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Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
Improving Ground Combat Proposal
a community-driven proposal
Introduction:
Star Trek Online has some great space combat. However, the ground combat is often criticized as being lackluster. There's some incredible depth to it (flanking, expose/exploit) - but it could be better highlighted by expanding the abilities, skills, and features around it.

While you may have access to nearly as many abilities on the ground as you do in space, those abilities are largely up to artificial intelligence (or another player). There are also four ways in which abilities are accrued:
1) Automatic based on character level
2) Rewards for improving character skills
3) Weapon specific
4) Kit specific
While this presents many abilities in theory, ground abilities themselves feel limited in practice.

My questions to the community are as follows:
  • Can Ground Combat in STO be improved?
  • If so, what can be improved?
  • What systems exist in other MMOs that enhance ground combat?
List of Charts:
( --| see example of Situational Weapon Abilities #1 |-- )
( --| see example of Situational Weapon Abilities #2 |-- )
( --| See the Universal Ground Combat Skills and Active Powers Chart |-- )
( --| See New Weapons Chart & Situational Abilities |-- )
__________________________________

Table of Contents:
I. Camera Control Fixes

II. Background on Combination Effects (also known as Situational Effects)
a. Counter-actions (buff, debuff)
b. Damage Boosts
III. Example System for Situational Effects
IV. Enemy Morale / Fatigue
V. New Ground Skills (requires skillpoint adjustment)
VI. Cover System (is it possible? some suggested methods)

VII. Benefits to Developers/Players
VIII. Further Reading (Canon References)

__________________________________

I. Camera Control Fixes
There are a number of problems with camera control on the ground. It's not nearly as intuitive as space camera control. Two new camera modes for ground would be a welcome relief:
First Person Camera Perspective
Allows you to know what you're actually you're facing. The current, over-the-should can be easily obstructed by mobs, BOFFs, teammates, terrain, etc.

Examples: Star Trek: Elite Force, Halo, etc.

Isometric, Third Person Camera Perspecive
This would enable players (especially in PvE) to adequately manage their Bridge Officers - without the camera rotating back to "over the shoulder" view. Gives a tactical view of the battle.

Examples: Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, etc.
Here are a list of issues from a player:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Englebert
  • Not matter what option I always face my target. If you select a team mate or one crosses in front of your mouse. When you try to manual select you will turn to face them. If they are behind you. This is not good when you take flanking damage bonuses. My character should never turn on it's own for any reason what so ever.
  • The same is true with an enemy. You always face him to you get to a certain range. Sometimes you have to turn and run. To recharge your shields or you have a DOT and no shields. You have to back pedal to you are out of his range. Or drop your target and then run. Dropping your target so you can control your character is just unacceptable. You hit escape to drop your target and trying to find him again in DS9 under siege can be very difficult at times.
  • Or if you have a target next to you but you want to take another more important target. It's to crowded for tab select. Right after you release right click to select. You spin back to your target. Very frustrating when basic camera controls can't keep up with the speed of game play.
  • There is a forced look spring. If you are on a hill and try to manually select a target. Or on the balcony in DS9. When you let of right click. About the time you get the pointer to your target. The camera switches back to a level position. you can't select him now because he is no longer on your screen. Just a follow terrain would help. Cut off look spring would be great.
  • Another problem with ground combat. Is the controls are different from space flight with the mouse control. For some reason on space controls. You have to hold both buttons to control your ship. To pitch and turn. You also have two mouse looks with left click hold and right click hold. There is no reason to have two mouse looks. You should be able to just turn with right click hold and mouse look with left click hold.
  • After long periods of space combat going to ground. I will be holding both buttons down forcing me to run.
  • It will knock off auto run. Or sometimes I will running in circles trying to stop. Then realize I am holding both buttons down. It takes a couple of minutes to adjust sometimes. Just making right hold to turn in space combat would end some peoples frustration in ground combat.
II. Combination Effects (also known as Situational Effects)
No, we're not talking ↑,↑,↓,↓,←,→,←,→,B,A or anything like that.

Combos exist, in some form, in STO and many MMOs already. However, STO's combos could be expanded (as well as made more apparent in the tool-tips).

