…It is time to discuss….DEATH!!!! (or at least combat)

By on October 21, 2009 8:04:11 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

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Starting next Monday, we begin work internally on the Elemental combat system.  It won’t see the light of day for months (tactical combat part anyway).  But this is the place to discuss how you would like it to work.

Right now, a unit has Attack, Defense, Hitpoints, and speed.  It’s very straight forward. When in battle, other factors come into play too (range of attack, height, and cover).

But obviously there are a lot of other factors that could be looked at.  Blunt weapons vs. Cutting weapons for instance.  My personal inclination is to stay away from damage types because they add a lot of complexity without really giving back a lot of fun (in my opinion).  I’m sure there are those who will disagree but we’ll have to agree to disagree there and perhaps damage types can be made something available to modders later.

I would like to see experience be used more than as simply a modifier to attack and defense and HP.  I don’t mean when you train your units (which gives them more HP) but I mean real combat experience causing them to simply be better at combat but we have not yet come up with a way to convey this well in the game.

I would also like to see Mobility be taken into effect somehow in combat.  The Mongols conquered much of the known world because they were strictly a mobile army that could easily outflank their infantry-heavy opponents. How to convey this to players is again, a challenge that would have to be dealt with.

What would you guys like to see?

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October 25, 2009 11:56:14 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Here's the thing with formations:  I've never ever found them useful as far a giving the player a "choice" in battle.  Mostly because your usually going to use the exact same formation for front line units every time, every battle, and the exact same formations for ranged attackers, and for calvary.  But if this game would actual make different formations tangleable/useful for all units, I guess there's no reason they can't be added/included. 

And I also wanted to add another quick comment about Morale:  Morale make units in a game seem much more "alive", more real, not just animated pixels with stats.  It also adds by compairason, a way to make non-living units (undead, golems, ect) a bit more "spooky" and inhuman.

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October 26, 2009 1:45:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would like for the various types of weapons to be distinguishable in some way.

Swords and Shields great for parry-ing, rapiers and short swords best at it (and possibly disarming?)

Axes good at damage, perhaps highest damage cap, but more random, also, short axes good for De-Shielding people, aka grappling the shield with a hook of the axe and pulling it out from their grip.

Maces/Hammers best at damaging opponent's armor, if at all possible. Or simply ignoring armor ratings of certain high-end armors, like plate.

Crossbows having highest ranged damage, with possibility of equiping Large Pavise Shield (protection against ranged attacks), but falls short on range and especially reload-times.

Longbows have medium re-load, longest range, and (weakest?) damage .... although damage could be decent.

Shortbows have quickest reload time, shortest range, medium damage, perhaps chance for a critical hit (which could be as powerful as a crossbow bolt or more, only available at half-range or less)

I would think most Cavalry Archers would use some variation of the Short-bow, but I could be wrong.

any possible GUNZ would have slightly faster reload than crossbows, slightly less-than crossbow damage, slightly longer range (depending on technology, reload would also depend on technology) .... and would IGNORE ARMOR!!!  Actually gunz could start out as the crappiest, with worst range, reload, and damage, and still ignore armor, and then more technology makes the guns better, and actually more feasable in battle. One type of weapon were technology can significantly increase their effectiveness. Possibly tier guns into early musket, musket,  (smoothbore?), rifle, and repeating rifle.

As for armor ... the heavier the armor the better against bolts and arrows. The higher quality (of any type) the more resistant to magic (if at all possible) although leathers would have an innate weakness to fire, chainmail an innate weakness to ice, and plate an innate weakness to lightning (just some thoughts). Chain and Leathers would not affect Fatigue, although Plate and Shields would to some degree. 2H melee weapons would also affect Fatigue to some degree. Leathers would give a parry bonus, while chains give a slightly better armor bonus. Plate give best armor bonus, enough advantage to be worth the extra fatigue-loss. Although anyone would recover fatigue while standing still (its just leathers and chain do so the fastest, and while mounted can even do so while moving)

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October 26, 2009 6:01:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Roslolian,
I didn't read any of the previous posts, so some of this may have been mentioned. I will haphazardly arrange my thoughts by vague categories; it may not be very organized, but at least you'll know what I'm talking about.

As an FYI, Brad tends to look down on doing this. If you can't be bothered to read what other people are saying, why should anybody take what you say seriously?

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October 26, 2009 10:00:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tasunke,
I would like for the various types of weapons to be distinguishable in some way.

As I mentioned upthread, I totally agree with this. The unit design aspect of the game is a core feature, at least in my book, And there's little point to it unless there's specific traits for different kinds of weapons.

I do think it's a bit early to be talking about the specific details, but generally speaking, I'd like to see it made fairly simple and straightforward for the end-user. You could differentiate the types of weapons by giving them a lot of statistics like 'Accuracy', 'Damage', 'Reach', 'Armor Penetration' and so on... but that's overly complex, and I don't want to be digging through lines of stats trying to figure it out. Instead, I think weapons should have a simple value and then everything else should be a specific tag, so you can look at the card for that weapon and see an icon for 'Two Handed' or 'Reach' or 'Armor Piercing' and whatever other qualities weapons might have. The basic stats can all be the same: an Axe or a Spear could do the same 5 Damage, but they'd have different special qualities and work differently in use.

 

Now, off on a tangent... unit design is a concept that's been done before in games like Alpha Centauri and Galactic Civilizations, where it boiled down to 'how many points am I going to assign to Attack, Defense, Movement.' If that's all it's going to involve, then please, spare me us hassle of different equipment types and just include a box for 'how much damage do you want it to do'.

