Projects => Discussion => Topic started by: Koh on September 09, 2015, 06:21:47 pm

Title: Contact Damage
Post by: Koh on September 09, 2015, 06:21:47 pm
This aspect of game design many rely on has become more and more irritating to me these days.  I've some reasons against this design decision, that I'll quote from my post on Soul Saver Online's forum below.

I've been playing this game for a little while now, and am Level 53.  The gameplay itself is decent, but as I've been playing, the levels of frustration have been increasing more and more because of this design aspect.  Contact damage for enemies in no way compliments the gameplay, nor the map design of this game.  Here's a couple of reasons to support my claim.

1.  In general, contact damage is a dated and lazy way out of making defined attack animations for each and every enemy.  Back in the early days of gaming and the 8-bit era, memory was very expensive and limited, meaning there was only so much memory available to use to have all the graphics required to make a complete game, such as tile graphics, character graphics, Heads Up Display (HUD) graphics, and so on.  So contact damage was a way to save resources such that memory could be used for other aspects of the game.  Since the 16-bit era, however, games have arisen that no longer ran into the issue of memory in regards to contact damage, such as Secret of Mana, a game released nearly 20 years ago.  This game, along with many others, did not have to rely on contact damage to save memory; every enemy had a defined attack animation and range, such that the player can clearly see when and where an enemy is attacking.  If a nearly 20 year old game can accomplish this with far less resources available than we have today, there's absolutely no excuse for games in this day and age to rely on contact damage.  This game already sports defined attack animations for enemies, so that's already in place.  There's no need to have contact damage stacked with this, unless it makes sense for the enemy's design.  For example, Keburi monsters that are basically living fires.  Touching fire hurts, so it makes sense there, or a monster covered in spikes.

2.  In most cases, it does not compliment the game design.  Especially in regards to MMOs like this one, Soul Saver Online, where enemies are randomly respawning on the current map.  Since they hurt by touch and do that, unsuspecting players take unnecessary damage, which could even kill them, just because they didn't have any reaction time, nor could they see, the enemy spawning on top of them.  That in and of itself is a bad game design aspect.  Also, the map design in this game features of lot of areas with tight corridors, or even just a bunch of enemies on platforms, where it's near impossible to traverse the map without taking damage.  Assassins have the great solution of Hiding to this, but that's not available to every class, nor can you use it in the Avatar form.
Contact damage was a necessity on early consoles and 8-bit machines for memory reasons.  The 16 bit era proved it is no longer necessary, so there's no reason one would need to rely on it in this day and age.
Title: Re: Contact Damage
Post by: Theforeshadower on September 09, 2015, 10:39:58 pm
The 16 bit era proved it is no longer necessary, so there's no reason one would need to rely on it in this day and age.
That's not even close to being accurate.
U.N. Squadron (area 88)
Gradius III
Super R Type
Megaman X X2 and X3 as well as Megaman 8
Rockman and Forte
Demon's Crest
Super Castlevania IV
Castlevania Dracula X
Super Bomberman 1-5
Smartball aka Jerryboy
Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past

Those are from the top of my head without thinking too hard.  In contrast, here's all I can come up with that have actual action(no turn based stuff) that do not have contact damage from the top of my head:

Final Fight 1 2 and 3
Basically, any beat 'em up like Final Fight, Spider-Man Maximum Carnage, Death and Return of Superman, Batman Returns, etc.
Secret of Mana
Secret of Evermore
Seiken Densetsu III
Though, there are times you do take contact damage from bigger enemies and bosses.
X Zone (Super Scope gun game)

That said, you shouldn't make blind statements without fully researching what you claim.  The 16-bit era introduced more refined and/or new genres of video games both with and without "contact damage". 

Going into 32 and 64 bits, Crash Bandicoot had contact damage as did Super Mario 64.

I've never played Soul Saver nor do I have any desire to look into it.  Just no real time right now.  Since you state it is an MMO and I see mention of platforms, I don't see the problem with contact damage in general.  Most platformers have contact damage in some form as a form of game balance.

The only platformers that I can recall immediately that does not is Counter Task Forces or something for GBA and PS1, but now you are talking military shooter similar to Metal Slug but more single player oriented.

Terraria has INSANE contact damage and blowback from taking that contact damage, yet it is one of those applauded platformer RPGs of recent years, if not all time.

