Poor Mechanics in RPGs

bgillisp

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@vox novus: Actually, if the player can afford everything, then what is the point of money? Why not just give the player everything? Money Is in the game to make the player have to make a choice as to what to spend it on. So shouldn't we have to make some difficult decisions? If those decisions don't exist, they why not just drop money and hand the player the stuff at pre defined drops? It would be (essentially) the same effect, and would remove the null decision of buying stuff in shops that many games have today.

You see, you call a game broken if you can't afford everything, I actually say the opposite is true. The games economy is broken if the party CAN afford everything easily, as then money is meaningless.
 

Vox Novus

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I prefer to give the player choice on what they spend their money on not in making them not able to upgrade their characters. For example say each character has two weapon types they equip, they have about enough money to purchase all armor uprgrades for their characters but now they have to choose what weapon types they will buy for their characters; they can't afford both types because they also have to consider buying other stuff healing items and accesories. To me that's what I call a good economy, they can get what they need but not everything they could use. 

In your example you point out what would happen if they spent all their money on potions or whatever instead of equipment; If its really necessary for them to do so then either, A: you aren't giving them enough money to buy what is required for them to get through or B your battles are way too demanding. After all what's the point of those armor upgrades/etc you sell in town if you won't give them the money to actually buy them? That's where you give them a choice on what they have to buy.

I certainly didn't say they should be able to afford everything only a certain minimum. I personally hate playing, feeling like I've gone through every encounter I could have and then not be able to at least buy armor and a weapon upgrade for characters at the next new junction. Although maybe we are borderline getting into a personal preference on the subject rather than actual sound logical design. 
 

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A need for a good grind to get some nice equips and items is nice, but needing to grind for everything for a long time is not...


Another is that in most games that I played, shop equips aren't good anyway. Why buy them? Again, the shop became inherently useless.


A good example of useless equips sold in shop is FFXIII. You mostly get the equipments available in the shop at a point in time where you already have them in your characters, so there's really no point in even having them in shop. Sometimes you even already have much better equipments by the time a certain equip becomes available in shop.
 
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Eschaton

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In my time here, I've learned that there are those who appreciate having the option. Yes, having random encounters drop money means the player can wreck your game economy by farming gold, but some players find it fun. If you want to reach these players, they should have that option.

A feature in JRPGs that is gaining popularity is the option for the player to determine the frequency of random encounters or even disable them entirely. It's a good feature; it allows players who are more interested in powerleveling the chance to play how they want and it gives players who are interested in role-playing or tighter pacing the chance to play how they want. Everybody wins.
 
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A feature in JRPGs that is gaining popularity is the option for the player to determine the frequency of random encounters or even disable them entirely
I've done this in my last 2 games.  (Brief explanation: In my games the player can choose visible or invisible enemies.  Visible enemies can be dodged or you can get them to respawn repeatedly.  Allowing those who choose random the choice to vary the encounter rate is the equivalent of that.)

However, once you do that, you have to reconsider your economy in quite a major way if you want to ensure that everyone stands a reasonable (but not certain) chance of completing the game.  It is true that having the best gear only through exploration and/or doing quests will not appeal to some players, but no game is going to appeal to everyone in all respects.

It seems to me that the progression of gear excellence through successive shops is an example of "we always do what we've always done" without looking at the interplay of all the factors affecting gear acquisition.
 

bgillisp

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@Vox novus: I think we more agree than we think. If the player can only afford potions, and nothing else then either 1: The game is badly designed, as you should be able to afford a little (unless: The town could be a central hub that you will be at a while, and the goal is to be able to afford that gear a little later, or maybe there is a plot reason the town is so expensive, like the demon lord told the shopkeeper to not sell you gear at reasonable rates else he will kill his children), 2: It is early game, and the player has to first become powerful enough as to not lose all their money on a single dungeon run (many old dungeon crawlers were this way. At levels 1 - 2, all you can afford is to heal. After you gain a few levels though, then you can afford that Sword of Doom + 5), or 3: The player decided to buy 99 potions before going to the weapon and armor store. If it is #3, I think we would all agree that one is the player's fault and we shouldn't pander to them

@ksjp17: Exactly! And, most games I play you always have the money to buy all the gear when you get to it. That's what I'm calling a null decision (especially as in most games, you can't even choose different types of weapons/armor for the characters), as it is not really a decision at all.
 

