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sanch3x

Tons of playable characters

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If you've played any game in the Suikoden series you'll know that you can recruit almost 108 stars of destiny. I say "almost" because some of the stars are evil and aren’t recruitable but in the end, you still have a bunch. I have to admit that Suikoden is my favourite series ever since I played the 2nd installment. However I find myself always sad that my party consists of only 6 members (only 4 in the 4th title). I seem to form an attachment to some characters and build pseudo-relationships between them. For instance, I would say that since character X and Y were from the same village it would be horrible to split them apart so I HAVE to keep them together. Whether they have a special combo together or not is irrelevant, it just seems right. So this is where the problem pops up. When my party is filled with characters I love and I meet up with a new wicked-super-elite character I want to add to the mix I can't, because I'd have to split people up. How could someone manage to harness the power of having hundreds of playable characters and still let the player choose without regret who's in his party? Would splitting characters in multiple parties and having go off on other side quests where they all play on the same timeline? Or should the player be forced to change party every once in a while (something I personally hate). Would multiple parties with their respective quests dilute the game's story/fun? Note: I know some of you have mentioned in a past thread that too many characters is bad because they don't get as much screen time (which means less development). Instead you should vouch for less characters and really go deep in their psyche. However I think in a game with lots of PCs, like Suikoden, assumes that the player will "feel" some sort of character development instead reading it through dialogue. So instead of discussing having less characters I'd like to stick to how we can make lots of characters work. :)

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I agree with your last point. I get attached to the faceless grunts in Ogre Battle, even though they're totally generic and have the same name as six of my enemies.

If you want to have a hundred characters with blurbs for back stories and still be able to "play house" with them, I recommend despatch quests, like in Final Fantasy Tactics, where you form ancillary parties and send them off to do things on their own, without being in your primary team. They can go have wacky adventures, and since it happens off-screen, you can imagine any kind of character development or synergy you want to.

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I would have to agree with all the sentiments expressed here (and that all those games rock, Suikoden was my favorite series before 4 came out, which I couldn't finish because I'd keep falling asleep while playing).
I feel you could overcome this problem by making each character fulfill a certain role and be important. I never used Hai Yo in my party (even though he's better than Pesmerga), but yet with the Cooking mini-game I never felt he was left out. Even when the PC's just have a certain quest to recruit them (such as Futch and Humphrey), it helps. Even Cromley, the great magicians, felt included, because it was assumed that while he was with your army he was still practicing his magic... some manifestation of this during the game as a side quest would have been cool.
Really though, the series with the most successful integration of all PC's is Suikoden 3. The first half of the game is split between 3-4 main characters, so you get to use a large amount of different characters. After that, because you are involved in such a large war, you still feel even the people you don't use are doing something important. This is even further enhanced with the large scale battles, that actually use what the characteres have equipped and their level/magic. They don't feel abstract, as Suikoden I, II, and IV had, but like they are actually there, which makes them feel more important.

As for thinking ahead:
I think it'd be interesting if each character like the 'nameless' ones in FFT and Tactics Ogre/Ogre battle had a certain disposition/backstory, and the game chose dialogue procedurally based on their history/disposition and situation. This could work for non-story sequences, but could lend them some more personality. As far as integrating more characters into the story, I think like I described above (and what Suikoden 3 does) could work.

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The idea I had regarding this was to give the player a base of operations and give all characters at base activites. Characters would be able to assume different roles around your base and thus contribute to both the bases develpoment and character development. Don't want doug in your party? No problem leave him at the base and tell him to clear forests, thus expanding slowly expanding the useable area of your base. Or set him to construction and give him a list of buildings to build. The idea being to have an out of battle aspect to gameplay that unused character can contribute to.

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Suikoden is great at making unused characters interesting. I'm looking mostly towards 2 because that one had them a little bit all over the place in the headquarters. My favourite would have to be Viktor in the tavern drinking with two other allies. I just loved all the custom animations.

I do like the grunt units to get randomly generated names/backgrounds. Everytime a character has been around for a long time in an RTS I "retire" him. I keep him off the front lines so he can survive. It's totally useless but it feels right, I love caring for those characters.

I love the fact that you could send units on side quests like in the Tactics series. It would be wicked to form sub parties that would leave for a period of time and come back with some sort of detailed report. They could even recruit new members. It's like they had a mind of their own. Imagine comparing notes and having mini rivalries between parties.

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Instead of thinking it would be bad to split the two, you may consider having a few short conversations that only happen if they're in the party together. That way, the player is not penalized for only wanting to use one, but they are rewarded for using both.

If you write 3 conversations per "set" of characters, and you choose 10 "sets", this is 30 possible conversations that can pop up, giving players a good chance of encountering at least one. Writing more than this can guarantee that the player will see many of them, and make a hugely deep experience that feels customized to the player.