Galactic Civilizations style weaponry is exactly what I don't want out of the unit designer. Galciv made combat a boring drag - there was no real difference between Missiles and Lasers except that one icon was Yellow and the other one was Red. They did the same damag, they had no differences in performance - the only point of distinction between them was which sort of armor worked best against them. It was boring. There was no real strategic choice

Having 'Blunt, Cutting, Stabbing' weapons is, mechanically, no different from having 'Lasers, Missiles, Mass Drivers'. The only thing that's changed is the name. And having Rock Paper Scissors with weapon types is exactly the same sort of game - it's damage types, except the damage types are called 'Sword' and 'Axe' instead of 'Cutting' or 'Stabbing'. And it's exactly the same, it adds complexity without giving back fun.

If I can pontificate on layman game theory for a minute, there's a pretty simple explanation why rock-paper-scissors is crummy for strategic game balance. Assuming both players make rational choices, it's always going to lead to the same outcome. Just think about it: if your opponent is building a bunch of 'Rock' units, then you're going to build 'Paper' to counter, right? And then your opponent builds Scissors to counter your paper, so you build Rock to counter the scissors... and this cycle continues with both players fielding a mixed force with roughly equal units.

It's a Nash Equilibrium. If I have enough resources to build 3 units, I will build one Rock, one Paper, and one Scissors, and my opponent builds the same. Why? Because it's the optimal strategy. Imagine that I build three Rock units instead, what will happen? Round 1) My Rock kills his Scissors, his Paper kills my Rock, his Rock gets a Tie. Round 2) His Paper kills a second Rock, and his Rock gets a tie. Round 3) His Paper kills my final Rock. Result? I lose.

That's without even taking into consideration that, once I start building up an army of Rock units, my opponent will almost certainly start building up Paper. Neither of us has any reason to change our strategy, and ultimately the advantage goes to whomever can build more units faster. I will grant that the Rock-Paper-Scissors creates tactical situations where you want to maneuver your units to hit enemy units, it comes at the expense of long-term strategic complexity because it severely limits your viable choices for amy composition. I think that having individual qualities for different types of equipment would make combat both tactical and strategic.

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October 26, 2009 11:20:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Those of you worrying about complexity.  Is it because you don't want to think, or because you're worried about how long it will take you to do the combat?
Neither, concerned about costs in design time, logic/ui/ai development time, and testing time.  Not so much concerned about the time costs themselves as about the consequences of features being implemented in less than adequate time such that the logic is buggy, the ui is inadequte, and/or the ai doesn't intelligently handle it.  Or that happens to some other feature (combat-related or otherwise) because it was squeezed too much by this stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I want something around the complexity of MoM's combat (preferably with things like finite-but-non-melee-ranged abilities added on, and perhaps a few other things), which is higher complexity than I'm seeing in the SD posts on the subject.  But having blunt/slashing/piercing weapons, formations, flanking bonuses, etc, etc... could get pretty nasty compared to the finite time budget.

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October 26, 2009 11:56:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If you noticed, I did make reference to other posts. Saying I didn't "read any of it" was an exaggeration. I was simply indicating that I wasn't going to go cross reference my opinions with others for a detailed an analysis of how my thoughts differed from theirs. I have perused this thread, saw some interesting ideas and seen some worriesome ones. So, technically, I lied when I said I didn't read any others in an attempt to avoid hearing how some idea had already been debated and 57% of people on the thread didn't like it.

However, I'll agree that my wording lends itself to what you're saying...but I don't particularly care. A good idea (or a bad one) is good (or bad) regardless of the disposition of its creator. I wouldn't reject constructive musings out of hand just because I dislike some aspect of the person giving the opinion, and I expect others to show similar foresight. As a last disclaimer, I also expect any ideas that are just plain bad (even if they are my own) to be thrown by the wayside, so no, this isn't a hubristic rant.

Anyhow, the problem with complexity isn't a matter of thinking. It's a matter of micromanagement. Games have wisely moved away from micromanagement as a key component precisely because most things that can be micromanaged can also be automated and kept from bogging down the experience. Micromanagement adds a level of player control, but not meaningfully so.

To be more precise, however, different damage types for individual weapons does add a certain level of complexity that could be approximated by more passive systems. As I said, I think it would be easier to look at how weapons interact with other weapons than it would be to create individual damage types for specific kinds of attacks. Consider the halberd- both slashing and piercing (and blunt if you count the shaft). Most western swords are the same as well. In other words, if you're aiming for accuracy in doing damage types, then you'll also have to account for the fact that many weapons have multiple uses. On the other hand, if you're willing to sacrifice that little bit of authenticity for the sake of playability, then there are less arbitrary ways of representing weapon-weapon interaction than saying, "Well, Halberds are mostly used for slashing, so we'll go that way."

Lastly; I do agree that formations are not a necessity. My only thought is on the numbers of units involved. It could be a useful system if armies can become dauntingly huge. If they don't, then it's largely irrelevant. However, if we do use them and want to make varied formations useful, then it could be as simple as making certain formations effective over different ones. Once again, this is not one of my "Man, this had better be in the game!" suggestions. It's just a thought for handling massive armies.

Postscript- Tasunke's comment about armor and fatigue is a fair idea. While I'm deathly opposed to heavy amor people having large speed penalties in actual combat, I think that greater fatigue from using heavy armor is entirely fair. Not a huge difference though; I still find it important to remember that people who fought in heavy armor were trained and conditioned for it.

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October 26, 2009 1:03:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting keithLamothe,

Those of you worrying about complexity.  Is it because you don't want to think, or because you're worried about how long it will take you to do the combat?Neither, concerned about costs in design time, logic/ui/ai development time, and testing time.  Not so much concerned about the time costs themselves as about the consequences of features being implemented in less than adequate time such that the logic is buggy, the ui is inadequte, and/or the ai doesn't intelligently handle it.  Or that happens to some other feature (combat-related or otherwise) because it was squeezed too much by this stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I want something around the complexity of MoM's combat (preferably with things like finite-but-non-melee-ranged abilities added on, and perhaps a few other things), which is higher complexity than I'm seeing in the SD posts on the subject.  But having blunt/slashing/piercing weapons, formations, flanking bonuses, etc, etc... could get pretty nasty compared to the finite time budget.

