New Talk and Ceasefire Battle Options: Thoughts?

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New Talk and Ceasefire Battle Options: Thoughts?

Hey Folks!

Yesterday's 0.983b test build features the new non-hostile battle options "talk" and "ceasefire." It also features a few factions that start off friendly or hostile to the player (and each other).

Some discussion about it has already started on the Tech Support forum. However, I suspect there's a bit more talking to be done, and it'd be best if there was a special thread for it, so bug reporting threads can be less crowded.

Just to recap the design of the system, in case anyone is wondering how it currently works in 0.983:

Ceasefire means "walk away," but does not start any talking. One must be within 5 spaces to begin talks, and there must be at least two people trying to talk within 2 turns for conversation to trigger. Also, if anyone is taking hostile action, ceasefire and talking will fail.

Currently, "Stranger" is used on any NPC until they either attack or talk to player.

Some of the comments I've heard so far include:

  • AI Hard to Talk to in Battle - AI will often retreat from battle, and succeed if player doesn't attack, advance, or charge them. DMC Guards are an exception, but they often choose ceasefire instead of talk. How often should neutral AI try to talk? 50% of the time? More or less? What about hostile AI or friendly AI?
  • Hailing - Currently, there is no long-range, peaceful move besides ceasefire. Should there be options to signal friendly intent from ranges greater than 5? How should this work?
  • "Strangers" - The "stranger" label doesn't change when expected. When should "Stranger" become a named faction? Currently, it changes when the NPC attacks or talks. Should it occur when ceasefire is offered, too?

Also, how would an example non-hostile battle go in your mind? What moves would they use, at what ranges?

E.g. Player meets looter on open field.
Range = 23
Player chooses "Signal Friendly"
Looter chooses "Signal Friendly"
Player and AI then start advancing to each other to reach talking range of 5.
Player offers to talk.
Looter offers to talk.
Conversation encounter begins.

Of course, the time to go from range 23 to 5 is at least 9 turns, if both advance equally. (Charging would be a threat.) Maybe if both agree to "Signal Friendly," range immediately changes to 5?

What if the Looter doesn't want to talk? Many of the NPCs I've programmed aren't interested in chatting. They don't like you. Why would they talk to you and waste valuable time that could be spent scavenging and surviving?

Note that trading is a tricky problem for me to solve, so we might be limited to trading at the junk store, plus any specific item trades I write conversations for. So besides trading, why would AI bother with the player?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

OK, so I did some thinking (it happens once in a while) about the subject and here is what I came up with: a new battle stage called the Negotiations.

The stage could be triggered after a ceasefire is agreed upon. That stage should have a different move set than combat and it could working regardless of distance.

Example: player meets looter. Normal combat is triggered, but it contains a Offer Ceasefire move. If the ceasefire is proposed and accepted (character looking scary should make Ceasefire option more appealing than fighting, and probably on equal grounds when it comes to NPCs choosing, with running away), the new move set appears:

- Walk Away - it gives the leaving side a "Is walking away" condition, and the other party has now option to walk away too, or attack treacherously. Attack causes return to Combat phase, while both parties walking away ends the encounter peacefully;

- Continue with Attack - ends the Negotiations phase and goes back to Combat phase;

(maybe)- Walk Closer - slowly (1-2 spaces) walks towards the NPC - working like a wait command but closing the distance (maybe to get a better position for a sneaky attack); could possibly make user Vulnerable;

- Propose to Talk - like right now (just without a range limit; people might scream form afar) but the other guy can Accept or Decline - accept triggers talking, decline moves back to start of Negotiations stage but without Talk offer present any more (so only to Walk Away and Continue with Attack options);

That, in my opinion, will help with the problem that right now the players may all together miss the fact it is even possible to talk or too easily scare away the potential friendlies by simply looking scary.

How it works right now most of the time: ceasefire offer accepted and puff, NPC is gone. But the confusing part is, he still stands on the same hex and any new tries to communicate end up with the same "ceasefire-run away" routine.

