Poor Mechanics in RPGs

Neo Soul Gamer

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A good battle interface is necessary for ATBs as well as any game with active elements (ABS's, MOBA's, RTS's, Fighting Games, etc.).  If it takes the player 14 clicks to select the skill they want to use, of course they're not going to use it in an ATB (or MOBA or RTS or Fighting Game).  Hotkeys, friendly scrolling, large grids with readable icons, etc. are helpful in designing a good ATB.
I think the appeal of ATB, as Wavelength describes it, makes perfect sense. Especially when talking about the need of a good battle interface. But ATBs are only fun for me when it's PvP. I don't care when I'm up against AI. They're choosing attacks in a fraction of a second. It's not like the AI has to spend time thinking or sifting through menus to choose their attacks. To me, this puts the player at a disadvantage through the existence of the ATB system alone. I would consider this to be "Fake Difficulty." 

There was one final boss battle where I was about 20 minutes in, had got to the point where the battle was going to be mine in just a couple of turns, and then I had a small sneezing fit.  During that time enemy healing took place, the boss's mega skill got charged up and I ended up with Game Over.  No, not ever again.
BTW, this actually made me laugh. That was hilarious.

And thanks for the great feedback guys. I love topics like this. I've almost read the entire thread.
 

trouble time

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I think that there are significant drawbacks even to the way Wavelength describes it, because it still militates against any sort of deep strategy.  it encourages reliance on just a few skills that you can remember, that are probably near the top of the skill list so that you don't use any time scrolling through, ditto items near the top of the inventory, because spending time to go down either list could mean that the enemy gets another hit in.

It also cannot take account of the unexpected.  There was one final boss battle where I was about 20 minutes in, had got to the point where the battle was going to be mine in just a couple of turns, and then I had a small sneezing fit.  During that time enemy healing took place, the boss's mega skill got charged up and I ended up with Game Over.  No, not ever again.
I disagree, there's no way that an ATB can prevent deep strategizing when people can play fighting games. The problem is you need to design based around the speed people need to play at, which can mean limting the number of skills or creating a different input method than using a list and menus.
 

BadMinotaur

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There are "Real ATBs" and "Faux ATBs".

Faux ATBs are ones like RPG Maker 3.  You wait for the gauges to fill up, then the action pauses while you work through the menus and select your action.  These are dumb.  They don't belong anywhere.  Like you say, they are CTBs with additional unnecessary downtime spent waiting for bars to fill up.
Even these have a place. Grandia's entire schtick is that you wait for your character's turn to come up on their IP bar, then time pauses while you select your action. But you can see where your enemies are on the bar too, and enemies and allies alike can influence how long it takes someone to reach their turn. It's possible, with a planned-out strategy, mastery of the mechanics and some luck, to get a perfect victory on major storyline bosses with this system.
 

Neo Soul Gamer

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Even these have a place. Grandia's entire schtick is that you wait for your character's turn to come up on their IP bar, then time pauses while you select your action. But you can see where your enemies are on the bar too, and enemies and allies alike can influence how long it takes someone to reach their turn. It's possible, with a planned-out strategy, mastery of the mechanics and some luck, to get a perfect victory on major storyline bosses with this system.
That's actually a really good point. Totally forgot about Grandia. And that battle system is one of the best ever according to a lot of RPG enthusiasts (myself included).
 

Wavelength

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That's actually a really good point. Totally forgot about Grandia. And that battle system is one of the best ever according to a lot of RPG enthusiasts (myself included).
Grandia was a fine game with a nice battle system, but it could have been executed more cleanly with a CTB-type system, right?
 

Neo Soul Gamer

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Grandia was a fine game with a nice battle system, but it could have been executed more cleanly with a CTB-type system, right?
Sitting here thinking about it... Yeah, I agree. lol
 

BadMinotaur

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The whole point of Grandia's system is the IP bar. If you take that away, you have Just Another Turn-Based Battle System.

The problem you have with faux-ATBs is a lack of interaction with the action times. Grandia fixes that by having all attacks effectively influence everyone's place on the IP bar. You can even cancel moves already being executed, if you plan ahead just right and make sure your character has good canceling moves.

