Jedi Fallen Order Part 11: Duel of the Flakes

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 29, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 133 comments

So we’re at the top of the World Tree™ on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. We just collected the next plot coupon of Master Cordova’s Galactic Tomb Tour. It’s time to leave, but first we have to fight the Ninth Sister. She was in the group of inquisitors at the start of the game, and is sort of the Nelson Muntz of the Sith. Her smack talk is clumsy and dumb, but Cal is still no match for her. He loses the verbal sparring, but then wins the ensuing glowstick fightI mean, assuming YOU win.

She’s a simple, straightforward character and works well as a mid-game boss when we need to duel someone quasi-important who isn’t the main antagonist.

Way back in 2006 – back when this site was in its infancy – I wrote an article talking about how to portray sword fights in the context of a video game. The article is a bit short and undercooked by today’s standards, but I’d like to come back to that idea and talk about it some more.

So let’s talk about…

Lightsaber Duels 

A quicktime event. If only we had some sort of game mechanics we could use for resolving battles.
A quicktime event. If only we had some sort of game mechanics we could use for resolving battles.

The central problem that faces us is that lightsaber duels are deadly in a way that (say) kung-fu fights are not. Fighting games can show the combatants punching each other or even striking with blunt weapons to gradually chip away at the opponent’s health bar. But those same mechanics look absurd when applied to lightsabers. A single blow ought to be an insta-kill. Barring that, it ought to be a fight-ending injury. Minor wounds are theoretically possible, but it strains credulity to imagine two people could trade dozens of lightsaber blows and still be able-bodied enough to continue the fight. 

In short, hit points do not mix well with insta-kill weapons.

I didn't even break the skin when I ran you through? Damn it, writer. Can the characters at least PRETEND we're fighting with lightsabers?
I didn't even break the skin when I ran you through? Damn it, writer. Can the characters at least PRETEND we're fighting with lightsabers?

Games keep trying to be more “cinematic”. We make the graphics realistic. We model real actors and animate the characters using full-performance capture that tracks facial expressions as well as body motion. We mimic the visual language, musical cues, and shot composition of traditional cinema. Our game developers are desperate to capture the splendor and prestige of Hollywood.

And then at the moment of maximum intensity – during an exciting and emotional action scene – the whole thing suddenly reverts to Bugs Bunny cartoon logic where characters are indestructible and deadly wounds just cover you in soot.

We Need a AAA Solution

The designer keeps cutting away from the "Dark Souls" combat for quicktime events. That's... weird.
The designer keeps cutting away from the "Dark Souls" combat for quicktime events. That's... weird.

Sure, we could imagine a game where mistakes result in instant death. That’s how Hotline Miami and Super Hot work. But that doesn’t really mesh well with mainstream AAA sensibilities. We’ve seen what one-hit kill mechanics look like, and it turns out it’s super frustrating. It’s the very opposite of “immersive”. It also goes against the idea of an empowerment game where you get to play as the protagonist of an action scene. 

I’m certainly not the first person to notice this problem. From watching GDC talks and listening to Dev commentary over the years, I notice this recurring theme where someone decides to revolutionize the deeply entrenched melee combat conventions that so many games are built on. They spend months on prototypes, burning through their budget and trying to make something roughly playable. Eventually they’re forced to conclude that what they’ve built isn’t as engaging or as fun as what we’ve been doing for the last 20 to 30 years, and they return to using tried-and-true systems.

The CLANG project is probably the most infamous effort to fix this mess. A lot of very smart people have worked very hard for a long time to come up with something better, but in the end we always find ourselves once again mashing ⓧ to stab dudes.

My Humble Suggestion

You almost felt that? Well, I almost had fun doing it.
You almost felt that? Well, I almost had fun doing it.

If all of those other experienced developers haven’t been able to reinvent the wheel, then I certainly don’t stand a chance. Having said that, I think we can do a little better with the systems we have.

My first suggestion is to simply embrace the logic of Hollywood sword fights. If we’re going for a cinematic look, then let’s use cinematic cues to sell the fight. In the movies, we can tell who is “winning” because the fight choreographer shows the loser making mistakes. The current loser stumbles backwards under an attack and then spins away to recover. They fall on their back and then roll out of the way juuust in time to dodge the finishing blow. They get staggered and have to back up to recover their footing. Their weapon gets batted from their hand and they need to dive to recover it.

My suggestion is to take all the times when I’d normally wave my lightsaber through the boss and instead play one of these stumbling animations. The boss can still lose the same 5% of their oversized health bar, but we’re showing the boss accumulating mistakes rather than nonsensical lightsaber wounds. 

And then the fight ends in a cutscene where you shove her out of the World Tree(tm). I know I complained about the quicktime event above, but at least that was TRYING to be a videogame.
And then the fight ends in a cutscene where you shove her out of the World Tree(tm). I know I complained about the quicktime event above, but at least that was TRYING to be a videogame.

This would make the end of the fight a lot more satisfying. As things are now, I stab them 19 times and absolutely nothing happens, and then stab #20 suddenly kills themOr worse: Stab #20 triggers the cutscene where the game designer kills them.. But if we only allow the player to strike them at the very end, that blow can feel really satisfying. The player can run them through with a special animation designed to sell this particular moment. It will look and sound like you’ve just stabbed someone with a lightsaber. The game even has this satisfying electrical “pop” sound when you execute some of the bigger foes. We could use that sound when the player deals the killing blow, making it feel that much stronger.

This will also make sure our lightsaber feels like the powerful weapon we see in the movies, and not a big padded glowstick.

I have more to say on lightsaber fights, but I’ll save it for a later fight. 

Cal Kestis Wins

Cal always looks so dumbfounded when he wins.
Cal always looks so dumbfounded when he wins.

Despite all my talk about how satisfying it would be to run the boss through, we don’t actually get to do that to anyone in this game. Not in gameplay. Not in cutscenes. We do get to kill several varieties of Purge Troopers armed with different energy weapons, and I think those guys are more fun to fight than the bosses. But we have six lightsaber duels in this game, and nobody dies in any of them. (Or at least nobody dies by our hand. There’s going to be some kill-stealing going on.)

The Ninth Sister ends up losing a hand and getting blown off the platform, so we can probably assume she survived and will return in the sequels. That’s fine. I like that the writer is leaving themselves some things to use later and not painting themselves into a corner. We know that sequels are inevitable for successful EA games, and it’s nice that the writer is allowing for that. The Ninth Sister wasn’t super-interesting this time around, but there’s plenty of room for her character to grow. The dialog hints that – despite her considerable size – she’s actually the runt of the sisterhood in terms of Force power. She’s a trash-talking tryhard with a desperate need to prove herself. There’s a lot a writer could do with that when they’re ready to give her the screen time. Her simple personality makes her inappropriate for use as a main villain, but she does really well in the role of a Starscream-type secondary threat.

Next up, we’re headed back to…

Dathomir Again

Damn, girl. Sounds like you've met Qui-Gon Jinn.
Damn, girl. Sounds like you've met Qui-Gon Jinn.

The Night Sister shows up and again demands that Cal leave. An interesting note about this character is that she seems to be the only person on the planet with a Romanian accent. I actually like the accent, and I wish the other natives featured the same. Okay, I admit that accents are hard and no accent is better than a bad one. I realize I’m being really nitpicky. I’m just saying it would have been a really cool bonus detail to have the accents consistent across this culture.

As we’ll learn later, this woman is named Merrin. She tells Cal to leave, and he threatens to strike her down if she attacks him again. In return, she raises an army of undead to attack him. So now Cal has to cut down groups of undead between groups of angry shirtless natives.

Once again, Cal needs to carve his way through a bunch of dudes who just want him to leave their territory. And once again, nobody seems concerned that Cal is exhibiting the behavior of a Sith Lord. 

Here’s the problem: Cal is going to continue to invade the Nightbrother territory and murder their defenders for most of this chapter. If I stop and complain about it every time he kills another soccer team worth of indigenous people, we’ll all lose our minds. So to keep this short, just scroll back up and re-read the preceding paragraph once every 30 seconds or so. We’re using the honor system here, so I’m trusting you to do the right thing.

Wait, Did You Say “Zombies”?!

This game has both witches and zombies. What's next? Force Vampires? Sith Frankenstein? Bounty Hunter The Mummy? (I kid, but I'm willing to bet at least two of those exist somewhere in the EU.)
This game has both witches and zombies. What's next? Force Vampires? Sith Frankenstein? Bounty Hunter The Mummy? (I kid, but I'm willing to bet at least two of those exist somewhere in the EU.)

Yeah, I guess Star Wars zombies are a thing now? And you can create them using the Force? I don’t know. I’ve never seen the Clone Wars showI’ve heard it’s actually good. so maybe this is normal these days.

Curse those darn millennials and their sacrilegious perversion of the sacred texts of St. Lucas!

