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A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno and you, the fans!
A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno and you, the fans!
15,824 backers pledged $660,126 to help bring this project to life.

Triangle Grid Design Analysis

Posted by Little Orbit (Creator)
109 likes

Dear backers,

It’s been a little while since we’ve discussed any design elements, so I thought I would share some of what the team has been exploring with respect to the Triangle Grid system. Before I get into all the detail, I should share that this idea was one of the innovations I was looking forward to about Unsung Story. It’s something I have never seen implemented, and I hoped it would be a nice iteration of gameplay for the tactics genre.

Unfortunately after working with the Triangle system for over a month, we’ve come to the conclusion that it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. So now I’m going to walk you through our analysis.

Establishing the design goals.

With respect to any game design element, it’s important to establish who our audience is and what we’re trying to achieve. In this case, our primary target audience are fans of Final Fantasy Tactics, fans of tactics games in general, and then fans of RPGs. While we are hoping to modernize the approach, it’s critical that our grid system clearly communicates distance and direction on the map. As a player, these two factors (distance and direction) affect many of our choices when determining what a unit might do in any given situation. Can I get out of range of an attack? Can I get an advantage on another unit by attacking from another angle?

What was PlayDek’s solution?

Looking back at the triangle grid announcement, we can see that their Triangle system essentially breaks down Hexagons into smaller triangles split like a pie from a center vertex. Functionally this is identical to a hexagon system, but since the characters can stand at the intersection of each triangle, it means the grid offers more discrete movement.

Triangle Grid System
Triangle Grid System

Later in development, PlayDek released work-in-progress screenshots that showed a traditional square grid system, but at this point they referenced their “8 Point Movement and Attack System”.

8 Point System
8 Point System

Ultimately, for our game we feel that there are only four viable options for movement:

  • Squares with no diagonal movement – 4 possible directions
  • Squares with diagonal movement – 8 possible directions
  • Triangles based on tiled Hexagons – 6 possible directions
  • Hexagons - 6 possible directions

NOTE #1: I added Hexagons here after we posted this update first in our Design backer discussion form. For me there really isn't a difference between Triangles and Hexagons, but one of our design backers pointed out that a straight forward Hex system would address some of the problems of the Triangle system, while still keeping some of the benefits that PlayDek wanted. He also pointed out that games like Wild Arms XF on PSP did a great job with a Hex system - which I agree with. However sometimes the product owner (me) has to make a judgment call on the approach. Personally I'm not a big fan of how bulky hex grids are, and that look has a huge "visual cost". If you google Wild Arms XF, you can see that the art team specifically worked with Hex shapes all throughout their environment to facilitate this choice. I want something less intrusive that serves the game mechanics but still feels like the spiritual successor to FFT.

NOTE #2: You may ask about Octagons, but unfortunately they don’t tile seamlessly, so they can’t really be used effectively for grid-based maps. So I’m going to assume that PlayDek had scraped the Triangle system and was moving towards a Square grid with diagonal movement. Now let’s compare Squares vs. Triangles.

Pros of the Triangle Grid System.

1) I think Triangles look cooler. I saw PlayDek’s early renders, and I was immediately intrigued. I imagined more freedom of movement and all sorts of new tactical options based on 6 directions of movement instead of 4.

2) Triangles are more discrete. They are smaller and rotated in different directions, so it gives us the ability to represent distance in new ways and shapes such as cones that stretch away from units or radials around a unit. This is what PlayDek illustrated in their mockups.

3) They also used color banding to group triangles and illustrate where one character was 1 unit of distance away from another character. Again, this seemed to offer some compelling gameplay.

Cons of the Triangle Grid System.

1) The biggest flaw of PlayDek’s Triangle system is the difference between a Hexagon and an Octagon. Since we’re only dealing with 6 sides, we quickly get into weird edge cases. All of their renders showed the “good” cases. But we intuitively think in 4 or 8 directions – not 6. Illustrating a cone from one angle on a character worked fine, but shift 60 degrees around that same character and rendering the cone again looked awful.

