Realistic Ballistics - Progress Report

  • Last Post 15 September 2017
Julian Gollop posted this 26 August 2017

We have implemented a 'realistic ballistics' system which works in a similar way to the original X-COMs. It does make combat quite fun. Each bullet has a separate trajectory and damage whatever it hits.

  • Snipers can make headshots against enemies who think they have good cover
  • Heavies can unleash a hail of 12 bullets with their machine guns - but they are not likely to hit - but then they do frequently blow away any light cover
  • Assaults fire a burst of 6 bullets normall, but 4 with overwatch, and 3 with return fire.

Range is a very significant factor with this system since there is an inverse square deterioration in accuracy with distance (as in real life).

For the interface, we have created a first person view with a couple of probability circles - one for 50% of shots expected, and one for 75% of shots. It allows the player to judge the enemies cover visually, and accurately.

It's simple and definitely makes fire-fights tense. There are some issues though

  • Cover is basically WYSIWYG - therefore it is difficult to give the player much info about cover unless he is able to 'see' from different positions. There are no numbers worth displaying. A cover system similar to new XCOM doesn't work.
  • It's would be difficult to give the player meaningful data about expected outcomes from an attack. We could show 'average expected damage' mayber, although it's not easy to calculate.
  • Firing from a first person view all the time would slow the pace of the game. It's not important if the optimum target point is always calculated, but that's not easy. At the moment the player can adjust the precise firing position with the mouse (in the future, you would be able to click on a body part to aim at it, but that's only useful if your accuracy circle is not too big).
  • Soldiers do crouch down next to low cover - but their precise pose is very important because it would determine how much of their body might be exposed above the top of the cover.
  • Stepping out from cover to shoot exposes soldiers completely - to overwatch or return fire. A partial step-out pose may fix this. Similarly, popping up to shoot from low cover also exposes the soldier to return fire - again, maybe fixed by a special pose (depending on weapon).
  • There is no simulation for the difficulty of shooting a moving target, which has always been something that bugged me about turn-based games. There may be a way to do this, but I don't know what it could be.

Overall, I like the visual/naturalistic feel of the shooting, but it might not be everybody's cup of tea. You can expect a video demo of it soon.






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N.tony posted this 15 September 2017

I wonder why haven't anyone mentioned yet the games where all of that was implemented? A Russian game studio Apeiron created several games in a JA style with a "Smart Pause Mode", which among other cool mechanics implemented a "GoPro view": (their first game, real janky) (a more polished iteration, probably most sandboxy) (more story-oriented game, but has the most polished evolution of the SMP)

"GoPro view"

I, for one, am a huge fan of these games and the mechanics, and would urge the devs to at least have a look at them to maybe get inspired or vice versa, reconsider some of the gameplay ideas. This is really the situation when the devs set off to make the richest tactical simulation at the expense of everything else.

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OrientalHero posted this 12 September 2017

woah77 said:

I think having a "free-aim" option as a special maneuver would be really cool.

Heh, this was how the original Laser Squad worked. But I think you could abuse it by shooting an enemy far away by aiming at the closest square in line with them...

Zizin posted this 06 September 2017

Okay, this geoscape really makes me wanna play the game


I wonder if there will be visible "controlled territories" on the globe (let's say, as a switch-on-off option) - to see who has the biggest "empire" at the moment -) I saw this feature in Dune 1992 game. There was also a number of havens, and a report with controlled areas shown.


Mazy posted this 06 September 2017

I would imagine there are different systems (or rules) for each weapon type, as is often traditional in TBS games, to make it so tactically there's a weapon type suited to different ranges..


..So I'm guessing that snipers drop off at close ranges (accuracy wise, not damage wise) mostly because the chance to hit% factors in a lot more information than just overall weapon accuracy (distance, reactions etc. probably have a big influence.. e.g, a scoped rifle would be bad at clearing a room compared to a shotgun).


