On G+ I had a brief conversation about phasing decisions to increase tactical play. Basically, poker.
The fundamental decision of poker - how much to bid - is a relatively simple one. If the game was just "draw, bid, show", it'd be pretty dull. Instead, poker breaks the decision into multiple phases, allowing you to draw and bid several times, and get a feel for how all the others are drawing and bidding. Only after several of these phases do you show - and you can even opt out of that.
I was thinking about fighting games. I love innovation in fighting games, but the fighting game genre is dying. And my reflexes aren't as good as they used to be. So I got to thinking: could you create a completely new kind of genre out of the ashes of the old? A game with very unusual but easily understood features?
As a design discussion, let's slow down the fighting game. Take all of the player's reaction time out. What are we left with?
It's a complex discussion about range, priority, domination, and damage/effect. The players are constantly negotiating these four elements. Which ones matter most depends on the situation, and fluctuates from moment to moment. For example, if your enemy has a short-range super-move available, range may become a high priority for both players, as you strive to stay out of his range or position yourself such that you can step out of range with a higher priority than his super... and he strives to close range or dominate/stun you so you can't retreat when he pulls it out.
The importance of each element is determined by the abilities of the fighters and the state of the element in question. In a one-on-one fight, the weighting will generally be very similar between the two fighters - any action your enemy can take is an action you have to take into account. This doesn't make the conversation boring, though - the weight isn't the only thing that matters. What you say is equally important.
Still, many fighting games add more complexity to the game by adding in more characters. A tag-team fighting game gives you the ability to switch in or gain support. A free-for-all of 3 or more characters means that your discussion is actually split into three or twelve ongoing discussions where your actions are statements in all of them simultaneously. And so on.
Let's consider a fighting game where we use phased decisions instead of reflexes. IE, poker.
Rather than have a concrete "clashes with three phases" sort of thing, let's go ahead and make it just an ongoing thing.
We'll say there are four basic techniques - we're talking basic balance here, so let's call them "rush, flurry, throw, and blast". Every fighter will be rated on them - 1, 2, 3, 4 in whatever order you like. They are elemental - rush beats flurry beats throw beats blast beats rush.
Both fighters tap one - just one - button for their turn. It resolves - winner wins, loser loses the winner's stat in health. If it's a tie, whoever has the higher stat in their element wins, and the difference is dealt as damage.
Here's the key: the clash boosts the fighters' stats in that category, doubling them. But every turn you don't use that tactic, that bonus fades.
So if Anna and Barry both rush, Anna might win with her 3 rush stat against Barry's 2. Barry loses 1 health.
For the next round, Anna has a 6 rush stat and Barry a 4. Now the mind game begins. Will Anna rush, to take advantage? Barry should blast in order to prevent that. Barry's interest in rushing is fairly low, since he has another stat of 4 and a stat of 3, so that rush of 4 isn't terribly appetizing. So he should blast, right?
Well, maybe Anna should throw, then, and let her rush stat decay to 5 while doubling her throw. Or maybe she's okay with Barry using a blast against her - she'll take the 3 points of blast damage happily, because it will double her rush stat to 12. Now she's built up a tremendous rush stat and can take some rounds off to use other things and still have a massive rush stat waiting in the wings. Three damage is a small price to pay... although then Barry's blast stat will be 6, so he might blast again the round after that...
This leads to a complex interplay of build up and decay. You may end up losing a round on purpose just to boost yourself to an impressive and dangerous level. You may let your stat decay a bit knowing that the enemy's associated stats will decay just as fast, so the delta will be the same...
Moreover, it's easy to program.
Like, really easy.
Maybe I'll whip a prototype up tonight.
The FUN part is where you can take it. Free-for-all battles. Tag teams. Sacrificing stats for super-moves...