How to encourage players to switch party members?

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Ok, so there's a lot of joinable characters in my game and I want to encourage players to swap team members more constantly instead of staying with one set of 4 characters and making a super team out of them. What are some ways to do this? One thing I've thought of is to get rid of the all healing inn, instead HP and MP can only be recovered by 'resting' off the team while a new team tackles another dungeon. I also understand that games like Darkest Dungeon (haven't played it yet) piles disadvantages on heroes the longer they stay in the team. So what other mechanics can be used to encourage players to swap party members?
 
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Shaz

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When you battle, EVERYONE in the party gains EXP, not just the battle members.  This means if the player has stuck with the same party for a while, they're not disadvantage by swapping members around because everyone else's levels are so much lower now.


Instead of just checking if Actor X is in the party in order for things to happen, check if they're the leader.  Have dialogue with some NPCs change depending on who the leader is, so the player will want to experiment more with swapping people around.  Have some events that only react positively if a certain person is the leader (the most obvious is the character with a lock picking skill has to be the leader in order to open a chest or a door).


Have certain troops that will be easier to overcome if your party contains a particular mix of characters, so the player will be encouraged to use something close to that mix while on that map, and maybe swap them out for a different group on another map for a similar reason.
 

AcosmicDevi

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One idea is to allow the player to swap out party members while in battle. This way, they can get an idea of how a certain character may be advantageous to them and be inspired to change up the party.
 

ashikai

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I'll only list stuff that no one's mentioned yet:


You could give each character specific weaknesses and strengths too. If a player's overused character is weak to fire, and you're in a volcano area where the enemies have fire-based skills, it'd be better to swap that character for another one. I don't think this works as well when you have more than 8 usable characters though.


Larger party sizes provide more incentives to use more characters you may not try otherwise since there's less risk (thinking suikoden as I write this).


Joint attacks would also be a great incentive because you'd have to swap members to find the joint attacks; promotes experimentation.


Limited spell/skill/action uses coupled with in-battle switching could be cool.


I have no idea how to articulate this concept, but The Last Remnant had a neat way of getting you to swap out members. Essentially you could form up to five battle parties (max of five characters per party) that all fight at once with a TOTAL of fifteen members (at a time!) (effectively, this functioned as if each party was a single character with the number of actions equal to the number of characters in that party with individual stats). So either 5 groups of 3, 3 groups of 5, etc. Party leaders set baseline stats, and then the rest of the characters in the party could boost or lower stats depending on their type, race, build and affinities. Add in party formations and randomized commands (if you only had one spell caster in a party and the rest were tanks, you'd never get spell commands to spawn for example) and you had a really bizarre but hella fun battle system. 


^ That's going all out to really promote swapping and using EVERY CHARACTER. No need to be excessive methinks, but consider playing this game or watching a let's play for some really cool ideas on this topic. (Not saying they were all executed well, but ya know)
 

bgillisp

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I do it by allowing swapping in battle, and making enemies that hit hard enough that you need to swap out wounded party members for someone who's fresh. In fact, I have a couple bosses that are near impossible to beat if you don't use party swapping, due to how wounded the battle party will be after certain moves.


.
 

Crabs

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You could create character quests that unlocks after winning n battles with him/her on party.


It's a time consuming method since you will have to create a questline for every single playable character. But you will also be investing on character development.
 

TheGamedawg

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I would put a lot of emphasis on elements.  In particular areas, there could be a lot of enemies that are clearly at a disadvantage against one of your characters.  Basically, make it so every character has a few areas they can shine at various points in the game.
 

Basileus

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My preference is generally to make more fun and varied gameplay outside of combat. If each party member has a unique special skill, then you can arrange multiple paths through dungeons that can only be completed using different combinations of skills through puzzles that gate access to different areas. This can change up how the player gets through the dungeon and gives them the option to go through multiple times to get all of the loot from the different paths.


Take the Hero with a Thief, Druid, and Knight? - You can pick locks and move giant roots to open up paths.


Take the Hero with a Priest, Bard, and Illusionist? - You can put enemies to sleep to avoid fights and see previously invisible chests and doors that were hidden with illusions.


Take the Hero with a Pyro Mage, Ice Mage and Engineer? - You can burn the roots the Druid moved, freeze water to walk over it, and find parts to repair a mechanism to open a door the other parties couldn't open.


Repeat as many times as you like in as many combinations as you can think of.


This method would probably mean that you can only swap party members at save points or outside dungeons or something so the player doesn't just swap in a party member for a puzzle then swap back right after. If you limit the times at which the player can swap, then you can make an entire dungeon run different depending on who the player chose to bring in. And by giving them different combat strengths on top of this the entire way you get to the boss and how you fight the boss changes. Opens up a lot of replay value too.
 

