I used to wonder what an att could be

So as I’ve been programming Seven Heirs (Undertale tribute using the in-progress Stablehand engine) I’ve been learning some things about Stablehand/Sixteen Hues.

For 7h, I wanted to build a “Stablehand-style RPG-ish encounter system”, because RPG encounters are a big part of Undertale but I never thought about how one would work in Stablehand and thought that would be an interesting experiment. For reference, this is called the “Confrontation” system.

And I thought about how I was building it (or planning to), and realised, this pretty much illustrates exactly what attributes were/are supposed to be. Like, this totally nails down what I’d never really been able to articulate concretely before.

In a 7h confrontation, basically the way it works so far is this:

  • In each confrontation you have a certain set of techniques.
  • Techniques each have an attribute, based on what kind of strategy it is to use them. Like in Stablehand there are eight main attributes, though no Undirected atts.
  • You have three global attune sliders. Depending on how these are set, different techniques will appear. (For the simplest example, if you have Bravery set, Bravery techniques will definitely appear.)
  • You can change one attune slider per turn (if you want to), before using one technique.
  • What attunes you and the opponent have set will affect the effectiveness of techniques a lot. For a simple example, there are special techniques that damage all but one attribute a bunch—if you don’t have that attribute set you won’t last long.
  • Within an attribute, a given technique could have one of its attunes “wrong” and showcase a different side of that attribute. For example, Kindness is usually Passive, acting as a defensive/status type move, but you might see Active Kindness moves that will help win the opponent over.
  • In 7h, Aid versus Weapon distinguishes moves that are more likely to be Special from moves that are likely to be Offensive. (In Stablehand this is Technica/Envira, kind of also a physical/special distinction though with its own nuances.) Active versus Passive distinguishes moves that target the opponent from moves that target you, or sometimes moves that are “passive” battle effects from moves that are single actions. (Agentic/Thematic in Stablehand would work basically the same.) Ideals versus Style… um… tentatively I’m thinking it might distinguish whether it affects SOUL or DT respectively. (I don’t even know what its counterpart Xai/Zed would do if in Stablehand.)
  • In 7h you and the opponent have these SOUL and DT gauges, which are sorta like an HP system but a little different. SOUL indicates how close to the end of the encounter you are (well the opponent’s does, at least), and DT represents your ability to continue. If DT is 0 you lose (Asriel will die but the heirs won’t because they’re already dead); to befriend the heir you get their SOUL to the ending value with some DT remaining.
  • As your DT increases, you can use higher-tier techniques, such as “Soul” techniques (which tend to be elemental techs such as Asriel’s “Soul Flame” or Peroch’s “Soul Freeze”). Naming Soul techs and a couple other tiers with their tier in their name was something that just kinda happened, it wasn’t for any particular reason and is most likely not a thing I’ll do in Stablehand

So… yeah. It’s late, lol, so I can’t add more than the list did. But like, tiers, attunes, and attributes all make way more sense. I always said “attributes are strategies” and “sometimes you might have to use other attributes than your main ones if that strategy works better” but couldn’t really explain it, and now it’s a lot clearer what that actually means

Encounters in Stablehand?

A second thing this made me realise is that whereas 7h will use the same system for all the heirs (I think; it’s possible one out of the six might use a different system), Stablehand will totally not be consistent like that. While I could see maybe a Machination type using this system, maaaaaybe Synthesis, I definitely feel like for one, Esteem would be different. One of the earliest things I imagined for Stablehand actually was Lance going up against Quietus in a system that was just a series of consecutive choices with visuals behind, basically like a QTE but not timed; I think in retrospect that would be the Esteem/Ruin encounter system

Now trying to imagine a more generalised version, I see Esteem’s system as being more of a pure QTE (but with its stages randomised so you have to memorise them individually if you’re going to memorise them), where you have to pick the right move from a number of them in like 5-8 seconds, idk maybe with each having a convenience keyboard key marked on it. But you don’t get penalised heavily for messups, so it’s like, you can either strive to get it perfect and back out if you don’t, or you can just roll with the messups and keep going. And maybe the thing is it gets harder if you mess up but you MIGHT get a better outcome if you mess up a lot and make a great recovery than if you get everything right the first time. Because Esteem is almost more about making good recoveries than just doing everything right.

…Wow, Esteem stuff actually fits with Lance a little better than I thought :p
I always thought he was too imperfect and humble for Esteem, haha.

Kate on the other hand I always saw as a little too perfectionist for Esteem, and I think that’s still as true as ever.

