Elegance vs. Simplicity

Category: Monsters Den ChroniclesMonsters' Den: Godfall

When I was implementing the (new in Chronicles) “action clock”-driven battle system, I was faced with a problem. In the previous system every character took one turn per round, and so regeneration and skill effect durations were all tied to turns. But now having a higher Quickness stat meant that a character would actually have more turns. On top of the obvious benefits of acting more often, they would regenerate more quickly and effects on them would expire more quickly.

I spent a long time thinking about how to address this. Eventually, I settled on what seemed an elegant solution: since the action clocks filled up in real time, why not use that time to measure effect durations and space out regeneration ticks? It put all characters on a level playing field and helped tie all of those systems together. Unfortunately, what I’ve only come to realize lately is that while I was in love with the elegance of it, from a player’s perspective it is terrible.

Elegant it may have been, but it was also far too complex. To answer a simple question like “will my character get a turn before this effect expires” requires either an intuitive grasp of the timings that a player is not likely to attain, or a large amount of additional user interface. I did my best with the Chronicles interface, but it was already far too crowded and so this kind of vital information was not readily available. That’s bad. It cripples the strategic element of the game when a player doesn’t feel they have the information they need to make the correct decisions. I need to fix it.

So, with Godfall I have a couple of options:

  1. Improve the interface so that the system is more comprehensible to users
  2. Move back to using character turns

I am heavily leaning towards option 2. I’m less convinced now that the variation between characters is a huge problem, and there are ways to partially mitigate it. For instance, regeneration values can be higher on heavier equipment. I’m growing convinced that this is one of the missteps I made in the transition from Book of Dread to Chronicles.