Question for Everyone:What do you look for in an RPG Maker Game?

What's most important to you while playing an RPG Maker Game?


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bgillisp

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On level scaling: See I've never felt like I should be able to go anywhere in a game though. Having it there gives you no reward as you can do whatever you want when you want, and you don't really earn it in the end as the game hands it to you instead.

As for the issue some bring up of fighting low level enemies when high level: There are other ways to handle this too if you get creative, like this:

 

TheoAllen

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My take on open world + RM games --> No

I have nothing against open world, in fact, I've played plenty. But how RM handles stuff is that it's more suitable for stage-based games rather than the open world games. So I'd prefer RM games to be more stage based, and railroad me. I mean, it's weird to have bird view 2D games as an open world where I hardly get immersed.

Another reason is skepticism. When the majority of people are still borrowing and mash all Yanfly plugins together into a single project, I don't expect good open world games in RM. Or at least, the one that will give me a good time when playing it.

Mind that by the open world games, I mean when the world actually revolves, a plus if it actually does a thing even if you do nothing in the entire game (which it's going to be hard to be done in RM). If it just so you can go to place A or B, whatever you choose, without NPC actually do an activity, I might as well as just play stage based games (a semi-open like Kingdom of Amalur, probably alright).

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My take on scaling enemies --> Yes, but with conditions

And the condition is not to make it scaling the stat. That defeats the purpose of leveling up and increase your stat. But by spawning new enemies. Frankly, even in linear progression game, you encounter different enemies each time you progress to the next stage. And they tend to be stronger than the previous encounter. I don't get why some of you treat them differently in open world games. New level means new skill, new "toy" to play around, and how to use those toys against the new encounter which probably they also have a new skill as well. It creates a sense of discovery.

But I'm just gonna chime that enemy scaling that scale level and stat sucks, don't do that.

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EDIT:
My take on playtime --> If it's too long, probably I never finish it.

The 30+ hours of an "epic" adventure, sure sounds convincing. The longest RM game I ever played was indeed almost 30 hours, but it was an exception because I liked the series. Other long RM games were about 12 hours before the game actually finished or I just drop it.

Majority? I'd drop somewhere during the playtime because I just disagree with the design choice or I stuck and never bother to actually try to pass (like puzzles). I have a few RM titles that I dropped because I couldn't figure out the puzzle (or never bothered to figure it out).

And because I know I probably will never finish it, I never interested when the dev said about the long playtime.
 
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bgillisp

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@TheoAllen : What about the way FF7 handles it? You are pretty much forced to go in a linear path until you get the airship late in the game, then it opens up big time. I think that can work in RM as you only have to handle reactions to the plot in old areas, and depending on how late you open things up you only got 2 cases to address, the initial time you are there, and the reaction when you return late game.
 

TheoAllen

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@bgillisp if the world opens after you went through the linear path, I think that can work. My fave RM game did that (although it's gone now as the time passes, it was in rmvx dot net). At least, introduce me to some places by railroading me into it (like when the story requires me to visit the place), then you can go revisit those places again after some time (and probably it will have something new once the world is open for you). I'd call it "semi-open" though.
 

bgillisp

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Fair enough. I only ask as I have heard many call FF7 open world too, so wanted to be sure we were defining them the same way, as many have different definitions of what open world really means.
 

atoms

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@VitaliaDi

I don't like the way the poll is written and would prefer to do multi choice with different options, so I'll answer here as well as what I voted for.

Here are my top 5 things that help me keep playing an RPG Maker game. Sometimes just 1 or 2 of these in an RPG Maker game work for me. I have more, such as engaging characters, side-quests, secrets and achievements, for examples, so if a game misses some of these but has a different point I don't mention, then that can keep me playing the game until the end too, but I thought I'd keep it to 5 anyway.

In order.

1.
-Comedy in dialogue. I'd like characters that interest me too with a bit of comical dialogue, usually. I don't expect that in every game as different games aim towards different genres, but with a typical fantasy plot in RPG Maker, yep dialogue that can make me smile or chuckle a bit helps me enjoy the game further.

2.
-Story that interests me. A story that can catch my attention and interest is good. It can be through something new and different, or it can be with someone being creative with typical cliches. Either way works, I just have to been engaged somehow.

3.
-Battles. This is a huge pointer for me. I don't want to play the game if all I do constantly is Attack. Adding other basic skills helps a lot, but if you can customize them further with some strategy I like that, however I don't like too much strategy, but some people do! I also don't like grinding much, a little bit of grinding I can cope with, but I just don't like a lot my own preferable tastes.