I kid. It’s fine. It seems a little weird to me, but I’m glad we have non-living mooks to fill out the combat encounters rather than just more tribesmen for Cal to murder. 

Now that Cal has mastered the double jumpHe learned it on his last visit to Kashyyyk. It’s actually called “Jedi flip”., he can finally clear that gap on the bridge that brought his quest to a halt the last time we visited Dathomir. He jumps across, walks a few more steps, and then tumbles into a trap that sends him sliding to the bottom of the world. Now we need to spend the next hour or so of gameplay climbing back out of this hole.

I found it hard to hear the dialog over how loud the level designer was laughing at me.


Mondays, amirite?
Mondays, amirite?

Cal eventually pushes through Night Brother territory and then has a huge set-piece encounter with an enormous dragon… bat… thing. First you battle it in a cave like a boss fight. Then you have a scripted chase sequence up a cliff face. Then a cinematic / quicktime sequence where you alternately ride it and fight it in the air. Then a final showdown on the edge of a cliff. This is easily the most elaborate sequence in the game. The devs obviously spent a lot of time and money creating this creature that isn’t related to the story and isn’t affiliated with any of our villains. This whole thing is just fireworks.

That’s not wrong in the context of a video game. Sometimes it’s okay to have an action scene for it’s own sake. This is a lot like the Rancor fight in RotJAlthough the Rancor was Jabba’s pet, and Gorgara is just local wildlife. The Rancor helped to show how powerful, resourceful, and cruel Jabba was, while Gorgara is just his own thing.. Still, this scene could’ve had more punch if the threat was telegraphed and built up beforehand, and if beating GorgaraNot to be confused with Gorogoa. was somehow a necessary part of Cal’s quest.

If you’re here for a tense Soulsian experience focused on unforgiving melee combat, then you’ll probably be a little annoyed at how scripted the Gorgara sequence is. But if you’re here for an Uncharted style action blowout, then this is the fireworks show you’ve been waiting for. 

I guess I liked it.



[1] I mean, assuming YOU win.

[2] Or worse: Stab #20 triggers the cutscene where the game designer kills them.

[3] I’ve heard it’s actually good.

[4] He learned it on his last visit to Kashyyyk. It’s actually called “Jedi flip”.

[5] Although the Rancor was Jabba’s pet, and Gorgara is just local wildlife. The Rancor helped to show how powerful, resourceful, and cruel Jabba was, while Gorgara is just his own thing.

[6] Not to be confused with Gorogoa.

From The Archives:

133 thoughts on “Jedi Fallen Order Part 11: Duel of the Flakes

  1. Joe says:

    Star Wars has at least two different kinds of zombies. There are the kind in the Death Troopers novel (not connected with the DTs in Rogue One), and the kind in The Clone Wars. They pop up in a 4 ep story starting with ep 2.05, Landing at Point Rain. If you like the Wars in Star Wars, and a bit of kid-level horror, it’s worth a watch.

    I didn’t really like the Death Troopers novel, but I do love the cover. Check it out.

    1. John says:

      Star Wars has at least two different kinds of zombies.

      Ugh. Of course it does. Star Wars has been around for so long and had so many spinoffs, all desperate for content, that I’m pretty sure that all the major sci-fi, fantasy, and horror cliches are well-represented.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        That’s what happens when you make an expanded universe obsessed with explaining and exploring almost every corner of the setting. Ultimately it comes down to the execution of the tropes and I thought the type of zombie seen in Fallen Order wasn’t out of place in Star Wars.

        1. felbloodreaper says:

          Yeah. Honestly I really dug it when the Clone Wars when full ham on their conceit that the Night Sisters are force users, but their religion and techniques are far more western pagan in style than the eastern kung-fu we’ve come to associate with Star Wars’ mysticism.

          It really helps sell the idea that the Jedi have lost sight of what the Force and the Light Side are about, without diminishing the Force itself.

    2. Zaxares says:

      There was also Darth Nihilus from KotOR 2. I forget the exact term they used for him, but I remember he’s akin to a Force Lich; someone who should have died a long time ago (either from old age or injuries, it wasn’t specified), but managed to keep his body going through use of the Dark Side of the Force.

      1. Narkis says:

        Darth Nihilus was more like a Force vampire, sucking out whole planets to sustain himself. Darth Sion was a broken man, holding himself together through sheer hatred and will. Neither were really comparable to a lich, but they were very similar to undead indeed.

        1. Rob says:

          In addition to being “undead”, Nihilus and Sion are also relevant to this post for another reason: both were defeated in a saber duel, but without the problems Shamus mentioned in his post.

          Massive KOTOR2 spoilers ahead!

          Sion is essentially dead already (his body is crumbling and only held together by his will, making him look like an ash-grey version of the Fantastic Four’s Thing). No amount of stabbing or slashing will do more than temporarily inconvenience him. He’s defeated by using dialog choices to erode his willpower, convincing him to let go and allow himself to die.

          Meanwhile Nihilus is a fellow Wound in the Force, someone who lost/cut their connection to the Force after the horrors of Malachor V and now draws it from other living beings instead. He has long since lost control of this ability, and must consume life (especially from Force wielders) to sustain himself. His feeding is responsible for the near complete destruction of the Jedi between the first and second games.

          The amount of power Nihilus has stolen has turned him into a nigh-unkillable abomination. He’s only defeated by being tricked into bringing his flagship to a barren spot in space with nothing to feed on, then getting him to attempt to consume the Exile. Since the Exile is the same kind of Wound in the Force as he is (though she only passively draws life force from her companions and those she’s slain), attempting to feed on her instead drains him of all his accumulated power. Even then he was still able to draw from Visas, his former servant. Severing that bond leaves him a regular person that can finally be struck down.

          1. John says:

            I’ve never been particularly happy with the Darth Nihilus lightsaber fight. I mean, if that’s not what kills him, why does the player even bother? Why doesn’t the player character just leave Nihilus’ ship, detonate the bombs he’s spent the last half-hour planting, and let Nihilus finish starving to death in the vacuum of space? While we’re on the subject, the idea of the Force as an exhaustible–and consumable!–local resource seems very weird to me.

            The idea that Sion can be talked to death is a little less weird. The fact that he starts following Kreia again for no good reason after overthrowing her then and trying to murder her earlier in the game establishes that he is very, very suggestible. (I say this only semi-sarcastically.)

            1. Rob says:

              You’re right that they should have just blown the charges and the whole Nihilus end-fight is nonsensical, but it was Star Wars during the peak of LucasArts executive meddling. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it was mandated that it all had to end with a saber duel.

              And I feel like the thing with Visas’s bond with Nihilus was just because they wanted to add a light/dark side choice at the end of the fight, and they had this character lying around with a personal connection to Nihilus, so why not interrupt the climax to have the player choose between letting Visas have closure and killing her in cold blood? it’s hardly the worst choice in plot or pacing in the rushed mess that was KOTOR2’s ending.

              As for Sion, given how manipulative Kreia was towards the party, I can only imagine how bad she was when she was a full-blown Sith. If you view him as a victim of emotional abuse, then it’d make sense that his abuser could convince him to follow her again with a few well-chosen words. That kind of abuse is all about fostering a sense of dependency, making it very hard for victims to leave or even say no to their abuser. And the Exile being able to erode his will and defeat him by pointing out that she’s a better exemplar of Kreia’s teachings than him makes a whole lot more sense in that light, too.

              1. John says:

                I like your theory regarding Sion, but I think that you may have put more thought into this than Chris Avellone ever did. If Sion was the only one that Kreia could convince to do what she wanted with only a few well-chosen words that would be one thing, but if the game’s many cutscenes are to be believed then Kreia can apparently do that to anyone at any time, including people–Jedi, Mandalorians, wookies, and more–that she’s never met before. I think the logical implication is that Kreia is just supposed to be irresistibly, awesomely mean or something.

                1. Syal says:

                  KOTOR 2’s central theme is that the galaxy is in death throes* and no one knows what to do in it anymore. They all gravitate to anyone who presents themselves as having a plan, so, either Kreia or the Exile. Sion’s got that rose-tinted nostalgia for the days when Kreia was in charge and things made sense, and the fight is convincing him that even with her he’s still got nothing.

                  *(Hence all the undead villains. Even Kreia’s dead the first time you meet her.)

  2. Thomas says:

    I really like the suggestion of showing the boss’ stumble more and make more mistakes. However to up the viscerality, I think you could combine it with a few things.

    1) Show clothes getting torn (in a non-Star Wars game show them getting bloody) and battered and muddy as the fight goes on. Some enemies can have armour which gets broken and tangled.
    2) Show the participants picking up injuries in the fight. People are always getting their midriff gouged and their hands chopped off in Star Wars. A full on hand loss is probably too extreme, but you can damage someone’s arm and give them a limp.
    3) Have the arena of battle itself become more and more destroyed as the fight goes on.

