Creating a Battle System Like Quest for Glory 1

Arcade Sequences in Adventure Games

Action elements in the adventure genre tend to be the exception not the rule in modern adventure games, but the early Sierra titles, especially the hybrid Adventure/RPG series Quest for Glory and the space adventure series Space Quest used them frequently.

Also, I like them!

There’s no hiding that my Adventure saga Betrayed Alliance is heavily influenced by Quest for Glory (particularly the EGA ones) series and as such I’d always planned on having a battle system.

Today I want to look at the combat system in Quest for Glory 1 and determine what it did well and what, if anything, can be improved on.

So I asked some people their thoughts: Here’s a sampling of responses:

What Quest for Glory 1 does well:

  • Balanced well over 3 different character classes
  • Difficulty of enemies ramps up with experience
  • Difficulty feels challenging, but not insurmountable
  • Except for the Fighter class, battling was a somewhat optional gameplay element
  • HUD is unobtrusive and easy to read
  • Combat is simple
  • Aesthetically appealing

Some criticisms:

  • Enemy attacks have almost no telegraphing making blocking/dodging nearly useless
  • Can be hard to tell why attacks aren’t landing.

From the responses I think we see that the combat was generally liked, but that they just ended up spamming the attack button as dodging/blocking was not really responsive or intuitive. The stats upgraded fast enough that the “attack-all-the-time” strategy worked and while there were perhaps better examples of combat, this one was good enough for the game it was in.

Since Quest for Glory is a stats based game, this design may be intended. The game doesn’t require any real twitch-type skill, but rather the stats do the heavy lifting, which at least one of my responders remarked as a positive quality as they don’t generally like arcade-style combat. That said, having stats for “dodge” and “parry” make it seem like these skills were designed for use, but from the responses I got most people end up ignoring them.

Takeaway for Betrayed Alliance

Combat in Betrayed Alliance Book 2 will emphasize a strategic block / attack rhythm where the player must read the opponent’s intentions visually. While there will be a few stats that can be upgraded, the game will not reward a reckless “attack at all costs” strategy. As mentioned by some commenters, better signposting of attacks as well as more frames of animation could be helpful.

“But I don’t like combat”

That said, for the many people who dislike arcade style aspects in adventure games, I am including a way to overcome enemies without always entering the combat arena. I want to give the player the freedom to dispose of their enemy obstacles in different ways.

This is not a concession by any means, but an intended gameplay element. There are two playable characters in book 2 and they have different gameplay styles. In Quest for Glory terms, one is the fighter class and the other is more like the thief. I’m building the game-world to allow the player to influence which of the two will be more likely to encounter the various enemies of the game (and how to dispatch them).

Combat in Betrayed Alliance Book 1

It’s a mess! Visually and game-design-wise. Just a mess.


The rhythm of battle in Book 1 is not bad. Enemies telegraph attacks (but also fake-outs) with enough time to respond. There is a cool down period on both blocking and attacking which forces the player to be more strategic. Successful blocking not only rewards the player with not getting hit, but also gives a chance at a counterattack which doesn’t affect the attack cooldown (and is always a guaranteed hit).

In this way the design of combat in Book 1 is pretty good and has a bit more to it that Quest for Glory 1’s combat, but there are a ton of problems with it too:

  • The HUD is atrocious and confusing
  • It’s quite hard for the player to heal after battle, discouraging it completely
  • There’s *almost* no reason to battle in the game at all
  • The ability to target 3 different areas was underdeveloped and clunky

From a design point-of-view combat in Book 1 is competent in an of itself, but as a mechanic in the overall game itself, it’s completely underdeveloped and useless. This is mainly due to the strange development of the game where the first 1/3 of the game was released as “Book 1,” a division that was not originally intended. The area in which combat was to feature more prominently is not available in Book 1 as it is the sole environment for Book 2. But due to this separation, combat in Book 1 rightly feels unimportant, because it is!

Combat in Book 2

The Combat system is being updated for Book 2, as combat will feature more prominantly. Both the aesthetic and mechanics of combat will change.

The targeting system is being scrapped as it’s too clunky and unintuitive.

