Encounters! Your opinions.

Teivel

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What do you think, personally about encounters?
I want to make a large scale RPG Maker project, I am building the team, story and whatever currently (Not the project "Not Another RPG!").

I was wondering if you would prefer:

1) A well designed random encounter system where key battles were made into physical encounters. So bosses, mini-bosses and other slightly larger, pesky enemies appear before you, but the smaller and more frequent enemies are just random and invisible.

Or?

2) Every enemy is visible, from the slime you are about to squash with your shoe, to the golems wandering the plains.

The outcome to this feature in my future project rests solely in your hands.
 
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Kes

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There are at least half a dozen threads discussing random vs on-map encounters.

Summary - there is no consensus, because many people tend to feel quite strongly in favour of their preferred option and can become pretty dogmatic about it.  Of course, that is a very broad brush summary of long (and i do mean long) discussions with many interesting points.  Perhaps reading them would be helpful to you.
 

Teivel

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Yeah... Sleep deprivation causes me to not really think hard enough to realize many would have asked the same of the RPG Maker community. My apologies.
 

Mysticphoenix

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I like both. The draw back of making every monsters visible is you will have to make a sprite of all monsters, which may takes an extra time.
 

Mushinronja

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I prefer on-screen enemies, but you could always mess with it by having random encounters in tall grass or dark places and the such.
 

NTakamura

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It is ultimately up to you. Personally I like to pick my battles. With random battle it can create a sense of challenge but at the same time it can be some what tedious if your party just beat at boss, your low on equipment and you encounter a random enemy. Which ever one you pick, make sure you are happy with it. 
 

Teivel

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So, if you have items to limit the amount of random encounters experienced it would help? Like an item that removes encounters for a certain amount of time or steps? Or items you can equip that removes encounters while wearing them?
 

Wavelength

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Onscreen enemies are a better choice in nearly every game.  It takes a little longer to make, but it makes for a far, far smoother play experience when done well.  The player will not feel like they are being constantly bombarded by battles that they don't want or don't need to fight and if they do want to fight, they can find one more easily with onscreen encounters as well.
 
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Teivel

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Well, @Wavelength that's not entirely true. I have played games with visible enemies, the AI was pretty good, good enough that you actually couldn't make it passed areas without fighting enemies and some games make it so that if you come in contact with more than one visible enemy at a time (Encounter one enemy while in another's line of sight), then you fight all of them.

I think I will decide that on screen enemies are better. But it will make dungeons crowded too, you ever played a game with visible enemies and avoided going one way because you don't want to fight them? I know I have, invisible enemies makes it so that you don't have to fear enemies you can see.

Actually, I guess I am still undecided.
 

Milennin

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On-screen enemies are more popular for good reasons. Yeah, you could use items that decrease the random encounter rate, but it's not exactly fun to have to open the menu, then the inventory to select the item every time it runs out. Very little games do random encounters right, safer to go with on-screen.
 

captainproton

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Dragon Quest IX did it well, having enemy sprites appear randomly on the maps and chase you, initiating combat on contract. Yes, you could see what sort of monster was after you, but you couldn't pick and choose what was going to come after you. This meant that looking for specific drop item was still a hunt.

I've never understood the arguments against random encounters. Most people just say "we don't do that any more," which is a useless tautology. Some at least offer the argument that it makes it tough when you're low on items, but that sounds awfully hand-holdy to me.
 

Matseb2611

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I think I posted my breakdown before on other threads, but thought I'd post it here too. Either one could be made well or made badly, depending on the following factors:

Random encounters:

 - Yay for successful escaping every time (or most times)

 - Nay for encounters happening after every few steps (especially on large maps >_<)

 - Nay for encounters when I try to solve a puzzle

 - Yay for letting people to farm and/or grind as much as they want

Visible encounters:

 - Yay for letting me see them and prepare for them

 - Yay for letting me avoid them

 - Nay for making them block 1-tile thick paths with no other way past them (boooo in fact)

 - Nay for making them chase me in groups, then corner me and force me to fight 3-4 battles in a row

 - Nay for not letting people farm and/or grind, BUT Yay if there is a way to revive the enemies or if farming/grinding is not necessary for the game (e.g. it has no levels and Exp)

Hope this helps. Generally, I think more people prefer visible encounters. Or at least, there's less hate towards them. Random encounters tend to really tick some people off and put them off the game completely. Visible encounters don't do that anywhere near as much. But they require more sprite assets.
 

