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sunandshadow

Do overused monsters disappoint or annoy you?


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sunandshadow    7426
I'm working on quest and level design for the first post-tutorial area of an RPG. The game has an overall requirement that the monsters must all be small at the beginning and most will get larger as the game progresses. Also the first area monsters should seem like appropriately mild dangers to send a student or teenager to deal with as a training exercise. So, of course many RPGs have done the same sort of thing. Slimes, rats, bats, beetles, spiders, carnivorous plants, and mushrooms all seem like very common choices for this type of area and purpose. They would also all do fine for the area's secondary purpose of introducing players to the monster capturing and breeding system, especially the beetles, rats, and slimes. The question is are they too common? Would you be disappointed or annoyed to enter a fantasy world and find yourself asked to fight one of these kinds of monsters and capture them as starter pets? Would something more exotic like, oh, knee-high mini tyrannosaurs which the game states to be a mildly annoying local pest, be a better choice?

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Khaiy    2148
For my part, I don't mind more common monsters provided that there are plentiful alternatives as well. I suppose it would also depend on how long I'd be stuck with that particular monster, which would also affect how much I see them around with other people. I think that I would probably prefer a more original set, but to do that you might be forced to make stylistic choices you would not need to with more common types. These could be a bit of a turn off for some players.

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Caldtem    323
[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1313532295' post='4850060']
I'm working on quest and level design for the first post-tutorial area of an RPG. The game has an overall requirement that the monsters must all be small at the beginning and most will get larger as the game progresses. Also the first area monsters should seem like appropriately mild dangers to send a student or teenager to deal with as a training exercise. So, of course many RPGs have done the same sort of thing. Slimes, rats, bats, beetles, spiders, carnivorous plants, and mushrooms all seem like very common choices for this type of area and purpose. They would also all do fine for the area's secondary purpose of introducing players to the monster capturing and breeding system, especially the beetles, rats, and slimes. The question is are they too common? Would you be disappointed or annoyed to enter a fantasy world and find yourself asked to fight one of these kinds of monsters and capture them as starter pets? Would something more exotic like, oh, knee-high mini tyrannosaurs which the game states to be a mildly annoying local pest, be a better choice?
[/quote]

Do you know how many times I played Dragon Warrior and walked around the world praying NOT to find a certain type of slime? It all depends on the context. I personally couldn't vote for any of the selected responses,. but I wanted to leave a reason as to why. If done well, it doesn't really matter. Whatever fits to the world around it works for me.

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lithos    414
I think that if I ever made an RPG. I would purposefully put the player in a school like experience, and their first "victims" will be upperclassmen manning the dungeon as a training exercise... The original ones starting out as purposefully losing(as they're supposed to for the exercise) and the final boss one taking it far too seriously(with real risk, due to something that happened earlier).

____________

anything but rats. Why out of anything does it need to be rats, goblins or kobolds.

In your game you have players eventually being taught to raise monsters, why not put them against "mistakes" and horrible chimera's that can't really defend themselves because of their mix(large stupid beasts prone to rage and with very readable moves).

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sunandshadow    7426
[quote name='lithos' timestamp='1313545400' post='4850107']
anything but rats. Why out of anything does it need to be rats, goblins or kobolds.
[/quote]
I dunno if this was a rhetorical question or an actual question. But rats/mice are a common choice along with spiders and such because they are something people may have actually killed or wished they could kill in their homes or other local environment. Also rats have an association of carrying sickness, while spiders have an association of being poisonous and a bit vampiric.

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HelloSkitty    152
I sort of like having to start out fighting little rats that are easy to kill. If you start by teaching someone how to fight something like a one eyed purple flying unicorn, it gives a slight impression of unrealism, and almost specialization. Something unique will have unique strengths and weaknesses the player will have to pick up on later, but the first few missions whose purpose is to teach someone how to use the attack button should not also expect someone to remember that "to kill a purple flying cyclops unicorn, play the note on your flute corresponding to the blue button, then etc."

Also, as a game progresses, enemies typically get more outrageous and flashy, forcing the player to continue just to see "what kind of monstrosity could the designer come up with that's better than this monster?" Starting off against exotic monsters implies a lesser degree of gradient between exoticness of a monster, which could lead to boredom.

