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questions about stances for "game design"

Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 1:54 pm
by JmtCanete
Hi everybody! I'm working on a combat system, that while not my original goal, has become more serious about following how actual sword combat works: a consequence of having a vision that will eventually involve animations, and needing my mechanics to fit with the physics optics of combat. Currently the weapon-sets I'm focusing on are the two-handed sword, single sword, and the sword & shield. If anybody would like to help educate me on any of these details it would be greatly appreciated!

I am intending to design strikes that originate from stances, meaning that if someone is in a different stance, he will move from that stance into one of maybe one or two acceptable stances before delivering the strike, a wind-up which will slow the attack down some, but can be done concurrently with the closing or expanding of distance.

This means that I need to know how stances transition from one to another. Those that require a trivial adjustment will be faster, and those that require more movement will be slower.

I also need to know--and I've been having a hard time finding any good resources on this--the relative defensive advantages and disadvantages that different stances confer. I am breaking this down pretty thoroughly, trying to figure out what lines certain stances automatically protect, what strikes are defended easily from said stance, and what strikes are defended by transitioning from one stance to another. How many lines are there? It seems like some defenses do defend lines by default, but I'm uncertain how many different areas I need to consider. At the high end I have 3 thrust regions, low, mid and high, and a crap load of cutting angles to deal with: From Directly overhead or directly underneath, downward right high(to upper body) and low(to legs), downward left high and low, mid left, mid right, upward left low(legs) and high(to torso?), upward right low and high. Middle high and middle low seem like they can be absorbed in different line defenses as far as I can tell. Am I going to far with all that? Please tell me its simpler.

Lastly, I'm intending to devise "out of position" stances: disadvantageous conditions that occur after a parry or a bind, stumble, shove, or what have you. I'd love some advice on what these look like, and what the recoveries into a protected position look like.(granted, these positions could look like absolutely anything, but maybe some common situations?) Again, I'm looking for what they can defend, and what the timing to transition into a stance that can do so looks like. This category might also include resting positions, over-extensions, aftermath of single-handed thrusts with two-handed swords, risky maneuvers, etc.

Here are the things I "know," and some speculation and questions to go along with them.

Two-Handed Swords(I'll tackle half-swording at a later date)
Primary Stances: I apologize in advance for being all over the map with the nomenclature

Alber(left or right? does it matter?) easily transitions to pflug or iron gate? (alber to kron is a standard d, but a long way to travel?)
Pflug(left or right)(good for thrusting, cuts from here are relatively weak. seems to be a good middle ground position that can transition quickly and easily into alber, vom tag, ox, etc? Also has great parrying coverage. any particular defensive weakness? )
Vom Tag(usually right?) fairly powerful downward cutting, defends a line, high? trivial transition to high-guard, ox, wrath guard, or pflug?
Ochs(left or right)(great for thrusting, defends a high line to one side, some high cutting potential. hides the measure a little bit?)(drops into key easily, can go into langenort from thrust with step,

Secondary Stances: (i'm mostly not dealing here with the strikes and parries that transition a person into these secondary stances, and thankfully that is something that will be more intuitive, at least I think. any info on this would also be helpful though).

High Guard(I know there is a version of vom tag that is already cocked high over the head, but I'm distinguishing this guard as the wound-up transitionary state, ready to deliver a very heavy strike, or maybe something evolving out of the defensive move to kron?)
Wrath Guard(looks like any parries would derive from transitioning into another stance? Are strikes from here and high guard hard to parry due to the force of the strike?)
kron(already nearly high guard? good position for downward cuts? defends a line, transitions easily to pflug or vom tag, or langenort with a pulled up cut?)
Key(left or right)(I know almost nothing about this, except that it can defend an upper cut from alber?)
Long-Tail(left or right)(Hides the measure, offers deceptive attacks? How does one quantify that? Opponent's may respond incorrectly, or react later?
middle-boars tooth(left or right?)(I'm actually not sure how you end up in this stance, but it does appear to me that if you changed your facing when in long-tail you would end up in this stance pointing the other way, which is kind of cool.)
whole iron door(left or right)(seems like you need to transition into another stance to parry?) good for quick , fairly strong upper cuts or middle strikes from one side?)
barrier guard(left or right)(does this result from a parry?closes a line against low attacks? can do some fast and somewhat powerful downward cuts?)
hanging guard(just one orientation?)(very defensive, some weak upper cut potential, and some thrusting? Does it have a defensive weakness? getting over the sword to the hands? lower leg strikes?
langenort(left or right foot forward?) (best line defense? can basically strike by letting the opponent run himself into your sword if it gets there first? can actually do functional cuts with a moulinet? Hands are exposed, and sword is at risk of being beaten or bound, but can quickly drop to alber or retract to pflug or even something like iron gate with a wrist flick? just rambling here.