4.
-Good Equipment Builds. I love it when you have a lot to customize the way you want too with equipment, this is a huge fun point for me. When you just equip the next more-powerful equipment, I can cope with that, but I just prefer having a few more option and custom builds available.

5.
-Good Mapping For Level Design, Exploring and Interaction. While I love any really pretty map, and I dislike any extremely long and bland map, I seem to prefer maps where when I'm moving with the arrow keys on a keyboard to be able to explore different places and gain optional treasure chests or other rewards from doing so. So interaction is a big important, and enjoying roaming around different maps with different structures and a lot of places to explore is a huge factor of enjoying a game for me.



Also something I don't like,

I also don't like sex-appeal only games.
 

VitaliaDi

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@Heirukichi That's a cool concept for level scaling, making it make sense narratively would build your game in a way that I feel isn't done enough and would make games where you need to grind actually meaningful instead of just something annoying.
 

Milennin

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Things I enjoy in RPG Maker games:
-Character focused dialogues. I like to learn about the characters, rather than the world or story.
-Well thought out skill sets for combat encounters. I don't mind default graphics, music or even maps, but default combat settings are a complete turn-off for me.
-A decent degree of exploration. I like to examine objects in the world and find hidden areas for stuff. Dead ends should have treasures in them.
 

Heirukichi

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Frankly, even in linear progression game, you encounter different enemies each time you progress to the next stage. And they tend to be stronger than the previous encounter. I don't get why some of you treat them differently in open world games. New level means new skill, new "toy" to play around, and how to use those toys against the new encounter which probably they also have a new skill as well. It creates a sense of discovery.
Please, allow me to disagree. At least from what I can read (@bgillisp please correct me if I am wrong) the point is not having new enemies or making the same enemies stronger, the point is increasing enemies' strength through the game. It is not a matter of thinking differently between open world games and stage-based games. It is true that as you develop new skills you have one more tool to tinker with and you can use that tool to create a sense of discovery, but it is also true that you should always stick to the world you created. You are the one who created it after all, and you have the freedom to create it in a different way if you want it to be different; breaking the rules you set on your own just looks like bad design to me, you could have created it differently from the very beginning if those rules you set were not going to fit your aesthetics.

The core aesthetics of open world RPGs are exploration and discovery, and an important part of open world games is their lore. This means your world is something that existed "long before your character got there and that it exists outside what your characters are doing".
If you let enemies grow more and more powerful as the player advances through the game, there are two questions you cannot leave unanswered. I am going to hide the answer to each question in spoilers to allow people who are not interested in this explanation to skip them.

You can answer this question in two different ways:
  1. They were extremely weak and kept increasing their strength constantly
    This means enemies were not a threat to people living in that world before their strength escalated to a certain extent. It means the world did not treat them as real threats and is now facing a problem that was probably foreseen, but never turned out to be a real problem.

  2. They started increasing their strength just recently
    This opens up different possibilities for your plot, but in the end, if enemies keep increasing their strength, your world is not prepared for it and this threat is something new.
The answer to this question is extremely simple: they are going to keep growing and eventually escalate so much that nobody can handle them. It does not matter why they become stronger, if they become stronger, your game-world is supposed to react to them. Not doing so would make your world crumble, and not making your world crumble would make your lore crumble instead. Making your world crumble in a game whose concept revolves around your in-game world is a very bad choice from a narrative standpoint, people in your game world should have some sort of survival instinct that tells them to react when their existence is being threatened. At the same time, making your lore crumble is an even worse choice. Why did you even bother creating that lore if you did not plan on sticking to it?

Long story short: in a game whose main pillar is world exploration, having scaling enemies without giving them a narrative reason (making the world react to them by integrating them in your story) is a poor design choice.

That does not apply to stage-based games, because in those kind of games you already know that you are advancing where other people where not able to go, and that is because enemies there are stronger. It makes perfectly sense with the lore: if normal people cannot reach that place and die doing so, enemies in that place are stronger than enemies before them. It is not different from a well made open-world with zones having different danger "levels".