I don’t really know what any other attributes would use in a similar situation. Verity kinda seems like it wouldn’t really have encounters, a Verity story would just play like a point and click thing where you’d solve a bunch of stuff and if you were on the right track you’d just know the one thing you had to do and do it. Faith is really hard to imagine how it would work, it has to centre on these super duper crazy risks and I dunno how to best convey that yet

Unity I always imagined for some reason as having these weird little vaguely rhythm-based things where you had to line up, like, a series of rotating shapes. That would probably be kinda hard to program honestly though

Will is like… there are a bunch of clear solutions to every problem but what’s really unclear is if any of them are the right one. They all seem like they’ll get the job done, but also cause problems. So I dunno what an encounter would be like? Maybe just a bunch of dialogue-style choicelists where all of them look wrong. (I guess that’s basically like the original Quietus encounter I envisioned, just with a different visual style.) Actually, I could totally see Lance’s initial encounter with Red using that style.

Now that I think about it Synthesis might make the most sense if upon a major event everything just like suddenly turned into this weird metaphorical puzzle that was different every time. Like one time there are a bunch of random floating links and you just kinda have to drag them together, one time it might be a fill-in-the-blank, one time it might be a bunch of sliders, one time it might be this random mix and match animal with each part associated with an arbitrary word. (It would be kinda like Warioware honestly, haha.) But anyway there’s this effect of after you do the minigame thing the character is just like “I’ve got it. We do an ultrasonic. turtle. barrage!” and you’re like what the hell, did you just put a bunch of blanks there and fill them in with rando—oh right, that’s literally what I just did. Yeah, okay, that’s fair.

Fantasy, at least as far as Ariana’s concerned, could sort of turn into this text-based thing that emulates having to tell a story impromptu on the spur of the moment—by like… I dunno, clicking different elements of the illustration and each one causes a different narration to come up over the next passage—and it’s kinda cool to be in the middle of because as you go through it it looks like it’s stacking up to be pretty exciting but then aw dammit pretty much all of this looks like a pretty blah way to continue the story where do I go from here I don’t even know

(Sometimes when that happened it might be like you just screwed up and need to start the storytelling segment over but other times it might mean you didn’t do enough sidequests to get her characters prepared for it, and ideally the two would be pretty distinct from each other.)

The best thing about having different types of “encounter” puzzles for major events for each attribute is that for Undirected attributes there could be these broken, confused, terrifying versions of them. Portent could be the Fantasy storytelling thing except you’re really afraid to click any of the possible things because oh my god what’s going to happen, and all the narrations are this weird overcast grimdark garbage that is also legitimately unsettling

Incongruity could be synthesisware minigames that make absolutely no sense whatsoever and are fucking weird. Desolation could be stuff like you just kinda go around to random out of the way places sticking random keys in keyholes (or even just like a water spout hole) where they distinctly look like they don’t belong, but the doors open anyway to a totally useless place, you put a random thing on this leo statue that looks like it was clearly designed to hold a specific thing, the secret compartment opens but there is something totally useless/random in it

Machination, yeah, probably would use a system like the 7h encounter system (though with shorter encounters if it was going to be used for anything smaller than like a huge fight with Vergozsya), so Clarity could be like… the interface is the same but styled in shades of lavender-white and it’s a complete and utter mystery why you are doing any of the actions/techniques (which are distinct but highly nondescript) and what you’re trying to accomplish.

UD!Will/”Apathy” is like you have the same choicelists but they all just say things like “whatever” and “yeah”; Ruin is like… exactly the same as Esteem really but with a really really long timer so basically untimed and with an optional goal of fucking shit up as much as you can but just totally botching it by neither doing things right nor fucking shit up is an option too

The “confrontation” system wouldn’t be Machination-specific, it would be more like a generic encounter system that’s also pretty well suited to Machination “mains”. I could sort of see Lance having to use it if he decides to confront the spectrum hexarts.

Which are still a thing by the way! They got swept under the rug for a long time but finally, coming back to them, I’m now kinda seeing them as a sort of Lance-specific thing where either Lance can try to find all of them and that actually leads to some hidden thing (hardish) or the person with the matching attribute can find each one and that just gives them some helpful tool etc. but doesn’t change much else (easyish). The thing is Lance is sorta set up to be a figure who looks like he could be either a dragon knight or a dragon slayer, although I only ever imagined him plausibly wanting to kill Quietus. Maybe it really is a 7h-like scenario where literally nothing is suggesting you should kill the dragons except that offensive techniques exist (unlike Undertale where everything is subtly suggesting you should kill the monsters by use of typical tropes and then softly gaslighting you about how violent you are) but if you really want to you can kill them.

I do know based on my brainstorm the other day that you CAN’T kill Red though. Even though Lance’s story starts with encountering her sorta like he encounters these guys, you have to go out of your way to find a timeline where you can go back and kill Red. If Lance is going to be killing dragons I don’t want this to be Undertale where you have edge right off the bat with the first “boss” and it’s evident this is a possible thing you can do. I want it to be really evident it’s not possible to just kill everything and then later have that surprisingly subverted if you go out of your way to be an ass :p