Random Encounter Schemes/"Systems"

TheGentlemanLoser

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So, I'm trying to consider my options for how to handle enemy encounters in my project, and a good first step seems to be defining the different ways a turn-based RPG (specifically, one with a separate battle screen/perspective, so not a true roguelike which are turn-based but have on-map combat) can handle battles.

Option A) Invisible Random Encounters
Ten or so years ago this option was so universally despised I wouldn't even remotely consider it for any project, and I have no reason to think it's any better liked now lol. This is when you wander around the map and once you've taken a certain number of steps you get into a battle based on either the map you're on or the area of the map you're walking in. RPG Maker's default settings for this are notoriously awful throughout many iterations of the program, frustrating players with the possibility of getting into a random encounter literally two steps after your last one. The following steps can be taken to make these kinds of encounters more manageable:
  1. Tweak the formula/algorithm so that there is a minimum number of steps between encounters, and make that number reasonably high.
  2. Include an on-screen indicator of how close the player is to triggering an encounter, such as a "Danger" meter that fills from blue to red as a player walks around.
  3. Give the player options to manipulate the encounter rate w/ in-game items, equipment, or character abilities.
  4. Make sure that fleeing battles is a viable option.
Some of the most beloved RPGs of all time--Final Fantasies 4-10 as a for-instance--have really terrible implementation of this, on par with newbie RPG Maker games.

This is the only option where encounters don't need to be "manually" respawned (or not!) somewhere in the event code.

Option B) Visible Static Encounters
This is when you have encounters that are visible on the map but don't chase the player or patrol the area. This means that the player gets to choose whether to engage with any enemy, making this a good option for dungeon crawlers and games with a "board-gamey" feel. This makes this a good choice for tough optional bosses even in games that primarily use one of the other options. The events representing a monster can be something abstract like a glowing blob of flame or a skull or can indicate the monster encounter "Contained" in the event.

Option C) Visible Moving Encounters
This is like the above option except encounters are more proactive, patrolling in set patterns and/or chasing after the player if the player approaches within a certain detection range (or in 3 words: "Event Chase Player"). This is a very popular option but more labor intensive than option A. I think this is the new "default" approach taken by most RPG devs but I could be wrong. Again, encounters might have graphics corresponding to the monster or more abstract graphics just indicating it is "A" monster.

Note that this option adds a "twitch" or reflex-based element to gameplay, as the player can (and might really be obliged to, in a tough game) run from away from an encounter event. This is a bit of "Action" type gameplay in an otherwise turn-based game which might be desirable or undesirable for a variety of reasons.

Option D) Scripted Encounters Only
These encounters are by definition not random at all, as each one occurs at a pre-programmed point. Still allows for "mandatory" ("critical path") encounters and optional encounters. The most straight forward way of affecting this involves building your levels/dungeons so that they have chokepoints where the player is forced to step on one or two tiles that trigger the encounter. This doesn't pair especially well with respawning encounters. This option can be a good choice for games where "no grinding" is one of the design goals. This is the option I'm tentatively using for my current project (although I want to allow at least some grinding if the player wants to while not requiring it) although as mentioned I'm considering my options which is what inspired me to make this (incomplete??) list.

My first question is what am I missing? Is there one, or even more than one, method of setting up enemy encounters I've missed here?
 

estriole

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this is not usual... but maybe Invinsible Moving Encounter?
the encounter is actually an event with blank sprite... that approach you when you get close... and do battle... the good thing about this are:
1. you have limited battle in one map... when all the event run out... there will be no battle anymore (or you can set the encountered event to 'respawn' after certain time)... so no 5 step battle 5 step annoying battle again... you can also set the encounter event to be one time only (using self switch) so player cannot grind... or refresh at map reload (using erase event).
2. you can limit the area where the encounter could happen... since encounter will only happen when you approach the blank event...
 

Johnny_Ray

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Personally i'm using C but if you feel like it's harder to deal with you could try A and add an option to reduce encounter by % amount or something like that.
 

