2 party system with guests thoughts?

lianderson

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Doing things with two players and a guest is perfectly fine.

Good luck on your game.
 
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ChampX

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So I'm basically doing something similar with my game as well where I have the game revolve around two main protagonists that you level up and basically develop throughout the game. I got the idea originally from Assassin's Creed Syndicate which revolved around two assassin protagonists you played equally and you decided how they leveled up as the game progressed. Not exactly an RPG but I thought I could borrow their mechanic and make it a bit more my own as unlike Assassin's Creed Syndicate where you only controlled one assassin at a time, in my game both protagonists would always be in the party and you control both of them. You would still swap the lead for some combat benefits or various on map benefits such as moving across specific terrain which would then condition you to utilize specific strengths of each protagonist. Other party members would exist and temporarily join you during various plot points as well as be recruit-able for specific side quests or dungeons but they wouldn't have much focus. I haven't decided yet if I will lock those builds or allow the player to customize them some and they are just retained if their services are used in the future.

But without making this too much about my game, one thing I notice in most multi party games is even though the game and plot focuses on multiple party characters, you still have that one main protagonist the game really does center around. Kingdom Hearts was mentioned in this thread and while that game has multiple party members, including the ability to even swap out some, the game is still focusing mainly on Sora at the end of the day and you are going to prioritize his growth. If we look at Final Fantasy XV, the game has your standard 4 party member system found in your typical JRPG. Regardless though, the game is still heavily focused on the protagonist Noctis and he is your main concern and the party members to some degree take a back seat. Assassin's Creed Syndicate, while yes not an RPG outright, had the two protagonists equally share the spotlight and had the gameplay and plot equally about them without one overshadowing the other. As you leveled them up, some had specific skills only to them and you had to make use of a specific assassin in a specific situation (Jacob was more in your face combat while Evie was more stealth for example). I thought this was an interesting approach and one I wanted to try and play around with in my project.

So yes, I do think two party systems are do-able :)
 
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Aloe Guvner

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Why I like it
Personally, I enjoy the 2+X party system (2 main characters plus X number of guests) for the following reasons:
  1. Breaks up the 'traditional' jRPG (and RPG Maker) trope of 4 party members
  2. Deeper level of narrative relationship between 2 main characters rather than 4+ (if there's a good story, of course!)
  3. The guests can be more unique than standard party members (this could be debated; I'm speaking in generalities here)
    • In general, main characters have to be altruistic (i.e. "save the world"), or at least aligned to the plot of the game.
    • Guests can be totally wacky, crazy, and unique because they don't have to align to the traditional.
    • One of the things I dislike about many games is - "Oh you delivered that package for me? Great, now I'm going to follow you and risk my life against monsters and be loyal to you for the rest of my life as a main party member"
    • If the player makes a choice that a guest doesn't like - they can leave. You can also have more realistic reasons for guests wanting to risk their life (like money, glory, fame, etc.)
Some thoughts on mechanics
I think the mechanics questions to ask yourself in creating this kind of system could include:
  1. Will the guests participate in battle?
  2. Will the player choose the guest, or will the guest be added/removed according to the progression of the game?
  3. Are any guests missable? (if played a certain way, a guest can't be added to the party).
  4. Can any guests have perma-death? (based on the decisions of the player, a guest can be lost forever).
  5. Can guests influence the player's choices? (if I have a "rebel" guest, will they influence me to overthrow the "evil" king? if I have a "noble" guest, will they influence me to destroy the "anarchist" rebels?).
  6. Can guests provide strategic/tactical depth to the game? Meaning, abilities (even outside of battle) that allow the player to solve the game's challenges in different ways depending on which guest is recruited.

You mentioned earlier about how to communicate to the player early on what to expect. I think the classic show them, don't tell them adage applies here. One idea is to change the menu. The default RPG Maker menu has 4 spots on the status window, which makes players think they'll have 4 party members.
Instead, you could change the menu so it focuses on 2 main members with a separate sub-menu for the guest(s).
(note: questions about how to do this would be better on the support forums, but questions of why to do this are totally cool in this thread)

Another example of this done well
One of my favorite RPGs is Dark Cloud 2 / Dark Chronicle which had two main characters.
  • The prologue was just main character A and chapter 1 was just main character B, after that it was the two main characters together.
  • The guests did not fight, but they provided passive bonuses to the main characters.
  • The guests were integral to the meta-strategy of the game. It had a world-building component, so the "policeman" guest and the "mechanic" guest had different uses related to this. Even the "street urchin" guest had a use.
  • Once unlocked, the guest could always be recruited again (if you remembered where they lived XD )

Sorry for the wall of text, I tried to spice it up with formatting
 
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Low

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Thanks for sharing all your thoughts so far everyone. I really want to make the most of a system like this. It helps to see the pros and cons in order to steer in the right direction. The story really calls for this concept so it will be a fun experiment.

