Simplifying

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by SLEEP, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. SLEEP

    SLEEP grunge rock cloud strife Veteran

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    Lots of people discuss additional gameplay features that increase complexity of games systems, but i'm wondering what you could take away from the default battle system without oversimplifying. I want to make an an easy to understand rpg, that could pass the "could your non-gamer older family members (parents) play it" test. Pokemon is going to be a good place to get inspiration, as it's an RPG for 10 year olds that works really well. Here are some ideas I have, contribute some ideas, feedback, and concepts!

    • Lots of icons, reduce reading. A fire type spell should have a little fire icon next to it. Piggybank of existing vocabulary in the real world. This is a general idea, which I can't yet give example of yet it almost demands examples, but basically to use "real" iconography rather than "game-y" iconography.
    • A few, potent, status ailments with obvious attacks.
    • Reduced menu clutter, more choices make things more confusing. I'm going to include all the skills needed for a varied game, but especially in the early stages of the game, give the player time to get a feel for what they have and don't load on lots of skills at once.
    • Only have 1-3 enemies to fight per battle. More targets are more clutter, add more choices, reduce clarity.
    • Difficulty modes. An Easy mode is essential for accessibility. I might have harder battles give bigger rewards. It's an idea in progress. Easy mode is definitely in though.
    • Reduce equipment.. Only have a few things to equip, with customization and obvious equipment effects in mind. I don't need all the default equips, accessories with special effects rather than outright attack+10 items.
    • Don't make anything subtle. Every action, every consequence, should be obvious and predictable in combat. No surprises.
    So what else can a game do to pass the Parent test? Some ideas are just good game design, I know, but they're worth including... 'cuz! Any ideas to make things simple as possible without being too simple!
     
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  2. Vinedrius

    Vinedrius Member Title Veteran

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    hmm lets see;

    -only one weapon, one armor and one accessory is fine.

    -equipments shouldn't have hardly noticable effects like evasion +2%, fire resistance +3% etc. and they should definitely have few effects on them, maybe 2-3 tops (besides def)

    there shouldn't be too many choices in a shop and it should be easy for the player to choose one and move on. they shouldn't be thinking "what if i just bought the wrong one for the next dungeon?"

    -there should definitely be an easy mode. if it was a short game, you can just make the game to be in easy mode by default and normal mode would open up with the new game+ with some bonus items, bosses etc. added to the mix.
     
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  3. kerbonklin

    kerbonklin Hiatus King Veteran

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    My mother is still stuck in the old days of the first Super Mario Bros. xD

    Simplification sounds neat, but just remember that all parents are, well, not too simple and can grasp some game concepts with some dedication and time. They may be not as sharp as younger kids, who can be pretty sharp for their age, but don't underestimate them. =P

    By the way I bolded dedication and time because those really are the deciding factor when it comes to parents trying to game. By time I don't mean game length, but as long as there are plenty of save spots.
     
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  4. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    I have never really seen any game benefit from being "simplified" to any extent.  I learned most of my "high concepts" (things like character death, character arcs, drama, comedy, reading proficiency, etcetera) from playing RPGs that didn't bother to dumb anything down for me.  These were games that didn't have tutorials at all, and didn't tell you the controls either.  I learned about HP from dying often and learned about MP when I couldn't cast spells.  I learned about combat by engaging in it.  I learned about other concepts in RPGs as they came up or were used.

    Admittedly, the worst (and most confusing) RPG I ever played was "Quest 64", which was DESIGNED to be a "beginner's RPG" from the start.

    My experience with parents and trying to learn to game is just to give them enough time to play and learn it.  That's how my mother learns.
     
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  5. hiromu656

    hiromu656 Praise the Sun (Arcana) Veteran

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    This is a hard topic for me to suggest in. I guess I could make a list of things I find challenging in RPGs, and things that were simplified in RPG sequels (for the most part) >

    • If you use a party, I guess you could limit their total equips to less than the main character's. Or you can reduce total equips all around.
    • Remove all attributes and have your equipment be the most important source of strengthening your character. As in, your Weapon deals X amount of damage rather than having the weapon increase your "Attack" by X amount. Also create less equipment in general.
    • Have spamming 'Attack' a viable option in battle.
    • If you create sidequests, try to attach them to the main path so that the player never gets lost.
    • Reduce combat tactics, use few to no Buffs or Debuffs. Or make them unnecessary at least, for easy mode. (Status ailments, like poison or sleep, are fine)
    • No backtracking.
    • (Unsure about this one) Limit or remove grinding. I'm only unsure about this because even in games like Pokemon, a kid knows that he may need to grind at some point. But for other games, grinding can be much more hardcore, so that's your call (just like everything else I've mentioned).
    • No random encounters, I know that when I first got into JRPGs at a young age (assuming young kids and parents are being grouped together?), I thought being ambushed by something I can't see was just BS. Of course I would never say such a thing at that age.
    I've been sitting here trying to think of additions to the list for like 10 minutes, so, I'll just click Post now.
     