Frostorm

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I do a hybrid of C & D. It's mostly like visible moving encounters except not exactly... I use fairly small maps (20x11) that are basically pieces that stitch together to form the dungeon at large. Each of these maps will have a couple of visible monsters that equate to how many enemies are in a specific troop. So if the encounter has a troop of 3 monsters, then there will be 3 monsters visible on that map. If you aggro any one of them, then they all show an "!" balloon, and combat begins. Each encounter is specifically scripted for that particular map. Once you finish combat, all 3 events/monsters are erased. They DO respawn if you leave the dungeon, but not if you just leave the map (i.e. moving throughout the dungeon). Most encounters are unique since my battles take place on the map itself so even if the troop composition is the same, the environmental factors will differ due to positioning, line of sight mechanics, and even interacting w/ the environment in some cases. Did I mention it's a tactical RPG?

Edit: However, I am currently debating whether to have combat initiate upon one of the events/monsters touching the player or simply start upon being within a certain range. The former is more advantageous for melee characters while the latter is better for ranged units.

@estriole That is quite interesting... Let's call that "Option E" lol. I've never seen anyone do "invisible moving encounters" before. XD

I'll comment a bit on each of the options:
  • A: A bit outdated now, but can still be enjoyable if well-tuned.
  • B: I think this only works well for Humanoid enemies (like in Pokemon) or Bosses.
  • C: This is my go-to for a standard turn-based side-view JRPG.
  • D: I'm curious to hear why this can't be combined w/ respawns.
  • E:Are there any games that use this method? I'd love to check it out lol.
    • maybe even combine it w/ "Event Chase Player" hehe...
@TheGentlemanLoser Alternatively, you can also do a hybrid of Options A & B. This is basically Pokemon lol. So you have random battles in "patches of grass" (or w/e the equivalent is in your game) while having visible static encounters outside of said "grass".
 
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I use "Option B, C, and D" throughout my project. I have a leveling system inspired by Illusion of Gaia. I use "Option B" with a twist: some maps have events that can be triggered based on your actions in battle. See below.

Effervesce Fallacy™ - Castle Vin Gris Gameplay - Battle 2
 

TheoAllen

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Ah yes, the encounter system discussion that never gets old. The classic visual x random encounter debate all over again.

Option A - Random Encounter
This option is the most hated one and the easiest way to implement. I will tell you why most people hate and how random encounter is better implemented in a specific kind of game design from my perspective.

The big reason why the random encounter is hated is that most RPG map is designed so that we explore. Yes, how the map is designed is the main reason why hate them. If the map is designed in a specific way, the random encounter could be accetable.

For example, most of us design our RPG map as a field to explore in 4 directions or even 8 directions. We get excited to see what is here and there, what if we interact with this object, what if we interact with that object, what if we go to that edge of the map, etc. Random encounters interfered with such an experience and make it even more jarring.

If however, we decide that we use a simple map, for example, a node-based map or a map that you can only walk in a straight path (i.e, the exploration is limited), a random encounter could be acceptable. Because your brain is tuned to expect a random ambush each time you move from a node to another node.

That said ...
Tweak the formula/algorithm so that there is a minimum number of steps between encounters, and make that number reasonably high.
I personally don't think this could help the core issues I described above, while it certainly makes things even more bearable than not.

Include an on-screen indicator of how close the player is to triggering an encounter, such as a "Danger" meter that fills from blue to red as a player walks around.
While this is a good idea (I've seen a game that uses this), I personally find this as an immersion breaker if used in RPG. While certainly a game usually has a lot of immersion-breaking mechanics, there is a limit I could tolerate. And this makes that I'm even more aware if I'm playing the game rather than enjoy the story unfold. Not a bad thing, but then again I would rather play a game that focused on the gameplay if so. They do better most of the time.

Give the player options to manipulate the encounter rate w/ in-game items, equipment, or character abilities.
I personally don't like manipulation of encounters using in-game items. If anything, I would prefer it if we earned it ourselves. For example, a danger level in an area. The more we encounter the battle, the more that the danger level is drained out, eventually, the area is safe. You can make it either
- No encounters anymore
- Encounters are getting weaker
- Longer duration for each encounter
- You gain additional small exp per step(?), assumes that you auto-win the battle, potentially abusable/not fun
- Option to skip the walk (if it was a passage to a certain location)

Make sure that fleeing battles is a viable option.
Then what is the point of making encounters?