2) It’s difficult to see exactly what 1 unit of movement is. PlayDek cheated with the colored banding to show us 2 triangles together which forms a shape that illustrates distance better, but that banding is not always possible to render with respect to comparing distance between more than 2 characters at a time.

3) Being able to attack a character from 6 directions becomes a bit more confusing. Depending on the angle that character is facing, it’s not immediately obvious which way is the front, back and sides.

Pros of the Square Grid System.

1) Simply put Square grids are easier to read if we only deal with the four primary directions. You can quickly look at the map to determine how far you can travel. 1 square is 1 unit of distance.

2) Squares also allow us to create more natural interior movement. Typical room construction is confined to straight walls, so it’s easier to map with squares.

3) Character facing is simplified. It’s easy to see what is behind or to the side of a character.

Cons of the Square Grid System.

1) In our opinion the biggest drawback to Squares is the lack of directional movement to the diagonals and the complexity that comes when you add diagonal movement. In any game that limits movement to the primary 4 directions, I still look at the zig zag walk that characters have to travel in order to go diagonally, and I just shake my head. No one would really walk that way in real life, so why do we force players to do it in a tactics game. The problem is that diagonals become a lot harder to handle, and they potentially break the game allowing the player to move farther than they would have with the 4 primary directions.

Conclusion

More directions doesn’t necessarily mean better.

The design team felt the Triangle Grid system added complexity without really adding value. In fact it became harder to estimate distance or directional facing – the two core elements any good tactics game needs to help communicate. Based on our analysis, we’ve decided to stick to the tried and true Square Grid system.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Sincerely, Matthew Scott

Rory Starks, Patrick Scott, and 107 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Darío Canto on

      I also feel that squares is quite repetitive and uninspired. It is good, it works, but it's not interesting.

      I would gladly go to a risk here, but I'm not you and It's not my money that is on the line here.

      Still, if you wanna go the square route, to solve the "diagonal movement" problem you could look at the DnD solution: 2 diagonal squares equal 3 movements. Sometimes the characters will gain movement by only moving once diagonally, but It's not that problematic.

    2. Bradleykins
      Superbacker
      on

      Why not do triangles on squares?

    3. Missing avatar

      Matt Parker on

      Is it too late for us to make suggestions? I understand your conclusion and will continue to support you in it, but I know for me personally one of the critical reasons I backed the original project was the Hex based design. The triangles are indeed added complexity with no value like you said, but I do hope you reconsider the hexes at least.

      Thank you so much for all of your hard work gentlemen!

    4. Nicholas Hoppe on

      Agree with your assessment. :)

    5. Missing avatar

      Caleb Sarver on

      Love it. Go with tried and true! Thanks for the hard work.

    6. Mateus Drake on

      I liked the IDEA of a triangle-based grid system, but I understand it's tough to implement.
      Still, hope at least the diagonals can be used, even if diagonal movement costs 1.5~2 units/steps or something.

    7. TyDeL
      Superbacker
      on

      Yeah, square based system seems limiting and bland, but doesn't mean it won't be a good game. Thanks for the info!

    8. Elisus on

      I'm really enjoying these updates. It's nice to see how development is progression and hearing more about the reasons certain design choices are made.

    9. Missing avatar

      Nick Harbison on

      Personally I prefer the square system, so I applaud this decision. As long as the units are sufficiently varied and have decently complex ability kits this shouldn't detract from the game for most people.

    10. Andrew on

      The grid system is the primary reason I wanted this game, so this post makes me sad. I am a fan of tactics games, and the grid system is used way too often.
      I very much appreciated Phantom Brave's no-grid movement system; it was unique and novel for a turn-based tactical RPG.
      However, I for one am still glad to be getting the game, and support you in making decisions that make it easier to make.

    11. Stephen P. Suelzle on

      Thank you for another great update. I really appreciate all the information you give us. It is so interesting. The more you talk about this game, the more I am excited to play it.