One thing to watch for, however, is excessive "teaching", or slateness. One game made me kill hundreds of armadillos using a bow and arrow (as a tutorial on attacking) before progressing to the next point in the story. Needless to say, 5 or 10 would suffice for teaching how to right click something. Don't force the player to focus on only one "stale enemy". Give them a choice between goblins, rats, tumble-weeds, orange slimes, etc as possible training subjects. If they can make a pet out of a defeated monster, rather than only having "get a pet rat" as a tutorial, different people will prefer a slime as a first pet, or a goblin servant.

Khaiy says it well

[quote]
[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]For my part, I don't mind more common monsters provided that there are plentiful alternatives as well.[/size][/color]
[/quote]

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thePyro_13    688
In the context of a player combat based RPG, I don't mind trope-y monsters. Killing rats is fine if you know you can just leave their corpse and never think of them again.

However in a game where i'm expected to capture and devote time to one of these creatures, I tend to find myself put off by the more common monster types. I don't personally mind the mushrooms/slime type monsters(I haven't had much access to JRPGS, outside of dragon quest, so these don't feel as overused to me). But I find a monster capturing game which only includes what is basically normal animals to be a let down. Even if the game provides more interesting monsters further on, their's no point if I gave up at the start. :(

Hope this helps.

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JoeCooper    350
If this is a key part of your game, over-deliver.

Legend of Mana had a minor monster raising thing. They had some critters found in all the mana games, and a vampire and some other things. It worked fine.

But then there's Pokemon which is explicitly based around monster capture, raising, so they have to pull a [i]lot[/i] of critters out of their rear. Even the ones that are basically super sized real animals at least have their names weirded out.

If this is a core mechanic, a mix of fresh and traditional would be great.

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jbadams    25713
The good thing about using the same common choices that pop up in most other games is that they will feel familiar with players and you can therefore rely on existing knowledge rather than having to explain everything. This should leave you free to explain what players need to know about [i]your game[/i] rather than wasting time explaining that in this setting a knee-high-tyrannosaurus is a simple pest; this will probably be particularly applicable to you if you're introducing the player to one or more mechanics they might not find familiar from other RPGs.

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sunandshadow    7426
[quote name='HelloSkitty' timestamp='1313549663' post='4850126']
One thing to watch for, however, is excessive "teaching", or slateness. One game made me kill hundreds of armadillos using a bow and arrow (as a tutorial on attacking) before progressing to the next point in the story. Needless to say, 5 or 10 would suffice for teaching how to right click something. Don't force the player to focus on only one "stale enemy". Give them a choice between goblins, rats, tumble-weeds, orange slimes, etc as possible training subjects. If they can make a pet out of a defeated monster, rather than only having "get a pet rat" as a tutorial, different people will prefer a slime as a first pet, or a goblin servant.
[/quote]
To avoid boredom, I don't see changing the monster model used as being essential, changing the AI it uses and if possible the combat animations are much more effective at making it feel like something different.

In this particular game the player is intended to capture [b]every[/b] monster if he or she decides to participate in monster-capturing gameplay at all. The initial area will have something like two or three colors of monster species A and two or three colors of monster species B. I don't think it's really a problem to tell people to capture a "brown A" first since as soon as they accomplish that they will be expected to also capture the other options (if they are following the optional monster capturing track through the game). They will further be expected to try breeding all possible combinations of these 4-6 types of monster before completing the initial area, which will reveal two or three breedable-only versions of these monsters, including one completely new hybrid type.

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sunandshadow    7426
@JoeCooper and jbadams - Good comments, let me clarify a bit what the game's design is like. This is an "octopus" structured game if anyone has heard me talk about that before. It has about 6 types of gameplay which can be considered "core", even though all are optional. Each of these types of gameplay has its own path of quests or achievements (an octopus arm) along which the player travels from the common starting point for them all/social center location of the game (the octopus head). Monster capturing and breeding is one of these arms, and the bred monsters provide the basis for a second arm which is the secondary combat system: tactical turn-based as opposed to the primary combat system which is a standard realtime spellbar/cooldowns system. This secondary combat system exists in both pve and pvp forms and can be played by purchasing monsters other players have bred in the marketplace, if the player does not feel like capturing the monsters themselves.

