RPG Concept: No boring shit, better game play

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by MajinSweet, May 31, 2012.

  1. MajinSweet

    MajinSweet Well-Known Member

    So a long time ago I used to play traditional RPGs, ala Final Fantasy (People call them JRPGs now right? I never liked the term myself, but whatevs) I feel that the genre has stagnated to the point of being unplayable, and it seems like a lot of other people share my feelings on this from what I can tell. I won't get into why that has happened, I'll just talk about this little project I've been working on as of late that.

    So the first idea was to solve my major gripe with jrpgs. Character growth, be it grinding, getting equipment, completing side quest, etc. So many problems can arise here. Over leveling and ruining the game. Getting bored to death fighting the same enemies over and over for items or exp. Okay, so how about a game where your characters start at max level and enemies are cursed, when they die you lose exp, and eventually levels. Why you say?

    It makes every battle important, and adds a ton more for the player to do. You have a large group of characters and can switch between them at any time, even mid battle. Characters in reserve lose much less exp than characters fighting. So before a battle ends you can switch characters around to manipulate the exp loss. The problem with this though is that enemies get more dangerous as time passes. Meaning you need to take out the bigger threats optimally. Also, enemies drop currency, so the pain of lost levels doesn't hurt quite as much. More importantly though, the Thief class can use steal to get even more currency, but again, this takes turns you could use for killing, so it requires a thought out strategy.

    Even more important though, when you defeat certain bosses, all your characters regain lost levels. The catch here is that these bosses constantly spawn minions, that when killed drain exp, and only when the boss is dead do you restore levels. So again, not only do you want to win, but you want to win as efficiently as possible. Essentially, the battles are on a timer. The scariest part is that just like a normal RPG, the higher the level, the exponentially more exp you need. So as you level down more and more, it starts happening faster and faster. Using a lower level character in a boss battle is risky if things get out of hand.

    This leveling system adds a risk/reward system to side quest. Yeah sure, you will get some super special item,weapon etc, but you're going to fight more battles, and risk more exp loss.

    The currency you collect can be used to either create a level restoring consumable, or a cursed weapon with special advantages. With good use of exp spreading, theft and well done boss battles, it's possible to retain high levels throughout the game. This isn't required to beat the game, but it can certainly help with post game challenges. Only the hardcore should apply for that.

    The character design is crucial here. All the classes have unique abilities, and at least a few of them can be helpful regardless of level. The classes all have certain roles, but are still flexible to deal with different situations.

    If all goes smoothly the game should be playable in 16 years. I could elaborate on more but I've rambled enough.
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  2. Eji1700

    Eji1700 Well-Known Member

    Just flavor wise i wouldn't call it at curse, so much as fatigue.

    You fight and get fatigued/older/weaker the more you fight. Bosses represent actually learning new things and passing a plateau of skill so you get stronger.
  3. pkt-zer0

    pkt-zer0 Well-Known Member

    The point of leveling would be long-term progression, so using that same mechanic flipped on its head for challenge seems a bit weird. To prevent overleveling, you could add moving level caps or level-scaled enemies or diminishing XP gain or whatever. Also with XP loss, ideally you'd want to avoid fights, which are supposed to be the fun part of the game. Long-term death spirals could also be an issue, since you can no longer grind your way out of them to stabilize.

    I don't know, it's entirely possible this will work, I just have problems wrapping my brain around it.
  4. 2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616

    2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616 Well-Known Member

    I think some roguelikes have done this. But you might want to make any play reduce your level instead. However, for the goal of making every battle fun, I think you are better off using a chrono cross style levelling system (bosses level you up, and allow for x number minor stat ups until the next boss)
  5. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    This. You can structure the story to be 24-esque (as in no breaks or rest for the main characters) and have them get fatigued over time, but you'd probably need to address issues around encouraging players to game the system to avoid losing fatigue.

