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tieTYT

RPGs: Should there be Party Selection?

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For me this question is rhetorical. This is a philosophy i have about RPGs. If you look at the history of squaresoft games, the concept of party selection seems to be a "more advanced way to do something". I base this off of the fact that it doesn''t seem to be until FF6j that you could choose your party. But ever since then, i haven''t really seen an RPG where you can''t choose your party at some point. So what do you people think about this RPG characteristic? Is it good? Is it bad? Does it not matter? Here''s my opinion. I don''t like it at all. You have to admit that through 75% of any RPG what you''re doing is trying to move from point A to point B. Along the way you are fighting monsters and believe it or not, THIS is where you bond with your characters the most. For the other 25% of the time you''re learning about the story. You''d think that 25% of the time is where you''d bond with your characters but actually it''s totally dependent on the other 75% of the time. Why? Because if for 75% of the entire game, a character in all practicality doesn''t even exist (he''s not in your fighting party) then why does it even matter what happens to him in the game''s plot? Here''s a real world example: Pretend you meet with your friend and he tells you, "You know that guy with the red hair at that baseball game last week? He died man." You know what your reaction is? "Man, that sucks, i can''t believe it" But if that same person says, "Our friend James died", you''re mourning for years. This is the difference between having the game choose your party for you and you choosing it for yourself. The latter gives you the ability to make your own character a stranger!

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Guest Anonymous Poster
That is not truw at all i personally hate games where I cant pick the team becasue then I cant bond with the chaacters. And another thing i dont like about The current rpgs is the fact that you are always the good guy and the storys always lock you in to something. I dont like linnear games.

EXAMPLE:

You start the game you can recruit any npc in the game. you recruit some guys the take part into your group and you begin to Think of them as second nature nut if one dies you need to replace him. but you still grow to like the new one or you ditch him/her.

old way example:
Your stuck a whiney brat who cant do anything because you have no impact on the game.
You group of friends are strangers that you may or may not like. Me personally never liked any of FF10 chars except Wakka and aurun and brother. The other onews I wished i could ditch And would have loved not to be a guardian for yuna.

I consider most rgs today Adventure games.

now you play Might and magic or something along the lines of NWN where you get to make the main char. those are rpgs but again they are adventure rpgs.

A true RPG has only been achieved by P&P homebrew games that will never ever get to the market because to many people like to watch books.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
EXAMPLE:

You start the game you can recruit any npc in the game. you recruit some guys the take part into your group and you begin to Think of them as second nature nut if one dies you need to replace him. but you still grow to like the new one or you ditch him/her.
There are plenty of games that does this. However, one little problem is the level system. At the start of the game, you and NPCs around you are at level 1-3. You do your adventure, leveling up, then when your party reaches level 16, one of them died. So you have to replace him. So you go back to where you start, and seeing all these level 1-3 NPCs that you didn''t recruit before. Now you have one person in your party whose level is wayy below your level.

Ok, now suppose there are NPCs around level 16 too. But this could go on for level 30 50 60 70 80 100 and so on. Basically you need to provide NPCs in different range of level. Or, provide some sort of mechanism to update the level of these NPCs to match your level. But what do you think the players would react if they see this Joe NPC who was level 3 before and now is level 40 but he is always in the same place as before? What do you think the players would react when they see the NPCs are leveling up too along their party? It would make leveling up much useless, wouldn''t it? Why do I need to recruit this guy and keep him alive if everybody else is leveling up at the same speed as he does?

There is one game called Uncharted Waters: New Horizon where you could hire sailors. It does some sort of nice thing by creating a new random NPC with random skills every a couple of month (game time) that is around your level. It can be higher, it can be lower, but definitely not level 1. And it would only create them if you have played the game long enough. I remember my brother and I used to play this game just to see these random NPCs because they usually have nice stats and skills with them. And since these NPCs are randomly generated, you would never see them twice, so they are unique. Sometimes it would generate some crappy NPCs (with crappy looking face), and sometimes it would generate some cool uber NPCs (with tough-looking face).

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party selection is important since it give the player both choice and verity in their gaming experince. If the player can''t choose the make up of thier party you have already elimeniated choice from the game thus decreasing the players potiental enjoyment of the game. There are ways around this though such as the job system seen in FF3, FF5 and FF tactics.

But its also important not to give the player to many useless npc as this becomes more anyoing the helpful in the end. Chrono Cross was the worst offender for this. There must have been 50 npcs you acquire through the course of mulitple play throughs of the game. However you could only use at most 2 of them at anyone time. Which meant you ended up using your two favorites all the time and the rest contributed nothing to the game. If your going to give the player alot of npc then you should either allow for a large party size, or have npcs not in the primary party contribute in other ways.

as for npcs starting level there are two approachs that have been used, have the npc start at a fixed level, or have the npc always start at level relative to the main charcters level.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Or you could just have them certain levels as they would be in the towns or areas you find them.