    There are two games that stand out to me for doing bits of this. There’s the final fight in Metal Gear Solid 4, where the participants become more and more wounded as the fight goes on, until they’re on their knees and slugging each other in the face blow for blow, too tried to defend.

    And Ghosts of Tsushima they have these amazing duels in very samurai arenas (a pond of floating lanterns, a field of petals), and as the duel goes on your armour gets more battered, and bloody and muddy. One sticks in my mind that takes place in a swamp, and by the end of it my character was caked head to toe in mud till he looked almost unrecognisable. I had barely noticed it was happening during the fight, but it left a big impact at the end.

    1. Thomas says:

      Oh also, progress the time of day during the fight! Having a boss battle start at dusk and end at night. Or have the weather get worse as the battle goes on. Have a battle at night illuminated by lights and as the battle goes on the lights get damaged and extinguished.

      There’s a lot of untapped potential in boss battles that videogames have yet to mine. This is the kind of area where Hideo Kojima has been decades ahead of other developers.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Those types of scratches and scrapes could work for normal sabres, or show damage if you push someone against some jagged rocks, but they wouldn’t work well for light-sabres. Glancing hits don’t work with energy swords that can cut through people like paper.

      1. Thomas says:

        Yet in the Star Wars stuff it happens a lot. It doesn’t make too much sense, but its part of the universe.

      2. Bubble181 says:

        As in the movies, scrapes are the times where you duck/roll/dodge and are *just* too late to avoid the blow completely – it’s just a nick from the first half inch of the lightsaber hitting you.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          And even that should be twelve kinds of lethal. Are we just going to forget the kinds of damage these things inflict nigh-instantly to reinforced metal with raw heat?

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I mean, considering that any sort of flimsy metal door or piece of rock is an obstacle that Cal will have to go around? Sometimes half a level around? Yes, yes we will. Lightsabers are almost as inconsistent as the Force itself.

            1. Liessa says:

              IIRC in KOTOR they handwaved it with ‘some sort of lightsaber-resistant force field’.

              1. John says:

                In Knights of the Old Republic everything was apparently made out of cortosis (kortosis?) ore, which is for some reason lightsaber proof, thus explaining how some mook with a vibroblade can use it to parry a lightsaber blow. Relatively few enemies actually bothered to equip energy shields, which were effective against both lightsabers and most ranged weapons.

    3. Benjamin Hilton says:

      Personally I liked the average sword fight against generic enemies in Dishonored. In most games if an enemy takes 3 hits to kill you run up and watch them take two chest wounds while grunting , then the third one kills them. In Dishonored, you swipe three times and the enemy blocks, blocks, then gets run through. It’s the exact same input from the player either way. But it makes more sense and actually plays out as a tiny sword fight.

  3. TLN says:

    I will say that playing the old Jedi Knight games with “g_saberrealisticcombat 1” meant all light sabers (both yours and those of the enemy) became extremely deadly, and it was an absolute blast to play like that.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Yup. My favourite way to play those games.

  4. The Puzzler says:

    Dengar, one of the bounty hunters from Empire Strikes Back, is wrapped in bandages. Either he recently broke both his arms, or he’s some kind of mummy.

    There’s a Force Vampire called Tel Angor, though as far as I can tell he’s from a game.

  5. Joshua says:

    Well, there was the old fighting game Bushido Blade where blows could be instantly lethal, and some people liked it so it’s theoretically possible.

    I do like the suggestion of hits actually being desperate parries, glancing blows, or near misses. It’s basically how the last couple of editions of D&D have gone with hit points, and explains why there’s not a really good parry mechanic in those games, because HP partially does represent those parries in an abstract fashion. It’s not really any sillier than literally having opponents trading full-contact blows with battle axes into each other’s flesh repeatedly. I guess LOTRO’s morale system works kind of like this too.

    1. Gunther says:

      IIRC, that’s how gunfights are supposed to work in the Uncharted series – Nathan Drake isn’t actually getting shot when he loses health, the health bar is actually representing his “luck” – everything except the killing hit is a near miss.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The weird thing is that in the later games, Nathan Drake actually has a magical depletable luck field which causes bullets to miss, and that’s an entirely separate mechanic from his regenerating health.

    2. Addie says:

      There’s the fairly modern fighting game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the mechanics of which Shamus seems to have described nearly perfectly back in 2006. Bravo, Shamus! Yes, nearly every normal enemy goes down in one solid hit, and most of the bosses go down in two; katanas look like a suitably lethal weapon worthy of the legend, and apart from your improbably good blocking skills, the whole thing looks pretty grounded and realistic. Probably falls under the “I don’t get on with Dark Souls” problem of being unapologetically balls hard, and unlike DS you can’t even grind to get past a difficult bit – your only option is to Git Gud. Superb game, though.

      1. Geebs says:

        You can grind experience, upgrade materials and usable items in Sekiro (I certainly did a bit of skill grinding for the Demon of Hatred). You can also go and beat some other bosses to level up; for example you can go through a huge stretch of the game before fighting Genichiro for the first time.

        But yeah, Sekiro is an absolutely amazing example of stamina/posture/parry-based combat.

        1. Redrock says:

          I actually think Sekiro is much more accesible than Souls games exactly because it lacks the RPG machanics of the latter. Because of that, in Sekiro, you can’t:

          – be underleveled
          – have a wrong/inefficient build
          – be using a damage type that a particular boss has a resistance to with no way of actually knowing that except some vague lore hints
          – be overly stressed about getting to your precious soul-filled bloodstain at the beginning of every attempt

          Thus, the level of challenge for every boss is carefully tuned to be more or less the same for every player. That’s pretty much why Sekiro was the first kinda Souls game that I’ve ever beaten, before proceeding to actually beat Dark Souls 1, Bloodborne, etc. Again, I think that out of proper Soulslikes Bloodborne has the best design precisely because it has far less build variance and thus a more tightly controlled, predictable and consistent level of challenge.

          1. Geebs says:

            Bloodborne – while also being a fantastic game – does really suffer from how the weapon upgrade system stifles experimentation. I particularly felt this when going through the Old Hunters DLC – you suddenly get a whole bunch of new weapons, but you have no real way to evaluate how good they actually are without grinding up a ton of upgrade materials.

            Like most people, I just ended up going back to the Hunter’s Axe, which is pretty much objectively the best weapon in the game for general use, but unfortunately also the most boring weapon to play with.

      2. John says:

        Sekiro isn’t a fighting game. There’s fighting in it, yes, and quite a lot of it too from what I understand, but when most people say fighting games they aren’t talking about games like Sekiro, they’re talking about games like Street Fighter or–if you want something with a samurai theme–Samurai Shodown or possibly Soul Calibur.

        I don’t know what Sekiro is, unless it’s a Souls-like. I think we’re still in the early days of the genre, at least relatively speaking. We’ll probably settle on another term eventually, the way we did for first-person shooters and action-RPGs. I sure hope so, anyway, because I’m not particularly fond of rogue-like or rogue-lite, which can’t even be bothered to capitalize Rogue properly.

      3. Grimwear says:

        I second Sekiro. The way most Sekiro fights work is that there are two bars. A health bar and a posture bar and the first of those to go down gets you the kill. The posture bar generally goes down faster but it also recovers quickly so you need to consistently do damage. Now it still suffers the problem of hitting the meat as it were. Generally you attack a boss, hit him a few times in the body, then he’ll auto block your attacks. You’re then supposed to let him attack you, you parry them, which then creates another opening to attack, and repeat until dead. I think this could work well for lightsabre combat. It doesn’t need to be as punishing as Sekiro but rather than having a health and posture bar just make it 1 thing. Then every attack you make gets auto parried by the boss but still reduces their bar, and as the bar goes down (it doesn’t have to regenerate), they act as Shamus described and start stumbling, faltering, and falling backwards. Then once the bar hits 0 we get a stylised kill like in Sekiro and perform the deathblow.

      4. Khwarezm says:

        Sekiro is actually the game that Jedi Fallen Order is mechanically closest to in the first place IMO, so its a bad sign that they screwed up having the lightsaber fights feel actually lethal when the game they are cribbing off of so much already pulled it off better.

    3. krellen says:

      For the record, hit points were never supposed to be “meat points”. They always represented a combination of physical toughness, fighting skill, and ephemeral luck at avoiding blows.

      From page 34 of the 1st edition AD&D Player’s Handbook:
      “Each character has a varying number of hit points, just as monsters do. These hit points represent how much damage (actual or potential) the character can withstand before being killed. A certain amount of these hit points represent the actual physical punishment which can be sustained. The remainder, a significant portion of hit points at higher levels, stands for skill, luck, and/or magical factors. A typical man-at-arms can take about 5 hit points of damage before being killed. Let us suppose that a 10th level fighter has 55 hit points, plus a bonus of 30 hit points for his constitution, for a total of 85 hit points. This is the equivalent of about 18 hit dice for creatures, about what it would take to kill four huge warhorses. It is ridiculous to assume that even a fantastic fighter can take that much punishment. The same holds true to a lesser extent for clerics, thieves, and the other classes. Thus, the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces.”