    Personally I've been working on a little RPG/Roguelike thingie that kind of has this property, though it's geared more towards a string of a few encounters rather than a long term thing. The idea is basically characters use resource for all actions (including moving, defensive moves and all attacks) with a very limited amount of energy that regens/turn and a larger pool of stamina that only decreases and never regens. To be effective you need to dip into that stamina pool, but the more you do the less options/more risk you have for that character. Ideally that means over the span of the setup you start with a bunch of wiggle room to get easy kills on monsters or cover mistakes, but as you drain the stamina you need to start using what you learn to be more tactical.
  6. Oni

    Oni Active Member

    I am not sure it will work when players are at a low level, especially if enemies become more dangerous over time and are hard to avoid. Or, there will be limits to level effectiveness and equipment compensation, both possibly very exploitable. It encourages running and not fighting towards a boss. In that sense however it seems like a good mechanic. Almost all RPGs involve swords and guns and pressing A to win. So instead, players have to think of how to avoid sections, a refreshing change.

    Something similar to the ideas here I'm thinking of is health with 3 dynamic sections, being stamina, immediate health and long-term health. Ideally, it's for real-time gaming.

    Stamina regenerates and depletes quickly and makes a relatively small amount.
    The immediate health section regenerates slowly and is chipped into if stamina is exhausted. This usually takes the damage and is bypassed only by really powerful damage.
    Long-term health is the baseline and the other sections are proportionally related. This is also chipped away when the health section is burnt out and regenerates very slowly. Players lose this by powerful damage, like a big fall or crippling attack.

    I am also thinking of a growth and decay levelling system but can't get any good particulars to avoid grinding yet. Fundamentally, players in a specialism develop health and attributes appropriate and these decay when the player is in another specialism. If there are shared attributes, they grow very slowly if at all. Decay is meant to be quick for the top end, then much slower than growth.
  7. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    You should get into why it has happened... it's very interesting and applicable. These guys make a better discussion of the phenomen than anything I could talk about:

    *Edit*: Removed my attempt at analysis/summing-up, it wasn't very good, and it didn't really say what I meant. I guess I'll just leave this as a tangent to the discussion.

    *Edit2*: Let me try again. I think there's a couple core issues with what you've said, that make it not really as worth discussing as you think:

    1) The relative challenge level is not what makes menu-based combat fundamentally boring. Tweaking the numbers so that fights are interesting is just that... tweaking numbers. Whether the numbers go up or down over time is pretty meaningless. Actually, modern JRPGs are kind of way past you on this point... Persona games make it so that monsters can often one or two-shot you. Modern FF games give you full health between each battle. All of that stuff consolidates the spreadsheet combat down into a single fight, so noone's complaining about overall system gameplay. Making individual fights fun just doesn't rely in any way on making long-term stat management into a thing.

    2) What does "losing levels" even mean? Are you losing spells/abilities at the same time? (since usually that's the point of a levelling system at all... unlocking stuff, not just getting higher numbers). If yes, then I claim it's dumb... you're arbitrarily making the game less fun by stealing player options. Your idea of people actively deciding between high levels vs. other upgrades is pointless if high levels is actually the more varied and fun way to play. And if no... well, then why does your game have "levels" in the first place? Why not just do something good instead of a bandaid patch on something you clearly think is not good?

    3) There are sooooo many assumptions in what you wrote. You noted battles are on a timer... but also that they have turns. How does that work? You mentioned swapping *characters* in and out... but then say class design is important. Are characters completely generic, or do they have selectable classes, or is there just a sprawling plot that gives you lots of people to choose from? (Btw... "classes have roles, but are also flexible" is a meaningless statement...). You talk about swapping classes in and out to manage exp loss. Well, no, what you just pointed out yourself is the best strategy is fighting an enemy down to tiny hp totals with "strong" characters, and then swapping out for characters you don't like to deal the killing blow. Then reusing the same "strong" characters in the next fight. Yeah, you're right that it's "more to do", but it sounds incredibly boring and a huge hassle. I could go on...
  8. Warskull

    Warskull Active Member

    So losing makes you more likely to lose in the future and it is possible to lose enough so you cannot progress. People will hate it. Especially since it is framed as loss of progress.