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  6. Clord

    Clord Nya~ Veteran

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    Don't simplify your games too much or you end up with something like AAMFP instead of RPG game.


    You probably want players to focus on your story instead of fighting against monsters and stuff as your simplifying also might make a combat really dull if there is hardly any skills to use. Also items are important to give a sense of progression.
     
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  7. SLEEP

    SLEEP grunge rock cloud strife Veteran

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    New idea I came up with: Autosaving! Not having to make the player save would make it easier on them. However, there will also be saving at any time. And if I can figure out how to make it, a Save and Quit option rather than a vanilla quit option.

    Also my target audience is not literally parents, I just think the parent test is a handy goalpost for simplicity to try and pass.

    @vinedrai Making sure items aren't subtle is a neat idea! Thanks! I'm thinking of making it a short game, but to the tune of 2-5 hours, so I will probably have the option of Easy and Normal available from the beginning. I'll start the cursor hovering over Easy, and label easy with a subtitle like "good for beginners" or "for people who have never played a turn-based rpg game before" or something to make sure beginners chose it. And for normal, something like "Has played and understands RPG games", something neutral sounding, not like most games which make the harder difficulties sound like a desirable challenge.

    @kerbonklin The thing about adults are is that they're scared of things they don't understand, and not willing to put time into understanding them if they get scared off early. Kids are the opposite, they won't understand and they'll keep going however they can, before they hit a brick wall they can't get past. I'm not underestimating these people, I know people in their 30's who slack off and play minesweeper all day, and they're really bloody good at minesweeper. Making mechanics that are at initially friendly and easy to understand out-of-the-box is important to me.

    @Tai_MT But kids are more likely to persist. In a world where you can just get another game, you don't want to teach by being too cruel. (although teaching via gameplay is important) I also don't plan on making a simple story! I like the idea of giving them time to learn, i'll have to give the plot incentive and tutorials so they'll spend the time learning!

    @hiromu656 I like/am already implementing a lot of those ideas. I disagree with making "spam attack" a viable strategy, because that doesn't sound fun. I'm planning a game with no default "attack" like thing. Taking inspiration from Pokemon again, although most pokemon have one basic attack they can spam to win battles (like a fire type always using flamethrower, water types with bubblebeam, ya know) so i'll make sure to have some abilities like that.

    @clord What's AAMFP? I don't want to simplify to the point of boredom, but I do want it to be a story-driven game.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2013
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  8. CWells

    CWells Storyteller/Artist Veteran

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    • SEE MY REPLIES BELOW IN BLUE
    • Lots of icons, reduce reading. A fire type spell should have a little fire icon next to it. Piggybank of existing vocabulary in the real world.
    I would think that most games would already show spells like fire or ice with their appropriate icons. The vocabulary would be a good idea. Keep the world and language as contemporary as possible. Less reading is good.

    • A few, potent, status ailments with obvious attacks
    Working with a smaller list of ailments can help to simplify lists and make for a good rigid system. This could even make it easier

    for players to keep track of what does what and how to handle these things.

    • Reduced menu clutter, more choices make things more confusing. I'm going to include all the skills needed for a varied game, but especially in the early stages of the game, give the player time to get a feel for what they have and don't load on lots of skills at once.
    The balance for this shouldn't be too much of an issue, especially if you spread the skills out across character levels. More choices don't always have to be more confusing. Remember that you can always add or remove categories from the battle menu. In my recent one, I have 5 right now with all skills organized: Defensive magic, Offensive magic, Commands, Unique skills.

    • Only have 1-3 enemies to fight per battle. More targets are more clutter, add more choices, reduce clarity.
    More enemies with varied skills in a troop can make for complex and challenging fights over clutter. It might reduce clarity but it provides an exciting challenge. And can help increase the feeling of being in danger. But there are many ways to handle troop strength and how a party handles them.

    Do you want a party mobbing 1 enemy with massive health? Or do you want a party that may rely on group spells to target all enemies? If you are planning to keep your system small. There wouldn't be much confusion since it would be easier for players to figure out what is possible in game. If there are only three elements. Then one can quickly figure what the enemy will be pushing.

    • Reduce equipment.. Only have a few things to equip, with customization and obvious equipment effects in mind. I don't need all the default equips, accessories with special effects rather than outright attack+10 items.
    This is a great way to keep character parameter growth simple to understand and follow. It also helps to create weapons with effects that are large.

    In my first project, a character fighting with fists would hit for about 80 damage. But when a sword was equipped, that jumped to 240. But I relied more on weaknesses than actually super boosting ATK/MAT

    • Don't make anything subtle. Every action, every consequence, should be obvious and predictable in combat. No surprises.
    This would require that characters can read the status effects and elemental strengths or weaknesses in game. With this, it is hard to be subtle unless the weapon/elemental differences are merely something like 10% from one to the other.