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Sort of. The problem is that they were never super-consistent with it- if hit points aren’t health, then why are they restored by a healing spell?

        Since there is no separate system to track actual injuries, HP has to be used, which weakens its status as just some kind of abstraction.

        1. krellen says:

          Why does “magic” do a “magic” thing? Did you really just make that argument?

          1. galacticplumber says:

            Internal consistency is important. Either you’re actually getting physically harmed, and the healing magic is fixing it, or you’re not, and the healing magic is misnamed. Pick one, stick with it, and stop making excuses for lazy hacks.

            1. Fizban says:

              It’s really not that complicated: you just look at what the rules do, and that’s what informs the descriptions you should be using.

              You don’t fall unconscious until you fall unconscious. Usually at negative hit points, but some abilities will lay you stay up even then, at which point is should be clear “this person should be down but is staying up anyway like a badass.”

              You don’t take a mortal wound until you take a mortal wound. In 3.x, hitting -1 or lower hit points means you begin bleeding out. Thus, any description that could result in bleeding to death cannot be used until someone is dropped to negative hit points (unless it’s a special ability that gives them a bleed that won’t stop until they’re dead on its own). Further, unless you drop someone to -10 or lower, they are not instantly dead, and thus an instantly lethal description cannot be used either.

              Every (slashing or piercing) attack that hits can deliver injury poison.

              Thus it’s pretty clear how 3.x fights should be described: every attack that hits draws blood or at least bruises (if you’ve ever skinned your knee you know blunt attacks can draw blood too), but fails to be life-threatening unless the target is low enough on hit points. This happens regardless of armor worn: if the roll beats the AC, then you’ve rattled them through the armor with a blunt weapon or hit through a crack with a slashing or piercing weapon, but only for a scratch. Even the much vaunted critical hits and sneak attacks are not potentially lethal unless they can actually drop someone below 0 or have a special ability: no, you did not stab them in the kidney, heart, lung, artery, or anything special-you stabbed at it, and their hit points decide what happens next. 3.x fights between high hit point but low relative damage foes should be a string of close calls, last minute dodges, and mitigated attacks, right up until someone runs out of gas and only then finally gets run though.

              And even then, there are absolutely no normal mechanics for removing limbs or breaking bones, which means no normal attack can ever do this, period. They only happen in special circumstances at DM’s discretion or if a special ability is added which causes it.

              And of course when it relates to healing magic, this means that hp Cure spells used on a high hit point character who is still in positive hit points will heal minor cuts and bruises, as well as restoring combat stamina and alertness, but nothing else. They will Stabilize any mortal wound as long as the person isn’t dead yet, but sufficient blood loss (from losing -1hp per turn due to the Bleeding Out meta condition) will put them beyond that point. Both basic attacks and 1st level Cure spells can have drastic and immediate effects on the 99% of the population that is 1st level with only 2-4 hit points, but people who try to use those sorts of descriptions as characters level up and more powerful foes are used, quickly run into problems.

              Ironically, though a lot of DMs seem to think it’s a good idea to let players describe their attacks, or at least their kills, this is actually the worst possible plan for consistency and immersion of those players. Because those players often barely even know how the game works, let alone examining the details of how the hit point system translates into actual wounds. That’s how you get people run through a dozen times or with heads rolling around like marbles. But in turn, most DMs have a hard time coming up with the gripping narration that is apparently required to make up for basic attacks not being as “cool” as spells, because there’s only so many ways you can describe a near miss before it gets boring. This might be less of a problem if they ran combat rounds quickly so the tension came from the mechanics of the game, but it’s a self referencing problem: if your players don’t know the game well enough to play quickly and require each attack to be full of wow awesomeness to stay engaged, they also won’t know the mechanics well enough to realize that by definition almost all attacks (and hit point damage spells) cannot be wow awesomeness.

              But then, if they stuck to squishy humanoids and saved the hp sponging for monsters that can be literally physically whittled down, maybe that wouldn’t be such a problem, rather than making half the population 10th level fighters- a whole ‘nother failure to comprehend the underlying system commonly found on the same complainants.

              Incidentally, 5e’s system is even more explicit about things dying based on the attacker’s choice when they hit zero, and thus obviously not before then-which only makes it more obvious when players first transition to enemies that require more than one hit and are flummoxed.

              1. Joshua says:

                Pretty much.

                Incidentally, 5e’s system is even more explicit about things dying based on the attacker’s choice when they hit zero

                I’ve said before that 5th Edition (and 4th really) can be used to represent* the epic duel between Wesley and Inigo in The Princess Bride. Being high-level, unarmored Fighters, nearly every set of blows is a “hit”, and thus all of these successful parries and dodges are them losing their HP to not take a lethal blow (heck, the “I am not left-handed” could represent Second Wind or something). When Inigo is disarmed and Wesley knocks him out, this represents Inigo dropping to 0 HP and Wesley choosing to make the drop non-lethal.

                1. Joshua says:

                  Whoops, forgot to add the footnote for my *. I meant with the exception of representing the length of the battle. The fight goes on for a length of what would translate into literally dozens of rounds in D&D, but then again I think rounds are ridiculously short.

                  1. Decius says:

                    Being high-level fighters, it takes dozens of rounds in 4e for them to run out of HP.

        2. Erik says:

          Note that “Cure” spells don’t actually heal DAMAGE. If you’re diseased, or lost a hand, or broke a leg, or anything like that – you’re SOL. There are separate higher-level spells that can fix actual damage, e.g. Restoration. The basic healing spells ONLY return hit points, which is to say, fix primarily the non-physical damage.

          (Yes, they aren’t actually tracking physical and non-physical damage separately. This is D&D, everything is simplified for playability. If you want that detail, go play Rolemaster. Like most early D&D concepts, there are gaping holes to be filled by headcanon or house rules.)

          1. Fizban says:

            Which is why it drives me nuts that Cure spells are so often described as “restoring flesh and reknitting bone,” not necessarily in the spell or hit point mechanic’s text, but in so many other goddamn places. A ton of DnD writers clearly do belive 100% that hit points are meat and bone points and cure spells fill up the tank, which then poisons the wider concept of the game permanently and irrevocably. “Teaching your players how hit points actually work” should be prominent on the list of “session 0” things when setting up a game, because even if the DM has paid attention it’s likely that 3/4 or all of the players are in meat point/video game finishing move mode.

            1. Joshua says:

              I view Hit Points, at least in recent additions, as abstract issues that are solidified in a Retcon once you decide how you restore them.

              Cure Wounds spell? -> Looks like you were really wounded.
              Second Wind? -> You just got knocked around a bit and needed a breather moment to get your bearings.
              Did a full night’s rest? -> You were just weary and a bit dispirited from all of the fighting for the day.

              1. Fizban says:

                An interesting idea, not describing wounds until they’re restored. Essentially sets up a mechanical phase and then a descriptive phase of the battle, rolling dice through the fight, deciding what steps to take after, and then rolling it all together into a proper narrative. I could see a narratively focused system making this explicit, though those types of systems tend to eschew the level of granular spell mechanics where Cure Wounds would come up, so fixing the cure problem is less necessary.

                Has an extra benefit in forcing the players to decide how they’re recovering immediately, rather than the effective trap of spell or “rest” based healing where players often fail to do so and then the DM has to decide if they should prompt them, retcon preparations after the next foe is revealed and the players realize they screwed up, or keep ganking the party until their players git gud. The traditional method also tends to have the problem of forcing an interrupt between any end of day events, then recovering spells and healing, then the next days events, which can be avoided (at the cost of removing the threat of unexpected combat) by declaring healing after combat before description and roleplaying the rest of the day.

              2. Asdasd says:

                Just wanted to say this is a really cool idea and how I’ll be thinking about it from now on!

      2. Joshua says:

        Interesting point to know, although 1st and 2nd Editions didn’t really treat them that way in practice. If you were down 60 HP, better get ready to spend a full MONTH with complete bed rest and someone tending you (I can’t remember if it was 2 or 3 HP per day if you were basically in a hospital bed).

        3rd Edition in my mind is where the abstraction kind of began, once you started getting back one HP PER LEVEL upon resting a night (thus making a 10th level Fighter and a 1st level Fighter essentially restoring the same percentage of HP each night), and the rulebook explicitly saying that high level characters aren’t actually taking more severe wounds, they’re just rolling with the punches or something to reduce the wounds that they are taking.

        1. krellen says:

          Who can say how long mystical luck takes to recharge absent magical assistance? Maybe it is months.

