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[Weekly Discussion] on RPG Genre's flaws - Week 4 : "Exploration]"


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#1 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7179

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 10:49 AM

Hi,

As a reference:
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1

---

I've always been a big fan of the snes-era RPGs and thought about creating a series of discussions based around the flaws of the genre and how they could be assessed.

The discussion itself should be based around the topic that has been selected for that week (obviously).

Feel free to discuss either:
- The Problem (helping identify the root cause of why this isn't fun)
- The Solutions (either games you know who have found a workaround, or ideas of your own)


Whatever you feel like discussing here, please make sure that you add sufficient explanation/arguments to your logic as I take this intellectual exercise seriously and believe others will too.

---

This week's topic: Exploration.

I really wanted to get away from the strategical aspect of the game this week. We've delved a lot into combat mechanics but I wanted to have a look at pacing from a different perspective.

An often forgotten, but large aspect of RPGs is exploration.
Most of the time, this is done by sequencing fighting and movement segments, but let's take away the fighting from the equation this week if possible.

The basic question here is how do you make the exploration facet of the game fun?

In real-time RPGs or adventure games, jumping, swimming, grapling, etc add to the game, because as everything is real time, these actions are performed while threatened by other elements (Zelda: A Link to the past and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night are good examples of this). These generally translate poorly into exploration mechanics (Mystic Quests kind of prooved that point with lame jumping and bombing).

So once again, how can we make exploration a fun aspect of a jRPG?

Edited by Orymus3, 13 July 2012 - 12:16 PM.


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#2 tim_shea   Members   -  Reputation: 461

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 09:22 PM

Well, by now I know that you are pretty attached to a lot of the jRPG conventions, but I guess I'd have to ask whether the game would be 3d or 2d?
Personally, I really, really enjoy wandering in open wilderness. The caveat is that I've really never found 2d graphics compelling enough to drive this, because they are just too far from reality. I think with decent graphics though, even empty wilderness can be fun to explore just for the sake of seeing things.
In a more strictly traditional jRPG though, the only thing I can remember really driving me to poke into every nook and cranny was treasure hunting. I really don't care anymore whether I find every single hidden room, I'm much more interested in experiencing the story contiguously, but when I was young I remember spending hours and hours searching every single square of grass, and every wall in every dungeon.
Action mechanics can be fun, but in a genre where everything is statistically driven, it's pretty out of place.

#3 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 03:17 PM

What i hate in some rpgs are Towns.

You arrive at a new town after finishing a dungeon. There are 40-60 npcs in the town, each having 10 topics that are "white"
and you have to click them so that they get "grayed", every topic causes 3-6 bubble switches. Total 1000-2000 bubbles per town.

You try to comprehend what they say the first 5-10 bubbles, then you realise they are all useless mumble. blablabla it never ends.
From then on you spam skip all conversations, all quest text, all lore, Mute!!!

Really they tried to make those game "verbose" and in the end it ended "Muted" cause of their spam abuse.

Game offenders : Morrowind, Kingdom of Amalur, Wow.
Games immune to that feeling: Skyrim. Oblvion.

Morrowind/Kingdom of amalur: All npc in the town have the exact same bubble that you have to ask them, YES THE EXACT SAME TITLE.
You spam ask the same 30 topics about places / races until they get grayed at every npc.

Wow: Too many mini quests, instead of big quests with meaning.
All quests end as "kill 40 rats", "gather 30 herbs".

#4 LunarKnite   Members   -  Reputation: 219

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 05:31 PM

Personally I'm more a fan of 2D jRPGs over 3D ones so I'll say more about that side, but most times the world gets boring to look at and explore after a while since tiles are reused. What really makes me want to explore is a reward for doing so. Random items, chests, optional (special) monster encounters are all things that would make me want to explore the world in both a 2D and 3D game.

I don't quite remember the game's economy in terms of item costs, but Eternal Eden was a great 2D jRPG in that each map screen did have a hidden item that you could get from exploring the whole screen. Instead of something like Dragon Quest's multitude of drawers, barrels, vases, etc that you would check for items, Eternal Eden simply shows an exclamation mark above the player's head to denote an unseen item tucked in a corner. Sometimes the item is a generic potion or herb, but for the harder to reach places, it could be a great weapon for the area you are in.