So even if a sniper could technically be accurate at close range (if the sniper was pre-aiming with a pre-adjusted sight), a turn represents a moment in time, the game basically calculates how effective the snipers stats are during that 'split second' at that range and relays the info back to the player by showing them that other weapon types (or soldier positions) could potentially out-perform the sniper at that range.


Overall weapon balance is always important.. For example, in XCOM 2 they may have buffed the shotgun a little too much, it's really accurate and effective over long ranges which doesn't quite feel right (plus the aim buffs for missed shots effectively increase its accuracy over distance even further).

Sapistas posted this 06 September 2017

The more we analyse this, the more it sounds as a weird idea to me :S

sgt_zarathustra posted this 05 September 2017

Another possible issue -- the inverse-square falloff for accuracy is cool and realistic, but it does mean that weapons *always* get better up close. That's mostly good, but there's an implicit idea with snipers in particular that snipers are best at long range. Devs who have tried playing with this system: do snipers still feel best at range with this system, or do they also feel most effective up-close? 

sgt_zarathustra posted this 05 September 2017

On the topic of free aim slowing down combat: A couple people here have suggested having a default auto-target with a toggle-able free-aim. That seems like a decent solution, but it leaves the temptation to always use the free-aim option, especially if auto-targeting isn't as effective as free-aim. If it's optimal to always free-aim, then players will always free-aim, even if it gets boring and un-fun to spend most of combat twiddling the targeting reticle. Even if auto-aiming *is* really good, some players are going to *think* they're better at auto-aiming than the AI and fall into the same trap.

One way to avoid that problem would be to put a cost on free-aiming. Will points seem like an obvious solution. If there's a minor will point cost to free-aiming, then free-aiming goes from a mandatory chore to a tactical decision with costs and benefits. Also, that system might take some pressure off of the AI making optimal targeting decisions -- the player's making a decision between taking the auto-aimed, sub-optimal shot or spending will points optimizing the shot, and that decision actually gets more interesting if the AI isn't optimal at picking its aim. 

SpiteAndMalice posted this 04 September 2017

I think you need to be careful about making any aspect of aiming overly skill based too. Like others have said, I'm not looking for an FPS/TBS mashup.

Invariably whenever an aiming mini game is put into a game the developer makes an estimate on the average skill level of the player... for anyone who's skill is better than that average the aiming quickly becomes too easy and makes that aspect of the game OP in comparison to none aimed shots, for anyone who isn't skilled at aiming the opposite becomes true.

You could introduce a level of shakiness based on the aim skill of the soldier in question, but even then I'd leave it to the AI rather than the player to aim... Otherwise a quick novelty soon starts to feel like we're playing ''Dodgy'' Dave McDrunkard in the Star and Garter annual pub darts championship.

  • This week I have been mostly playing Chaos Reborn.
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Mazy posted this 04 September 2017

Good point, reserving the first person manual targeting system for scoped weapons only would make sense. I like the idea of there being some slight variations in the aiming systems depending on the weapon type/tier (and enemy type versus).


Non scoped weapons could perhaps retain a classic feel or have a third person 'aim down sights' view (basically a slightly less sophisticated manual targeting system compared to its scoped counterpart).


Weapons like shotguns and flamethrowers could perhaps have no special manual targeting option due to them being predominantly hip fire weapons.

SpiteAndMalice posted this 03 September 2017

I think overall I'm not fussed one way or another about first person aiming. It could be nice if its done well. I liked the system used in Valkyria Chronicles, but I found aiming Mordheim cumbersome and unwieldy (in general I found Mordheim cumbersome and unwieldy). What I wouldn't want with first person aiming is that it takes over from the TBS aspects of the game. To that end, how a couple of other ideas to throw into the mixer.

What if only soldiers using a scope were able to aim in first person mode? And/or what if aiming at limbs were only possible when targetting large creatures? It makes sense that you'd be able to target a limb of that crab queen, but not so much the grunts. I think most people who are trained to shoot, are trained to aim at the chest, but a sniper might be the expection to that rule.

