Introduction of new character

kairi_key

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So, before we dig into the topic, let me bring this up first.
I've been thinking harder about the importance of healing items vs healing magic. I wanted to introduce a healer character later in the game like at about second or third dungeon to give players time to play with healing items. But then, if I introduce a healer not very early, players might wanna keep stock up on healing items and when they finally get the healer, those items will become less important and hoarded in the inventory. This made me realize a simple fact that introducing a new character into a gameplay is simply opening up new ways of interacting with the game.

And it get back to the topic. How do you manage the introduction of a new character, or gameplay-style? Which type of character do you introduce first or later? And what's the problem you found in such order of character introduction?
Like, for a basic case, most games would introduce the first character as a balanced dps class because it is easier to manage and how most rpg gameplay's core mechanic revolve around damaging the opposite party. There would be a new problem if you decided to make a mage character, or thief character as the starting character. If you ever dealt with these kind of problems, how did you manage it?
 

Catog

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For me, it'd be from knowing what your current party's checks and balances are. For example, if you've got a tank, suddenly a dungeon full of magic users and debuffers are going to be a big problem for that party member. So that's when you start bringing in characters like a mage or a buffer that can counteract them. So the player learns that that character is going to be useful against those sort of enemies.

From there, it's about attacking common party configurations and forcing the player to think outside the box and using characters they wouldn't otherwise use in order to survive. Sure, at a certain level, you can just strong arm your way through dungeons, but that's not very efficient, and RPG players LOVE efficiency. Makes them look smart ;P
 

Kes

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Introducing a character is not a mechanic as such, though your subsidiary thoughts abouts healing items vs healer would be.
[MOVE]General Discussion[/MOVE]
 

Cythera

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Personally, when I introduce a new character, I force a 'tutorial' battle shortly after they're added to the party. Leave a building, get attacked by an enemy, and the new character jumps in and says something along the lines "Hey, I got this! My [insert skill/spell name] will take care of [insert enemy trait/skill]!" This way, players can get a quick sense of what that character can do without breaking game immersion with a random text box saying "This class is good at inflicting debuffs on enemies! Use the Blind spell against physical attackers!"
Also, don't worry about introducing your healer later in the game; you don't have to start with one. I give a physical tank first, magical offense, physical offense, then healer last in my game (about 1.5-2 hours in). The concern with introducing a healer last if you do plan on having a healer class is making sure the party has access to sufficient recovery items. Remember: the player is extremely unlikely to know your game as closely as you do. You may know how to beat the enemies without blinking, but a player won't. Regardless of what characters you choose to introduce first or last, the enemies in that area should reflect it. Don't start the player with a squishy mage and throw a bunch of high physical dps from the get-go. That forces people to play optimally without experience with the character yet. When you first get a new character, the next few fights should be a learning period.
 

Tai_MT

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So, before we dig into the topic, let me bring this up first.
I've been thinking harder about the importance of healing items vs healing magic. I wanted to introduce a healer character later in the game like at about second or third dungeon to give players time to play with healing items. But then, if I introduce a healer not very early, players might wanna keep stock up on healing items and when they finally get the healer, those items will become less important and hoarded in the inventory.
This is true. Healing by MP is often 10x to 50x more resource efficient than healing by items.

Personally, I would probably limit the usefulness of both. For example, making the Healer only able to heal INSIDE of combat, while healing outside of combat would require the usage of consumables. But, I'd only do something like that if I wanted my consumables to remain relevant for the entire game and not become absolutely useless once the Dedicated Healer is given to the players.

This made me realize a simple fact that introducing a new character into a gameplay is simply opening up new ways of interacting with the game.
This is true, probably in more ways than you currently realize.

And it get back to the topic. How do you manage the introduction of a new character, or gameplay-style? Which type of character do you introduce first or later? And what's the problem you found in such order of character introduction?
Honestly, it doesn't really matter what order they're introduced. The only thing you need to remember is what party members are in the party at any given point and to balance content around who is currently available.

If you're asking me, personally, how I've implemented new characters... then I guess I can oblige, though I'm not sure it will make much sense.