In short, I personally think the only way for exploration to be "fun" is if there is something to explore. Something to find and discover. Exploration implies risk, I believe, and with risk, you most certaintly should have a reward at the end. Otherwise it's more of a walk through the scenic route which may get the player to the same place longer than the normal way, something that won't resonate with most people.

#5 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7179

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 06:49 PM

Well, by now I know that you are pretty attached to a lot of the jRPG conventions

I wouldn't say attached as much as, I don't want to reinvent the wheel unless I need to. The purpose of these discussions is to improve on the genre that exists and not to make something entirely new out of it. I'm not opposed to that idea, but it's just not what I'm currently in the process of achieving basically.

but I guess I'd have to ask whether the game would be 3d or 2d?

Definitely 2d.

Personally, I really, really enjoy wandering in open wilderness. The caveat is that I've really never found 2d graphics compelling enough to drive this, because they are just too far from reality. I think with decent graphics though, even empty wilderness can be fun to explore just for the sake of seeing things.

I have experienced such awe in Chrono Cross on at least 1 level. The fact that the game underdelivered afterwards didn't remove that moment from my memory, which is part of the reason why I'm after improving the exploration aspect of the jRPG genre.

In a more strictly traditional jRPG though, the only thing I can remember really driving me to poke into every nook and cranny was treasure hunting. I really don't care anymore whether I find every single hidden room, I'm much more interested in experiencing the story contiguously, but when I was young I remember spending hours and hours searching every single square of grass, and every wall in every dungeon.

You list an interesting startup point: hidden rooms. Not every rpg has that, and its a good thing to work with, using clues that the trained eye can see. I remember it was pretty cool in ff6 when locked backtracked to that one city and found a staircase behind a bookshelf. Iconic moment I'd say (good way to characterize this relatively weak party member as an important part of the team even).
I'd recommend working from known examples of games that have introduced some twists.

What i hate in some rpgs are Towns.

They are generally a waste of time. I was very happy with Chrono Trigger's resolve to minimize towns to buildings on the overworld map instead of actual streets and whatnot. There were still pointless npcs, but it reduces the unecessary walking. That said, this didn't really improve on the exploration aspect of the game.

Games immune to that feeling: Skyrim. Oblvion.

I have to disagree here, both games are big offenders in that field too. They may not be as bad, but they're certainly filled with useless npcs.

In short, I personally think the only way for exploration to be "fun" is if there is something to explore.


I read you. Knowing there's something nearby, perhaps even being shown the item, but having to understand how to acquire it could be a good motivation factor for a player to explore. FF5 had that in the mirage village where each shop had 2 shopkeepers and one of them was hidden, so you knew that you had to look around and find them.

Exploration implies risk, I believe, and with risk, you most certaintly should have a reward at the end.


That's what I'm actually interested in. What other risks than fighting can you imagine for exploration?

Otherwise it's more of a walk through the scenic route which may get the player to the same place longer than the normal way, something that won't resonate with most people.

To me, it also sounds like a waste of time, and I'd much rather cut the chase unless the game has something in mind for me (optional content such as cutscenes, items, etc).


But I think we're a bit missing the points here. I really think there could be actual mechanics that could be put into place to game the exploration itself more fun. Hidden passages is one. Any other?

#6 spires   Members   -  Reputation: 257

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 12:24 AM

Exploring to me is walking off the beaten path. Doing things outside of the main quests.

It can only be done if the level design of the game allows for multiple paths to get to where you need to go. Some ways a game can reward players for exploring can be:

1) Visual / story experience
Like rushing to the aid of an enemy besieging the town. You can rush straight to the town , or go up the mountain to see the full scope of devastation. So upon travelling up the mountain, you are rewarded a cutscreen of the devastation.

Or visiting a temple in a far flung location will tell you about the story of what happened in this world in the past. Or events leading to the story of the game.

2) Using mechanics to find hidden
Pokeman using flying to access places otherwise unreachable.
Using martial arts/ skills in chinese rpg to do the same.
Or having certain npc in your party to unlock certain places.
And giving items(sword of infinite truth), summons(Ifirit), .... for doing so.

3) Using mini games
Demon doors in fable which requires players to guess a riddle to open the door. Card game(final fantasy series) which completed at the highest level gives the user something in return. Or grand theft auto doing 50 photoshots to gain a cache of weapons at your base.

4) Side quests
Having optional side quests only available by paying attention to dialog of npcs. Best example Planescape Torment. Having certain stats or items will trigger side quests upon talking with your npc companions.

