Changing Personas in Combat?

Feliaria

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So, my game has a single actor. However, that one actor has the ability to change between five "personas". Changing personas as of now would require going back to the original town (which is currently only possible after defeating a boss. Defeating a boss sends you directly back to the town.) However, I'm curious about something.


If I enable the option to change personas in the middle of a fight (obviously doing as such would end the character's turn, as the character has a chance of attacking multiple times per turn related to their Agility), I could open up new possibilities for fighting, though it would admittedly put more stress on the character lore-wise... Anyway, what do y'all think? Each of the personas have a slightly different skill selection (up to 4 of the 13-14 skills the character has access to, the other 10 being chosen by the player from between the four classes available), and (if I do this change, though... I may do it anyway, now that I think about it haha), each persona would have slightly different stat values. However, doing this would require me to do some changes to my story (for example, one of the available personas is the daughter of one of the bosses. If you could switch in and out of the daughter's persona during combat, it would make less sense for the boss to mention "My daughter" during dialogue.) What do you guys think?
 

Wavelength

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I'm a fan of this "wild card" style of protagonist design.


How you want to handle instances like that boss dialogue is up to you.  You could have him say those lines only if she switches into that form.  You could force her to switch forms (to, say, solve a puzzle or break down a door) at some point right before the boss so that the boss will be able to say "my daughter" before the boss fight.  You could have the boss simply acknowledge that his daughter "exists" inside the main character as one of her personas, even if it's not currently manifest.
 

LuLingqi1

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I would agree with @Wavelength. I would even go so far to say, lock the character in being that specific Persona, so the storyline battle-meta wouldn't change so much.
 
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YoraeRasante

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The problem ith your idea, @LuLingqi1, is that according to the initial post each persona has a set of skills. Forcing a persona means forcing that set of skills.
 

LuLingqi1

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Then, @Waterguy, the specific fight should be tailored to that specific persona. Plus, it's not like it's everlasting.
 

YoraeRasante

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But that is limiting the player's choices.


That is the main problem here. Not the battle itself, but it goes counter the idea itself of letting the player choose personas
 

Titanhex

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Choice isn't always a boon of design.


The game forcing a persona is a nice way of helping the player find the optimal path in an arduous situation.


It's a mechanic that should certainly be done for boss fights only, but it assists the player in finding the optimal route under a point of duress, lowering bad stress levels and increasing the player experience.


I would even argue that as it exists in it's current form (4 set skills, 10 choosable skills, ability to change personas and reconstruct skills) is an overwhelming amount of choice for the player. It'd be a better system to already have the other personas optimized through the design.


Because regardless the player is going to find the optimal setup, and what was 100,000 combinations is truly 3 combinations they'll switch out. Asking the player to experiment with that many combinations to find the optimal will ruin the experience for the player.


Giving players the ability to change personas at any given point, which is what this originally seemed to be about, is a good idea though.


Going back to town is an inconvenience for the player, not a method of strategizing. It would ultimately ruin the experience.


My question in terms of design is what are you trying to make the players feel or experience with your persona mechanic?


Then, how does this aspect of the design affect that experience?


Lets say I was designing your game with a theme of overcoming authority from the perspective of the protagonist.


As an example, imagine if you were free to alter personas in many different ways as you explore the world and encounter typical battles. When you arrive at a boss though, you are then narrowed into a single persona you must use for the battle.
This would be an example of the design supporting the narrative. A player is given free will, and then that free will is taken as they're forced to submit to the will of the game. Authority is ultimately the will of one entity overriding the will of another.


In your game, how are you using your personas to support the narrative?
 
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Feliaria

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I'm a fan of this "wild card" style of protagonist design.


How you want to handle instances like that boss dialogue is up to you.  You could have him say those lines only if she switches into that form.  You could force her to switch forms (to, say, solve a puzzle or break down a door) at some point right before the boss so that the boss will be able to say "my daughter" before the boss fight.  You could have the boss simply acknowledge that his daughter "exists" inside the main character as one of her personas, even if it's not currently manifest.
Thank you. :D


I'm definitely trying to make the different personas unique from one another. Like the Thunder persona would, in an ordinary four-character party, take on the role of tank, since one of her unique abilities revolves around Parrying (my game's version of Blocking. It doesn't mitigate as much damage, but it has a 100% counterattack chance. I figured this would be better for a single-actor game than a traditional block, since at least you're still putting out some damage).