Or better yet why not incorprate AI for the npcs that lets them walk around hunt monsters as a player would. Then if an npc dies the game randomly creates another one.

That would be a single player MMORPG.

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Limited party selection makes most sense- that is, based on the plot event, certain characters will have to be in your party. In games like Final Fantasy 4, it is somewhat irritating to not be able to switch out members of your team that aren''t involved in the story that much. Conversely, in Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 9, there is more of a "replacable dialogue syndrome" where it doesn''t really matter who the other characters are, provided the main character is there.

Phantasy Star 4 almost achieves this, though you can only really mess with your party at the very end, and only one member of it, as does Final Fantasy 6, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It''s also perfectly acceptable to have "useless" NPCs, provided there is balance.

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i have to say i disagree. Those that like being able to pick their characters may like the concept of a choice, but that is at the risk (and perhaps a true rule) that the storyline has to suffer. People seem to ignore this or dismiss it. Most people that played FF4 WHEN IT FIRST CAME OUT AND WAS NOT PRIMITIVE will agree that it has the best storyline of the whole final fantasy series. This is because it had a static storyline and every line of dialog was meant to be said by every character that said it. This makes it easier to write a story for a game. And a great benefit of it is you can customize the storyline for each character. You couldn''t do that with FF7 because you could never be sure what party you would have when it was time for dialog.

What part of being able to pick a party actually improves your bond with them? You didn''t really explain why, you just made a statement.

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Basically what it comes down to is the game priorities. If you want a carefully scripted story (which will inevitably be somewhat linear), then you should not allow players to choose their party. If you want a high level of gameplay interaction and player customization of the gaming experience, then you should.

Didn''t Seiken Densetsu 3 or something let you choose your characters in the beginning, and then the plot shifted so that those three would meet and fight together, and the characters you didn''t choose would either wander alone or even be your enemies? If you used actual game-world characters instead of "creating" them at a soldier office or something, then I think that sort of thing could be heavily refined to be a really positive game element.

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i think a way you could have the best of both worlds is to not be able to pick your party but to include a job system. That usually works well.

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If a strong story is your aim then why can''t it include party selection? Lets say at story point four you have a choice of two npcs to be your companion. Why can''t you have the story point change depending on which npc you bring? You could altar the story in ways depending on how the story points play out.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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Well, the job system is a good one, but it does tend to undermine the story just a little bit. If you''re going to have a strong, independent character interacting with a weaker, meeker, more timid character, and the big tough guy is a healer while the damsel-in-distress is an invincible axe-wielding barbarian, the dialogue will seem a little bit weird. Not that it can''t be done, but if the story is written without a solid idea of the roles the characters will fill in-game, then it can never be as fluid or appropriate as it would be with static characters.

As to making a story tree that the player can control by choosing different in-game characters, it is the very soul of compromise. You lose some of the concreteness of the story, and some of the customizability of the party, in exchange for some of the story quality and some of the customizability. Ogre Battle games are very good at this. Sometimes whole sections of the map will be opened up by acquiring the right characters. Other times, you''ll have to choose between these two neat characters or those two, or you''ll have to align yourself with a faction to gain certain soldiers.

The FF6 system, where you get all the characters, and they all have concrete presences in the story, but you can teach them all kinds of magic and whatnot until they''re all absurdly strong and you''ve learned all their backstories is a different kind of compromise. It takes away a little of the specialization (they all have special abilities, but by the end you can have them all be both invincible melee warriors and master wizards), but it gives you infinite flexibility in party structure and it also retains much of the story quality, although there are many who would disagree with that second assertion. I think it was the crowning glory of the FF series, and FFVII was a wrong turn that hasn''t yet been corrected. The Ogre Battle series also had a little of this property as well, but not so elegantly implemented.

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
...Chrono Cross was the worst offender for this. There must have been 50 npcs you acquire through the course of mulitple play throughs of the game...



Hey, what about the Gensou Suikoden series, with the (in)famous
line up of "108 Stars of Destiny" that you can recruit?

With a large pool of selectable characters, the story loses the
focus and tends to become generic.

With fixed characters, the story is more focused but also leans
towards being linear.

It''s the designer''s job to balance out these two extremes (or
just use the extremes). There is no single "best" way.




Kami no Itte ga ore ni zettai naru!

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
If a strong story is your aim then why can't it include party selection? Lets say at story point four you have a choice of two npcs to be your companion. Why can't you have the story point change depending on which npc you bring? You could altar the story in ways depending on how the story points play out.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I'm a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave



A strong story can't exist with party selection (compared to a linear story). It has to do with limitations. I guess if you had infinite time to make a story very dynamic it could work, but realistically, if you have to have one story when one character is in a party and a different story when another character is in the party, you may end up needing as much as 2x the story than if you just forced the player to use the characters you wanted. Now imagine this if you have 8 characters to choose from and a party can only be as big as 4. It's too much.

