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Wavinator

The Turn-based Life-Sim Genre

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What are your thoughts on these types of games-- their pros and cons? If you don't play this type of game (but play similar games like RPGs), what are your major dislikes? I've been testing the waters on an idea I have by researching and/or playing games like Kudos, Cute Knight Deluxe, Spirited Heart and (probably the grandmother of them all) the Princess Maker series and was curious about what others here thought of this genre. The Good In general I like the stat management and how there are a variety of unusual stats. At first blush, assuming each stat is meaningful, I get a great sense of anticipation for the different ways the game could go, much as I get with a rich character creation system in a traditional cRPG. I also like that every action you can take (at least in the good games) has a noticeable impact on one or more stats. This makes the actions feel more meaningful, even if it's something mundane like Energy or unusual like Sinfulness. What intrigues me the most, however, is different stories / experiences and endings that seem possible because of the level of abstraction and way the game is presented. While some might not consider the strings of experiences story per se, I get the feeling that whatever experiences I have will be far more my own making than one chosen for me in a traditional cRPG. Oddly enough, I also like that the games feel somewhat less objectifying than traditional hardcore games. By focusing more on relationships and people there's more of a feeling of life, which is something I miss in games that focus on mass destruction (including RPGs, where you're often a glorified pest exterminator). The Bad The major thing that I don't like is that the games mostly seem to be consigned to the "games for girls" ghetto^^. While there's nothing wrong with games for girls (there are precious few), it's a shame that that may make them a turn off for more serious RPG players. Kudos had less of this problem and I'll chalk it up strictly to the cutsie anime/JRPG presentation the others had. Beyond that the games seem to suffer from a kind of claustrophobia. I had a sense of confinement when playing them, even those that changed the background. This may just be the presentation and viewpoint, which is almost always looking at your character. I felt this less with Cute Knight Deluxe because the designer included an old school dungeon crawling adventure mode, which was fun. I haven't played Princess Maker (don't think it's even available in the West) but I understand that it also had a monster fighting adventure mode. One major failing the games seem to have is that actions can become tedious. I'm not sure if this is because there's not enough to do or the subject matter is usually non-dramatic. It may be a failure to include more nuanced options and strategies for what you can do. The option to go to work in these games, for instance, seems to be a real bore and I note is almost universally abstracted, just as it is in the more uber-mainstream life sim game, The Sims. The Miscellaneous I'm intrigued by the possibility of adding more RPG-style stories, maybe even more drama. It seems to me that adding more stats, encounters and game rules might be a way of broadening the range of experiences. Since the presentation is so abstract maybe the player could own a shop or run a kingdom, as these would probably involve a few more stats, characters and inventory items. Any thoughts? What do you love/hate about these games? What do you think could improve them and/or make them more palatable to the more traditional RPG audience? ^^ = I realize these aren't strictly games for young girls. Princess Maker apparently has quite a following in Japan. But judging by responses I've found on other forums and the responses of my two tween-age RPG playing stepsons I gather that there might be a barrier to more mainstream RPG players.

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I'm seriously considering something along the lines of the Princess Maker genre for my first sellable quality indie game. You missed listing its biggest plus, which is the genre is very easily makeable by a small team. With an artist for static images and portraits and one coder to do all the logic, you can make one of these.

I see the main strength is that its a very flexible framework that can be used to build games on all sorts of themes. Yes, it's mostly used for Japenese style dating games in the "Princess Maker" mould, but it doesn't have to be. You can easily follow the life of a school principal, a mayor, the captain of a merchant ship, anything really. It's pretty much the same thing as some of the stat heavy sport management games or some of the business sims (like Airline Tycoon), just on a different subject.

I also think it's a good element to fuse in with other gameplay, like Cute Knight's dungeon crawling. It's a great enhancer for another game to make it much deeper. A lot of my ideas in my concept scrapbook are basically "Random game genre X with a Princess Maker style RPG slapped on top". This versatility is due to the flexibility of the framework again. It's just very easy to bolt anything to something like that.

The main downfall of these games, as you mentioned, is they can very easily get repetitive. Often you need to do the same action again and again, and it can get very grating. If there isn't enough high end content, you can also get to a point where your stats are high enough to make an action non-challenging, but it's still the best action to keep doing the same actio to get more stats. However I don't think that's a failing of the genre framework, just an issue with balancing the games. Plus it might also be an issue with the intended audience; I think I've read somewhere that the Japanese RPG player likes repetition, or at least far more than the Western counterpart.

But all in all, I think it's a genre that small teams should seriously be considering, as it's very achievable.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
You missed listing its biggest plus, which is the genre is very easily makeable by a small team. With an artist for static images and portraits and one coder to do all the logic, you can make one of these.


Yeah, TZ, that's a great point. Funny enough I have been a bit worried about how strongly that fact is a motivating factor for me, especially as I grind through problems with more complex 3D games. I look at the genre and say "meaningful choices? with simplicity????! I want to do that!"