 

I'd also add balance, and difficulty learning the game for newer people to this sort of thing, to the potential problems mentioned in the first paragraph.

 

Also, a game doesn't necessarily need a lot of stats, formation options, odd combat rules, etc., to produce interesting effects.  A lot of suggestions here (Like lots of different damage types), seem like they would add complexity without adding much interesting to gameplay that couldn't be added through a simpler system.

 

And, as I've mentioned before in another couple of posts, the rest of the game (economy, diplomacy, etc.) will add complexity to the game as a whole, and stacking those other elements on top of a combat system could be a bit much.

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October 26, 2009 1:35:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Roslolian,
Anyhow, the problem with complexity isn't a matter of thinking. It's a matter of micromanagement. Games have wisely moved away from micromanagement as a key component precisely because most things that can be micromanaged can also be automated and kept from bogging down the experience. Micromanagement adds a level of player control, but not meaningfully so.

I agree about micromanagement, but there's another issue for me as well.

It's not that I don't like thinking about games, that's actually a part I enjoy. The problem with a lot of games is that, once I do think about it, most of that complexity disappears. In practice, the game is much simpler and a lot of the complexity is wasted.

There's a big difference between what I'm going to call meaningful complexity and meaningless complexity. Meaningful complexity is something that provides the players with a variety of useful options. Meaningless complexity provides a bunch of options, but most of them turn out to be useless. The bad options are also newbie traps, something that looks like a good idea unless you know better.

This applies to a lot of the things that have been discussed in this thread - unit stats, damage types, formations, morale, and so on.  If the game lets you put your units in formation, but the formations don't have any real effect? If there are formations but one of them is so much better than the others that you use it all the time? Then it's meaningless complexity and wasted development effort.

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October 26, 2009 1:52:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'd also add balance, and difficulty learning the game for newer people to this sort of thing, to the potential problems mentioned in the first paragraph.

Catering a game so that its friendly enough so that someone new to the genre won't have any trouble figuring it all out in short order is a great way to guarantee that the people who would otherwise actually stick around and play the game for years to come will quickly get bored and lose interest.

Obviously you don't want to make a game that will be completely overwhelming to someone new to the genre, but it should not be easy or them to figure out all the ins and outs. Easy to learn, hard to master is a good adage. A Total War-like combat system with magic thrown into the mix is not hard to learn. It's very straightforward, on the surface. But it can be quite difficult to 'master.' Figuring out how to do tactical combat of this sort is not hard - send your hitty guys up to the enemy and have them smack each other with all sorts of sticks. And have your shooty guys sit back and shoot at them. My mother could figure that much out. But it really starts to shine once you start figuring out how morale, flanking endurance and all those things work out. When you first look at it it looks quite simple, really, but as you starting figuring out the details, you realize that there are many more options and strategies available to you than you might have realized at first.

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October 26, 2009 2:30:31 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

 

What I would like to see in elemental comabt, and what some people have mentioned the gist of but not seemingly overtly put out there,  mostly related to experience as not too many people have mentioned it..

1. In a real world configuration, experience wouldn't give you more HP and defence, but would teach you something : new abilities/skills.

So for this game, if your regiment/group of troops manages to win some battles and earn enough experience to be promoted to a various level, they should have the ability to specialize in certain skills and abilities. These areas could be highly moddable, allow for uniquely customisable armies and would make the battles more fun to watch.

For example, a swordsman could have a chance of smacking out another solider with his shield. Or an archer formation could specialise in quicker reloading or firing in volleys or firing flaming arrows or utilising blades for better meele combat.

These could be activated, or % based, depending on the skill chosen. Archers who choose to fire two arrows at once could be activated, compared to pikemen who could spin-attack for extra aoe and damage based on %.

In short, only with experience an not available for green new units, a fighting unit can learn a new ability, that vastly increases the value of the unit. Higher promoted units could have 2 or 3 chosen abilities, or specialise even further in their chosen extra. These could all be modable.

2. With experience comes more morale, which  is personified directly in the veneration of a Figurehead unit/leader from within the experienced group.

Basically, once a troop unit gains a small amount of experience, they appoint one of their own as a (don't know the proper terminology) sergenent/general/slightly more promoted then the other troops. Think like a mini-hero.

This serves three purposes.

A. it allows for the strategic option of killing the experienced units figurehead, and lower morale. Or facing the consequences of mid-battle warcrys from the leader for increased morale etc A unit would always have it's hero, even if the sovereign is not around.

B. It allows for a more personal feel/name of a unit. RICO'S ROUGHNECKS!!! etc

C. Allowing for a more personal name for your general/unit leaders means that very highly experienced and venerated unit leaders make good marriage potential candidates! This allows for the much more complicated idea that you can marry a rival empires daughter/sovereigns daughter to your top experienced general, boosting loyalty desire to fight etc

3. Experience based on previous fight locale/people.

This is mentioned by a previous poster, but the idea of experienced based on who/where fights have taken place. These are all only  bonuses. These could be shown by specialist badges/callsigns or titles.

A unit could fight a dragon and slay it, and would then have much greater bonuses when facing dragons. Or units involved in sieging a town gain bonuses effective for sieging. Or units skilled in leadership assassination gain bonuses for speed and GTFO-alive(don't know how to convery the meaning properly ) abilities.

Also, Sun Tzu style, figthing regularly against a certain nation/army makes your army gain experience fighting them. This could include starting morale/other bonuses based on previous fights, easier chance of adapting to their tactics in automated fights, identifying key leaders/heros/personnel faster.

3a. If implementing the above, allow for Army history. So a timeline of the major events/battles/experience earnt/leaders lost in an armies lifespan viewable at anytime in the tactical map/endgame. Postable online etc.

These are my ideas.

edit. Reply #123 MilConDoin - great idea

 

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October 26, 2009 4:16:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Real weapons are not simply RPS.  RPS is the shortcut, a really bad abstract.

