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Does a turn-based tactics game require a grid?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Philip-Rowlands, Dec 18, 2018.

  1. Philip-Rowlands

    Philip-Rowlands

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    I've been considering creating a turn-based tactics game, and to try something different, I'm thinking of doing it from a first-person perspective (i.e. from the perspective of the units on the ground). However, that's not what this thread is about; it's about another design question that's crossed my mind.

    Every such game I've played (Jagged Alliance 2, Xenonauts, Silent Storm) or watched on Youtube (XCOM, XCOM 2) has used a 2D or 3D grid, though it's not always visible. From what I can tell, the grid serves the following purposes:
    • Showing exactly where a unit is (and blocking that location for anyone else);
    • Calculating paths (each grid is a specific node for the pathfinding);
    • Laying out cover (i.e. Graf von Schtickschtock at position (2,6) cannot directly hit J. Bandersnatch at (2,3) because a solid concrete pillar is at (2,4)).
    The thing is, I can't see any particular reason why a grid is required for the above tasks; it may be helpful, but I don't think the lack of a grid would block it. Am I missing something?
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
  2. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    It's not required. Lots of tabletop tactical games don't use a grid; instead they use a measuring stick to control how far units can move and check line-of-site, and generally have some no-overlapping-bases rule to deal with collision.
     
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  3. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    No, of course not. There are no rules. You make the rules.

    I made some characters for a guy building this really cool new take on RTS games. It kind of straddles the line between real time and RTS. If you look at it it looks like an action RPG, but it's actually an RTS. And it totally makes intuitive sense -- at least to me.

    And there are plenty of AAA RTS games without grids. Bioware games come to mind.
     
  4. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    ...Bioware makes RTSs?
     
  5. BlankDeed

    BlankDeed

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    I just had mental trauma of all the times I got my ass kicked at warhammer. There's so many units, I don't see how anybody absorbs enough information to get good. Maybe that's why I suck at it.

    He means Bethesda.
     
  6. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Bioware made KOTOR and Jade Empire and Dragon Age -- those types of games, right?
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018
  7. YBtheS

    YBtheS

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    Frozen Synapse, Call to Arms, and Wargame: Red Dragon are good turn-based games without a tile grid. Frozen Synapse and Wargame: Red Dragon do all three bullet points of the OP well but Call to Arms lacks in the last one since, unlike the other games, afaik there is no way to confirm whether something is within a unit's line of sight besides by eye balling it. I don't know that tile games have that much of an advantage to those.
     
  8. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Those are RPGs.
     
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  9. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    Divinity Original Sin 1-2 are turn based RPG Tactics without a grid. (Or very-very fine grid, depends on the point of view)
    But it actually does not add anything, I think it subtracts fun. It less tactical because of that (although in every other aspects, DOS is shining)
     
  10. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    This is a good point. A grid often increases tactics, by reducing options and allowing very clear, more complex effect shapes (I'm thinking of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness here).
     
  11. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I haven't played Divinity games, so don't take this as a specific counter-point to that example, but I just want to mention that it's important to know the audience. One person says "it's less tactical because there is no grid," might mean to another "the grid is a simplification for noobs who need things spelled out for them."

    Now don't take offense. It is just a matter of opinion. Of course a grid based game can be a hardcore, noob annihilator. A grid definitely isn't a crutch. But it could be seen that way. And you might even design it that way. And what one person calls a crutch, another person calls "I have a job and am not looking to define my existence by the difficulty of games I play."

    Or you might use a grid just because it makes development more manageable. Whatever. It's up to you, you just have to think it through, and if you can't decide you make prototypes of each and test it out.

    But the point is, know the difference between opinion and fact -- one is not greater than the other, they are both factors you have to consider -- and most importantly, know your audiences opinion/expectations.
     
  12. Philip-Rowlands

    Philip-Rowlands

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    Sounds like I have a lot more games to play research to do over the holidays :D
     
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  13. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    Some people say the same RTS vs. TBS as well. In reality RTS games aren't more strategic or more tactical because they're RTS. You need better reflexes and you need to memorize more key-combos and/or mouse buttons.
    Oh, and usually you don't have a grid.

    I understand that some people say that grid for noobs, but the reality is: there are a very few TBS games (specially 4X) where there is no grid (square or hex). Grid is a restriction you need to cope with, makes the game harder, not easier. I mean in reality, not in perception of course.
    DOS even go as far as that your character does not have to be at a certain place to manipulate the world. You as a player can manipulate stuff in the world (moving objects to another objects for example). So yeah, DOS is half-TBS-tactic half-RPG. It's easier than most 4Xs, but this does not mean that it's less fun.
     
  14. BlankDeed

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    I always saw grids as an ascetic motif. Like a style, more than a gameplay element.
     
  15. Antypodish

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    Triangle, square, pentagon and hexagons changes same gameplay dramatically.
     