I'm not sure there's any completely new gameplay in the design to teach players, assuming that players have played some kind of monster capturing game before, and some type of tactical combat game before, and some type of MMO with crafting recipes and an auction house before, and some game with a reputation/relationship system before, and some game with a pvp ranking system before, etc. My style as a designer is mainly to combine existing gameplay elements in new ways. If you want a specific comparison for the monster system it's a bit more like that of the Monster Rancher series than Pokemon. Every monster type exists in a standard range of colors, and each color is associated with a combat type - for example, all red monsters might have extra high attack and extra low defense, while all green monsters have the opposite, and all white monsters can heal themselves and all pink monsters inflict status ailments, etc. Monster color could be seen as corresponding to the array of possible classes in a traditional RPG. (This all only applies to monsters in the wild though, bred monsters can pair any appearance with any set of tactical combat skills and tactical stats like action points and movement points.) So the point being there's nothing really arcane or confusing, although there's a minor danger of the player feeling overwhelmed at the beginning by being introduced to all the octopus arms and their respective gameplay at the beginning.

I don't see explaining that mini t-rexes are the local equivalent of rats to be a waste of time - it's characterizing the world, and conveying the unique game world to a player helps the player become immersed in the game's atmosphere and story. On the other hand I never really liked the more extreme made-up monsters in Pokemon or Monster Rancher. Some of them are transparent - both have a cat monster, both have at least one dragon, etc. I don't care what they are called if I can recognize it as either a real animal or a mythological animal, or a real animal with a minor added element like horns or wings. But I personally don't like the ones that are like nothing I've ever seen before, because they have no associated meaning to me. It's often not clear how they might go about their daily lives or fit into any sort of an ecology, and not being able to picture how the game world works breaks my immersion. I also don't find the unrecognizable monsters to be memorable when I think about Pokemon or Monster Rancher in retrospect. Thus this poll, to see whether it would be regarded as boring if I don't have any monsters more original than griffins, winged versions of normal land animals, dinosaurs, and fish that swim through air instead of water.

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DvDmanDT    1941
I think the mechanic is way more important than the setting for me. Letdowns for me are rather when I encounter enemies with lots of hitpoints and fairly low damage. I've recently played a fair amount of Sacred 2 which has pretty much exclusively cliché monsters. I hate the rats in that game simply because they are so hard to hit. They are not particulary dangerous, just hard to hit (I often resorted to some area spell with over a minute cooldown just to kill a single rat).

For the record, my problems hitting those damn things may have partially been affected by my stat distribution and skill choices.

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Telgin    200
I find myself being increasingly critical of games lately for not being original. I usually take more fault with the available player species and setting than anything else (i.e. elves that live in the trees and dwarves that live in the mountains / underground), but monsters can bug me too. I'll be honest in that I literally can't think of the last fantasy RPG that I played that didn't have giant spiders somewhere in it, and 90% have orcs and / or goblins.

I don't mind fantasy games having interesting or even fantastic creatures like dragons, but I would like a little originality please. In particular, slimes / gelatinous cubes are one of the types of monsters that bug me most because of their implausibility and ubiquity. Giant arthropods are a close second, followed by green skins.

If I was in charge of designing the critters that the player would come across, I'd do my best to make them original and reasonable. I don't know how much emphasis you're putting on the world itself, but as a player I would be impressed if the designers took the effort to draw up new and plausible creatures for their biomes. In a rain forest, for example, I'd expect to see lots of small reptiles (snakes and lizards of various sorts), lots of colorful birds and other things that like to hang out in trees or hide under fallen leaves. In a desert I'd expect to see little of anything, and what I do find would be small and hide a lot during the day. In the plains I'd expect to see larger herbivores and the predators that hunt them.

I suppose if you reuse old "tried and true" monsters in an original way, I might be satisfied. Instead of carnivorous plants that are large enough to eat people, why not make the slimes a giant evolution of slime molds that eat smaller critters that get stuck in them? Instead of basilisks, why not just lizards that are large enough, intelligent enough and social enough to be trained to use as mounts or sentries (like a dog might)? As an aside, I do like the idea of mini t-rexes. It's plausible that such a creature could exist and adds a little flavor to the world. It's probably cute too.

That's all very general though. For a starting area, I see nothing wrong with having players capture, train and / or breed things like rats, bats and snakes. It would probably take a bit of explaining for me to accept that you could train a spider, or that a mushroom can move around and attack people though (both of which I've seen in real games).

In the end, it probably wouldn't really bother me all [i]that[/i] much if you did just reuse the stock fantasy monsters. Literally everyone else does. I'd give definite bonus points if you had all original creatures though! After all, Pokemon did it.

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Talroth    3247
Rats, spiders, and little goblins don't bother me.

