Locking Multiple Party Members: Too Restrictive?

MoonBunny

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I've been bouncing this idea around in my head for a while now, but can't come to a conclusion.
With my project, I have 6+ planned permanent party members along with some ideas for guest members. However, with the story I have drafted to this point, two characters (being the player character, and the story's main protagonist), are members that I want to have permanently locked into the party. Would this be too restrictive for a typical party of four characters?

I also have concerns with the restrictions limiting the strategies you can deploy. I certainly want to keep strategy as the core for tougher combat encounters, rather than brute force. It conflicts with my plans for the main story, and focusing on the relationship between these two characters which are locked in. Significant plot events wouldn't quite work out if you didn't actively have the pair in use.

Any suggestions or solutions would help a great deal. It's difficult to balance the game at the moment with this going unresolved.
 

The Stranger

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In a party of four? Yes, locking off two of those four slots would be pretty restrictive, imo; more so if those two characters turn out to have very specific or limited roles.

If you introduce the extra forced characer early enough, before letting the player create their ideal party, then they might not be as irritated by having half their party locked. You could also simply not force this other character upon the player, and just have said character appear in any important plot related scene; quite a few games use this method. You could also have them as a guest character who increases the party limit to five, that way the player isn't forced to use a character they don't want to have.

Why are the main protagonist and the player character different entities?
 

estriole

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I've been bouncing this idea around in my head for a while now, but can't come to a conclusion.
With my project, I have 6+ planned permanent party members along with some ideas for guest members. However, with the story I have drafted to this point, two characters (being the player character, and the story's main protagonist), are members that I want to have permanently locked into the party. Would this be too restrictive for a typical party of four characters?

I also have concerns with the restrictions limiting the strategies you can deploy. I certainly want to keep strategy as the core for tougher combat encounters, rather than brute force. It conflicts with my plans for the main story, and focusing on the relationship between these two characters which are locked in. Significant plot events wouldn't quite work out if you didn't actively have the pair in use.

Any suggestions or solutions would help a great deal. It's difficult to balance the game at the moment with this going unresolved.
For me it's still okay to lock 2 / 4 member...
you can still customize half your battle members...

of course it would be better to do what @The Stranger above do... adding the story MC as guest member could work...
hope this help.
 

MoonBunny

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In a party of four? Yes, locking off two of those four slots would be pretty restrictive, imo; more so if those two characters turn out to have very specific or limited roles.

If you introduce the extra forced characer early enough, before letting the player create their ideal party, then they might not be as irritated by having half their party locked. You could also simply not force this other character upon the player, and just have said character appear in any important plot related scene; quite a few games use this method. You could also have them as a guest character who increases the party limit to five, that way the player isn't forced to use a character they don't want to have.

Why are the main protagonist and the player character different entities?
The second fixed member is introduced shortly after the game begins, not immediately mind. I have a subclass system to allow a bit more freedom with what you can do with a character, so this can possibly work as a way to allow more strategy with each member. I would prefer not to bump up party size, but I can if there really isn't another way around the problems.
As for why the protagonist and player character are different, the player is meant to be more of an ally to the heroine rather than controlling her directly. The attention isn't all directed towards you, but you're still crucial to her mission, even though neither of you start out being aware of it.
 

asanogaijin

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I would definitely leave it up to the player. There's always a difference between the battle component and the event component of games, and in this kind of RPG the "player" isn't the "main character" but rather simply controls the main character + the party. (As opposed to games like Skyrim where you are supposed to feel like you ARE the main character)

Limiting the player's option to have all their favorite characters in the battle party at the same time would be more detrimental than the benefit of the smaller story component with having the two main characters in the battle party constantly.
 

Milennin

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I don't see a problem with it. I like it when the characters in the party are also the ones taking part in the story. That's way better than playing a party of randoms (side characters), and then during cutscenes the main characters suddenly jump out to take over for some dialogue section, and then switch out again when combat is taking place.
 

LightBorneX

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It's your story. Do what you want. That's like people telling an author "no, I'm sorry, you can't have that girl die yet."

People can still customize half the team. It gives them options. If you add enough cut scenes where the two main characters are needed or interact with each other, I think people will get the point that there's an important reason that they are both around.
 

ATT_Turan

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It depends on what your game is about. If the emphasis in your game is the story between those two characters, then obviously it's more important that they both be in your party. Or not! Just because the heroine isn't actively fighting in the party doesn't mean she can't be physically with them for story purposes.

If the emphasis is on a tactical combat system based on different skills from different classes, then full customization of your party might be more important.

But, honestly, you only have 4 party members, and it's presumed that "your" character will always be there, so it's not like locking one more makes much difference.

If this were Suikoden, which is supposed to be all about collecting and customizing many party members, and 3 out of the 6 are locked, that would be more annoying.

Incidentally, if you do feel concerned about this, that would be a pretty easy way to alleviate it - just allow 1 or 2 more party members.
 

TheoAllen

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To fully answer this question, we need the whole context of the game design, your game design, your game demo. The answer can be either yes or no depending on what it is.

But we can focus on a different matter.
If you start locking two party members and you plan to have EXP and levels for each party member. You accept the fact that two permanent party members will have enough EXP to level up more than other flexible party members.

About balancing. You can balance the game by thinking of the two permanent party members as the core of your game. And consider other party members as "equipment", "extra skill to equip", "familiar", and the likes, even tho they are technically not.

