So, at its core, PMDiscord was a result of me beating the story of PMD: Explorers of Sky and thinking, “this could have been a lot more challenging! And the AI sucks! What if I could have the friends I named my teammates after play as them instead?” Pretty humble, right? The story kept me playing, but having my Pikachu spam Agility to cheese every encounter… well, if you’re a fan of PMD games, you might be able to relate. And so sparked an idea for a battle system that would take the best parts of PMD and the main series, and turn it into something which hasn’t been seen in fan-games before.
At the very beginning… this presented a fair number of challenges. I wanted PMDiscord’s battles to feel more like the main games, but still be turn-based like in the Mystery Dungeon series. In addition, because of PMDiscord being a text game, using PMD’s grid-based system would not have worked well. This change meant that something needed to be done about the monster positions, the entire Speed stat, and deciding when monsters could switch in and out from battles. It took some brainstorming to get it feeling ‘right’, and the current state of PMDiscord’s battles are close to how I think they should be.
First up, something had to be done about the players’ positioning in battles. The most simple solution to this would be to make them play out like a Triple Battle (Quad Battle?) in the main series. However, without the ability to switch monsters, I felt this would not encourage the kind of teamwork or strategy that people enjoyed the series for.
So, I took a different approach; not using a grid, but also not using a static field of battle. Instead, PMDiscord monsters are considered to be in two positions: either ‘close’ to their opponents, or ‘far away’ from them. This is simple enough to read in text, and also resembles battles in the main game, which made it ideal in concept.
From here, I decided that the monsters’ movement was directly tied into their attacks. Why? Because why not? The games have two different attack categories, but aside from using different stat pools, they’re literally just the same thing. Am I the only one bothered by this? …Yes? Oh, well, okay. But still, I figure there’s no reason not to make some extra use out of that.
A monster using a ‘Melee’ (‘physical’) attack would have a % chance to close in on who they attacked; likewise, a monster using a Ranged (‘special’) attack would have a % chance of retreating from an opponent near to them. The goal here was to keep the movement in line with the game’s theme and logic, and I felt this worked pretty well. Monsters with high Melee/Physical stats would aim to stay in front, while the ones with good Ranged/Special stats would stay further back, enforcing that ‘MMO party’ feel I was aiming for.
To give the positions purpose, I had to give them their own advantages and disadvantages. At a distance, monsters can attack any foe, but Melee attacks hit for 50% damage. While up close, monsters can only attack nearby enemies, and Ranged attacks hit 50% damage. Regarding movement, a Melee attack would have a high chance of moving in close, and a Ranged attack would have a low chance of getting away from someone nearby. Finally, to balance it all out, a ‘Retreat’ option guarantees a monster to switch out of a close position, at the cost of their turn.
With this, almost everything became tied together. Melee attackers and Ranged attackers had their set roles, with one charging ahead to corner their foe’s Ranged opponents while covering their teammates. Two monsters could be locked in Melee combat, like a one-on-one battle — and they could retreat and swap with a teammate, just like they would in the main series. With a couple pen-and-paper playtests, I was happy with the results.
The last huge issue that was left over, was poured into those attack chances I mentioned. Whereas the Speed stat was removed entirely in PMD, it would have a new role in PMDiscord: It increases a monster’s chance of successfully approaching or retreating from an opponent. It thematically works, and it gives faster characters a niche advantage over slower ones, at the cost of having lower stats in other areas.
This covers most of the core changes in PMDiscord’s battles, although certainly not all of them. It’s clear to see it’s a fairly different system to the one we’re all used to. And that isn’t to say it’s perfect where it is, either. It can be argued that adding one more rule to a tried-and-tested videogame could be seen as overcomplicated, maybe even unnecessary. But time will tell. PMDiscord is a learning project first, and there’s nothing gained without trying something new. I have a lot more to cover on the game’s design changes, which I will describe in similar Devlogs to this one. Stay tuned as always.