What bothers me is boring game play, level/character design, story telling, and general feel of a game. The fact that it happens to use rats, spiders, and little goblins is of little importance.


Awhile ago I was involved in a pen and paper game, and for several sessions we battled nothing but giant rats, swarms of rats, or the big boss,... a swarm of giant rats. It was still fun because the GM made it fun and interesting.


I have also played games where all the enemies were big red Es and everything else was represented by other colored ASCII characters, but I still had a great time playing it.

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LorenzoGatti    4450
There are at least two rather orthogonal issues in the original post: which "traditional" monsters should appear in various stages of the game and which monsters are appropriate PC pets.
Traditional monsters have an impact on the game's setting that depends on their type.
[list][*]Natural dangerous animals (rats, snakes, birds of prey, etc.) are expected to be common. If they are rare or absent, it's clearly a very peculiar world and/or an extreme environment.[*]Straightforward exotic variants of natural animals (giant or intelligent varieties, flying snakes, 8-legs horses, etc.) are likely to be important. Only a few such species would exist (e.g. sentient penguins and 9' hamsters but no giant rats) and they are likely to be an important setting-defining feature: for example, how do fishermen coexist with sentient penguins?[*]Fantasy races of people and monsters have an heavier baggage of stereotypes: traditions of fantasy literature and games replace zoological common sense.
Being original or adding details on top of the stereotypes are the two main ways to do a good job, and a lot of "screen time" is implied in both cases: few good races are usually better than many bad ones.[*]Some stuff is so cliché that the appearance of unoriginality is unavoidable. D&D-originated monsters (e.g. gelatinous cubes and illithids) are the worst offenders; the usual approach of roguelike games (using many of them as an affectionate semi-parody, and being original in other areas) might not be suitable for other genres.[/list]Appropriate pets should be cool, useful and interesting. Picture yourself with a domesticated ameboid slime in your lap, caressing it gently and hoping it doesn't squirt acid on you: wouldn't a plain old kitten be better?

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laztrezort    1058
You could always consider playing off of a trope at some point. For example, in a Bioware RPG (I think it was DA:O), giant rats were one the first creatures you fight, and afterword a comment was made by one of the NPCs highlighting the absurdity of the cliche situation.

Also, a common technique used way back during tabletop gaming was to purposely set up a situation using low-level common monsters, then have these monsters behave or possess powers that drastically increase their challenge (thus dashing the players' expectations). Example: your standard sword fodder kobolds - the twist being that they possess uncommon ingenuity and have riddled their lair with devious traps and ambushes (these traps also, of course, taking advantage of other expectations the players would have).

Of course, I have no idea if any of this would fit into your particular game play or setting, but I thought I'd throw it out there. Turning tropes upside down for humor or challenges stand out in my memory, but I've never personally been annoyed by overused monsters themselves.

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roninworkz    102
Depends.

It depends on the type of game and the target platform. If it is a current PC, 360, PS3 game then yeah, there isn't much point for too much overuse when you have a budget of 8 million and a development staff of over 50 artists (including outsourcing). There isn't much of an excuse there, because you can have a lot of resources and storage space. Not to mention that there are a LOT of techniques that can be used to mitigate this (texture-swaps, generic models that can be fitted with different accessories, etc.)

With an idie-type game or games for a portable console (PSP, phones) I can forgive it.. After all, it may be one or two people on the project working their a$$ off...often working a regular job as well. Portable target platforms also have limited horsepower and storage space.

Careful character design for characters can help control the overuse. Plan for different textures, accessories, weapons, armor, etc and really mix it up. I knew someone once that was even working on an in-engine morpher that would automatically vary the height and body type for generic characters while preserving texture coordinates. Pretty cool stuff.

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Khaiy    2148
One other thought I just had:

If you have a training area with 3-4 different monsters available, and every player will have one of those four monsters as a pet for a period upon leaving the training area, they will be extremely common, particularly in areas where newer players will be spending a lot of their time. With that in mind, any special flair these starting creatures would have would be quickly overwhelmed by the fact that they are constantly in view and encountered by the players. The "everyone has one" mindset would quickly erode excitement I had in getting an original creature right away.

Given this, I would probably prefer to see more common creatures in the mandatory training area and then quickly get the option to have at least one of a much wider variety of creatures.

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TechnoGoth    2937
My main complaint about commonly used monsters is games where they recycle early enemies with high level ones of a different color. So you fight blue slimes at level 1 but then red slimes at level 5.
Other then that while preference would be for more interesting and orginal creatues, I have no problems facing the same old set of predictable enemies.