      When I think of my favorite tactics games, I think of old school Playstation games like Vandal Hearts, Kartia, some others and of course FF Tactics. Those were all square grid systems. I also prefer that. I would much rather have the complexity and challenge come from environmental (obstacles, height, or water) and gameplay elements (learned skills, found items, buddy attacks, combined items) and so on. I don't want to have to wonder if I can move somewhere or be frustrated because I can't move someplace that it sure seems like I should be able to.
      Just my thoughts.

    12. Magavendon on

      While I don't mind playing with a square based system. I don't think your cons are actually appropriate for the triangle based system described. The described system for using the triangles was movement (and presumably everything else) taking place along the intersections and sides of the shapes instead of between the middles of the shapes. You've described cons for a system where the character stands in the middle of a triangle and moves to the middle of another triangle. That would be a weird system. But a system where the character stands on a node is completely different.

      Concerning the first con, you describe a cone not making sense if you rotate 60 degrees. But that can't be since a cone is a triangle. Anyway you rotate you can make a very good looking cone. This should actually be con of the square based system since cones on square never look completely right.

      Second con: 1 unit of movement is very easy to see. It's the distance from 1 node to the next. Coloring in a triangle that connects a node you are moving from to the node you are moving to (or aiming for ranged attacks) will show the range. I'm not sure what you are saying that the rendering won't always work (but I haven't put as much thought into this as you have).

      Third con: You can make any visual indicator necessary to tell the player where your character is in relation to another character. You don't need to be able to look at the character to tell, we're playing a game, the game can tell us.

      I still appreciate everything you guys are doing and am sure whatever you decide it will turn out great!

    13. Missing avatar

      Domopunk on

      Just wanted to say thank you for the in depth updates. It really seems as though you guys care about this project and it is in good hands. Detailed updates like this really showcase your thought process and approach to getting things right. I'm happy to see this game not consigned to oblivion after everything that has happened. Thanks!

    14. Messala Oliveira on

      In a square based tile, the diagonal movement represents 41.4% more than lateral movement (almost 50%), so, visually speaking, you can represent the diagonal movement as a double consumption of "movement point" (or whatever you call the counting of movements per turn), that is, the character can walk in diagonal, but it will takes twice points of movement to do so.

      Now about the adjacent contact area, is can keep the 4 sides as most of the tactical titles, after all, less than 90º space to swing a sword would probably result in friendly fire most of the time (in real life).

      Hexagonal shape is really charming and instigate us to dig new strategies, but as you said, it ends adding lots of complexity without really adding to the system in the same proportion...

    15. Markus Rajala on

      Nothing wrong with the classic square. Good analysis of the pros and cons, too.

    16. Stefano Anselmi on

      For me the hexes VS squares boils down to how many interior scenarios are present.
      If there are lots of interiors with corridors/rooms then squares are geometrically better, otherwise I prefer hexes for outdoor strategic scenarios.

      But I find both just fine, so nevermind.

    17. Francis on

      This is great, thanks for the update! and I'm glad that you came to this conclusion, triangles felt quite iffy.

    18. Missing avatar

      Mr. Sixes on

      I'm up for some hex

    19. JK Clark on

      A little disappointing (who doesn't like new things?) but clearly explained and understandable. Loving the transparency and dedication. Please keep up the good work.

    20. Missing avatar

      Fearless Freya on

      thanks for taking us into your thought process behind grid style. I've only ever played square grid tactics games, and while triangle sounded neat it also sounded confusing. Glad y'all are sticking with classic square.

      also, and huge emphasis here: really appreciate the continued updates every few weeks. it seems y'all are really trying to get a good quality product.

    21. Missing avatar

      Ian Cooper on

      super cool of yall to share your analysis here and the grid system in the original struck me as an odd choice to begin with

      thanks for taking the time to go into your design decisions with all of us!

    22. Little Orbit Creator on

      @All - Thanks for the feedback. I've referred some of it to the design team for future exploration. As always we appreciate your support.