Sword & Shield: I don't know what is primary here and what is secondary. I'm not sure if these wards are appropriate with all non-tower shield types or only bucklers and small shields, for that matter. I know that we also get into obsessio's here, which means, I don't know, reactive or preemptive wards that are transitioned into as part of an attack? Of course shields offer different passive defensive values just by virtue of coverage, so I'll have to figure out how a buckler operates versus a kite or rotella when it comes to defending a line.

1st ward: seems like this position defends well with shield, and that the sword could easily be turned to defend the lower or higher left side. fairly quick, fairly powerful, upper, mid or downward cuts can probably be made to the opponent's right side? sword can theoretically parry low? It seems like this and all shield forward guards are pretty well defended, and I'm trying to figure out how to distinguish them on defense. One interesting thing I see with this ward is that if you were to block low with shield, you would bind up your own sword, but then I guess you might be better off beating away that low strike to the leg or counter-attacking to the arms or head of the opponent, but shield block would be quicker and safer?
2nd ward (leads with the sword foot(well the picture does, but the description says left-foot forward), but still keeps shield extended for protection. Since you have to reach around your body to block your right side, is that side more vulnerable in this stance, defended mostly by the fact that you've got a menacing sword hanging over the opponent? Good downward cutting at any angle? no thrusting from here
3rd ward (I don't know, this has the opposite defensive problem of 1st ward? high blocks bind up the sword? certain attacks require lowering or retracting one's guard? mostly the same attack options as 1st ward except that you could more easily wind and strike from overhead or the upper right?
4th ward(not sure how significant the difference between 2nd and 4th ward is...I notice that this is an either foot forward stance. One interesting note is that when the sword is forward the shield is retracted, being less functional at restricting the opponent's advance I guess, but this position is so that the upper right over hew isn't telegraphed when pulling in the I can look back at 1st and 3rd wards and consider how certain shield movements will telegraph certain angles of attack?)
5th ward (says this is an open stance? I don't see it. I thought open stance meant that you were facing more directly than from the side? Basically this is long tail, but unlike the two-handed sword, the shield protects the line. The sword trails and can transition into an attack from numerous points? Can be deceptive, but the sword also has a long way to travel, so attacks are slower?)
6th ward some thrusting potential. Either foot forward I think, but shield leads either way? can probably dip and come up for a quick slashing attack? or be raised into 4th ward for a downward cut? would these be stance changes, or just fluid in-stance actions?)
raised long-tail(seems so common in pictures but just referred to as a long-tail variant, or maybe this is vom tag...its like a reversed footing of 2nd ward. So I don't know, more powerful, harder to gauge, but slower attacks from this position than from second ward, but also better shield defense given the distance it puts between you and the opponent?)
ochs(kind of like the vom tag above, except that it's good for fairly quick, powerful thrusts instead of cuts, but can still cut with a winding action and a step?
langorts(these look like the following twohander stances{ alber, langenort, and the two-handed version of long-tail. I assume they function similarly, and the shields look to be employed in minor support roles, defending the hands or entirely retracted.
vidilpoge & schrankhut (some peakaboo stuff with center-grip shields?)
walpurgis(not sure if it needs its own category, dropped down second ward?)
half-shield(I only know that this is an obsessio, shield-foot forward, sword arm extended but slightly raised for a weak cut? Defends the line, the pairing of buckler and sword at the hands seems to make for good protection while parrying and binding? unlike pflug arms are extended and don't offer good thrusting options without retracting and striking?)
krucke(hanging point, offers moulinets and some quick upper cuts to the arms or face? Offers some parrying defense against upper thrusts and cuts? shield can defend left but not right side?)

I know that mostly devolved into rambling, and my thoughts aren't well organized, so thanks in advance to anybody who was willing to stick it out and clear some of these things up for me!

Re: questions about stances for "game design"

Posted: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:09 pm
by Tea Kew
Something which won't be helping is that you're mixing up systems. This makes it yet more confusing to try and work out what does what. Questions like "what are the core stances" and "what lines are there" and "how do I defend an attack on a given line" all depend on the system you're operating in. For this reason, trying to integrate Fiore stances (such as Boar's Tooth) with Liechtenauer ones (such as Ochs) will lead to confusing results.

For what you're doing, I'd advise sticking to one or the other. A good way to gain an intuitive understanding (short of the 'obvious' option of taking six months of fencing classes at a local HEMA club) is probably to purchase Guy Windsor's Audatia and play it religiously with a friend for a while. One of the key design features of Audatia is that it plays roughly like fencing, including properly modelling what can be done from each guard and so on. It should be a decent starting point into what positions someone can be in while fencing, and how they can move from position to position.

Re: questions about stances for "game design"

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:19 pm
by JmtCanete
Thanks Tea Kew for your response.

