Tips for making a "mechanically fun" RPG?

fallenlorelei

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Hello! :D


So I'm currently working on my first *real* RPG project, one that I hope will bring hours of entertainment. I am basing the entire thing off of a story idea I had last year. I wrote so many notes about the story, from beginning to end (well... almost the end...), but never actually got down to writing it. Once I bought RPG Maker (VX Ace), I decided to put my story into RPG format! ^__^; I thought, since I already have the notes filled out, I'm already halfway done! Haha.


The problem is, this isn't so much an RPG as it is a Visual Novel. I spent days (DAYS) writing out all of my items and making my own skills for the 8 available classes. I plan on adding weapons and armor as I go through the game. Maps are also being created as I go through.


What I'm missing... is fun mechanics.


First of all, the 3 main characters have static classes (for story purposes - fairly important and can't be changed). This includes the main character, who I'm not even allowing the player to rename due to her name being fairly important symbolically. There's no "pick a class!" function in my game. Is that an issue? Will that turn the player off?


Secondly, there will be a lot of adventure in my game. I plan on adding side quests and the like. There will be monster-deeming dungeons between each Kingdom the player must travel to. But... is that enough to keep the player interested? I'm not sure how to add "puzzles" that aren't simply... super confusing maze maps, which will eventually get old.


Also, final bosses. Right now they're simply bigger (story-related) monsters with higher HP, higher attack damage, and maybe some minions. Is there a way to make bosses more fun and engaging? Other than simply, "Oooh, unlike the last boss, this one poisons you!"


I'm very excited about my project, but I'm afraid I'm going to get halfway through the eventing and realize - Wow. My game is incredibly boring. Might you have any tips for a first-time creator? =]
 

Zechnophobe

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Hello! :D

So I'm currently working on my first *real* RPG project, one that I hope will bring hours of entertainment. I am basing the entire thing off of a story idea I had last year. I wrote so many notes about the story, from beginning to end (well... almost the end...), but never actually got down to writing it. Once I bought RPG Maker (VX Ace), I decided to put my story into RPG format! ^__^; I thought, since I already have the notes filled out, I'm already halfway done! Haha.

The problem is, this isn't so much an RPG as it is a Visual Novel. I spent days (DAYS) writing out all of my items and making my own skills for the 8 available classes. I plan on adding weapons and armor as I go through the game. Maps are also being created as I go through.

What I'm missing... is fun mechanics.

First of all, the 3 main characters have static classes (for story purposes - fairly important and can't be changed). This includes the main character, who I'm not even allowing the player to rename due to her name being fairly important symbolically. There's no "pick a class!" function in my game. Is that an issue? Will that turn the player off?

Secondly, there will be a lot of adventure in my game. I plan on adding side quests and the like. There will be monster-deeming dungeons between each Kingdom the player must travel to. But... is that enough to keep the player interested? I'm not sure how to add "puzzles" that aren't simply... super confusing maze maps, which will eventually get old.

Also, final bosses. Right now they're simply bigger (story-related) monsters with higher HP, higher attack damage, and maybe some minions. Is there a way to make bosses more fun and engaging? Other than simply, "Oooh, unlike the last boss, this one poisons you!"

I'm very excited about my project, but I'm afraid I'm going to get halfway through the eventing and realize - Wow. My game is incredibly boring. Might you have any tips for a first-time creator? =]
So, it sounds like you are taking a 'top down' design on the game. You've started with a lot of the big ideas for story and aesthetics, and are hoping the game mechanics will emerge intuitively from them. To fuel this kind of game, always think 'what SHOULD this thing do?" followed by "What COULD this thing do?"

For example, I assume your bosses are story related and not just 'the bigger spider at the end of the spider cave'. What part of who that boss is, would make for an interesting mechanic? Without a dedicated game designer, this might be hard, but it's all the advice I can give you :) . If you have some bosses or classes you'd like ideas for, I might be able to help with them.
 

Milennin

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I don't have a choose class for my characters in my game either, and I haven't had any complaints about it yet. As long as you give them skills that are interesting and useful.

For bosses there's so many things you can do, you just have to use your imagination or look at other RPGs. This is how I think when I have to make an encounter:

-What is the boss exactly (design phase)

-What kind of techniques would make sense for this kind of creature?

-Depending on what kind of boss you came up with you can do different things with it, like... nukes the field every few turns. time bomb (must beat within set amount of turns), swarms the field by continuously spawning minions, have minions heal him or take hits for him, have him shift weaknesses every turn, instead of attacking he only counters damage, instead of direct damage he spams degen conditions, etc. etc.

-Balance the encounter.
 
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fallenlorelei

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To fuel this kind of game, always think 'what SHOULD this thing do?" followed by "What COULD this thing do?"
What kind of techniques would make sense for this kind of creature?


