Sign in to follow this  
Nayus Dante

What makes an 8-bit RPG fun?

Recommended Posts

Nayus Dante    166
I'm working on an 8-bit console-style RPG, and I'm trying to decide how to structure the game. I grew up with the 16-bit RPGs, so I'm not as well acquainted with the game mechanics that defined the NES/SMS/MSX era. What are the elements that made those games fun? I remember loving the exploration and sense of scale that they offered, but the excessive grinding and sparse save points were always detractors for me. What do you think adds to an 8-bit RPG, and what do you think takes away from it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Glak    315
I am replaying Chrono Trigger right now. The linear story and world are both elements of discovery. Not only do you get to wander around and find villages but you get to find the plot. The combat system seemed more fun when I was young but it is rather boring now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tiblanc    560
What made them fun is probably nostalgia. Their combat systems were generally shallow, they had poor graphics and simple plots. They were the start of a new genre and are labeled as great because of that fact from those who were old enough to play them when they were just released.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Konidias    214
Quote:
Original post by Tiblanc
What made them fun is probably nostalgia. Their combat systems were generally shallow, they had poor graphics and simple plots. They were the start of a new genre and are labeled as great because of that fact from those who were old enough to play them when they were just released.

Well, it wasn't nostalgia that made them fun when they were first released. I think it is more or less the fact that back then, there was nothing like it, so it was new and exciting. (even if it was crude)

I can't really say there was a whole lot of fun to those games looking back on them. I think a lot of the time when people played those games, they used their imagination a lot more to fill in the blanks since the games were so simplistic. So the fun was there, but it was created by the player and not so much by the simple games.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Agent_Q    100
I think the greatest part of the old-style RPG's is as Konidias says - there was nothing like it back then. The melding of the story and the art and the music provided back then was incredible considering the limits of game production at the time. Each "great" RPG back then pushed the limits of the system and showed the world what can be done. Those who were willing to spend long hours playing these games were well rewarded and you felt very connected to these characters by the end of the game (I admit I was often sad to see the story end). I still find them enjoyable today - probably more than modern games (but that is due to nostalgia).

The RPG greats (I noticed) were primarily made in Japan. America didn't really have much to offer in that regards (except for Diablo and Baldur's Gate but for those were for computer).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ravyne    14300
Its really difficult to compare between the 'classics' of the genre and the modern entries, since the art form has been elevated so drastically over the years, just as in the movie industry -- Imagine trying to compare The Wizard of Oz with Avatar -- Even though many of the themes are similar (A visitor in a strange place, resisting an oppressive force, yadda yadda) technology and advances in cinematography have changed what audiences expect. Imagine if Oz had been made today, and what it might look like.

I'm a big fan of classic RPGs myself (I just recently bought a copy of Phantasy Star II on the genesis), and I'm of the opinion that the 16-bit days were really sort of the golden-era of RPGs. There was enough ROM space to have a really large world and story, graphics were detailed and colorful, enough RAM to go around and, at least on the SNES, some really great audio.

One of the things I really enjoy about these 16-bit games was that they were just long enough with a typical game taking between 20-30 hours to complete, more if you did all the side quests. I have a really hard time completing a game which takes longer than that. I also prefer in-engine cut-scenes, which is all they had.

Key to the charm of these older games is that they're still a little abstract -- like a good novel, they paint a picture but only your imagination can fill in the super-fine details. As games become more and more detailed, they also become more and more explicit -- Their precise look is given, their voice, their mannerisms -- I loose some freedom to apply my own imagination and interpretation to their character. Whether this is advancement or not is up in the air, but it definitely warrants a different approach to the story telling.

Certain themes are timeless -- exploration being the primary one, so exploration beyond the required should be encouraged and rewarded. Sometimes finding a place is the reward itself, while sometimes loot or additional quests are appropriate.

I think a lot of modern RPGs, particularly those in the early CD and 32-bit eras, fell into the trap of "more is more" -- they marketed themselves as MORE hours, MORE characters, MORE cinematic, MORE everything, and in many cases the substance didn't follow, spreading it too thin.

Apologies for rambling, and jumping topic to topic, I've been under the weather for the past few days and forming a coherent response of this length is still a bit beyond me.

But I think that, ultimately, any retro-styled game is about stewing things down to the core elements. Look at the games made by The Behemoth -- They're very classic games using classic themes, with some unique twists and presented with a charming art style. They're very modern, but don't really mess with the formula too much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
lmelior    325
From the other responses (and my own personal experience) I'd say it doesn't matter too much that you weren't acquainted with the game mechanics from that era. I think that nostalgia will only get people so far, and that your best bet is incorporating the elements that people enjoy today. Branching storylines, combat system depth, character customization, etc. Let's face it, there isn't much beauty to be found in 8-bit tiles unless you got yourself one heck of a sprite artist, so players are going to need something else to draw them in.

Look at why there are so many fans of certain ASCII games. Dwarf Fortress, for example (though it is pseudo-ASCII), has twice as many people on their forums (at the time I wrote this) as Gamedev - 146 vs. 76. And people must still play roguelikes like NetHack, Moria/Angband, and ADOM for some reason! What they lack in the graphical department is made up by extreme replayability through randomization, rich detail, and tons of content.

I just decided I need to play ADOM tonight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this