Indinera

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I know I'm in the minority but I like random encounters, I find it a very addicting way of playing.

Of course I like random encounter 2.0, as in, with a set minimum steps (like 40 or 50) between each of them.
 

Wavelength

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Well, @Wavelength that's not entirely true. I have played games with visible enemies, the AI was pretty good, good enough that you actually couldn't make it passed areas without fighting enemies...
That's not good AI - that's really poor game design!  A well-designed Visible Encounter system will make it so that you can almost always make it through an area without fighting if you plan your maneuver well, and will avoid putting enemies in passageways that are so tight that you don't have a choice but to fight.  A well-designed system will either give the player a slight speed advantage, or give the enemies a small aggro radius (or both).  A well-designed system will also introduce some mechanic so that you can reasonably escape a monster's grasp after escaping the battle.

One particularly cool thing I've seen with this system in some of the Tales games (Graces comes to mind) is that once you're overleveled for an area, or once you've defeated enough of a monster type, they will actively try to run away from you on the map instead of trying to approach you.  It feels awesome as a player (and you can still chase down the monster pretty easily if you want to kill it), and completely gets rid of the whole "why do I have to fight this party of Level 1 Slimes even though I'm halfway through the game?" problem.  A couple of these games (Vesperia, for instance) also will combine multiple nearby monster parties into a single enemy party if you run into an encounter while other visible monsters are in the proximity; this is a better solution than forcing the player to fight battle after battle.

I've never understood the arguments against random encounters. Most people just say "we don't do that any more," which is a useless tautology. Some at least offer the argument that it makes it tough when you're low on items, but that sounds awfully hand-holdy to me.
Hopefully I can present a more convincing argument than "we don't do that any more".  The problem with Random Encounters, more than anything else, is one of framing and feel (and also about not wasting the player's time).  Even a fair and balanced RE system is likely to feel unfair and frustrating to the player at times:

  • Random Encounters usually give the player no sense of agency or control over when (or what) they're fighting.  When the player doesn't want to fight and touches a visible encounter, they might think Woops, I got clumsy there.  When the player doesn't want to fight and is given a random encounter, they might think Geez, the game is making me fight ANOTHER one of these.
  • Where RE systems do offer control over when the player must fight (usually through a RE Rate option), the inorganic control over this element is likely to break the player's immersion and negate any sense of interest or danger that encounters (of any type) normally provide.
  • When the player is bored of battling, a well-designed RE system usually has a much higher encounter rate than a well-designed VE system.  When the player is enjoying combat and wants to battle, a well-designed RE system usually has a much lower encounter rate than a well-designed VE system.
  • RE's interrupt and even discourage exploration.  The player knows that every step she goes out of her way to check out that cool-looking tree or peer around the edge of a building is going to mean more encounters.  In a VE system the player can see that the immediate few steps in front of them are "safe" and freely let their wanderlust take over.
  • RE's can be extremely frustrating to a player who is lost.
  • Visual Encounters, properly implemented and balanced, can be a fun mechanic of their own, giving the player a bit more excitement on maps where the only other "active" thing to do in an RE system is walk around.
If we were looking at the game purely in terms of its game elements (decisions, risks, and rewards), a really well-conceived Random Encounters system could be the best theoretical way to go.  But JRPGs are an interactive experience where the fun is also derived from other elements besides "make the best decision".  The player's desires and feelings must be considered.  And an RE system which tells the player "okay you've walked ten or thirty steps and now you must do a combat, like it or not" does not respect the player's desires and feelings.
 

Schlangan

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That's not good AI - that's really poor game design!  A well-designed Visible Encounter system will make it so that you can almost always make it through an area without fighting if you plan your maneuver well, and will avoid putting enemies in passageways that are so tight that you don't have a choice but to fight.  A well-designed system will either give the player a slight speed advantage, or give the enemies a small aggro radius (or both).  A well-designed system will also introduce some mechanic so that you can reasonably escape a monster's grasp after escaping the battle.
I'd say it depends on the location. In my game, you attack a den of bandits. Of course bandits are placed in tight passageways to act as guards. You have at least to aggro them, make them follow you and escape form the fight if you want to bypass their position. But it is not the same in every part of the game; in the forest you find wolves, and they catch you easily, because you cannot outrun wolves. On the contrary, there is a beach with giant crabs, very strong but slow, so you can easily avoid them or escape from the fight.