@Aloe Guvner Thanks for those examples. I agree about the menu and have implemented that early on. One of the ideas in the concept stages of the game is that the main characters are the guests to everyone elses grand adventure due to their nature as adventurers for hire. It's a slightly different angle we are trying to play so it really helps getting everyone's thoughts.
 

Lonewulf123

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Honestly, if its balanced well and the characters are interesting enough then any amount of party members can work.

An old rpg maker gam called “the way” had one static party member and a whole rotating cast. There are a couple of rpgs is can think of off hand with single player parties and even those with huge parties like suikoden, etrian odyssey, and star ocean.

You can make it work.
 
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Nhale

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Legend of heroes trails in the sky does similar. Trying to be spoiler-free, but in the game you have 2 main characters and they travel from region to to region, having others extras to help you in each chapter. Sometimes some party member would return in another chapter, but only late game all of them would be avaliable (and i dont remember clearly if you could ever remove the 2 MC...).
In that game, i think the idea worked really good. Personaly, i was a little afraid never seeing some character i liked in my party again, but the story pointed to me they might return, so I kept hope. I think this would be my biggest concern, most games i like to play the most with every character and make all possible party combinations, but there is aways one or two that i really loved and It would be frustrating for me not playing with them again. Buut, If the game is attractive and solid, It could be an interesting concept, and it wouldnt stop me from playing.
 
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Icenick

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The plan currently is to have a series of quest lines that stretch throughout the game. Side quests that main characters can advance with that particular guest after they meet in the main story. So it's more recurring.characters at the moment. It is a waste for one time uses I agree.

To provide some context. The idea is for the main 2 characters as treasure hunters and adventurers for hire to periodically get swept up in or join other people's quests for money and rewards. Their own main objectives is a seperate quest.
I hope it can work because im doing a similar system. My story focuses around a student and master and that relationship. Like your story I want to focus around 2 characters and introduce minor and side characters to strengthen the story of the main 2.

Somethings about party size:
1) I used to love FF3/6 growning up because of all the cool characters... yet I would always seem to focus on the same 4 every play through. You have to ask yourself what is the point of having X number of characters? Do they have a unique skill or what separates them from Actor A other then sprites?
2)FFX is one of my favourite games of all time, it has it all. I liked the swapping out characters in battle I found it allows for more complexity in combat. I remember those armored enemies, hey switch to magic. Your skill choice and character choice would not hit a break wall when you play or the game doesn't require you to pigeon hold you to a specific playstyle, this zone has lots of physical immues so you better learn some magic if you want to progress.
Although I loved the swapping of characters ultimately the game wanted you to get into the cookie cutter build, early on it didnt matter but end game the best characters really were in tier of their own. I remember making Kimahri part of the main 3, for the sole reason I wanted to provide a harder challenge on myself... this is not good character design.
3) Finally Aloe Guvner said this but why is a character following you? Oh Actor X wants to save the world because you helped his quest.. It just doesn't make sense. Where does it fit along with your story, how does each character enhance your battle system. Additionally one thing I don't care for is having a cast of 6 or 8 + characters but only bringing 3 or 4... Wheres the logic in this. Lets go on an epic quest to save the world but you guys wait in the ship and talk.
4) So ultimately it comes down to how this fits into your story. Remember don't add because you have to. What you put into your game should all have a purpose.

The core of my gameplay:
1) Characters cannot learn every skill in game but have a path or role if you want to think of it somewhat like an mmo.
2) There is a combo system, casting A-B-C in that order will give you a bonus affect.
3) No random encounters, battles are loosely fixed per zone. This eliminates the grind and focuses on a particular quest. Lets do this objective and move on. Zones will focus on a particular set of enemies, maybe one area has a high density of magic users so preparing for this quest involves taking characters with high magic defence or silence skill.

My thoughts:

So as mentioned im doing a similar system and design as you focusing on 2 main characters. I thought about this for a while and of course need to polish and test it but heres what im testing and focusing on:
1) Side characters: This includes characters who have a relationship with the main 2 but I want to give them an identity. They get along so they join for a mission. Say you enter a side characters home town and theres a cult polluting the water supply. Side character joins you, working together you do a few quests and mutually help each other out. You then say "hey big baddie is going to destroy the world want to help us?" The side character has their own identity and desires, sorry would love too but I need to help my village right now, if I go there will just be another attack". Later on in the story you can bring them back and have them leave or keep them but it goes deeper then you did the quest now lets see this to the end of the game.
2) Mercenaries: I got this idea from Diablo 2 and 3. Hiring a character who has a select few skills or role. Take FFX any character can become anything, this is awesome I would get soooo many skills and paths to choose from but we all need a magic user, a healer, a phsyical dps, etc... This is the same for my game, I want the player to customize the 2 characters they have (also fits with the story), however they cannot take on all roles so you can hire a permanent side character who you pay and can swap out who fills the role of a healer, a support character or a damage dealer. This ties into the combo system, you can hire a supportive character who will cast spell B, so that if the main character has learnt A-B-C, they can cast A, have merc cast B, then next turn end with C. Rather then taking 3 turns to complete the combo it can be done a turn sooner. Alternatively you learn no healing hire someone who heals every turn for you and focus on the crazy damage skills.
3) Expendables: These characters are not controlled by the player and death is permanent for them. Maybe you go out of your way to find someone in one of your quests help them and they battle along side with you. You can use gold in town to hire a group of guards to battle along side for 1 quest. They are minor have little impact on the system and serve as a gold dump or to make gold feel useful at the same time can make the battles quicker or easier but can be ignored. This im not sure about, testing will tell I might have this for very very specific quests.


