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RPGs / Action RPGs - What do you like in em?

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I'm working on a 2D sandbox RPG (inspired by the 2d zelda games, Quest 64, and Elderscrolls III: Morrowind), and I'm conducting some research for it. (It'll have turn based battles, with an 'action timer' like the Final Fantasy games)

I'd greatly apreciate it if you could answer some, or all, of the following questions:
(answering some, is better than answering none [wink] - I realize I wrote down alot of questions)

[edit:] Trimmed down list of questions.


What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)


What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?

What RPG, if any, would you recommend I play for inspiration?


Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?

Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?



Any other input you'd like to add is also welcome. [smile]

The game I'm working on is still very early on in development, and so any input you give would be very helpful with shaping the game.

[Edit:] If you're curious, here's some screenshots of the current state of the map editor:
Zoomed out view, Multiple layers added, Viewing some tiles

[Edited by - Servant of the Lord on August 30, 2010 12:10:16 PM]

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To be honest, a quiz thread like this is kind of overwhelming, and the people who do fill it out are more likely to give brief, quick answers instead of anything in depth.

You may have better success (and more meaningful answers) asking one or two questions at a time, so that people can take the time to think about it and discuss it.

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Although the "Action Adventure" (aka cRPG) can be fun (and I do play them), the main thing about them is that they are not really Role playing games. The plot in them, dispite all the twists and turns, has you running around as a glorified pest exterminator (which, again, can be fun).

However, there are some games that have true role playing in them such as "Sword of the Samurai" and the "The Guild II" series. These can be worth playing to see how Role Playing can be implimneted in a game.

That said, the questions you ahve asked indicate that you do seem to favour the Action Adventure game style for your game.

In Action Adventure games, the name pretty much says what the game should contain and focus on: "Action" and "Adventure". That is, combat and exploration (aka Dungeon Crawling).

I find that Level Grinding is actually a meaningless term. It is about the balance between time spent playing and the rewards for investing time in the game. The term "Grind" is only applicable when the balance is wrong in favour of time spent playing as compared to the reward for it.

The reason LEvel Grind reallyu has no meaning is that the difficulty of the enemies is matched to the progression of the player so the relative power difference is not actually significant. The real significance comes from the feeling of power the player has and the Coolness Factor of the abilities they gain as the progress through the levels.

In non RPG or Action Adventure games, they can give these rewards by appying a direct power up to the player (as in SHUMPS). In AA or RPGs they tend to use a level system and experience to mediate this same reward effect. This is because these games tend to be longer and so need some effec of persistance in the game to encourage players to return (in SHUMPs it is points and the highscore table that is used for this).

The aim then is to give the player rewards for spending time playing the game and also for working towards the story goals. This is usually done by having tougher enemies that give more experience points as the game progresses and as the enemies move along the story path (and by giving experience for completing quests), and by increaseing the amount of experience points needed for the next level (reward).

It is because of this cycle that most Action Adventure games end up becoming the "Pest Exterminator" type of game (but it is also why the can be fun). It is also why getting this balance is critical to the game's success as if the game give too much reward then there is no real drive for the player to follow the stroy, or the reward to too slow and the player feels like it is just level grind.

Side quests can be the downfall of AA games because they reward the player with too much experience or power, so the game ends up having to make the main game harder to compensate, this means that a player who is not interested in the side quests feels forced to do them or they won't be stroing enough to handle the main story quests. Again, this can feel like level grind because the player is forced to do things they don't want to do to level up their characters when all they want to do so follow the story.

One way to handle this is to have side quests offer less of a challenge to the player: by having enemies with a lower level (and thus less experience is rewarded and also giveing the player a feeling of power too). Other rewards can be offered to the player such as NPC and PC backstory rewards (cut scenes, or just finding out something about the NPC/PC), being able to modify (but not change the power) of items (like with dyes or such) for the players who like character customisation.

This way, players are not forced to take these side quests to be strong enough to fight the enemies on the main quest path (and thus avoiding the level grind associated with it). By offering these other reward types, the player will also not get the feeling that the only reason they are completeing quests is to level up.

