How do you feel about enemy palette swaps?

Darth Equus

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Decided to ask this here since it can affect enemy behavior.

Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star and Breath of Fire have done it. I think Dragon Quest has done it. So, is it wrong of small developers like us to use palette swaps to depict stronger enemies? My current project is influenced by Phantasy Star (PSIII being the first RPG I ever played), and that one used palette swaps for stronger versions of enemies within the same "family".

As a designer, I wouldn't just make the swaps stronger in terms of HP and strength, but also abilities: Using the same graphic of a vampire bunny, I can make one that steals HP, an upgraded version that steals HP and flees afterwards (robbing the player from XP and goodies if they don't eliminate it first), and one that steals MP, uses those MP to cast high-level magic, steal HP, then petrify or KO the player, indicating the difference with colors. ("Oh, it's just a harmless little bunny, isn't it?") All this without having to spend time and money to make a different sprite for each, akin to how there are varieties of plants and animals within species in nature.

Yet, I've seen contempt for the use of swaps coming from players, professional and "professional" gaming publications.

Apologies if this has been asked before. What are your thoughts?
 

Mystic_Enigma

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I actually don't mind them. So what if enemies look alike? I'll just rethink my tactics accordingly as usual.

On that note, I shamelessly plan to use them for my own project(Please don't hate me!).
 

Anthony Xue

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You don't have to go that far back in history. Ever heard of this small game called "Diablo"? Well, they have been doing this in all parts of the franchise, using the exact same sprite, just recoloured, for monsters with different stats and abilities.

However, some things remained the same throughout each incarnation, namely attack patterns and side triggers (for instance, explosion of the corpse on death). This meant that whatever behaviour the player had learned and adapted to would apply to the stronger forms as well. If you stick to that method, i.e. make the other versions stronger, maybe give them some new abilities/immunities but give them all some common attack patterns/weaknesses as well so that the player can actually benefit from the familiarity with a little thought, then reusing sprites isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Also, don't hold yourself to the same standard as professional companies with a big $$$ budget for artists. You don't plan to sell your game for sixty bucks, right?
 

Sauteed_Onion

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If somebody wants to gripe about an indie dev using palette swaps, occasionally, I think you shouldn't worry too much. If every enemy was the same enemy minus a different colored hat, yeah I'd have to find some way to let somebody involved in that game making process know that's just a little extreme.

One reason I don't get invested in Hollywood films and "A-List" actors is I'm sick of them. Over and over and they are usually terrible in the first place. Oh no, watch Christian Bale look frumpy in this movie or that movie.. Oh no, Morgan Freeman, being a bad guy.. again. Once or twice is enough meow. And Hollywood is a bit different category than an indie vidya game stewdio. Meow.

But, to stay more on topic.. No, it's not that big of a deal to me. So long as they aren't just more hp and mp and def or whatever. I've seen that too, but it's usually not too impossible to add something to the enemy artwork rather than just a complete recolor. And if you liked PSIII and like the old school grindy rpg, Try PS2 for the sega genesis or one of the remakes if you can find one. The enemy switch up was pretty cool after the first bit of the game passed. Pretty much midpoint.
 

Andar

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The original reason for the Palette Swaps was the limit on RAM and HDD-space. It was done by hue mathematics so that the player had more different enemies to see without using up expensive RAM and ROM space.

Today, that is no longer neccessary - on the contrary the amount of mathematics for hue changes is frowned upon due to high risk of adding to lag. For that reason such enemies are now usually different colored pictures instead of calculated variants.

So if you can afford it then it is usually better to use similiar pictures but not almost identicals to portrait similiar enemies. But as an indie developers you often can't afford this.

So if a big company tries that this is usually a bad sign, but for an indie there should be no negative on using color changes only.
 

Tai_MT

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They don't bother me so long as the enemies themselves are different. If you've simply upped the stats and changed the colors, I tend to find them annoying. They should offer something new if they're intended to be a new enemy.
 

