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  • DevDiary 6 - Combat, Part one

    Combat, Part One

    Hello there! I am Boian Spasov and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a DevDiary on a subject that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time – combat! Yeah, it’s a big one - there is so much to talk about that a single article won’t be enough and you can expect a second combat DevDiary down the road.

    As stated in our first DevDiary “Game Vision” the combat is one of the pillars of Jagged Alliance 3. It is a deep, involved and realistic experience and is the single aspect of the game that we iterated on the most during development.

    Combat in Jagged Alliance 3 is turn-based with your entire team taking a turn, followed by the enemy team. During your turn you are free to activate your characters in any order and intermix action between them.

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    A typical character turn in many tactical games can be described as simply as “I move to this position and attack with this skill”. This level of abstraction is perfectly fine for these titles and we have seen how it can create deep and engaging gameplay, but for a simulative game like Jagged Alliance 3 we wanted more precise level of control over your character’s actions. How exactly do you move - will you hustle recklessly or carefully crawl to the target location? How exactly do you attack? Do you take your time to aim carefully? Will you attempt to cripple the target shooting a burst at their limbs or gamble for a killer headshot instead? This is achieved with several game mechanics working in concert, the most important of which are the Action Point system, the movement stances, the weapon firing modes and the body parts targeting system.

    Action Points

    All actions that a character takes during their team’s turn are limited by their available number of Action Points (AP). A simple action like crouching may cost only a single Action Point, while a more time-consuming action like a carefully aimed attack with a rocket launcher may consume most of the characters’ AP for the turn. Attack actions may be modified by spending additional AP to aim more carefully, increasing the chance to hit precisely with the net benefit from Aiming also depending on the weapon and the character stats.

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    An average rookie merc has around 10-12 AP per turn. This number is increased for veteran mercs and when conditions are favorable, like at high morale, but never too much. We intentionally kept the numbers relatively low to ease the mental calculations related to Action Points that players do each turn. However, even though the available number of AP is always displayed as an integer, it is internally stored with higher precision and certain very simple actions like moving at a short distance effectively cost only a fraction of an action point.

    Stances

    Characters are always in one of the three movement stances – standing, crouching or prone. Movement actions have different costs based on the chosen movement stance – crawling takes significantly more time than running the same distance but will realistically hide you from sight when you are behind an obstacle and is generally safer against firearm attacks and explosives. Conversely, if the enemy will attack you with a melee attack you will be at a disadvantage if you are crouching or prone.

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    When moving you can always lock your chosen movement stance, manage stances manually or let the game manage them automatically, switching to standing when this will optimize AP usage while moving but still ending the movement in your desired stance. This approach is not without risks – your characters are more exposed if they are running around standing between safer spots and if you expect to provoke an enemy attack it might be better to move crouched or prone.

    Firing Modes and Body Parts

    You have three important decisions to make when attacking – how many additional AP you are willing to spend aiming, what firing mode do you wish to use and a what body part to target. Firing modes are pretty straightforward - an automatic weapon, like an AK-47, is able to attack not only with single shots but also with burst an auto-fire attacks, shooting more bullets at the expense of accuracy and AP cost. Since bullets are simulated individually this also tends to create more chaos on the battlefield, but I will talk more about the bullet simulation further down.

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    With a double-barreled shotgun you can offload both barrels with the same attack, but you will have to reload afterwards. A dual-wielding character may alternate between firing with both weapons or just one of them by selecting the appropriate firing mode.

    Body part targeting allows you to try to hit a specific body part and inflict additional effects with the attack. Headshots are often difficult to pull of but deal massive damage, while arm and leg shots are often useful for crippling enemies that you will not be able to finish off during the current turn. Melee attacks may be targeted at the enemy neck, inflicting various crippling effects that depend on your weapon of choice.

    (Note that some of the following screenshots demonstrate some debug functionality available only to developers.  These shots are marked with “Dev mode enabled” in the bottom left corner and are not representative for the game visuals as seen by the players.)

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    Firing at a particular body part is only possible when you have a clear line of fire to it – as determined by the geometry of the level. Some body parts may be armored, presenting interesting moment-to-moment tactical choices during the battle.

    Body part targeting is never possible when you don’t have clear sight to the enemy like for example when you are firing at an enemy behind a wall…

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    Bullet Simulation

    Hitting someone behind a wall – what kind of sorcery is this? I apologize for getting a bit ahead of myself here, but I will explain immediately. Hitting enemies through walls and even through other enemies is possible in Jagged Alliance 3, thanks to our bullet simulation logic.