Cryptic has one video available at present, detailing the Expose/Exploit combination. This maybe overly reductionist as different exposes could work better with different exploits. There's a lot of variety and nuance missing by using such all-encompassing terms. What is proposed below is not getting rid of them but adding abilities to enhance and expand.

a. Counter-actions (buff, debuff)
There are a few notable counter abilities in the game. However, we can add more based on situations that arise.

For example:
Quote:
  • If a member of your team is cryogenically frozen (a hold status), why not have a plasma or phaser weapon have situational "thaw" or status removal power?
    ( --| see example of Situational Status Change @ ImageShack |-- )

  • If Borg nanites are infecting a player (another hold status), couldn't a polaron or tetryon weapon disable the electrical components and decrease the hold?
b. Damage Boosts
While one might argue that exploit is a situational effect for expose, there are examples of situations that aren't tied to abilities. Flanking is a situational effect that wouldn't necessarily classify as a combination. It could stand with some improvements (such as increased damage output for flanking - incentivizing strategic play even further). Enemies that are held or knocked back also suffer from flanking damage boosts.

There are also classical damage combinations used in many MMOs/RPGs/FPSs.

For example:
Quote:
  • If a enemy is cryogenically frozen (see hold status), couldn't a kinetic attack "shatter" to provide a damage bonus?
    ( --| see example of Situational Damage Combo @ Image Shack |-- )

  • If a borg is held, couldn't a neurolytic pathogen do more damage (i.e. borg that is now more vulnerable to the virus)?
What other combinations and situational effects can you imagine?
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
04-28-2010, 04:26 PM
III. Example System for Situational Weapon Effects
( --| See New Weapons Chart & Situational Abilities |-- )

The idea behind this section is that weapons would have contextual powers appear when either enemies or members of your team meet the criteria.

Each weapon would get two new situational abilities: like the able to "thaw" cryogenically frozen players. It opens up a lot of possibilities for weapons to not only be more engaging but also serve to differentiate them more.

A good captain knows what tactics and weapons to bring to a fight. This would help specialize weapons without weakening any current powers.

( --| See New Weapons Chart & Situational Abilities |-- )
IV. Enemy Morale / Fatigue
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cybole
NPC enemies should have two untracked combat statistics, Fatigue and Morale. Fatigue would wrap together specific ground statistics that prevent stun, while at the same time, allow you take down an enemy without killing them--leading to more Federation-like gameplay.

Morale would be based on the existing squad structure. Loss of higher-ranking members in an enemy squad would lead to lower damage potential or enemy surrender--this then leads to other styles of Federation-like gameplay. As well, it can cause enemies to flee (hopefully not aggro'ing another squad, but your BOs do a great job at that anyway), or surrender, then use the opportunity to attempt to catch you off guard.

Either situation should not necessitate accepting surrender. If they're stunned, they might recover and continue fighting; or the player could order them executed; or the player might detain them on their starship's brig, taking POWs instead of killing them outright. But the option still remains in the player. Choosing to execute may not have a negative drawback, but I think that should be determined through difficulty level (harder difficulty might punish a player by removing Starfleet merits, for instance) and mission--there might be a take-no-prisoner scenario. If it does carry a reprimand, it should not be detrimental to normal gameplay.

As a side-note, Battle Weariness could be such a reflex for space combat, allowing you to wear down a ship until they surrender.

Both statistics are NPC optional, so that specific scenarios or races would not call for them. They would negatively affect PVP combat, so do not apply player characters or their bridge officers. These concepts may be rather long-term, or perhaps unworkable, but the suggestions might lend themselves to be reworked into more complete ideas.
V. New Ground Skills & Unlockable Abilities
( --| See the Universal Ground Combat Skills and Active Powers Chart |-- )

Here's are additional skills to add to ground combat - a universal tree, just as ships have universal skill trees, regardless of career. They'd also have new abilities granted at 5 skill ranks and at max skill ranks.

Furthermore, ground combat accolades might be able to substitute or add new abilities based on your proficiency in one of the new ground combat skills.

I've drafted a make-shift list of some potential powers that would be accessible to any class: whether athleticism or endurance to martial arts and body hardening - there's a lot of potential to make the ground portion more involving.

This may necessitate ground combat filling a separate skill point and pool (and determining level based off a combination of both).