I've actually picked up a couple sets of Audatia already, and looked over the cards. It has informed some of my understanding(like a lot of the stance names and positions, both in the German and Italian traditions), as well as reinforced or altered some of my design choices. I did go back and look at the cards again after reading your post though, and it turns out I was misunderstanding the 7 Swords symbols, so now that I know which one refers to the attacker's angles, I'm getting more benefit out of that detail than I was. Before I was pretty dismayed that every stance seemed to allow for just about every angle of attack, but it only looked that way because I was mixing up the defender and attacker symbols, so that will help. Seeing the defense interactions is much harder to do without playing, so you're probably right, I need to print them out and actually do that.

Re: questions about stances for "game design"

Posted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:38 pm
by K. Larson

The approach you've got here seems incredibly complex, what kind of game are you building?

For video games, I'd note that having "realistic" swordplay on the screen shouldn't imply that the players have to manage the techniques manually. The Batman video games are a great example of complex ass-kicking being managed via a very streamlined interface. Trying to compress things like timing, stance, openings, etc. into a controller-driven environment is inevitably going to result in a complex exercise that will pull the user out of the playing experience and won't quite capture the historical reality.

Probably a better approach would be to have the on-screen avatars perform historically appropriate techniques that are triggered by the user with a few timing/distance options to gamify it. A simple control scheme that has options for attack/parry would work- you can then add two options that function like the counters (player has to hit the button at just the right instant): grappling and Indes which would execute a wrestling-at-the-sword or single-time technique. Leveling up increases the ability to chain attacks (i.e. flourishing) and increases availability of indes/grappling.

For RPGs/card games/whatever, you'd want to go a different way.

Re: questions about stances for "game design"

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 12:04 pm
by JmtCanete
Hey K Larson,

yes, it is very complex, and more complex than I wanted it to be, but I think my structure can sustain it, because the gameplay is entirely different than other fighting games. It is not a click-fest but something more tactically considerate. I'm not saying its a good idea yet, and the complexity isn't particularly inflating my confidence, but it is definitely different.

My vision is to have the action play out in real-time, very cinematic sequences, which is why the unintended turns out I actually need to be mindful of the physics of how actions interact with each other so that player choices can be mapped onto them. That said, I'm only making a turn-based version at this time, but the mechanics are still stream-lined with a real-time experience in mind.

Here is how it is supposed to work. action decks and hands are built pre-combat. During battle, movement is plotted(subservient to card effects), combat packets are chosen(consisting of a draw deck and hand modifiers/triggers), and mindset cards are chosen that adjust priorities and quickly filter or modify card effects towards a certain battlefield condition. These 3 choices play out for the next 10 seconds of combat. If it were in real time, the player would immediately get prescient feedback as to his character's end-point, so that he can plot for the next 10-seconds even while that ten-second segment plays out. In a turn-based game, that's not an issue, but I'm restricting actions to those 10-second segments and those three choices.

While deck cards would be standard actions (attacks, active defends, and neutral actions), hand cards would consist of 4 different effects...triggers(say throwing a spear at a certain distance as a primary action)...replacements (response cards that replace one's action according to the opponent's action and other conditions)...modifiers (for instance lunges on thrusts that are triggered at the proper distance)...and combo effects(follow-up attacks or ripostes/counter-attacks after specific parries).

As to stances, I've developed a fairly complex system of interactions, ultimately intended ironically, to keep it simple, at least for the user. The back-end is far more complicated obviously, but the only complexity the player deals with is, assuming he wants to tinker with his own combat decks, attempting to build his decks in a way most likely to be efficient and effective. He doesn't need to make real-time decisions about transitions between 5, or hell, 14 different stances. In fact, generally, actions will fire from stances, and if a character isn't in that stance, he will move into it. If actions/parries etc. place a character into a secondary stance, a passed second will wind that character back down into a primary stance.

I might be crazy, but I actually like everything about the way I think this will work, except for one thing that is haunting me, and that is the cumbersomeness of this mini-deck idea. Its simple enough to say that a player can make as many of these as he wants, to be available according to whatever battlefield conditions unlock them(for the sake of streamlining and organization), and as my best option, I intend to allow for numerous conditional metrics that give access to or close off certain combat packets...but that kind of tinkering is not for most players, so it will probably be important that more general combat packets still give the player a sense of agency, rather than a sense of arbitrarily picking something and seeing if it works out.

Anyway, as a game that is essentially a card/miniature hybrid, it really is an experience most suited to people who like to build numerous decks.

As to stances, I'm still struggling. I think I've got a handle on long-point(sticking with the german tradition here), although I'm not confident that I fully understand the benefits and weaknesses of each stance(particularly need to know what lines I should consider to deal with implicitly closed lines like those of alber, etc. )

I got really mired in sword and shield because the first source I ran into was i.33. I'm still working on offering that sword and buckler technique, as a