    23. Sailor for you on

      Good. The triangle grid was the one thing I felt gimmicky and thought may hinder what would be an otherwise great game. Good to see this kind of decision being made to improve the quality of the game. I agree with the notion that the primary audience is comprised of Final Fantasy Tactics, as it still stands as one of the best in the genre.

    24. Robert Curtis Sharp on

      This is very in-depth... I am VERY grateful for your open and honest communication! sounds like you guys put a lot of time and effort into this so far. Thank you!!!!

    25. Nils Eastwood on

      Really interesting to read through your thoughts. Great Post!
      I hope you get to take a break to enjoy Christmas and New Year!

    26. Mark L
      Superbacker
      on

      I'm pretty much OK with any of the movement systems mentioned, and see the logic behind sticking with square-based tiles. If it makes development easier and therefore quicker, then at this point I'm definitely for it. I've played a lot of square-based games, and it has rarely bothered me much.

      The one minor annoyance with the square-based system is when an opponent is at a diagonal to you - you can't hit them without moving a square (either to the side or forward) first. It would be nice to be able to *attack* on a diagonal, even if you can't *move* at a diagonal. But if that isn't an option, I can live with it.

    27. Morgan Goodrich on

      From what it looks like, there isn't any mechanical difference between the triangle grid and the hexagon grid. The only difference between the two is travelling along the lines and stopping on the tangent point (triangle grid) versus the hexagon where the character moves from the middle of a hexagon to the middle of a hexagon.

      I personally would like to see the triangle grid come to fruition. The movement and distances of a hex grid can be somewhat familiar to table-top war game enthusiasts, and I personally haven't seen any game that would use a triangle grid. It would add a nice level of uniqueness to the game.

    28. Matt Lohkamp on

      hexes/triangles are a bit more novel than squares, and feel better for covering irregular terrain sometimes - but the point about a square grid being better fitted to interior environments is a very good point. Even though 4X games like Civ and Endless Legend have done a great job putting hexes in front of bigger audiences, classic tactics titles like XCOM, Invisible Inc, and Massive Chalice do a pretty good job of proving the utility of 4-direction-movement in turn-based games.

    29. Michael Kogan on

      Alright, I'm not the only one who thinks this whole breakdown of tile systems is pretty awesome right.

    30. Missing avatar

      Ritchie Tiongson on

      Also, need to mention that there are several games that allow diagonal movement on a square grid by making it cost 1.5x movement, but only if unhindered (an opponent in either of the two adjacent squares stops diagonal movement to the square beyond)

    31. Missing avatar

      Ritchie Tiongson on

      Let me just say, I LOVE the in-depth discussion of gameplay mechanics like this. In addition to video games I also play a lot of boardgames, so these elements of game design fascinate me.

    32. Missing avatar

      Richard Mader on

      I agree with your assessment and support this design choice. Thanks for the great update!

    33. Shannon Potter on

      Y’all are really proving your commitment with such in-depth analyses on these things. They’re essential for a great game, but it takes a lot of thought to solve all the edge cases you mention. So thank you for demonstrating your commitment to this project, even if it is going to still be a long haul.

      Regarding grids, I agree that 4 is just so understandable. It’s quite possible you can be creative with how diagonal tiles are affected by certain skills. So even if you can’t directly move or (normal) attack diagonally, perhaps “splash damage” or certain effects can be isolated to diagonals.

      Thanks for the update!

    34. Conor MacSubine on

      It’s a shame to lose the triangle system but you’ve made a solid case. Thanks for walking us through it.

    35. Michaeljack on

      I don't honestly know if i prefer squares or not but the way you go into detail on this and clearly have such an interest and viewpoint on the whole thing is the best thing about this update. As ever you guys give me confidence that something i thought was dead and gone is actually going to be real! Merry Christmas to you and everyone else at Little Orbit!

    36. K S Irish on

      "I should share that this idea was one of the innovations I was looking forward to about Unsung Story. It’s something I have never seen implemented, and I hoped it would be a nice iteration of gameplay for the tactics genre."

      Does it make anyone else happy that we've got a fan working on the game now?