5) Achievements points
Grand theft auto uses exploration mechanics to score how well a player does. +2% for completing taxi mission. +3% for finding all 50 hidden photo shots.


Note that all of the above is not required to complete the game yet they reward players for not trying the most efficient path to complete the game. To explore places and mechanics.

Edited by spires, 15 July 2012 - 12:24 AM.


#7 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7179

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 11:17 AM

Exploring to me is walking off the beaten path. Doing things outside of the main quests.

So basically, there is no exploration on the main path? That sounds restrictive. I think the player explores the game whenever they're not fighting (in fact once could argue they even explore the battle system everytime they're shown new enemies).

It can only be done if the level design of the game allows for multiple paths to get to where you need to go


While I wouldn't say this is the only viable way to do it, it most certainly is an option I've been considering. There's a lot you can do with multiple paths to a single end and Chris Perkins is a master of designing two paths dungeons which I think really rock.

3) Using mini games

I like mini-games, but I can't help but feel they are a solution applied to a problem by lack of a more organic one. You see this happening when there are too many of them, or when they are too clearly minigames (Brainlord, raise your hand please).

5) Achievements points
Grand theft auto uses exploration mechanics to score how well a player does. +2% for completing taxi mission. +3% for finding all 50 hidden photo shots.

Does the score have any impact in-game whatsoever?

#8 spires   Members   -  Reputation: 257

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 06:45 AM

View Postspires, on 15 July 2012 - 02:24 PM, said:
Exploring to me is walking off the beaten path. Doing things outside of the main quests.
So basically, there is no exploration on the main path? That sounds restrictive. I think the player explores the game whenever they're not fighting (in fact once could argue they even explore the battle system everytime they're shown new enemies).


Restrictive? Hardly. Just defining what is the spirit of exploring in RPG to me. Take for example, you have a quest to set an npc free from prision. The main or default path will be fighting your way through. Say the game allows you to bribe the guard or set a fire as distraction. That to me is exploring; allowomg player to try different ways to solve a problem. The more unrelated to the main quest, to the core mechanics of combat the more i regard as exploring. Skyrim is a good example of it. There is a lot of things to do outside of the main quests.

I like mini-games, but I can't help but feel they are a solution applied to a problem by lack of a more organic one. You see this happening when there are too many of them, or when they are too clearly minigames (Brainlord, raise your hand please).

Agreed. When mini-games are poorly implemented, they do feel lacking.
There are some key points to note:
1) Mini game should be challenging.
2) There should be an appropriate reward with respect to the challenge.

A good example is grand theft auto taxi mission. There are 10 levels of it. At each higher level, you need to pick up more passengers in a row and get them to their destination on time and safely. Drive too fierce and your taxi is fried. Drive too cautious and you do not make it in time. And completing 10 levels, unlocks Infinite Nitro on your taxi.

A bad example will be kingdom of amalur card game. Just a variation of guessing big/small.

Does the score have any impact in-game whatsoever?


I would say the score is a reward in itself. A bragging right or just an indicator of how well you do. I heard in mass effect score is used to decide the ending. You can also use the npcs you used or decision you made or whatever else affect the ending.

To sum up, I would say provide good positive feedback will encourage players to explore alternative and have fun doing so.

#9 RedBaron5   Members   -  Reputation: 573

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 09:37 AM

Exactly how important is exploration to a RPG?

I'm considering having very little (or no) exploration in my game. The quest system is setup more similar to RTS campaigns. The game takes place during a war and most of the "quests" are battles where you travel to a single large, drawn out encounter. There might be a little bit of exploring an area before the battle and preparation but not much. Between battles you walk around base camp to heal, talk to NPCs, shop, etc.

How do you guys feel about this? Is exploration a vital part of RPGs that will be sorely missed?

#10 Drethon   Members   -  Reputation: 212

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 11:22 AM

I feel that exploration is needed in an open world RPG, the kind of game where your decisions tell the story rather than the RPG being about discovering the one story. The quickly thought out examples for me are Fallout III and FF7.

In Fallout III the exploration really brought out the bigger world beyond the basic storyline of the game. I also liked the approach to exploration in Fallout III where you were pointed to the key spots around the game if you were close, rather than flailing around blindly. Also in town it was pretty easy to determine important NPCs as they would start and actual conversation. You could still query the rest just to see what amusing response they would give.