    Leveling in RPGs is a self-balancing mechanic if you are good you can progress with lower levels. The problem comes when you encourage the player to grind by locking away things behind large barriers (think the job system in FFV which heavily encourages players to grind job points or grinding out spells in FFVI.)
  9. Effay

    Effay New Member

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  10. 2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616

    2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616 Well-Known Member

    Lets not get into the topic about RPGs and their definition. RPG is an outdated term for the genre it became. At this point RPG is a word unto itself almost entirely divorced from Role Playing game, and that's fine.

    Of course improving RPGs as we know them today is always good, and discussion that lets them improve at what the genre does well, (and it does things well, otherwise it wouldn't have a following, to disregard that shows you really aren't looking at what IS there) is always welcome.

    The critique of the genre that focuses too much on the Role playing side and derrides everything that isn't that is mostly useless, most developers that actually try to make RPGs that fit the actual title are working towards that in their own fashions be they Bioware, Bethesda or somewhere in between.

    Anyway, more to the topic at hand.

    Levelling up is a really interesting mechanic and games that have done cool things with it are few and far between. In roguelikes leveling up is not always the goal. It's a mechanic yes, and it always helps you when you level up. But the risk of loosing resources to gain those levels starts to make you think is it worth it. Should I really kill all those bats at the cost of 5 hunger or should I just progress forwards and kill something with a better EXP gain that might also hurt me more.

    Some of the Saga/FF Legend games are a little similar in that weapons have stats linked to them, the more you use those weapons the more likely you get a stat up in that type. However say Shield that net defense are obviously not going to help much in combat, magic weapons might deal less than what you'd normally use but don't waste your magic, dex based weapons might be weak too but dex allows you to dodge which is quite important in this series. Because the way you fight directly impacts your ability to become stronger it makes battles an interesting choice of fighting to kill quicker, keeping your resources for something bigger coming up, or fighting for the best stats for your characters.

    And it actually works too. FF Legend 2 is quite short on GB so it's probably worth a bit of a look.
  11. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Well part of the problem with leveling is certainly the scale and scope of leveling which can often make weird situations. When your damage goes from 10 at level 1 to 9999 at level 99 that's a lot of ground covered and a lot of the better parts of leveling are lost to stat growth (which is just nullified by enemy stat growth). It seems like these games are too often lured by the easy road of implementing a skinner box rather than solidifying the core game play. Of course the catch is that often with unchecked leveling opportunities providing a good level of challenge without forcing grinding xp becomes pretty tough.

    It seems really like these games should take note of Roguelikes which imo do it much better. There are certainly enemies that aren't feasible at low levels and what not, but the game feels much flatter in growth and the growth you experience feels more tangible and real. Plus the difficulty is better tuned to expect certain character levels rather than the game not knowing if you're going to be level 30, 40, or 60.

    In terms of the OP, I think you'd want to tie secondary goals to time spent/level achieved rather than the character's strength (for the numerous reasons mentioned). So rather than the bad guy sitting there waiting for you to fight him, the more time you take (ideally measured in some way that allows people to savor the game rather than have to rush through it) the less rewarding your victory is. Maybe towns get sacked, character's die, whatever.

    The other way to do it would probably be something like those RPG-ish games where you travel through a tower until you leave or die and then bank some proceeds of what you found (or just a shorter form roguelike). Basically the type of game that is geared towards performing numerous runs anyways. In that type of situation a character could start off strongest the beginning and get weaker while sidestepping a lot of the problems of doing it in a longer term RPG. You could also use good reasoning/lore in that case, the character is on a single uninterrupted adventure and overtime exhaustion overtakes their combat prowess.
  12. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    This seems to be missing two key points:

    I can't think of a single game where damage numbers grow that dramatically, where equippable items (which tend to be gifted based on progression through the game, rather than time spent) don't represent the most major part of damage calculations. In the early FF games, for example, innate stats tend to serve as a secondary modifier, whereby a player can spend time to make the game easier, not as the sole driving factor in progression.

