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Possibly the best idea I ever had

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One of my team mates from Hero of Allacrost brought something up the other day about why can't we have large parties of characters in battle. He was griping about how "artificial" the limitations were for only allowing a maximum of four characters (in our game) to be fighting in battle at any given time. Truthfully, the two reasons we only have four are 1) because that's as many as we can fit on our battle screen, and 2) having a large party fight in a typical FF-style battle would not be very efficient, because you have to enter commands for each of those characters over and over and it just wouldn't "play" right. In the back of my mind for a couple I thought about this dilemma and how, hypothetically, I would design a RPG if I wanted to have a large (10 or more) number of characters to be able to fight in battles at any given time. And then the lightning bolt of inspiration hit me, and I think I had the best game design idea I ever had. Before I get into it, let me first hit on the topic of a player controlling a character. Its common sense if you think about it, but the more characters a player has to control simultaneously, the more automated those characters need to be by the game, since the player can not be expected to meticulously control every step, every action. In a FPS where the player is only controlling one character, sure they can be expected to have complete control. But in a RTS where they are controlling large armies, you have to be able to assign commands to groups of units, and those units need to act intelligibly (ie, fight back if someone attacks you; don't wait for the player to specifically order you to attack). So what is my solution to allowing large parties of characters to fight in RPG battles? The answer I came up with is a RPG game with RTS battle styel, so sort of a RPG/RTS hybrid. Here's how I'm thinking it would work. Lets assume we have a party of 12 characters. There's maybe 4 warrior/melee units, 2 long range attack units (archers), 2 mage support units, 2 mage attack units, and 2 healers. In town, maybe all your characters disperse to go about their business, and you have control over the main character and any other characters that decide to go along with him/her. You can interact with your own party in town as you find them shopping around for weapons/armor, relaxing in a pub, etc. Now when you leave the town, all the characters leave town with you and you go out to say, a field where monsters roam. Now we get to the interesting part: the battles. The battle on the plains would be somewhat like the game Secret of Mana, where battles occur on the map and you don't transition to a separate battle screen. But battles would also play similar Starcraft. Say you're trying to get your party across the plains from the town you were just in to a sea port. As you walk (and your party follows) to your destination, you repeatedly encounter enemy units that run up to you and start attacking. Once they are within range, your party will automatically attack the units, so you have to place your warriors in front to protect the relatively weak mages. When there is a large mass of enemy units wailing on your party, you need to instruct your mages to cast attack spells with cover a large area. Or you could turn them into stone and simply "divide and conquer". Or you could cast a spell that grants temporary immortality to a character and have that character run out as the "tank", luring all enemies to attack it. Or you could find that there are too many to fight, and you could lay a trap down and then lure the enemy into the trap. The point is: there's an infinite number of strategies you can do, just like in Starcraft. There's not a simple and straightforward response to every action (ie, character gets poisoned, heal character) like in many RPGs. Its an active, fast-paced strategic battle, but its still a role-playing game. So what do you all think? Does this sound like something that could be very fun to play, if designed correctly? This idea really got me excited, enough so that a small part of me wishes I wasn't already working on Allacrost so I could go off and design this beast of a game. [lol] I'm sure that someone has already thought of this idea somewhere, and maybe its even been implemented before. But I'm sure not aware of it if it is. Thoughts? Comments?

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I'm not sure that I get what you're so enthusiastic about, maybe I'm not understanding you. It sounds like you're just describing a typical RTS style of battle right? But the other aspects of the game are typical RPG things, like visiting towns with your party and going on a quest.

As for handling many characters in an RPG battle, I would tend to think of something like FF12 where your characters are automated by their gambits anyway.

You could also look at Shining Force 1 and 2 where you controlled the actions of over a dozen characters in battle.

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Quote:
Original post by mpipe
So like... WarCraft III?


This is exactly what I was thinking.

It seemed like half of the campaign in that game didn't have any significant base building -- you ended up just managing a single group of people to explore some area or get from point A to point B.

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I didn't play WC3 very much (didn't like it), but yes and no. There's no base building/resource management/hero characters/other junk. And yeah its kind of similar to FFXII in that characters automatically attack, but I hated the gambit system with a passion. All you do is watch your characters, and there's no real strategy in it. I hated it so much, in fact, that I haven't even bothered completing that game because I found battles to be so annoying. Shining Force I think I played way back in the day, and IIRC it was turn based. What I am describing is not turn-based, it is real-time. That's a world of difference. The reason why I am so enthusiastic about it is because it makes RPG battles interesting. In just about every RPG I've played, I haven't been overly impressed with the battle system (Grandia II is an exception). I've maintained for a long time that one of the major problems I see in RPGs is that battles are too stale and don't employ enough strategy.