The video @bgillisp linked was a very good example of how to let annoying weak enemies disappear from your game. This is also why many games (like Final Fantasy) have an option to reduce/eliminate encounters. But this does not mean you should replace them with different enemies just because you want to keep challenging the player. If you want to let the player enjoy his/her new skills and explore new possibilities that come with them, creating a sense of discovery, just add more contents for the player level, or create a lore/plot where using different/stronger enemies makes sense. You are the one shaping the world after all, if you are not capable of finding a reason for your enemies to grow stronger, why would the player accept that? There is no such a thing as a silent pact between the game developer and the player. The player should not be forced to accept something because of the game designer laziness.

Once you created mechanics to let your enemies scale and already implemented them in your game, you could as well write a few dialogue lines to give those mechanics a meaning rather than justifying them just "because they are challenging". The purpose of this thread is to give us a better understanding of what people want to see in RM games. It is an undeniable fact that more than 2/3 of the users here voted for "compelling story/plot" (at least while I am writing this post), this should give us a rough idea of how important story, characters and lore are to players. Why make them less compelling just to do something the wrong way?

I am not saying scaling enemies cannot be part of a game, I am just saying that there are other ways to give the player a sense of discovery that do not involve adding scaling enemies in a bad/lazy way and, at the same time, do not diminish the credibility of your plot/lore. As a matter of fact, giving a narrative reason to scaling enemies is a smart way to implement them. Scaling enemies are a viable option, but as every other option you cannot just throw them in your game just because you like it.

Unfortunately, as @VitaliaDi said, this is something people often forget when designing a game. They include lazy design choices and just think that players should live with them because something like a silent agreement exists. Well, it does not. People might still be willing to accept the game if it has other good points, but the fact that the existence of such agreement lowers your game overall quality still stands.


Dead ends should have treasures in them.
I could not agree more, really. Too many times I find out that exploring is not rewarding enough. What is the point of making players walk around places to explore if you give them no reward at all? I can see how people might want to increase the overall game length by adding "dead time" to their games, but that is also a bad design choice. Always reward the player for doing something, always reward the player for playing the game and always reward the player for enjoying your world.

The only place where I can accept unrewarding dead ends is inside a maze. If the main challenge is to find the exit, then the reward itself should be finding the exit, you should not be rewarded for failing the challenge (going the wrong way). However, if the challenge is not finding the exit, you should always ask yourself something like this: "Which reason might lead the player down this path?"

That question can have multiple answers, but if there is no reason for it rather than just "exploring something meaningless" then you might want to remove that path completely or make it a meaningful one, even more so if there are encounters on the way. There are various tutorials telling you how to balance RNG to prevent players from building up frustration, and all of them involve taking into account the time players lose in the process. Why would this situation be any different?

Unless the path is very obvious, picking a wrong path is a matter of chances, and if the path is obvious and there is nothing at the end of side-paths, removing it has no impact on your game-play, other than preventing the player from picking a wrong path on purpose. In the first situation (picking a random path) the player should not get the feeling of wasting its time, in the second situation (obvious path but the player can still decide to go down the wrong path on purpose) the player should do it for a reason (getting a reward), otherwise sooner or later the player will stop exploring those extra paths and you wasted time designing something that nobody enjoys.

This does not mean that every dead end should have treasures in them, that is a bit too much, but if you want to include a decent degree of exploration in your game aesthetics, you should give the player a reason to explore. If certain paths are dead ends but contain good rewards, the player might want to explore all the side-paths just to get all the rewards. If some of them are empty then it is no big deal, as long as the overall reward is big enough. Do you have 10 dead ends and only two of them are completely empty? Give the player small rewards. Is your zone a complicated maze-like dungeon but only 20% of them contain rewards? Give the player more substantial rewards.

Heirukichi said:
Is your zone a complicated maze-like dungeon but only 20% of them contain rewards? Give the player more substantial rewards.
While this is theoretically true, strategy guides exist, they can be written by you (the game designer) or other people (users and fans), but once somebody has access to strategy guides there is nothing that prevents him/her from going straight to the path containing the big reward, without taking even a single step in empty paths.

If you take this into account it is much better to add decent rewards at the end of each path and just have a limited amount of side paths. If you want to make getting stronger rewards more challenging, just add encounters along the way and make the path longer so that the player has to fight more enemies to get that reward.

In the end, exploration is something you can handle however you want, but as everything else in your game, it has to be meaningful. If it is not, then just shift your aesthetics toward something different. Meaningless aesthetics are not what your game needs.
 

bgillisp

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That's what I was getting at, increasing enemy strength only because you leveled up, and no other reason. There are other ways to handle this, some of which are:

-Remove low level enemies from the game completely (can be done via a level check when you enter the map, then remove the visual encounter for them).
-Have low level enemies stay on the map, but run away from the player on the map instead. This way you can still corner and fight them if you really want to grind still.