1. First character is introduced. This character cannot be removed from the party ever, and is the "audience stand-in" type character. His unique skills means he can't do much of anything without building up TP. However, his TP skills essentially act as "nukes". He also has a lot of skills that offer flat buffs to him and to the entire party. His entire schtick is that he's the "heavy hitter" of the group. Or, rather, he can turn everyone into "heavy hitters".
2. The next character introduced is a toss up between two, depending on what story choice the player has made. This is either the "Magic Knight" or the "Witch". While these two classes act very differently, they have one thing in common. They can both use "elemental" attacks. This means I can now introduce combat that requires those "elemental attacks" be used in order to win more quickly. Likewise, the "Magic Knight" relies fairly heavily on the "Attack" stat while the "Witch" will rely fairly heavily on the "Magic" stat. Depending on what you get, your overall "approach" to combat as a player will change (including which equipment they are using at any given time), but they'll both have access to elemental attacks which will put enemies down quicker.
3. A little later, the player gets the character they did not "pick" from step two there. So, the player will then have a party of two melee fighters as well as two mages (Magic Knight pulls double duty since it can hit almost as hard as the main character in terms of melee and can hit almost as hard as the Witch can hit in terms of magic). Once this happens, I can throw larger groups of enemies at the player with a variety of compositions (both magical and physical). The second party member no longer needs to be jealously protected in order to keep access to Elemental Damage. Likewise, Witch abilities can inflict states on the enemies while Magic Knight abilities can make Elemental Damage more powerful.
4. After 1/4th of the game is complete, the player (again, through choices they've made) will get access to a Pirate, a Thief, or a Paladin. The Thief specializes in "Agility" type attacks and will be the first access the player will have to this attack stat, which means I can introduce enemies that are weak to this attack stat (heavily armored foes). The "Pirate" is a mix between a "Rogue" and a "Warrior" class that specializes in drawing aggro, multi-targeting enemies (most classes are very limited and cannot hit more than one enemy at a time), and generally just changing the entire battlefield. The "Paladin" is a mixture between a mage and a warrior with a different twist. Basically, they are more of a "traditional" tank that can use their Defense stat as an attacking stat. If the player has the Pirate, I can introduce enemies that require their aggro be drawn as well as far more numerous enemies in a fight (likely hitting the 8 enemy limit). If the player gets the "Tank", I can introduce enemies that now take damage to the element of "Life" as well as take damage from having low attack stats. Basically, the thing these all have in common is that they are going to be effective against "high defense" enemies. The "Agility" stat bypasses "Defense" and uses "Luck" as the defense stat. Meanwhile, the "Tank" bypasses "Defense" and uses "Attack" as the defense stat for enemies. No matter who you end up with, you'll be able to take on a whole new set of foes and challenges.
5. The next choice is between two of the 3 from the last step. They cover the same things as mentioned before.
6. The next choice is whomever you didn't get in the last two choices. If you got the Thief and Pirate there, you'll get the Paladin here.
7. The last set of characters you get is based, once more, on choices the player has made up to this point. Likewise, this is the halfway point of the game. Their final choices are between "Cleric" and "Ranger". The "Cleric" offers the only potential "healing" magic of the game, and is more traditionally a "mage" type character. By "healing" magic, I mean that they can clear states from the party using magic. They cannot directly heal anyone, though they can gain boosts to healing by using items on others. Likewise, they have a "full party" resurrect spell. Other than that, they can use "Life" magic as well, and will likely be the first opportunity you have to use "Blunt" weaponry, which means you have a far more efficient way of dealing with "heavily armored" enemies than hitting their Attack stat or their Luck stat (namely, blunt weaponry does something like 300-400% more damage than a standard attack). The "Cleric" can also "Silver" your weapons for a little while which are effective against certain enemies (including the heavily armored ones!). The "Ranger" on the other hand uses "Nature" magic and is the only character capable of doing so. This character is one of the few that can also do "Piercing" damage, but her specialty is simply "harassing" the enemy. She can destroy MP pools of enemies, inflict "Bleed" (she is the only one able to inflict this state), can charge ally TP, enchant allies weapons with "Nature" elements, reduce MP costs of ally skills, give some of her own MP to allies, and do "guaranteed" damage to enemies that ignores any defensive stat they have. The cleric allows me to introduce more "armored" enemies as well as other enemies that are weak to Silver and to Life... and more enemies that will inflict states on the party. The "Ranger" allows me to introduce more enemies weak to "Nature" elements as well as far more mage types.
8. This character is simply the one you didn't get in step 7.
9. This character is completely optional. If you do all the right things in all the right places, you can get access to a "hidden" 9th character that is just a "Necromancer". This is about 3/4ths of the way through the game. This character is your third "mage" type. But, he is exceptionally deadly. He is the only one able to cast "Death" element skills. He can transfer his TP to allies, inflict special states like "Zombie" and "Hell Fire" which no other character can do, enchant allies weapons with the "Death" element, use the enemy's Current MP against them as pure damage, and inflict a "Poison" on the enemy's MP. His magic skills are far superior to everyone else, except he is a cross between a "Rogue" and a "Mage". He is particularly adept at removing "hard targets" from the battlefield. Basically, anything that is difficult or time-consuming to kill. If he is introduced to the party, I can unlock the specific quests that require his particular talents (namely anything weak to Death skills) as well as "damage sponge" enemies. If he's not unlocked... then those quests stay locked and you never need deal with them.

Overall, it's an "escalation" of content with each new character. New rules to teach players, new information to be had, and new ways to fight. Each new character in the party allows me to unlock new aspects of my toolbox in terms of enemies and bosses since my player will now be capable of handling those foes.