 

A pike is not a useless weapon against infantry, it's actually insanely effective against them, just like against horse.  It's how the pike is used, more than what the pike is used against.  When facing a charge, there is no better weapon to be armed with.  When not facing a charge, you're boned.  It's a weapon that strikes first, using the charge bonus against you.  After that it's just a long, pointy stick that would be a lot easier to handle if it were half the length.

 

I can see the concern with how much of a resource requirement is needed to make combat complex, but you're talking about a fairly minor aspect of the game.  They already have to design the main AI.  They have to effectively deploy forces, gather resources, build infrastructure, plan and counter assaults, take and hold new territories.  Next to that, the battle AI will be a simple matter.  TW complexity is asking too much, but translating Warhammer into real-time isn't that difficult at all.

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October 26, 2009 4:40:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Real world experience does not teach anyone new abilities. People do not magically learn spinning attacks by getting better with their weapons. In fact, more experience suggests simpler techniques rather than flashy fiddling.

Pikes are vulnerable once you get in their range. But yes, they are superb weapons otherwise. That's what I mean; focus on how weapons interact with one another rather than any abstract RPs or any overly complex damage type matchings. Pike's are not as useful against ranged weapons (see the advent of firearms), and pike formations were typically decimated by buckler and sword formations that could get in close.

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October 26, 2009 6:55:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting pigeonpigeon,

I'd also add balance, and difficulty learning the game for newer people to this sort of thing, to the potential problems mentioned in the first paragraph.

Catering a game so that its friendly enough so that someone new to the genre won't have any trouble figuring it all out in short order is a great way to guarantee that the people who would otherwise actually stick around and play the game for years to come will quickly get bored and lose interest.

It seems you misunderstood the problem I was pointing out with a very complex system.

The sort of problems I was referring to were along the lines of the "newbie traps" mentioned in post 183.  If a system has too many stats and combat rules, it will be really hard for a newer player to find a good place to start, figure out why something is going on, and have an idea of what they need to change to work the game better.  (This was my experience in a number of games.)

There certainly are plenty of games with relatively simple mechanics (Starcraft, civilization games, for the best examples), that have survived for quite a long time.  Inthese sorts of games, though, the individual mechanics are in general quite simple, and the games do not have a lot of special combat rules and stats, however, the mechanics that are there build up into enough complexity to be fun for a long time.  Those sorts of simple, but can be combined in interesting ways, mechanics are the ones I like.

 

*just to list things out again that I like:

morale

stamina

unit direction

weapon reach

terrain effects

special abilities (If not overdone)

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October 26, 2009 8:37:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's not really just a matter of 'catering to someone new' by making the game simpler. Quite the opposite, I'd say.

Because the thing about newbie traps in a game is that they look like good options, but experienced players know better. So the game may actually have 100 options, but you, as an experience player, will realize that some options are better than others, and you won't use the worse options. So for you, the number of meaningful options is less than 100, usually much less.

You can see clear and obvious examples of this all the time. A fighting game with 50 characters, but the serious players all seem to play the same 3 or 4 'best' characters. An RPG where you've got 20 different classes, but there's one in particular that is the best at everything, so you field a party of only that class. A game has diplomacy, economy, and military paths to victory, but Military is so much easier that you have to specifically make an effort not to wipe out the other players before you can win some other way.

A more subtle variation of this can occur in a system where you have a dozen stats, but one stat in particular is way more useful than anything else, you're better off just dumping everything into that stat. This can happen if, say, my high 'Speed' stat lets me go first, strike an enemy, evade their counterattack, and then move out of range. Meanwhile the player who invested in 'Strength' finds that he does slightly more damage when he hits, but misses way more often and can't even catch my unit.

So the situation here is that, to a newbie who is just seeing the game for the first time, it looks complex because there's this big impressive list of 100 different options. But to the veteran player, that list of options shrinks down to the 10 or 20 'best' options that beat everything else, and so the game is siginificantly less complex. This is a bad game.

What a good game should have is exactly the opposite of this - a system that, to a newbie who is just seeing it for the first time, looks simple and intuitive, but to the veteran player has lots of tactical complexity and variations.

Quoting SolarBall,

*just to list things out again that I like:

morale
stamina
unit direction
weapon reach
terrain effects
special abilities (If not overdone)

Well... this raises a question for me. The combat mockup (which we're not supposed to infer anything from, right?) showed a battlefield with units on a grid. And the overall game s going to be turn-based battle on a grid, so is that the plan, then?

Because a square grid could actually simplify the implementation of several of these. Unit Facing is straightforward, you have either 4 or 8 facings depending on whether diagonals count, and you nominate one as 'front' when you move. Weapon Reach could... possibly be handled in squares, but it really depends on how big the squares are. Terrain effects, obviously easier to say 'this square has these traits' rather than trying to calculate stuff out for a 3d landscape.


Morale and Stamina are a different case...  I'm not sure it's actually any harder to doo, I just can't think offhand of any games that use unit morale/stamina that aren't real time. I'm probably just forgetting them, rather tired at the moment.

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October 26, 2009 8:50:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting SeanenG,
A more subtle variation of this can occur in a system where you have a dozen stats, but one stat in particular is way more useful than anything else, you're better off just dumping everything into that stat. This can happen if, say, my high 'Speed' stat lets me go first, strike an enemy, evade their counterattack, and then move out of range. Meanwhile the player who invested in 'Strength' finds that he does slightly more damage when he hits, but misses way more often and can't even catch my unit.

So the situation here is that, to a newbie who is just seeing the game for the first time, it looks complex because there's this big impressive list of 100 different options. But to the veteran player, that list of options shrinks down to the 10 or 20 'best' options that beat everything else, and so the game is siginificantly less complex. This is a bad game.

What a good game should have is exactly the opposite of this - a system that, to a newbie who is just seeing it for the first time, looks simple and intuitive, but to the veteran player has lots of tactical complexity and variations.

This is a pretty convincing argument, to me. 