On another note: Many games that do scale enemies don't think about how it fits into the lore. Oblivion was made fun of as if you did the plot at level 1, the townsfolk were so powerful they could KO the demons they supposedly needed help fighting off, but if you did it at a high enough level, the demons ripped through the townsfolk like they were swiss cheese as the demons level scaled but the townsfolk did not.

@Heirukichi brings up a good point too on how it fits in your lore of your world. I was playing Wizardry 8 this winter during all the snow days I had, and I remember wondering how is anyone left alive on this world with all of these high level monsters running around? And nope, the game did not attempt to explain it at all. But as a designer you should think about these things. Why are there so many wandering monsters between towns? Why can't the guards take care of them? Are they that weak? And if so then why can't I take out the guards and rule the town?
 

TheoAllen

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The core aesthetics of open-world RPGs are exploration and discovery, and an important part of open world games is their lore. This means your world is something that existed "long before your character got there and that it exists outside what your characters are doing".
There is a difference between "stage-based" progression and an actual open world games. And thus, there's a difference between Skyrim, and Mount and Blade, Space Ranger 2, or SPAZ2.

Bethesda games such as Fallout and The Elder Scroll series fall into an awkward open world category. Many call them an open world in the term of exploration, but the progression is "stage-based". I would agree with the quote "long before your character got there" IF (a huge IF) the world constantly revolves even if you do nothing. There will be a moment when "There's a veteran fighter ahead, I should avoid it" and it happens everywhere and also constantly changing. If the world is not constantly changing if you do nothing, creates an artificial stonewall. You can go there, but you will die anyway. The world is not really open.

If people still want to do this way, make it stage based like Kingdom of Amalur (or perhaps, Conan Exile, but I didn't progress the game that far to assess the whole game, only heard). You started in an area, where you can explore. But the encounter in that area is relatively the same as your level. As you went deeper into the world away from your starting point, the encounter keeps getting stronger, but it's stationary, not scaled.

But my point is if you started the game, and there's a nearby dungeon that it "requires" you to be level 30, and I had to do leveling all the way around then I had to backtrack to complete the "early" dungeon, I don't like it. Personally, I prefer a seamless experience in open-world games.

Long story short: in a game whose main pillar is world exploration, having scaling enemies without giving them a narrative reason (making the world react to them by integrating them in your story) is a poor design choice.
Frankly, I don't really care with the lore. Whether the lore exists or not, the enemy is scaled. Maybe the lore would justify why it's there, but the enemy is still scaled anyway. Besides, if you put lore to justify the existence of scaled enemies, it falls into "stage-based", indirectly. The evil lord buff all the monster so they're more powerful next time you encounter them. It's "stage".

Now, I'm not going to quote more of your replies because, in the end, you acknowledge that enemy scaling is viable but with more spices.

But, before I end this, let me chime in. Yes, it's undeniable fact that compelling story/plot is the most voted. But from a personal standpoint, it can be done better in the linear progression game rather than open-world games, at least in RM scope because we're talking about RM games, and thus I never really seek for open world games in RM. I'm gonna lie if there were no RM games that I stuck around because of the story. There're a few titles I remember ofc. I just demand a combat mechanic instead of full narrative and/or with puzzles as I said in my first post in this thread.
 

Heirukichi

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There is a difference between "stage-based" progression and an actual open world games. And thus, there's a difference between Skyrim, and Mount and Blade, Space Ranger 2, or SPAZ2.
That is exactly my point. As a matter of fact, to use one of your examples, in Mount & Blade, enemy armies grow stronger because lords constantly try to increase their own power in order to wage war. When you reduce the amount of enemy countries, enemies grow even stronger because those who were part of the country you just conquered seek refuge in a different one. The scaling here makes a lot of sense and it is not only part of the lore, but also part of playable mechanics (because you can convince those lords to join your faction and use the scaling system to your own advantage).

While it is true that Skyrim has a certain "stage" concept because you can unlock dragons at some point, in the end enemies just scale with your level, without having to unlock/do other things, just think of how stronger version of draughr start spawning after you hit level 35. It has a maximum scaling cap, but there are no real stages here. As a matter of fact, main plot enemies start being weaker and weaker as you keep leveling up, in contrast of what happened in Oblivion (just to take @bgillisp example), while in Morrowind weak enemies simply stopped spawning in daedric shrines at some points and you could only find dremora lords and golden saints. I could go on but those examples are enough.