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Quote:
Original post by fearghaill
To be honest, a quiz thread like this is kind of overwhelming, and the people who do fill it out are more likely to give brief, quick answers instead of anything in depth.

You may have better success (and more meaningful answers) asking one or two questions at a time, so that people can take the time to think about it and discuss it.


I have to agree with this. I had answers to a lot of these questions at one time or another, and I might make an attempt to remember one or two, but trying to answer all of them now is just a little over the top.

None the less, off the top of my head while I'm at work:

- What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs?
Progress the main plot. I love everything else too but this is why you play.

- What's your favorite RPG? Why? What about it did you like or dislike?
Baldurs Gate (all of them, including Icewind Dale). See now this is what we talked about above. Been a long time since I played it, and even yesterday I was considering reinstalling to play it. I hope it works in Windows 7.
I loved the immersion in the world but everything about the game was just so well done. What did I dislike? There were probably plenty of things that I can no longer remember. Right now it'd be the fact they're so old and BG1 is stuck in 640x480.
A close second is Diablo 2. It was so hard for me not to put this first, but in the end, BG is more D&D like than D2.
And then there is Starflight... oh dear, can I make those 3 games all my favourite?

- If you played The Elderscrolls 3: Morrowind, what about it did you like or dislike?
I played it for 10 mins. I bought it and its expansions in one hit. I never played it again. The graphics and strange into put me off, but I only bought it a month or two before Oblivion, so this is not a fair appraisal by any means.

- Never played Zelda.

- Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?
Well I'd say almost anyone would, but yes, I would. I have never bought any that I'm aware of, but then I'm not really aware of the channels that sell them. The only ones I've seen are usually flash games that end up being crap.

- What 'mood' of RPGs do you prefer? Dark? Sad? Humourful? Colorful? Mysterious?
Hard to answer. Look to Baldurs Gate, Diablo 2, Starflight, KOTOR and Mass Effect for my answers to that question.


I checked out your screenshots, you have sone nice gfx going on there :)

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I'm going to add my 2 cents as I fall in a completely different category of 'RPG gamer'. All this is just and only just my personnal opinion. As you are going towards turn based battles this might not be that much usefull, but still this is some more food for the brain.

My favorite things to do in RPGs are:
- Smashing mobs
- Casting fireballs
- Skill optimization (finding the best talent build, finding which ability scale the better, ...). Call it 'level grind' ;)
- Gear optimization (to best suit my talent build). Call it 'looting' ;)

I do not care that much about the plot, talking to NPCs and quests.

As far I'm concerned there is two common mistake in many RPGs:
- Bad character control (not fluid/natural, bad targetting).
- Ugly user interface with damn square button and sharp edges.

I didn't played Morrowind but tried Dragon Age and didn't liked it. I played some of the Zelda but for me those are purely Adventure game.

I recommand you to play Torchlight, this is a blast!

About the mood, what I like the most is dark humourful stuffs :0

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Thank you for the rich responses! I'll definitely be harvesting these posts as I work on the game.

@Edtharan: That was a very interesting analaysis of rewarding the player and player motivation. I'll keep it in mind - especially when creating sidequests.
Quote:
Original post by fearghaill
To be honest, a quiz thread like this is kind of overwhelming, and the people who do fill it out are more likely to give brief, quick answers instead of anything in depth.

You may have better success (and more meaningful answers) asking one or two questions at a time, so that people can take the time to think about it and discuss it.

Yeah, you are right - I wasn't expecting people to answer them all, just gaze over the list and answer two or three that they readily had an answer for. (I guess I failed to make that clear)

I editted the list and trimmed it down to half the size; thanks for the helpful hint. If it needs to be trimmed down further, let me know.
Quote:
Original post by BLiTZWiNG
I checked out your screenshots, you have sone nice gfx going on there :)

Thanks! [smile] It'll look even better when I add tile masking to get smooth tile transitions.
If you did enjoy Oblivion, you might consider giving Morrowind a second chance. It's a better game, in my opinion, if you look past it's graphics.

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Quote:
Original post by Servant of the Lord
[edit:] Trimmed down list of questions.