You can see the same thing happen with WoW talent trees. Sure, it looks like you have lots of talents. In reality as an experienced player, 95% of the time if you're playing seriously you pick what area of the game you want to excel it (PvE raid healing in my case) and you pick the best talents for that. The result is that you only see a handful of talent setups among all the people doing that role. There's something like five builds that cover the overwhelming majority of Holy Priest raiders, and even among those five the variances are small (a few talent points out of 71). When someone actually uses the choice to do something radically different, it tends to go badly.

 

Quoting SeanenG,

Morale and Stamina are a different case...  I'm not sure it's actually any harder to doo, I just can't think offhand of any games that use unit morale/stamina that aren't real time. I'm probably just forgetting them, rather tired at the moment.

Soul Nomad on PS2 had a stamina system, I found it more annoying then anything else. Honestly I don't think I've ever seen a stamina implementation that I've liked. If Elemental didn't bother with it at all, I wouldn't shed any tears.

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October 26, 2009 10:40:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's not really just a matter of 'catering to someone new' by making the game simpler. Quite the opposite, I'd say.

Because the thing about newbie traps in a game is that they look like good options, but experienced players know better. So the game may actually have 100 options, but you, as an experience player, will realize that some options are better than others, and you won't use the worse options. So for you, the number of meaningful options is less than 100, usually much less

My response was not directed at you or your comments - I completely agree with you about 'newbie traps.' SolarBall's first sentence was worded very differently, though. 'Newbie traps' are problematic for everyone while they're learning a new game, although the more experienced players of the genre will figure them out much faster than someone playing a 4X game for the first time. These so-called traps should be avoided for more reasons than to just save the uninitiated - they should be avoided because anything that is not going to be used, for one reason or another, by anyone who knows what they're doing should not be there because there is no reason for it to be there. If no one uses it then it contributes nothing and is just a vestigial waste of space. It being confusing to new players is just a side effect of the more fundamental problem.

More on topic: foregoing potentially interesting unit stats such as morale/endurance/magical resistances, etc because some of them might make others obsolete or be worthless is silly. That risk is simply a reason why it would need to be done right (which is definitely possible). Of course this would take more time then just slapping on ATK, DEF and HP and calling it a day, and it is just a question of whether the reward is worth the development time - which in my opinion it certainly is.

And for the sake of clarity, I think there should be: ATK, DEF, HP, magic resistance, speed and morale. Those, IMO, are the most important. Endurance, physical damage mitigation, damage and a small handful of others could be incorporated for interesting results as well but I wouldn't miss them too much if they don't make it in. This does not include things like weapon characteristics, which are an intuitive and powerful way of achieving really interesting combat.

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October 26, 2009 10:51:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I will harp once more on my problems with emphasizing speed as a particular attribute. Mobility and speed are different things, and speed in most games usually does become relatively unbalanced. As has been mentioned, people who fight in heavy armor are trained and conditioned for it. They are not substantially slower in combat than people wearing less armor. However, they do maneuver slower and don't get into the places they need to be as quickly. Thus the difference between "speed" and "mobility." Mobility is good to emphasize; speed is silly. The simple fact is that until you invent weapons that deal with armor, more armor is always better than less. Arguing that less armor somehow balances out with more armor on the grounds of speed (or even that there is a significant payoff) is entirely contrary to history.

Once again, I indicate Agincourt as an example of how mobility can make a legitimate difference. Heavily armored cavalry found it difficult to maneuever and it exposed them to attacks from afar. When they finally closed, the muddy ground proved troublesome against their lighter foes who were not as hindered by the terrain. Neither of these are related to an attack "speed" rating of the fighters. They reflect mobility, which is based on ability to manuever and on terrain.

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October 27, 2009 2:13:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

What a good game should have is exactly the opposite of this - a system that, to a newbie who is just seeing it for the first time, looks simple and intuitive, but to the veteran player has lots of tactical complexity and variations.

That's what I'm/was arguing for, actually.  (If a system is simple and intuitive, it's easier to start learning how everything works, go from there, as opposed ot a system with lots and lots of stats, where figuring this sort of thing out is harder)

Because a square grid could actually simplify the implementation of several of these. Unit Facing is straightforward, you have either 4 or 8 facings depending on whether diagonals count, and you nominate one as 'front' when you move. Weapon Reach could... possibly be handled in squares, but it really depends on how big the squares are. Terrain effects, obviously easier to say 'this square has these traits' rather than trying to calculate stuff out for a 3d landscape.

What you describe is actually how I imagined the different mechanics being implemented.  (A bit of writing past each other went on here, it looks like).  The fact that the mechanics would be simple to include (but provide intere4sting gameplay, if done well) is exactly why I'd support adding them into the game.

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October 27, 2009 10:01:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting psychoak,
Those of you worrying about complexity.  Is it because you don't want to think, or because you're worried about how long it will take you to do the combat?
<...>Now, if you really don't like to think, well...

I could say the same (except the "combat" word) for those who won't want extra mechanics in non-combat and/or non-economic areas of the game because of hypothetical untested complexity. Yet I'd be called a fool (in best of cases) if I were to say it.

*sigh* The Crusade against those who only want a combat simulator has no end and is no fun...

Quoting Tormy-,

Fantasy games needs to have some realism in cases like this.

But fantasy games are nothing but a normal world with exceptions to our normal rules, be it creatures that don't really exist and the obvious presence of magic. For the rest, the world works as would work here, therefore, realism is important not just in morale. So it's a matter of knowing which elements we can use and to which degree we want to represent them in the game.

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October 27, 2009 10:28:02 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As long as we can avoid the mindless type of "stack" from HoMM ... 1000 peasants attacking per turn with dragon-like strength? K -no thanks. Have fodder units actually be fodder, buying the elite units more time, while wearing at the enemy's fatigue ... and have morale be a penalty against excessive use of fodder unless they are highly well organized ... or otherwise coerced ... either by tortuous commisars, or by an archer division that will kill any who retreat.