The main difference is that in Oblivion enemies scale together with the player level, in Skyrim/Morrowind they scale to a certain extent based on player level. Fallout, on the other hand, has zones with different degrees of danger, thinking of the northern path in New Vegas where Deathclaws live. I don't think it is weird, more dangerous zones exist in the world as well. Bathing in the Mediterranean sea is way less dangerous than bathing in Florida, that is because chances of finding sharks in Florida are definitely higher. What is wrong with more/less dangerous zones? It just makes everything feel more realistic while, at the same time, keeping the open-world concept in place.

Of course, putting a level 30 dungeon right at the beginning of the game kinda sucks, that one is already a bad design choice on its own, at least if the player has no way to know that the dungeon is not for his/her current level. You have to place high level zones in a smart way that does not require the player to go back and forth. As I said in one of my previous posts: having to face low level enemies is quite annoying. This is true even if you can run away from the battle, and this is also why many open world games implement fast travel.

Besides, if you put lore to justify the existence of scaled enemies, it falls into "stage-based", indirectly.
I agree and, as a matter of fact, this is exactly why I said that if you cannot give a valid reason you should just go with a stage-based game instead, it is easier to have things that make sense that way. Enemy-scaling without purpose is not realistic, it does not improve the game-play and it does simply not fit the lore. You might be fine with a half baked lore, but that does not mean it is a good design choice. Not every game should focus on the lore itself, there are games that have just a bare minimum amount of lore while still being very good games, but if you were to rate every aspect in a game, why would you, for the sake of game-play, decrease the quality of your game setting instead of using the very same game setting to improve game-play?

As I mentioned, sometimes a couple of lines are enough. You do not need to change game mechanics or anything, but once you accepted those mechanics, why should you be lazy and let them decrease the rating of other aspects in your game rather than having them improve those aspects with minimal efforts? I am not talking about changing mechanics here, the game-play should stay the same, but giving a good reason for that only brings improvement to your game, and that is also why I think of enemy-scaling with no purpose as part of a bad design. You can do the same thing, but in a way that makes sense and contributes to let your whole world feel alive, and the cost/effectiveness ratio is extremely low.

I really cannot see any valid reason to not improve the vibe your game world gives, not considering how little effort it takes to do so. Why would you accept to lower the quality of something in your project (that took hundreds of hours to complete) just to avoid doing something that would require around 3 hours in total? In the vast majority of situation that represents less than 1% of the time spent on a project, not investing that much time to make things more interesting really is a waste, and this is why I think it is a bad design choice.
If we take this into numbers (talking about game rating) and consider everything else as being a constant value while lore, game-play and time are not, you have two different formulae:
Code:
Game without explanation for scaling enemies
(G + L + k) / T

Game with a good explanation for scaling enemies
(G + L + x + k) / (T * 1.01)

G = game-play rating
L = lore rating
k = average value for each other aspect rated in your game
T = time required to develop the game

Assuming your game is perfect (this is an abstraction) in every single aspect and receives full marks on everything (100%), the time investment proves to be beneficial if your lore rating increases by 3% or more. Keep in mind that this is true if you consider that your game is perfect and your lore is perfect too (which is not since it can be improved). Now, if you are using a 1-10 range to rate the game, this means the time investment is beneficial as long as you get an extra 0.3 points in the lore rating. This is something easily achieved, especially if you consider that one way is going to make your lore lose sense, while the other is going to make your lore have even more sense. It wouldn't be strange if the score would be increased by a whole 1 or two points. Is there any valid reason for not doing so?

Your overall game quality is going to improve a lot with an extra effort that is close to 0. On top of it, while someone might not care about the lore on a personal level, the undeniable quality that many people look at the setting as an important factor still stands, and as such, I think it is really beneficial for a game developer to implement things to please that very big share of users, regardless of the developer personal standpoint on this matter.

I am just trying to explain why I consider it part of a poor design here, I do not want to say personal opinions are wrong; everybody has personal tastes, but a game quality is not just based on personal tastes, it is also based on objective considerations - at least in my opinion.
 