What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)

I like side quests a lot, as long as it's not super hidden or annoying to start/find. After that, it could be hard to get to or figure out but... not miserably annoying. And Plot progression, I need things to move.
Quote:


What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?


Quote:

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?

What RPG, if any, would you recommend I play for inspiration?

Xenogears.
A big mistake in that game, would be it's menu. It could be simplified and make things easier to access. Not to mention it takes a while to load. But the plot, progression (aside from the second disc) is great. Good sidequests too, though it didn't have a great number of it at the end.
Quote:


Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?

Yea... but not many interests me these days. The lack of a budget makes it harder to buy because it doesn't have a chance of being as well as big company games. (Voices, and graphics, etc.)
Quote:

Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?

Nope. None really interest me.

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RPGs are terrible because they necessitate having a lot of writing and the more I have to read in the game the quicker I'm going to be bored with it.

If someone could make an RPG without any text outside of the stat/item/menu stuff, I'd be pretty open to it though.

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What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)
Exploration, crafting

What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?
more intelligent story, a real storyteller rpg system (not the sh*t centered on player)

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?
combat centered, laughable plots, limited actions, forgetable dialogs (who said Fallout 3 ?)


What RPG, if any, would you recommend I play for inspiration?
Planescape Torment, Baldur's Gate I/II

Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?
perhaps

Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?
none, only opensource projects

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Quote:
Original post by farcodev
What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)
...crafting...

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?
...limited actions...

By crafting, do you mean specifically armor and weapon crafting, or are you talking about generic crafting of any sort (such as enchanting items, spell crafting, alchemy, cooking, etc...)?

And does that tie in to 'limited actions'? You want so many different possibilities, that even if they have little real benefit, the option is still there? Or, could you go into more detail about what kind of actions you wish more rpgs would add?

Quote:
What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?
more intelligent story, a real storyteller rpg system (not the sh*t centered on player)

What do you mean by a 'real' storyteller system? Do you mean procederually generated story?
Or, do you just mean that you don't want the player to be the sole hero that needs to fend off the ancient unspeakable evil that's going to destroy the world?

Quote:
Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?
none, only opensource projects

Any good opensource rpg projects worth looking at?
(I've personally been interested in Hero of Allacrost, and can't wait for it's release)

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What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)

Plot progression, both the main story and side quests that provide insight into the world, or background to your character(s).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?
More interesting exploration. Walking around everywhere is ok, but solving puzzles (i.e. using different tools) to get to hard to reach places is a bit more iteresting to me.

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?
A lot of RPGs are really bad at organizing available and active quests. Oblivion and Mass Effect were really good. Morrowind was much worse.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What RPG, if any, would you recommend I play for inspiration?
Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, Alundra.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?
I'd consider it through certain channels (i.e. via XBLA/PSN or XB creator's club, maybe Steam), or in the store (physical copy). Probably wouldn't buy through unreputed sites though. I'd be way more likely to buy it if available for consoles (I don't play too many games on PC).

Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?
No.

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My favorite thing to do in rpgs is to progress a story that includes well-defined goals. Whether it's discovering more about what period in the game world's time that makes up the story, getting a new party member, a cutscene/story sequence I didn't expect and/or really enjoyed, or maybe some interesting boss battle or power. Sometimes gameplay on paper really isn't that special (ie. selecting menu options before an enemy attacks/ pushing buttons to swing a sword or cast a spell) but their implementation in the game as a whole can make up for this depending on the player(s).

Some things I would like to see in an rpg are the ability to build a story with a satisfying climax to the experience (again depends on the player, but I find climax allows me to either move on from the game with fond memories or to restart the game). You could start the player out at random points in the game each time a new game is begun and have a number of events to choose between surrounding the player that chain into a story (there should be a limit to the number of events that happen in a single playthrough and events that don't happen the same way just because you made the same choice).

--Stat progression should be just enough (keep difficulty growing with emphasis on in-battle/quest choices) to show your character's not the naive that he/she began as and should accomplish three goals: (1) let the player see how badass they actually are when fighting earlier encountered enemies, (2) give the player new ways to use the character features they chose, and (3) challenge the player to overcome their weaknesses (ie. the features they didn't choose).