    The bullet simulation logic involves a set of calculations for each individual bullet fired, based on the caliber and type of the bullet as well as the materials encountered along its path (armor, bodies or environmental objects). Both accurate and inaccurate attacks may have various unexpected effects because of it, like penetrating an enemy body to hit another enemy, grazing an ally by accident or destroying some of the environment on the bullet path.

     

    The bullet simulation and the destruction system took considerable amount on effort to implement and support but all the effort was worth it because at its core combat in Jagged Alliance 3 aims to be a realistic experience, one that would not be possible without a realistic simulation running behind it. Which neatly brings me to the final, and perhaps the most important, point that I want to discuss in this DevDiary…

    No Visible Chance-to-Hit

    Each time you are setting up an attack in Jagged Alliance 3 you will see various factors that affect it both increasing and decreasing the chance for the attack to be accurate. What you will not see is an exact, precise chance-to-hit percentage number.

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    During the early years of development Jagged Alliance 3 displayed visible chance-to-hit, just like XCom and many other tactical games do. What we observed time and time again during our playtest sessions was that people were focusing on this number to the point where they centered their entire gameplay style around it, like never attacking when it is below a certain threshold. It also created moments of frustration and disappointment as in-your-face randomness sometimes tends to do.

    We don’t feel there is anything wrong in principle with visible chance to hit. There are many immensely successful tactical games out there that play exactly like this and CTH was present even in some of the most popular JA mods. It is, however, not the kind of a core experience we had in mind for Jagged Alliance 3, a game meant to represent firefights in their entire chaotic and messy glory. We wanted an experience that allows you develop a sense for certain situations, a game that makes you focus on your surroundings and the unique combat situation instead of a number in the interface. That was our reasoning when we decided to experimentally hide the chance-to-hit number in the interface and observe if the players will approach the combat situations differently afterwards. The first confirmation that we were on the right track came from none other than Ian Curry, the creator of Jagged Alliance, and many more followed in the months after – players were more involved now, found the situations more unpredictable and the game more unique and distinctive. Encounter after encounter, they were gradually developing a sense of mastery and generally had way more fun this way!

    We are fully aware that the decision to remove chance-to-hit will never sit right with some players but still feel that it is the crucial design decision that made our combat “click” and feel right. There are many tactical games with perfect and detailed CTH information out there, but too few where you play “by feel” as was the case with the classic Jagged Alliance!

    Thank you for reading the first combat DevDiary. Here are some of the subjects we might explore in the next one – Weather Effects, Night and Darkness, Stealth and Overwatch/Interrupt Attacks. If you are interested in any other aspect of the combat gameplay, please suggest in in the thread below.

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    14 minutes ago, Woody said:

    Yeah this is a massive mistake. And if Ian is responsible. Oof. Poor Ian.

    "Everyone was hunting for the right spots" Ok. And?

    How is that bad. How is that ... not every last tactical strategy in existence.

    Every single tactical strategy is built around the idea that you want to find a way to do maximum damage with maximum accuracy. What's the problem with this.

    Everyone hunting for the right spot? I say: Make the enemies strong enough you greatly risk when hunting the spot. That's all I need.

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    17 minutes ago, Reloecc said:

    Everyone hunting for the right spot? I say: Make the enemies strong enough you greatly risk when hunting the spot. That's all I need.

    Not sure what you meant, sorry.

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    15 minutes ago, Woody said:

    Not sure what you meant, sorry.

    Devs say that showing CtH leads to "player tends to seek best spot to shoot". You are saying "And what?". I am agreeing with you. And I'm adding: Make the AI and maps well balanced, so if players seeks the best spot, he risks a lot. Make it so the best sposts are where the enemy can shoot you as well.

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    10 minutes ago, Reloecc said:

    Devs say that showing CtH leads to "player tends to seek best spot to shoot". You are saying "And what?". I am agreeing with you. And I'm adding: Make the AI and maps well balanced, so if players seeks the best spot, he risks a lot. Make it so the best sposts are where the enemy can shoot you as well.

    Oh yeah I agree with good level design, I just don't think it has anything to do with Ian's argument for or against chance to hit being shown.

    Edited by Woody
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    1 hour ago, KyleSimmons said:

    The entire Steam forum for JA3 has about 5 separate CTH articles lol. I think we can all agree not including CTH at this point is a mistake.