So no, I don't think it could be done more cleanly in any other way. I'd describe few battle systems as "perfect," but Grandia 2's is pretty much the closest thing I've seen to it.

EDIT: just saw what "CTB" means. I still disagree, because a bunch of things influence the time even when players are standing around waiting for their icon to reach the COM part of the IP bar. Poison is a big one -- poisoning troublesome enemies makes their IP slow for a brief moment when they're damaged. Plague also hurts their IP regularly, even when no one is actively moving/attacking.

Actually, thinking even further into it, since many things rely on the characters moving around and reacting, even if they didn't have the poison and plague states, the CTB change would neuter the gameplay.
 
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Liak

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CTB systems like in FFX also take into account effects on other people's actions that are coming. It's essentially the same, isn't it? It just doesn't show a time bar, but simply the next x moves to come.
 

BadMinotaur

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I edited my post to be more clear. Grandia II has a lot of running around and execution of moves in real-time. Essentially when you input a move, it's not instantly executed. When you attack, you actually run up to the enemy, taking time to do it, and swing. They can interrupt this, counter your attack, cancel it, slow you down so that you can't reach them in time, etc.

And while you're doing this, everyone else is entering commands, also executing moves, and having their time destroyed by your attack. Essentially there's a semi-real-time battle going on around you, and entering the command menu pauses time for you to enter it. Then the chaos continues.

It wouldn't work in the CTB style.
 
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Milennin

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I recently got Dark Souls and I love how they turned a poor mechanic into something reasonable. Normally I'd be against anything that doesn't let you save anywhere, and in the case of Dark Souls you don't even get to save right before a boss fight. So, if you die during the boss fight you have to walk back there, killing the same enemies along the way again. What makes it bearable in Dark Souls is that when you die, you drop your collected souls and are able to collect them again when you get back to the place where you last died. (Souls are gained by killing enemies, and allow you to upgrade the stats on your character at save points) This way it doesn't feel like you're wasting all your time by running through the same part again multiple times, because once you beat the boss you can spend all your collected souls from all your failed runs, and get some sweet stat upgrades.
 
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Wavelength

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I edited my post to be more clear. Grandia II has a lot of running around and execution of moves in real-time. Essentially when you input a move, it's not instantly executed. When you attack, you actually run up to the enemy, taking time to do it, and swing. They can interrupt this, counter your attack, cancel it, slow you down so that you can't reach them in time, etc.

And while you're doing this, everyone else is entering commands, also executing moves, and having their time destroyed by your attack. Essentially there's a semi-real-time battle going on around you, and entering the command menu pauses time for you to enter it. Then the chaos continues.

It wouldn't work in the CTB style.
Okay, you've convinced me - the fact that characters are actually moving to different locations over time would make a CTB implementation of such a system (while not impossible) awkward and player-unfriendly.  I still think the huge majority of Faux-ATBs would be better converted to either True ATB or CTB, but this Grandia-style system would definitely be an exception.
 

bgillisp

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I recently got Dark Souls and I love how they turned a poor mechanic into something reasonable. Normally I'd be against anything that doesn't let you save anywhere, and in the case of Dark Souls you don't even get to save right before a boss fight. So, if you die during the boss fight you have to walk back there, killing the same enemies along the way again. What makes it bearable in Dark Souls is that when you die, you drop your collected souls and are able to collect them again when you get back to the place where you last died. (Souls are gained by killing enemies, and allow you to upgrade the stats on your character at save points) This way it doesn't feel like you're wasting all your time by running through the same part again multiple times, because once you beat the boss you can spend all your collected souls from all your failed runs, and get some sweet stat upgrades.
Except, if you die on the way to the boss, those drops souls disappear. So it is possible for it to turn into a wasted time with all of the runs due to one bad run on the way to the boss (which I honestly dislike).
 

BadMinotaur

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Okay, you've convinced me - the fact that characters are actually moving to different locations over time would make a CTB implementation of such a system (while not impossible) awkward and player-unfriendly. I still think the huge majority of Faux-ATBs would be better converted to either True ATB or CTB, but this Grandia-style system would definitely be an exception.
I don't blame you -- Grandia 2's battle system is preposterously hard to explain adequately in text alone. And I'm otherwise in agreement with you -- don't make the player wait if they don't have to.
 