FF7 on the other hand didn't have a lot of value to exploration (IMO) beyond gaining levels and equipment prior to the next battle in the storyline. In that game I think after the first playthrough and the neatness of the map, I wouldn't have really noticed if exploration was suddenly removed.

Just my bent $0.02
- My $0.02

#11 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 18284

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 11:30 AM

Game offenders : Morrowind, Kingdom of Amalur, Wow.
Games immune to that feeling: Skyrim. Oblvion.

In what ways did Skyrim and Oblivion change from Morrowind to reduce the 'filler dialog' problem you're talking about?
(I haven't played Skyrim, and I only played Oblivion for a very short time, but I invested loads of time into Morrowind)

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#12 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7179

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 10:25 AM

Restrictive? Hardly. Just defining what is the spirit of exploring in RPG to me. Take for example, you have a quest to set an npc free from prision. The main or default path will be fighting your way through. Say the game allows you to bribe the guard or set a fire as distraction. That to me is exploring; allowomg player to try different ways to solve a problem. The more unrelated to the main quest, to the core mechanics of combat the more i regard as exploring. Skyrim is a good example of it. There is a lot of things to do outside of the main quests.


What would you call the actual navigation portion of the game between leaving area X and reaching objective Y then?

Exactly how important is exploration to a RPG?

I'm considering having very little (or no) exploration in my game. The quest system is setup more similar to RTS campaigns. The game takes place during a war and most of the "quests" are battles where you travel to a single large, drawn out encounter. There might be a little bit of exploring an area before the battle and preparation but not much. Between battles you walk around base camp to heal, talk to NPCs, shop, etc.

How do you guys feel about this? Is exploration a vital part of RPGs that will be sorely missed?


Well... Here's a few examples that I'm aware of:

Mystic Quest simplified world map navigation to barebone arrow pointing (so you could just move from area to area ala Mario). It kinda sucked as a result.

Bahamut Lagoon was a tactical rpg, and as such, it couldn't really do with regular worldmap movement or movement at all, but they've actually had this rather lenghty sessions of exploration and mini-games (feed the dragons, etc) so as to avoid being repetitive. To me, it kinda 'saved the game' from being dull and repetitive.

From my experience, I'd say exploration is a vital part of making RPGs less repetitive and more fun. The best compliment you can make about exploration is that you haven't noticed it (there wasn't too much or too little to do in-between fights).

In what ways did Skyrim and Oblivion change from Morrowind to reduce the 'filler dialog' problem you're talking about?
(I haven't played Skyrim, and I only played Oblivion for a very short time, but I invested loads of time into Morrowind)


I'm curious too. To me these games were all the same from that standpoint. Very wordy games at that!

#13 elobire   Members   -  Reputation: 141

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 10:54 AM

I always thought Oblivion and morrowind did the best exploration.
I think what you have to capture is a sence that you are 'safe' in the cities, but outside your in danger. Morrowind did this brilliantly. I cant stand games that feel like your going for a walk in the park, when you really should be worrying about the danger of it all.

Games should also have little side quests and stories put in for any small towns and caves and that sort of thing. Its interesting to go into a bandit camp and find a letter they wrote about their next plan, even though it doesnt actually effect anything.

#14 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 11:50 AM

n what ways did Skyrim and Oblivion change from Morrowind to reduce the 'filler dialog' problem you're talking about?

1) all npc's in oblivion have voice. in morrowind only few story npcs have.
2) in oblivion each minor npc has 1-4 topics you can ask, that are UNIQUE.
in morrowind each minor npc has 10-30 topics, that you have to ask until they get grayd.
Kingdom of amalur got jealous and copied morrowind dialog flaws.
3) oblivion has some memorable npcs e.g the lady that loved the rats (oh my poor babies).


when you really should be worrying about the danger of it all.

i believe that rpgs cant capture that feeling, only permadeath games can make you worry.

Edited by n00b0dy, 17 July 2012 - 11:54 AM.


#15 elobire   Members   -  Reputation: 141

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 12:05 PM

1) all npc's in oblivion have voice. in morrowind only few story npcs have.
2) in oblivion each minor npc has 1-4 topics you can ask, that are UNIQUE.
in morrowind each minor npc has 10-30 topics, that you have to ask until they get grayd.
Kingdom of amalur got jealous and copied morrowind dialog flaws.
3) oblivion has some memorable npcs e.g the lady that loved the rats (oh my poor babies).