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Quote:
Original post by JBourrie
Instead of thinking it would be bad to split the two, you may consider having a few short conversations that only happen if they're in the party together. That way, the player is not penalized for only wanting to use one, but they are rewarded for using both.

If you write 3 conversations per "set" of characters, and you choose 10 "sets", this is 30 possible conversations that can pop up, giving players a good chance of encountering at least one. Writing more than this can guarantee that the player will see many of them, and make a hugely deep experience that feels customized to the player.


Suikoden kind of works this way. Certain groups will sometimes have special dialogue in certain scenes.

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I think Chrono Cross did an excellent job with character development, considering there's 44 characters. It used a lot of sidequests, and held signifigance on about a third of the characters (Glenn, Fargo, Serge, Kid, Lynx, Harle, etc) while some of them were just in there for fun. New game+ options gave it a lot more ending possiblities for endings with different characters and situations too. Look into that one if you're looking at some ideas.

My own personal idea is that you should combine a plot with a main character with several branching plots for others so that it's different with each character they use. Like if you're in a certain situation, one character may find one way to deal with it, while another may cause an entirely different scenario. Hard to manage sometimes, but if you did it right it'd be really sweet.

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Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
The idea I had regarding this was to give the player a base of operations and give all characters at base activites. Characters would be able to assume different roles around your base and thus contribute to both the bases develpoment and character development.[...]
Sim Hero League? I like it! Not only do you have tasks to perform with yor selected group, but you also have a base of operations to maintain, a reputation to upkeep, etc. Keep the "Off-Screen Side Quest" aspect and you can have a deep, complex game even without a good 'primary story' (though, of course, having a good one would definitely improve the game).
Just make sure you don't make it like most RTS games where everything is about micromanagement speed - time should be abstracted somewhat so players can take a break and assign tasks/side quests to those characters they aren't using without having to multitask in realtime (with an exception for the typical timed mission or two, but no more than that).

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Also, there is the game Misadventures of Tron Bonne. You play as the girl villain from the Mega Man Legends series and have 40 little lego servebots to work with.

In the beginning, most of the servebots just wander around the ship without any special skills. Once you unlock their abilities (through leveling up their stats or giving them certain items) they can do things like paint your giant robot, build new parts, sell items, or play minigames. You can also send them on trips to get items.

Also, in Dark Cloud 2 there are support characters. Basically, you have your main party (in DC2 there were only 2 people... only one playable at a time) but you could add a third person who had a special ability they added to the party. One character increases the amount of money you find, another gradually makes bombs that you can get from them for free, another lets you detect which monsters hold the keys and which chests are trapped, etc.

So, you could have some charaters who are at the base and perform duties that help outside of combat, and you could have other who help inside combat although a bit indirectly. As if they were on the sidelines giving advice without actually throwing any punches.

Also, in RISK you have to leave some troops behind in countries you conquer to keep the area under control. Suppose after you conquer an area (like a dungeon) you could leave behind a few characters to guard it and keep it clean of monsters or something. They would probably level up automatically and send money or items to you they got from the dungeon... or they could try breaking their contract with you and keep this goldmine to themselves... or get chased out when the monsters overpower them.

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Another example of a cool thing to add would be something similar to Final Fantasy (sorry I'm a Square fanboy) IX's "Active Time Event" system, which allows you to watch your other characters if they're up to something while you're doing something.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
[quote]Original post by BringBackFuturama
I think Chrono Cross did an excellent job with character development, considering there's 44 characters.[/QUOTE]

I agree that Chrono Cross made its unique characters interesting, (by providing each of them with some backstory explored via the use of sidequests), but unfortunately many of the characters weren't differentiated enough gameplay wise to make them fun: only a small subset of the characters made sense to pick at any given time.

Combining character development WITH gameplay diversity would be prime.

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For promoting character diversity:

1. In the final fantasy games (trend here) I really like the limit breaks that are unique to specific characters. Perhaps, have something like limit breaks but have character-dependent ways on how they work:

Thronk: Fills his limit meter when he takes damage, pulls off a powerful attack whose strength depends on stopping a moving bar at a certain spot (sort of like with Titus's limit break in FF-X or the power meter in golf games)

Gill: Fills his meter when he sees lots of stealable items, limit break consists of trying to steal multiple items from an enemy, sucess depends on hitting button combinations like in a fighter game or DDRR.

Valient: Fills his meter when enemies take damage, pulls off an attack like Thronk does but his attack depends on the outcome of a 1d20 dice roll.


So it would basically be:
Fill methods / limit outcomes / How it's calculated.

Create some way to really make these special to each different character and you might have something.

================================
Personally, I really liked the limit breaks for Tifa and Cait Sith in FFVII. Slot machines and dice have a unique element of risk to them thats really interesting in battle.

Tifa attack was calculated from X number of reels depending on if it was normal, critical, or miss (not sure... don't have the game anymore)

Cait did 100 x (his level/20)d6 dice damage. which was pretty neat.

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