'Entry Level' RPG How to be simple without being boring?

Seacliff

RPG Maker Mastermind
Veteran
Joined
Nov 8, 2012
Messages
2,996
Reaction score
1,148
First Language
Yes
Primarily Uses
RM2k
Hey guys. After finishing my previous short-term project, this subject came to my mind.

A couple months ago, I have finished Final Fantasy IV easy-type. It is often cited as an 'Entry Level' RPG that works well for those who want to get into the JRPG genre. This makes sense, as the gameplay is simple for an RPG, and the story and characters are decent for the game's time. It's an easy game to recommend to those getting into the franchise even if I feel there are much better games out there.

However, the concept of 'Beginner Friendly RPG' stuck to me. I want to explore the design concepts that can make a game good enough for those wanting to explore the JRPG genre while at least being seen as decent by the core audience.

For example, here are a few things that stuck out to me in FF IV that I would consider 'simple':

-Simple Combat. Outside mages some characters will only have a basic attack and one or two special attacks.

-Simple Dungeons. While not entirely hallways, the dungeons in FF IV are pretty straight-forward and only have a few branches that leads to some rewards. However, the final dungeon is a lot more open with much more worthwhile rewards such as the strongest weapons in the game.

-Decent Pacing. Very little back tracking is done in the game before you get an airship and it wouldn't feel like a chore anymore. The game even has quirks in the world map that allows convenient traveling as you obtain more vehicles. IE, going through the first second cave, then getting a hovercraft that allows you to go mountain range and back to the previous town.

I personally want to give a shot at a game like this, and would like to see what other elements to make a game 'entry level' people may have found from similar games. For refrence: Super Mario RPG, Pokemon, FF Mystic Quest, and Ni No Kuni are also cited to be this type of game.
 

Rhaeami

The Sleepy-Eyed One
Veteran
Joined
Jun 2, 2014
Messages
252
Reaction score
179
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
The Paper Mario games sell the simplistic feel of it by, from what I observed, keeping number amounts down (your attacks do 1-5 damage instead of 100-500) and having simple, intuitive skills that don't ask the player to make many mental calculations. They just straight up say "use this one if you're fighting a group", or "use this one against armored enemies", and such. The player never really has to make tough decisions, in or out of battle. Beyond that, a generally low difficulty curve is probably a good idea, as most "newbies" would just see an intense challenge as a roadblock.

Ultimately I think the real trick is going to be making it *feel* simple, even more so than actually being simple. Pokemon is extremely complex, but hides most of that from the player. While this causes some frustration to more serious gamers who are compelled to look up the details online, newer players end up enjoying it as they blissfully waltz through the game with a team of their favorite monsters. The illusion counts.


On a side note, I wouldn't ever list Ni No Kuni as a simple game. That thing was so confusing that I gave up halfway through it. :kaosigh:
 

bgillisp

Global Moderators
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
13,655
Reaction score
14,397
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Avoid acronym soup. I once played a game where you had to keep track of HP, MP, VP, EP, GP, and something else that ended with P (maybe even more than one something else's) that by the end I couldn't remember what all of them did and influenced.

Basically, if understanding all the stats in the game and what they do is more difficult than a quantum physics problem, you did it wrong.
 

Seacliff

RPG Maker Mastermind
Veteran
Joined
Nov 8, 2012
Messages
2,996
Reaction score
1,148
First Language
Yes
Primarily Uses
RM2k
@Rhaeami Paper Mario is a good example. I probably wouldn't set the stats nearly as low since I still want the game to 'feel' like a fantasy RPG. But that's something to keep in mind.

Ni No Kuni came to mind because it is a game marketed towards kids. But to be fair, I only played it for a few hours myself so I didn't know it got so complex later on. :p

@bgillisp Something that I considered. Heck, I plan to remove the TP bar for good and only have a few party members use MP. I might go as far as removing the less needed stats like Luk and even Magic Defense.
 

bgillisp

Global Moderators
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
13,655
Reaction score
14,397
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Yes. I'd say dropping TP or MP entirely is a good way to start. Many RPG's from the 80's and 90's had only HP and MP, and no other version s of health or mana floating around. Makes battle management much easier.
 

Rhaeami

The Sleepy-Eyed One
Veteran
Joined
Jun 2, 2014
Messages
252
Reaction score
179
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Hmm, one other thing to consider might be party size. A lot of simpler RPGs, including the aforementioned Pokemon, Paper Mario, and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (and I would add the original Dragon Quest), only have one active fighter at a time - or at least focus heavily on one main character with minor sidekicks. If nothing else, it could be a good idea to have a not-insignificant early part of the game focus on just one or two people. :kaoslp:
 

Wavelength

MSD Strong
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
5,867
Reaction score
5,448
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
I really like @Rhaeami 's advice to make the game feel simple, giving priority to that simple feel over simple mechanics.

Use a lot of your development time working on ways to keep unnecessary information and needless complications out of the player's way. Also use a lot of your development time working on simplifying the interface (less menus, less levels of menu, less clicks and fewer unique buttons are all GOOD!).

Stuff like Pokemon's hidden "IV" stats are an interesting example of keeping unnecessary info out of the player's way. I personally like to have all relevant information (preferably in unobtrusive places like context-sensitive windows) when I'm the player, but a lot of casual players would rather not deal with being bombarded with so much information. As long as form follows function (e.g. giant fist increases how hard you hit), you can keep a lot of the details under the hood.

@bgillisp mentions reducing the number of values that players work with during battle. I personally don't love this as a simplification technique, because in a standard turn-based battle I feel that 3-4 values is usually a baseline for interesting decisions to be made (in a one-value system where HP is the only thing you can gain/lose, decisions can come down to a very small set of obvious questions like "will this move make me gain or lose HP this turn?"). But if you have other dimensions along which your battles are interesting, it's certainly worth considering. Undertale nailed it with just one (visible) value, HP, because its 'Act' system had some depth and its dodging mechanic was so engaging. Eternal Senia, though it exists somewhere in that twilight zone between turn-based and ABS, also nailed it with just two values (HP and MP), and also shined in its mechanical simplicity (touch monster, attack monster, touch monster, attack monster - no menus during combat and few buttons).

Thinking back to Super Mario RPG for the SNES, the entire party shared an MP pool. I don't think this mechanic adds or removed depth overall, but it does mean that the player has to think through fewer numbers as they manage their battle party. Cleaner and easier on the player's mind, unless they really want to get into the micro. So maybe this is the best way to avoid letting all the different types of "points" get too complex!
 

Sanct

Password Unenthusiast
Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2016
Messages
14
Reaction score
20
First Language
Serbian
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
If you're planning on doing a simple game make sure that your bosses (or enemy encounters for that matter) don't start feeling same-y halfway through, they don't need to have some super complex strategies, it could be as simple as just having them do stronger attacks when some buffs are inflicted or just resisting a certain type. They should probably also get progressively more complex as the player gets properly used to the game's battle system.
 

Latest Threads

Latest Posts

Latest Profile Posts

-Updated- Lowered fog / found more problems :kaoswt2:
6 more weeks of this nutty semester. Then maybe I'll have time to game make. After I curl up and sleep for a day or two that is.
Wondering how big I can make Dorothy's skill menu before the game just becomes irredeemably bad.
Studio Blue is playing the RPG Maker game Phil Alone live now! Phil may be alone, but you don't have to be, come join us in chat!

Forum statistics

Threads
109,209
Messages
1,043,078
Members
141,725
Latest member
718346584zy
Top