Difficulty in Battles - Preferences and Thoughts

How do you like your regular encounters?

  • I prefer there to be no regular encounters at all, or have a way to skip them.

    Votes: 5 8.9%
  • They should be quick and easy, no time to waste.

    Votes: 1 1.8%
  • They should be quick, but still somehow pose a challenge.

    Votes: 41 73.2%
  • They should be challenging, every battle matters.

    Votes: 9 16.1%

  • Total voters
    56

Milennin

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When it comes to battles in RPGs, what kind of challenge do you prefer? Do you think regular encounters should be strong enough to pose a threat to the party if the player isn't paying attention, or do you believe that making regular encounters too strong would make boss fights feel less intimidating as the player is already used to dealing with dangerous situations?

Do you like your boss fights to be as tough as nails, possibly requiring multiple tries to finally beat it, or should RPGs be more about delivering a story, rather than presenting super tough challenges? Or do you believe the best boss fights are those who seem very difficult at first, but have a hidden weakness or certain gimmick that once you know it, makes them easy to beat? Are the better boss fights those of endurance and forcing the player to be well prepared, or those who can be quickly beaten, but require the player to use skills strategically in order to bring the boss down?

How are the regular encounters in your RPG Maker project designed? What about the boss battles... what about them makes them special and threatening to the player party?

Discuss.
 

Vox Novus

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Normal encounters should be something where the player is wise to use specific strategies for maximum advantage and be able to finish the battle quickly, they shouldn't be so challenging that if they use improper strategy the encounters aren't entirely un-winnable. Granted how you design normal encounters depends on the pacing of your game and how often the player can save, etc...

Bosses should normally be about using strategy precisely and having to factor in other things like elements and buffs much more so than usual. They should be more drawn out encounters but not necessarily extremely long and there should potentially be some sort of surprise thrown into the bosses strategy to keep the player on their toes. Of course some bosses are designed as storied encounters and so these would play out differently.
 

MagicMagor

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For regular encounters i like a mixture of quick but slightly challengening. Since regular encounters will be very frequent in a game i don't like having them drag out or being a puzzle. If i have to guess and strategize at every single encounter it gets too much work for me to be fun. If i would want that kind of challenge, i would play a tactics-rpg - but in a normal one i want the trash mobs to be "trash".

Also this allows me to feel powerfull when i can easily beat them without breaking a sweat - especially if they posed a challenge to me some time earlier. So they still have to be slightly challenging, if it is nearly impossible to die during any regular encounter something is a bit off balance-wise. Especially when entering a new dungeon/area and maybe not having upgraded all the equipment, encounters should pose a threat. But keep in mind that when wandering from Dungeon A to Town the party might have several encounters so part of the threat comes from the effect that several encounter have on my resources - for this to matter of course a single encounter should mildly drain my resources. (Potions, MP-Potions etc...)

For Boss-battles i voted "puzzle" but i don't mean a brain-crunching puzzle, instead more like a theme or specific way to deal with the boss. Where in normal encounters i can just spam my normal attack (especially when i outleveled the encounter a bit - yes i know many find this to be a design-flaw, i rather like that possibility) boss battles should force me to think. To analyse the pattern of the boss and come up with a counter-strategy, once this strategy is found the battle should be manageable - not easy but it should give you this feeling "i can beat him" while still having a slight fear of something going wrong.

Length-wise they should be of course longer than normal encounters, but without having to drag out too long. I find it hard to give an exact number of turns or minutes such a fight should last but when it's too short it feels more like a stronger normal encounter, not epic enough, but when it get's too long it starts to bore the player.

The boss-battle itself doesn't have to convey story for me, although it is nice when it does, the cutscenes before and after the battle should provide all the story-context the boss needs, the actual battle is about the gameplay.
 

Ms Littlefish

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I think battles much like dungeons and story lines, are things that can be paced as well. So rather than say "regular encounters are going to be easy and my bosses will be brutal," I'd rather have an ebb and flow. 

So, let's say I've just had the party encounter a nightmare of a boss, the next set of regular encounters will probably be nice and refreshingly simple immediately after as to not overwhelm the player. Likewise, if there is a nice chunk of time before such an event again; it wouldn't be too far fetched for some regular troops to start throwing you some curveballs. 

Naturally, it does make more sense to put more into a boss or mini boss battle. They get special and more grandiose strategy just out of virtue of being a unique battle. But some bosses will be easier than others. Some will be much more difficult. And those can be paced around all the other events that are happening in the game at any given time.
 

trouble time

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I think it depends on the game. If say healing items were scarce or something I don't think regular encounters should be to hard (though I don't like this design since it makes regular encounters just a constant grind on your resources and more of an annoyance than anything else). In games where healing is more plentiful then the encounters have to be difficult or there's no challenge at all. I also think that the more encounters there are the less time it should take to win an encounter. Which is proably also why I think bosses should take a bit of time, but I also think bosses should vary their tactics if you want a long battle. Having "solved" a boss and then just having a huge HP wall in the way gets boring.
 