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kirbwarrior

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Open world: I'm not opposed to open-world designs, but so far, every RM game I've played that tried this generally fails at it. If the enemies all scaled with level (like SaGa Frontier) it'd be one thing, but instead it's always "you went into the wrong place, enjoy your instant game over."
I honestly am not sure I've played an open world game I like, which sucks because I love the concept. But, and this parts a huge thing to me, most "open world" games I've played are actually sandbox games (Skyrim is a great example, you don't really ever beat the game, you just do as you please doing whatever quests you want, it's a perfect example of a sandbox rpg).

But that also means that enemies should grow stronger regardless of the player level.
Enemy scaling based on level is actually my problem. Enemies scale in rpgs, they just scale to the story. The same can be done in an open world game, there just has to be more creativity with it.

Frankly, even in linear progression game, you encounter different enemies each time you progress to the next stage. And they tend to be stronger than the previous encounter. I don't get why some of you treat them differently in open world games.
That's a perfectly fine mentality (see above), but the problem is tying it to level. If it's instead tied to, say, number of quests done, then it gives a sense that things are slowly getting worse with "time" and you need to stay strong enough to stay up with it.

"Time" is because tying it to actual time in a turn-based rpg is a terrible idea, and even in other rpgs it's not necessarily a good thing.

I only ask as I have heard many call FF7 open world too,
I would firmly put FF7, and the entire series that uses a similar method, into linear. You go through the game in mostly a straight line but with plenty of leeway to explore, and at the very end the game gives you the ability to check if you missed anything. 7 is a bit more open due to getting the airship fairly early, but still a pretty linear game.

in the second situation (obvious path but the player can still decide to go down the wrong path on purpose) the player should do it for a reason (getting a reward), otherwise sooner or later the player will stop exploring those extra paths and you wasted time designing something that nobody enjoys.

This does not mean that every dead end should have treasures in them, that is a bit too much,
Rewards don't have to be upgrades. A dead end could bring you to a fun boss, a character that opens up some sidequests, a costume change in a game where armor doesn't change appearance, a silly mechanical effect (such as being able to change the names of character you don't normally decide), a shortcut or similar, etc.

at least if the player has no way to know that the dungeon is not for his/her current level.
One of my favorite "new" things is dungeons and such showing you the recommended level. It simultaneously solves a problem with grinding (not knowing how much you grind is a part of why it sucks) and lets you know if you aren't ready to go there yet.
 

Heirukichi

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If it's instead tied to, say, number of quests done, then it gives a sense that things are slowly getting worse with "time" and you need to stay strong enough to stay up with it.
This makes perfectly sense if, for example, enemies grow strong as you complete quests because they start taking measures against you, it is a smart way to make enemies somewhat react to what the player does and, at the same time, increase their strength to improve game-play. On top of it, it also rewards the player for investing time and resources if he/she wants to power-level.

Rewards don't have to be upgrades.
I definitely agree. I mentioned treasures, but actually even side-bosses or anything else can be rewards. The main point is that the player should never feel frustrated because he/she wasted time doing something useless. It is not a good thing for the player and it is not a good thing for the developer either, because when a player feels like wasting time and stops exploring, then you are the one who wasted time creating those extra contents instead.

Recommended level for dungeons would be a very nice thing to see in RM games as well. It really can help getting rid of the extra grinding and it prevents the player from being frustrated while trying to beat a dungeon he/she is not supposed to beat. There are games that already implement something like this, but I think this could be implemented in RM games as well. After all, a small text box saying "Recommended level: X-Y. You level is Z, do you wish to enter?" and a Yes/No choice are something that anyone can easily achieve, even those who just started using RM.
 

TheoAllen

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Fallout, on the other hand, has zones with different degrees of danger, thinking of the northern path in New Vegas where Deathclaws live. I don't think it is weird, more dangerous zones exist in the world as well. Bathing in the Mediterranean sea is way less dangerous than bathing in Florida, that is because chances of finding sharks in Florida are definitely higher. What is wrong with more/less dangerous zones? It just makes everything feel more realistic while, at the same time, keeping the open-world concept in place.
This a very good point that I had to think why I feel like it was also fine, now granted I already forgot the majority of New Vegas because it's been a while since the last time I played the game. The northern part iirc was like a "node" for you to go to the other place. i.e, do you want to take another route or just walk through into the Deathclaw's lair? it's your choice, but it never felt like a mandatory to do so.

Fallout 4 in the other hand though, has a hazardous map called "Glowing Sea", located far in the south where the player's starting point is up to the north of the map. So it will take a while for the player to get into the area. The more you go to the south, from a plain barren land, then destroyed city (which u may likely get shot from above), then swamps where the strong mutated creature present, then the Glowing Sea. However, to actually survive the area, you don't need level, although it certainly helps to survive. But what you need is the equipment to survive the radiation.