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  16. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    Primarily the movement tactics since the possible movement directions are limited (3, 4, 5, 6, or in voronoi grid: N), the last one, the Voronoi is interesting because it can create hot-spots, which are tactically different, more important than others. (Let's say the average cell has 4 connections, the cell with 5 or 6 connections will be far more valuable because of the possibility of broader movement).
     
  17. Eric5h5

    Eric5h5

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    Heroes of Might & Magic 4 didn't have a grid for the tactical combat (the other games in the series do), and it didn't make as much of a difference as you might think.

    --Eric
     
  18. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    It is naturally a hexa game because the movement can only happen from/to 6 directions. If my memory serves well.
     
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  19. BlankDeed

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    You're right, my bad. I think I was thinking visible/invisible, honestly who even knows.
     
  20. Kiwasi

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    Grids are more about promoting exactness. With a grid, a player can calculate "In exactly three turns I will be inside the range of my attack, but still outside his attack".

    Without a grid, the player has to guess. This adds uncertainty to the game.

    Both designs are valid.
     
  21. RichardKain

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    The reason why grids are so often used for this sort of game is that the help to simplify the design, simplify the engine, and are often a lot easier for the user to wrap their brains around. Moreover, grids help to prevent cheese. When you have a less limited system, it becomes possible to skirt certain lines in order to gain tactical advantages. A difference of a few millimeters can determine whether or not a unit gets hit or gets off scott-free.

    Of course, this is not a problem, just a design decision. Some players hate that kind of approach, and prefer grids. Other players love that kind of approach, and would prefer to play that way.

    For my money, it's find to go the non-grid way. I would just recommend that you include tools that would allow your players to accurately measure or visualize potential outcomes. As long as they have the ability to see and/or anticipate these factors, they won't feel that they're being blindsided.
     
  22. Kiwasi

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    One good design approach to avoid this is to blur the edges of the attacks. If an enemy is at perfect range, the attack does full damage. Just outside perfect range, less damage is done. And so on.

    Basically if you are going to avoid precision in movement, you should also avoid precision in the rest of you game.
     
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  23. RichardKain

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    A fine point. You can also have it so that there is no upwards limit on range, and different tiers of range simply determine how likely an attack is to hit. (and possibly also reduce the overall amount of damage, should a hit be successful) There are plenty of different ways to address the issue, and give the player different approaches to consider. So long as the rules are consistent and clear, it's all good.
     
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  24. bzdur

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    Well, in digital world of computers everything has its grid... it's just a matter of scale.
     
  25. DrMetman

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    Something that was said struck me as paramount - "As long as they have the ability to see and/or anticipate these factors, they won't feel that they're being blindsided." - This is an absolute in my opinion. If game design leaves the AI the opportunity to blindside the player, people often feel cheated. There is nothing wrong with the occasional surprise, but when the player feels like the game 'cheats' because they are always unable to determine potential outcomes, it actually takes away from the excitement that anticipation can create. This is subjective, as there have been games that uses an element of unpredictability well, but it is a fine line IMO.
     
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  26. RidgeWare

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    A lot of it depends on the general 'feel' you're going for also.

    I'm currently developing a game which is a sort of homage to early 90's table-top dungeon crawlers - so I'm deliberately going down the route of 4-way rigid grid movement. Which is a thematic decision.

    But...in a dungeon with tunnels that are 2 squares wide, this actually introduces quite a few problems. Since I want to move a party of 5 warriors in realtime around that dungeon - realistically going round corners, through rooms in the right order - and then switching to turnbased tactical combat when enemies are discovered.

    There's been plenty of times I'd wished I wasn't as restricted as I am with 4-way tile movement! But that's the remit I wish to go for, so I'm seeing it through.
     
  27. fetish

    fetish

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    The question isn't if you need a grid - ultimately you're working on a grid regardless, just a very, very small one.

    By logical extension, the answer to your question is No - a grid is not required.
     
  28. Eric5h5

    Eric5h5

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    Well, no, you can just use floating point math. If you say "but floating point ultimately does have finite limits," congratulations, you successfully redefined "grid" into total meaninglessness. ;)

    --Eric
     
  29. Stardog

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    I've been dying for a non-grid turn-based game since I played Valkyria Chronicles. Your AP drains constantly while you move. And the camera is over-the-shoulder instead of RTS style.

    The problem with VC is that it doesn't have too much depth to the squad management, and you can solo most missions with a single Scout unit.

    Something like VC with some depth would be great.
     
  30. Eric5h5

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    Divinity Original Sin is like that, aside from the camera view. No grid and moving uses AP, decent amount of depth.

    --Eric
     
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  31. j4ke

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    Skulls of the Shogun did that also. A turn-based strategy game without any grid. The units have certain radius or range in which they can move or attack.