Eschaton

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I think cost of equipment is a tool that tends to be underutilized. Cost can be a means of conveyance. For example, if I wanted to make the player feel poor and destitute, I'd price everything high and have little gold available to the player.

But, something else has been conveyed. For example, if there is a piece of equipment that is super high priced, trends have caused the player not to receive the message "I can't have this at this point in the game," instead the player gets the message "I just need to grind more."

The amount of money the player has is also conveying the idea that the player is coming along in the world from a poor nobody to a rich and important person in the world of the game. It's a powerful effect that gets negated when the player can just grind the money wheel.
 

tlst9999

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Oh. Here's one.

Boss monsters which combine high HP and Def AND minimal attack skills. The predictability and the tediousness makes the battle feel more like a chore than a boss fight.
 

Vox Novus

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Agree; the way to beat a boss should be having to overcome and react to strategies even more so than normal battles. A boss monster doesn't have to be an hp sponge to seem threatening; all you are doing in that case is boring your player.
 

TheHonorableRyu

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Some RPGs do a decent job of creating interesting battle mechanics and customization systems for the party members, but then botch the enemy troop and/or boss battle design.

 

Tedious HP sponge boss battles have already been mentioned. I'm a big fan of boss battles with multiple targets, parts, forms/status shifts, summoned lackies, etc., to create dynamic battles. But a lot of RPGs don't avail themselves of such ideas and just create the same HP sponge battles or heal-a-thons. 

 

Another related big problem area is when enemies lack variety and pose the same level of threat to the player.

 

Enemies in a given area should have a tangible variety of traits, capabilities, and threat levels, so that a "different combination of enemies will create very different encounters."

 



(from page 8 of VX Ace Make Your Own Game Tutorial VI: Creating Encounters Part 1)

 

When a player sees what they're up against, they should have some sort of reason to prioritize defeating or disabling some enemy targets over other, in other words, to think up a plan or strategy for how to best handle this particular encounter. 

 

 

But I've played more than enough RPGs where all or most of the enemies in an area tend to have similar HP/defenses and to deal roughly the damage. There's little to no strategy to deciding which enemy to take down first. The player just arbitrarily picks one enemy to prioritize, but they may as well have picked another one. Regardless of what enemies are present in the battle the player rehearses the same actions that work in every battle, and each battle plays out the same way. 

 

If there's a bunch of enemies the strategy is pretty much the same "focus on one enemy or use multiple target skills  to reduce the numbers as quickly as possible so we take less hits." It's not something specific to the types of enemies themselves, or any basic synergy the enemy troop might have, like "defeat or disable this particular enemy first because its spells buff the physical defenses of all its allies, most of whom already resist magical attacks" or "defeat or disable these two enemies on the same turn, because both can revive their defeated allies and I also don't want them to revive each other."
 
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EternalShadow

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There's a very good understanding of bad game design mechanics being demonstrated here!

Now, lessee... A bad mechanic would be a lack of save points - many older games had these so you kept having to redo large segments if you failed, and that artificially lengthened the gameplay time when not much game data could fit on the disk. Nowadays, it is easier to make more game data and so now having this occur is just frustrating.

Oh, and random battle options... The Last Remnant ~_~
 

Eschaton

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I think it is bad design if a developer wants to emphasize exploration in their game, but has a high random encounter rate in the same area.  Sure, attrition might create some difficulty, but a bunch of enemies depleting my resources is going to make me want to get from point A to point B faster.  So, if you want your players to explore your maps, your enemies should be easy and less numerous.  Too many enemies will discourage exploration.

Just look at Metroid.  Enemies aren't too threatening in Metroid games because the designers want the player to explore.  If the enemies were too threatening, that would discourage exploration.

Tl;dr - random encounters and tough enemies stop the player from exploring.
 