    I think all the games in question actually did manage to identify their "core gameplay", which is creating the illusion of a heroic rise to power. Nobody cared about level of challenge (or only cared in respect to post-game content), because the story was the driving motivation for play, not the combat strategy.
  13. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Yeah that's true, the scaling is often from gear, but I don't think that really invalidates the point.

    Isn't that just a cop out excuse for JRPGS? "Oh that thing you spend most of the time doing isn't actually the gameplay!" Yeah they have value other than their combat mechanics, but it's still part of the core experience seeing as it's what you spend a large amount of time doing.
  14. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Well... I'd argue that the combat *isn't* what you spend most of the time doing. Go play FF8, slot "no random encounters", and tell me how much combat vs. non-combat time is in the game? The Persona games don't even have combat as a concept outside of the dungeons sections which aren't where you spend most of your time.

    Yeah, there's counter-examples too... FF1 was obviously super-combat heavy. But that just kind of illustrates my point. The problem has already been "fixed" in the more recent games that were actually succesful. Why is the first step in devising a fix to the "problem" of JRPGs involve rolling back the clock 20 years?

    (Yeah, yeah... glossing over recent combat heavy games like FF12 or FF13, but I think it's generally agreed they were failed experiments at doing something completely different from what appears to be the starting point of this conversation as well)
  15. Fry

    Fry Well-Known Member

    This is not a terribly interesting choice, IMO

    @Claytus FF12 is fail all around. FF13 has great combat, but the fairly lame story and utter lack of any exploration are pretty fail. You can't look at those two games and say "games that focus on combat are terrible"
  16. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    @Claytus I don't think your points are invalid, and they're quite good. It's just to me the original topic was centered a little more around the combat aspects of the game (which is all leveling in most RPGs influences). I think 'have less combat' is a perfectly valid fix, especially because you can also just drop out a lot of the leveling mechanics at that point. But still, if you're going to have combat in your game it should be good, or at least passable.
  17. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    @Fry: Yes, I agree, that's why I stuck those games in a parenthesis instead of made them part of my actual point. I was just trying to point out that I purposely avoided using them as examples, not that I was completely skipping the actual most major recent JRPG releases.

    @Logo: I'm just saying "name a recent example of a game where the combat was bad/not passable". I really don't think there is one. Like, I read the first two paragraphs in the OP, and I can't think of single game in the last five years for which I feel those lines constitute a valid complaint. I mean, I could totally be wrong, and this really is a modern problem, but I'm literally not seeing it. And the rest of the thread is kind of irrelevant if we can't agree that there's a problem there to actually solve...
  18. MajinSweet

    MajinSweet Well-Known Member

    To address a few things

    It isn't simply a matter of "using good characters, then switching in bad characters to get the loss of levels". Some enemies are countered by certain characters and vice versa. And when enemies start appearing in groups more often, selecting the right team of characters to take them down is key. The idea is that there will be no good and bad characters. Just different ones for different situations.

    And yeah, I have thought about how losing more and more levels could put a player into a lame duck situations. I've had a few ideas for fail safes for that. One being that you can unlock characters that are not good enough for an expert player to want to use them (unless for fun), but super helpful if some of your characters have totally tanked in levels. Another idea is tied to the lore of the game. Would probably only kick in if all your characters hit level zero. So that way you don't get a slow inevitable lame game over, but a totally different game.