Now, back to the Skyrim (I didn't play Oblivion much to give an opinion). While I do agree that the Skyrim enemy level scaling is not perfect because it tends to break immersion, but imo it fits with the intended design. I tried to mod Skyrim with high-level enemies so that a certain area will spawn stronger enemy early on. It actually hinders me from progressing since Skyrim was designed for you to get a huge backlog of quests. And sometimes forced quest (whether the quest system in Skyrim is actually good or bad, it's another matter to discuss). You can do those quests in any order in whatever you want without having that to get "blocked" by "level requirement".

Enemy-scaling without purpose is not realistic, it does not improve the game-play and it does simply not fit the lore. You might be fine with a half baked lore, but that does not mean it is a good design choice. Not every game should focus on the lore itself, there are games that have just a bare minimum amount of lore while still being very good games, but if you were to rate every aspect in a game, why would you, for the sake of game-play, decrease the quality of your game setting instead of using the very same game setting to improve game-play?
As a matter of disclaimer, I'm not suggesting that you should completely ignore lore. It just, as a matter of fact, the enemy is still scaled. The first argument against the enemy scaling was because it takes away the meaning of level up, and it does not mention anything about lore. So, are you saying if the mechanic keeps it that way, as long as the lore explained why it happens, it will be fine? When does it trigger though? Because the term of enemy level scaling means it scaled with your level. i.e, it's automatically scaled up. Does the lore also trigger automatically, or do you prefer that it's up to the player to trigger the stronger encounter on when it's going to happen?

I'm sorry though if you already mentioned this somewhere in your reply, I might have missed it.

I honestly am not sure I've played an open world game I like, which sucks because I love the concept. But, and this parts a huge thing to me, most "open world" games I've played are actually sandbox games (Skyrim is a great example, you don't really ever beat the game, you just do as you please doing whatever quests you want, it's a perfect example of a sandbox rpg).
Excuse me for nitpicking this, but for me, Skyrim is not really a "sandbox game". It's just a normal open world. It does have sandbox elements though, but you still have a defined objective, like quests, and you have to follow the scenario. A perfect example of sandbox games imo is Mount & Blade, and probably Minecraft (I never play this game).

but the problem is tying it to level. If it's instead tied to, say, number of quests done, then it gives a sense that things are slowly getting worse with "time" and you need to stay strong enough to stay up with it.

"Time" is because tying it to actual time in a turn-based rpg is a terrible idea, and even in other rpgs it's not necessarily a good thing.
Fair point, because I've seen it as a timed-bomb as well. But, I honestly never bother with the new enemies that appear as I see it as a new challenge. I mostly get overshadowed with the new skills or perk I have and want to test it to the next encounter. And having the weaker encounter defeated faster feels satisfying. And there, a new encounter, I would wonder how am I going to use a new acquired perk/skill against this enemy. Really, the progression is like linear stage based games but placed in an open-world design.
 
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Does the lore also trigger automatically, or do you prefer that it's up to the player to trigger the stronger encounter on when it's going to happen?
That really depends on how the developer wants to implement it. It can be something that is inside the game from the very beginning, leaving the player to ask him/herself "why do enemies become stronger?" and then a single wise NPC explains why, or it could be something that triggers at some point. As a designer you can play with your lore as much as you want, you can express yourself here, it does not have to be something that exists in the real world, it can literally be something you invented, it has to be "realistic" when looking at it with the eyes of a game character.

Once that condition is satisfied you can let enemies scale with level, quests, time played, literally anything, anything is fine as long as you implement it in a way that would not be inconceivable from a game character standpoint.

If I were a character of my game world, how would I react to this?

This is a question that we should always ask ourselves when designing something in our game. If the answer is that it would look weird, then probably we did not implement that mechanic in the right way. We can still implement the very same mechanic, but we should do it in a different way, giving it a different reason for being there. This would greatly improve the aesthetics of our game, making it feel realistic even with magic and other stuffs that do not exist in our world.
 