SamBargeron

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In response to the idea of finding that ridiculous rare item in the hidden village; perhaps you set an event where, when you go to the hidden village, the party asks what his best most prized weapon for sale is. The NPC apologizes, stating he only has a meager selection of basic weapons. He HAD this super awesome ancient artifact, but it was sold or stolen. This triggers the game to allow the player to track down the thiefs or walk back to the city and find the weapon added to that store. Then you could condition the sales event so that if you have the weapon in your inventory including equipment that it no longer shows in the shop. Cause it was super rare and you bought it.

In response to having parties with lots of equipment slots and not much money... I feel like that's only a problem if the design doesn't take it into account. If that's done as intentional design it could make a game really good. Imagine if every party member has a necklace slot, but the game only has one necklace that's obtained in a story quest. Any character can wear the necklace, but you have to make the decision of who it will be. Sure, you could make the necklace an accessory and then everyone has an accessory and one party member has to give up theirs for the necklace... but that's a very different choice with a very different feel. Both are valid design choices depending on the themes and moods you wish to evoke through your game play mechanics.

Regarding bad mechanics that ruined games for me... I mostly play commercial titles. If I'm playing an RPG Maker game it's probably my own, or it was crazy recommended (such as by the extra credits channel).

And yeah, I catch myself accidentally making poor design choices all the time. Pretty much why nothing I've made is available online.

For example, I was making a dungeon exploration game which had semi-random layouts. There were 5 dungeon tiers with 17 dungeons total. The first tier, of course, had the obligatory forest dungeon. Well, poison seemed a good theme for a dungeon with snakes and spiders. And it seemed reasonable that poison should kill if you don't counter it quickly enough. I made snakes and spiders part of the random encounter list, as you wouldn't see them coming (made sense). Whereas goblins in the forest were visible on the map, sorta like FOEs from Etrian Odyssey.

If you went to other dungeons first, this wasn't a problem. But if the player chose the forest dungeon first it was a MAJOR problem. If you didn't manage to find the antidote herbs before you got poisoned, it was basically game over.

I kept trying to tweak things like poison rate and encounter rates and making the antidote herbs easier to find and more plentiful... but in the end I had just committed to a bad design. The forest dungeon needed to have no poison or be put in the second tier.

Anyway... I abandoned that project when I upgraded to MV, but... You can learn a lot from a bad game.

[This post was written not realizing that the topic had become 6 pages long... So... if it seems random that's why.]
 
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Archemenos1

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The resting mechanic can be saved if how long you rest influences how much you heal and what states wear off.

i happen to like persistent states, if they make sense.
Yes, get your teammate to the hospital if they have a disease with all haste.

But if slimes give me disease and i lose stats every time i get it...and i'm grinding for the hospital bills...that's too real.

I cannot remember how many RPG's ive played where i never use more than a potion or some AoE item from my vast inventory. 

Also i think having a hundred plus monster loots that all just equal money is not a good mechanic, if all loot merely converts to cash, why bother? 

There were many comments above about economy and i think the pc's should never have enough to afford everything they can find to buy. Until they win or are just about too. Also there should be choices they didn't take available. Say you go the fighter route and have trained for the sword skills, you can still see those top tier spears you never gave a chance in the shop windows, for next time.

Because lets admit it. its great to enjoy a game. but its even better to enjoy it enough to scheme about playing it again differently.
 
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Kes

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@Archemenos1

This thread is about analyzing poor mechanics in games (so as to avoid repeating the mistakes). It is not about listing your own mechanics/states and your intentions.  Please stay on topic.
 

Berylstone

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Different people want different things out of their games.  No game is going to appeal to everyone.  One person's poor mechanic is another person's joy.

For example: I loath equipment breaking on games.  Item durability drives me nuts.  But other player's enjoy the realism and find that it brings depth to the experience.  To each their own I suppose.

So in the end - outside of bugs - it's relative.  

Lack of challenge is something I would consider to be poor mechanics.  When you find yourself just spamming the attack button tediously with no threat of death.  That's a common pitfall many RPGs tend to fall into.