    About the flavor, the idea of it being a curse it's tied pretty hard into the story. If they kill you, you become them. If you kill them, you become them, unless you lift the curse. To give a little more insight into this. Each main location in the game has a hive, that spawns the cursed enemies. Only by killing the hive do you clean the area, and lift some of your curse. (For a large portion of the game, the amount of restored levels here is pretty generous.) It's essentially a plague that spreads faster and faster. Yeah, the stamina idea would probably be easier to explain, but that's sorta boring. And the curse concept leads to a lot of other interesting things.

    I probably shouldn't have brought up bad rpgs into the topic, since it's not really the focus. But just to name two that stick out, White Knight Chronicles, and Final Fantasy 12. I'm not going to review the games and explain why, but in both cases I really wanted to enjoy the games, and the game play just stopped me out of pure boredom, and terrible design.
  19. Steel General

    Steel General New Member

    To a certain extent, Final Fantasy VIII (the one with Squall and gunblades and the time compression/orphanage plot that made very, very little sense, if you forgot it then I don't really blame you at all) did some of what MajinSweet's original post in this topic wanted. The game wasn't terribly well received - mostly because it's implementation of these ideas was less than stellar to say the least. This post will examine it and discuss what it did (firstly) to allow it to basically fulfill many of the requirements/ideas, then secondly why it failed (at least, the gameplay; I suspect one could write a long book on the failings of it's characters and plot...). Then I will offer my own suggestions for what JRPG-style gaming could do to make things legitimately more interesting.

    1. How Did FFVIII Fulfill (many of) MajinSweet's Requirements/Ideas (Skip this if you played the game a ton already know the weird way it works)

    It looks superficially like FFVIII went totally against majin's requirements. You fight monsters and gain exp and then your numbers go up, so you fight some more and gain more exp. Levelling appears curiously linear with 1000 exp points separating each level from the next and monster XP drops not changing (much). So how does it work?

    When you enter any battle (boss or normal monster) it doesn't have set stats - the monster instead takes as it's level the average of the level of your party that's fighting it (not counting characters in reserve). It also gains stats (and has varying item drop/steal possiblities, and I think skills/abilities for some nonboss enemies also) depending on it's level (which is as was said before the average of the party's level). And, here's the more important bit - the player ONLY gains statistic points (strength etc) from levelling up, no abilities, and the player gains LESS than the enemies the player fights does from each level up. So if you "powerlevel" all of your player characters up 30 levels, you might gain 30 str and 30 vit and so forth, while the enemy gains 50 of each! (not real numbers, only an example). So basically, it's doing exactly what the post suggested, making the party at least relatively weaker as you fight enemies and gain exp! However, you also sort of get abilities in a way associated with fighting - after each fight, you gain AP also, which upgrades "guardian forces" (GFs) which you equip to characters to gain abilities. Enemies don't scale at all relative to your AP, so it's an unmitigated benefit. All boss fights give only AP (and thus only abilities) so the boss fights still act as a nice benefit as the post suggested. You also "junction" spells (you have a stock of charges of each spell) to statistics to make them higher - you could put HP recovery magic to your HP stat to raise your max life by a lot, for example.

    You can make the game significantly harder, almost to the point of impossibility for newbies, by playing naively and "grinding EXP" to "make a boss easier" (because it will make it harder instead). However, no boss is actually impossible, as even with weak access to magic after the early game you have access to Zell's Armeggeddon Fist and Selphie's The End... but I digress.

