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Hels Sabersystems for JKA

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Hels SaberSystems

for JKA

This document has as it’s propose to formal introduce the saber system that I have created. This sabersystem is product of hours of playing JK2 and JKA, mostly moded (but not only), reading about Star Wars lightsaber fighting, analyzing SW coreographies (mainly original trilogy ones) and… fencing myself. The objective of this sabersystem is to achieve a middle point and conciliate lore-wise, movie-like gameplay and a “realistic” fencing gameplay (all realistic that you can have with a lethal weapon that kills in one-hit and magic futuristic wizards that harness the power of the Force pushing, pulling and Force-choking people or throwing lightining from their fingers). With “realistic” I mean more “actually feeling like a Jedi” than having a gameplay close to reality in fencing terms, although several concepts of fencing will be used here. I won't be using coding concepts since I don't have enough knowledge to completely explain this in code (or else I would be coding it for you, not giving you ideas), but I will be using concepts that help me to explain how plastic should the combat feel.

First of all… We should ask ourselves… “Why do we need to mod JKII / JKA?” This question has been asked and answered back by many mods, but is an inevitable one if we are about to mod a game. We have to know and put over the table what aspects we don’t like from the vanilla game and how to change them to a better point. So basically, the reason because I think most of the people that looked for a moding option for the vanilla game was that it didn’t felt like actually playing a Jedi, or it was not “movie-like”. The pace of the game was TOO FAST, and didn’t felt like playing a Jedi in a movie at all. Not for no reason the most-played and known mod of the community is called “Movie Battles II” (never knew what happened to the first one though) and many others came later trying to do the same. But… why did exactly the vanilla game not felt as movie-like. Imo, there are 2 many reasons for that.

- First one is that sabers won’t one-hit kill you most of the times, for the sake of balance and have longer duels. Well while I actually agreed that for the sake of balance and mostly to have a bit more of durable duels, is a good thing, I actually think that that made vanilla game feel something but Star Wars.

- Second thing was that the game was more about to dodge and run the rival strikes rather than blocking them and returning them against the oponent. A poor and not very reliable blocking system that required you to move backwards and that actually didn’t penalize you too much for running, and actually that was quite encouraged, made this game feel not much like movie-like.

So this are the two things we have to fix. Now you might say… But hey, Movie Battles 2, already does that! And I will answer… Yes, Movie Battles kinda fixes the pace and the one-hit kill thing… But it does it in a quite unelegant way (and remember that lightsaber is an elegant weapon for a more civilized age), loosing for that purpose all the good things that had the vanilla game, that was saber interaction. Movie-Battles feels extremely plain, sabers will always bounce same way, and is closer to a classic fighting game that to this marvelous but uncomplete experience that JK2 and JKA wanted to give us.

So what do we have to ask ourselves is… how do we solve this then?

In order to response back to this we have to go deeper in analyzing JK2 and JKA mistakes and give response to it without taking away the saber interaction.







In this section I will be introducing the changes to be made to the block and how they should affect the game. To not get saturated, I will be dividing it into 3 subsections.

1. Changes to passive block/iddle block.
2. Directional blocking or manual blocking
3. Autoblock and blocking resources.

1. Changes to passive/idle block.

So we had that it was not lore-wise cause sabers wouldn’t one-hit kill you, but also… that blocking system was not reliable, running and acrobatics where TOO MUCH encouraged, being a constant instead of a tactical weapon to avoid enemy attacks, etc... The first thing is easy to solve, just make the saber do insane amounts of damage, specially to torso and head if we work with different hitboxes for the different parts of the body, and anyway, even if not one-hit kill always, most of the attacks would nearly chunk all your life so is kinda not the worst of the problems. Also related to this is the passthrough which is something OpenJK worked over it. Now the second thing is more complex and quite more of a problem. How do we make the blocking system more reliable? Now, here’s where most of the mods made a big mistake themselves. Movie-Battles solution was simple. “We put a blocking button, as long as you hold block, there’s a magic wall around you that has x blocking points and once those blocking points are lost, bam, you don’t block anymore and the next strike get’s you killed”. This has been probably the best and the worst thing ever done. 