-Depending on what kind of boss you came up with you can do different things with it, like... nukes the field every few turns. time bomb (must beat within set amount of turns), swarms the field by continuously spawning minions, have minions heal him or take hits for him, have him shift weaknesses every turn, instead of attacking he only counters damage, instead of direct damage he spams degen conditions, etc. etc.
Definitely some food for thought. I suppose I'm gonna need to understand all of what RPG Maker allows me to even do, to know where to even begin with "Fun."
Rather, I'm just not sure what grabs a player, and then keeps them grabbed... apart from growing crops every 24 hours...
 

Milennin

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Definitely some food for thought. I suppose I'm gonna need to understand all of what RPG Maker allows me to even do, to know where to even begin with "Fun."

Rather, I'm just not sure what grabs a player, and then keeps them grabbed... apart from growing crops every 24 hours...
Pay attention to the pacing of your game. Make sure your cutscenes don't take up too much time. Tell your story in bits over time (not all at once). Balance your encounter rates (especially with random encounters, don't put a high rate on it), don't make regular battles for long times. Make your boss battles challenging, but not unfair. Reward exploration by putting in treasure chests in hidden places or dead ends (dead ends with nothing in them suck xD) etc. etc.
 

Zechnophobe

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Definitely some food for thought. I suppose I'm gonna need to understand all of what RPG Maker allows me to even do, to know where to even begin with "Fun."

Rather, I'm just not sure what grabs a player, and then keeps them grabbed... apart from growing crops every 24 hours...
Well, player attraction is a pretty deep topic. The very high level answer is 'rewards'. They like things that make them happy. They also like variety. Having all your characters 'play' the same way in a fight is not a good start. You really want to identify any area where you are over-using the same gameplay elements. That goes from things like rote repetitive combats, to uninteresting scenery. If every fight is "Use ability A then B then C" and then it is over, it's going to get boring pretty quick.
 

Vox Novus

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For boss battles in rpgs I tend to like fights where the boss has some sort of strategy or weakness the player needs to figure out and exploit.

For example:

-Maybe a boss that has high defensive skills so the playerd has to debuff defense if they want attackers to do damage, they could also attack with magic attacks or maybe inflict status ailments like poison that will gradually lower the bosses hp while a healer heals the party and other members apply buffs.

-Or if you have an elemental system in place and the player has access to a variety of spells perhaps they need to test which elemental spells will be effective against a boss monster.

-Perhaps there is a boss monster that has minions that perform different functions; like one is a tank, another a heavy damage dealer, another a debuffer/state applier and another one that heals. Each individual monster might not be as strong but if the player doesn't figure out the function of each minion and properly dispose of them the fight could be difficult.
 

monkeynohito

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You should figure out exactly which flavor of fun you want to shoot for and then you'll find the pieces starting to slide into place for your core concept. 'Fun' in a game can also be interesting, satisfying, cathartic, introspective, sympathetic without needing to be an amusing diversion.

Figure out which brand of fun is best for your core ideas though. Resource management, juggling items and equipment can be fun for someone seeking a sense of accomplishment. Exploration, meeting new characters and getting to know them can fulfill a player's desire for discovery. Creative elements can help satisfy people looking for a canvas to paint their imagination onto. It's really about what you want to satisfy in your audience, what you're capable of.

Some of these elements can be done better in an RPG than others and some of these elements can actually conflict in a lot of ways like discovery and creativity. If you focus on a few entertaining core elements you'll also be able to build on those ideas further than if you try to inject a pinch of everything.

I, personally, also suggest you not try to entertain everyone who might possibly pick up your game and instead try to do the best at what you can do well. Is there some ways you see to improve on or personalize the traditional visual novel sort of experience or are you trying to appeal to an audience that really doesn't appreciate the core concepts involved and won't even if some of the fun surface elements draw them in? It's better to deliver a much better example of what the game is good at doing and leave the innovation for areas that it can comfortably grow in those directions.
 

fallenlorelei

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You guys are preeeetty awesome.


Thanks!


I think I psyched myself out thinking I need to include so many elements of "fun" into my game. That happened at the beginning of the process when I went absolutely script-crazy and realized I didn't even need half of them...


I'm gonna need to sit down and really think about what my game really needs.
 

kerbonklin

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Mechanics are definitely the meat of a battle system and sometimes the field maps.

For battles to keep them interesting, i'm using a combination of single-actor-turn-order, along with a timer/combo-count that benefits you for inputting your turns faster (and punishes you for taking turns slower), and some charge-skills. Maybe i'll add another mechanic sometime later on.

For fields i'm going with the classic field-type skills that will be used for puzzles and travelling places, as well as in battles as various attacks.
 

Matseb2611

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One of the things you could do when making boss battles is to put yourself on the boss' place and imagine the player party is the enemy. Is the party utilising a certain strategy repeatedly and relying on it too much? Perhaps once in a while the boss can pull something out of the bag that will surprise the party and make them think twice before relying on their tried and tested methods. For example, if the party is very aggressive and attacks all the time, then deal powerful group damage every now and again to force them to buff and heal too. Are they using too many powerful magic spells? Perhaps use the 'reflect' skill every now and again to bounce those uber spells back at them? But wait, they now buff themselves too much and become too strong? How about you send a nice juicy group debuff their way. And so on.

