Author Topic: Combat System #2: Hexes vs. Squares

HobGoblin42

  • Administrator
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2016
    Posts
    51
    Location
    Munich
#192 February 08, 2018, Thursday, 11:53 pm
As you may recall, we touched upon this particular subject some time ago very briefly when we talked about our die rolling experiments with D&D 4th Edition: Six sides are better than four. Let’s elaborate.

This particular subject led to some of the most heated discussions among ourselves while we designed the combat system for Realms Beyond. There are times in the development cycle of a game that can lead to actual combat. Only in those cases, it typically gets resolved with arguments and words rather than the use of force and weapons.

Players of traditional D&D campaigns and those of the SSI Goldbox Games used to prefer dungeons and battlefields that were based on a square grid. Wargames and virtually every turn-based strategy game, on the other hand, favor hexagons. Modern D&D computer games, such as the Temple Of Elemental Evil, often abandoned a (visible) grid altogether, leaving game designers with three different approaches, each with its own crucial implications in regards to combat, level design, and spell handling.

After many lengthy exchanges discussing various arguments, in the end, we decided to settle upon a hexagonal grid. Perhaps the strongest argument for hexes was that they add more depth to combat. As I said before, six sides are just better than four. But there's more to it. Here are three additional reasons that serve as viable arguments for hexes and against squares (or no grid at all).

Reason One: Movement Cost


Hex MovementMovement costs are more obvious. Unlike squares, where diagonal movement is actually longer and diagonal squares touch each other only in a single point, hex positions always share entire sides and crossing from one field into an adjacent one is always the same distance. In square grids, the game somehow has to account for the longer diagonal distance. Typically this is done by ignoring it and therefore providing a built-in exploit, as it becomes cheaper to move diagonally, instead of making the two straight moves that would otherwise be necessary to reach the same field. If you ever played D&D 4th Edition, which will allow you to move diagonally at the cost of one square, you will be well aware of the irresistible urge to exploit that apparent “extra ground” you can cover by moving diagonally.
Square Movement

Within a hex grid, you simply do not have that problem. Every move covers the same distance and can, therefore, safely have the same cost. We felt that in a computer game where you want to simply point at your target field and have the character move there by itself, it was not only much easier to calculate the path across a hex grid, but it was also more balanced because no movement points were squandered as a result of some awkward navigation.

Reason Two: Correct Facing


With hex fields, you can make sure characters are always properly facing in the direction of their movement. With squares, you either have to start implying that the field your standing on is actually an octagon. You have eight directions that your character could face in, or you make facing irrelevant altogether, the way D&D 4th Edition did, where it is only relevant that two enemies cover opposing squares adjacent to one another. In Realms Beyond, we wanted facing to be relevant. We have actions like backstabbing where it is important because trying to get into another character's back or trying to make sure the back of your own character is covered, adds immensely more depth to the decisions that need to be made during combat.



Reason Three: Organic Feel


Outside of combat, we have a world that is supposed to look natural or even organic. To achieve this as best as possible, we do not limit our level designers to build their levels based on a fixed grid, especially as the grid is truly only relevant during combat and combat makes up only one part of the game as a whole. Most areas of a level may never even have the grid enabled because no combat encounter will ever occur there. When we ran a number of tests, it also turned out that hex grids were much better suited to represent natural-looking scenes. By comparison, if we were to use square grids, we would have to readjust entire scenes to make sure they align with the square grid. While this is fine for buildings with straight walls and rectangular corners, for a path through the woods with rocks splattered across and fallen trees partially covering the ground, it would have had a severe visual impact.


Having considered all these factors, the decision turned into a no-brainer, really, so why the heated discussions I mentioned before? There's a very simple reason for that. For pen & paper games, it’s a whole lot easier to prepare a map on a square grid, at least unless you have some experience working with hexes. Since we prototyped much of our combat system on paper, some of us were simply reluctant to give up the squares at first. Force of habit, I suppose. We had two choices. We decided to settle the argument with a drinking contest and while we were at it, we prototyped a combat scene with a hex grid. It worked out very well. So much so, in fact, that everyone was happy (and felt sick like a dog).
Goto Blog Post

Chris_Wilson

  • Member
  • Beach Crab
  • 1
  • Joined
    Jan 18, 2018
    Posts
    5
#193 February 09, 2018, Friday, 06:42 am
Probably too soon to ask but how will it look like in game?
Will the grid be always be visible? Or only when mouse go over it? And will we have option to ajust transparency of the grid?
Biggest problem of pillars of eternity was the visibility during combat and if you add a permanent visible grid during them, then visibility could be bad then.

HobGoblin42

  • Administrator
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2016
    Posts
    51
    Location
    Munich
#194 February 09, 2018, Friday, 01:47 pm
Probably too soon to ask but how will it look like in game?
Will the grid be always be visible? Or only when mouse go over it? And will we have option to ajust transparency of the grid?
Biggest problem of pillars of eternity was the visibility during combat and if you add a permanent visible grid during them, then visibility could be bad then.

