How do you rationalize a limited party in battle?

kirbwarrior

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I think it just wastes time to worry about justifying all the quirks of your systems in ways which are narratively satisfying.
It's also one of the situations where making a satisfying explanation is much harder than just not coming up with one. It's far easier to just not point it out, or use a very simplified explanation (in FF7, the party just straight up decides to go in small groups without needing to go into much detail as to why). This is one of the (few) things I'd say Chrono Trigger did wrong; it brings up that you can't go with 4 or more people, but then blatantly breaks why later on. Pokemon has an extremely simple reason; it's entirely arbitrary, it's just a rule/law that even the villains aren't willing to break.

I've actually taken steps to just increase the party size instead of break them up, myself. One game I made eventually ended with a party of 7. Let me tell you, CTB solves so many issues of playing with a big team, but not all of them...

The most recent game I made did the same thing as FF4 where your party changes by the plot and the player has little say as to who is in the party (sometimes there's an optional character that can join the party and it's up to the player to recruit them, plus the optional Lethal Joke character takes the fifth slot for the last third of the game).
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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TBH, nothing needs to make sense in terms of our own universe's laws etc because most game universes is a different one and can have different natural laws than us..

From a development point of view, balancing a game's battle gets harder the more variable you put into the battle..

Also it requires more screen space. Ofc you can minize screen usage by for example making the status bars only appear for the current character but that would also open up some problems like making decisions based on your party's current status.
 

LycanDiva

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In RPG's that allow you to swap out party members, I've always just imagined that everyone else was sitting on the sidelines, eating popcorn, watching the main party fight. You know, with little exchanges like this:

AP Member 1: Uh, guys, a little help here!

RP Member 1: Nah, you've got this. *munches some chips*

AP Member 2: NO WE DON'T! We're DYING HERE!! Hell, Greg's already DEAD!!

*cut to Greg bleeding out on the field*

RP Member 2: *mouth full of popcorn* Eh, Greg's always been a drama queen!

RP Member 1: I HATE YOU GUYS!!

However, I actually like it more when you have a smaller core party to begin with, with characters joining and leaving the party for plot reasons. Having a big selection of possible party members can be fun when it's done well, but it also has the potential to get really messy really quick, with both mechanical and narrative character under-development being a real danger the bigger your cast becomes. But, that's a whole 'nother bucket of popcorn...
 

kirbwarrior

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However, I actually like it more when you have a smaller core party to begin with, with characters joining and leaving the party for plot reasons. Having a big selection of possible party members can be fun when it's done well
I like how Suikoden 2 did it (at least, I hope I'm remembering right) where the main party is the one going out and doing specific questing and fighting, while the massive group of recruits is doing more general stuff (maintaining the base, keeping up on supplies, implied smaller fights, etc). If a game starts having a huge (20+) list of potential members, it would make sense if you need that many people for nonparty reasons. It even applies well once the amount of potential members more than doubles the party size.
 

Diretooth

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A potential route for avoiding a limited party is to have multiple parties battling different enemies at the same time, though that could also get time consuming.
Some ways I would go about this concept would be the idea of a pincer attack, Party A attacks Group A, Party B attacks Group B. The moment Group A or B is killed, combat can end, effectively making it so that a specific group has made escape possible, though you could still have the remaining group fight if you so chose, or even have both groups finish off the remaining enemies together. While this explains why Party B isn't helping Party A, it does add more work and nuance to a battle, which can become tedious after the fiftieth time.

You could do it as Final Fantasy 12 does and have the party be able to be switched mid-combat, even have party members replace KOed party members.
 

kaukusaki

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Squads.
I had an army type game where you had your leader and the other 3 were representative of a number of troops. If they get wiped out you got another squad to call to neutralise the threat.
 