The best cause it gives us a way to limit the blocking capacity of a player, something base JKA didn’t feature, so making blocking more reliable, could end on having a TOO reliable and strong mechanic that would make games endless. Movie battles effectively solved this problem putting a resource that was there only to handle the block system, and that was good.

The worst cause as said before, it destroyed all and everything simple saber interaction mechanic other thant the nudging thing. While I have to give credit to Movie Battles for having the intelligence to limit the blocking feature, and therefore opening the possibility to make it stronger, it actually felt that what was blocking the hits was a magic wall and not the saber itself. Prove of this is the infame “bodyhit” where the saber would hit your body and simply drain BP, where it should have sliced you in half… Also, there was no aim to control opponent’s blade over yours, the saber clashes were removed, there was almost no knockback there… All the good things that were thought in JK2/JKA, instead of improving them and make them more visible and important into the gameplay, Movie Battles completely removed it.

Now this






and this


Allow us to see some mechanics of the JK2 and JKA sabersystem, and while blocking works not as good as we might want, there’s a satisfying ammount of saber interaction that shouldn’t be removed. What we DO WANT is to build over JKA MP system, where several tactics could be made to disrupt your enemies attack, but encouraging a slower pace and encouraging, most important, to walk instead of running.

So, let’s remove the bad thing, that is the “magic-wall non interaction thing” of movie battles and let’s take only the good idea. A resource that allows us to limit the usefullness and reliableness of the block, say “blocking points”. Now… what? We can limit an OP mechanic, but that mechanic was not actually OP in the base game, not even good, to the point players preffered to dodge most of the times that try to block. How can we change that? Well, that’s simple. Enhance uses of autoblock and how does it trigger. In JK2/JKA, it would trigger when not moving, or moving backwards, but not always. Make it trigger when walking, no matter the direction, and trigger more times. You raise your saber and stay in ready position, ready to take the hit. Now you might say… “that’s too op if you can block any attack from any incoming direction”. Well, "simple", let's make it so that you block only attacks coming from a direction you are facing too. Let's say like imagine, a field of view of X in front of where you are aiming, there you block. Something like in this video but only from where you are facing and without holding block. The zone in front of the character that is able to block correctly should be tested to be challenging enough yet still instinctive. Is important to take note on the fact that character might need to make a small animation to block into it's front into the upcoming attack, so that it feels more realistic.

2. Directional blocking or manual blocking

“So now, is that all? How do you block, just facing, no blocking button?” No, is not all, and yes, you block only by facing, no need of press anything and… yes, there’s a blocking button. “But wait a minute, you said you block only by facing, no need of pressing anything, what’s the block button then?”


Ok, for this I need to explain the 3 circles of blocking in lightsaber combat. This is something you can check in the wookiepedia. The inner, the medium and the outer circle.Now, the inner circle is all about a defensive block. The intention is to just block and hold as much as possible. The outer circle is about countering, opening the defenses of your enemy through the block, dominating the enemy saber as it attacks by anticipating and therefore moving the enemy saber into a side when you block. The medium circle is a mix of both things. Is not as defensive as the inner circle (Jedi ready pose) but is not as fast as the outer circle. Now, the exterior circle would be to spread completely the arms and block OUT the enemy attack. Medium would be less agressive, but more than inner one. Traduction in terms of gameplay. Medium circle, that you should enter by holding block button, will allow you to block by using 8 different directions (counting standing). Jedi Ready when standing should change to a more offensive animation, and you will have other 7 different directions to manually matching the directions you can make an attack from (upper, upper left, upper right, right, left, down right and down left). It could be interesting to feature certain animations from the MD mod with it's permission since they have some good animations. Now, the medium and the outer circle, reflect back some of the mishap of the attack, dealing Mishap (I will explain later the concept) to the attacker. The outer circle, in addition, creates knockbacks or even knockdowns or disarms on higher mishaps. As a disadvantage, medium and outer circle receive more penalization in terms of mishap, force used and staggers procced when failing a block. Outer circle would be entered by holding block + attack, and would need a good timing or it’s effects would minimize few momments (less than a second) after receiving the impact. Also, manual blocking while running should be possible, giving bonus and penalizations. In case of failing, the autoblock should proc but almost do nothing to parry and instantly being broken by the enemy hit, specially if it is a red or purple one, even dying instantly despite to triggering autoblock if the saber fully connects the body. The outer defense should have an animation where you can see how the character “pushes” with the saber towards the outside. When holding attack and defense, if you let go the defense button and hold attack, you would do an attack from the guard.