Option B - Static Encounter (Visible)
I personally feel like this encounter only fits in a specific game design. Such as a board-game feeling like you have described. I'm not sure how that will work in standard RPG though.

Option C - Moving Encounter (Visible)
This is by far the most popular encounter system due to the two reasons
- "I know I'm going to the battle"
- "I don't want to grind"

The biggest pitfall in this encounter system is that it means you are giving an option to the player to flee or skip the encounter altogether. And if your game requires the player to reach a certain level to fight a boss, a random encounter system would do better to control the player progression than the visible encounter. If you use this system at all, please also consider this possibility.

Option D - Scripted Encounter
This option usually only feels good for a non-grinding or levelless system (or when the encounter is a boss battle). Such as FPS or any action game really. Personally, if this encounter is combined with a progression system, I feel like the dev is trying to control our progression. Both the progression cap and how do we progress.

--------
Personally, I tried to mix options C and A (with an alert indicator). It works for most of the part. A visible encounter that chases you is randomly spawned near your location. It chases you at the same speed as your dash speed and only lasts for a few second. You have that time to escape from the battle. Of course, if you engage in a battle, you still have an option to escape, however, the escape cooldown increases as you keep escaping from battle. If you escape in turn 1, in the next battle, you can only escape in turn 2, and it keeps increasing. The cooldown reset when you win a battle.
 

PixeLockeT

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I like only A. < .<.....I always hated any sort of visible encounter. At times it even makes me dread battles. :kaoswt: I like the way Wild ARMs does invisible encounters, which after you advance in some way you can stave off the weaker random encounters for so many times before you have to fight. A little notification pops up above your head and you push a button to skip the battle. This leaves only the encounters that are at party level or above so you won't have to fight the weaker fights for a good while unless you just wanna.
 

Milennin

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I prefer mobile, on-map encounters, but I can see every type of encounter working just fine, depending on the game and how they're handled.

One additional type of encounter is the ambush, where an enemy is hiding in a wall or object, but they're hard to spot unless you look for them. When you get close to them, they jump at you and start the encounter. But it's more as an additional type of encounter, not as the only type.
 

Basileus

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Normally, I like mobile enemy symbols on the map since it gives me a chance to see the fight coming and interact with the enemy. Some of the Tales games have abilities that can manipulate encounters, like attacking from behind to gain an advantage or using a special ability to stun the enemy before the fight begins. A few of them, like Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Berseria, also use this as part of the difficulty system by triggering harder encounters if the player engages multiple enemy symbols at the same time. This makes getting into battle more engaging and allows for progression systems to unlock/upgrade abilities that change how the player can engage enemies, like Persona 5 having the ability to instantly defeat weak enemies tied to Ryuji's Confidant levels.

However, I also play visual novels and similar games and I think scripted encounters can be nice if the game is built around them. Sometimes it's nice to have a small number of more challenging and/or story-related fights than the constantly get interrupted to fight the same enemy comps over and over again. Fate/Grand Order paces its story pretty well by controlling encounters this way. Each story arc is divided into chapters, and each chapter consists of multiple scenes which often - but not always - end in a fight. This gives each story arc a set number of scripted battles that typically ramp up in difficulty, with some easy fights and special challenges as the story requires. There are also a number of "free quests" that the player can do at any time outside of the story to build up their units at their own pace. It gives the devs more control over the pacing of the story without taking away the player's ability to level grind if they want to. But this approach would probably only work in something extremely linear like a visual novel.
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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hey I remembered this thread and came back good for me lol

@estriole: that is definitely another methodology I hadn't considered! fascinating idea...I worry about the fact that the program (in every iteration I have access to) is pretty ass at pathfinding, so I feel like traversing areas w/ lots of twists and turns and obstacles you could get no encounters because they all got hung up on the terrain, whereas in wide open areas everything would pathfind to you immediately as soon as you paused, so you'd have to fight multiple invisible encounters in a row.