Imo, it is probably easier to balance the game by having permanent party members than having a fully customized one. Where is your problem?
 

Aesica

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I never really understood why developers think they need to lock party members in the first place. I mean, a party of 6 is still traveling together, and while only 3-4 may be active in the battle, that doesn't necessarily mean the others 2-3 are just standing around. Maybe they're off fighting other things nearby. So if the "main" characters are still traveling together and such, why do they need to be locked in the active party?
 

BK-tdm

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Simply dont set a role to the 2 locked characters, make them be able to do everything/switch roles at will (since well, MC) that way you give enough freedom to the player as to assemble the party as they wish, if they dont like the characters though... thats on them, they're the main characters :kaoswt2:
 

Wavelength

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It's a little restrictive, but it's not necessarily too restrictive. That really depends on your game and what you're trying to accomplish. A better question is whether locking these party members into your active battle party is necessary in the first place.

Most people can willingly suspend all disbelief about the "reserve party" as long as the characters are actively traveling together. In the same way that players can accept that you can only use four characters to fight in life-or-death combat in the wild (which makes no sense when you think about it), they accept that even the reserve members should be thought about, from a narrative point of view, as every bit as active in the fights as the active party. They are still full participants in the plot and that doesn't create a lot of cognitive dissonance in the player's mind. It's perfectly OK.

Additionally, there are some gameplay considerations you do have to think about. Do these two characters make up the "core" of your game's battle system (perhaps, for example, their combined actions create a party aura that affect your other two members for the rest of the turn... or perhaps they are the two all-rounders that you base balance off of, while the other characters specialize very heavily), and combat gameplay would feel awkward without one or both of them... or are you simply limiting the creative combinations that players can come up with? Perhaps four other characters, all together, would be a really fun and solid strategy. Don't forget that strategy can (and probably should) take place mostly in battle, but team compositions are a fun thing to mix around and experiment with too.

Now, that being said, if all else is equal then it's best to use gameplay to reinforce themes and narrative - so if you have two characters that are clearly the most active and important participants in the plot, it can be a good thing to have them working together in the active party in each fight, and if you have a lot of in-battle dialogue that relies on these characters being there, then yes, it's nice to actually have them onscreen in the combat (although, again, players aren't too jarred by having them talk if they're in the reserve party).

Trails in the Sky is a good example of an excellent game that always forces the two leads (Estelle and Joshua) to be in the main party, with a very few exceptions throughout the game where they split up. But in Trails, you never actually have a roster of more than four members. The large cast of characters join, leave, and rejoin the pair throughout the game.

For most games, I would prefer being able to completely choose my party, but there are certainly some games where locking multiple members can work well.
 

GBJackson

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There are plugins you can get that allow you to increase the active party size. Just because RM defaults to a 4-character party doesn't mean you are forced to go tha route... If you want there to be six regular characters in the party, then look into a plugin that actually allows six characters in combat. I would say that the biggest decision needs to be whether or not you have visible followers on the map. Six characters means quite a long line on the screen, and it may look a little silly to some players while others won't care.

Which version of RPG Maker are you using, by the way?
 

Htlaets

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Trails in the Sky does this, and it works great, so I don't see a problem. It really depends on the way your game is structured.
 

a3xgf

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If characters are locked for story reasons, I don't see the problem. I usually play games to enjoy their stories, and if the story considers that forcing two member in the party is required, it is fine.

Not all games are "go as you want a do as please", there are games that are more restrictive because there is also a better narrative behind that usually doesn't match too well with freedom (there are exceptions of course, that give great stories and great freedom, but usually that is for great productions rather than RPG Maker Games).

Increasing the party size is also an option if you want to give more versatility. Beign about to die and haivng half of the members of the group fighting is quite stupid, yet RPG-typical. I don't know what plugins can do that though, but as someone else said, there are.
 

MoonBunny

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There are plugins you can get that allow you to increase the active party size. Just because RM defaults to a 4-character party doesn't mean you are forced to go tha route... If you want there to be six regular characters in the party, then look into a plugin that actually allows six characters in combat. I would say that the biggest decision needs to be whether or not you have visible followers on the map. Six characters means quite a long line on the screen, and it may look a little silly to some players while others won't care.

Which version of RPG Maker are you using, by the way?
I'm aware of plugins that would allow for more party members, and I suppose I could do just that, but it's not something I want to do. Followers aren't enabled, so it's just your player character visible during travel.
The locking of the members is also for narrative's sake. I feel that certain planned events simply won't have the right effect if you're not using the pair.
 

GBJackson

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I'm aware of plugins that would allow for more party members, and I suppose I could do just that, but it's not something I want to do. Followers aren't enabled, so it's just your player character visible during travel.
The locking of the members is also for narrative's sake. I feel that certain planned events simply won't have the right effect if you're not using the pair.
At the end of the day, we must decide two thing:

1 - The feel we are aiming for with our games
2 - The narrative we want our games to tell.

We should not worry about anything beyond what we have direct control over. And we do not have control over what people may or may not think in terms of how restrictive our narrative might feel because of RM's default party size limit.

Having said that, I still feel that using a plugin to extend your overall party size is your best bet. You can leave "show followers" off for a party of five or six just like you can for a party of four. I'd aim for a party of five. Treat your main two characters as if they were one, since your narrative will call for them to always be in the party. This will leave you with three active companion slots just like there would be in a default game with one main character instead of two. That way, the game itself will be no more or less restrictive than it is by default.
 

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