    There's even mechanics that allow you to mitigate or change this as the post suggested, though not the same specific ones. In game, there are several ways to avoid exp (and at least three to grind AP and items without getting any EXP)
    1) Bosses give no EXP, only AP (mentioned above)
    2) Running away gives no EXP (though if you damage enemies before you run, you get EXP equal to (their normal EXP)*(amount of damage dealt)/(their maximum health)
    4) Using Quetzacoatl's Card ability on (most) nonhuman monsters you can turn enemies into cards without getting exp. You have to damage the enemy until they are very low on HP, then turn them into a card. This can be tricky to do without killing enemies. You don't get EXP even though you damage them if you do this.
    3) Using "break" magic (to turn enemies to stone) ends the battle with a victory if the enemies are all turned to stone. However, if you do damage to them you get exp equal to the formula in 2). Highly relevant to set battles you can't run from facing humans who can't be carded.
    5) Cactaurs (a rare semi-hidden monster type) give giant amounts of AP and tiny amounts of EXP.
    6) Unconscious allies gain no EXP (and GFs equipped to them gain no AP).
    6) You can decide not to care about levelling up characters in reserve (which will eventually matter but much much later in the end of the game) or decide not to care about levelling up a character who joins the party temporarily and then leaves permanently.
    7) On most normal battle enemies, Tonberry (a GF) has a skill called "level up" and "lvl down" which raise/lower enemy levels. This adjusts all their stats, and can let you "make" a high level enemy to steal high level items from or draw high level magic from without requiring you to be high level yourself, or alternately you can use lvldown repeatedly until the enemy is at level 1 and gives 1-3 experience (and you still require 1000 to level up).
    8) There's ways to get (really high level and quite powerful) magic and items without fighting battles at all, abusing the card game triple triad and card mod to turn cards to rare/powerful items and items into various other items or magic. You can, for example, get the ultimate weapon of most characters on disk 1 if you really work at it. Turning items to magic is usually far faster and easier than gaining them by "drawing", an in-combat option that actually sucks and should only be used as a last resort and to get GFs.

    Using these tricks, it's possible for the hardcore (e.g. me at one point - I had no life back then...) to get to the end of the game, and beat every single boss in the game, including all postgame and optional content, without ever gaining a level on any character. There's one boss in the entire game which has it's level set to 100 regardless of what you do, but it's at the game's end and you can beat it in any number of ways (some cheesy, like Selphie's The End or Zell's Armageddon Fist or using items that grant invulnerability).

    2. So, What Went Wrong?

    Firstly, the game went wrong in that it's obfuscation of what was really going on led players to not know that levels were bad. This lead to newbies overlevelling and becoming frustrated at the increased difficulty - the numbers you have appear to go up, but the game becomes harder anyways. The most obvious second way to grain power (drawing magic from enemies) is tedious and slow and gives poor results and is basically also a newbie trap - you can spend half an hour drawing 300 'fires' and 300 blizzards and 300 scans (a set of weak low-level magic) or half an hour playing triple triad (the card game) for 300 deaths, 300 regens, and 300 tornados (all just a tier below endgame magic, all available by cards and refining at the start of the game). There's not much in the way of items to buy - you can make/buy only weapons, of which you can get anything you have the rare ingredients for, without knowing the "recipie" in-game; but for newbies this is basically a nonexistent option as they don't know all the items or how to get them or what items make what weapons, and trying to find out by getting some of everything will take forever and gain a tonne of levels. So basically newbies get screwed hard without knowing what they did wrong or even that there was something they could do that was right which would make the game ridiculously easy.

    Secondly, the way the game handles magic - you equip magic to your stats - means that it's basically a terrible idea to ever use any magic except maybe Demi (for lowering monsters to be carded), break (mentioned earlier), scan (to see how much HP monsters have left so you don't kill them on accident), meltdown, (which reduces enemy vitality to 0) and aura (which grants the ability to use limit breaks). Actually doing damage with spells or being a black mage archetype is a terrible idea - which helps to make the game focus more on the "attack" option (which is boring) and the limit breaks (which tend to break the game in half, c.f. Zell's Armageddon Fist).

    Thirdly, the boss fights (and others) are standard FF fare, and therefore (unless exploiting something as previously mentioned) you win or lose by your stats going into them and your ability to remember to use HP restore items while low. This gets boring fast.

    I think the basic idea of starting out as strong as you will ever get and getting beaten down as the game goes on has a lot of potential as an idea. However, there's a lot of ways to screw it up and make it newbie-unfriendly and therefore unpopular.