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Telgin    200
[quote name='Luckless' timestamp='1313592040' post='4850339']
Rats, spiders, and little goblins don't bother me.

What bothers me is boring game play, level/character design, story telling, and general feel of a game. The fact that it happens to use rats, spiders, and little goblins is of little importance.


Awhile ago I was involved in a pen and paper game, and for several sessions we battled nothing but giant rats, swarms of rats, or the big boss,... a swarm of giant rats. It was still fun because the GM made it fun and interesting.


I have also played games where all the enemies were big red Es and everything else was represented by other colored ASCII characters, but I still had a great time playing it.
[/quote]

Those are fair points. Seeing the same old same old again and again begins to bug me, but in the end, the gameplay is the real winner. I think Dwarf Fortress is a good example of that. It's got goblins and giant cave spiders, but what other game lets you drop them into an arena with a dragon and then flood the survivors with magma?

I think part of the problem is actually making the tired old monsters interesting. I'll point out that I was impressed that Oblivion didn't make orcs automatically evil, but it's the only example of that I can think of off hand. Animals in pretty much every fantasy world I can think of wander around and attack any player on sight. Goblins are sneaky little things that cause trouble for the good guys. Dragons live in caves with tons of treasure for some reason...

I think if you can get around those stereotypes, that's a start at least. I'd still like to see all new beasts, but I've lived with the tropes long enough that I guess I can keep living with them.

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Talroth    3247
I don't think you even have to "Get around" stereotypes, but rather you take the stereotypes and create a unique and interesting flavour on them, or cross them with other powerful ideas from mythology.

An example of doing this well in literature are the Goblins in Harry Potter. They're not exactly evil, but they are tricky and have their own view on the world. They're also extremely powerful in their own ways. This is a great example of taking a stereotype and molding around it to make something new and interesting.

An example of doing this badly are vampires who [i]sparkle[/i] in the sun, and act like they're 13 year old girls trying to earn the title of drama queen.


Want cool and interesting goblins in a game? Have ones who constantly try to lure the player into danger, traps, or ambushes you have to detect and avoid. A single goblin would be no match for even a low level player, but a single 'wounded' goblin who just lead you on a merry chase into a bear cave? Or the one who just lead you into a circle of 50 goblin archers you failed to see? Or how about the goblin who leads you back within the working range of the goblins in steam powered super armour?

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lrh9    174
I voted that the issue is unimportant or irrelevant. I don't think that is exactly true, but I think that gameplay innovation in monster games is really important. I bet there are over 10,000 unique monsters in games like Pokemon, Dragon Warrior/Quest (& Monsters), Eternal Eyes, Jade Cocoon, Azure Dreams, video game roleplaying games and roleplaying material, but the core systems have stayed pretty much the same.

I want to make a monster game, so I need to review these systems and try to think of new ones, but the most common ones off the top of my head:

1) Fighting.
2) Capturing.
3) Breeding.

I think one of the more innovative systems involving monsters was in Pokemon Snap.

It was a capturing game in the sense that the player had to "catch" a photo of each monster, but it added an aiming mechanic. The value of the photo depended on how well the player centered the monster in the frame.

Someone I've spoken to about this thinks there was also an opportunity mechanic. A player could wait for just the right moment to catch a monster in a valuable pose, or could elicit a pose through the use of various items.

Without trying to develop new mechanics yet, off the top of my head some ways I'd try to keep a monster refreshing in relation to other members of its species:

1) Make it better. (E.g. stronger, faster, etc.)
2) Make it behave differently. (E.g. a golem that guards a fellow monster instead of attacking with its might.)
3) Make it look different. (E.g. color change, size change, monster outfits, etc.)
4) Change its core nature. (E.g. reverse elemental strengths and weaknesses)
5) If the environment has effects on gameplay, change the environment the monster is encountered in.

To sum up:

1) There are many unique monster models and textures.
2) There are few unique or innovative monster gameplay mechanics.
3) There need to be more unique or innovative monster gameplay mechanics.
4) You can keep monsters refreshing without radically altering their models and textures.

P.S. sunandshadow, I've read a few of your posts and replies. I think I'd enjoy talking to you about monster games. If there is anything you think of that you want to talk about with me PM me, or try to catch me in gamedev chat sometime. I use my user name as my nick.

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