So typically, it's also good to get variation between the VE.
 
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KoldBlood

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That's not good AI - that's really poor game design!  A well-designed Visible Encounter system will make it so that you can almost always make it through an area without fighting if you plan your maneuver well, and will avoid putting enemies in passageways that are so tight that you don't have a choice but to fight.  A well-designed system will either give the player a slight speed advantage, or give the enemies a small aggro radius (or both).  A well-designed system will also introduce some mechanic so that you can reasonably escape a monster's grasp after escaping the battle.

One particularly cool thing I've seen with this system in some of the Tales games (Graces comes to mind) is that once you're overleveled for an area, or once you've defeated enough of a monster type, they will actively try to run away from you on the map instead of trying to approach you.  It feels awesome as a player (and you can still chase down the monster pretty easily if you want to kill it), and completely gets rid of the whole "why do I have to fight this party of Level 1 Slimes even though I'm halfway through the game?" problem.  A couple of these games (Vesperia, for instance) also will combine multiple nearby monster parties into a single enemy party if you run into an encounter while other visible monsters are in the proximity; this is a better solution than forcing the player to fight battle after battle.

Hopefully I can present a more convincing argument than "we don't do that any more".  The problem with Random Encounters, more than anything else, is one of framing and feel (and also about not wasting the player's time).  Even a fair and balanced RE system is likely to feel unfair and frustrating to the player at times:

  • Random Encounters usually give the player no sense of agency or control over when (or what) they're fighting.  When the player doesn't want to fight and touches a visible encounter, they might think Woops, I got clumsy there.  When the player doesn't want to fight and is given a random encounter, they might think Geez, the game is making me fight ANOTHER one of these.
  • Where RE systems do offer control over when the player must fight (usually through a RE Rate option), the inorganic control over this element is likely to break the player's immersion and negate any sense of interest or danger that encounters (of any type) normally provide.
  • When the player is bored of battling, a well-designed RE system usually has a much higher encounter rate than a well-designed VE system.  When the player is enjoying combat and wants to battle, a well-designed RE system usually has a much lower encounter rate than a well-designed VE system.
  • RE's interrupt and even discourage exploration.  The player knows that every step she goes out of her way to check out that cool-looking tree or peer around the edge of a building is going to mean more encounters.  In a VE system the player can see that the immediate few steps in front of them are "safe" and freely let their wanderlust take over.
  • RE's can be extremely frustrating to a player who is lost.
  • Visual Encounters, properly implemented and balanced, can be a fun mechanic of their own, giving the player a bit more excitement on maps where the only other "active" thing to do in an RE system is walk around.
If we were looking at the game purely in terms of its game elements (decisions, risks, and rewards), a really well-conceived Random Encounters system could be the best theoretical way to go.  But JRPGs are an interactive experience where the fun is also derived from other elements besides "make the best decision".  The player's desires and feelings must be considered.  And an RE system which tells the player "okay you've walked ten or thirty steps and now you must do a combat, like it or not" does not respect the player's desires and feelings.
Personally, I prefer visible encounters for most of these reasons Wavelength has stated here. Especially the part about random encounters discouraging exploration. More often than not I find myself rushing through areas not caring about loot or possible secrets because I know I've only got a few steps before I'm right back in a battle and, to me at least, that is not fun. I'm playing an RPG not only for the battles but to also explore the world, I want to check every nook and cranny and maybe find that "epic sword" in a chest somewhere. It's irritating when the game pretty much makes me feel like I can't even stop to take a look around and enjoy the world for what it is.

Then on top of the frustration of being in battle every few steps even when trying to explore, I'm also worrying that my party's resources are being slowly drained away. This happens during exploration in a visible encounter system but if you reach a point where you decide you can't or don't want to take on anymore battles you can take steps to avoid battles or in some cases freely backtrack without getting into too many battles and risking a game over when you are aware of your situation, meaning the player feels like they have some degree of control over their fate.

As for how I handle visible encounters in my own game, I have a simple chase system in place but different enemy types on the map have different movement patterns and ways of responding to the player, they also have to look in the player's direction and the player must be within a certain distant (different depending on the enemy). In the world of an RPG there is eventually going to be an area with tight passages be it a dungeon, cave, or what have you so simply making it where you can always run around an enemy isn't always possible.