In the end, I think you are just venting some frustration of a game you probably enjoy but play too much.  I feel the same way about Path of Exile after I play it too much and get level 80 Hardcore characters then instantly go "poof" and lose that character.  You just have to realize that more people enjoy the game in its current form than you do.
Title: Re: Contact Damage
Post by: Koh on September 10, 2015, 12:04:38 am
I never said games in the 16-bit era weren't made with contact damage.  I was saying that games made during that era proved it was no longer necessary as a memory saving technique on big games, using Secret of Mana as an example.  It's a fairly long game, and one that doesn't use contact damage, so memory wasn't an issue in that regard.

 I think a legacy reason is a rather poor reason to defend this design choice honestly.  Just like it'd be a bad reason not to undergo any change in life.  "It's always been that way."  Doesn't mean it can't be changed for the better, no?

Mario never had intricate combat, however, it did have situations where !@#$% did come up from contact damage and enemy placement...especially in Super Mario Bros 3, NES or SNES.  All the Castlevanias, more specifically the arcade style ones, most definitely had their fair share of this as well.  And in cases like Ninja Gaiden, where knockback is also an issue, it just makes for an ungodly frustrating playthrough of a game that would otherwise not even be that difficult.  You could call it a form of Fake Difficulty.
Title: Re: Contact Damage
Post by: Theforeshadower on September 10, 2015, 03:16:56 pm
It still didn't prove anything in the 16bit era.  There were beat-em ups in the 8bit era on the Nintendo.

The issue is that you are talking (again, I can only assume about the game you played as I never played it) about a platformer.  How many platformers do you know with a robust combat system without contact damage that has been successful?

Maybe it's an experience difference between people.  I know I am a bit older than you and have been playing Super Mario Bros. since I was one year old as evidenced by photos from 1989.  It's highly likely I am looking from the inside out while you are looking from the outside into the design logic behind contact damage.

As I run through my memory of games I have played, contact damage is most logical legitimate way to balance platformers, especially two dimensional ones.  Again, I pose the question:  how many platformers do you know of that were commercially successful without contact damage?

Without contact damage, you now have to take time and money to code a combat system and draw sprites.  Now, that would support your "lazy" theory but there is a catch:  once you have all of the fancy sprites and combat ready - will it be fun?  At that point, you might as well have created a beat-em up game instead of a platformer.

Combat systems slow down games.  Using Super Mario Bros. 3 as an example, imagine if Nintendo removed all contact damage, but now you have to smash on each enemy at least 3 times to kill them.  The entire gameflow of SMB 3 would have been much slower and possibly not very fun to play.

Going back to Terraria, the combat system is one of the things of the game(for me personally) that end up boring me.  I'll be building or mining my way through the game world but have to stop every 10 seconds to fight some low or mid tier mob that takes another 5 seconds of my time.  It just kills the flow of what I am doing.  Yet, Terraria still has contact damage with severe blowback and no one bitches about that game or how the creator "cut corners" by not implementing a system that does not have contact damage.  The mobs in Terraria usually do nothing but move toward you.  Sometimes, they shoot a projectile while moving toward you.  The AI is basic yet serves its purpose for a mining RPG that is also a 2d platformer.

Imagine if Zelda II had no contact damage.  You would have to change or remove half the enemies.  The game would not have its legendary difficulty status(still easily beatable by anyone willing to practice).

You say contact damage could be considered a fake form of difficulty.  I could argue that coming onto a forum to cry about that fake difficulty show that you have a lack of skill and an unwillingness to practice to overcome the fake difficulty. 
"Mario never had intricate combat, however, it did have situations where !@#$% did come up from contact damage and enemy placement...especially in Super Mario Bros 3, NES or SNES."
Sure - for a first time player.  Anyone seasoned in SMB 3 knows where the gimmick enemy spawns are at and plays accordingly.
Don't take it personally, it's not my intent to insult.  It's all about perspective and personal tastes, in the end.

If you don't like how the game deals out difficulty with contact damage - don't play it.  The design of contact damage is not in and of itself "lazy".  It's how it's implemented.  Again, I have never even seen a picture of the game you mentioned in your original post.  Contact damage could very well be !@#$% for that game.  I would have to play the game in order to form my own opinion.

From your side of viewpoint, I feel the same way about Reflect damage in ARPGS such as Diablo and Path of Exile.  Many many people !@#$% about it.  I never actually voiced my opinion of it on forums as I learned to deal with it.  However, in this example, the voices spoke and in both Diablo III and Path of Exile , reflect has been changed to be more forgiving(much more).  To me, it watered down the game difficulty so that people who build glass cannon can now see the endgame content that people who built intelligent damage+survival could only see before.  So, now you have a catch 22 where everyone is starting to make glass cannon builds since it's faster to clear content and almost as safe as builds with survivability.