Milennin

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I personally prefer it when I can choose who to go with and stick to my favourites instead of being forced to change characters. That's the reason you get to choose your party members, right? So you can play with the ones you wanted to come with you.


The only reason I would take out my favourites and replace them with characters I care less about is:


-if it's absolutely impossible to proceed with my current setup (though I'd be likely to quit if that happens, depending on how much I cared about my party).


-if using other party members gives me enough benefits that I can't otherwise achieve with the current party.


-if the other party members get development through the story and suddenly become cooler than my current set of favourites.


-if I found out other party members learn much cooler abilities than those currently in my party.
 

Andar

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I suggest go with a story approach, even if it is much more work:


give each actor a backstory and some specific personal quests like "save the little sister" or "win the grand tournament" and make events that those sidequests can only happen if the specific actor is in the party. After all, why should the aunt talk to strange and unknown people instead of the brother looking for the kidnapped sister.


Then the player can choose to follow those sidequests by swapping in the actor, or ignore them and continue only with the main quest.
 

Chaos Avian

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Final Fantasy 10's battle system encourages you to switch your party members pretty frequently. Armoured foes? Bring one or both allies with pierce weapons. Flying or evasive foe? Bring your archer(?) to hit them pretty much guaranteed. Elemental foes? Bring your mage to nuke em and forgo physical attacks. A mechanical foe? Bring your thief that insta-kills them with the Steal command. Feeling overwhelmed? Get your summoner to call a big beast to sweep the deck with a big attack or two or eat a potentially party killing attack. 


For the large majority of the game all 7 party members stay relevant throughout, so no really 'falls behind' since the enemies are a major hassle if you try to kill them while ignoring the character designed to kill them easily.
 

Webby

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You could try with the element strengths and weaknesses for example:


One member is strong with fire but weak with water. You also have a member, strong with water but weak with physical.


Now there is this one water-based monster that you have to kill in order to progress, of course the obvious choice is


to swap the members to clear the level...


That's my opinion on the matter, but it is also differ on the game your making in terms with the balancing...
 

Ryaryu

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You can make enemies really tough but exploitable via member's specific skill, like @Chaos Avian said... and sometimes, inform the player of that's possibility. For example, if you battle a armoured enemy, your armor-piercing ally who's not in the mais party can, sometimes, yell at you, saying that they can pierce the armour...


 
 
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What I'm planning is switching mid-battle (with cooldown). In addition each turn out of the party characters not just get revived but heal 20% hp. In fact this is the only planned way to revive so far other than the one 'class' that can do so at high cost (the 'classes' are actually one-off weapons so only one person can equip it at a time). Then again my battles should take 7-10 turns even for 'quick' battles.
 

Dr. Delibird

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I think it is always a good idea to ask yourself why you want the player to not stick with one team the entire game. If it is only because you don't want the player to have 1 super team and everybody else be weak plebs, then maybe you should have a look at the systems you have in place to prevent a "super party" from happening (party members that are not in battle still gain experience points is  one way of doing this).


I personally am taking the approach that all the party members have their specific role (which can be modified in a way that entirely transforms their role into something different but still the same via the use of class mods) and so the player has to find what combination of roles suits their playstyle the most. However I have it set up so that all characters gain experience (even if they feint) so that if the player finds that their play style has changed or that they are having difficuilty with a certain challenge they are not penalized for changing to a new team setup after so long sticking with the one for a really long time. 


I personally get annoyed when the game "mechanically railroads" me into using X party configuration is it completely defeats the purpose of having a player customised party to begin with. As long as you avoid that I am sure it doesn't matter how you accomplish what you decide to go with.
 

Frozen_Phoenix

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Instead of forcing things like "you can't proceed without X in your party", you can make different characters better/worse in different scenarios. This is a more natural way, as the player will have an advantage if he/she figures out and uses the right characters, but they won't be forced to do it. 
 

Azurecyan

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Give each player a sort of advantage in battle, not only in elemental resistance/strength, but what they can do both outside and in battles. Maybe have certain characters have skills that benefit in battle. Instead of a simple fire spell on your mage, maybe have an additional effect like chance of inflicting Burn. Maybe some enemies are prone to Burn and if inflicted, their defense drops. Your monk may be able to paralyze or knockback an enemy a few turns if the enemy is too speedy. In my game, I have each character(only 4 characters) have a sort of "gimmick" or advantage whenever useful. They're not suited to a specific class, but if they are they each have a sort of usefulness to their skills, than type advantage. Each of my characters can wield up to two different weapons of their specialty, but each weapon does a different type of attack(slash, pierce, strike).