    You think wrong!

    I enjoy the lack of CtH and, in the context of Jagged Alliance, prefer it. I enjoy the additional tension and unpredictability it adds to combat.

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    I also like the tension and unpredictability that the current combat system has. It is true to Jagged Alliance so there is no need to change that if it feels natural and less restricted. The more JA3 has its own realistic approach and less the generic nuXCOM mechanics the better in my opinion. 

     

    Only for new players that do not understand the current system we need tutorial menus that help to explain everything in detail.

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    There are plenty of us that are perfectly fine without seeing a visible percentage to hit. It is only the display of the calculation that is hidden. The actual calculation remains.

    I am curious as to why several new forum members have all appeared at the same time (even creating a profile in the same hour) and being in perfect agreement with one another, while being equal in insulting other forum members, some who have been here for a long time, if they don't agree.

    Edited by Solaris_Wave
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    22 minutes ago, Solaris_Wave said:

    I am curious as to why several new forum members have all appeared at the same time (even creating a profile in the same hour) and being in perfect agreement with one another, while being equal in insulting other forum members, some who have been here for a long time, if they don't agree.

    I noticed this too, especially the generally hostile attitude to match. It's almost as if the person who called everyone a liar and/or an alt account decided to start making alt accounts themselves... 🤔

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    We definitely have a few hostile crazies, not too unusual for the net. Unfortunately it probably means the nascent dialogue with the devs about mechanics is not going any further. Most sane people would see what transpired here and run the other direction 😅

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    1 hour ago, agris said:

    We definitely have a few hostile crazies, not too unusual for the net. Unfortunately it probably means the nascent dialogue with the devs about mechanics is not going any further. Most sane people would see what transpired here and run the other direction 😅

    3 hours ago, Solaris_Wave said:

    I am curious as to why several new forum members have all appeared at the same time (even creating a profile in the same hour) and being in perfect agreement with one another, while being equal in insulting other forum members, some who have been here for a long time, if they don't agree.

    I hope you won't mind me doing this since I saw you looking up other people's profiles, allow me to just put some facts together...

    E2.png.b68d82ae490f6ff210dde7c707152fe6.png

    Joined yesterday

    E3.png.8f056f6cae24db9128a4440dc3509f16.png

    Anon something talking about how you, @agris reminded him of @Solaris_Wave , he also openly accused you of being an alt for somebody else on the forum on another thread.

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    And now you're replying to each other, at 5 o'clock in the morning, when nobody is online, and agreeing with each other.

    Any comments?

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    Sure. I don't need to create an alternative account as I don't seek that kind of validation. Also, I don't know who he is or what time zone he is in. I meanwhile, work different hours so am up different times of the day.

    There was never any suggestion about alternative accounts until @anon474 joined the forum and was immediately rude to everyone if he didn't agree with them. He thought I was doing such a thing to agree with myself. I am too old for that sort of thing. Meanwhile, he seemed to be the kind of character that would do precisely what he accuses others of.

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    Just now, Solaris_Wave said:

    Sure. I don't need to create an alternative account as I don't seek that kind of validation. Also, I don't know who he is or what time zone he is in. I meanwhile, work different hours so am up different times of the day.

    There was never any suggestion about alternative accounts until @anon474 joined the forum and was immediately rude to everyone if he didn't agree with them. He thought I was doing such a thing to agree with myself. I am too old for that sort of thing. Meanwhile, he seemed to be the kind of character that would do precisely what he accuses others of.

    Then why did you get defensive and start writing immediately in response to my message, like you had to defend yourself.

    It's 5 o'clock in the morning. You shouldn't be awake, and the likelihood of you randomly coming across @agris comments (or vice versa) is 0%.

    Why are you writing in the same way @agris is and why are you both using the same terminology of ballistic modelling.

    What are the likelihoods that a brand new Snake Plisskin account would come in, stir up a lot of trouble, and agree with everything you've said.

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    2 minutes ago, agris said:

    @Solaris_Wave another JC / EFNY fan? My brother in arms!

    You're the same person.

    I am willing to bet on it. You literally replied to this comment within 5 minute time frame.

    I saw it happen.

    Don't pretend that you're not.

    I literally saw you reply one after another, within a 5 minute gap.

    It wasn't even in a 5 minute time frame. I literally saw @Solaris_Wave stop writing, and then immediately saw @agris start writing and publish his comment.

