Which Should be Faster? Players or Enemies?

Should an enemies attack speed be faster than the players? Or should it be the other way around?

The player’s attack should be faster than enemies. Enemy attacks should always be 20 frames or more of startup, assuming 60FPS. You can dip below that into the 16 frame range if there’s a setup where the player knows to anticipate it. You can dip into the unreactable range only if it’s guaranteed in specific scenarios, so the player knows it will always happen going into those scenarios.

Players should generally be faster than enemies so they can deliberately choose to attack to beat out an enemy’s attack. The downside of this is players can continually attack a single enemy to beat them, always counterhitting their attacks on startup, but that’s what you have multiple enemies and super armor or poise for.

Dark Souls was smart and decided, “What if player attacks were on the same timescale as enemies, or only slightly faster?” Which makes committing to attacks versus enemies risky. Even in dark souls, average weapon startup tends to be slightly faster than enemy attacks.

If you have enemies be uniformly faster than players, then the player needs compensation in some way, like superior range, or whiff punish ability, to reasonably compete with enemies.

Would a Harder Zelda be as good as Dark Souls?

Do you think that the difficulty is important in defining the level of quality in a game’s combat? For example, if the Souls games were a lot easier, would the combat’s simplicity become more of a problem? Is the average Zelda game’s combat the equivalent to a much easier Souls game?

The average 3d Zelda game isn’t really equivalent to the Souls games because even if you run a 3 hearts challenge in Zelda, the game won’t get any deeper. I did this in Breath of the Wild, and the additional penalties aren’t bringing out more efficient use of alternative options, the base combat system largely lacks alternative options.

Souls did something super smart by having attacks from the player come out slower, it put the player on the same pace as enemies. It then has other factors like stamina, which help connect the system together, requiring you to manage that factor over time in addition to the complexities of combat. Stamina also discourages shield use, makes the shield system actually work by giving people a reason to not block. Dodges have iframes instead of purely being evasive. Etc.

You can’t just make Zelda games harder and end up with something like dark souls, you need to make the enemy designs more complex, and the design of each move more multi-faceted.

Difficulty is important for making players pursue the higher efficiency of using all their options, but it’s not everything. Difficult games aren’t better by default, and making a game too difficult can end up making the game extremely restrictive, eliminating depth from the game.

You want to encourage actual use of the widest array of options. Which means first, those options need to actually exist, and second that the difficulty needs to be high enough that they’re necessary, and not so high that they’re rote.

Further reading: https://critpoints.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/is-depth-not-enough-if-its-not-stressed/

Hollowing/Embering in Souls

Any thoughts about hallowing/embering in Souls, especially how it’s handled in 2?

Okay, so, the whole system starts in Demon’s Souls of course. You have body form and soul form. In body form you have full health, in soul form you deal more damage the more white your character tendency is. Then you have the cling ring, which is kind of hidden, but it’s available in the first level, gives you 75% of your health in soul form. Body form is restricted to non-renewable resources, bosses, and stones of ephemeral eyes. How often are you really gonna kill a boss or pop an eyestone to get full health? So what’s the real default health that the game is balanced around? Realistically, the game is balanced around you having half health, and full health is a bonus. Soul form is actually easier than body form. You don’t need body form at all to beat the game.

And these forms have another effect, they control online play, limiting the ability of people to summon help for levels. The bonus to damage in soul form means that invaders are balanced out against people in body form. And then there’s another knock-on effect, deaths in body form affect the world tendency of a given area, making body form increase the difficulty even more.

So what’s the purpose of this? How does it affect the game? It means occasionally you get this bonus to health, nerf to damage. What does that do? What problem does that solve? Not really anything. Realistically, you’re gonna play most of the game in soul form anyway, and if you’re not in the know, you have the potential to use up all your eyestones, make the world tendency of every area pure black and make the game super hard for yourself. Playing around with world tendency is pretty fun for players in the know who do repeat playthroughs, but the idea behind taking your health away and giving it back sometimes doesn’t seem to have a real purpose, it’s just there for flavor.

Dark Souls dumped the concept, made humanity renewable, just had forms affect the online element.

Dark Souls 2 did basically the same thing as demon’s souls, made human effigies non-renewable, gave you a 75% health ring at some later point, and made the decrease in health extremely gradual, but still balanced the game around the 50% health mark.

Then Dark Souls 3 was like, “Okay, people don’t really get that the health is supposed to be a temporary bonus to add some variance because it looks like we took something away from them, lets show it as a bonus instead” And they made embers renewable.