    3. How can we make Turn Based RPG combat interesting?

    Firstly, we can scale the game subtly so that things remain challenging at high levels or use a stat erosion scheme where your stats go down as you grind or what have you. We can explain whatever we're doing fairly explicitly in a tutorial at the start so newbies won't try to grind before fighting a boss they lost to the first time again or what have you.

    Secondly, we can "timer" every battle, and give the party limited resources, and incentives to both delay and attack quickly The game which did this best was oddly an Indie game called Cthulhu Saves The World. Besides being pretty decent in other respects, it had a couple game design element which made it a lot better and more interesting in concept of it's battles than others - it improved hugely on the FF formula in my opinion, and looking at it for ideas that can be reused is good.
    Every "turn" there's a message displayed about the enemy growing stronger (i.e. 10%, 20%, etc). After 10 turn's they've hit 100%, 20 turns 200% (so 2x and 3x as it's an increase over base). This DIRECTLY scales the damage they do to the party and nothing else. So if you delay a single turn to get all your dudes to use HP recovery magic then the fight gets a little harder. In most FF games you can get everyone to heal for a turn, put protect and shell and other buffs up, then cast a bunch of other buffs, then heal another turn, and you're in the same place you started at except you've got a tonne of buffs up and some less magic points. If you do that in Cthulhu Saves the World the enemy gets buffed by 40% damage - and most bosses come with attacks that hit the entire party, and they're scaled to matter even at the boss's first turn, so given enough time they will kill you all in one attack. So there's a direct and huge incentive to kill them as fast as possible. On the other hand, the available buffs are super-huge things like doubling a characters' damage until the end of the battle, so there's incentives both ways to attack fast and to use abilities that scale the party or character up and THEN attack.
    Secondly, there's a "combo" system where there are attacks that hit more than once and generate hits for each time they hit; then combo "finisher" moves do damage that scales by the number of hits done. This naturally incentivizes a combat style where you build up the meter a bunch with rapid attacks then use a really big finishing move when you think the enemy is low enough and damage is high enough - this adds some skill elements but also means the combat ISN'T the FF style "hit it with the biggest thing I have every turn until it falls over" thing which is lame to watch and play. Some sort of resource system like this would go a long way to making FF style games more enjoyable for me to play - they can be severely limited spell slots that contain vastly different effects (a la D&D 3e) or any number of other systems, but discouraging "I attack... for the 50th time" or "I cast the numerically biggest magical spell I have like always" is important. The fact that scripts could be written in less than 10 lines of options in FFXII that would beat most bosses without player input means that things were insufficiently complicated by at least an order of magnitude.
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  20. Ehrgeix

    Ehrgeix Well-Known Member

    A really great post both re: ff8 (secretly the best ff game!) and re: timer mechanics. I would really like to play a game involving the best of both of these ideas.

    I think majin's op-game would address the problems of the genre well also, but the idea of losing levels feels worse than fights scaling up on a timer + some ff8 style systems etc. I think that if I played it I would be in a kind of constant fear-paralysis where I did not want to lose things.
  21. major_shiznick

    major_shiznick Well-Known Member

    It might be interesting if characters subject to the curse in Majin's game don't get simply weaker but instead, say, get closer to death (easier to get killed) at the cost of being more powerful. If you have a team of fairly specialized glass cannons (more of a glass utility belt), I would think the emphasis in battles would shift towards learning how to win the smart way. I've always kind of fancied having a go at a turn-based RPG where winning combat has an almost puzzle-like feel to it. In a game like this, I don't envision enemies getting harder in terms of raw stats, but rather the puzzles required to beat them becoming more intricate and subtle. The challenge would then become finding out a way to keep the game from being reduced to simple pattern recognition.

    Another concept that might help the issue would be to eliminate straightforward character growth. Every player has fixed, permanent stats. At each levelup, the player is allowed to move one point from one stat to another. Characters start off bland and similar and become specialized as the game goes, the opposite of the "everyone becomes a basher/ubermage" that most traditional RPGs I've played devolve into.