( --| See the Universal Ground Combat Skills and Active Powers Chart |-- )
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
04-29-2010, 12:03 AM
VI. Cover System (if possible - suggest methods)
A cover system would be a robust way of conducting ground combat. However, there's no guarantee it's even possible in the game - nor any indication of how much time and resources it would take (developers are already on tight development schedules with full plates). That said, the concept of cover system may need some introduction.

Essentially, you could approach objects and take a defensive position on them. This may require tightening the player ground controls (as it can be very imprecise moving around).

One method that would require quite a few resources:
  • Flag parts of the environment (and objects) as having certain radii being cover.
  • Allow players to:
    • Take Cover: Calculate enemy and AoE attack general line-of-sight to player. Immune unless Aoe or Enemy have direct LoS.
    • Fire from Cover: players take slightly reduced accuracy as a tradeoff for damage resistance while partially covered.
    • Break Cover: completely disengage the cover mechanic (allowing for free movement).

Another method that may require a different amount of resources:
  • Divide the body into parts: head, arms, torso, waist, legs.
  • Assign numerical values for percentage exposed.
  • Calculate Enemy LOS to each body part.
  • Lower enemy accuracy based on obstructed parts.
VII. Benefits to Developers/Players
[pending finalization]
VIII. Further Reading
a. Sources for New Weapon Types
The weapon types are either explicitly canon or ground combat adaptations of existing canon ideas:
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
04-29-2010, 12:41 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren_Kitlor
For example:What other combinations and situational effects can you imagine?[/indent]
Very good post, if I might say so myself. Glad you posted some screen shots! I'll take time to properly review what you have suggested, probably in the morning, but for the moment, I'll make these situation effects:

Firing from behind cover should be worthwhile. When making an attack from cover, the character should automatically move out of cover, fire, then move back in. This can be accomplished with a simple character animation. Depending on the type of cover, should provide an influential amount of damage reduction or dodge rating. This, at the same time, makes grenades, mortars, and automated grenade sentries far more worthwhile, as they do not require line of sight to hit a target.

I would say this creates more realistic combat, but realistic combat isn't where it's at. It creates more varied combat, with different tactics for different enemies.

Secondly, NPC enemies should have two untracked combat statistics, Fatigue and Morale. Fatigue would wrap together specific ground statistics that prevent stun, while at the same time, allow you take down an enemy without killing them--leading to more Federation-like gameplay.

Morale would be based on the existing squad structure. Loss of higher-ranking members in an enemy squad would lead to lower damage potential or enemy surrender--this then leads to other styles of Federation-like gameplay. As well, it can cause enemies to flee (hopefully not aggro'ing another squad, but your BOs do a great job at that anyway), or surrender, then use the opportunity to attempt to catch you off guard.

Either situation should not necessitate accepting surrender. If they're stunned, they might recover and continue fighting; or the player could order them executed; or the player might detain them on their starship's brig, taking POWs instead of killing them outright. But the option still remains in the player. Choosing to execute may not have a negative drawback, but I think that should be determined through difficulty level (harder difficulty might punish a player by removing Starfleet merits, for instance) and mission--there might be a take-no-prisoner scenario. If it does carry a reprimand, it should not be detrimental to normal gameplay.

As a side-note, Battle Weariness could be such a reflex for space combat, allowing you to wear down a ship until they surrender.

Both statistics are NPC optional, so that specific scenarios or races would not call for them. They would negatively affect PVP combat, so do not apply player characters or their bridge officers. These concepts may be rather long-term, or perhaps unworkable, but the suggestions might lend themselves to be reworked into more complete ideas.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
04-29-2010, 01:01 PM
Added:
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6
04-29-2010, 10:04 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cybole
Firing from behind cover should be worthwhile. When making an attack from cover, the character should automatically move out of cover, fire, then move back in. This can be accomplished with a simple character animation. Depending on the type of cover, should provide an influential amount of damage reduction or dodge rating. This, at the same time, makes grenades, mortars, and automated grenade sentries far more worthwhile, as they do not require line of sight to hit a target.

I would say this creates more realistic combat, but realistic combat isn't where it's at. It creates more varied combat, with different tactics for different enemies.
Varied combat is great. A fully-featured cover system might be hard to implement (cover is rudimentary in STO right now: either you do/don't have Line of Sight).

I was thinking something simpler: calculate LOS for the body in 4 sections (arms, legs, head, torso) Depending on how many are exposed to enemy fire, you get a resistance (while receiving a penalty to accuracy, more for arms and head - less for torso and legs).