ProjectTrinity

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Depending on how heavily you're into the idea of having good reasons, just have two "boss" fights at once where the other characters need to fight that one. And hey! They just so happen to finish the same time the player's party does! Probably, a little, annoying, but you don't actually have to have the player fight the second boss. Just gives them all a reason to not help during those important battles.
 

Seacliff

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I don't. Or at least I don't think the distinction is needed.
The entire combat scenario is simply an abstraction in place of an actual battle. We don't go as far to explain why everyone is taking turns, so I don't think it's necessary to explain who is not playing in an imaginary chess game.

If you do have an explanation that services the story/world/lore, that could be cool. Otherwise, I don't think the audience cares.
 

Tech

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I usually go with "you only have 3-4 heroes" instead of trying to figure out how to swap characters.
 

Eschaton

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One of the things I liked about *Dragon Age II* was the fact that it went out of its way to emphasize that the player party had a life outside the player. When they joined your active party, they were doing you a favor or treating it as a night out with their friend, after which they return to their lives.
 

xdan

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I don't. Or at least I don't think the distinction is needed.
The entire combat scenario is simply an abstraction in place of an actual battle. We don't go as far to explain why everyone is taking turns, so I don't think it's necessary to explain who is not playing in an imaginary chess game.

If you do have an explanation that services the story/world/lore, that could be cool. Otherwise, I don't think the audience cares.
Oh but I DID go as far to explain why everyone is taking turns in one of my games: you are a higher entity with the ability to control time, and the characters are mentally controlled by you. It ssems like there are turns because you freeze time after every action to plan your next move. And loading a save file after your party dies is literally just you rewinding time.
 

gstv87

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One of the things I liked about *Dragon Age II* was the fact that it went out of its way to emphasize that the player party had a life outside the player. When they joined your active party, they were doing you a favor or treating it as a night out with their friend, after which they return to their lives.
Mount & Blade takes that approach as well.
the companions you can recruit often change their minds depending on whom else is in your party: if they're noblemen themselves, they'd frown if you recruit peasants; or if they're from a given kingdom, they'll like or dislike people from other kingdoms.
most of them also have contacts in their respective kingdoms, so you can send them out to negotiate alliances with other noblemen.
 

Eschaton

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Mount & Blade takes that approach as well.
the companions you can recruit often change their minds depending on whom else is in your party: if they're noblemen themselves, they'd frown if you recruit peasants; or if they're from a given kingdom, they'll like or dislike people from other kingdoms.
most of them also have contacts in their respective kingdoms, so you can send them out to negotiate alliances with other noblemen.
As does Baldur's Gate, in which differently-aligned party members clash with each other and even desert the player of they don't agree on ethics.
 

gstv87

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I know.
I had to drop my OPAF neutral evil half-Orc because nobody wanted him around :(
 

jwgz

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To be honest, I hate party limitations and I often have trouble rationalizing them for any game with less than 4 active fighters at a time (with exceptions like FFX, where party members can switch in mid-battle).

FFVII is one of the worst offenders for me in that regard. Cloud is locked to your team at all times, so you really only have 2 swappable party slots even though there are 9 characters to choose from, and the game often doesn't go the extra mile to separate your party into sub-groups or something like that, so that you can make use of all your characters. Had they done that I would've been a lot more forgiving about it.

FFIV, on the other hand, was great about this, with a very decent 5-person party and teammates going in and out of your group, as in a true adventure. The only drawback was that party members came back with crappy equipment compared to what you had left them with, which could be easily rectified from a design standpoint.

Persona 1 and 2 also had a six-person party. Persona 3-5 decreased it to four, which IMO was still acceptable.

Baldur's Gate had a six-person party, which was amazing to me when I first played it after years of playing JRPGs.
 

DJK1NG_Gaming

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Anymore than 8 Party Members you might as well do it two ways.
1. One or Two Party Members dies base on the Story.
2. Have the story split the party up for majority of the game. Final Fantasy VI is a perfect example at handling more than 10 Party members with several of them being optional.
 

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