The whole thing gets played up a lot as being bad game design, “punishing” players for dying, making it so bad players are punished even harder. I saw one guy call it “republican dad game design”. I mean, the exact same thing happened in WoW with the rested/unrested bonus/penalty.
http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2010/03/framing-and-world-of-warcrafts-rest-system/

And people know about this now and still say they like Dark Souls 3 better for framing it as a bonus. People are dumb, about all I can say.

Favorite Nioh Bosses

Surprised no one’s asked you that much of Nioh outside of general impressions, do you have any favorite Bosses?

In order of appearance, Hino-Enma, Tachibana, Yuki-Onna, Okatsu, Saika, and Oda Nobunaga. Plus of course the combination fights of Oda and Yuki, and Tachibana and Honda.

I think each of these bosses emphasized the core group of skills that the game was based on, had varied movesets that controlled different areas of space over different lengths of time, and were generally challenging. They’re some of the best bosses I’ve ever faced in a video game. Continue reading

Why Dark Souls 2 is Worst Dark Souls

What makes Dark Souls 2 the worst game in the series?

A lot of things. Lets ignore the downgrade and everything involved in that.

Like, a lot of the shit with dark souls 2 was just people being disappointed because they were shown a better product than they actually got.

Probably the biggest thing I’d fault the game for is the return of healing items and Soul Memory. Giving a practically unlimited source of grindable healing was a terrible idea. Upgrading the flask over time made sense, but starting with only 1 flask was also terrible, meaning you’d have almost no healing in early areas where you needed it the most.

Soul memory was an attempt to prevent people from “twinking”, meaning collecting high power gear on a low level character, but it ended up making power levels even more disparate between PVPers, and it punished bad players who replayed areas a lot and lost a bunch of souls. Plus it eventually pushed everyone into the same soul memory tier on top, regardless of how powerful they actually were, and it made co-op with friends way more complicated. Invasions almost never happened (I literally did not get invaded once), it was a total mess.

The netcode was abysmal, somehow worse than the already bad netcode of its predecessors.

For some reason, if you used up all your stamina, you were not allowed to run until it all regenerated to the top, and then some, and if you used up some before it filled all the way, you still couldn’t run. In the other games this debuff only applied if you used up all your stamina by running and in games after this it only lasts to 75%. In DaS1 and DeS, you can undo the debuff by rolling or attacking.

I thought giving mini-bosses multiple lives was a good idea, but then it turned out you could kill any enemy repeatedly to despawn them, so being persistent through a tough level would slowly make the level easier, which is lame. This also acts as anti-grind, since you have a definite limit to how much you can grind, which is sort of good, but in all practical terms it sucks if you just need a few more souls to buy healing or want to get a specific rare item drop, and doesn’t realistically limit people enough to prevent grinding.

Fall Damage is calculated differently. Instead of the distance correlating to a percentage of your HP in damage, instead fall distances just scale a static amount of damage. So you always take the same amount of damage for a given fall distance, regardless of whether you have enough HP to survive it or not. I think this change was made purely to gate off the pit until you’re stronger or can afford the cat ring.

Recovery time relative to IASA frames in Dark Souls 2 is also highly skewed, so that on most attacks, you were negative on hit if you waited the entire recovery time, and positive if you canceled into a dodge or another attack. It’s just kinda weird.

Attacks for some reason have no hitstop, making them feel a lot weaker, and making it harder to tell whether they hit or identify the point of contact.

The adaptability stat was a wash, since it would invisibly add more iframes to dodges.

Then they had poison behave like toxic and drain health quickly, and they still kept toxic for some reason.

Mytha the Baneful Queen was just miserable, both that they decided to make an arena like that in the first place, and that you had to take a torch from the bonfire and set fire to the metal part of a windmill to get rid of the poison. That literally makes no sense.

Some enemies had hitboxes that made no sense, like the grab attack on the ogres, mimics, and a lot of different attacks on all the different giant enemies and bosses.

Vendrick and the ancient dragon were just poorly considered. They have like, infinity HP and will kill you in one hit. Plus the ancient dragon has a few attacks that are pretty much guaranteed to kill you if you’re not careful or if you’ve never seen them before, like him flying in the air and torching everything beneath him. Because of the massive amount of health they have, this fight goes on forever and you can’t take any damage during it.

The way dodges are implemented is really offputting. Instead of having different dodge animations of different speed and different iframes, equip burden affects the distance the dodge will move across, which isn’t actually that useful, since you usually want to have a lot of iframes, but stay reasonably close to enemies while moving around them. Instead, low equip burden in dark souls 2 doesn’t actually affect your iframes at all, it only changes the animation, and now with low equip burden, an attempt to roll around the enemy can move you really far away from them in the process, making it harder to punish enemies with dodge rolls at lower equip burden than at higher equip burden, unintuitively.

An additional weirdness of dodges is that the frames immediately after the iframes have hyper armor, so you can take damage during them. Since there’s no hitstop in this game, it doesn’t clearly register as a hit, it’s sort of like a phantom hit or something that you take damage for even though it seems like you avoided the attack. And the hyper armor makes it seem like you phased through the attack as if you were invincible, but you take damage anyway. This is especially disconcerting versus grab attacks, since you can appear to dodge them, then it catches you on the hyper armor frames and you teleport into the grab animation.

And the way you move around is just weird. You can sort of spin in place without moving, unlike the other souls games, and you won’t run if you’re up against a wall. I have no way of summing up how weird it is.

The jump is also kind of weird, but it has tradeoffs. Unlike in the other games, it’s actually a jump, but it’s a really small jump, but you can get way more distance off it. The downside is that sometimes you can get a “baby-jump” that doesn’t go anywhere. Nobody knows what causes this, people just know that it’s not random, but it happens without any known cause.

Beyond that, the game is just underwhelming in terms of its content. It didn’t really go out of its way to deliver masterful levels or enemies or bosses, they’re just average generally. It doesn’t have Dark Souls 1’s lows, but it also doesn’t have its highs. It’s more consistent, avoiding gimmick bosses, but the bosses & enemies aren’t amazing all around, just average.

Sure a lot of Souls question lately huh? Jumping on the bandwagon by bumping an old question of mine (DeS’s strong points and if it does something not completely outdone by its sequels) and asking more insight on DaS2’s animations and why people call them clunky, floaty and other buzzwords.

Sorry, I’m pending a replay of DeS to answer that one. Intuition tells me it holds up, I’m 90% certain, but I doubt my recollection.

I’d say primarily the issue with DaS2’s animations is that attack animations have a really long recovery compared to other games in the series. I just tested it and their IASA frames kick in really really late, and unlike the other games, don’t vary the IASA timing based on whether you hit an enemy or not (in Dark Souls 1, many weapons would take longer to recover on whiff than hit, in DaS2, they take the same amount of time regardless). Also it all feels kinda weird because it’s the first time From experimented with animation blending instead of just canceling the animations, so there’s an unnatural smoothness to the recovery as one animation leads into the other instead of a snappy instant response to let you know it’s totally done.

The other weird thing is that with a lot of weapons, you’re actually minus on hit. Your recovery animation is longer than the enemy’s hitstun animation, which is really weird feeling. So if you hit them, then try to walk away, you can actually get punished for that. This means you need to either spend stamina on dodge rolling out of the way, or use the weapon’s combo cancel point to do the next hit in the weapon’s combo, which will then put you back in the same situation of being minus on hit again. It’s weird, doesn’t feel right.

I think the reason they did this was to make whiff punishing more viable in PvP, just a guess, but it has weird consequences on the PvE.

That and the animations just aren’t as high quality. They’re serviceable, but not great. Not as much exaggeration as the other souls games, which is part of what helps sell the weight of the different motions. During the roll, your character moves at a constant rate and seems to glide across the ground, augmented by how the roll distance scales depending on your equip burden, so it’s playing the same animation scaled to different lengths than it was originally animated for.

Plus the way you accelerate in general is just weird. I can’t even describe it. Like, semi-rapidly rotate your stick, and instead of running around in a circle, you’ll be stuck in one place spinning around a central point. They changed something about the way walking itself works, and there’s so many possible ways they could do that, and it’s such a subtle thing, I can’t tell exactly what it is.

The Majesty of Dark Souls 3’s Backstab

Can you explain how the backstab mechanic is different in the Souls games and why you think 3 has it best?

Easy.

Backstab works basically the same in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. If you’re behind the enemy, standing within a certain area, and press R1, then at that moment both you and the enemy will play a joint animation where you backstab him. During this animation you’re both invincible. It’s sort of like a 0 frame throw in old versions of street fighter. Oh, and you can’t backstab if your shield is up.

This meant that backstab, no matter what weapon you had, was essentially instant and inescapable. Your only defense was preventing the enemy from getting behind your back at all. Backstabs were more powerful than regular attacks, so a lot of PVP was just about backstabbing and avoiding backstabbing.

