|In which I ask for feedback on some very fundamental game mechanics.|
I need your help. So far, this little game project has been running on a square grid. This wasn’t an intentional decision; it was just an artifact of the tileset I had, to put it politely, “borrowed“. Now the time has come to move to my own assets, and before doing so I want to make that a more conscious decision. I have my own thoughts, but I don’t want my preconceived ideas to color the the essential question: What feels right?
So, squares or hexes? And while you’re trying it out, diagonal moves or not? Diagonal attacks or not? Please try out some of the possibilities and let me know in the comments what feels better to you. I really do value your feedback.
The biggest choice is between the two grid types. They both evoke a certain kind of nostalgia. The square tiles are all about classic gaming, whether on the Apple II in the form of Ultima and Deathlord and others, or on the console in the form of Zelda. The hexes point towards tactical board games and tabletop gaming, which has its own warm memories attached. Hexes have been less-used in the computer gaming world (outside of Civilization V), which might be good or bad — fewer people have an attachment to them, but the uniqueness might be a draw.
A square grid is much more naturally suited to human architecture, at least as it’s practiced in our society. The hexes seem to give me much more organic looking terrain, because there are no grid lines that continue infinitely. But do I necessarily need to reproduce our world’s architecture and/or terrain?
I think hexes have an advantage for projecting tiles up into a pseudo-3D look. On a square grid, a door in a north-south wall can’t be seen unless you tilt the entire map 45 degrees, and I’ve always felt that just made the world feel askew. (Sorry, Fallout and Baldur’s Gate.) With hexes, as long as they’re aligned east-west rather than north-south, I can literally sidestep that problem.
For the diagonal movement, I’ve set it up so that you can move diagonally if both of the cells you could potentially walk through as intermediates are empty. If not, you’ll have to take two grid-aligned steps. Visually, that means that to move from the green cell to the red cell, both yellow cells must be empty:
Timing-wise, I’ve made diagonal moves take proportionally longer depending on the length (i.e. after such a move, your character can’t move again for a longer time). That’s 41% longer for the square grid and a whopping 73% longer for the hex grid. It seems a fair choice but it tweakable.
For the square grid, diagonals feel like a win all around. For the hexes it’s less clear-cut. Being able to move along 12 different directions definitely smooths out movement, and it makes up for the grid not supporting a true north/south axis. Try moving due north the length of the screen on the hex grid, with and without diagonals and you’ll see what a difference it makes. On the other hand, on the hexes it’s a very long distance. With diagonal hex moves, does it feel like monsters can “jump” into attack position from too far away?
On the square grid, I also experimented with adding diagonal attacks. Do they feel right to you? Does the potential for being mobbed from eight directions at once (rather than just four) outweigh the benefit in flexibility? I’ve skipped left them off the hex grid because it felt too much like a reach attack (the “diagonals” don’t directly abut), but on the subject of getting mobbed from too many directions at once, are the six possible attack directions on the hex grid a balance issue for you, as opposed to the four or eight in the square grid?
I have my own answers to all of these questions, but they were the same answers I had before I wrote a single line of code, so I don’t completely trust that I’m letting go of my preconceptions and going with what plays right. Design is an iterative process, and nobody can iterate in a vacuum. So what plays right to you? Let me know below!