          1. Fizban says:

            How long it takes to heal without magic can also be used to calibrate the severity of the blood-drawing but non-life-threatening wounds, and thus maybe sneak in more severe injuries than shallow scrapes. Maybe that huge pool of damage that takes months to heal naturally actually *is* a cracked or broken bone, not enough to stop you fighting under adrenaline, but permanently distracting and draining until mended, and slight enough it really is within basic Cure spells. Ability damage heals at the rate of 1 point per day in 3.x, so a debilitating injury that can be covered by a roll penalty and heals in one or two weeks could be represented with a pile of ability damage- a lightly sprained ankle might be a good fit. . . well it’s actually a huge stretch, ability damage heals super fast and has very specific penalties, but it’s an idea. From these starting points one can fairly easily generate rules for more specific injuries and their interactions with existing healing magic, if desired.

            As long as that desire is not to fill out a critical fumble table. Then we’ll have words.

  6. MerryWeathers says:

    The nightsister zombies are believable, they’re undead spawned by necromancy (unlike the more modern plague virus kind of zombie) which fits with the mystical nature of the Force.

    I’ve never seen the Clone Wars show. I’ve heard it’s actually good.

    It’s the best Star Wars show, even better than The Mandalorian.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      It’s a really good show. I wish the streaming services didn’t mess up the episodes’ chronological list. Many of them are shown painfully out of order. You need to get yourself a guide to properly watch it.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        Netflix allowed people to watch it in chronological order, I think Disney+ is just a broken service which is what I’ve heard and seen from people who have subscribed to it.

        There’s also the problem of turning off the show to read other media like Son of Dathomir, Crystal Crisis on Utapau, and Dark Disciple to find out the fate of some recurring characters and what happened in between season six and seven.

        1. pseudonym says:

          I watches it on Disney and experienced no problems whatsoever. In fact it was a pleasant experience. Watching it in chronological order was the default.

          I can also recommend Star Wars: Rebels. I think it is better than the Clone Wars even, but there is no accounting for taste.

  7. Christopher says:

    I think Sekiro combat is fine for this. Best you can do is chip away at their flanks with some cheap shots, but get their posture bar up and it’s Deathblow time. Nioh is also really big on the meters. You ran out of stamina? Then that enemy is gonna take a big juicy bite out of you, and the same goes for them when theirs runs out. Metal Gear Rising us another game that went through the process you described, with Kojima’s team struggling do much with it that it was handed to Platinum instead – who then proceeded to make Bayo with more of a parry focus and the cool sword cutting more of a finishing move you can do on any enemy’s body part that has been hit enough.

    I guess what I’m saying is, yeah it’s not very accurate to the movies I guess, but I don’t think increasing stunning animations would be as satisfying to me as the systems above, which are all very hype. And I was kinda under the impression this game was already doing Sekiro Light.

    1. AdamS says:

      Sekiro’s swordplay is definitely the closest I’ve seen a game get to the thing Retro!Shamus was talking about. It’s just a shame that it’s locked behind a subgenre of game he’ll probably never play. Him, and a lot of other people.

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    The Ninth Sister ends up losing a hand and getting blown off the platform, so we can probably assume she survived and will return in the sequels.

    Probably wearing a Freddy-Krueger-style lightsaber glove or some other BS like that, which sounds kinda cool on paper but would be extremely impractical in reality.

    This game has both witches and zombies. What’s next? Force Vampires? Sith Frankenstein? Bounty Hunter The Mummy? (I kid, but I’m willing to bet at least two of those exist somewhere in the EU.)


    Anyway, I was going to suggest a system where what you chip at is not health, but stamina, which allows you to finally strike the foe when it depletes, only to realize it’s pretty much what you had written in the article you link to at the start. Grumble grumble.

    Funnily enough, I know of a game that takes this approach to combat realism, and it’s Duke Nukem Forever. You don’t actually have a health bar, but an Ego bar, the meaning being that the attacks you receive are really near misses, and the more blows you get “hit” with the more your ego suffers, until it completely depletes, leaving you a hopeless man with no confidence, at which point you will lose the ability to dodge, and the next attack will not miss, killing you. It’s actually a surprisingly clever visual mechanic for such a mediocre, run-of-the mill shooter.

    If you believe the developers, the Uncharted games supposedly take a similar approach, with Drake’s health bar actually being a “luck” bar, and every new hit is also a near miss. When your luck runs out, the next attack is a hit and you die. But, again, you have to believe the developers, because the game at no point reflects this in a visual way.

    1. Thomas says:

      Yahtzee used to be a fan of luck meters but when he started designing games he realised you want some nice satisfying onscreen reaction to taking damage, and getting shot and having the character wince felt better. I think you can do a good luck / block meter but you have to put in a lot of work to make it as satisfying as just having the bullet connect with the character.

      1. Jabrwock says:

        There’s no reason lagging luck can’t cause visual effects. It’s just that if you have high luck the wound isn’t fatal. Bounced off your helmet, or winged your shoulder, grazed your leg, etc.

        1. Thomas says:

          Yeah that’s just more work

      2. Radkatsu says:

        Meanwhile, I play games like Kenshi where your characters regularly get limbs lopped off during combat. Few games are more satisfyingly visceral than Kenshi :D

        1. Decius says:

          For as visceral as Kenshi is on the combat, it’s sure is hard to actually kill someone.

          I’ve had a group teleport through my walls and start knocking my farmers down, and then not have a way to finish them off.

          Yeah, I get that you need to have a way to safely let the player characters get mugged so they can eventually learn to fight, but all of the carnivores will actually just kill you.

      3. felbloodreaper says:

        Isn’t this why Tsukishima introduced the Stance meter?

        Once you whittle down your opponent’s defensive stance to zero, their health meter disintegrates almost immediately.

    2. Syal says:

      I’m remembering the sword duels in Pirates!, where it’s basically a tug-of-war*; a successful attack forces the enemy backward, once you push them to the edge of the screen the finishing blow plays.

      *(well, the opposite; a push-of-war, I guess.)

      What’s next? Force Vampires? Sith Frankenstein? Bounty Hunter The Mummy?

      I’m pretty sure it’s a chicken-duck-woman thing.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Bad Lip Reading is so good, they should change their name!

  9. GargamelLeNoir says:

    The system could be kind of like Smash Bros, a fatigue system. When you’re fine and your character should get hit, they deflect it automatically but take fatigue. When they’re in high fatigue every hit has less chance to be deflected, and if you’re hit, depending on the weapon, you’re either very wounded (blaster fire) or dead (lightsaber hit).
    Basic enemies with blasters don’t have a fatigue bar, you reach them, they die. Trained anti Jedi enemies have more significant fatigue bars, because they can actually parry lightsaber strikes. Enemy force users have equivalent and offer good boss battles.

  10. Olivier FAURE says:

    The “cinematic combat system” you suggest sounds a lot like the Deathstroke boss fight in Arkham Origins, where the game would interrupt the regular brawling gameplay with micro-cinematics showing Slade dodging, countering, etc, so the whole fight is more dynamic than “punch the bad guy until he falls over”, which is fine for Killer Croc but would make master ninja Slade look a bit stupid.

    It works fine in Arkham Origins, and the Slade boss fight is pretty great, but a fight system where every single hit would trigger a micro-cutscene of the enemy dodging would get old fast. In the end you need the player’s attacks to connect and do an unrealistically nonlethal amount of damage now and then, otherwise the boss fight is boring.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I don’t understand how you equate “animation” with “gameplay-breaking cutscene”. The latter is actually absolutely awful. The animations should simply show, noticeably but without interrupting the flow of the gameplay.

      Also, I will never understand why people like that Deathstroke fight. It’s nothing but a glorified QTE.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      You wouldn’t need to have cutscenes play for every hit, though. Have the enemy do doging, countering, and parrying animations in normal gameplay, in response to what the player’s doing. No interruptions needed!

    3. John says:

      I didn’t care for the Deathstroke fight. Well, I say fight, but only about half of it could honestly be called fighting. The combat keeps getting interrupted and there’s no flow to it at all because of the constant, intrusive quicktime events. I think that the best boss fights in Arkham Origins are against Shiva and Copperhead. Those fights have some unique characteristics, but they’re still proper fights.

    4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      It really didn’t work fine. Instead of having us figure out a strategy to beat him we had to play a shitty game of Simon Says. Hated that boss fight.

  11. A Gould says:

    Small nitpick, Shamus – *everyone* has an accent. You just don’t notice the people who sound like you.

    (i.e. somewhere in Romania, a kid is wondering why this lady is the only person in the game who doesn’t talk funny.)

    1. zackoid says:

      And since I don’t listen to the dicecast, presumably it sounds like this.

    2. Mephane says:

      That is not how it works for foreign languages though. When for example someone speaks English with a heavy German accent, it sounds extremely funny to us Germans, too, because we know what it is supposed to sound like.