I decided the order of unlock mostly by "story reasons". Likewise, I looked at what each "skill list" had as its strengths and weaknesses and decided on progression based upon what could be covered. By and large, most enemies in early game are simply "have more attack than they have defense" affairs. But, then I get to introduce "elements" to the game and now enemies that might have normally shrugged off some attacks, can be killed by exploiting the elemental weakness. Then, the player learns a more in-depth tutorial on "Agility" attacks and even "Life" elemental attacks. The player then learns more about states inflicted on them or in dealing with Mage type enemies. Each lesson is only important once the player has the necessary tools to deal with it. There is no sense pitting them against enemies, elements, skills, or damage types that they have no way to avoid or counter.

Like, for a basic case, most games would introduce the first character as a balanced dps class because it is easier to manage and how most rpg gameplay's core mechanic revolve around damaging the opposite party. There would be a new problem if you decided to make a mage character, or thief character as the starting character. If you ever dealt with these kind of problems, how did you manage it?
As I mentioned before, you simply balance the combat for what you have access to. You could use a Rogue or a Mage in the same way you use a DPS. You just make their skills and methods of attack just as effective as you would've with the DPS. The only difference is that a player is probably going to need to be taught about "MP" and "Elements" earlier than if you'd started them with a "balanced DPS". I chose a "Balanced" type character who specialized in damage spikes (see also: Nukes). So, combat needs to be balanced around that. I used "TP" to balance it in that most of those damage spikes requires TP to activate. So, the longer combat goes on, the more powerful this character actually becomes and the higher the damage spikes become. There are even several pieces of equipment the player can find to "Preserve TP" between battles, so they can stockpile those nukes for boss fights if they want. The other layer of "balance" for that is that the nukes "take time" to set up. The player can't just walk in to a boss fight and cast "Nuke!" on the boss and deal a bunch of damage. It takes a turn or two to set up the nuke with the TP in order to launch it. This gives bosses time to use a skill or attack that can fiddle with the Nuke and take you longer to use it, or to delay you several turns after you've used the nuke in order to "heal up" or "remove states".

You just need to balance the content for what your characters have at their disposal.

What skills do they have?
What weapons and armor are available?
What levels are they most likely to be at?
What elements are available to them?
What methods of state removal and HP restoral are available?
 

Black Pagan

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How do you manage the introduction of a new character, or Gameplay-style?

In my Game, I have 3 Characters - Samurai, Martial Artist and a Sorceress. The Martial Artist is introduced as an NPC who gives a Quest who later joins the Main Character. The Sorceress is first introduced as a Boss Character on the Bad guy's Team, You fight her and then she teams up with you after being convinced of your Cause.

Which type of character do you introduce first or later?

Well, I prefer to build up Characters according to their Strength, So for example the Martial Artist starts out with just the Weapon while the Sorceress has fully decked Rare Gear when she joins the Team. I believe in surprising the Player and making them feel glad they don't need to grind for the Gear all over again for the new Party member.

If you ever dealt with these kind of problems, how did you manage it?

I never really bothered much about Introductions, It would just be : "xxx has joined your Party" and they end up saying a Phrase. I guess you could indicate the Nature of the Character from naming the Gear they wear and choosing the choice of words for the Skills they use which would reveal their Roles to most Players.
 

kairi_key

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I might probably be too vague, lol. The reason I brought up the healer introduction because I wanna draw the connection that introducing new characters can give impact to the gameplay.

I think I meant to ask if you wanna introduce new character or gameplay how do you deal with the changes, like in the healer example I gave above. Not how to actually introduce the character, but the gameplay impact around it.
I just thought that the order of introduction can gave players different experience to how the gameplay open up, and also how us, the dev, design the game. Like, if you introduce magic late into the game, you will have to design different varieties of ways each character can interact with the enemies physically. Or if you introduce healer later, more work needs to be done on item gameplay's design since that is the only form of healing player will be engaged with until a healer is introduced.

That is what I wanna discuss. So let's share what we've found and worked around it.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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When I introduce a new character in my current game project, I like it to be right along a battle. This way I can use the battle to create a simple tutorial for any new skills or battle mechanics not before seen in the game. I prefer the tutorial to be very quick text with a simple explanation, because I really do not like long tutorials myself; and, I do not like to read a lot of text in a battle. I also prefer to right my own tutorial in a way that does not break the 4th wall.

Also, I prefer to get each character inserted into the gameplay as soon as possible, but in a way that makes sense in the story so it doesn't feel rushed. Sometimes things just need tool tips, sometimes a bit more explanation. My opinion is that it really depends on the situation and the mechanic being introduced.

One thing I pick up from watching let's plays of RM games is that a lot of people don't like getting bogged down by lengthy explanations. You have to decide how to give as much as possible in a short amount of time without overwhelming the player.
 

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