Ideal magic system

Not about OpenMW? Just about Morrowind in general? Have some random babble? Kindly direct it here.
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Ravenwing
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Joined: 02 Jan 2016, 02:51

Ideal magic system

Post by Ravenwing » 19 Jul 2018, 05:34

So I've been thinking about magic systems (not sure why, lol) and was wondering what you all thought was the "best" or "ideal" magic system. Doesn't have to be within Morrowind necessarily, but that's how I'm framing it in my mind.

I guess it depends on how you think about things, but it seems like Morrowind has spells kind of like recipes. There are a lot of recipes that all kind of do the same thing, usually with different variations. I'm not really a huge fan of this, because to me magic users would be able to intuit their way through using the energy. Practically, this comes down to learning spell effects rather than actual spells. So instead of having 20 variations on fireballs with different damages and area of effects, you'd learn a single fireball and as you level up, it does more damage and affects a larger area. Maybe you'd even learn fire separately from a generalized AoE, then once you know both, you'd be able to do an AoE fire spell. The only downside is possible lack of customizability, which was a huge plus for Morrowind, but carefully planned, I think it would work.

I've also always been annoyed with needing to recast the same spell over and over again. I'm thinking about things like shield or night eye or invisibility etc. I've played a few games where these kinds of effects are toggles that then decreases your maximum mana. This of course really only works in systems where your mana regens over time, but I think it makes sense that your mental and magical concentration would be maintained, but decrease your ability to do other things at the same time. It never made sense to me that magicka didn't regen, except when you slept. Invisibility would probably still have to trigger off when you interact with something to avoid being OP, but it's a lot nicer to not have to keep casting stuff all the time.

From a more abstract angle, another system I've always liked I actually learned about from the book Eragon. Without getting into the merits of the book itself (lol), I think it actually had one of the more realistic magic systems. Basically, the idea is that doing something magically takes just as much energy as doing something physically, with the action taking more energy the further away you're trying to cast the spell. This means your mana pool is really just your fatigue (if we're comparing to Morrowind), which I think makes sense since mages don't really use much in the way of physical stuff that would deplete fatigue. I realize some things don't translate well, but it makes more sense to me intuitively. The other cool bit to this is that, while it may take the same amount of energy physically, the more you know about what you're trying to accomplish, and the more creative you are, you're still able to do really effective stuff with relatively little energy. For instance, just using a healing spell will work, but it will take a lot of energy. But if you know anatomy and what is actually wrong, you can word the spell more precisely and focus the energy you are spending much more efficiently. For Morrowind, this might mean that your security skill level will help your unlock spells affect higher level locks. From the creativity standpoint, using a very small rock as a high velocity projectile is a lot easier than lifting a bolder and dropping it on someone's head. Similarly, if you know what arteries are vital, you can simply cut that artery to kill, rather than compress their entire body until their head explodes.

I don't necessarily think all or most of this would translate well to Morrowind, but I thought I'd ask to see what systems you've come across or thought up. Figured you all probably had some cool ideas that would be worth discussing.

unelsson
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Joined: 17 Mar 2018, 14:57

Re: Ideal magic system

Post by unelsson » 19 Jul 2018, 06:23

Creating a good magic system is both a game design task and research of mythology. Former part has to take in account things like media (eg. tabletop game vs computer rpg), flow, ui, gaming psychology etc. while latter is more focused on what the world view of the current fiction is. It's a matter of preference and style too, what might be ideal for Morrowind might not be ideal for scifi-oriented alien magic. Culturally there's also a very interesting aspect in magic, as there are countless theories of magic and myth in human history, and there are multiple views on why this is so, whether it's mankinds urge to explain world around them, or psychological explanations hidden inside human psyche (e.g. theories of Carl Jung). This creative side of designing a magic system can potentially get very deep. Nice topic!

unelsson
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Joined: 17 Mar 2018, 14:57

Re: Ideal magic system

Post by unelsson » 19 Jul 2018, 07:31

If we are fantasizing of future OpenMW, it would be great for code to allow some customization of magic system too, to be able to expand from simple mana-based spell system into effect based system, or perhaps dynamically changing spell magnitude or effect, but it's a bit tough to create an all-around framework that could support all kinds of magic systems imaginable. In desing document (I think...) there was a goal of building a system for Morrowind-like systems, limiting the scope quite a bit, still allowing plenty of space for modders / game creators.