      1. Redrock says:

        Yep, exactly. When people talk about accents, they usually mean an accent that’s uncommon for a particular language. Doesn’t have to be foreign, though – a thick southern drawl may sound as weird as what I like to call Schwarzenegger English, if not even more so.

  12. Echo Tango says:

    Good gravy – watching videos from CLANG nearly had my eyes rolling out of my skull! They wanted fights to be based on physics, allowing players to move any way they see fit and letting the simulation handle figuring out if it damages the foe, blocks, parries, etc. The massive blind spot however, is that waving controllers around gives precisely zero physical response to the player. The enemy cannot parry, block, or even offer any resistance to the player whatsoever. Fighting an enemy with any kind of shield, or even just a big beefy dude who can shrug off smaller cuts – those are all impossible. In their efforts to widen the amount of fighting styles that could be supported, they’ve ironically narrowed it by quite a lot! ^^;

    1. Fizban says:

      Is that full VR or just motion controls? (haven’t watched the video) Either way, I feel like it shouldn’t be hard to make motion controlled weapon animations work- you have a rumble or other feedback in the controller that indicates you’ve hit an obstacle, and your character’s weapon stops and behaves accordingly. Once you’ve returned your controller to a position that the character’s weapon can occupy, it moves back to match the position, and when ready the controller gives a different feedback to indicate this.

      Yes, it’s still a bit disconnected, but videogames have always had disconnection between player and controller and animations. Get it good enough to function and we adapt, and the tools have existed for ages. Realistically, your weapon should not be in any sort of constantly damaging state anyway. You’re going to have to pull back for a swing. If your attack fails, you’ll have to pull back for another swing. In order to keep things consistent and ensure a game flow, you might even want to codify the difference between the weapon being ready, and inactive. And there’s no reason that a player can’t handle their weapon animation being disconnected from their controller when they know that it is game-mechanically inactive. People give Sword Art Online a lot of shit, but oh hey it actually has the most obvious practical skill system for *actual* VR: you hold your weapon in a certain position, which activates the skill (though rather than sci-fi full-dive taking control of your body, an actual VR game would just use the position for “priming” the skill or re-readying the weapon).

      I really, really need to get a space where I can try some VR games and see if any of them are taking the obvious routes and how well or not they’re actually working. It feels like I’m hearing complaints about Skyward Sword and Skyrim VR (which as a Bethesda port of a mechanically dull as hell game, should be expected to fail) whenever problems with motion controls come up. There was some gushing about a VR game using weapons that break on hit to avoid the problem, which sure, interesting, but also a cop-out.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        “Once you’ve returned your controller to a position that the character’s weapon can occupy”
        That’s a large problem – you’re immediately de-synced, until you move your arms, body, whatever, back into position. Any momentum you have is a thing constantly pulling you out of the game.

        1. Fizban says:

          Almost no games actually have you able to attack as quickly as you can input commands. There’s always some sort of ammunition, rate of fire, cooldown, positioning, stamina bar, etc. Even those old lightgun games where you’d think the best move would be putting the gun against the target and mashing the trigger, are actually best played by standing at the proper distance, aiming, and firing steadily- mashing too fast can cause them to lose the input. I just can’t see why the need to make measured attacks wouldn’t work. Even if your motion was interrupted before you expected, that’s a thing that happens in games all the time too- you get hit and wait for the stagger to wear off, then start again. The “desync” of your weapon can also be announced visually by greying it out for the fastest possible reaction, maybe have both and leave both a solid and after or before image so you can see what you’re moving to get it clear easier. And it’s not like this *has* to be a big slow windup (though I’d say this is more fair and practical), the game is still tracking your position, it could be as quick as uncrossing the game models- parrying with a weapon requires X speed and Y length of cut through the hitbox, interposing a weapon means that line isn’t long enough, no damage even if the weapon is “active” again as soon as the clipping ends.

          Yeah, it’s not going to be say, grinding your sword around the edge of their shield to nick them on a bare arm or something. Nor are you ever going to be able to perfectly simulate striking perfectly around an opponent’s weapon- you’d need positioning senors all over every part of the body to actually have an accurate hitbox, and it would still get screwed up. It will not be realistic combat where momentum and follow-through are important, but rather a more “lightsaber”/fencing combat about precise movement that favors the ability to stop on a dime. But you should absolutely be able to realize shields, armor, and even parrying well enough to make a decent game, even if you have to directly render the game’s abstract hitboxes into the player’s vision so they can directly learn any differences between the true game and their expectations. And hell, this even matches most games’ actual visual combat, where weapons pass through foes to deal damage, but sometimes certain spots pass through and deal no damage.

          If the linked project really is “expecting” perfection, well I expect they’ll be sorely disappointed, but I wouldn’t think anyone could seriously try to pursue that. It should become quickly obvious that there is no way to game mechanic or gimmick peripheral your way out of the lack of physicality (short of a robot). There are limited options for guiding players in a virtual game to make more “realistic” movements, but there are options- the less flailing you want, the more “windup”, “tracing”, and/or “cooldown” requirements you use. Skyrim VR lets you waggle your finger to kill things instantly. Skyward Sword requires a measured flick along the correct axis which flailing screws up- waggling inevitably leads to loss of effective input, forcing more measured cuts. SAO posits that basic attacks might deal chip damage but the real money is in setting up special skills. Even a physics based approach must measure speed in order to calculate how much damage something should deal, which can be extended to speed before and after the point of impact for a distance without obstruction. If deactivating the attacker’s weapon leaves them too open to counterattacks after a parry because of their momentum, deactivate the defender’s weapon too, you could even base the durations on simulation maths so some parries are worse or better, or reduce the damage of counterattacks, or some other limit.

  13. pedanterrific says:

    What’s next? Force Vampires? Sith Frankenstein? Bounty Hunter The Mummy? (I kid, but I’m willing to bet at least two of those exist somewhere in the EU.)

    Well, the first two were main antagonists in KOTOR 2. I can’t remember any mummies off the top of my head, though.

    1. Radkatsu says:

      I mean… the Mandalorian has retconned that faction so they now never remove their armour/helmets, so technically you could say they’re mummified inside their suits.

      1. Kylroy says:

        They never remove it in public. We know he takes it off to eat, possibly to sleep.

        1. Radkatsu says:

          I was mostly joking ;p

        2. Thomas says:

          I was a little confused when the show said ‘I never take off my helmet’ and then he immediately removed his helmet. But I caught up eventually!

      2. felbloodreaper says:

        It’s just these new generation guys who are into the whole “Never take off your helmet in public” thing. We see that aspect of the cult go in and out of fashion in other eras, whihc is actually a cool thing for the writers to play with, since it lets the SW galaxy finally feel like there are cultural consequences for things that happened outside of KOTOR.

        Speaking of KOTOR, we have Canderous Ordo/Mandalore the Indomitable, who gleefully calls himself a Mandalorian while refusing to wear a hat in KOTOR, and is permanently entombed in his life support armor, including helmet, by KOTOR II.

        I’m pretty sure that being brought back from fatal injuries as a hulking, semi-mechanical monstrosity makes him Star Wars Frankenstein, just like Darth Vader.

  14. Jabrwock says:

    I like the lightsaber battle idea. Ties in with some roleplaying games where you’re not “taking wounds” in the normal sense, beyond scrapes and bruises. Instead you’re using up your luck (bullet glanced off your locket, blow dazed you but wasn’t a KO, you fell but there was a convenient hay pile to cushion the impact, etc).

  15. Scobie says:

    As a couple of commenters have already noted, Sekiro does pretty much what you’ve described and makes it extremely fun into the bargain – in fact, I’d call it my favourite melee combat system in any video game. Given your issues with FromSoft’s games and anger, however, I wouldn’t recommend you play it.

    One oddity of Sekiro’s combat system – the enemy’s posture regeneration decreases as they lose health, and enemies with multiple deathblow markers get all their health restored when they suffer a deathblow. (Effectively moving on to their second health bar.) This means an enemy’s combat ability can actually increase after you stab them through the torso. I suppose this represents them getting a second wind through their heroic samurai determination.

    1. Mephane says:

      I suppose this represents them getting a second wind through their heroic samurai determination.

      Adrenaline is one hell of a drug.

    2. Decius says:

      It represents them dying once, or their first form dying. You’re fighting something different afterwards.

      1. beleester says:

        No, even ordinary human bosses like the various samurai generals get a second health bar. There’s no transformation or anything, they’re just so beefy that stabbing them through the chest once isn’t enough to put them down.

  16. King Marth says:

    Wait, immediately after fighting the Ninth sister you go on to fighting the Night sister?

    I wonder how many of these name overlaps happen in other translated languages, especially when translations are divvied up among multiple translators who each get partial views onto the script.

    1. MikeK says:

      Shortly after this you meet the knight sister as you explore the ninth cistern.