By default, the hex grid will be only displayed when planning your characters' actual move but you'll also have an option to turn it always on during the combat. And yes, the grid's opacity can be smoothly adjusted in the options as well.

Another interesting aspect regarding the grid will  be the feature to mark fields with enemies' AoO (attack of opportunity). But this (very helpful) aid will not be simply de-/activated through the options menu because its availability depends on the overall difficulty level when starting a new game/campaign. When playing our variant of the "iron man" mode, you won't get access to this help.

In the next days, I will finally polish the grid display and post a preview screenshot here to give a better outlook.
Last edited: February 09, 2018, Friday, 03:57 pm by HobGoblin42

Gandalf

  • Member
  • Beach Crab
  • 1
  • Joined
    Dec 20, 2017
    Posts
    2
#196 February 10, 2018, Saturday, 09:18 pm
Are there any comparable games? D&D with hex fields and adapted rules?

Dragon

  • Developer
  • Marsh Goblin
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2017
    Posts
    15
    Location
    California
#197 February 10, 2018, Saturday, 10:04 pm
While not D&D and not an RPG in the traditional sense, I think "Blackguards" is a very good example how a hex-based combat system can work in an RPG setting and how it makes for incredibly rich tactical gameplay.

HobGoblin42

  • Administrator
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2016
    Posts
    51
    Location
    Munich
#198 February 10, 2018, Saturday, 10:58 pm
Are there any comparable games? D&D with hex fields and adapted rules?

Hmm, not that I am aware of. But there aren't many turn-based D&D computer games since 3.5e anyway.

Temple of Elemental Evil doesn't show any kind of grid, but I wouldn't be surprised if they used some hexagonal structure internally.

But along with Blackguards, some other modern turn-based RPGs make use of hexgrids, e.g. Divinity:Original Sin,  the Expeditions Series, Legend of Eisenwald and of course the legendary Chaos Chronicles  ;)
Last edited: February 10, 2018, Saturday, 11:13 pm by HobGoblin42

HobGoblin42

  • Administrator
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2016
    Posts
    51
    Location
    Munich
#212 February 26, 2018, Monday, 08:00 pm
Our approach to fit straight walls with 90° corners into the hexgrid  when it comes to a combat. I quickly colored the blocked regions red to demonstrate the system.



Note: that's not the actual ingame combat grid visualization but the info display directly taken from our Map Editor.
Last edited: February 26, 2018, Monday, 08:02 pm by HobGoblin42

The Old Farmer

  • Member
  • Marsh Goblin
  • 1
  • Joined
    Dec 21, 2017
    Posts
    14
    Location
    Alberta - Canada
#214 February 28, 2018, Wednesday, 09:46 pm
Thanks for the example, I was wondering how you were going to make square shaped pegs fit in hex shaped holes.

A question though why are large sized creatures only 1 hex not 3 and even larger creatures  more than 3?
Last edited: February 28, 2018, Wednesday, 09:48 pm by The Old Farmer

HobGoblin42

  • Administrator
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2016
    Posts
    51
    Location
    Munich
#216 February 28, 2018, Wednesday, 10:55 pm
A question though why are large sized creatures only 1 hex not 3 and even larger creatures  more than 3?

We chose the Ogre as prototype for large creatures and he still fits into one hexagon (with some overlapping).
But that's not final yet, probably we'll scale him up a little bit and extend the hexagon space for large creatures to three.

Same for huge creatures, until now. they all fit visually very well into the center of three hexagons and don't need much more space on the board. But let's wait for our first Gargantuan enemy, that will likely force us to extend its board space to 7 hexagons.

The Old Farmer

  • Member
  • Marsh Goblin
  • 1
  • Joined
    Dec 21, 2017
    Posts
    14
    Location
    Alberta - Canada
#217 March 01, 2018, Thursday, 10:14 pm
I was thinking more of the number of hexes covered from a rules standpoint rather than models fitting in a hex or not.  I have been DMing (in a 3.5e campaign) a party of M sized players fighting Kobolds in tight quarters which is why the tactical opportunities that open up for smaller vs larger when the terrain can be used to the advantage of the little guy is fresh in my mind.  I'm guessing you are working out the implications of a similar scenario with an ogre scraping a party in a 5' hall way.

HobGoblin42

  • Administrator
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • 1
  • Joined
    Aug 03, 2016
    Posts
    51
    Location
    Munich
#218 March 03, 2018, Saturday, 01:15 pm
I was thinking more of the number of hexes covered from a rules standpoint rather than models fitting in a hex or not.  I have been DMing (in a 3.5e campaign) a party of M sized players fighting Kobolds in tight quarters which is why the tactical opportunities that open up for smaller vs larger when the terrain can be used to the advantage of the little guy is fresh in my mind.  I'm guessing you are working out the implications of a similar scenario with an ogre scraping a party in a 5' hall way.

Agreed, tactical variety must be prioritized over visual accuracy and therefore we'll definitely upscale the Ogre's model (and those of other large creatures) and align the size of large creatures to 3 hexagons.