Quote
when you really should be worrying about the danger of it all.
i believe that rpgs cant capture that feeling, only permadeath games can make you worry.


Morrowinds system was better in some ways. It allowed for the player to get much more information and a better background story. I guess it also made it easier to make new quests because actors only had to say a few words, which where used repeatedly.
Although it had its flaws. Its much less unrealistic and not as memerable. You recalled the rat lady from oblivion, but there was a almost identicle person in Morrowind, but you dont really remember her partly because she didnt say much.

I dont think permadeath is needed to make you worry about danger. If you really get into a game you will always be worrying if you die. Of course being able to save before you make the decission, kind of reduces the worry though.

#16 RedBaron5   Members   -  Reputation: 573

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 12:34 PM

Well... Here's a few examples that I'm aware of:

Mystic Quest simplified world map navigation to barebone arrow pointing (so you could just move from area to area ala Mario). It kinda sucked as a result.

Bahamut Lagoon was a tactical rpg, and as such, it couldn't really do with regular worldmap movement or movement at all, but they've actually had this rather lenghty sessions of exploration and mini-games (feed the dragons, etc) so as to avoid being repetitive. To me, it kinda 'saved the game' from being dull and repetitive.

From my experience, I'd say exploration is a vital part of making RPGs less repetitive and more fun. The best compliment you can make about exploration is that you haven't noticed it (there wasn't too much or too little to do in-between fights).


It sounds like your big concern is that without exploration the game would get repetitive as a cycle of fight, heal, shop would get old very quick. I hadn't really thought about this and I agree with you. I think varying the fights up will help, but you should still let the player "take a break" from the fighting routine every once in awhile.

Do you think these breaks have to be exploration based? What if in between encounters you did something else other than explore to break the monotony?

#17 TMKCodes   Members   -  Reputation: 271

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 02:54 PM

In my mind exploration is fun if the game has cool scenes and nice rare monsters, but to make players want to do exploration instead of doing it just for wasting time would require the map system to be so that only those areas the player has visited would be available and in the hard access secret locations should be a reward chest which only gives reward once so that the system will not be farmed for drops. The most best thing is if the game area is so huge that visiting all of the places will take long time and is not just few day run job to visit every cool place. This way you can actually find new places other players have not visited before and can take your friends there to see the place.

#18 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7179

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 07:37 PM

I think what you have to capture is a sence that you are 'safe' in the cities, but outside your in danger. Morrowind did this brilliantly. I cant stand games that feel like your going for a walk in the park, when you really should be worrying about the danger of it all.


The question is, how do you capture this feeling of danger with other stuff than actual combat?
I remember Chris Perkins discussing about the setting of D&D 4e. The basic idea was that there were city-states, which made it logical that everything else was chaos. Capturing that chaos however is rather hard. You have to play with player's expectations, make them expect monsters surging through, but doing something different instead.

i believe that rpgs cant capture that feeling, only permadeath games can make you worry.


I beg to differ. Survival horror games generally succeed at getting the players on their toes. They do not fear the loss of progress, but the fear of fear itself, even if they're only 1 savegame away. Ambience and suspension of disbelief help here.

Do you think these breaks have to be exploration based? What if in between encounters you did something else other than explore to break the monotony?


I'm all for that. Unfortunately, most games just insert an artificial system here (card game for example...)

can take your friends there to see the place.


Feels to me this doesn't apply so well to classic jrpgs and sounds more like an MMO solution.

#19 tychon   Members   -  Reputation: 652

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 02:27 PM

I think that making exploration fun depends on the context of the game. A 3D first- or third-person perspective title can make exploration fun for scenic discovery, and for shooter genres, discovery of a position of superiority or cover and concealment. However, since you're focused on a 2D JRPG I think the context is narrative.

Given that a JRPG tends to be linear, or at least strongly pushes the player in a particular direction, so that the story unfolds in a predetermined sequence, the narrative discovered from exploration has to be secondary to the main plot, or at least optional in that the full breadth of the story can be appreciated without discovering a particular area. For example, expanding on personal interactions, such as Tales of Vesperia did with skits, on personal background, such as a character stumbling across an old haunt and providing backstory for themselves, or even on social and cultural background by describing the region, structure, or whatever other element they're interacting with by traveling through the area. How this additional narrative is revealed can be accomplished in a number of ways. The skits idea used by Tales of, walk-along dialogue as the party travels, or even expanding entries in an encyclopedia, such as was done with the codex in Mass Effect. Heck, you could even work the act of exploration into the narrative. Perhaps your character is a cartographer and his whole point in being here is to survey the land.