That might be the simplest way to calculate but probably wouldn't work in PvP (I have the shortest Alien KDF Captain I could create).

Context-sensitive abilities for cover fire would be cool and provide variety.

Quote:
Secondly, NPC enemies should have two untracked combat statistics, Fatigue and Morale. Fatigue would wrap together specific ground statistics that prevent stun, while at the same time, allow you take down an enemy without killing them--leading to more Federation-like gameplay.
I'd like more details about fatigue.

Quote:
Morale would be based on the existing squad structure. Loss of higher-ranking members in an enemy squad would lead to lower damage potential or enemy surrender--this then leads to other styles of Federation-like gameplay. As well, it can cause enemies to flee (hopefully not aggro'ing another squad, but your BOs do a great job at that anyway), or surrender, then use the opportunity to attempt to catch you off guard.
This exists to some extent (on Elite, you always go after Targ Handlers/Sword Masters before Warriors - if only due to DPS differences and the ranged advantages they have).

While some cultures would prefer not to flee (Klingon) - I could see this being implemented ona quite a few species.

Quote:
Either situation should not necessitate accepting surrender. If they're stunned, they might recover and continue fighting; or the player could order them executed; or the player might detain them on their starship's brig, taking POWs instead of killing them outright. But the option still remains in the player. Choosing to execute may not have a negative drawback, but I think that should be determined through difficulty level (harder difficulty might punish a player by removing Starfleet merits, for instance) and mission--there might be a take-no-prisoner scenario. If it does carry a reprimand, it should not be detrimental to normal gameplay.
Again, we'd have to account for cultural attitudes to surrender/POW/loss (Klingons).

I love the idea - it could really spice up the Exploration Content (and any planned diplomacy content). Do you take prisoners? Maybe have them flee - then judge how much force you use to subdue them).

Quote:
As a side-note, Battle Weariness could be such a reflex for space combat, allowing you to wear down a ship until they surrender.

Both statistics are NPC optional, so that specific scenarios or races would not call for them. They would negatively affect PVP combat, so do not apply player characters or their bridge officers. These concepts may be rather long-term, or perhaps unworkable, but the suggestions might lend themselves to be reworked into more complete ideas.
Ah, I see where you acknowledge the cultural attitudes.

Any practical ways to implement these ideas? I like them but with a bit more fine-tuning, they cold really shine (especially making some cultures less suicidal when it comes to war).
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7
04-29-2010, 11:05 PM
Cybole's ideas strike me as particularly awesome, especially the advanced combat responses. Seconded.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
04-29-2010, 11:52 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad.Bill View Post
Cybole's ideas strike me as particularly awesome, especially the advanced combat responses. Seconded.
That's enough to get it added.

I put his words in direct quotes under:
III. Enemy Morale / Fatigue

Please, let's refine these ideas or discuss new/better ones.

Ground Combat is one of the most criticized features in the game - let's find ways to make it shine!
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 9
04-30-2010, 07:33 AM
I am all for this idea
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 10
04-30-2010, 07:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad.Bill View Post
Cybole's ideas strike me as particularly awesome, especially the advanced combat responses. Seconded.
Thank you! I I prefer the term "Advanced combat responses" as opposed to something dull like "Fatigue/Moral." I'll try to revise what I can, following Darren's suggestions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren_Kitlor
Varied combat is great. A fully-featured cover system might be hard to implement (cover is rudimentary in STO right now: either you do/don't have Line of Sight).

I was thinking something simpler: calculate LOS for the body in 4 sections (arms, legs, head, torso) Depending on how many are exposed to enemy fire, you get a resistance (while receiving a penalty to accuracy, more for arms and head - less for torso and legs).

That might be the simplest way to calculate but probably wouldn't work in PvP (I have the shortest Alien KDF Captain I could create).

Context-sensitive abilities for cover fire would be cool and provide variety.
This is difficult to conceptualize, as it is ALMOST unworkable. You'd have to account for player height, which means playing smaller creatures would make it fathomably more difficult in PVP. Right now, though, the game does track certain amounts of cover (as can be told by using Engineering-generated barriers and team members as body shields). The idea of checking for which parts are exposed from cover based on LoS may put a load on the server, but it can be done rather easily. This would then necessitate some advancement on character size, as speed or damage resistance, etc., is not considered when making your character (and would be unfair to posit).