With the Negotiations phase triggered, even when NPC isn't interested in the talks, he will make it clear and visible by either declining the talk offer or walking away without the word.

The concern might be that it would make a fighting yet slower, but remember that until the player proposes or agrees to NPC proposition of Ceasefire, the whole phase won't trigger. So it wont bother those simply wishing and pushing for a fight, actually giving them an advantage (since Propose Ceasefire move makes one Distracted and loose a turn).

Also, since it should only allows the NPCs leader to talk, by shutting away others from the Negotiations (it being always a one-on-one action, maybe by making other NPCs "Waiting for negotiations to finish" or something like that) will make it less likely to some bugs cause any sort of misbehaviour among the leader's subordinates.

<--Mighty (mini)Mod of Doom-->
DeviantArt Gallery of MoD Sprites

Ok so while I was playing I managed to kill a DMC guard. First off they are a bit too friendly even when I'm bashing his skull in. Also when I try to attack him when he is knocked out I keep hitting armor which kind of annoys me. However they are deadly in a pair.

Official Trained Dogman

You know thinking on it more, it occurred to me that the only reason I even try to talk to anyone is so I could see their faction name show up.

I understand what you're going for, but from a game mechanics point of view I just don't like it. I don't think you should have to go through full on peaceful negotiations/trading to be able to acquire an NPC's faction tag, there should be other options. I'd imagine some factions openly flaunt it, but for others spying and/or an in battle examine option should be enough most of the time. (BTW I don't feel like Spy and other things like Hiding Tracks and Hide should take up an entire 1.00 move point.)

I don't like the close range requirement for talking. I'd imagine most people wouldn't even realize it was an option, but even if they do what's the point? If players have to jump through hoops to talk which doesn't benefit them in any way then no one will bother. And even if there was tangible benefits, the idea of just having to advance on people for many turns to get into normal voice volume conversation range just seems very clunky and entirely pointless in a non 3D rendered game, especially since range not really taken into account outside of battle in this game. You don't have to advance on each item on the ground for multiple turns just to get into pick up range, for example.

A talking range of 5 seems unreasonably small to me, I can shout louder than that. I think the best is to allow talking at any range.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

But the other problem will remain - NPCs will choose to escape most of the time, cause that's what they do, leaving player (especially a new one) without a clue why he chose to talk and suddenly the encounter just ended. There needs to be a step, that makes sure all the decisions made during the encounter are clearly presented to the player. Right now, player does not see the last move of an NPC if that move was to retreat, ending the encounters abruptly - fact that might be confusing.

Generally, I say there are several different problems, highlighted by the new talking system, that need to be delt with separately:

-Talking having a strange range restriction (Threaten and Demand Surrender not having that adds to the confusion)

- Moves available sometimes/in special circumstances blending in with the others (Talk only at range 5-) - could be fixed by move's icons sorting (of some sorts)

- Not enough/not clear enough feedback with Ceasefire/Talking/Running away - that is what I tried to tackle with the idea above: making actions visible via conditions+waiting one step (i.e. NPC getting a "Walking away" condition that gives a clear info on what he is doing as well as time for player to react, instead of simply ending the encounter right away)

- Enemies escaping very often - it's also made more visible by the fact that the Melee build (with a Dogman's Fur) is a dominant strategy among players

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The guards have a problem I was trying to sleep near the DMC and one of them decided to wake me up with a pleasant buckshot to the leg.

Official Trained Dogman

I am quite shocked that DMC Guard attacked me without any reason
even when i am sleeping
but sometime i see their name as "Looter" wearing armor etc
this is not a bug right?
i think there is chance for the guard to die to looter >..>

Thanks for Reading.
By Takanori Kiririn

Just a Fan of Good Games :)

It seems DMC guards die too easily, maybe they should be able to call reinforcements?