In essence, instead of letting the players learn to overcome the difficulty, they dumbed it down on all levels so everyone "has an equal playing field".  It's funny though because all those people with glass builds that thought they now had skill kept dieing to bosses in Act IV(Path of Exile) vanilla that GGG nerfed Act IV more than half a dozen times within a few weeks.

THat's just my example of something I didn't enjoy in balancing of a game I play and how I view it.  I find personal enjoyment in overcoming difficulty curves and such.  I grow a distaste for a game company that panders to the more casual market(but they do present the larger playerbase) but dumbing down the difficulty.  That's just me though.  :)

I want to end by saying that I do know the frustrations of gimmick contact damage.  Anyone that watched my Zelda II stream should remember that.
Title: Re: Contact Damage
Post by: Koh on September 10, 2015, 11:12:18 pm
What you're saying implys that you can't have games without contact damage be difficult though, which is untrue, and there are plenty of examples to back it up, 2D, 2.5D and 3D.  It's not that we aren't willing to master the game mechanics for the most part, but rather that even if you know hot to use all the abilities and such, there are points where it just becomes ridiculous, and makes the game seem harder than it really is.  Like Zelda II, like you mentioned, where the game itself really isn't that hard, but what makes it hard is the stupid butter-knife like attack range, and the fact that things hurt by touch, which can be problematic in tight spaces, or when Link has to get close to hurt the enemy with his butter knife, but gets hurt trying to get close enough to use it.

Ninja Gaiden, where the game itself really isn't that hard, but it only seems hard because things respawn infinitely, often knock you back to instant death (which makes the life bar seem pointless), or because it and some other examples you mentioned are just based on trial and error, rather than skill.  "Have you memorized the layout and enemy placement?  If not, do it again and again and again."  You shouldn't have to do that to finish a game, hence why that sort of thing is considered fake difficulty.  If one truly understands the game mechanics and how they work, they should be able to get through the whole game on the first continue, albeit with some mistakes, like missing jumps because they under- or over-shot them (hence lives), or were being too gungho and taking too many hits, etc.  It's fair to expect the player to learn enemy behavior.  It's not fair to expect them to memorize where everything is, so they can create the perfect run with that knowledge.

People actually have complained about in Terraria, myself included, especially since after a certain point in the game, everything moves faster than you, and you've only got 1 or 2 frame to react before you end up taking an obscene amount of damage (Expert Mode is no joke when it comes to the Pillars).

The whole game doesn't have to slow down because of the use of attack animations, especially if said animations happen in the window of less than a second.  In fact, it can even encourage the use of very speedy enemies that do swipe and weave tactics.

Contact damage in and of itself isn't bad as a whole; it has its use in some scenarios like scrolling shooters and such, but most of the time it begs the question of why.
Title: Re: Contact Damage
Post by: Max. on September 14, 2015, 12:44:35 am
So, at this point in my life I'm definitely more in the "casual gamer" category, I just have way too much to do to spend time, for example, memorizing enemy spawn points in Mario or even memorizing many combos in a fighter like Soul Caliber (which is the last fighter I played, like eight years ago or something). Opportunity costs are just too high these days.

I also haven't played a ton of games, but I feel like the ones I played actually have given the right inclination toward contact damage or not, as a binary. I think it's a failing for a game to just have a blanket like, all enemies do contact damage. But a simpler game like Mario or Zelda, most enemies "attacks" are contrived with all the foresight of "I'mma bump into that dude! That'll show him!" So it makes total sense. What else is a goomba or octorock to do? So that's 2D games that I've played, mostly.

For 3D games I think it's a more relevant point. Like, some goblin with a sword, for example. He should swing his sword to get you, and I can see how it wouldn't make much sense that if he's not waving his blade around and you bump into him, you get hurt. But if that's an established rule for the game right from the get go, the player should be used to it and just make a point of NOT bumping into baddies.

I googled Soul Saver real quick, and from that limited perspective, I feel like if the contact damage there is causing a problem just as the enemies spawn on the platforms, it is a legitimate issue with the game. But I feel like the culprit isn't the contact damage, since it's an established mechanic. It's poor design with enemy spawning and placement. You've gotta jump onto a small platform, so if enemies pop up there without warning and kill you, that's not your fault, but I don't think it's the damage, it's the placement.

Overall though, considering whether contact damage makes sense for each game and each enemy within the game is a good thing for a designer. It did start as a way to efficiently use space, but my personal experiences haven't given me any inclination to feel that it's only been kept on as an outdated mechanic. Maybe I'm just not playing many poorly designed games :p

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