In your game, how are you using your personas to support the narrative?
The world is vastly separated along themes of elements, i.e., one nation is a giant desert and represents Fire. The Water/Ice nation is the stereotypical frigid Northland. Each of the character's personas are also tied to one of the elements in some way, i.e., the Light persona is a priestess of the Goddess, the Dark persona is the daughter of the Dark Nation king. There are three bosses in each Nation, the final always being the King/Queen. The original plan was for during each Nation's arc for the particular persona associated with that nation to become more prominent in the protagonist (for story reasons). However, that would make the game have 20 bosses, which definitely seems like a lot, even though the final boss of each Nation wouldn't have a dungeon leading up to it. If I enabled the persona change at any time, though, that would still work; just make them unlock memories at certain checkpoints. Maybe at the end of each arc. I could still do the "My daughter" stuff for each nation, I just would have to change it a little bit... Anyway, that's a topic for another time haha XD


Anyway, long story short, each persona would have an arc when the player entered that persona's land, where the persona would unlock memories (memories being a big theme) if that persona was active during the arc, though the player was by no means required to change personas.

Choice isn't always a boon of design.


I would even argue that as it exists in it's current form (4 set skills, 10 choosable skills, ability to change personas and reconstruct skills) is an overwhelming amount of choice for the player. It'd be a better system to already have the other personas optimized through the design.


Because regardless the player is going to find the optimal setup, and what was 100,000 combinations is truly 3 combinations they'll switch out. Asking the player to experiment with that many combinations to find the optimal will ruin the experience for the player.
So, do you think it could be better to just forget the choosable skills entirely and go entirely with skillsets based on the active persona? Maybe make it 7 or 8 skills per persona, and then just make them all based on that. I mean, that would cut back both on the amount of skills the player would have to keep track of, and it would also make the personas more distinct in battle, where the character isn't going to be as big of a change, especially with only 4 of 13/14 skills. I'm not using a true class system, instead everything is being controlled by an event and placeholding states, so that could definitely work.
 
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Titanhex

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You're pointing out how the persona theme supports the story. But story and narrative aren't the same. In the case of video games, you have a much deeper player experience than in traditional mediums.


The design should always support the player narrative, and the narrative the player experiences should find enhancement through the mechanics of the game.


In essence, your Persona feature shouldn't simply be a gimmick, but rather it should support the narrative and help the player get into the role they play in the game and the experience that game offers at various stages.


You don't have to post your plans here (Though putting it in words always helps), but it's something you should be willing to take a long hard look at.


Good ways to start a dialogue about this might be: "The Persona's help the player feel (...)", "Using personas teaches the player (...) about the game world.", "Persona's emphasize (...) about the game world, using (...) as a contrast", "Personas help the player empathize with the protagonist by (...)", "As a tool, Personas help the player achieve (...)", "(...) is a weakness of Personas and (...) is a strength of them".
These are just a handful of the sample questions you could ask yourself to get a strong concept of what the system you're using does for the player experience. From there, the way you structure the narrative and systems that affect Persona should go towards enhancing that core experience.


As for your second part, you sound like you already know the answer. You should definitely cut back to fewer personas and find more places in the game to make existing personas relevant. That's all you really need and it's a lot easier to do than the large combo system you had. If you shrunk it down to 4 skills with a couple combinations you could do it more manageable, but as is 14 skills with 10 chooseable is a bit much for both the player to process and for you to control.
 

LuLingqi1

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For Narrative purposes, as my story is different from the narrative.


The story is simple, a group of young adults are all lured to a dungeon because they are keys to ressurecting OR destroying an ancient evil, and so the bad guys found it best to get all the ones they need to ressurect him, while simultaneously killing the people who could perhaps destroy the evil.


The narrative though, is about a young girl who was once an orphan. She only has two companions, her cat and best friend. She grows around all her other party members and becomes deeply attached, and it is evident in the Gab Text, as well as in-battle dialogue. However, there are paths where certain members can die, and it's rather devastating to the player, and the character, to lose these party members. Not only are you losing that skill set/load out, you're also losing those items, the dialogue, the party skills, the dynamic. Everything shifts. It feels different. That's the narrative I chose for the story. I could choose like six other narratives, considering by the end of the first three hours of the game, there could be anywhere from 2-5 characters in the party.
 

Feliaria

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You're pointing out how the persona theme supports the story. But story and narrative aren't the same. In the case of video games, you have a much deeper player experience than in traditional mediums.


The design should always support the player narrative, and the narrative the player experiences should find enhancement through the mechanics of the game.


In essence, your Persona feature shouldn't simply be a gimmick, but rather it should support the narrative and help the player get into the role they play in the game and the experience that game offers at various stages.

For Narrative purposes, as my story is different from the narrative.


The story is simple, a group of young adults are all lured to a dungeon because they are keys to ressurecting OR destroying an ancient evil, and so the bad guys found it best to get all the ones they need to ressurect him, while simultaneously killing the people who could perhaps destroy the evil.