    It's 5 o'clock in the morning. There is nobody online, and the likelihood of even two people replying to each other one after another is 0.00000000000001%.

    Edited by Woody
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    @Woody time zones are a thing. This may shock you, but when it’s 5 am one place, it can be the evening in another!

     

    Re: ballistic modeling, that’s what it’s called. The developers use the term, the strategy community that cares about the nuances between probabilistic vs simulation uses the term. I’m sorry to say it reveals more about your limited vocabulary that you find this suspicious, than it does some great conspiracy.

     

    Although I do appreciate a bit more @anon474‘s paranoia in calling me solar, the stuff about Carpenter and EFNY is funny. Im afraid rather than grand conspiracy, you’ve just found a demographic of men of a certain age, interested in a certain type of game.

    Edited by agris
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    3 minutes ago, Woody said:

    It's 5 o'clock in the morning. You shouldn't be awake, and the likelihood of you randomly coming across @agris comments (or vice versa) is 0%.

    I told you, I work different hours depending on the day. Why are you up?

    I responded straight away because I am on the forum and received a notification that you quoted me. Why did you respond straight away?

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    1 minute ago, Solaris_Wave said:

     

    I told you, I work different hours depending on the day. Why are you up?

    I responded straight away because I am on the forum and received a notification that you quoted me. Why did you respond straight away?

    You're getting banned.

    I saw you stop writing your first comment then write some throwaway small comment on the @agris account.

    You didn't even try to hide it.

    Also you never told me anything, this is the first time we spoke. More lies, unsurprisingly.

    Edited by Woody
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    I am not sure who you think you are but you have a serious problem with others. In fact, you behave just like @anon474. I am not going to get into it with you because I did all that with him. He didn't like the fact that I was right and he resorted to insults and prattle.

    Besides, this is a Developer's thread. I am not going to ruin this thread by trying to talk sense into you.

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    Btw none of what you said @Solaris_Wave makes sense.

    I'm allowed to be up, I never replied to my own comments on my alt account.

    I'm also not pretending like its normal for two people who have full command of the English language (or at least live in Europe), to be awake at the exact same time at 5 o'clock in the morning.

    I also am not the one who is refusing to explain why I LITERALLY SAW YOU STOP WRITING YOUR FIRST COMMENT, THEN WRITE ANOTHER COMMENT ON @agris

    I SAW YOU DO IT.

    you didn't just do it within a 5 minute time frame, it was a 5 SECOND time frame. I saw you stop writing @Solaris_Wave comment and IMMEDIATELY after that I saw you writing your @agris comment.

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    3 minutes ago, Solaris_Wave said:

    I am not sure who you think you are but you have a serious problem with others. In fact, you behave just like @anon474. I am not going to get into it with you because I did all that with him. He didn't like the fact that I was right and he resorted to insults and prattle.

    Besides, this is a Developer's thread. I am not going to ruin this thread by trying to talk sense into you.

    I have no problems with 90% of people, you fit in the 10%.

    Explain why @agris literally began writing his comment within 5 seconds of you finishing your first comment on the @Solaris_Wave account and why both of you responded within the same 5 minute time frame, at 5 AM.

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    Developers, look at @Solaris_Wave and @agris messages, especially this one:

    21 minutes ago, Solaris_Wave said:

    Sure. I don't need to create an alternative account as I don't seek that kind of validation. Also, I don't know who he is or what time zone he is in. I meanwhile, work different hours so am up different times of the day.

    There was never any suggestion about alternative accounts until @anon474 joined the forum and was immediately rude to everyone if he didn't agree with them. He thought I was doing such a thing to agree with myself. I am too old for that sort of thing. Meanwhile, he seemed to be the kind of character that would do precisely what he accuses others of.

    Right after this comment @agris began writing his comment and posted his comment within seconds of posting this comment.

    That is impossibly unlikely. Aside from all other behaviour such as replying to each other and reacting to each other, and agreeing with each other.

    AT 5 O CLOCK IN THE MORNING.

    ITS THE SAME PERSON.

    Look at the time stamps for this message and the next one made by @agris if you don't believe me.

    Edited by Woody
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    2 minutes ago, agris said:

    Dear me, and here I always thought Europe’s educational system was superior to ours.

     

    Go back to bed @Woody

    You aren't American I know that because your English is broken (exactly how @Solaris_Wave's is)

    Stop pretending to be from America because I discovered that you're @Solaris_Wave and are using multiple accounts.

    Edited by Woody
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