Why I like it
Personally, I enjoy the 2+X party system (2 main characters plus X number of guests) for the following reasons:
  1. Breaks up the 'traditional' jRPG (and RPG Maker) trope of 4 party members
  2. Deeper level of narrative relationship between 2 main characters rather than 4+ (if there's a good story, of course!)
  3. The guests can be more unique than standard party members (this could be debated; I'm speaking in generalities here)
    • In general, main characters have to be altruistic (i.e. "save the world"), or at least aligned to the plot of the game.
    • Guests can be totally wacky, crazy, and unique because they don't have to align to the traditional.
    • One of the things I dislike about many games is - "Oh you delivered that package for me? Great, now I'm going to follow you and risk my life against monsters and be loyal to you for the rest of my life as a main party member"
    • If the player makes a choice that a guest doesn't like - they can leave. You can also have more realistic reasons for guests wanting to risk their life (like money, glory, fame, etc.)
Some thoughts on mechanics
I think the mechanics questions to ask yourself in creating this kind of system could include:
  1. Will the guests participate in battle?
  2. Will the player choose the guest, or will the guest be added/removed according to the progression of the game?
  3. Are any guests missable? (if played a certain way, a guest can't be added to the party).
  4. Can any guests have perma-death? (based on the decisions of the player, a guest can be lost forever).
  5. Can guests influence the player's choices? (if I have a "rebel" guest, will they influence me to overthrow the "evil" king? if I have a "noble" guest, will they influence me to destroy the "anarchist" rebels?).
  6. Can guests provide strategic/tactical depth to the game? Meaning, abilities (even outside of battle) that allow the player to solve the game's challenges in different ways depending on which guest is recruited.

You mentioned earlier about how to communicate to the player early on what to expect. I think the classic show them, don't tell them adage applies here. One idea is to change the menu. The default RPG Maker menu has 4 spots on the status window, which makes players think they'll have 4 party members.
Instead, you could change the menu so it focuses on 2 main members with a separate sub-menu for the guest(s).
(note: questions about how to do this would be better on the support forums, but questions of why to do this are totally cool in this thread)

Another example of this done well
One of my favorite RPGs is Dark Cloud 2 / Dark Chronicle which had two main characters.
  • The prologue was just main character A and chapter 1 was just main character B, after that it was the two main characters together.
  • The guests did not fight, but they provided passive bonuses to the main characters.
  • The guests were integral to the meta-strategy of the game. It had a world-building component, so the "policeman" guest and the "mechanic" guest had different uses related to this. Even the "street urchin" guest had a use.
  • Once unlocked, the guest could always be recruited again (if you remembered where they lived XD )

Sorry for the wall of text, I tried to spice it up with formatting
I love it all! Well said good sir.
 
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atoms

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If your story focuses on two main characters like your saying then I can see it working well. I mean, there are definitely ways to go about doing this and the game being successful!

Another idea on what you could do is create a few co-op skills, probably not many but skills that require both players to select to activate. Not saying this idea will suit you for certain, but a possibility you could think over depending how your game mechanics go.
 
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Nobody King

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I really like this idea. Final Fantasy 9 does something like this where characters would join your party for either small sections of the game or during specific battles. It made the game feel more dynamic, especially when they would join you in the middle of a fight. Course those characters were very simple in terms of abilities, but they didn't really need to be more than that.

I think a system with rotating cast would work very well in a game that strays from the typical RPG classes and puts less emphasis on character customization through equipment. Instead you have characters with more specialized skills that let you deal with enemies in completely new ways. Maybe ghosts are typically impossible to hit with physical attacks, but a guest member can turn them tangible allowing the fighter to deal damage.

Plus the concept of a game being more about shorter self-contained adventures is something that's worth exploring.
 
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Canini

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As someone who is working on something similiar I definitely appreciate what OP is trying to do. I do not know if my thoughts will help since the game I am working on, as well as the game I am inspired by, is an Action-rpg rather than a traditional one with a party system. In the Mario and Luigi (or Mario RPG-series) I appreciate how with only two characters you can form a more close-knit connection between the characters. If moves/abilities are created by characters working in tandem (Lugi whacks Mario on the head with a hammer so that he can burrow underground) it gives off a real sense of teamwork.
In addition it is easier for the player to remember each characters moveset if it can be tied to their personality and for the developer the balance of the game will be easier to achieve.

I would personally play a game with just two characters if it was done well, even a more traditional rpg!
 
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