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Anjovi posted this 03 September 2017







Lollash said:

An idea that I had (having played 1000's of hours of the various iterations of XCOM) which addresses some of the thematic simulation issues is to have stacking accuracy bonuses when firing at the same location. A soldier might be inaccurate with their first burst but if they fire at the same location again they are much more likely to able to compensate.

I have no experience with development, but providing your soldiers with an increase to the accuracy for their fire if they fire at the same tile (or within a small radius of that tile) both simulates the compensation of firing repeatedly at the same location AND the simulation of firing at a moving target. If a target sits still in cover and you shoot at it 3 or 4 turns in a row, your probability circles could tighten, making first person firing more viable and the chance to kill a target in a pitched battle more likely if you focus a soldiers attention on a particular target. I think that would be an elegant solution, encourage more dynamic engagements and help to break the classic problem of full cover/full cover stalemates

The idea above of 2 different types of firing (focused fire vs blind/suppressing fire) would add to the depth of the system. Of course, adding depth without having the system be too convulted is a line I can't comment on.

I really like this idea. I remember trying the xcom long war mod and was very impressed by this idea. When your shooting, it makes sense that following shots would have an improved accuracy. Otherwise setting your troops up to overwatch in a certain direction could perhaps add to accuracy when the following turn comes, provided that they choose to shoot were they were previously aiming.

Anjovi posted this 03 September 2017

 Although i wasn't a big fan of the moving and aiming system in Valkyria chronicles, I think to switch the dynamic from clicking soldiers around the map with a snappy camera change to 1st person aim could be fresh.

I think I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it, to the point where you're manually aiming with every single troop. 

In fallout 2 for example, you generally didn't bother with targeting specific things, though it'd be there when you really wanted to exploit a weakness.

I think in PP, that you might want to tone down the limb targeting so that it'd only be viable in special occasions. Would make using the feature all the sweeter when you do need it. Otherwise, some sort of automated aiming for when you just want the soldier to aim at a specific limb could be a good medium for the majority of time play.

Say you aim at a smaller goon, and you want to shoot the thing that flamethrowers your troops. Just a small contextual menu that popped up next to the goon could indicate whether your troop had a viable shot.Then you could either click a quick prompt that told them to aim for it on their own, or you could opt to do the 1st person thing.

I guess i can see why you went for the more super hero class characters as opposed to the cannon fodder soldiers of the original xcom (having 12-18+ troops to order around in this fashion could be taxing xD)

Sapistas posted this 03 September 2017

Mazy I've played Valkyria Chronicles and there were things I didn't like, like constantly switching from tactical view to 3rd person action view. It was too tiresome for me at was the reason I dropped the game. Same thing with Mordheim.

Also, if pointing and shooting still doesn't guarantee me that the bullet will go where I shoot, what's the point of having it in the first place?

First person gameplay, for me, has to do with me being there and using my skills to overcome opponents. If it different for each soldier and it is dependent from their accuracy skill, why is a hand-driven aim nescessary?

I really don't like the idea of "I'm shooting but it's not really me, is the soldier". I can do wihout dynamic cover if this is gonna make me like the game less, but, as I said before, I'll have to wait and see. I trust Jullian and team but I don't like the sound of this mechanic. Hopefully I'm proven wrong.

Dark_Ansem posted this 03 September 2017

Will all this extra complexity be required when trying to import custom scene assets?

Mazy posted this 03 September 2017

@Sapistas, Like UV says, first person aiming mechanics (and third person aiming) can work really well in TBS games. Valkyria Chronicles is the stand out example (I recommend checking it out to see how it works). Manual targeting is used as a way of lining up the general direction and trajectory of shots by placing a reticle on specific areas of the target..


..It doesn't mean that the bullet will go exactly where you aimed (like in an FPS), the selected aimed shot is still 'chance to hit%' and RNG.. it just means if you aim center mass (body shot) an inaccurate shot may still hit, if you aim to crit (head-shot) an inaccurate shot could be way off.


The size of the aiming circle depends on the accuracy of the weapon and the shooters accuracy stat.. a small circle represents a high chance to hit% and produces a narrow cone of fire (focused shots/sniper/good accuracy skill).. a large aiming circle represents a low chance to hit% and produces a wide cone of fire (random spray/high recoil/heavy weapon/poor accuracy skill).