Chris
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Joined: 04 Sep 2011, 08:33

Re: Ideal magic system

Post by Chris » 19 Jul 2018, 12:27

Ravenwing wrote:
19 Jul 2018, 05:34
So instead of having 20 variations on fireballs with different damages and area of effects, you'd learn a single fireball and as you level up, it does more damage and affects a larger area.
I once saw someone posit an idea similar to this, but rather than "level up" the spell, you have some kind of real-time control over casting. That is, you could cast the spell weakly for little magicka, then cast it again strongly for a lot a magicka, without having to learn or select a different spell. You could also control the AoE size in the same way. Your skill in a given school could determine the casting efficiency for spells in that school (i.e. a low skill level means you have to spend more magicka to get the same strength of effect compared to a high skill level).

I do like the idea of sustained spells being made into a toggle that puts some kind of constant drain on you while the effect is on. This would not only help avoid having to constantly recast such spell, but it would also help when you want to end the spell early (a low-power levitate spell that lasts a while, but you only need to cross a small gap, and you're stuck flying slowly until the spell expires; or night-eye that still has a bunch of time left when you walk out from a dark cave into the bright outdoors).

On the topic of magic, I would also like to see spell creation completely revamped. As it is, it simply feels like an in-game spell record editor. It doesn't make me feel like I'm studying or learning arcane mysteries, just ordering from a take-out menu. Considering that magic in the TES universe is unstable and unsafe when pushing the limits of your skill (NPCs immolating themselves from an effect being too strong, losing control of summons, or getting a completely different result than what you thought you were casting), it just feels very sterile and absolute the way you make and use spells in-game. I'm just not quite sure how to really design a replacement here because there is gameplay to consider, as you can't really have a risk of spells misfiring at random during play without unnecessarily aggravating the player. It's not only because it's annoying when the only reason you die and have to reload is because of RNG, but also because it muddies the sense of difficulty; am I only having trouble with this because of bad RNG? did I get through a seemingly difficult encounter because of good RNG?

unelsson
Posts: 94
Joined: 17 Mar 2018, 14:57

Re: Ideal magic system

Post by unelsson » 19 Jul 2018, 22:45

I've understood that OpenMW already has a pretty good support for Morrowind mods, so I wonder if there are some good magic overhaul mods out there? Has anyone tested them on OpenMW?

Having real-time control on spells would require some features that are not in Vanilla. Any idea how would the AoE or spell strength be controlled? By length of keypresses? By extra keys? Key combinations? Maybe mouse or gamepad analog signals?

Chris
Posts: 1499
Joined: 04 Sep 2011, 08:33

Re: Ideal magic system

Post by Chris » 19 Jul 2018, 23:36

unelsson wrote:
19 Jul 2018, 22:45
I've understood that OpenMW already has a pretty good support for Morrowind mods, so I wonder if there are some good magic overhaul mods out there? Has anyone tested them on OpenMW?
I don't think you'll find much that doesn't require MWSE. Vanilla's magic system isn't all that flexible. It wasn't until Oblivion that you got "proper" scripted spells, though that was still limited by the script system. Skyrim is when the door was really opened to extensive magic mods.
Having real-time control on spells would require some features that are not in Vanilla. Any idea how would the AoE or spell strength be controlled? By length of keypresses? By extra keys? Key combinations? Maybe mouse or gamepad analog signals?
I don't think the length of keypresses would be a good way. That makes the weakest and strongest easiest to cast, leaving the medium-strength versions hardest to control. It would also mean stronger spells will always take longer to cast, which you may not want, and creates issues where if you hold it down just a bit too long causing the spell to fail from lack of magicka/skill.

I'm not sure what the best approach would be, but perhaps some sort of key combination. Maybe something similar to Arx Fatalis, where you can draw out "runes" with the mouse to cast different variations (strong or weak, confined area or large area, instant or over time, on touch or at distance, etc).

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