The solution is to make the story watered down so it can apply to anyone and by definition this means less character development.

Let's take FFVII as an example *spoiler*. I promise you if you go out of your way to never put aeris in your party as often as possible, you will barely care when she dies. I know this because this is what happened to me when i played the game. I saw her as a weakling, decided to switch her with barret who was strong, and completely forgot about her for the rest of the game until she died. I really didn't understand the big deal with her death. Everyone was saying it was so sad. I explained why her death didn't effect me like i'm explaining to you guys now and they replied that the reason they kept her in their party is because she had an awesome overcharge (or whatever it's called) that would cure your whole party.

Now, either i didn't care about that overcharge or didn't notice it, but because i had the choice not to use her, I didn't get the emotional experience out of her death that I'm sure the developers intended. But it was totally their fault. If they forced me to use Aeris, i probably would have cried like a little bitch at her death.

This is the point. All the people that love or at least think of that scene as memorable felt a connection with Aeris. That connection existed, even though they are probably not aware of this, because they chose to have Aeris in their party throughout the game. Because i chose not to, her death had little emotional weight to me. It was like watching a stranger die: Tragic, but at least it's not someone i'm close to.

[edited by - tieTYT on March 31, 2004 8:34:22 PM]

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quote:
Original post by tieTYT
Now, either i didn''t care about that overcharge or didn''t notice it, but because i had the choice not to use her, I didn''t get the emotional experience out of her death that I''m sure the developers intended. But it was totally their fault. If they forced me to use Aeris, i probably would have cried like a little bitch at her death.



Why not just remove all choice from the player, and make them experience the storyline in exactly the way you want them to?

Oh wait, that''s not a game, it''s a movie.

Games are about giving the player choices. If you go for storyline at the expense of player choices, you end up with one of those horrible ''interactive movies'' that no one ever remembers or cares about.


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quote:
Original post by Sandman
quote:
Original post by tieTYT
Now, either i didn''t care about that overcharge or didn''t notice it, but because i had the choice not to use her, I didn''t get the emotional experience out of her death that I''m sure the developers intended. But it was totally their fault. If they forced me to use Aeris, i probably would have cried like a little bitch at her death.



Why not just remove all choice from the player, and make them experience the storyline in exactly the way you want them to?

Oh wait, that''s not a game, it''s a movie.

Games are about giving the player choices. If you go for storyline at the expense of player choices, you end up with one of those horrible ''interactive movies'' that no one ever remembers or cares about.






Actually, i''d say you end up with Final Fantasy 4j, a game that most OG RPG gamers agree is the best of the whole final fantasy series. It''s not like a horrible interactive movie. You have plenty of things you can do while the story is not unfolding.

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I think a good compromise would be a small, mostly selectable party that gets frozen at the beginning (or at least early on). For example, say you have one non-selectable main character around whom the the bulk of the story is constructed, and two selectable slots that you fill early on out of a pool of four NPCs. That gives you (4 choose 2 = 6) party configurations, which is bad, but avoids the worst of the combinatorial explosion.

The main quest remains largely invariant under the different party configurations, and most of the important, emotionally charged scenes occur between the main character and assorted NPCs; however, each party configuration carries with it a handful of unique side quests (say 3), that develop the personality and interrelationships of the selectable PCs. That's 18 extra quests, which is big but still manageable.

It also yields loads of replay value, in much the same way that FF 1 is fun to replay to experiment with different party lineups, only in this case each combination of characters would carry with it some unique story development, as well as different character abilities.

[edited by - Muse on April 1, 2004 7:10:35 PM]

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That idea works. What i think may be even better would be to have some unique way to literally create your party. You have a main character and maybe some others and you''re forced to have them in your party. But because of some spell or some innovative system, you are actually able to create your own "monsters" that you can add to your party. This way, you can create them any way you want and it gives the player a lot of customizability. Because they''re simply monsters, you don''t even need to create dynamic stories depending on which ones you have in your party.

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If a game is going to have a "You", and this "You" is the one who''s going to be forming the Super Adventuring Group, then all party selection methods are just a workaround to the hypothetical ideal of being able to simply turn down any offers you get for assistance during your quest. Enforce supporting characters in the name of progression and there''s a chance players are going to mutiny if they don''t like them (Mmm, Carth*) but give them too many choices and, unless the game adopts a blank slate design that encourages using your imagination, no character is going to have the time or effort put in to be a satisfactory companion.

Of course, most games in the traditional Band Of Heroes mould will at some point need to have a supporting character tag along or be immune to the rules of the world to further the plot, but if you haven''t convinced the player to agree with your design decision before you make it, you''ve just put up a huge neon sign with the words "YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL" blinking at them.

* Although in my opinion just about every character in KOTOR felt like the designer was grinding the harsh stubble of George Lucas across my testicles.

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