The emphasis on blocking will still be operative as it was in Book 1, along with a cooldown counter for both attacking and blocking to avoid spamming either attacking or blocking.

With only two major actions (attacking and blocking) buttons could be freed up for different actions. I’m currently looking at using one for a short-term block that will also render the opponent more vulnerable, similar to the “perfect guard” in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Just as in that game, this parry offers a reward at the cost of taking a risk: miss the parry and get hit unguarded, but if you parry it just right right, you get an open window for attack (and probably a 100% hit rate and likely a higher critical hit multiplier).

I’m also interested in having both a sword swing and a sword stab, each having greater applicability in different circumstances. We’ll have to see how these develop as I test things out.

What do you think can be done to make combat more enjoyable/challenging/fun?


June BA Update (and Good News)

It’s been 2 months since the last update in April. That one featured some “bad news” after I had Pneumonia and was also diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Good News!

June, however features more good news than bad! First and foremost, I’m down 22 lbs from 212 to 190 lbs! While I haven’t checked my blood pressure, this can only be good news on that front. My personal goal is to get down to the 170’s, so I’ve still got some work cut out for me, but what a wonderful head start.

But you didn’t come here for my personal health update, so onto the Betrayed Alliance update stuff.

Development Stuff

Development has slowed for a couple reasons: First, to allow time to exercise more. Second, for a reason I’ll talk about below. That said, things are getting done.

  • 61 Screens (basically finished) out of probably 100 (way more than I anticipated at the beginning!)
  • Plot line is coming along very well and I’ve gotten all major plot points and character turning moments mapped out. Now it’s a matter of weaving them together with puzzle elements.

A word on plot

I’ve found this project harder to plot than previous stories I’ve written and I think it has to do with the gameplay mechanic I started the project with (having 2 switchable characters). It took me a while, but I realized this wasn’t just the story of the General you played as in book 1, but rather had two main characters and I needed to flesh out Leah in this game. She cannot just be a side character here, she needs to have a character arc as much as any main character. This sent me back to the plotting board numerous times to make sure both characters had motivations, backstories, ghosts, that not only did them justice, but also played into each other as well as the other characters they’d be spending a lot of time with.

I have to say that I’m excited with how the story has developed and hope that I can translate it to the game the best I can.

Kickstarter considerations

I’ve kicked around the idea a bit with some friends and talked about it casually on stream, but I’ve never fully announced my intention to kickstart.

Now is the time.

No! Not the time to kickstart, but to begin planning for it. This is the second reason development has slowed a bit. Planning a Kickstarter is a project in and of itself, but it’s one that excites me because I’m hoping it will allow me to do things I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

First, I’d like to put together a physical box set of the game with printed user manuals. I’d like the manual to be old school for sure, but also much more. I’d like it to be part game manual, part art book with concept art, and part story book featuring a short story similar to how the King’s Quest manuals often had fairytale-like stories in them. Kickstarter will give me the overhead for the materials and printing of these boxes and books.

Lately I’ve been working on concept artwork for use in the manual (as well as the Kickstarter page itself). Some of these are physically colored with Copic markers, others were outlined with Ink on paper and colored digitally with photoshop. I would like to draw and color 2 large images (one vertical and one horizontal) for the box cover, and whatever other uses you could use such art pieces for.

I’ve also been writing script ideas for the Kickstarter video. I’ve got two scripts, but I’m not sure I’m quite sold on either of them.

As to when I would kickstart, I’m thinking either November or February, mainly because I don’t know how long things like this take to get up and ready.

It’s summer! Does that mean more time or less?

I’ve got big plans on doing arts and crafts with my kids this summer. Also learning to read and write better with my six and eight year olds. I’m not currently sure what kind of daily schedule I can put together for work on the game, but when the kids go to bed, I get to work, so I’m sure I’ll put at least an hour a day in.

I’m hopeful for the return of streaming background artwork asset creation, too.


What are your thoughts on the project so far? Are there things you’d like to see? Do you have reactions to the idea of me kickstarting this project? Most importantly, what cool stuff would you like to see as Kickstarter rewards?

Past Updates: