Party Size Considerations

TMS

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Despite several attempts, I've yet to finish an RPG Maker project, so right now I'm preparing to begin work on what might become my first game, and I'm debating with myself on how I should handle the player's party. A search of this forum shows me a number of threads asking things like, "how many party members is too many," but for my part I'm looking to keep the numbers down, so as to keep things simple for my first game, and since I don't think an army of characters is necessary. The last time I attempted the game, I had ideas for five playable characters. This time I'm looking at a maximum of six (three new characters replacing two of the original ones), but I'm debating with myself on whether or not I should be a little more selective.

Beyond just the simplicity of having fewer characters, the size of the group also changes the atmosphere of the game. Part of me would be fine with just having one playable character. I know RPG Maker isn't really geared toward single-character games, but there are some situations where I think it would be nice. As an example, I'd like to have my games include a few strange (and perhaps creepy) Easter eggs for players to stumble on. If you have the lone protagonist as the player's avatar and have him/her run across something like that, it's a much different feel from putting the same unusual thing in a standard RPG, where you have four or more characters present to comment on it and discuss what they've found.

Something I've considered is having one or more playable characters as temporary or periodical additions to the party. I could even have the game break away from the main party once in a while to follow these more independent characters, but that might be too ambitious for a first game. The biggest headache would probably be keeping the various inventories separate, which I'm not sure is easily possible without some kind of script/plugin.

I guess I'm posting this looking for examples of decisions other people have made with regard to party size that might help me with mine, or any opinions people may have on the subject. Besides that, some specific questions I have are:
  • Is it possible to make a single-character RPG with a turn-based battle system that isn't completely boring?
  • Would having a main character who's temporarily joined now and again by other characters be a better option?
  • What's the best way to handle separate inventories if I want a party to split up at some point? (I'll be using MV, myself, though answers for any platform might be helpful to somebody.)
 

TheoAllen

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Since it's your first game, you probably should determine what you're trying to achieve or learn in your first game. The party member size should be the least of your worry unless it is literally what you're trying to learn.

When I worked on my first game, I actually never had a problem deciding how many it was going to be. Because:
  • My game was an oversimplified dungeon crawler. No complex storyline.
  • I didn't need a separate party member.
  • I wanted to feel how to complete a game, designing a stage from start to finish, difficulty curve, designing boss, etc.
  • Getting confused with party size was irrelevant to my goal.
That said, I ended up using 3 party members because of these reasons
  • It was to test my battle system. 1 for melee, 1 for ranged (projectile), 1 another for ranged (instant animation, which is gun)
  • 3 party member is easier to balance for the purpose of the game.
  • It isn't overcrowded but also not too few because I wanted a small interaction between them.
Now to answer some of your questions
Is it possible to make a single-character RPG with a turn-based battle system that isn't completely boring?
There're many attempts to make the single-character game interesting. Most of them, however, resorting a bit of action. Whether it's timed-hit, or just go with action battle system.

Would having a main character who's temporarily joined now and again by other characters be a better option?
Not sure if this is relevant. I mean, if it works to present your story, why not?

What's the best way to handle separate inventories if I want a party to split up at some point? (I'll be using MV, myself, though answers for any platform might be helpful to somebody.)
This goes to support forum.
 

Oddball

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For the single charecter question, i think it really depends on what kind of atmosphere you want to have with your game. Keep in mind that with multipule party members, each can pick up where others lack. Keep in mind, you need to balance troops for whatever option you go with and what skills the charecters have
 

TMS

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Since it's your first game, you probably should determine what you're trying to achieve or learn in your first game. The party member size should be the least of your worry unless it is literally what you're trying to learn.
To be honest, I wasn't trying to achieve anything more specific than completing the game. I didn't mean it to be a learning exercise, except insofar that there will presumably be a learning curve involved. I've fiddled around with various RPG Makers for years now, so I was looking to put that experience towards actually finishing a game for once.
There're many attempts to make the single-character game interesting. Most of them, however, resorting a bit of action. Whether it's timed-hit, or just go with action battle system.
That makes sense. I'm not sure I want to add action elements to the game, but I have thought that there might be ways to make turn-based single combat interesting with commands that simulate the dynamics of a battle. It would take a lot of work, though.
For the single charecter question, i think it really depends on what kind of atmosphere you want to have with your game.
Part of my problem is that I'm attracted by both the kind of game where the lone playable character is a stand-in for the player and the kind of game where you have multiple characters with distinct personalities working together. I really doubt that I'll try and make the first type of game as a JRPG, but that's more due to mechanical concerns than anything else.
 

Animebryan

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There's a difference between the maximum party size in battle & total recruitable members overall. Look at FF7. Maximum number of battling members is 3 (keeps your party from being overwhelming, excluding crazy materia setups), but the total characters you can recruit is 9. Each character has different stats & Limit Breaks so its a matter of preference for the player. Making a single character RPG is also doable, such as the original Dragon Quest (which I'm remaking). Just remember that if do go the multiple member route, make sure they are diverse enough so they're not too similar from one another so it makes a difference which one a player uses.
 

Milennin

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  • Is it possible to make a single-character RPG with a turn-based battle system that isn't completely boring?
  • Would having a main character who's temporarily joined now and again by other characters be a better option?
  • What's the best way to handle separate inventories if I want a party to split up at some point? (I'll be using MV, myself, though answers for any platform might be helpful to somebody.)
  • Sure, but I think it would be harder to pull off than a game with at least 2 or 3 playable characters if you don't want it to be boring.
  • If the game is very progression-focused, I wouldn't, since it would feel pointless to invest in characters that only join temporarily. It also wouldn't work if their skill sets are quite complicated, since you wouldn't get the time to learn what they do before they leave again. If they don't need to be invested in, and aren't too complex in their skill sets, I could see it working out fine.
  • Use few unique items so using variables to store everything isn't a massive pain to implement, or I'm sure there's some plugin for that as well.
 