Quote:

I see the main strength is that its a very flexible framework that can be used to build games on all sorts of themes.


Yes, development difficulty aside this is the biggest draw for me. You could really take something like this a lot of different directions and present a wide diversity of situations. One thing that makes that dangerous, though, is that you could easily lose focus with a concept like this because of the sheer number of branches you could present. What's the game about, in other words? Is it just getting to the top of the ladder, or creating the most balanced, well developed person?

RPGs have an advantage here in that the game has a targeted goal (kill Foozle or whatever). Obviously these games often have some sort of goal or at least time limit, but is that as compelling as a directed narrative? I don't know.

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I also think it's a good element to fuse in with other gameplay, like Cute Knight's dungeon crawling. It's a great enhancer for another game to make it much deeper. A lot of my ideas in my concept scrapbook are basically "Random game genre X with a Princess Maker style RPG slapped on top". This versatility is due to the flexibility of the framework again. It's just very easy to bolt anything to something like that.


Glad I'm not the only one to think like this! I've been working from the "sense of life" angle. Let's say that you have something of a city builder / colonization game, but rather than SimCity on Mars or whatever you want to capture the personal flavor of being a colonist. It seems to me the city building aspect can be greatly simplified and crossed with the PM genre to give a possibly really cool "you are there" experience as the colony is settled.

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The main downfall of these games, as you mentioned, is they can very easily get repetitive. Often you need to do the same action again and again, and it can get very grating.


Yes I notice that there's often not even different ways to do the same thing. Whereas you might run into a dungeon and encounter a bunch of different monsters, making it mandatory that you try different tactics, many of the actions-- especially the maintenance ones-- seem to lack any sense of strategy.

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If there isn't enough high end content, you can also get to a point where your stats are high enough to make an action non-challenging, but it's still the best action to keep doing the same actio to get more stats.


I confess that I haven't FINISHED a any of these because I've been playing demos. Thanks for the heads up!

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Original post by Wavinator
Yeah, TZ, that's a great point. Funny enough I have been a bit worried about how strongly that fact is a motivating factor for me, especially as I grind through problems with more complex 3D games. I look at the genre and say "meaningful choices? with simplicity????! I want to do that!"

With me, I think it's more that in my heart I'd love to make an RPG, as I love the whole stat balancing, storytelling and character development side of them. But my head firmly tells me I haven't a hope of making all the assets needed for the mandatory massive world your standard RPG needs. So I start dreaming up other ideas, but end up RPG-ifying it a little.

The other direction is when I start logically considering what I can make with my current ability set or what I can cheaply contract out. When you cross out anything 3D (I'm sticking to 2D), anything with expensive animation and level creation budgets, there's very few genres left. The Princess Maker style games loom out from all the puzzlers and turn-based strategy games that are left as something different.


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Yes, development difficulty aside this is the biggest draw for me. You could really take something like this a lot of different directions and present a wide diversity of situations. One thing that makes that dangerous, though, is that you could easily lose focus with a concept like this because of the sheer number of branches you could present. What's the game about, in other words? Is it just getting to the top of the ladder, or creating the most balanced, well developed person?

That's a really big potential snag with the framework, as the games I've played tend to get a bit muddy about what the objective is. For example, if your draw is that you have multiple endings depicting how your character lives the rest of their live I'm not sure I particularly like there being a "best" ending; I'd prefer a range of good and bad endings of different flavours.

Quote:
Glad I'm not the only one to think like this! I've been working from the "sense of life" angle. Let's say that you have something of a city builder / colonization game, but rather than SimCity on Mars or whatever you want to capture the personal flavor of being a colonist. It seems to me the city building aspect can be greatly simplified and crossed with the PM genre to give a possibly really cool "you are there" experience as the colony is settled.

Yes, I think it's a great way to put a bit of personality into your game. Without the PM elements, you've got a standard management game a lot like many others, but with them it's now far more "your game". Even if someone were to copy your game dynamics (assuming they're doing it because they like the game and not just ripping you off!), then they would make it with their own personal style and story and make it their game, something different and not directly competing.

Quote:

I confess that I haven't FINISHED a any of these because I've been playing demos. Thanks for the heads up!

Well, I'll have to also confess that the only one I've completed is one of the Princess Makers and that was years ago. I'm also going by the demo of Cute Knight and Kudos. I'll probably pick up Kudos soon to trial the full game, and maybe one of the Japanese style ones too.

The genre does however remind me of some of the elements included in games ages ago, back in the eighties or early nineties. Back then there were a lot of games that were basically a fusion of little mini-games. Sid Meier's Pirates! is probably the most well known these days, due to the remake. But it wasn't odd to have occasional decision making screens pop up in games. Castles is one example - the bulk of the game is a castle making game, but occasionally you'd get a pop up screen where you as king have your subjects bring a matter up before you and you need to make a decision which may affect your castle building project. I liked that; it helped give those games a bit of character.

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