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Well, it really does sound interesting. But I still find some difficulty on how the controls work. We’ll the mouse play a big role in this?

When I read your topic the first thing that popped out of my head was “Valkyrie Profile 2”. They had this nice idea where you move the whole party (4 characters max) around the field together. They gave you the ability to split the party into 2 groups (1 to 3 characters max) where you can use one as a diversion so the other the group can attack from the back.

Anyway I wouldn’t mind controlling more than the regular number of characters seen in RPGs. I just think that the major point here would be the controls. How will the player control such a beast??

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I can understand a bit of what you are wanting. Here's some things to take into consideration. Is this targeted as a single player or multiplayer? If this is a single player game, how much control do you want the user to have over the characters? If it's a multiplayer, what is the preferred connection (LAN, Internet, etc.)? How is partying going to work?

The problem that I see with it in any situation is the lack of character development. Sure, I would love to see a game like that myself, I would love to create a story for such a game. I love writing, but this is why Final Fantasy does so well, the writers know how to set up the character development. Sorry for you NES generation FF fans, but I'm going to use seven and on. In 7, cloud became an instant idol for the RPG fan because of the character building. He came off as someone quiet but powerful, and the story goes on to prove that he was much more than that. He cared.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't played FFVII, don't read!

When Aerith died, it hit fans of the game because Squaresoft built her character so that she really didn't deserve to die.

In eight, Squall was looked at as someone who hated everyone. At the end, he became more than that, someone that cared about his friends. Ten, I hate the character development in it. The main character Tidus just whinned too much for my liking, I guess it steered me away from playing the game.

Now 12! The character development was loopy. Too many odds and ends to fill based on the characters' histories.


The AI's begin to get more and more complicated as you introduce more and more concepts. Characters are just that, concepts. Why was Pac-Man so difficult to program when it came out, no one ever really created an AI for a game (just an example).

But still, the RTS concept is being introduced more and more with every RPG. I'm just more curious on what your idea is. But again, if you decide that you want to create a game like this, give me a buzz. I'll look forward to the writing.

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Quote:
Original post by mpipe
So like... WarCraft III?


That's hilarious, but WarCraft 3 is like... RTS with RPG elements which isn't exactly what they're suggesting.

What you're suggesting is a fundamentally good idea, but not original. Since StarCraft was released with a fully programmable world editor games like this have existed, and frankly, I love them.

If you have the resources, I'd love to see a game made like that and would probably pay. I've never seen something like that done in a game that wasn't modded from a Blizzard RTS (and lets face it, the 'RPG' maps are very small compared to real RPG's)

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Well, that's not entirely true. Diablo 2 had massive maps and look at when it came out. Blizzard does have some of the greatest games ever made, but I think Warcraft was played out way too much. When I think of what the person is talking about, I think of Crono Cross or FF but with all the characters battling at once rather than a limit of 3 at a specific time. Idk, what do you think?

Do you have a story in mind, or do you want to write one out?

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Boulders Gate?

It's an RPG that's pretty much RTS. You select, move, attack just like an RTS. (Even has an option to Pause the action and give commands, like a turn based RPG)

However, Boulders Gate still restricts you to a small party of about 5.

Which, is the fundemental design of keeping the game playable *and* enjoyable. I would absolutely hate to have to manage about 20+ characters, all with Armor, Weapons, Spells, Potions, Inventories, Stats, Backround Stories, religions, etc, etc, etc. Especially the great variance in all those catagories.

To make the game even slightly playable, you would have to greatly dumb down everything. Like, only 1 or 2 types of helmets, etc (For the masses!)

There would be no way for the player to handle the management of a large variety of items, like say in Diablo II (items are randomly generated), for a large varying party.

Too keep the management down, and the action up, you'd have to keep it simple, like 'Buy 10 Warriors', then 'Buy 10 swords for the warriors'. And it's then, when you reduce everything to plain numbers, you've cut the balls off the RPG part (at least IMO). There's no 'Role playing' at all, no character development, no story, just a cooky-cutter stlye western RPG. (Adding a 'Leveling' system and inventory is NOT an RPG IMO).

I don't know, if you increase the RTS style like you've talked about too much, then you've pretty much got a real time Heroes of Might and Magic.

It's gonna be pretty hard to manage both the RPG and RTS elements like this, on one hand you've got an RPG with a slightly big party, on the other, a very diluted RTS that doesn't want to be an RTS.

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