Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights: Skulking in Real-Time

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 25, 2010

Okay, this isn’t really an update on the upcoming indie RPG Frayed Knights so much as a commentary from the trenches. Since my life these days seems to revolve around this frickin’ game…

As part of alpha, I’ve been going back and cleaning up levels and “modernizing” them with systems that hadn’t been implemented when I first built them. This means clearing out some ugly compromises with … well, less ugly compromises. And other stuff.

So I find myself in the hallway in the underground Pokmor Xang temple from the pilot, hiding from a Pus Golem patrol. This means keeping out of range or out of line-of-sight until they pass by.  It’s fun, although most of the time I’m happy enough to just charge the patrol and let the combat resolve itself. But as I’m attempting to balance things out, avoiding an encounter is often the best bet.

There weren’t patrols or visible encounters in the pilot. These are new.  So going back and revising the pilot area after all this time is… weird. And fun.

A note from the screenshots – patrols and guards are often represented as a single entity. But you never know exactly how many there are until you fight ’em.

Frayed Knights adopts the D&D combat convention of attrition and resource management of combat. In other words, you may have several fights that aren’t particularly challenging on their own, but in aggregate they wear you down. Sometimes it’s advantageous to try and avoid optional encounters on your way to the tougher fights in a dungeon. But leaving unexplored territory behind you can also be a detriment, as you may find the ones you ignored becoming reinforcements deeper in the dungeon, or that those optional areas contain equipment or secrets that can give you a leg up on later encounters.

Anyway, other than getting a little bonus experience points or silver, there’s not much to be gained by fighting through wandering encounters like this.  So it may be advantageous to dodge patrols like I’m doing now.

But there are a couple of things about it that bug me. Frayed Knights is a turn-based game.  Quite simply, if the player isn’t actively doing something (like moving), the clock ain’t ticking. If you stand in one place and do nothing, hours of real-world time can pass by without any in-game “turns” passing,  spell effects won’t advance their durations, etc. The patrols break this consistency. Patrols are a real-time event. While no new patrols will spawn while you are standing around doing nothing, if you happen to be near the route of an existing patrol, they will encounter you and initiate combat.  Which is, naturally, turn-based.

The other, less important issue is that it really isn’t any part of the “old-school vibe” I’m trying to achieve with Frayed Knights. No big deal, but I do tend to give a bit more scrutiny to those elements. And hey, I can think of at least a couple of RPGs as early as 1991 that would allow you do do stuff like that, which is old-school enough to me.

Ultimately, I try and use the nebulous “fun-factor” be my guiding star. I’m having trouble envisioning solutions to this little problem that aren’t more clumsy than the problem itself. So, for now, I’m inclined to simply put up with it and leave it as it is. It’s not a dominant gameplay element by any stretch, but skulking around and dodging patrols (or avoiding them until you are ready) in real-time is a go for Frayed Knights 1, until further notice. I hope people like it.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 8 Comments to Read

  • Kimari said,

    Yeah, these patrols break the consistency of the design but I’m wondering if that’s a good or a bad thing. After all, it’s precisely these types of breaks in consistency that allow the player to explore ways in which the system can be manipulated. Or in other words, find loopholes and cheats.
    It’s a design that sacrificies elegance for player exploration. It might bring unintended consequences but that’s part of the fun!
    And I’m all for it. As long as there aren’t many of these breaks in design concistency, it should be great exploring the systems to find ways to break the rules. After all, that’s a fun activity as far as I know.
    Some people will moan about it, sure. But we all know that those people are party poopers 😛

  • Greg Tedder said,

    I’m all for it. I really enjoyed this tradeoff in Wizardry 8. Depending upon party health, it either lead to excitement or panic. Despite the fact that this breaks true turn-based game-play, I have always liked seeing the fight coming. Among my favorites that made this compromise include:
    Chono Trigger
    Wizardry 8
    Lufia 2

  • McTeddy said,

    Etrian Odyssey 2 used a system of avoiding patrolling enemies too, despite being an attempt at old school adventure.

    While it may have broken the consistency of old school RPG’s, it never actually bothered me while playing. I was too busy trying to hide from monsters to realize that it wasn’t quite old school. It added a layer of tension to the game.

    Though the tension may of been related to the fact that patrolling monsters were on average 15 levels higher than everything on the floor and that I’d die if they found me.

    So, I don’t think I’ll mind the feature at all.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’ve been trying not to worry about it too much. It’s a fun thing, a supplement to the core gameplay rather than a critical element. Something fun. And I’m definitely not trying to replicate some kind of Thief-style gameplay here.

    Frankly, if players do somehow exploit it and bring about unintended consequences, as you say Kimari, I just hope they aren’t too embarrassing for me. But otherwise, yeah, part of the fun. You bought it, you play it however you want.

    Anyway, it seemed to be something of a compromise.

  • skavenhorde said,

    I like this decision a lot. I never liked the idea behind encounters that just popped out of nowhere. I want to see them coming.

    So don’t worry about it at all. It sounds like you are doing something similar to Wizardry 8. I had the same experience with Wiz 8 that Greg did. Seeing those encounters either brought up either excitement or panic.

    You can do no wrong by implementing a few “fun” elements. Especially if they’re from the Wizardry series. Just don’t get any inspiration from Wiz 4, please. That game kicked my butt from here to next Tuesday.

  • Calibrator said,

    Approaching enemies are far more realistic than the board game approach of drawing an “encounter card”. IMHO it’s one of the core advantages of a CRPG that is able to handle this kind of stuff automatically.

    I also don’t think that it makes gameplay necessarily easier: If you avoid too many encounters in a game where you *have* to improve your stats through combat you are hurting yourself in the long run. If on the other hand you want to spend your time grinding by killing off patrols you usually don’t know exactly in advance how strong the patrol really is. You can estimate, of course, but there’s always the element of surprise when the patrol has one strong captain or special weapons, for example…
    If the party is hurt you can of course try to avoid or escape from enemies and this alone can lead to fun. I also think it’s simply more dynamic and enhancing the game world positively.

  • Xenovore said,

    Plenty of “old school” RPGs have used this exact mechanism where travel/exploration is handled real-time while combat is turn-based. So no reason to even worry about it. It’s been done before, it works, go with it.

    If the concern is that the player is sitting in one spot with no game time passing, then tweak it so a turn passes every 3-5 seconds or something like that. Again, that’s something plenty of old school RPGs (Ultima) have done already.

  • Kimari said,

    @Xenovore: The problem with turns passing every X seconds is that it hurries the player in situations of poisoning and other harmfull effects that are activated at the start of every turn. It’s a very small change that has HUGE repercussions in the way the game is played: In dangerous situations you are either constantly aware that the clock is ticking or you take your time and think about your strategy. Somehow, I think Frayed Knights is a game better suited for the latter rather than the former.