Some examples of how I handled this are with my knights in a castle, castles have fairly small passageways but most of my human type enemies usually follow a set patrol path that, if the player watches for a short time, they can time their movements and slip by the guards unnoticed. If you are noticed human enemies can be easily out ran with the sprint button. The rat and bat type enemies in my first few areas run away from the player if they see them. Plant monsters stay in place but attack you if you stand next to them. The Undead Miner stands still in the room until the player is very close then starts slowly shuffling toward them (this was done more as a jump scare when it first happens but doubles as a way of avoiding them later in the dungeon). I have a dangerous, aggressive spider enemy that will give chase when it sees the player but only slowly walks towards the player. My wolves are one of the only enemies can see the player from off screen and will come running at the player at sprinting speed. I did this specifically make them feel like an enemy that hunts the player and ambushes them, they can be out ran by the player if they are quick enough to respond to the attack but they run at the same speed as the player at full sprint so if the player slips up or is cornered they'll catch up quick. Then I have some enemies like the Soul Eater butterflies that just flat out ignore the player but may run into them by accident.

I think this adds some variety and strategy to the visible encounters and just feels overall more immersive. I mean, not EVERYTHING, is going to charge at you trying to kill you the moment you get close and different creatures attack in different ways. It also rewards the player for learning the area's creatures and how said creatures respond to them and creatures like the wolves for example keep the player on their toes so they can't just hang around waiting for an opening all the time.

Anyway, my long winded post aside, it really comes down to personal preference. There are players who love Random Encounters and players who love Visible Encounters and even some that like both. The point is there's a fan base for both types of games so I would say make the encounter system YOU love personally. You're much more likely to do a good job creating something you love and personally enjoy than trying to correctly implement something you don't care for just because that's what someone else wants you to do.
 

Kes

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I've said it before, but I'll say it again.

There are players who strongly prefer on-map encounters; there are players who strongly prefer random encounters; there are players who don't mind which they have.

So if our focus is on giving players the best game experience we can, then give your players the choice.  Let them decide which they want to play.  It is easy to set up, the problem of random encounters happening after only a few steps is solved with one tiny alteration to the default script.  Yes, it requires a few moments of extra thought per map, but not much.  So why not do it?
 
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Teivel

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Okay Ksjp, Understood. But this truly did help my decision.

I have decided for my larger project to go visual encounters and implement AI as efficiently as possible. So that something slime-like will move around without you having to worry etc. I will have to work harder, but in the end it'll all be worth it.

Visual encounters in my opinion make a game a little more thrilling and lifelike, having to run for your life because you have no potions rather than a random encounter killing you.
 

Wavelength

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I'd say it depends on the location. In my game, you attack a den of bandits. Of course bandits are placed in tight passageways to act as guards. You have at least to aggro them, make them follow you and escape form the fight if you want to bypass their position. But it is not the same in every part of the game; in the forest you find wolves, and they catch you easily, because you cannot outrun wolves. On the contrary, there is a beach with giant crabs, very strong but slow, so you can easily avoid them or escape from the fight.

So typically, it's also good to get variation between the VE.
Alright, point well taken - a bit of variation in the way that different Visual Encounter enemies work will usually be appreciated by the player.  Having a few enemies that you need to aggro and then shimmy around is really cool.  But as a generality, wide passages and outrunnable foes (or foes that are relatively easy to avoid aggroing) should rule the day.
 

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Making monsters visible is not really a drawback with regards to spriting. Simply because you can place one of them shadow monsters as the common look of all enemy parties. Saves time if you want an easy way out, but looks really uncool in game, at least according to me.

Others have made quite valid points (at least the posts I read through), but I think visible enemies has a different charm of its own (again, with regards to spriting). Being able to see the different kinds of enemies you have in different locations in your game, kind of adds to its appeal (at least for me). Of course, you may say that you can swap sprites for battlers, but I like being able to see what kind of enemy I'm about to battle against before engaging them. May sound childish, but there you have it. Monsters should deserve some spriting attention too. There's quite a lot of amazing monster sprites out there.

Additionally, I think an alternative for the grinding advantage (invisible enemies) is difficulty levels (easy-normal-LAVA) (visible enemies).

Last but not least, I absolutely abhor invisible enemies. It's quite a traumatizing factor, because I can drop good games if they have this feature in them. Not sure if I'm the only one with this phobia. Parallel to this is my dislike of enemies that run at lightning speed, chase you into corners, and force you to fight with them. Freedom of choice, anyone?
 

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