@Frostorm for now I'm using a combination of C & D. It's going to be mainly C with a splash of D, so for the most part if you see a monster it'll start chasing you down once you get within 4-8 tiles, but sometimes you might not spot a monster at all or might see it w/ no route to pathfind to you, and then when you step on a certain tile you trigger an "ambush" where that monster jumps to you, a la Chrono Trigger, but with simpler programming.

My game also has hacking (very prominent) and stealth (after a fashion, kinda sorta) so that adds more permutations and variables (in the sense of the English language word, not the RPG Maker concept, but that too I guess). For instance, you'll be able to hack a camera system to know where the enemies are in a certain map before you go in, hack an enemy turret to turn it against the other enemies, hack door locks and bridges to find alternate routes bypassing encounters, and so on.

The reason that Option D doesn't pair well with respawns, I think, is that if the player knows which tile triggers an enemy encounter by touching it, they can avoid that encounter, and if they CAN'T avoid the encounter and have to keep fighting it over and over at the same point on the map every time they pass back and forth over that tile--esp. if anything else about the broader game design incentivizes/requires going back and forth over that tile--I can see players becoming really resentful of fighting a battle in the same place over and over. Especially if it's the SAME battle or a similar battle in the same place over andover.

@PixeLockeT I really appreciate you sharing your opinion because it's an unpopular opinion but I was sure that there are people out there that prefer option A and it's always interesting to hear why that is!
 

Frostorm

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I can see players becoming really resentful of fighting a battle in the same place over and over. Especially if it's the SAME battle or a similar battle in the same place over andover.
Ooh, this just gave me the idea for respawns to have different troop compositions every time, thx! (I mean duh, wut was I thinking? lol) Also, for D... couldn't you just tie the event to a monster sprite? So like C but scripted. Love the turret idea btw.:thumbsup-right:
 
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RCXDan

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My answer regarding which system I'd use? Yes.

I'm being serious. Normally I'd stick to System C as the "standard" as I have many ways of making it interesting, ranging from enemies only being able to see you if you're in their line of sight / area to even having a functionality that decides if they randomly show up on a map or not. Due to the reduced ABS system I have, I have a planned first attack functionality where if you hit an enemy on the overworld you get to engage them in battle with an advantage. Like Paper Mario.

If your level is higher than the enemy, you get to defeat them without entering a fight. If your level is way higher, they run away and the message for insta-killing them doesn't even show up to impede your progress. It also lends to stealth gameplay because I have plans where you have to navigate dangerous areas with enemies that are on the same level of strength as you, where engaging them is an option but also an option that burns your resources.

But I do like to play with the other options, although not as much since they're not the main mechanic.

For System A, I have an idea where invisible monsters will swarm you alongside the visible ones in like, a dark cave or something. To avoid frustration, you'd have to use torches to repel them so the only encounters you'd have to deal with are the ones you can see on the overworld. That's just one example.

System B is good for roadblocks, but not much else.

But System D... So Chrono Trigger had certain "spots" in areas with monsters, where if you step on them you summon enemies. The thing I really liked about that is that if you avoided those spots, you don't get monsters. I have plans to include those too, since I have ways of blocking off NPCs from reaching certain areas.

I'm extremely flexible, so I like to take on different mechanics even if they're in bite-size form compared to how they're normally used.
 

Aesica

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Big fan of option B) (because it looks cool as an emoji)

Also, I think it's just more enjoyable to have the player able to control the flow of the game rather than having their exploration ripped away by some annoying random encounter or the overused quick chaser in an unavoidable hallway that keeps respawning with every map change.
 

Wavelength

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I'm a big fan of Visible, Moving encounters (the more ways you can tie these into the rest of the gameplay, such as Initiative for sneaking up on them or shooting them from afar, the better) - having "action/twitch" mechanics like this in a game with a turn-based battle system is generally not an issue, because the game design usually allows you to easily make up for a mistake in the action parts by playing the turn-based battle competently. It's not a gamebreaker. And it helps avoid ennui because you are doing more than walking around and choosing battle commands - you have something to engage you in a different way between the gaps.