Vox Novus

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Speaking of this, I am reminded of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. The game makes the world highly explorable by the player but then adds a time limit which prevents the player from seeing everything and in some ways discourages exploration. Essentially a lesson to take from this is make sure your game mechanics enhance the experience you are trying to offer not take away from it, otherwise you may as well not have them.

edit- @hotfirelegend

With Save points it is important to consider how your battles effect the player; if the player can save only at certain times battles should slowly wear the player out so that by the time they are about to reach the next save/restore point they feel a legitimate need to reach it and utilize it. Going along with this the relative difficulty of encounters should then be lower to aid in this so that not one battle is threatening but multiple battles over time.

If the player can save anytime there is more freedom by the developer to make more difficult specific encounters without frustrating the player by feeling like if they lose they have to unfairly repeat large segments of a dungeon.

Also an issue with save points is that they prevent the player from stopping the game when they want to; some games that utilize save points circumvent this by temporary quick saves which allow you to quit at anytime if you choose to use them and are deleted upon being re-loaded.
 
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Eschaton

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Quick-saving is IMHO the best compromise available to the "save anywhere" problem (the player's choices are impermanent and without meaningful consequences).  People have jobs and stuff.  They need to be able to quit whenever.

But, role-playing is an aspect that gets sacrificed in the name of convenience when allowing the player to save anywhere.  "I didn't like the outcome of this choice.  Good thing I saved right before the encounter."
 

Milennin

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But, role-playing is an aspect that gets sacrificed in the name of convenience when allowing the player to save anywhere.  "I didn't like the outcome of this choice.  Good thing I saved right before the encounter."
It depends on how well the game manages to inform the player about the potential consequences of their choices. I've seen choices in RPG Maker games that were presented way too vaguely to make a proper decision from, that kind of stuff makes people return to a previous save state to try the other options for better results.

Or when you have good and bad choices, but it isn't made obvious to the player that they're like that, so making the bad choice results in something that negatively impacts the player or makes them lose out on something.

If you make sure the player is well informed about the choice they're going to make, and make sure the result of that choice stays true to the information you've given the player about it, I doubt many people would abuse save states to get the best results - in a best case scenario, there is no best result, just different results, in which case I'd consider it a good thing if a player is interested in taking their time to see what the other options do.
 

Vox Novus

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How does everyone feel about running in rpgs? Personally I've come to the decision that if you are going to let the player run you might as just let them run from encounters.

Even not having running at a 100% rate you are still going to have those players that try to run most of the time anyway. I play rpgs under the mind set that "I'm here for the combat me playing this rpg is my commitment to go through the battles because that's part of the rpg genre." That being said I almost never run, the only instances I would do so are because 1. My characters are dying and I don't think I will win the battle (in which case I'd like to successfully run) or 2. My characters have become obviously over-powered for the current area and I'm trying to just move things along quicker (again in which case I'd like to successfully run).

I played Legionwood: Tale of two swords on the forums by Dark Gaia and its a fun old-school style rpg but running bothered me in this game. Encounters were high and I found myself getting over-powered yet I could never seem to run from encounters meaning I had to fight them and just ended up getting even more over-powered. It also greatly increased my play-time beyond what it would have been normally.

You could make some sort of minor punishment for running, small currency loss (like in Final fantasy IX). Of course under normal circumstances not getting the rewards from battle; the experience, currency and items could be considered a punishment or balance to the system in of itself.
 

bgillisp

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In my current project, you have 100% chance to run away, unless the party is surrounded or cannot run for other reasons (which only happens in plot specific fights anyways).
 

Vox Novus

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Another point worth making is that if the player can run at will you never have to worry about a player being trapped in a dungeon and low on supplies and being unable to return to town to purchase more. Of course if the average player is getting themselves into that scenario your encounter or economy design is probably off.
 

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This isn't quite a 'bad' game design since it's the standard, but since I fell in love with Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid for character progression (which fails when everyone becomes identical; Kimahri never saw the light of day in my party and I was offended when he was smiling in the endgame cutscene. It was as if he felt he actually did something), I have grown to dsilike the traditional 'gain experience then level up' way of doing things, at least in regard to battling enemies.

The same formula can be used in other ways to make it refreshing, but it's become stale to me as the cookie-cutter way of growth.

Likely why I like Final Fantasy XIII's CP system. 
 

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