In the case of PP's proposed targeting system manual aiming just means the player can choose to strategically target specific body parts (and also target exposed parts of enemies when they are in partial cover). If you targeted a limb and the resulting shot was inaccurate it could 'miss' in a number of different ways..


..It could completely miss the target, or it could miss the intended part but still hit a different part of the target (such as the body or a lucky head-shot). It could even miss the intended target but catch another nearby enemy with the stray bullet (or hit one of your own soldiers in a crossfire).


Cover - when trying to shoot at a body part that is not fully hidden behind a LoS blocking obstacle a missed shot will either whistle past the target (missing the cover to), or, miss the enemy by hitting the obstacle instead ..if the obstacle consists of destructible terrain the 'miss' could result in destroying the cover, making it a partially successful 'miss'.


X-Com ballistics example (burst fire within a single turn).. 


Valkyria Chronicles ballistics example (burst fire within a single turn - using manual targeting)


..manual targeting allowed the player to attempt to take both targets out by lining up two potential head-shots, the result was some accurate shots landed on the near target (for the kill) and a few bonus hits on the secondary target..


..a combination of successful shots to the head, and some off target shots which still connected with the body or went wide.. plus some shots that carried to the second target, mostly misses but some clean hits that did a good amount of damage.

UnstableVoltage posted this 03 September 2017

TheGeologistGuy said:

The aiming sounds like a play on the mechanics used in Valkyria Chronicles and Steamworld Heist.  It works very well in those games and I am wondering what other games use it.  I can't think of any other examples except maybe Dual Gear.  Manual aiming in a turn based tactics game is pretty rare and if it is used, its only for special abilities (like firaxis xcoms explosives).  I am looking forward to seeing how this concept will be innovated on and implemented in Phoenix Point.  Can't wait to see it in action.

Julian actually used this mechanic in a game he designed in 2001 called "The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge". It was eventually cancelled as one publisher was taken over by another, and had no interest in the game, as they were only interested in certain IPs the publisher owned.


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TheGeologistGuy posted this 03 September 2017

The aiming sounds like a play on the mechanics used in Valkyria Chronicles and Steamworld Heist.  It works very well in those games and I am wondering what other games use it.  I can't think of any other examples except maybe Dual Gear.  Manual aiming in a turn based tactics game is pretty rare and if it is used, its only for special abilities (like firaxis xcoms explosives).  I am looking forward to seeing how this concept will be innovated on and implemented in Phoenix Point.  Can't wait to see it in action.

UnstableVoltage posted this 02 September 2017

Sapistas said:

Fair enough UV. I just have to see this in action I suppose. I still find it worrying that I'll need to muster my mediocre FPS skills to play through a turn-based tactical strategy game but overall I have faith in Julian and I trust the team will deliver.

I see what you're saying. However, you're just going to be clicking on an area to target. It's very different from running and jumping around at speed while trying to headshot someone who is also running and jumping around and shooting back!

Have faith!


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Sapistas posted this 02 September 2017

Fair enough UV. I just have to see this in action I suppose. I still find it worrying that I'll need to muster my mediocre FPS skills to play through a turn-based tactical strategy game but overall I have faith in Julian and I trust the team will deliver.

UnstableVoltage posted this 02 September 2017

Sapistas said:

I know it's not going to be an FPS, it was just an exaggeration to point out that I fear this is just too much and it might complicate combat further. Maybe an auto-calculation by the game of how much of your target is exposed, like "56% covered" or something like that would be easier and faster.
I'll have to wait and see of course, but I am very sceptical of this free aim mechanic in a tactical game.

This is one of the reasons that this mechanic is being implemented. It is almost impossible with dynamic cover to calculate the cover's effectiveness (it's easy in Firaxis XCom, as cover is either high or low and offers a flat bonus). Because conveying the effectiveness of cover to the player via the UI is such a complex matter, the targeting system was decided upon.


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