I tend to hate (Invisible) Random encounters because their suddenness breaks my concentration and I have no way to avoid them while lost.

I feel that predetermined ("scripted") encounters is mostly used for certain types of games where it's very important to control the pace at which players get into combat; it can be a little unimmersive unless you really sell the reason for each of the battles, so it's not something I generally use where immersion in the world is important.

Invisible, Moving Encounters could often better be accomplished by simply using Random Encounters but turning down the Encounter Rate once the player has been wandering for a while (or once they have already played X battles in that dungeon/field).
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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Big fan of option B) (because it looks cool as an emoji)

Also, I think it's just more enjoyable to have the player able to control the flow of the game rather than having their exploration ripped away by some annoying random encounter or the overused quick chaser in an unavoidable hallway that keeps respawning with every map change.

yeah I saw that typo almost immediately and have since staunchly refused to correct it lol
 

Aesica

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Invisible, Moving Encounters could often better be accomplished by simply using Random Encounters but turning down the Encounter Rate once the player has been wandering for a while (or once they have already played X battles in that dungeon/field).
The closest I've ever seen to this approach was in an old SNES game called 7th Saga, but even then you had a sort of radar to track the "hidden encounters" so they weren't truly hidden. It's notably different than random though in that you can get in fights while just standing still, which is...kind of unpleasant.
 

Frogboy

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... an old SNES game called 7th Saga ...

I always hated 7th Saga, mostly because they hide a single potion in a desk near the beginning of the game and literally nothing else throughout the entire game. So right away, they trick you into thinking that items are hidden in objects around the map just to waste your time searching everything for nothing.
 

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I always hated 7th Saga, mostly because they hide a single potion in a desk near the beginning of the game and literally nothing else throughout the entire game. So right away, they trick you into thinking that items are hidden in objects around the map just to waste your time searching everything for nothing.
Ugh yeah. The only other hidden item I can recall was some crappy ice cloak in one of the dungeons. I think it was on a random pillar too. Not sure how I had the patience to actually finish that game back in the day, because I doubt I could stomach it now.
 

Anthony Xue

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I'm a big fan of Visible, Moving encounters (the more ways you can tie these into the rest of the gameplay, such as Initiative for sneaking up on them or shooting them from afar, the better) -

I tend to hate (Invisible) Random encounters because their suddenness breaks my concentration and I have no way to avoid them while lost.

Invisible, Moving Encounters could often better be accomplished by simply using Random Encounters but turning down the Encounter Rate once the player has been wandering for a while (or once they have already played X battles in that dungeon/field).
Do these have to be mutually exclusive? You could have, for instance, characters with a scouting ability. Depending on whether that ability is sufficiently trained (some monsters may be harder to spot than others), encounters may be visible or not. Could be accompanied by a starting message at the beginning of the level telling what the player must be ready for, or if the Scouting ability is insufficient, that they'll risk ambushes if they progress:
"Sniff... there are beastmen nearby. Many beastmen. But also... something else. Something I don't know. Something I don't like. We better watch out."

I always hated 7th Saga, mostly because they hide a single potion in a desk near the beginning of the game and literally nothing else throughout the entire game. So right away, they trick you into thinking that items are hidden in objects around the map just to waste your time searching everything for nothing.
Not directly related, but teaching players what to expect for what reason would be an important part of the system. Otherwise all that happens will likely be infinite save/reload, the dread of an invisible random encounter system (also known as RNG grinding - any CRPG veterans here, please say hello to Wizardry VII, the game with the greatest disparity between possible random encounter deadliness degrees that I know).

...actually, @Frogboy, I'm only quoting you because I'm waiting for an MZ version of the Talents plugin so I can implement that Scouting ability :p
 

GolvaeGames

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I didn't mind invisible encounters at all in Octopath, but it wasn't necessarily a plus either. I really like the way bravely default handled it though, but I don't think that being able to turn them off would help in every situation.

Chrono Trigger came up as well and I really liked that system, and I think a lot of smaller projects could benefit from something like that.
 

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