      No offense to PlayDek, mind you, but after the initial Kickstarter it always seemed like they felt burdened by the project. Hearing updates like "We WANT to do such and such, I really LIKE so and so." is not just reassuring, but I think helps generate some enthusiasm in the community. At least for myself it's nice to know that the Little Orbit team is invested in this game in more ways than just financially.

      As to the movement grid, I'll be honest here: I'm one of those folks who would be happy with a clone of FFT. A square grid is intuitive, we've been using it for hundreds of years in games like checkers and chess, connect four and that thing with the holes and the golf tees, Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea. Often times the K.I.S.S. principle, Keep It Simple Stupid, is the best way forward.

      I'm reminded of the Star Fox game on the WiiU. If Nintendo had told me before hand "Yeah, and you aim with the WiiU pad!" I'd probably have been excited! But the ultimate implementation really undermined the playability of the game, to the point that many people simply couldn't make it work. Innovation for innovation's sake can be good, but often times it's just reinventing the wheel.

      You guys do what you need to do to make the best game possible, I'd rather have a really good game with traditional controls than a really bad game with new and improved controls, y' know?

      I'd also like to make a plug one more time for the idea of doing a second Kickstarter, if that's feasible. I'm not sure how much cash PlayDek left Little Orbit to work with, if any, and every gamer knows just how expensive game development can be these days (Especially if LO is going to keep trying to get the heavy hitters on board.) I would be willing to chip in another $20 to help advance the progress of the game, and while I can't and won't speak for anybody else, I strongly doubt that I'm the only one who would be open to a second donation. Maybe that's something you could propose in the next update, if it sounds like something that might not spectacularly backfire ala Mighty No. 9.

      Keep up the good work, and as always, thank you!

    37. Missing avatar

      Matt Vallee on

      I don't really have much to add on which system to use, but I sincerely appreciate these updates. Even if the game is still years out, simply hearing that it's being worked on is a huge step forward. Keep up the excellent work!

    38. Aeta on

      So, I have a though on how to sort of meet the 2 systems in the middle.... allow for 1/2 squares of movement! I posted it on the forums https://www.littleorbit.com/forums/topic/so-were-going-with-squares-then/

    39. Reese Holland on

      I appreciate the walk-through with the logic, and it makes sense to make the change. Switching from triangle to grid was one of the things PlayDek did that actually didn't bother me too much.

      When I first saw the "Triangle System" I actually thought more of how it applies in kali/escrima/arnis, but that is more for close range maneuvering as opposed to general battlefield travel and targeting.

      I can see ways to work with the triangle/hex system to make it work, but it is definitely a challenge compared to the more well-understood grid.

    40. Kethrian on

      You could take a look at D&D's 3.5e 8-way movement. 1 diagonal space = 1.5 orthogonal spaces. This 3-to-2 ratio may be hard to implement, but will really make squares feel far more natural for measured movement and ranges.

    41. Andrew Balenko on

      Paizo (Pathfinder) uses squares. They allow the diagonal movement by making it cost an extra half square of movement. Eg the first diagonal would be one square of movement, the second would cost 2 squares of movement. Just a thought.

    42. Missing avatar

      John C Courchesne on

      If you're going for something unique, I think it would be really cool if the grid was actually puzzle pieces. You could even let players add pieces to the grid to add passable terrain through the use of magic or items.

    43. Alex Terry on

      Agree with keeping it simple. Why overcomplicate?

    44. Missing avatar

      Thayne Bohman on

      A reasonable analysis. I was never impressed by the triangle system, as it is functionally identical to hexes, as you said. You could always use a square grid with 4-directional movement for calculating distances and such, but then just animate characters moving in 8 directions (or even a straight line to the target if possible) instead of zig-zagging back and forth.

    45. Missing avatar

      Paul Farrell on

      Liking the updates. Keep 'em coming :)

    46. Missing avatar

      thisissami on

      Could you potentially have 8 direction movement when there aren't any enemies present, and then limit it to 4 when battles arise?

    47. Ralph Chilton
      Superbacker
      on

      Enjoyed this analysis!