      1. Syal says:

        There’s also the Nile sister, and then the Nylon sister.

        And then there’s Nice Ister.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          And then the Nigh Sister, and the Gneiss Instar, and…

          1. Decius says:

            And then the end is nigh, sister.

  17. Sean says:

    The thoughts on mistakes in lightsaber combat makes me think of the pen & paper RPG Exalted 3rd edition, which has a combat system built to handle exactly those sorts of duels.

    The core gist of it is that initiative was a counter, rather than a value rolled once, or once a round. When you’d attack someone, you have a choice of making a “withering” attack, or a “decisive” one. The former represented making those kinds of glancing blows that induced mistakes, and factored in heavily things like your weapon (big and awesome ones could be much more offbalancing to the opponent, for example). The “damage” inflicted by withering attacks takes the form of stealing initiative from the opponent, representing shifting control of the fight. “Decisive” attacks are what actually hits the health bar of the opponent, but the amount of damage done is based solely on your initiative counter; the more you are dominating the fight, the more likely for the “killing blow” to be lethal. After a decisive attack, your initiative more or less resets to zero, so if it *wasn’t* lethal, things could get awkward.

    There was a lot more factors to it, like special events when who has the leading initiative traded places (a pivot in who was leading the fight), or when someone gets withered below zero (representing a crash into desperation), and that’s before getting into all the supernatural talents most of the relevant characters in the setting have. All together it blends well into a system that really captured the vibe for this sort of tense cinematic combat, I really felt. Translating that to an action format instead of pen & paper doesn’t seem entirely impossible to me.

    1. Kylroy says:

      It’s a brilliant system for duels or combats with very few people. I found it very poorly suited to Exalted because so much of that game is about your superhuman PCs fighting off waves of opposing grunts.

      1. Fizban says:

        Hmm. This might be a traceable trend actually- systems that have really good mechanics for one thing, but seem worse than they are because they get used for the opposite. As DnD 3.x is pretty damn good for the standard party fighting standard monsters and 1HD humanoids, but the massive amounts of customization lead quickly to very nonstandard parties fighting very nonstandard monsters, waves of high HD NPCs, and the expectation that any two ludicrously customized characters should somehow be “equal,” particularly “one on one.” All of which goes against the base mechanics.

        So I find it quite gratifying to hear that Exalted, the system often mentioned as what wacky char-op 3.x characters and epic stuff should be using, is itself used in ways that go against its own system.

        1. Kylroy says:

          This system was only implemented in Exalted 3rd edition, which was…kind of a mess. 2nd edition had a tick-based combat system that worked well for both small and large combats, though like any versatile system it dragged as things got larger.

          1. Kylroy says:

            Although the all time winner of “system designed for something other than what the game is about” is Dead Rising. The video game engine is great at wiping out scores of zombies and making you feel like a badass doing it, all while keeping them somewhat dangerous – but *at no point* is killing zombies your objective.

            1. Fizban says:

              Always found that one more of a stroke of genius. That game knows exactly what it wants to be: a mall full of zombies, wacky setpieces, and kid’s imagination combo weapons. No sensible plot actually requires a person to go around wiping out an arbitrary number of zombies, when they respawn anyway. But you can absolutely set a plot around the goofy game engine, and the timetable setup turns it into a theme park where the player can choose how much they want to engage with the plot and objectives, and how much they want to just “GTA around.” Only once people have had their fill of goofing off, will they eventually start a run where they actually try to clear all the plot and objectives and whatnot. And if they don’t want to, that’s fine too.

  18. Radkatsu says:

    “The Rancor helped to show how powerful, resourceful, and cruel Jabba was”

    While this is certainly one interpretation, it’s really more about showing that Luke has grown in power and maturity, but still has that cocksure attitude that gets him into trouble, while simultaneously showing his resourcefulness in getting back OUT of the problem he just caused, AND without needing to use a lightsaber even once (admittedly mostly because he didn’t have it on him).

    It’s quite an intricate scene :) Even if the whole palace/sandskiff sequence doesn’t make all that much sense, logically speaking.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Those two things aren’t at odds with each other – Jabba was powerful and Luke got himself into trouble. :)

      1. Radkatsu says:

        That’s why I said it was ‘more about’ showing Luke’s growth from the last movie, not ‘only about’ ;p

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    Way back in 2006 – back when this site was in its infancy – I wrote an article talking about how to portray sword fights in the context of a video game. The article is a bit short and undercooked by today’s standards, but I’d like to come back to that idea and talk about it some more.

    I loved the original article and am so excited to read this new one!
    EDIT: While you’ve distilled your suggestion down to the essential oils, I can’t help but feel that something has been lost.

  20. etheric42 says:

    Why do swordfights get this complaint but not gunfights? Swordfights already have to deal with a lot more complexity (blocking, readable reach) than gunfights, why not fix it there first?

    1. Redrock says:

      Primarily because Hollywood has taught us that gunshot wounds are all over the place in terms of actual damage. You can always make the argument that someone was just grazed, or the armor took it, or that a clean through and through can be just a “flesh wound” with little to no impact on a person’s ability to perform. It is, after all, tiny pieces of metal hitting targets at a big distance, making it easier to suspend our disbelief. Especially if you add fantastical creatures or futuristic tech – then your idea of how much damage a bullet should actually be doing becomes even more muddled.

      When you see a sword go into a person’s body, well, you have much clearer expectactions. Be it monster or supersoldier, if it’s cut – it’s cut. Bits should be coming off, your brain keeps telling you. Batting at each other with swords that might as well be plastic just feels way more unsatisfying than someone taking several bullets to die instead of just one.

      1. Syal says:

        And bullets actually do pretty random amounts of damage, especially with adrenaline. There was an old boxer whose claim to fame was getting shot five times in a mugging and then beating the crap out of the shooter.

        1. Decius says:

          Even ordinary people have survived absurd numbers of gunshot wounds.

          It’s highly variable, but that’s not fun.

        2. Kyle Haight says:

          And let us not forget Theodore Roosevelt, who once started a speech by apologizing for needing to cut his remarks short because he had just been shot, then spoke for 80 minutes before seeking medical treatment. The man was hard to assassinate.

    2. Gautsu says:

      Try getting sniped from across the map in PubG and see how much fun realism is.

  21. Content Consumer says:

    It’s actually called “Jedi flip”.

    Jedi Flip: The hottest new show on HGTV, where we take an old, run-down Jedi and turn him toward the dark side.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      And near the end of every episode, the Emperor does a cameo and says “Yes. YES!”

      1. Nixorbo says:

        I’m picturing him in the Tim Gunn role and it is working.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Also known as ‘Sith Eye For The Jedi’? ;-)
      Every episode features a part where the Jedi’s clothes get chopped to pieces by lightsabers and replaced by nothing but black robes.

  22. Shen says:

    Well, everyone’s talking about Sekiro but the early Assassin’s Creed did it just fine in my opinion: enemy hit animations featured them blocking and stumbling back and if they were actually guarding then they’d hold their ground and push your blade away. If they ran out of hit points, your sword would connect with their body in a decidedly fatal way and if you caught them unaware then they’d just straight up die unless they were wearing heavier armour.

    Also, re: force vampires. Not to spoil but the last Star Wars film featured a life-sucking undead being defeated by two virgins creating a glowing crucifix.

    So… y’know. At least it’s old school?

  23. Lasius says:

    What do you mean “no accent”? As in the character is a mute?

  24. Lars says:

    Enter the Matrix did that fighting against an superiour opponent in close quaters combat really well. The rest of the game was gar … okay-ish, but that fighting system shines bright.
    While battleling an agent he blocked and evaded all of your blows in gameplay animation and countered you once in a while. Only by using the rare resource of ‘focus’ you had the chance to hit him. The focus was never enough to beat him.

  25. Smosh says:

    It’s hilarious that EA clearly took some inspiration from Dark Souls (but with lightsabers), but failed to copy the one thing from Sekiro that would be a perfect fit: Have a stamina bar instead of hit points, and when the stamina bar is depleted the enemy can’t block any more, and gets killed.

    It’s such a simple solution that only requires animations to be parries instead of hits by default.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Right! I think this is the core of Shamus’ recommendation.

    2. I vaguely recall that they sorta have this?

      I was absolutely confused at most of the mechanics in this game.

    3. beleester says:

      Sekiro only came out six months before, probably not enough to completely rework the combat animations.

      But even so, there were enough antecedents that someone should have come up with a similar idea when designing a game about lightsaber duels.

  26. I found the flying bat thing alternately delightful and frustrating. I kept circling back to “this is kinda cool . . . but WHY is it here?!” over and over and over and over.

