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Dear community, 

in this blog post, I'd like to share my thoughts about the melee combo counter system that is currently implemented into the game, and analyze its improvability.

  1. I will begin with a short recapitulation on how the system currently works.
  2. After that, I will evaluate this current system.
  3. In the end, I will provide some suggestions on how this system can be improved.

Analysis

Current combo system

Current Melee Combo Counter System, plotting the damage multiplier as a function of the consecutive hits with less than 3 seconds interval.

 The current melee combo system counts your current number of consecutive melee hits, i.e. hits with less than 3 seconds interval inbetween, and provides you a damage multiplier based on those hits according to the following formula:  M(h) = floor ( 2 * log9 ( h * 27/5 ) ) / 2  - defined for h greater than or equal to 2. M(0)=M(1)=1. Due to the floor function used, M(h) is a piecewise constant function that is discontinuous (i.e. it "jumps") at certain thresholds, as is apparent from the depiction to the right. Since h in the function is logarithmized, the number of additional consecutive hits required to reach the next threshold grows exponentially. Therefore, it is irrelevant to the height of the damage multiplier whether you managed to rack up 150 or 400 consecutive hits, for example.

Furthermore, since the control variable is the number of consecutive hits with less than 3 seconds interval, it is irrelevant whether it takes you 1 or 2.5 seconds to land the next hit, but whether it takes you 2.999 or 3.000 seconds makes the difference between keeping the counter or losing it completely, reverting back to 1, regardless of how high it has already been. 

Evaluation

First off, I do like and greatly appreciate the presence of such a system which rewards and punishes players for the fluency of their melee gameplay. The current system is already a great gain to the fun of melee combat in Warframe. However, I consider especially two aspects of it flawed and improvable:

  • The floor function. To someone unfamiliar with the underlying function, the thresholds must seem arbitrary and artificial. It generally seems artificial and "unnatural" that it makes no difference how long your combo streak is for a long time, then at some arbitrary point you suddenly get a set benefit. 
  • The 3 seconds interval K.O. criteron. Another thing that seems arbitrary and can be really frustrating at times. As mentioned earlier, one milisecond can make the difference between losing a bonus painfully racked up over several minutes or keeping it. Because of this, consciously trying to utilize the combo counter subjectively revolves almost exclusively around not hitting the 3 second interval rather than actually immersing yourself into the fray.

Summarizing, the arbitrary, discrete, discontinuous thresholds and limits in the current system give it a rather artificial than natural feeling which makes it less immersive than it potentially could be.

Suggestions

System comparison

Comparison between the current, discrete system and the proposed, continuous system.

After pointing out the flaws of the current system, I'd like to present some tentative suggestions on how it could be improved to become more immersive.

Continuity in Increase

As opposed to the current step function, a continuous function would certainly feel more natural, providing slight bonuses to the damage multiplier for every consecutive strike as opposed to a comparatively huge bonus at certain thresholds and no bonus at all inbetween. Simply removing the floor function out of the above formula would be a buff, however, as the average damage multiplier in any viewed region of the function will be higher than it is now. To adjust for that to avoid power creep, the function could be corrected to run through the center of each constant segment rather than the left edge. This would yield the formula:

M(h) = log9 ( ( h + 0.5 ) * 2.7 ) - which exceeds 1 for h greater than 2, so M(0), M(1) and M(2) should be set to 1, defining the formula for h greater than 2.

For this function, the increase on the damage multiplier for another consecutive hit is always log9 ( 1 + 1/(h+0.5) ), with h being the number of preceding consecutive hits. 

Further fine-tuning to the formula is possible, as this version would actually be a slight overall nerf, with the integral difference in the left half of each floor being greater than the complementary difference in the right half of the same floor. But you get the idea, it is possible to make this formula continuous without necessarily buffing (or nerfing) the system overall as a direct consequence.

Further Increase Mechanics

As an expansion to the current combo counter system, other laudable player actions can be rewarded with increases to the counter of different heights. For example, melee parries, counters, prompted finishers, charge attacks should they be re-introduced, ground finishers etc. could be rewarded with 2 or 3 counts on the counter. Something to consider is whether or not channeled melee attacks should increase the counter by more than normal melee attacks, I have no definitive opinion on this.

Continuity in Decrease

Perhaps the most urgent proposal to me is the introduction of a gradual, continuous decay of the combo counter as opposed to its current all-or-nothing variant. The decay could start earlier than the current 3-second-limit, e.g. at 2 seconds. It may have a linear and exponential component, and both might accelerate the longer the melee combat pause becomes. It is hard to guess the optimal specifics of this, instead, some testing is required. In general, one wants to deny the possibility of increasing the counter throughout an endless mission indefinitely, the system should just increase throughout single encounters, not the overall mission. But pauses slightly longer than 3 seconds shouldn't be punished so indiscriminately.

Further Decrease Mechanics

Suffering unparried melee hits by enemies, being subjected to status effects (?), missing melee attacks or holding down parry without actually parrying anything could all be punished by subtracting a fixed, small amount of counts from the counter to emphasize the combo system as a means to reward fluent, efficient and adaptive melee gameplay.

Conclusion

I hope you found my blog interesting. Discussion is highly encouraged. If this receives some attention, I will go through the effort to further correct the formula proposal to be exactly neutral to overall strength, if people want that. Of course, if this is well-received and refined through community discussion, it would be great to eventually reach DE with this suggestion, but I guess that is utopistic considering the flood of suggestions hitting them every day.

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