I also don't care much for long-winded cut scenes constantly interrupting the game play.  It's easy to get carried away with your story and bombard the player with endless narrative.  

Something else I watch out for is severe death penalties.  I don't believe it is wise to punish the player for playing your game.  That's just a good way to make them stop playing your game.

I also don't like it when a game forces a certain personality onto my character.  I have had many games completely ruined for me because I could not stand the person I was role-playing as.  So I think it's safer to take a less hands-on approach when it comes to crafting the player's character and save the accentuated personality traits for the other characters in your game.
 
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Vox Novus

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 Something else I watch out for is severe death penalties.  I don't believe it is wise to punish the player for playing your game.  That's just a good way to make them stop playing your game.
I felt this way with the mmorpg Runescape. When you died you lose nearly all your items and gold you are carrying; its possible to go back and pick it up but if you don't make it within a certain time your items become visible to other players and can be picked up. It was fun if you liked and played pvp servers but for newer players it became frustrating and encouraged them not to explore the games world or try to complete difficult quests.

I guess the point worth making is that death should be something that encourages the player to get up and try again rather than frustrating them with overly harsh penalties. Maybe if you want to incorporate penalties they can start out small in the beginning and scale with the difficulty of the game. Dark Souls uses penalties in that you lose your currency when you die, however it can be picked up and the player can spend their currency before big fights in order to not lose it during death.
 

Berylstone

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I felt this way with the mmorpg Runescape. When you died you lose nearly all your items and gold you are carrying; its possible to go back and pick it up but if you don't make it within a certain time your items become visible to other players and can be picked up. It was fun if you liked and played pvp servers but for newer players it became frustrating and encouraged them not to explore the games world or try to complete difficult quests.

I guess the point worth making is that death should be something that encourages the player to get up and try again rather than frustrating them with overly harsh penalties. Maybe if you want to incorporate penalties they can start out small in the beginning and scale with the difficulty of the game. Dark Souls uses penalties in that you lose your currency when you die, however it can be picked up and the player can spend their currency before big fights in order to not lose it during death.
Path of Exile would be my example.  I eventually just had to stop playing that game because I got too frustrated losing hours and hours of work every time I made a little mistake or a lag spike caused me to die.  

I'll never understand why some developers equate harsh penalties with challenge.  To me it's just aggravating and really doesn't make the game any more challenging.  In fact: I believe it can reduce the challenge because it causes you to become so concerned with dying that you avoid doing anything that might get you killed - thus encouraging you to avoid challenging yourself to begin with.

That being said though: I am sure there are masochistic players out there who absolutely love this kind of mechanic and can't get enough of it.
 
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Point08

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That being said though: I am sure there are masochistic players out there who absolutely love this kind of mechanic and can't get enough of it.
This brings up a point I've wanted to touch on since perhaps the first page of this thread. It's been mentioned several times how not every game will please every player. It has also been mentioned how certain mechanics can be abused. I put emphasis on the can for a reason, because I think it's important to consider whether or not the average player will abuse it, or just some players. There are always those players who will cheat, pay, save scum, whatever to remove any real challenge from the game and get all the shiny stuff they can. If you design a game with the sole purpose of preventing that, you'll lose those people since now they have to actually face a challenge, and likely the design choices you had to make to ensure they couldn't abuse anything, will have made your game unappealing to the average player as well (as now it's likely too challenging for the players who don't try to cheat or abuse the system).

So with say, save anywhere mechanics...yes, people will save scum. The question is, did you design your game in such a way that save scumming becomes the standard? Maybe you die so frequently, or have tons of dialogue choices with different outcomes that people want to see. If that's the case, even the average player is quite possibly going to continuously save/reload/repeat. If players aren't dying too often, and dialogue choices either don't have major effects on the story or what not, then probably the average player won't save scum. In this case, sure, allowing save anywhere will be abused by some players, but including it will still likely be the better option for the majority of players.

TL;DR - Before deciding whether or not to include a mechanic that can be abused, consider whether or not the average player actually will abuse it. Don't screw the average player simply to prevent some players from cheating.
 

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