--Save and reload at absolutely ANYtime with multiple save slots

--YouTube-like control of cutscenes (if there are any)

--As one poster stated it might be nice to have only necessary dialog/text. Instead of having dialogue maybe just have speech options for what effect you want to happen by the NPCs (ie. "Join Party, Sell Me Something, Lead Me to the Dungeon," etc.).

--Design party members based on people or personality concepts of people that you, the designer, would really love to be around.

Common mistakes rpgs make is having voice acting of debatable quality, ineffectual charaters, complex and ugly "start menu" systems (mostly with 80s and 90s era rpgs, but also Morrowind's stat menus) and, for computer games like the Ultima series and Dwarf Fortress, too many confusing button controls. Also, if you think your game is doing a lot (my earlier suggestions not withstanding and all those finicky details like physics for everything and too many branching game-story paths) and the animation quality and bugs are getting out of hand, get your game back to a focus on core gameplay and making sure it is complete on release (with extensive playtesting).

RPGs I would recommend are Final Fantasy 6 Advance (one thing that a well-known walkthrough pointed out is that 6 has taken pains to make even some of the earliest game items have awesome strategies for use throughout the game), Chrono Trigger (PSX), KOTOR 1/2 (2 is more of how a good idea and implementation can get out of hand in quality of the story, gameplay, and lack of bug control; I've also read how polarizing views are on "ESII: Daggerfall" because of its awesome world and gameplay but also because it is one of the worst examples of lack of bug control in computer games), and the (in hindsight) geniousness of the massive amount of gameplay in Pokemon Gold/Silver (GBC). And although strongly denied rpg-ship by many crpg pundits, Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (extra features played on GBA) constantly makes me think of what can be with an open mind to gameplay being a large part of how levels are designed and vice versa.

Me buying an indie game of any kind would depend on the reputation of the vendor selling your game, your playtesting (I really don't want to have to fight with the game like I did sometimes in KOTOR 2, and ANY downloadable software cuts into that fear of hardware-damaging bugs, viruses, etc.), and what critical and honest reviews of your game are available. As long as price is reasonable, say no more than $34.99 (since this isn't a console-approved game, and the cheaper of the consoles' Wii games start around $39.99 to $49.99) depending on what the game cost you to make, of course, then I am fine as soon as a holiday or something rolls around.

I have never purchaced an Indie game of any kind, but the concept of non-official game company created games is fairly new to me, so I am a little cautious of shopping around (even though I hope to one day make games that people will buy).

Thought your screens looked pretty good for isometric. Could you post any N/PC sprite pics or something else? Anyway, may you enjoy your work and have it be rewarding.

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Thought your screens looked pretty good for isometric. Could you post any N/PC sprite pics or something else? Anyway, may you enjoy your work and have it be rewarding.

Thanks. The primary reward would be increasing my programming capabillities... any monentary gain would be an awesome secondary benefit. [smile]

I've invested my time primarily in the map editor (with the actual game getting little attention) so absolutely nothing is implemented in the game itself at the moment, and very very little art has been done (the tile patterns are the exception).

For example, the grass in this editor screenshot (older pic - no multiple layers) doesn't tile, because I just grabbed some photograph of grass online, and used it to test whether one of the editor's features (placing variations of a tile down at random) was working properly. The actual game will, naturally, not have artwork I borrowed from online for testing the editor. (Areas ingame wont even use the test artwork, lest I forgot and accidentally leave it in the final game)

NPCs, battling, etc... have not been implemented, and probably wont be for another two months - I'm projecting the entire game's release date to be about June of next year (one year from when I started it). I'm guessing it'll take a year at least, give or take two months. If it takes a year and a half (possible) or even two years (doubtful) to polish it, then that's what I'll give it.

Below is some art I've made for a previous game I was a team member of, which, since the previous game was canceled, I've been given permission to re-use.

Furniture I made for a different game - will probably be re-used.

