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Kest

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As an RPG gamer, do you prefer a small number of permanently fixed party members that are heavily linked into the game world and story, or do you prefer a large array of less-story-driven characters to choose or hire from, each with varying personalities and talents? Or as a third option, do you think it would be worth investing the development time required to heavily link a large array of characters into the game world and story? The player would be capable of having up to three of them onboard at one time. Those not in the party would not be exposed to events that might drive their personal story forward. Some extra confusion here is that the player can dump off characters and hire new characters any time they choose to, which means the game can't rely on any specific character being exposed to previous situations when current situations are being handled - if that makes any sense. I'm just looking for general concepts and ideas in this area. Opinions are welcome.

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I overwhelmingly prefer a single member to a party and will dump or not hire everyone but the main character if I have any choice.

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There are some interesting things in the game I'm building that will make significant use of allies. There are several team positions that AI team members can be assigned to, such as hacker, traps, point, lookout, etc. For example, the member in the hacker position will hang near terminals as the rest of the team rampages through a building. They'll attempt to unlock doors blocking the team, lock doors that can help protect them, and similarly control other hardware and devices. A single person can manage on their own, but it wouldn't be as deadly or efficient. Or at least that's the goal and theory. I haven't got enough of it in working order to be happy about it yet.

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I prefer a small set of characters well-linked into the game and story. No more than 3 at a time (including the "main" character, if any), no more than 10 total. Think Phantasy Star IV or Chrono Trigger. I don't want a small army to maintain and remember, as well as to swap out and constantly level... I hate mandatory "grinding", fighting for the sole purpose of levelling, and thus hate most traditional RPGs.

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Original post by Wyrframe
I don't want a small army to maintain and remember, as well as to swap out and constantly level...

Why would you feel compelled to maintain and remember all of the characters?

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Original post by Kest
As an RPG gamer, do you prefer a small number of permanently fixed party members Or as a third option, do you think it would be worth investing the development time required to heavily link a large array of characters into the game world and story?

No, not worth it, not on a budget. Offering options is good, but making sure you spend your time on content you are sure your players will see is better. Besides, having a fixed cast will help you test your game. Chrono Trigger and Baldur's Gate are cool, but they had armies in QA to test every combination that could possibly break the game.

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I think the answer depends heavily on the nature of the game (which seems to be my answer for all questions). If you're intending to create a strong story-driven game with a lot of character development then a smaller number of fixed characters is a definite plus. Another option is to have a select number of characters which are constantly available, supplemented with the option of adding temporary NPC allies who, when killed, will disappear or will leave at set points. Alternatively it could work similar to hiring mercenaries, or even commanding squads with your 'main' characters in a central command role.

If, instead, you are attempting to create an action-driven game with a greater focus on battle than story, then a large selection of shallow characters may be more viable. I would envision this sort of system being more likely used in a game where story is more focused on a single character and his command of a larger force in order to effect political change. Battles could contain squads of nameless soldiers, under the command of a deeper leader, who in turn would be under the command of the main character. In this case you would be approaching the border of strategy and RPG, but I do enjoy a blend of genres.

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What do you think about the concept of creating a few characters that are strongly attached to the player and story, but making their presence optional? The game would provide an array of other characters that would be just as detailed in identity, personality, and traits, but not with their involvement in the main story. The type of character that each is would be obvious. The player would meet story-driven characters while unfolding the story plot, and would meet all other characters in normal public places like bars and nightclubs.

This would essentially give the player the choice between the two concepts, right? They could even go half-and-half, having some story driven members, and some hired grunts.

It would still take some extra work to monitor which events a specific character was around for, when measuring reactions for future events. But only having a few of them would make that pretty easily done.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by Wyrframe
I don't want a small army to maintain and remember, as well as to swap out and constantly level...

Why would you feel compelled to maintain and remember all of the characters?


I know plenty of people, myself included, who are like this. It can possibly deal with the fear that the game will, at some random point, thrust you into a prescripted situation where you HAVE TO TAKE members 127 and 342 as your party due to their lineage/race/love of salmon/birthsign/etc.

OR, more generic, you lose some sense of completion if you collected up 25 potential party members but only had 3 of them that were fully leveled. There are scores of gamers who make it a habit in sidequest-rich games to complete everything possible to feel like they "played the entire game."

Wyrframe might have their own reasons, of course, but I know these two are both fairly prevalent among rpg gamers.

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I like a party of characters that have good personalities, back stories, and reasons to be in the fight.

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