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

Or not starve/dehydrate to death by the day 3 due to the inability of the NPCs to actually consume items. My proposed quick-fix (without fiddling with the whole system): make them de-spawn (without dropping items) by the day 2 of their existence (when not around the player, of course). Assuming they are working for the city, they are returning from the patrols and back inside. So this de-spawning will simulate them going back. New ones will then be able to spawn in their place, without wounds or hunger problems to worry about.

<--Mighty (mini)Mod of Doom-->
DeviantArt Gallery of MoD Sprites

Just to clarify, the DMC Guards attacking is a bug caused by the player sleeping. The AI has no valid moves in that case (ceasefire/talk don't work on unconscious targets), so the AI just chooses random moves. I'll work on a fix for that tomorrow.

I'll also change the talking range to be any, instead of just 5. The consistency with threat/surrender was a good point that I overlooked.

As for the other suggestions, I'll have to give some thought to how this might work in the existing framework. It sounds like it might just be a matter of some combat moves being replaced with negotiation moves in battle once a threshold is crossed. But I haven't mapped out all the possibilities for that yet.

One additional possibility is to trigger conversations when NPCs refuse to talk. Several of the conversations I created are basically "buzz off" type comments, and maybe these are better suited to NPCs that don't accept offers to talk? This way, players would get a very clear message about what happened to end the encounter.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

NPCs will choose to escape most of the time, cause that's what they do, leaving player (especially a new one) without a clue why he chose to talk and suddenly the encounter just ended

This is exactly the point I was trying to convey here - the current behaviour is simply counterintuitive.

Several of the conversations I created are basically "buzz off" type comments, and maybe these are better suited to NPCs that don't accept offers to talk?

That would definitely be a simple, yet elegant solution.

Well i liked how some after some really hard fight with a dogman i found a looter.

I tried to cease fire, he advanced towards me, i tried to talk, he kept coming towards me and again asked him to cease fire and he decided to stun me with the butt of his gun and then smashed my head in witht the butt of the gun again and again while i was still trying to ask him to talk or cease fire while getting beaten.

It was quite a expirence i must say.

I think NPCs should be forced to answer talking attempts. If an NPC wants to flee they say "Piss off!" and try to retreat, if they want to fight they say something like "Shut up and die!" This doesn't cost them an extra move and is basically for making clear that they don't want to talk.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

I think that if a violent NPC doesn't want to talk they should simply use threaten or offer surrender. That would make there intentions clear enough.

I also think that it would be interesting if melon heads had their own type of dialogue. seeing as they used to be human they could have some social knowledge left. this is because I usually encounter them and scare them off or get swarmed and beat to death by a group of them. They could have some interesting things to talk about, like where they come from and how they got the way they are.

Have a great day.

I think the Retreat mechanic should be reworked a bit. If an NPC attempts to Retreat, the player can be given a few turns to decide on their next action. If the NPC was hiding when they attempt to pull out, then they might need only 1-2 more turns before they escape the hex.

The Stranger label can give players with Eagle Eye/Hawk Eye/scopes an advantage through IDing them from farther, safer distances. Myopia is disadvantageous since you'll have a smaller vision range, too.

Also, once a faction/NPC is ID'd, the player should be able to recall details of their appearance in future encounters.

Regarding Ceasefire and Threaten, maybe you can work in a hidden Threat meter? Each character's visible weapon, clothing, and condition has a certain value, and higher values = better chances to make your case. A Dogman hide seems reasonably clear to your (non-blind) enemies that you're not a man to be messed with.

Dualists: one soul, two bodies.

It could be skill based, and the trades could be finite to make it easier. For example:

-The NPC has a computer they want you to HACK. Whatever gets hacked in his computer, he gives to you on a memory stick.
-The NPC wants you to use your TRAPPING or BOTANY skill to get some food. You share the food. (free food for 0 turns).
-The NPC needs their shopping trolley fixed.
-The NPC needs a MEDIC.
-The NPC has lost something and needs an EAGLE EYE to find it. You share the loot.
-In each case, a chance to betray them.

This could be a natural and hopefully not too time consuming way of keeping NPC interactions fresh in the game.