Matseb2611

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Regular encounters I think should introduce something new in each area/dungeon. Perhaps an enemy that uses a state that you haven't encountered before, or perhaps 2 or more enemies are synergizing some kind of attack combo together. Generally I prefer for them to be quick, but they shouldn't be too easy. I don't like having to attack spam my way through them, but I also don't want to be stuck on a regular battle as long as I would on a boss. I think making them avoidable and/or escapable is also a good idea.

In my current project I am going for the Deus Ex method and letting the player approach the encounters however they want. They can bypass them by hacking or lockpicking through alternate routes, or they can craft grenades and take enemies out from a distance.

As for boss fights, I cannot stand damage sponge high HP bosses. I'd rather they were short and challenging. No more than 5-10 min per boss fight. I suppose 15 min for the final boss or any end of act bosses is all right, but anything longer than that and perhaps the boss' HP needs nerfing. Most importantly, there needs to be a room for strategy. Even a 5 min boss can be boring if all you can do against him is use one and the same special attack. You probably remember my thread about 6 Different Types of Bosses. I like it when a boss represents some sort of mechanic that forces the player to think logically. It's just more fun this way and makes victory feel rewarding. Oh and preferably they can be beaten without having to level grind. Just my personal preference really.
 
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Reavenator

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If I beat every normal encounter just by pressing attack, I get bored. So yeah, I want normal battles to be somewhat challenging.

But, if I get thrown into a long battle every Three steps, it can get very tedious.

My solution for this is to simply make encounters less frequent, while making the ones that are there more challenging. If you want to make the player feel powerful, just make them outnumbered in those encounters.

I'm also thinking of adding mini-bosses to some dungeons that give good rewards but are pretty tough.

There really isn't just one good way to do boss battles.

If the fight is short, gimmick bosses can work well, but if the fight is drawn out, it can get repetitive. If it is long, then I think the boss should be able to change it's tactics, introducing a new gimmick to keep the player interested.

For example, almost all of the bosses in Psychonauts had a certain gimmick you needed to exploit, but they were kept pretty short and you could still fail.

It's the same with puzzle fights, imo. They can work really well, but if you already know the perfect solution, dragging them on seems unnecessary. You could also have multiple solutions to the boss fights, to give more options.

If you want boss fights to be easy for the story's sake, that's completely fine. Maybe it's because you just greatly overpower the boss and the fight just shows it off, or maybe you already took the source of it's power away or something. In fact, if the fight is easy I like to overpower myself with buffs and such, just to spite the boss XD. But I really think they should be kept short, because that it can get boring, and if the boss is that weak, he shouldn't be able to take so much punishment.

I think puzzle bosses can also work as story bosses, with the solution tying to the story somehow.

Long fights can work, but a 5 Kilometer cakewalk will get tedious. I think there should be at least some risk of you dying if you mess up too much.

Atmosphere can really help with the fight, too.

The final boss fight in Final fantasy 6 was in my opinion a great example of a good long fight.

You battle a tower of monsters, each with it's own battle theme, until you reach Kefka. The battle really isn't hard if you did the sidequest, but the atmosphere really makes it hold up, and you are constantly switching enemies which stops the battle from getting too tedious.

It depends on the boss fight, but generally, I prefer boss fights were you just improvise, picking the best course of action you can think of for the situation.
 
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Arsist

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I'm not into running into countless hordes of random encounter mobs of single-action spamming enemies that are killed with 1-2 hits.

I prefer less encounters that are either map touch encounters or random encounters with a way to get an advantage or avoid the fight. Dislike running into 23 unfleeable bat hordes just to get past a sidequest dungeon lol.

I prefer harder and medium-length/longer but fewer fights instead of countless minor battles leading up to a boss fight that's basically me healing faster with the 15 hi-potions I didn't even need than the boss can spam attacks.

I like the fearing my character's deaths and being forced to spend my money wisely and having a limited inventory. Something that has me read into my skill list and status screen while knowing what my stats do somewhere in an in-game manual or an included readme file. Prefer strategy over flashy action, although flashy and quick battles are good for a short game.

If I have to fight many hordes, I prefer for it to be in the form of chain battles that make me utilize survival while providing me with rewards like bonus exp.
 