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October 28, 2009 12:09:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Keep your crusade to yourself, I want supply lines and a line of sight FOW system combined with guerrilla tactics through complex stealth capabilities based on terrain conditions.

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October 28, 2009 1:44:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

sounds decent, (stealth capabilities) ... maybe in the form of high-end equipment which translates all training into stealth as opposed to extra HP? and type of equipment depends on where they can hide the best?

Of course, if you have read my environmental type post, then you should know that various human factions should get a racial bonus in their homeland, perhaps by being easier to hide in the woods, or the mountains, or the desert, or the  jungles, or the snow, depending on the environmental race.

Plains wouldn't get any "bonuses" per se, but would gain the advantage of being home in the most central and common environmental type. (although having large mountain ranges, jungles, tundra, deserts, and deep forests would certainly be nice) .... at least so far as its natural non-wasteland state. And then turning land into a particular terrain based solely on the desires of the sovereign (like moar desert) would cost some degree of essence.

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October 29, 2009 12:02:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting onomastikon,
Many of the questions you pose will depend on one major factor about which we do not yet have conclusive information: Will, like in most games, areas only be able to contain units of one side? That is, whenever a unit or an army of one side enters a tile occupied by another player, will there be a conclusive battle so that only one side remains? Many games treat tiles like this; but not all. If not -- that is, if tile occupancy is not disjunctive -- that opens up a whole new set of options for combat. For example: Since combat need not be conclusive, because during one time period an army may not totally eliminate the other side, there could be combat rounds during which faster units might attack first; but also combat rounds, in which units with faster weapons might attack first; that is, one could imagine that a combat turn have, for instance, 10 distinct combat phases, in which during the first phase, all piercing weapons get an attack (if a target is in range), the second round, all slashing; the third round, all piercing again; the fourth, all bludgeoning; the fifth, all slashing again; the sixth, arrows; the seventh, all combat spells; the eigth, all area of effect weapons (fire breathing dragons); the ninth, the bludgeoning again; the tenth, all catapults. (It's just an arbitraty example, much like the old AD&D initiative system, just slightly more so.) If your side has no weapons of that type, nothing happens; some of the heavier-hitting weapons might hit harder, just later. Whoever is left alive at the end of those 10 turns, remains in the that square together with the enemy. This might give slightly more raison d'etre to different weapon types. This system works very, very well in the game Star Chamber, for example.

Nevertheless, even if the more traditional type of battle system is chosen -- tile occupancy is disjunctive, hence all battles must be conclusive and fought for how ever many rounds it takes to clear the field, or whatever -- I believe that different weapon types might not be merely gratutious (e.g. more complexity for complexity's sake), but more "fun". Why? Because if implemented with a clever counterpart (armor), there will be more strategic choices available, and the strategic element of reconaissance (spying, scouting, information gathering) becomes more important: Is my opponent utilizing more ranged weapons, more mounted, more siege, more blunt, more slashing, or more piercing? If so, I should research and build accordingly: Armor could come in three main types (you could call it light, medium, or heavy; leather, chain, plate; the nomenclature wouldn't matter), from which players can create "pure" versions (e.g. Valyrian Plate, 100% type 3) or hybrid versions (e.g. Bob's Mounted Knight Armor, 20% Leather, 60% Chain, 20% Plate). Armor mitigates damage by subtracting its value from the damage done to its target; but some armor is better at mitigating an offensive type than another. Chain or Medium armor (or whatever you want to call type 2) should mitigate offensive damage to its full value vs. Slashing (or whatever type 2 attack is called) at 100% of its value, but mitigates piercing at only 30% and bludgeoning at 20%. That is, a pure Chain Mail armor with a AC of 10 should subtract 10 points of damage from every successful slashing attack, but only 2 points of damage from every successful bludgeoning attack. Similar rules apply for Piercing / Light and Bludgeoning / Heavy.

Additionally, you may want to consider how you would like to implement your intuition that faster Mongol-like units should be superior to (unprepared) infantry: do you mean that light mounted troops should have vastly superior strategic map moves through steppe-like terrain? (I believe they should.) Or do you mean that light mounted troops should have vastly superior tactical moves (on the tactical battle grid)? (I believe they should.) Yet if the latter is the case, you need to consider how you want the tactical playing field set up; the little we have seen so far indicates that there is not much room. If an opponent merely spams her field full of infantry, the light Mongols will have no way to maneuver around. How much movement do you want on the tactical field? It seems to me that there might be reason to want to have a LOT more room/movement, if your Mongol horde is to succeed as you believe it should.

Other elements I would like to see included in combat are, in all brevity:

- Armor: Armor should not add HP, but mitigate damage. (This way, some earth spells can explicitly affect armor, while others might do direct HP damage, bypassing armor.)

- Armor Piercing / Double Armor Piercing / Triple AP / Etc: Armor Piercing might be a flag attribute which lowers the damage mitigation armor does by 50%; having double AP does not lower it more than 50%, but merely be effective against Hardened Armor.

- Hardened Armor / Double Hardened Armor / Triple HA / Etc: Hardened armor is tempered to avoid Armor Piercing effects. Armor with the HA flag will disregard the first level of Armor Piercing; if a weapon has Double AP however, it will still cause its armor piercing effect vs. armor and hardened armor, but not Double-hardened armor. A weapon with 4x AP will still only cause 50% armor mitigation reduction, but will do so vs. even Triple Hardened Armor. Scouting your enemy will become very important!

(The law of diminishing returns should apply to this universally: If it takes X resources (time, valuables) to give a weapon the Armor Piercing or a piece of armor the Hardened Armor flag, it should take more to make Double, and more than twice that for Triple.)

- To-Hit: A target's attack value must exceed a target's defense value in order to score a hit. Random factors can / should play a role (no pun intended) here. One could imagine that this random value can be easily modded or even changed in the game setup screen. For example, you might choose at the start of each game: Should the To-Hit calculation be (Attack + d4) - (Defense + d4) >= 0 for a hit, or d6, d10?