This would require some thoughts.


Quote:
I'd like more details about fatigue.
Both fatigue and morale are statistics that are only active and tracked during ground combat. Before combat, they do not factor in (that is, reset after combat). Fatigue does not play into ability use, only a form of damage capacity, length of battle, etc., separate from hit points and shield points.

As one takes hits to their core (not shields), it reduces fatigue the same. It would receive little to no regeneration except for if combat ends, then it resets. If you reduce fatigue to 0, the target is incapacitated and not killed, and can be dealt with after the battle is over.

In programming terms, both concepts are "toggable." Basically, you could have a string, "Toggle_Fatigue" as an integer. This creates a number of conditions, which interact with the ad-hoc string "Fatigue_Points":
  • -1 Creature has no fatigue points.
  • 0 Invalid/same as -1
  • 1 Creature's fatigue points are equal to 50%~75% its hit points.
  • 2 Creature's fatigue points are equal to 75%~100% its hit points.
  • 3 Creature's fatigue points are equal to 110%~125% its hit points.
  • Any further value deals as multiplier, preferably to quarters to tenths, allowing you to incrementally increase the value.
  • Using a multiplier reduces the amount of memory bloat per creature, as values of less than 10 are easily constrained. Difficulty could reduce or increase the amount of the multiplier.

Fatigue could be further reinforced or overrode by specific, combat-related traits that reflect a warrior's culture. Mind you, there might be situations where it is toggable on you, the player, to create near no-win scenarios where you are to be captured without any additional situation modifiers put in place. Specific creatures, as stated, such as Klingons or Jem'Hadar, or scenarios, such as boss battles, will more than likely set to -1, allowing a quick and dirty solution, while keeping the game the same.

Quote:
This exists to some extent (on Elite, you always go after Targ Handlers/Sword Masters before Warriors - if only due to DPS differences and the ranged advantages they have).
Morale would work on a sliding scale, say somewhere between 1000-2000. Again, a value of -1 or 0 makes "Toggle_Morale" worthless. Killing higher-ranking enemies reduces a point-blank value. A commander-role, for instance, would reduce it by 300, while killing lower-ranking would reduce it by 100 (or any factor thereof, so if you want 100-200, 30 and 10 respectively). Current HP will have an affect on morale--so reducing a Warrior's HP to 10 could cause them to run.

By having morale separate from fatigue, it creates different tactics, and creates better immersion as HP itself is not the sole reason for fleeing. It also lends itself to different AI--different species, depending on their morale/fatigue, may use different tactics--weaker, cowardly species, would utilize more cover and cheap tactics, de-buffs, etc., moreso than other more combat-related enemies.

Quote:
I love the idea - it could really spice up the Exploration Content (and any planned diplomacy content). Do you take prisoners? Maybe have them flee - then judge how much force you use to subdue them).
Hopefully I addressed the most basic concepts and how I, as a programmer, would want to implement them. I discussed a simple, elegant solution that does away with most bugs once implemented (like data entry errors, aside from 0/-1 values). By having the content be dynamic, that is, expanded based on multipliers, which affects difficulty, can also be lent to having new conditions or abilities arise (such as enemies being able to reduce their "fatigue" in favor of causing damage, sort of a battle rage--easier to subdue at that point, but if you don't catch them fast enough, they can cause a lot of damage.)

Federation-style gameplay is reinforced, but new "Surrender/Capture" conditions arise outside of story missions.

Outside of that, I gave the whole concept of "negative consequences" to be a bit obtuse--players should not be punished for not wanting to take prisoners, as it might conflict with their desire to play the game, or RP concerns. Instead, taking prisoners is rewarded. Offering rewards for adding people to labor/camps, bounties on an enemy faction, or using captured enemies to extract "Enemy Intel" (which is either an in-game currency or usable for crafting)--by offering rewards, instead of offering consequences, reinforces why one should. This allows for cred-grinding or craft-grinding within the existing content.

Lastly, one issue that should be addressed, "Incapacitated" as a status is the same as "Dead", just with fluff and interaction behind it--Skill points are earned, and item drops are still a possibility. This makes it all the easier, as it alleviates the conscious of players who don't want to kill all the time.
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