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bgillisp

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For boss fights, I prefer them to be short, but tough. In other words, the boss hits hard, but if you can withstand it and use your head, it's over in 7 - 10 rounds (in the RPG Maker default system). Many old school games did just that, where the boss was won or lost in a few minutes if you used your brain, with exceptions for the end game boss, and maybe an occasional boss on the way (say the mid-boss at the halfway point).

If you do decide to make a boss fight long, be sure to ask yourself though why are you making it long? Is it to make sure the party can use resources well (say Eterian Odyssey or Persona 4 Q style, where you can run out of MP the boss if you don't use it well)? Or is it just to make it an HP sponge that takes hours to beat?
 

Wavelength

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First of all - wow!  Those results!  That majority!  And I voted in that majority, but even I'm surprised how uniformly we all voted, given how a lot of those options are reasonable ways to design combat.  I do think there's some range of "good combat design" depending on the tone of the game and the intended audience.

What I love most in combat is battles throughout that provide a difficult but fair challenge - I really like losing some battles along the way (even if it provides me with an annoying Game Over) as long as I feel that I could have done something differently to win that battle.  That's the essence of fairness - if I lost, it's my fault and not because the game handed me a bad beat and threw me something impossible to overcome.

Star Ocean 2 is probably the game that's done this the best in my eyes - the high general difficulty and occasional wild difficulty spikes meant that I would sometimes encounter half a dozen Game Overs just trying to get from one town to the next, but nearly every time it happened I said to myself "if only I hadn't gone in and attacked..." or "I should have been able to dodge that".  Winning these random battles felt really, really good.  Each one felt better than beating a boss in most RPGs.

It's easier to do in "skill" based systems like Star Ocean's ABS or even something like a Match-3 battle system, but even turn-based systems can inspire this feeling.  Persona 3 definitely did, at times - your ability to know when to play attack and when to play defense often meant the difference between survival and defeat, and if you did lose (which was annoying because you lost out on a few levels of progress on Tarturus), you usually learned something about the enemy so that you could play it different the next time and win, even without any extra grinding.

There's also the challenge inherent in some games (moreso the past, less nowadays) where each battle provides minimal risk in itself, but making it through the entire dungeon with enough resources left to take on the boss represents a genuine challenge.  This is not my thing but it can be really good game design when done well.

What is not good challenge is for enemies to randomly use skills that are powerful enough to kill your party members, and you can't to anything to predict, dampen, or counter it.

===

One final thought - I found these two (similar) options very interesting:

  • They should be a puzzle for me to solve. Once I know the solution, they should be fairly easy to beat. (4 votes [20.00%])
  • They should have a hidden weakness or gimmick that I can exploit to easily beat them. (0 votes [0.00%])
I really like when games do these with some or most of their bosses - however, and this is really important - a player who doesn't figure out the puzzle/gimmick needs to be able to beat the boss anyway with skillful ordinary play.  If everything you throw at the boss does 1 damage until the player figures out that you need to break the glowing gem in the ceiling, the player who doesn't recognize this is never going to be able to progress.  That is bad!!  It's much smarter to do something like give the boss double the normal HP, and if the player "solves" the gimmick and recognizes that the gem is powering the boss, drop the boss' defense down to an extremely low level so that the player can finish off that boss really easily.

If you insist on making it "unbeatable" without solving the gimmick, start to give the player hints as they hang tough in the battle without solving the gimmick.  After two minutes or five turns, have a party member shout that there must be something around giving the boss all that endurance.  After ten minutes or twenty turns, have the party member "find" it for you!  "Hey!  I bet it's that glowing gem on the ceiling!  Let's take it down!"  This can feel slightly condescending and make it obvious that you're railroading the battle, but it's still a lot better than leaving the player completely stuck and frustrated!
 

SOC

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Sometimes, I enjoy games where regular encounters are just quick, fast, efficient and mash attack. It's sort of calming and satisfying to me, especially when I'm just appreciating the graphics of the enemies, characters, and backgrounds.

For bosses, I don't like them to be too short, I would rather them be longer. But I do think having strategic choices in battle is the most fun. I think a little bit of preparation is good, provided it has plenty of explanation beforehand, but too much and being in the fight then feeling "hopeless" Isn't very fun. I like it when the skill required to win is within the puzzle it self.
 

Fernyfer775

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I've played games where they attempt to make the non-boss battles "Strategic" and 'hard" but all it really did was annoy me when I was simply trying to grind out some levels or farm materials. I believe that the casual encounters should be fairly quick and easy, but not quite "spam basic attack until I win" easy. 

Bosses on the other hand. I LOVE fighting bosses that just tear me to shreds if I'm not prepared or careful about my execution. For example, playing the Tales of _____ games on Hard mode is extremely satisfying because the boss encounters tend to be very hard, to the point where I might lose 2-3 times before finally taking the boss down.
 

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