3. Autoblock and blocking resources.

What happens when you don’t block an attack by facing it then? You die instanctly? No. Here’s where the magic starts. Similar to how Movie Battles worked in this sense, you would somehow be saved by something. What about your own saber instead of a magic out-of-nothing wall? Your character would perform an autoblocking move BUT at expense of certain resource. Now this resource could be either Force or it could be Blocking points. But most important. It should have consecuences. Your character should bounce back by a small duration when doing a bad block, and next attack until it recovers the defensive position should have it’s cost in blocking points increased and even, have it doing some damage to your health. To explain it better, you block but you are put out of balance, making that the next attack you suffer until you recover your balance position is taken with a less solid defense. For this I would create an extra resource and maybe some other sub-resources dependant on it, that is Mihsap or Balance. While Force or block points would determine if you can autoblock again, if the autoblock animation triggers, Mishap or Balance would measure how unbalanced are you and how posible is to break your guard. They care about different aspects of the game. One is about long term stability of the blocking feature, and the other makes reference to the unbalance suffered after a single, powerfull strike, or several strikes in a row. Some might ask… Wouldn’t it be better to have a single resource measuring that as Force or Block points? And I would say… yes… and no. For sake of simplicity, it might be, but the actual use of Mishap is a different one of Force or autoblocking points. While Force points would allow you to trigger autoblock, Mishap is about HOW STRONG is that autoblock. You should think about Mishap like the recoil of a weapon in other games like CS:GO, Insurgency, etc. You shoot/get hit, knock out of balance, and you can actually pull the trigger again or hold it even when you are out of balance, but at the cost of accuracy. Mishap is highly tied to the concept of knockbacks and crowd control animations, and it's not exactly as the recoil, since the recoil is an animation itself, but also heats when you block correctly and a crowd control animation doesn't trigger, but in a very small quantity.

Also, Force should be a long-term resource, that get’s empty slowly and regenerates at a low rate, faster if you crouch (medium rate) or specially if you meditate (fast rate). Mishap, on the other hand, should be a meter that would heat, not deplect, and it would heat in just a wrong blocked hit, or maybe a couple of them, and also turn back to normal very quick. A combo of not very powerful hits, in best of cases. Mishap/balance should be something like the meter that with each wrong block heats a lot, and that until is behind certain level, you can’t “perfect block” that would be the reduction applied to the hit damage when correctly facing the hit. This means that if you get a wrong hit, you might have your guard break if Mishap is over certain level. Now in a guard break, you can “autoblock”, as said, but as a lifeline measure, and the Force cost of it should be increased, but you can’t block properly. You can’t perfect block. This way, you create a climatic fighting style, where it revolves all around doing several attacks to knock out of guard your enemy, deplect it’s Force Points (or block points) and finally one-strike him. Also, when your mishap get’s to 100, you would be superbreaked and you wouldn’t be able to block, not even to autoblock, and you would be open to a single-hit kill, this would help to avoid having mishap extremely heated and not giving a damn as long as you have Force to autoblock.

Now, this division in two resources, help us to create several strategies to beat the enemy defense, you can either try to max Mishap and give a fatal blow as soon as posible, you might center around depleting Force Points by making the enemy block bad a lot of times very fast but not powerful attacks that are unpredictable, you might revolve around making Mishap a bit high to a certain level, so the enemy can’t perfect block and therefore chunk over Force Points faster. You could try to create openings from the first second of the combat, trying to control a lot the blade of the opponent so you can deliver a quick fatal strike before he recovers the balance… For this, the first moments of a knockback, stagger, etc, might make the character unable to autoblock, leaving it open to a very fast attack. The higher the mishap, the higher the time where you can’t autoblock, up to a momment where it’s the whole knockback animation and the animation is also longer (superbreak).