- Damage: Melee Damage = (Strength + Weapon bonus) - Armor value.

- Statistics: Ideally, you will want every unit in the game (not only the sovereigns) to have something like strength, dexterity, constitution and willpower values, so that these might become (in a patch, in an expansion, in a mod) affected by spells. Strength is the value added to melee weapon damage, dexterity determines Attack and Defense, Constitution should help determine HP and resistance to poison and possibly fatigue, while Willpower should determined resistance to many types of magic spells and morale. Potions should affect statistics in this way.

- Defense: Should be a value reflecting the units ability to avoid melee blows. Armor should have nothing to do with this. If anything, Armor should have a negative affect on a unit's defense value. (The higher the armor rating, the higher the penalty to Dexterity.) Default might be Defense = (Dexterity + training specialty) - Armor penalty.

- Attack: The ability to score a hit. Default could be Melee Attack = (Dex/2 + Str /2) + training specialty, while Ranged attack might be pure Dexterity.

- HP: HP could be a factor of size and constitution, with additional training to reflect "combat hardiness".

- Injury: A unit which suffers HP damage should not be as effective as a unit which does not. A unit which takes HP damage should have to make morale checks (which it should also do should a leader fall) and have its abilities reduced in relation to the gravity of the wound (5 of 10 HP should be quite serious and should reduce the effectiveness of that unit by more than if it had only taken a 2-HP blow).

- Fatigue: I would like to see fatigue, but would not think it necessary. Anyone who has ever engaged in serious combat sports (I do mixed martial arts at a semi-competetive level) knows that fatigue is *the* single most crippling factor, at least in unarmed hand-to-hand combat. It would be nice to see if performing a combat action (attacking, moving, defending) could cost a certain amount of fatigue points. Ideally (a patch, an expansion) it would be nice to have units be able to have an "Exertion" slider, which would let them "save their energy" by performing tasks at higher energy levels (yielding full damage, full defense values), while they could set the slider to 20% and have their respective values reduced by that amount, but also only suffer a mild fatigue cost.

- Reach: You are not going to have unit types ("Pikemen", "Knights"), but you might want to have something to model the useful paper-scissors-rock effect that these unit types bring. Pikemen are good vs. mounted units precisely because their long but bulky weapons let them "hide" from a fast-moving mounted attack, yet the pike is clumsier once an opponent penetrates the distance. You won't have "pikes", but you could include weapon length: the longer, the slower, but better vs. first attack against an opponent with a shorter weapon.

- Stances/Special Moves: I dont think this absolutely necessary, but nice to have (expansion, patch): A unit could be give various "choices", much like the common D&D RPG menus on the market (ToEE, NWN): act defensively, hide behind shield, all-out attack, feint, usw. -- the more combat research done and applied to that unit in training, the more options that unit has. Conceivably, the different between an elite crack unit and a green unit might be in its number of options. One could consider that some of the "options" be special "combat moves" they could "purchase" in training, which requires both a longer time required to train, a training master in that barracks where the unit was trained, and the prerequisite combat research. One could imagine that a unit could purchase a "jab" (+2 attack, +1 defense) move option, and perhaps later a "riposte" (+2 attack, +6 defense) or a "roundhouse" (+8 attack, +6 damage, -2 defense). Perhaps you want only Leaders / Commanders to have these options, I don't know. Each unit could come with the default move "attack", perhaps. I think your currently implemented "card system" could display this nicely, a little icon on the card for each "move" a unit is capable of. Perhaps combat research has different branches according to different "styles" -- one branch might teach you more of the "Water Dancer" moves (Brad apparently likes R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series -- imagine these being defensively-oriented moves with large boni to piercing weapons and smaller ones to slashing weapons), while another branch, let's call it Iron Fist, lets you unlock moves which are more offense-oriented and give large boni to bludgeoning and small ones to slashing. This would have the side effect of making research more variable and exciting, as well as adding a nice amount of smaller "milestones". I could imagine a nice pack of 50-100 moves being included in the game (expansion).

- Combat Experience (veteran units who have seen battles): in addition to giving a unit increased morale, attack, and defense values, you might also consider having a mini-upgrade system available, somewhat like CivIV: some units could spend their XP-points on specialties. For most of these specialties, however, you will need "types", since the game does not have a flag for "is a knight" or "is a maceman" or "is an archer" -- this would be another reason to implement a damage type system (piercing, slashing, bludgeoning with its armored counterparts). Experienced units might get a "banner" marker, which means that other units in their squad are less likely to rout. Perhaps combat experience can let a unit purchase one of the above-mentioned "Special Moves", or a portion of one (e.g. "jab" costs 1 experience point, but "hare kajima" costs 5.)

- Unit speed will probably need to be tied in somehow to the amount of resources (not time spent training) a unit is equipped with plus the speed bonus a mount would give; intuitively, a heavily armored infantryman should be slower than a lightly armored one; a heavily armored mounted unit should be slower than a lightly armored one. I think this will be hard to implement, however -- how are you going to distribute the "heavy" attribute to equipment?

