn't understand gambits, or didn't want to use them, the game still fully functioned. Pausing an action RPG in that way sounds terrible, hence why games like XV added a 'wait mode' that just slows down the action like 'bullet time'. The goal should be to prevent any sort of pause in the action, something even games like Star Ocean fail to get down (despite having tons of buttons free during combat to achieve that with). So you end up stuck between needing complex, customizable AI, and needing ways to make it equally as fun for those that don't want to fiddle with said AI themselves. These two opposites are bound to conflict, but that needs to be prevented.

4. No button mashing to charge magic please, lol. I'm assuming this is actually your replacement for MP, so that the player does the work to charge the spells, and so that they are never stuck with nothing to do during cooldown. But man is that just not fun. Magic (in an RPG that's balanced well) generally gets used a ton. And I'm willing to be most people don't want to mash X every time they want to use Curaga. It's basically a quick-time event (which aren't inherently bad) in a place where it doesn't really belong. Yes, it worked in VIII for charging GF attacks, but there are two clear differences. First, if you played VIII as intended, you weren't using GF's near as often as you would use magic in this system (particularly because it's one of your only choices during cooldown). But more importantly... it was optional. The GF still did the exact same thing if you didn't charge their attacks. This magic, well, won't.

Tangentially related is the idea of how spamming is accounted for if MP doesn't exist. Just like in games like XIII, designers have to design around the fact that the player could literally just sit there charging healing spells forever (or at least during every single cooldown for their four+ characters... that's a lot of healing). And that's just a problem with healing, and doesn't address spamming of offensive options or other buffs.

All that being said, there are more than just a few good ideas here. I really like the idea of attacks charging a finisher. If the cooldown didn't exist, I could see this as an incredibly deep combo system similar to a fighting game or DMC. Instead of basing the finisher charge on the strength or frequency of attacks, it could be based on 'under the hood' factors that dictate what is a 'better or worse' combo, again similar to DMC and it's combo ranking system. Then maybe certain finishers could be reached based on the combos you used, similar to the Command Style system in Birth By Sleep. Or, you could base it on the frequency/strength of attacks, but also factor in the type of attack; turn it into the stagger system from XIII in a sense, where certain attacks make the bar rise more but fall faster, or rise slower and fall slower, etc.

Back to a system that does have a cooldown though, I am unclear about one thing... "There is a catch to this: Engaging in a Finisher will produce a powerful attack that will usually kill enemies of same or lesser levels than your character. However, it also enforces a Cool Down time, in which no attack or defensive manuevers can be made."

Does that mean not using a finisher allows for infinite combos? Or do you still reach the cooldown eventually? If so, how?

Anyway, I like the idea of spells having unique attributes, though I'd personally give these attributes to every spell, rather than just fully charged ones. Otherwise you still end up with the same problem all of the previous games in the series have... there's little reason to use weaker spells when you get the stronger ones, meaning your ability arsenal doesn't actually grow; you just trade across for something new as a replacement. Fira replaces Fire, and Firaga replaces that, etc. Making weaker spells much faster to cast is a great choice (this could also allow them to be factored into combos directly). Maybe mid tier spells could have an AoE aspect to them, and they'd have a chance to inflict status ailments like Burn for fire, or Zap for thunder (residual electricity from the 'Zapped' enemy bounces off of them to do minor damage to nearby enemies). Then high tier spells could have special effects, like Firaga having the chance to melt enemy weapons, or Blizzaga freezing enemies in place and weakening their physical defense.

I like the way Commands work, and think just using the cooldown there actually is a great idea. It'd be great if their cooldown was independent though, so that Commands can't be spammed, but they can be worked into normal combos as well. I also like the way summons are a part of the battle, instead of just cutscenes that produce damage, lol.

Bottom line is that while this seems well thought through to a large degree, it also seems like you're just throwing all of your favorite ideas at the wall and hoping they mesh well with a few tweaks. That's not inherently a bad thing of course, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. I mean, there are even smaller questions, like how exactly do jumps work? Are they static heights based on dexterity, or maximum heights based on dexterity? If they're static, while low jumping characters can't hit mid or high weak points, high jumping characters can't easily hit mid or low weak points either. But if they're maximum heights, and the player can control how high the character jumps (by how long they hold X), then the higher jumping characters are just objectively better in that regard, and there's little reason to jump with lower jumping characters. Simple solution is to design enemy defenses and player attacks around making some of the lower jumping characters (and some of their attacks) better against certain enemies. But while simple to come up with, that's yet another complex factor that encounters need to be designed around. Add too many factors like this, and you end up with gaping holes in these encounters you didn't really notice; massive exploits abound. Then add in ranged characters, and it gets more complex. Plus you have to ask why someone like Yuffie even needs a high jump at all if she can hit from anywhere thanks to being a ranged character. These sorts of systems can overlap extremely quickly, and it takes an astonishing amount of work to manage them so that this overlap never comes with major negative consequences. These things cascade quickly.

Anyway, again this is all just speculation and such aimed at 'testing' the inner workings of what you've provided here. Super interesting read (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have written such a long response)!
 
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