The narrative though, is about a young girl who was once an orphan. She only has two companions, her cat and best friend. She grows around all her other party members and becomes deeply attached, and it is evident in the Gab Text, as well as in-battle dialogue. However, there are paths where certain members can die, and it's rather devastating to the player, and the character, to lose these party members. Not only are you losing that skill set/load out, you're also losing those items, the dialogue, the party skills, the dynamic. Everything shifts. It feels different. That's the narrative I chose for the story. I could choose like six other narratives, considering by the end of the first three hours of the game, there could be anywhere from 2-5 characters in the party.
Okay, I apologize, guys. I didn't know there was a difference between narrative and story. First time doing any writing outside analysis papers for class in a vexingly long time :/


Anyway, (I hope this is more Narrative than Story), the main character is called a Dissonant. The Dissonant are an organization of assassins that have mastered magic that implants memories into another and allows the implanted to take on the physical appearance of the one whose memories were implanted. I picked one Persona (or Memory, as they're actually called in the game) from each of the five elements, originally because (I intended) the Memories to be more story-based than combat-based, but then I got to thinking that that wouldn't be so good so I made this forum. Anyway, the Personas/Memories are, lore-wise, a way for the Dissonant to assassinate their intended target by shifting into someone close to the target (a husband, a daughter, a parent, a trusted neighbor, etc.). However, the Leader alters the memories so that, regardless of what actually happened to the Memory, they believe that the Dissonant saved them. As the story progresses, however, the true memories begin to surface.
 

LuLingqi1

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(I hope this is more Narrative than Story), the main character is called a Dissonant. The Dissonant are an organization of assassins that have mastered magic that implants memories into another and allows the implanted to take on the physical appearance of the one whose memories were implanted. I picked one Persona (or Memory, as they're actually called in the game) from each of the five elements, originally because (I intended) the Memories to be more story-based than combat-based, but then I got to thinking that that wouldn't be so good so I made this forum. Anyway, the Personas/Memories are, lore-wise, a way for the Dissonant to assassinate their intended target by shifting into someone close to the target (a husband, a daughter, a parent, a trusted neighbor, etc.). However, the Leader alters the memories so that, regardless of what actually happened to the Memory, they believe that the Dissonant saved them. As the story progresses, however, the true memories begin to surface.
That's kind of story, I would say. Narrative is more or less, point of view, emotions, etc etc. All the stuff the player absorbs to become part of the universe. Most game stories can be said in one or two sentences. Narratives, I would say, cannot.


The persona mechanic should reflect one or the other. Then the persona's themselves need to reflect the narrative.
 

Feliaria

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That's kind of story, I would say. Narrative is more or less, point of view, emotions, etc etc. All the stuff the player absorbs to become part of the universe. Most game stories can be said in one or two sentences. Narratives, I would say, cannot.


The persona mechanic should reflect one or the other. Then the persona's themselves need to reflect the narrative.
Okay, so the mechanic is more the story, and the personas are more narrative. Got it. Thanks! :)


I'm honestly not that far in designing the story OR narrative, yet. Still building the backbones of everything (armor, weapons, skills, etc.).
 

Titanhex

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@LuLingqi1 is correct.


A lot of people accuse media of pushing a narrative. That's because a narrative is different from a story. Narrative is the control exercised by the "Story-Teller" to make the player feel, experience, or believe something.


Often times, narratives are summed up as a conflict between two things. It's well worth looking into narrative if you haven't done so before.


Story is one method of driving the narrative. Telling the story from the perspective of a character can push the narrative of that character. In any popular seriees imagine how different the narrative would be if the story was told from another character's perspective.


But story alone isn't the only tool to drive the narrative home in a video game. Weapons, skills, levels, bosses, and many other things can drive the narrative of a game. Think of some games with very strong narrative, such as Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, and Undertale. Undertale uses a unique battle system to drive it's narrative. Earthbound uses wacky and zany items and unique character battle-styles to drive a narrative. Chrono Trigger structures linear and open world game mechanics to support it's narrative of altering time and fate.


As you design your game try to picture how Personas can influence the narrative in your game at any given point. Try to come up with ways that skills, items, and other parts of your game might be used to also support the narrative and give emphasis to other important game mechanics that also support the narrative.


Most importantly, do not be afraid to remove mechanics and features that don't support the narrative, as these are only fluff and will likely ultimately detract from the narrative. It's good to contain the game, simplifying it so that you can drive the deepest parts of your game home and control the player experience more freely.
 

Feliaria

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Okay, thanks guys :)


You've given me a bit to think about haha- this is really my first time doing "creative writing" in any real sense of the word. While I'm good at descriptive writing, I'm not so great with actually telling a story/narrative. It's just something I've always wanted to do haha XD
 

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