  27. RE: sword-fighting gameplay without massive HP bars and other paper-game contrivances that spoil the action, I think you really need just three interacting concepts to model a “realistish” sword combat. I don’t think that games actually do anyone any service when they try to be REALISTIC, because then you wind up trying to simulate things that aren’t worth simulating. I think the idea of realism in a game should be that it encourages you to do things that you feel would “make sense”, but don’t actually even ATTEMPT to simulate any real world system AT ALL.

    A lot of games fall down because they try to SIMULATE a system instead of designing a gameplay mechanic that FEELS GOOD. For instance, take the “food meter” in survival games. This is a horrible concept because it’s trying to mechanically simulate that you gradually use up energy and need to replenish it. But it always winds up with bizarre stuff like you not eating for days while you fast-travel so you have to stuff down 3 whole chickens and chug a gallon of vodka when you arrive.

    I actually like it a lot better in the games where they attach food to resting or even possibly attach it directly to fast travel. Instead of monitoring a bar, you just come to regular breaks where you want to replenish your resources, so you have a meal and a nap. It incorporates *the concept* of a regular need for food and rest, of needing to have food on hand for when you want to rest, etc. without you needing to be constantly checking a bunch of “needs” bars and slamming down mass quantities at weird times. And it feels MORE realistic even though it’s a lower-effort system, because it matches the perception of real life, where you’re not sitting there going “how hungry am I? 10% hungry? 12% hungry? Is 30% hungry too much hungry to run to town?” Instead, you plan out little breaks to replenish at regular-ish intervals and get on with your business.

    Anyway, as it comes to sword fighting, I think the three concepts would be attack force, block zone, and dodge timing.

    The interaction is this: When you’re just standing there ready, you can block any attack coming from the 180 degrees directly in front of you just by hitting the block button. The attack comes in, you hit block, and assuming you’re actually facing your opponent, you block. But this is completely degenerate and boring. Aha, but now we bring in the concept of attack force.

    In order to make an attack, you have to do a bit of a windup. You get to pick how much of a windup you want to do by holding down the attack button while you’re moving. (Yes, you have to move and attack simultaneously.) The longer you hold down the button, the more forceful your attack. If your opponent blocks your forceful attack, it narrows their block zone briefly. However, the more forceful the attack, the more it narrows your OWN block zone when you’re winding up, so if your opponent moves a little and attacks quickly while you’re winding up, you CAN’T block. That’s when you need to react and hit dodge to get out of the way. But the dodge animation takes a certain amount of time, and you can’t block or attack until it completes and you recover.

    So you have to strike this balance of:

    1. Keep your block zone aimed at the opponent and big enough to actually block effectively.
    2. Judge how long to wind up your attacks.
    3. Dodge.

    No meters to watch, you’d just need some sort of visual cue of how large your block zone is currently. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a glowing field or some other obtrusive videogamey fx, I suspect with a good animating crew you could cue the player in on this with a simple “how close is my weapon to the center line of my body”. (I think it’d be cool if your character also switched positions based on which way you’re moving, so, say, if you’re backing up, you’re holding your sword at one angle, and if you’re you’re moving left, you’re holding it at a different angle.) If your weapon is way over to the side, your block zone is tiny. If it’s close to the middle, you’ve got the full zone. It’d only involve 3 buttons: block, attack, and dodge (plus movement, but that’s ubiquitous).

    The trouble is that since it’s a purely mechanical, collision-based system, you’d have to actually implement it to see if it felt fun or not. Also the quality of your animation would be roughly 95% of your implementation.

    I suppose one could make a proof-of-concept system with little 2D sprites just to see if it felt truly awful or what.

    1. Decius says:

      If that system was transparent to both players, it wouldn’t be interesting enough to be fun.

      Making a glorified rock-paper-scissors would work, where parry/riposte beats a quick attack, which beats a heavy attack, which beats a party/riposte. Fighting games generally have lots of such cycles going on at once.

      1. The timing and positioning also plays a part. Like I said, it’d be so dependent upon the quality of your animations and things like recovery times that you really couldn’t judge how it’d play other than by actually playing it.

        And fights where you’d have more than one opponent would be really rough unless you can switch targets rapidly and fluidly.

        Having a stamina-like system where your dodge speed and block zone recovery time decrease as the combat goes on (unless you can go for a bit without doing anything to let them recover) would also help, because you could gradually wear enemies down by playing conservatively. Or, once you get the timing and stuff down, you can take down foes quickly by slapping their defense down and then skewering them.

        It’d get really complex once you start introducing foes with different combat styles, for instance, someone with a two-handed sword would be highly resistant to having their weapon batted out of the way by a heavy attack, but on the flip side they have trouble making quick jab attacks of their own, so you can afford to wind up more when fighting them.

        There’s lots of stuff you can jigger with: how much stamina they have, recovery time on dodge, how long it takes them to wind up an attack, size of block zone, their reach, how disruptive their block is, and throw in all kinds of wrestling moves or even disarms as secondary attacks.

    2. pseudonym says:

      Checkout Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. It has a melee system only based on visual cues such as you describe. It is very much fun to play. Unfortunately the community is not very nice once you get off the low-level servers. But maybe it got better since when I last played it 4 years ago. It is definitely a fun game to have tried and spent a few hours with. It is available on a discount regularly.

  28. DarthVitrial says:

    Clone wars is *fantastic*, the problem is you need to give it a little time. The first two seasons, while not bad (generally any episodes they do that are dedicated entirely to the clones will be really good regardless of season), are overall very meh. It doesn’t start to truly get great until around the Mortis arc mid season 3. After that it just gets better and better with each season, with the 4-part finale of the last season being easily as good as any part of the original trilogy movies imo.

    The best thing would be to find some episode guide so you can skip the filler episodes and just watch the core story of the first two or three seasons.
    (Skip the intro movie, it’s awful. Just be careful with any episode guide that foolishly tells you to skip any of the dathomir, maul, or mandalore episodes)

    1. felbloodreaper says:

      Instead of committing to the entire series as a block, I actually recommend starting at Season Six, Episodes 8 & 9, and just watching that two-parter. If that whets your appetite for more of the same, either finish out season six, or go straight to the start of season one, depending on how ceaseless you expect this hunger to be.

      It serves as an excellent tutorial on Dave Filoni’s take on the SW Galaxy, introducing his opinion of Clone Wars era Jedi* , non-Jedi light side users, Dathomir, the Night Sisters and their crazy magic, through the lens of two familiar characters who the prequel trilogy never figured out what to do with.

      *(The Jedi are so afraid of the Dark Side that they basically confine themselves to the Neutral Side of The Force, while being in emphatic denial of this situation. They’ve lost sight of their spiritual ideals, because they keep letting themselves get mixed up in politics, which makes their use of this criticism against Anakin extra hypocritical. This seriously undercuts their ability to function as either monks or peacekeepers, but makes them perfect stooges for Palpatine.)

      Plus, if you ever wanted to watch a SW canon buddy cop movie starring Mace Windu and Jar Jar Binks, where Jar Jar is Kato and Mace is the Green Hornet, this is as close as you’re ever going to get.

      1. DarthVitrial says:

        I’d agree with that as a good taste, but the buddy cop two parter also acts as the ending of the entire night sisters story, and starting mid season means missing the order 66 arc.
        Plus skipping to season six means you miss Umbara, which is probably the best arc besides the finale, and Mortis, which is really good stuff for Force mysticism.

        1. pseudonym says:

          I recommend watching everything chronologically in order of release.

          First the clone wars movie, then the clone wars series until season 6. Then star wars rebels, then clone wars season 7.
          Dave Filoni and his team get better and better and it is nice to watch that journey.

  29. Yerushalmi says:

    You’ll be glad to hear that I actually did scroll back up and reread that paragraph once every 30 seconds for the rest of the article.

    Unfortunately, there wasn’t much left in the article at that point, so I only had to do it once.

  30. Mersadeon says:

    I’m certainly not the first person to notice this problem. From watching GDC talks and listening to Dev commentary over the years, I notice this recurring theme where someone decides to revolutionize the deeply entrenched melee combat conventions that so many games are built on. They spend months on prototypes, burning through their budget and trying to make something roughly playable. Eventually they’re forced to conclude that what they’ve built isn’t as engaging or as fun as what we’ve been doing for the last 20 to 30 years, and they return to using tried-and-true systems.

    Honestly, I’ve never understood why we, as a quick and dirty fix, don’t simply switch from Hit Points/Life/Whatever to Posture/Luck/Endurance. You didn’t get hit with the Lightsaber fifteen times, you dogded it fifteen times and now your luck has run out, or you’ve gotten too slow and exhausted. You didn’t get skewered by that axe, you deflected it, but because it wasn’t a planned parry and instead a rushed, panicked reflex you won’t have the same reaction again.

    Sure, there are problems – it doesn’t fix the underlying dissatisfaction at the core of it, but it masks it a lot better. The only real problems are the visual feedback and establishing it as the default enough that people don’t feel like it’s weird.

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