And as for static classes, I think it's fine. So long as you give these classes a nice variety of skills which are well-balanced, then the player will be able to decide for themselves which of those skills they prefer to use more and which less, and that will surely be fun. 
 

kerbonklin

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Are they using too many powerful magic spells? Perhaps use the 'reflect' skill every now and again to bounce those uber spells back at them? But wait, they now buff themselves too much and become too strong? How about you send a nice juicy group debuff their way. And so on.
I definitely agree with this. I was re-playing FF4 and the first Archfiend boss does this. When you attack him with a spell (specifically Fire because he's weak against it), he'll have a 20% chance of using Counter: Reflect that lasts about 5 turns, so you have to stop using Fira and resort to using Hi-Potions against the boss (because he's Undead, but it's weaker than spamming Fira)
 
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voymasa

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Hello! :D

So I'm currently working on my first *real* RPG project, one that I hope will bring hours of entertainment. I am basing the entire thing off of a story idea I had last year. I wrote so many notes about the story, from beginning to end (well... almost the end...), but never actually got down to writing it. Once I bought RPG Maker (VX Ace), I decided to put my story into RPG format! ^__^; I thought, since I already have the notes filled out, I'm already halfway done! Haha.

The problem is, this isn't so much an RPG as it is a Visual Novel. I spent days (DAYS) writing out all of my items and making my own skills for the 8 available classes. I plan on adding weapons and armor as I go through the game. Maps are also being created as I go through.

What I'm missing... is fun mechanics.

First of all, the 3 main characters have static classes (for story purposes - fairly important and can't be changed). This includes the main character, who I'm not even allowing the player to rename due to her name being fairly important symbolically. There's no "pick a class!" function in my game. Is that an issue? Will that turn the player off?

Secondly, there will be a lot of adventure in my game. I plan on adding side quests and the like. There will be monster-deeming dungeons between each Kingdom the player must travel to. But... is that enough to keep the player interested? I'm not sure how to add "puzzles" that aren't simply... super confusing maze maps, which will eventually get old.

Also, final bosses. Right now they're simply bigger (story-related) monsters with higher HP, higher attack damage, and maybe some minions. Is there a way to make bosses more fun and engaging? Other than simply, "Oooh, unlike the last boss, this one poisons you!"

I'm very excited about my project, but I'm afraid I'm going to get halfway through the eventing and realize - Wow. My game is incredibly boring. Might you have any tips for a first-time creator? =]
With static classes there are other ways to make your characters more interesting to use. Give the player some choices on how to develop each character or give choosable variations (like Sora's outfits in KH2) which switch up their play styles slightly. Using the Tank, Healer, Dps model, you could have the tank character have a Warrior type base (extensive weapon and armor use, possibly with associated weapon techs) but then have a couple variants like a Spellblade (Elemental Weapon Attacks), Paladin (Protect/Minor heal allies), Dark Knight (Status Effect Attacks). The same could apply for the healer and dps characters. You could allow the player to switch between these (like the knight in that demo game Crysalis does with their sword transform) either between battles, in battle, or via special equipment (weapon, armor, accessories....). Don't worry about info overload. Take a breather, rest, and then go back to it.

I'm retweaking my opener because I'm bringing the theme (which was beneath the surface of my story) to the fore and making the player more aware of it. I'm using a kind of "morality" path system, which would ultimately determine the ending as well as certain paths in the game. Give your players choice (at one point for one of the first quests in the project I'm working on, once the player starts the main story, they have to get access to the king of the area they're in, but in reality could you really just walk up to the castle gate and get a meeting with a king? I don't agree with Final Fantasy one (no offense guys, I love the game; it was my first RPG to play, on NES) and Star Ocean 2, where they just let you walk up to a king of a major kingdom and say hello. So I give the player a mini quest to find a way to talk with the king. The player asks around and gets some ideas from various NPCs (indirectly of course; no one should say "hey, you could try X" unless it fits with the story); some possibilities are a) the local guilds are having trouble getting their supplies from the mining camp, and would be grateful to sponsor the hero, B) the town guards are having trouble with monster attacks and need a little help, or c) the local thieves' guild knows of an underground passage into the castle (which would allow me to show you another character from a different POV than you would through one of the other two "official" paths)).

You can use eventing to make the puzzles. Try Choices, Conditional branches, item fetch quests, etc to make puzzles for the player (from a simple logic puzzle, to a question based upon information the player can gather from the area, or from a previous or side area).

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sometimes you can get the player to focus on other elements of the game than mechanics. Remember that VX Ace has mechanics already that "work". Do what you're good at, and get help for areas that your not (like game art, for me..... I can't seem to make a decent looking sprite :distrust: ).

Good Luck and enjoy.
 

Spanky

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Use boulder-pushing puzzles!  :D

And slippery ice puzzles, where you go flying across the screen when you step on a tile!  :D
 

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