In Dark Souls 2, they decided to mess with backstabs a little. Instead of instantly going into the combined animation where you’re stabbing them, they gave you a little punch animation first. This punch was unblockable and would cancel on hit into the full backstab. If it missed then nothing else would happen. This is a bit more like a modern fighting game throw. You have a chance to roll out or walk away before getting hit by it. This significantly reduced the role of backstabs in PVP, while keeping them viable. Backstabs were still really powerful in PvE however. Also from a thematic standpoint it’s kind of weird that you punch the guy then stab them, didn’t really match the prior games.

In Bloodborne it seems like they REALLY didn’t want anyone to fuck with backstabs at all. In order to get a backstab, you needed to charge your R2 attack all the way up and hit the enemy in the back with it, much like the positioning for backstabs in the other games. Then they’d become vulnerable and you’d get to do the 0frame throw thing for a ton of bonus damage. So overall you were getting a lot more damage out of successful backstabs in bloodborne, but it was a lot harder to set them up mid-combat, and they were now basically completely irrelevant to PVP.

In Dark Souls 3, they clearly wanted to have backstabs match demon’s souls and dark souls 1, and to do this they assembled a mechanic that’s practically a work of art. Basically, when you press R1 within the activation range, instead of directly entering a joint animation with the enemy, you’ll instead play a specific backstabbing animation. If the enemy stays close to you, then at a certain point in this animation, there’s an invisible unblockable hitbox that comes out that forces them into a joint animation with you, canceling whatever they were doing, and canceling your lone backstabbing animation into the joint backstab (using animation blending). If they aren’t in range of this hitbox, then you’ll just continue to play the lone backstab animation, which functions as a regular (slower) attack basically. So you smoothly either get a backstab or just stab without needing to punch them first like dark souls 2, and without an instantaneous startup like DaS1 and DeS.

HBomberguy Defending Dark Souls 2

What do you think of this defense of Dark Souls 2?

I was LITERALLY scripting a video like this, even with a similar title.

Okay, from the get-go, he correctly identifies that there’s a certain level of damage/health where games are most fun. I actually think this is generally correct, with a bit of leeway. The thing he overlooks is, he claims that the souls games are perfectly tuned, which is why they don’t have additional difficulty modes that slide these values up and down like FPS games do. The trouble is, the Souls games actually do have that. They have multiple forms of it actually, in the form of levels, Souls/Body Form and Hollowing, Estus Upgrades, NG+ cycles, and World Tendencies/Intensities. There’s things mucking with your current amount of health and damage all the time in Souls games. They just generally do a good job staying relatively close to the sweet spot, but if you choose to break it, that’s very easy to do. Continue reading

Souls on Speed

Is there anything the Souls series does better than Nioh?

Bloodborne has enemies pick up your bloodstain. That’s probably gonna be my best example.

Dark Souls 1 has a superb interconnected world.

Pretty much all the Souls games have better enemy variety and less area re-use.

Souls games have invasions + PVP.

Souls games have sicker speedruns.

Demon’s Souls has world tendency.

Souls games tend to have better economies.

Souls games have more aggregate weapon and attack types.

Souls games have a jump command. Continue reading

Dark Souls 3 DLC Review

How was Ashes of Ariandel?

Pretty good. Has a neat opening where you fight a bunch of spear chucking enemies and flame breathing enemies, then you can fall into a wide area where there’s a ton of wolves that track you for really long distances and aggro the pack. Plus there’s trees that can breath ice at you or send tons of little fire bullets at you and try to blend in with fake identical trees. There’s a gnarly tree section where you gotta go down tree branches like it’s the great hollow and fight giant ice crabs at the bottom. There’s another section off to the side where you fight larger humanoid enemies with some dogs and there’s an archer up on a tower that shoots down at you with dragonslayer arrows that embed in the ground and explode a short while afterwards.

They use multiple enemies very effectively across the whole DLC, usually giving one of them some type of unique ranged attack, like the swarm of fire bullets, or the enemy that could generate earthquakes at a long distance. Continue reading

Why does Bed of Chaos suck?

What exactly makes the bed of chaos fight bad? I don’t disagree its bad, I just don’t have a grasp of that kind of stuff like you do

So basically, there’s these two roots on each side. To kill bed of chaos, you need to run up to these roots and deal 1 hit to each of them. The bed has these two big hands that try to sweep you towards the center, dealing damage and knockback if you’re hit. Continue reading