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I honestly am not sure I've played an open world game I like, which sucks because I love the concept. But, and this parts a huge thing to me, most "open world" games I've played are actually sandbox games (Skyrim is a great example, you don't really ever beat the game, you just do as you please doing whatever quests you want, it's a perfect example of a sandbox rpg).
SaGa Frontier is probably the only one I've played that's (semi?) open world without being a sandbox RPG, and even then, I can admit that it's a huge mess from a design perspective. Then again, its open world component was somewhat limited: Depending on who you choose to play as, you might have some starter-story stuff to do before the world opens up, or going to a certain location might be blocked for later story purposes, going to another location might trigger the next step in the story, etc.
 

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After all, a small text box saying "Recommended level: X-Y. You level is Z, do you wish to enter?" and a Yes/No choice are something that anyone can easily achieve, even those who just started using RM.
The way Bravely Default does it would be extremely easy to do in RPG Maker; You know how you can have the map name show up when you enter it? Just change it from "Grin's Hideout" to "Grin's Hideout Lv34-38". The first level is the recommended enter level, the second is the recommended level for fighting the boss. You don't even have to tell the player what the levels mean because it's implied you should be in the range.

but you still have a defined objective, like quests, and you have to follow the scenario.
I'm not certain either of those is true. For instance, I'll compare another game I do consider open world in Breath of the Wild;
Like Skyrim, you can basically go anywhere and do anything in whatever order you want. There are tons of main quests that aren't directly connected.
However, it has a clearly established goal that is considered to be finishing the game. Doing each main quest means you've won in BotW, but it merely means you finished the longest quest and get a swanky friend in Skyrim. The game even implies that your story has merely begun.

Now, let's compare a relatively linear game to how little changes can make it open world;
In Pokemon, you basically follow a pretty line with some exploration from gym to gym. At the end, you beat the Elite Four and become champion (also something something Team Pants).
You can make the exact same game open by removing roadblocks and gates so you can go to any gym in any order while also letting you choose a starting city. Then you have Gym Leaders use eight possible teams, chosen based on how many badges you have. To tie in Team Rocket, have them either show up in various cities doing evil where they seem unconnected at first and tie the Rocket Boss into the plot (say, he shows up after you get eight badges or something).

The plot is the same, but you can now do the chapters in any order since the order doesn't matter. But let's say you wanted a sandbox game;

Remove the incredible incentive to become the champion. Make it clear it's a choice, and set things up so it's a starting quest (like Skyrim). Team Rocket is unconnected to that story and shows up on it's own, so if you want to save the world you have to focus on that. Add in other ways to be a pokemon trainer, such as actual training, grooming, cooking, hunting down sidequest bosses, helping people out with their quests, etc. There's no story you are going along with, you're just living in the pokemon world.

From what I've put together, a linear game has ordered chapters, an open world game has chapters in any order, and a sandbox game doesn't have chapters. In fact, Skyrim seems to be in this weird area where the game is mostly a sandbox (it reminds me a ton of Minecraft) while having extremely linear quests (look at the dungeon design that's reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot). It's like this weird "fourth" type.

SaGa Frontier is probably the only one I've played that's (semi?) open world without being a sandbox RPG
I keep hearing good things about that series, I just have so many games I know I want to play that I keep forgetting about it XD
 

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I keep hearing good things about that series, I just have so many games I know I want to play that I keep forgetting about it XD
I'll caution you, it's a pretty rough series actually, with much of its design choices feeling experimental and messy. Some of the chaos soup that makes up a SaGa game works brilliantly (Frontier, SaGa 2 for game boy, etc) while other times....things can get quite messy. With the expectations gamers have today for RPGs, I'm not sure how well any of the SaGa games would fare. The music is almost always good, though.
 

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I'll caution you, it's a pretty rough series actually, with much of its design choices feeling experimental and messy. Some of the chaos soup that makes up a SaGa game works brilliantly (Frontier, SaGa 2 for game boy, etc) while other times....things can get quite messy. With the expectations gamers have today for RPGs, I'm not sure how well any of the SaGa games would fare. The music is almost always good, though.
See, most of that sounds compelling. As long as the series doesn't require grinding, I'm all for trying it.

Yeah, that's really a large thing. I'll try out plenty of games, but once I hit a wall of "grind for exp, I'm not going to tell you how much", that's when I usually stop.

Oh, one issue I run into a lot, strangely, is having a single person party for far too long in a game built around having a party. One or two battles? Fine. An entire dungeon where all I do is auto-attack and battles last more than two turns? Nope.

I don't mind "subpar" games as long as nothing is terrible (I give games quite a bit of leeway), but there are definite warning flags which happen to stop me from playing entire genres of games.
 

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