    I guess the one advice I'd give is:

    Have your effects be dramatic. Have high resistances or vulnerabilities.

    If you are going for smaller equipment, create bigger bonuses for the equipment to make them stand out more than the others. But the aesthetics and messages are very important in helping players understand what is doing what. Pay close attention to customizing your battle messages and animations for skills and equipment.
     
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  9. Clord

    Clord Nya~ Veteran

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    AAMPF is Amnesia A Machine for Pigs. I used it as example because it was oversimplified despite not being even a RPG game.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 23, 2013
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  10. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah, sorry, quoting your whole post just to remark about the response to me in particular, ha ha.  Kids are more likely to persist because they don't have major constraints on their time.  A parent on the other hand (or just an adult in general) has bills to worry about, getting supper ready, taking care of the children, making sure everything is running according to some sort of schedule, and then if there is any real downtime, using that small amount of time to either accomplish another goal not related to fun, or just do something that shuts the brain off for a while (like simply watching television).  These sorts of parents, you will never reach regardless of what you do to your game in terms of simplifying it.  In short, they are not, nor should they ever be, your target audience.

    Learning concepts in an RPG are fairly simple, especially for anyone who has ever tried something new.  Your largest issue will be in covering things that aren't obvious.  Even at my age of 27, this becomes my biggest issue to learning a new game.  The things that aren't obvious and I have questions about... well, they aren't covered in a manual.  Or a help file.  Why?  Someone was lazy in design, most likely, or assumed I would just magically know the information based upon rudimentary understanding of what I was interacting with.  If you are introducing a system, you do not do it gradually.  Introduce it in a form that is fully working and fully usable from the start.  Otherwise, a player will feel stupid or annoyed that either don't have access to something they figured out on their own, or they are suddenly bogged down tutorial fluff halfway through the game when it could've been covered earlier.

    But, like I said, the major issues with games isn't that the GAMES need to be simplified.  I find that quite wrong.  Games need to be LESS simplified, but more thorough.

    Let us take one of the best examples of this to date:

    Portal.  Yes.  Portal.  It is a fantastic example for how you teach players to play your game as well as how to teach them to use already learned concepts in new and interesting ways.  It isn't even until you get out of the Test Chambers that you realize all of them were merely the "tutorial" for the actual game, and that it is still teaching you even as you are escaping the facility.  The game subtly teaches you which surfaces can support a portal via color.  White can place portals, brown/black cannot.  It also teaches you about momentum  and using the portals as doorways as you move through the games, allowing you to do more and more interesting things with your own momentum.  It even teaches you how to "chain" your portals so that you can preserve momentum through multiple portals that carry you through a level (and up a shaft with deadly water at the bottom, to eventually fling you across it and to the exit).  You are given no tutorial at all on how to do these things beyond basic audio clues or delivery or the way an area is set up.

    It's a puzzle game that teaches you all the concepts of the game without once dumbing down the gameplay for you.  Sure, you'll die.  A lot.  Especially on a first playthrough, but the satisfaction gained from learning those lessons is actually quite addictive and enough to keep the player coming back for more.  These tutorials are done so well that no player even notices that they ARE tutorials.  Not even on subsequent playthroughs.  Unless you're really playing the game and looking at it from a developers standpoint (or you listen to the commentary, ha ha), you won't notice that most of the game is just simply a tutorial.  Concepts are introduced into the game and then used later without you realizing you'd actually learned these concepts.  It transitions well and translates well.  You wouldn't even know that to beat the boss at the end of the game, you need to incinerate the parts of it if the concept hadn't been introduced to you in the test chamber that has you do the same thing to a Companion Cube.  It's a concept that's introduced once and only executed once, but players instantly know what it's for and how to use it.

    Basically, you don't need to simplify a game to make it accessible.  You just need to actually teach your players all the concepts they will need and will be using for the entire game without actually letting them know that you're doing it.

    If a spell says "Fire" or "Flame" or what-have-you, there's no need to make the icon a fireball unless you really want to.  People understand what it is or does.  They don't even have to read the description.  Only when a spell is something like "Rainbow Ray" would you need to have a description of what it actually does, or a picture to kind of show off that it may use every single element in it, or inflict every status ailment.

    Instead of simplifying the game for "newbies", I suggest merely covering all the concepts within your game as well as a few areas that might teach them applications to what your concepts are.  If you teach crafting, make sure you cover every aspect of it right away and then let the player use all those aspects right away by giving them ample materials to try interesting things with them.  If you have concepts that are combat oriented (like pairing two skills together has a beneficial effect), you need to create a boss monster that requires that technique be used upon it with some hints on how to do it.  Once the player learns this combat skill, they won't forget how to use it.  Just like the "water + lightning" in Bioshock, the player doesn't forget.  In fact, most players upon being taught it, use it every single time they run across water in the game.

    Don't simplify, but be thorough in your lessons.
     
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