Not only do I limit weapon advantage to weapons, but skills as well. Also the skills they learn have at least some sort of use and build on all characters. Say for instance Character A is a water mage, and Character B is a monk with lightning gauntlets on. Character A has a water skill that has a chance of inflicting the status effect Drench. If enemy is inflicted with Drench, lightning elemental damage is increased by 50%, so Character B goes in with their lightning gauntlets and does critical(or more damage) to the enemy. Character B also has a skill that if an enemy is Drenched, then it will lower [stat](or any other additional effect) on said enemy. Having a sort of "combo" attack can benefit the character usefulness. Maybe even add special combo attacks when 2 of the characters are in battle. There are many ways to make each party member useful. You just have to play around and find each party member's "chemistry" with one another and the enemies you put in your game.
 

AsuranFish

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Some thoughts:


- Tailor certain dungeons to make certain characters/weapons/abilities shine. Using FFXI logic, maybe a good party for a dungeon full of skeletons would be Paladin, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage... A dungeon with tons of chest/mimics? Bring a Thief! Flying enemies? Bring an Archer.


- Make certain dungeons/missions centered around a character's development, and give that character a modest stat boost during that portion of the game. Under this idea, Edge from FFIV would have a stat boost against Rubicante, because he's riled up and wants to avenge his parents. Anger, determination, sorrow, things becoming especially personal, could all make a character temporarily stronger.


- Consider splitting up your party for plot reasons... FFVI did a good job of this, especially during the three paths part... in that time they showcased Locke, Celes, Sabin, Gau, Cyan, Shadow, Edgar, and Terra... Strago and Relm had their time as well... FFIX also did this well - although I didn't like being forced to use Quina...
 

Pierman Walter

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As well as mechanical differences, you can also use story reasons to swap out characters. Be careful to not make these reasons too contrived. For example, when the party enters the capital city, they discover that the thief and pirate characters are wanted dead or alive, which causes them to be constantly attacked and questioned by city guards, so it's a better idea to go without them. Or if the Mage character can't enter an evil Baron's estate because he belongs to a species that is fatally allergic to all the orange trees blossoming everywhere. Or if the paladin character was cursed by demons to be unable to enter holy ground, so he can't enter the temple dungeon.
 

BrandedTales

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Apologies about the novel; I spent a lot of time thinking about this, and the more I wrote, the more I thought about it.  Also, I ask that as you read this, please assume that I am intending this with all the best intentions!  If I come across negatively, please know I'm simply being philosophical!


For me, this answer has to address another more fundamental question:


Do you have too many characters?  Since you need a method, that means it isn't something that would occur inherently.  Go through each of your characters and decide if they are absolutely necessary.  Maybe some could be merged.  Maybe some could be cut all together.  Maybe some characters make more sense as NPC's that follow the party around from hub to hub rather than playable characters.  You get the same story value, but eliminate any anxiety about the player limiting to only a single group.  Maybe you've got 10 really cool class ideas, but only 7 important characters:  Save 3 of those class ideas for the next game.  If the character isn't necessary, get rid of it!


Assessment complete?


Then let's move forward and assume each character is important, or assume that even if they aren't all unique snowflakes with importance, something about the game is inherently more fun by having a larger cast of playable characters.  Now we need to answer another question:


Why would I want the party members to switch?  (I don't mean this as a rhetorical question).  


The answer to this can't be:  I've made 100 characters and I'd like there to be variety because here's the deal:


We make games (hopefully) because we want others to enjoy them.  If somebody enjoys playing a single party through the whole thing, that's their right and luxury.  If there are characters that aren't intrinsically important to the story or the fun factor, let the player do as they wish.  If the game is good, you might get new playthroughs with different "super groups."  Do you need switching?


THAT SAID


You've thought about the above, you've made the changes you want to make (if any), and you definitely still want to encourage switching.  Here are my thoughts:


1) I like the idea of battle-swapping.  To me, this feels like everybody is in your party at all times, so it isn't really a swap.  Then you build all mechanics around the assumption of the entire player pool.


2)  I dislike the make everybody level up together unless you are coupling it with a railroad technique (such as Hard Counters -Frost mage needed to fight fire baddies,etc-, Required Characters for Specific Scenes, etc).  If you are going to use a system like that which forces a player to swap (or the game will suck), then you should make it as painless as possible.


3)  I'd encourage creating a mechanic that makes character swapping appealing to the player.  Examples:


  A)  Let's say the player is commanding an army.  Every character that hits level 10 becomes an officer.  The more officers, the better the gear held by the shops.  Therefore it becomes in the best interest for the player to try leveling everybody up... Doesn't have to, but he's missing out on something.  


  B) Another example might be the "win" mechanic comes by having Overall Party Level hit 500.  Since levels get further apart, the player has interest in trying to level horizontally rather than vertically.


  C) If a character passes a certain level, they "graduate" and become no longer playable on this arc/campaign/game.  This makes focus on a single character dangerous.


4) Split your parties up and have them handle different parts of the arc at the same time.  Then your party isn't exactly swapping:  You are simply pursuing multiple paths simultaneously.


Just some thoughts... Good luck with it!
 

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