Argh, must go, my baby is crying -- will write more later. Sorry so inarticulate

After reading the many fine constructive posts people have added in the meantime, and after finally being able to write again, I would like to reiterate only a few points which I believe still worthy of further discussion. I think most of my ideas on armor and statistics were elucidated and voiced by other people in other words, so I will say no more on that, but rather concentrate on:

- Biggest Mistake / Danger: I think the largest error would be made in wanting to have combat trim and tidy (like CivIV) while simultaneoulsy adhering to a system of open research and classless units. CivIV could afford to have such a tidy system, because every single unit had at least two classes to which it belonged and as which it was flagged: A family (e.g. melee, gunpowder, naval) and a species (e.g. "maceman", "knight" or "tank"). Elemental will not have this luxury. This dual-class system was necessary for CivIV, and worked fairly well, because it allowed for a very simply combat mechanism while simultaneously allowing for strategic counters and choices, because some units simply worked better vs. other families and/or species, while some were particularly vulnerable. Strategic fun requires strategic choices, and scouting and creating counters is a big part of that. If you will not supply Elemental with certain family-like flags (such as "is blunt damage" or "is siege" or "is light armor" or "is fire damage" or "is mounted" etc.), you will be in danger of having lots of what appears, on a superficial level, to be variety -- but it will fail in being variety precisely because it will not differ in a substantial way. Soon, that will become boring, because one unit will always merely be "better" than another unit (damage output per turn divided by HP), and not better for something else; there will always be an easily calculatable "better" solution, and if there is no thinking required, there is no real strategic choice in deciding which tech to research and which unit to build. AD&D 3E rules get around the apparent simplicity of "damage" by having family-flags built into the character class system. Star Chamber only has "damage", but works around it by having 4 distinct flags for different weapon damage, and each weapon MUST have one and only one flag. We will need something that guarantees strategic choices too, because a no-brainer = no fun.

Now on to specific ideas I wanted to elaborate further:

- Earning "Special Moves" Actions: I think that this would be an elegant way to "level up" veterans of battles and integrate into a research system. While each unit you train as soon as you learn any warfare technology might have the default action ability "attack" and "defend", researching warfare tech further should be able to unlock further milestones in the form of additional action options. Furthermore, this might lead warfare technology to develop a true "tree"-like structure with branches reflecting the various paths one can choose ("archery"/"ranged", "fencing", or whatever you want to call it); milestones might include unlocking the ability to create more powerful units, but also the ability to give those units with the correct prerequisites the ability to perform additional combat action options, perhaps after having earned combat experience, like those I listed above (e.g. "jab", "riposte", "roundhouse", "charge", "feint", "hamstring", etc.). One could imagine that some options require certain armaments as well (a shield, an attacking device, or a specific combat enemy, such as vs. a mounted unit).

- Weapon Speed: I had hoped this game would be as far from a RTS as possible, and that there would be discrete turns. Given that, I think there is no need for weapon speed, as long as a unit could gain the ability to attack twice, thrice, or more numbers of times in a turn (perhaps due to combat experience or magical ability, but NOT due to training or tech) and given statistics for defense and armor. I hope there will be no need for weapon speed.

- Injury: That is perhaps one thing that CivIV got right: A damaged unit is less effective. How unsatisfying are most games, in which a unit with 3 of 88 hitpoints is still just as robust as an uninjured one. HP reduction should yield offensive, defensive, and movement restrictions on par with its level of HP reduction -- there might be no need for Dominions3's complicated system of afflictions. You will, however, need to clarify how you want healing to be done.

- Open Questions and Stealth: Do you want all your units to "meet on the field" and "fight until no one is left standing"? Or do you want there to be confrontations in other settings? Do you want a turn to represent a period of time in which a battle could not be conclusively ended (so that the remaining forces might disengage and move onward or retreat or continue to fight next turn)? How should stealthy units be found, how can and should they engage in combat, what exactly can they see? Will there be other tactical battle settings than the battlefield?

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October 29, 2009 12:33:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Oh, definitely perks, specials, and different weapon/armor relations.

I would like for choice of weapon and armor to be an interesting strategic choice, rather than simply boiling down to what I have more of (although if aquiring resources is made to be strategic, then please do so as well)

Certain weapons and armor will probably be found to be simply "better" even if they ARE extremely rare (like a mithril deposit or something, only good for equipping 300 soldiers, and taking 20 turns to completely mine the ore and synthesise into weapons/armor) ... however certain weapons like Swords, axes, spears, should have particular advantages and dis-advantages.

Perhaps Swords are more steady, better for elites, while Axes more favor the RNG, with possible large damage values, and possible critical misses ... perhaps better for mobs and mobs of thugs fighting against elites.

Perhaps Spears are best in tight formation, have best reach ... best over-all weapon if they come in the direction you are facing! ... a wall of spears is mighty, but a flanked spearman, or unit of spearmen, is quickly over-come.

Crossbows have highest damage, and are good for one or two solid volleys against a near enemy (also allows equipping a sheild for defense, unlike LBs), although Longbows are great for peppering enemies from far away, hiding in the woods/trees, running away, and also Longbows can carry wooden stakes, and can emplace them once upon the battle-field in order to deter (somewhat) enemy charges.

Perhaps short-bows have the fastest firing rate, and have chances for criticals, a sort of extremely short-range, hit-or-miss weapon that loves the RNG. (like the axe). Mace could be some-where in the middle, ect.

As far as manuever perks and defensive perks (upon level up, ect), there could be different perks for different armors, and while Heavies (plate) will learn to not lose endurance and take full use of their armor (somehow? shield-lore?) leathers and chains are better at Weapon-parries, disarmament, ect, while Leathers focus on Evasion as well as Excelling at Weapon-parries with lighter weapons.

Or something .... im just saying their should be some form of comparison, and it should lead to interesting strategic decisions.

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October 29, 2009 6:11:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, better resources for better weapons will solve the problem of going for the top, if we have a serious resource system that is.  When they simply take longer or cost more to produce, the game falls to a balance system that you have to find the fault in and exploit.  It goes from tactics and management, to a simple math problem, which one is more efficient.

 

As far as weapons go, real life is typically the best way to go when looking for what they do.  Crossbows in particular weren't actually that effective a weapon.  They were vastly inferior to the longbow.  The difference was skill.  It didn't take any to use one.  The English longbow was so feared because all the peasantry had to practice regularly.  It takes great strength to fully extend it.  The crossbow was less effective, but took far less training to use.  When you can stand on the end and use both hands to pull it back, you've got a really big edge unless you have an 800N draw.  If you do have one, the longbow is the closest thing to a rifle they had.

 

Edit: Tard mistake.

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