Mihe

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A lot of mobile rpgs still use palette swapping for both enemies and heroes today. They carry different names, skills, abilities and such. So people still do enjoy it and it is rather acceptable although can get stale. To remedy that staleness some games add in a variety of different skins for their characters to add to the aesthetics and hopefully please their player base.
 

IguanaGuy

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I don't mind them so long as the enemy fits the environment. So when I am in a beginners field and I fight some kind of bunny that is to be expected. When I am in the final dungeon, different color or not, I do not want to see a bunny there, even if it is a killer demi-bunny. That would be the time to introduce something more sinister as far as enemies go. Another trick that HAS to be used carefully is just increasing the amounts of enemies. A riskier area has a whole group of bunnies compared to just one. that in moderation is ok, but I wouldn't repeat that with every enemy type.
Thinking back to FF4 though, even though that was an epic game, the final levels of the game only had three types of enemy encounters and two looked THE SAME except for their color hue. So bigger name games have done it and got by. Just make sure the story carries the weight if you do that though.
 

TheoAllen

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Saying palette swap for enemy variation is like saying skeletal animation instead of custom frame per frame animation. They achieve different thing with same goal in mind. To minimize resource used.

For me? I don't mind either, I hardly care. If it can tell me that particular enemies are different, it's enough. And if the color give me information about what the enemy might weak too, it's even better.
 

Wavelength

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"Families" of enemies (which share a general form or certain design motifs) is all well and good as a way to tip the player off that those enemies will follow the same kinds of patterns, but I think that Palette Swaps per se tend to reek of laziness and reflect poorly on your game, not to mention hurt immersion.
 

Kes

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Palette swapping is not a game mechanic.

I've moved this thread to General Discussion. Please be sure to post your threads in the correct forum next time. Thank you.

 

Soryuju

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Palette swapping and slapping different stats happens in nature too ya know. Like with bears..
Polar Bear
Grizzly Bear
Brown Bear
Black Bear
.... You get it. :kaophew:
Yeah, it's really lazy design. With as much as I'm paying to be on this planet, I would have hoped for a little extra effort in the final product.
 

kirbwarrior

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I've honestly enjoyed palette swaps in some games. In Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, it's done in a way that gives a certain feel to each area (ignoring Desert Hags). In Dragon Quest (the series), it's done to show more charm and show that a group of enemies has shareable traits. However, Final Fantasy Legend and Adventure were the worst places to use palette swaps (the games were monochrome, you couldn't even tell).

Final Fantasy X did a neat thing with palette swaps, making each version scarier in some way (for instance, Flans kept getting bigger until they took up a 1/3 of the screen). If a modern game used palette swaps, I feel like they should be intentional and fun (even charming!) since they aren't there to help minimize space anymore.

I said Final Fantasy a lot even though I only referred to one actual FF.
 

Adonael

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Out of all the RPG's I played, I can say, Palette swapping never diminished the experience for me as long as the swaps had some form of uniqueness to them. Either by seeming like a variant to another species in a different environment or by having unique stats and abilities.

I say as long as it isn't over abundant and there is still a decent variety in unique enemies VS Swap enemies it shouldn't be that big of an issue.
 

Mihe

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One of the most successful franchises out there has used swapping. That franchise being Pokemon. And they have used it in a unique way different from most older successful games that have used palette swapping. For Pokemon games it meant that you had encountered a shiny pokemon, a very rare occurrence in their games. There have been players who have went shiny-hunting. That feel of accomplishment in discovering a shiny pokemon brought joy and excitement to many players.

So palette swapping can still be acceptable. It's just all in how you manage it within your game.
 

Aesica

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While I'm not a huge fan of RPGMaker's hue adjustment for enemy sprites due to how it affects every color, using a graphics program to shuffle a few colors around is awesome and should be used. For example, I did these for fun awhile back:


It's FAAAAAAR more efficient when you want to create a lot of different enemies, especially compared to creating a brand new from-scratch asset for each one.
 

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