Being hit while running should be something to consider. Being able to perfect block with facing shouldn't be possible, and even when reducing the penalization a bit, autoblock should trigger. Not only that, triggering autoblock when running should almost max your Mishap and even throw you to the ground if the hit is too powerfull.






So now that we have the blocking solved, acquiring a pace where blocking is the core and we have to try and block the attacks. Now is time to review the attacks. Attacks in JKA base are way too fast to be able to follow them and block them properly, and lot of times they are difficult to trace properly. So IMO, the attacks should be in a slower pace. In this regard, SJE has made a really good job, finding the proper pace to make the game feel fast paced yet all about control. Maybe very little slower pace than it's SP version would work nice in the system we are developing here. Another thing that SJE managed to do in a great way, is to add the "attack from the guard" feature. This is, attacking from a guarding position without having to do all the windup move, saving some nice FPS, and making countering more in control of the user and even giving the possibility to proc a fast attack without parrying first, simply by being in a defensive position. Now, this is one of the most revolutionary changes into JKA, made by SJE, and is a credit it deserves. It turns a game that is all about calculating moves to clash swords middle air and put your enemy out of the way in a game that is more about attacking faster than your enemy and in a way that you can't anticipate. Now this has the advantage of creating tense momments where players look to each other before attacking, calculate the next enemy attack and try to not get hit while they try to do so. That's exactly what IMO, a Star Wars duel should feel like. While blocking might be more forgiving, getting hit while you miss your hit should be the most punished thing, leading this to games where you try to calculate when the enemy is going to hit.

To help this less punishing, is a good idea to add attack cancels, that is attacking cancel into a defensive position by pressing or holding block. This way, you can still react when you see your attack was wrong, but will probably be punished since you won't be able to perfect block the enemy attack, this is, either facing or matching the correct directional blocking.

Lastly, I actually miss a lot having a stab maneuver. While SJE adds a rolling stab that you can actually proc even before the roll animation (cutting the rol animation into the stab maneuver at any time), SJE still doesn't have a button to make a stab attack, that would be a HUGE improvement into JKA, and would also add a button to use in conjuction with attack and defense, so that attack + stab would do a thing, defense + stab would do another...

We also need to give a review at kicking, something that again SJE seems to do really good, giving the possibility to kick the enemy in several ways with a single button.





My conclussions in ideas for this game is that we should look to what other mods have done right and build over that base including the missing things in those mods. In this regard, I've mentioned SJE several times. Even when we know that is a mod that some people of this community have had problems with it's creator, it has done several things good, specially in the reggard of making middle animation cuts, giving more control over the player, like is the case of attacks from the guard, pressing block to defend cutting the attack animation (something I had also seen in other mod) and adding and cutting some animations like running tumble into stab animation.

To be honest, is difficult to be able to explain the concept I have for the sabersystem without having experienced before SJE, since I feel it is an attempt on correcting things I don't like in it's sabersystem and managing them in a different way, adding also some other concepts I've liked from other games or own vanilla game. The idea is to make an instinctive, fun to play game that is, like real fencing and swordplaying, easy to learn, but difficult to master, but that centers, over all, in that precise concept, instinct and knowing how to play with timings and tempos in a saberfight. Knowing when and how to attack and defend, doing it with the easiest control feature. In this regard, for example, I see that manual blocking (when holding block button) should be controlled by mouse movement, since it would split movement from defending, and would use the same concept of "moving the mouse towards the attack" as the facing blocking (passive, no button, idle blocking) does. It would be nice to try and develop, in that way, a system that allows to change the different directions of the manual blocking with a mouse, and with an aim deadzone, a zone where you move the saber without moving the camera. Might be difficult but is totally worth it.

So this is essentially my idea of sabersystem, I hope you imagined it more or less good, and if you have any doubt, I will be eagering to answering it here, or in the discord. Cya mates, and...

May the Force be with you!!

Smoo and DarthStiv like this
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