And here's a concept art of a monster that one of my artist siblings made for the game:



The monstors will probably be static images, like older RPGs, but the battle 'arena' will be the same area the player was attacked in, similar to Chrono Trigger. (No "battle screen", I mean)

As the game progresses, I'll definitely keep GameDev informed, to receive advice on art styles, and feedback on demoes, storyline, etc...

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Quote:


What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)

Plot progression...I love stories and some games really pull you in as part of the story.

Quote:


What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?

A good combat system is a must...but I love when how you use your characters, who's storylines you explore...etc actually matters. Examples would be FF VII where you end up on a "date" with one of 3 characters, or the atelier series where you can explore the backstory and help out friends (or ignore) as you choose. For a turn based RPG cool attack animations and lots of unique animation is a must!!! stale repetitive animations get boring really fast.

Quote:

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?

repetitive areas, and forgetting about the story halfway through. I hate it when the story feels like an excuse for the action but is never explored and deepened later. Music as an afterthought bugs me as well, the audio of the game has to suit the game fairly well in a rpg else you completely ruin the mood of the game.

Quote:


What RPG, if any, would you recommend I play for inspiration?

Atelier Iris 1-3 or Mana Khemia for the ps2 (they're all part of the same series), if you're making it turn based look to the atelier series on how to do turn based battles!! Mana Khemia I'd say has the best turn based battle system of any game. This video here shows the sort of battle I'm talking about. (this is a fairly early battle...first time you get new abilities, I picked this battle to show because it actually explains how the abilities work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKOVeWq7b8g)

Quote:


Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?

If it's inexpensive and interesting looking (make sure you provide a demo!)

Quote:

Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?

depends on how you define RPG, I've bought a few games from wolfire and others that had RPG elements..generally in the $5 range, but never a full on RPG, I've yet to see one that suits my tastes. (most opt for pure action and dungeon grinding)
[/quote]

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Well, if I'm going to give feedback on how to ask, and you listen, I'm pretty much obliged to answer your questions now :D

Quote:
Original post by Servant of the Lord

[edit:] Trimmed down list of questions.


What's your favorite thing to do in RPGs? (Example: level grind, plot progression, side quests, exploration, etc...)


What are some things that you would like to see in an RPG?

What's some common mistakes (in your opinion) RPGs make, that I should avoid?

What RPG, if any, would you recommend I play for inspiration?


Would you buy an independant 2D RPG if it seemed interesting enough?

Have you bought an independant RPG before? If you don't mind me asking, which one did you buy and how much did it cost? Would you recommend I play it?



Any other input you'd like to add is also welcome. [smile]



1) Plot & character progression. I'm not talking level grinding, that I am indifferent at best to. I love pursuing the storyline (if it's well written), and having my character grow within the world from snot-nosed beginner to heroic badass. Even better are the RPGs that react to this growth in the PC, but even being able to return and slap around enemies that used to be tough/unbeatable is a good feeling.

2) Random encounters & tedious battles are one - I shouldn't be interrupted constantly by enemies that have no real chance against me. Levelling enemies to match the player is less common, but a pet peeve of mine because it ruins my answer to #1.

3) The obvious ones are oldschool - The Fallout and Baldur's Gate series, and Planescape: Torment. More recently... it's more of a hybrid RPG and turn-based tactics, but King's Bounty: The Legend is a great example of how to not take yourself too seriously and have fun with fantasy tropes. I'd also recommend trying the demo for Recettear, now available on Steam - it's a game from the perspective of a typical JRPG item shop owner.

4) I sure would.

5) Maybe? I'm blanking right now, in part because the line between what's "indie" and what isn't has gotten kind of blurry lately, thanks to the high level of polish a lot of indie devs have put into their games. Wait wait wait.

MOUNT & BLADE. Medieval combat action RPG, as indie as it gets - the original dev team was a turkish couple working out of their home, though they now have a publisher and some employees. I paid $15 for it, and that's because they had a brilliant system to fund development: at any point someone could "buy" full access to the beta, and that would give them access to all future beta builds, and the finished game. Cost started at $5, and went up by $5 each major beta revision (0.6 to 0.7, etc). The game also shows that graphics don't matter so much if you've got fun, original gameplay.

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