JayStG

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Could you have points in the game where the party is a single player? And a larger party at other points.
 

TMS

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There's a difference between the maximum party size in battle & total recruitable members overall.
Since you bring it up, I was thinking about that as well. Part of my reason for keeping the number of playable characters small was so that all of them (or at least most of them) could participate in battle at once.
Making a single character RPG is also doable, such as the original Dragon Quest (which I'm remaking).
Huh. I wasn't aware the first Dragon Quest didn't use a party system. Was it actually any good? I'd be interested in learning how they handled it.
If the game is very progression-focused, I wouldn't, since it would feel pointless to invest in characters that only join temporarily. It also wouldn't work if their skill sets are quite complicated, since you wouldn't get the time to learn what they do before they leave again. If they don't need to be invested in, and aren't too complex in their skill sets, I could see it working out fine.
That's a good point, although, what do you mean by "progression-focused"? Is that just in terms of leveling characters up, or is there more to it than that? One possible solution would be to have the characters automatically leveled up if and when they rejoin the party. I'm planning on either having it so that the player can use all available characters at once, or so that party members earn experience even from battles they don't directly participate in, which would prevent unused characters from getting "left behind."
 

Wavelength

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Is it possible to make a single-character RPG with a turn-based battle system that isn't completely boring?
It's absolutely possible, but it's harder than making a system with 3 or 4 characters interesting. Generally, you will want to add some extra mechanics - for example Cooldowns, Semi-Random Skill Availability, Additional Skill Resources (especially if randomized each battle), Combos (between skills), or Enemy-Based Skill Effects (effects that are different against different enemies). Unique enemies and troop eventing are helpful, too.

Adventure Quest (browser game) is a good example of an older game that made single-player turn-based combat feel good. Slay the Spire is a good example of a recent game that absolutely nailed it.

Would having a main character who's temporarily joined now and again by other characters be a better option?
Maybe. Personally, I've never been a fan of this format: single-player will end up feeling too different than duo combat, and the games becomes hard to balance around either. And when I find an ally I really enjoy having alongside me, they're gone too quickly.

What's the best way to handle separate inventories if I want a party to split up at some point? (I'll be using MV, myself, though answers for any platform might be helpful to somebody.)
I think Tsukihime has a Party Manager plugin that can help you with this. However, I consider it an "acceptable contrivance" to just allow both parties to keep the same inventory. Sure it's unrealistic, but it makes gameplay a lot smoother, not being blindsided by an empty inventory (because you're now with the "other party") when you need it most.

Final thought: outside of battle, not having (or needing) all the party members to discuss things changes things quite a bit. Generally, it's a great idea to make heavy use of NPCs - have several recurring NPCs that develop personalities, and allow the player to bounce conversation off of. Some games even have a pet (or similar) that can serve as a sounding board for the lone main character without making them look like a crazy guy who talks to himself all the time.
 

Aesica

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Is it possible to make a single-character RPG with a turn-based battle system that isn't completely boring?
Of course it is, however you need to make sure the battle system has more going on than just "you attack, the enemy attacks, etc" repeat until either side is dead. You'll want enemies to do things that requires the player to adapt their actions on a given turn, such as an enemy ready to counterattack, buffing itself with a spell reflection barrier, not paying attention so it'll take more damage, etc."

Would having a main character who's temporarily joined now and again by other characters be a better option?
You mean temporary characters that come and go, leaving the player occasionally alone again? I dunno, people might get annoyed at that since the usual route is "main character starts alone, then grows his/her party as the story progresses." (It represents starting simple, then adding complexity to the gameplay)

What's the best way to handle separate inventories if I want a party to split up at some point? (I'll be using MV, myself, though answers for any platform might be helpful to somebody.)
You'll need a plugin for that. Honestly though, I think it's okay to just let each party share a sort of global item pool. Otherwise, how do you decide (when your party splits into groups of 2+) who gets all the things and who gets nothing?
 

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I am suprised that nobody seems to know Pokemon. Most fights in Pokemon are 1 vs 1 and if you aren´t overleveled, quite enjoyable. While you can change your Pokemon during a battle against a Pokemon, it´s rarely necessary, so the battles are really 1 vs 1.
 

Kes

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@Baphomet people do know their Pokemon, but probably considered it not relevant for the type of game proposed for discussion.
 

CraneSoft

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Is it possible to make a single-character RPG with a turn-based battle system that isn't completely boring?
Yes. And in fact, single-character RPGs allows implementation of battle mechanics that would be otherwise too complicated to manage or balance for a full-party. You can do a lot of unique stuff with eventing alone and will be less-reliant on custom scripts/plugins. If you add character customization on top of that, it's probably be less boring than using generic 4-man parties with fixed or otherwise limited roles.
 

Black Pagan

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Since its your first Game, Why not just make a Single Player Game ? Instead of adding other Characters which will require their own classes and skills and gear, Which will take forever to make and plan, Why not just make them into "Pets" that will join you from time to time ? That way, You can limit their Skills to minimum and have a diverse amount of Pets to fight besides you !

You can always get away by giving them just 1 Passive and 1 Active Skill, Set them on Auto Battle so you don't have to worry about controlling them.
 

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