Since narrative is the main context of a JRPG, I feel like this should be the main purpose of exploration, but it doesn't need to be the only reward for it. Most JRPG I've played would put a treasure chest in some optional branch, giving you an item that you might not find anywhere else. As mentioned in another of these threads, XP can be rewarded for stealth or cunning, so if your explorative branch ends up leading the party around some combat obstacle, you could reward them with XP for it. Passive rewards are also a possibility. Suppose your game has multi-character combos, such as in Chrono Trigger. Revealing backstory about a character could make the party more connected with them and provide a synergistic boost, so any combo using them gets a +5% effect or some such. Though I think you need to be careful with this because making these rewards too powerful can lead to exploration being more of a treasure grind than something you do optionally because it's fun.

Making the exploration 'dangerous' could be achieved through events: the mountain path you chose to take gives way to a landslide and you have to dodge trees. This particular mechanic would get tiresome if everything were a timing event, so you can always mix it up with puzzles that trigger traps if solved incorrectly or mini-game progression (think the bike race in Chrono Trigger). Even a Metal Gear Solid style hallway sneak is possible. You avoid making the exploration itself rely on combat by instead making the failure consequence a difficulty increase on future opponents on the main path, and these being opponents you would have had to fight regardless.

#20 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7179

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:36 PM

Thanks for the input tychon!

Given that a JRPG tends to be linear, or at least strongly pushes the player in a particular direction, so that the story unfolds in a predetermined sequence, the narrative discovered from exploration has to be secondary to the main plot, or at least optional in that the full breadth of the story can be appreciated without discovering a particular area. For example, expanding on personal interactions, such as Tales of Vesperia did with skits, on personal background, such as a character stumbling across an old haunt and providing backstory for themselves, or even on social and cultural background by describing the region, structure, or whatever other element they're interacting with by traveling through the area. How this additional narrative is revealed can be accomplished in a number of ways. The skits idea used by Tales of, walk-along dialogue as the party travels, or even expanding entries in an encyclopedia, such as was done with the codex in Mass Effect. Heck, you could even work the act of exploration into the narrative. Perhaps your character is a cartographer and his whole point in being here is to survey the land.


To me that still feels like the endgame, and not the journey itself. I'm really looking for specific elements of gameplay that are not fighting.

Since narrative is the main context of a JRPG, I feel like this should be the main purpose of exploration, but it doesn't need to be the only reward for it. Most JRPG I've played would put a treasure chest in some optional branch, giving you an item that you might not find anywhere else. As mentioned in another of these threads, XP can be rewarded for stealth or cunning, so if your explorative branch ends up leading the party around some combat obstacle, you could reward them with XP for it. Passive rewards are also a possibility. Suppose your game has multi-character combos, such as in Chrono Trigger. Revealing backstory about a character could make the party more connected with them and provide a synergistic boost, so any combo using them gets a +5% effect or some such. Though I think you need to be careful with this because making these rewards too powerful can lead to exploration being more of a treasure grind than something you do optionally because it's fun.


Once again here, it feels we're talking more about the endgame (reason) to exploring rather than the actual act of exploring.


Making the exploration 'dangerous' could be achieved through events: the mountain path you chose to take gives way to a landslide and you have to dodge trees. This particular mechanic would get tiresome if everything were a timing event, so you can always mix it up with puzzles that trigger traps if solved incorrectly or mini-game progression (think the bike race in Chrono Trigger). Even a Metal Gear Solid style hallway sneak is possible. You avoid making the exploration itself rely on combat by instead making the failure consequence a difficulty increase on future opponents on the main path, and these being opponents you would have had to fight regardless.


I think that's the kind of gameplay elements we're after here. I personally invested some time in developing a 'rafting sequence' mini-game, but as is the case with most mini-games, you ought to use as little as possible. So I was wondering if rather than including mini-games, there could be an actual gameplay system that could be integrated altogether (ala jumping system which is sadly based on action in a genre that doesn't really work with that). Some games use the push-pull ability of the character, or a singular well crafted ability (grappling hook, etc). Anything that makes exploration itself less mundane at the end of the day and doesn't feel tossed in as a mini-game but rather is a strong system that is an integral part of the game.




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