    The main flaw I see in the OP concept is that perpetually weakening characters in the long term will not become more fun to use to most people. What might instead be fun is, as someone kind of suggested, a model where your characters degenerate over a short period of the game and are restored by some plot device after a particular gameplay sequence is completed.
  22. Resa

    Resa New Member

    I'm going to be a bit heretical here and say that you should take some cues from the SaGa series. This series has explicitly and violently smacked around a number of stale RPG concepts, though the success of the resulting product is debatable.

    1. The leveling problem
    There are ways to discourage grinding besides crippling characters. A great example of this is Romancing Saga. The game is a radically (for a JRPG) open-world game where your character (one of seven possible) is thrust in the world with very little exposition. You run around the world, meet characters, do stuff with them, etc.

    The quests that are available are not available all at once. They are unlocked according to an invisible variable called an Event Rank (ER). Fighting monsters increases your ER, and some quests stop being available after a certain ER (these quests are often the most challenging and rewarding ones in the game.) Moreover, monsters EVERYWHERE become stronger as ER increases. At ER 20, the endgame / final quest begins.

    This systems provides pressure to players to only kill monsters in the context of completing quests, which grant equipment and a currency that can buy classes and skills for characters. Killing monsters doesn't provide EXP, and characters do not have "levels," but their stats increase in an opaque, semi-random manner after battles depending on the skills learned in battles.

    Techniques (damaging attacks) are generally learned ("sparked") in a similarly semi-random manner during battles. The chance of sparking a new tech is determined by the character's skill level with the weapon and, importantly, the difficulty of the monster. So, insofar as there is something to be gained by killing monsters, it is only really valuable to kill the hardest monsters around.

    Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter (another favorite of mine) solved the problem of grinding by making enemy deaths permanent. The game was also interesting by giving a player access to a RIDICULOUSLY powerful set of moves, on the condition that their use added units to a timer, of sorts. At 100 units, you died and the game ends.

    It also had hard limits on saving, as well as an interesting (and frustrating) mechanic for dealing with lame-duck situations.

    2. The Advantage of Random and Opaque Systems.

    So far in the thread, the general consensus has been that a player has to understand a system to make interesting and fulfilling decisions within it. However, we also seem to agree that a problem with many turn-based RPGs is that the discovery of the right strategy (using, say the FFVIII example) makes the game unfun if that strategy isn't fun to perform. One solution to this problem is to have the "right strategy" be elegant, fun and situation-variable, so as to not become stale.

    From personal experience with the SaGa games, I know that one can still have fun with a game even if one doesn't understand it. In fact, I would argue that what makes these games fun is the aspect of discovery. Discovery is limited in most RPGs by their linearity, and that characters are either made to be specialized, or are generic enough that they can all be made to successfully follow the same strategy (major's problem of "everyone becoming a basher.") By placing fairly major aspects of a character's use outside of a player's control, a player would often end up with character who possessed emergent characteristics which he or she did not expect. (Unlimited SaGa is a good example of this, where at the end of a quest, characters would be allowed to choose from a pretty much random set of "grid" attributes to replace one of their current "grid" slots.)

    Much of what happens in a SaGa game is random enough to be emergent. How can I know what techs will combine to form a combination attack? What causes a new tech to spark? What the hell does "morale down" even DO? All this randomness, combined with what is generally a non-linear, open world game with almost no cues as to where to go next leads to constant discovery, curiosity and wonderment. A player may find solutions, (say, a particularly 5-party member combination attack), but those will be unique to that player, based on his or her game, party composition (which changes often) and on the monsters that are being attacked.

    This may seem off topic, but the tl;dr would be that, so long as the game mechanics work with the story/world and so long as there is enough emotional payoff, a game can still be "fun" even when the design elements are "unfair."
    link6616 likes this.

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