Transformations - How to make them work?

Do you like transformations in your RPGs?

  • Hell yeah!

    Votes: 21 87.5%
  • No way.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I don't know...

    Votes: 3 12.5%

  • Total voters
    24

Milennin

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I was thinking of the concept of transformations, which would basically serve as a significant power-up, but with a cool visual effect of changing a character's sprite. But there are several problems I run into when trying to think of how to make transformations in combat work:

-Having combat balanced around a non-transformed character would mean that transforming would overpower the character and break the encounter.
-Having combat balanced around a transformed character would mean that not transforming is never a desirable option, so players would feel forced to transform every encounter.
-Making the transformation too accessible and too powerful would mean it'd get spammed, and lose its impact.
-Making the transformation accessible, but not very powerful would mean it'd get ignored because it'd be considered a waste of a turn - or in the case of it costing no turn to use, it'd still be considered a waste of resources (MP) or waste of time to sit through the animation.
-Making the transformation too limited would mean it rarely gets used at all, and mostly serves as a boss killer. Possibly the most ideal purpose of a transformation, but would it be enough?

So, my questions are: how to make transformations work in combat? Having them feel just powerful enough that they're worth using, without being so strong that they break encounters. Not spammable enough that you see them more than the character's original form, but also not so rare that you might use them only vs. the occasional boss. Is it possible at all for transformations to work at all in a (traditional) turn-based RPG setting, utilising all their strong points (their purpose of serving as a significant power-up, as well as providing that all important rule-of-cool factor), while still feeling like a balanced feature? If you were to make an RPG that allowed your characters to transform, how would you handle it?
 

Rinobi

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Funny this should come up now, since I added a transformation mechanic to my personal project just a month ago. I was asking myself the same questions.

Its a toggle skill that provides a significant power boost, but mp costs and cooldowns are doubled. Moreover, it halves the amount of exp received once activated. It works pretty well for my project, but that may be due to other unique mechanics.

(Rushed reply, at work...)
 

JtheDuelist

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Yanfly covered this I think for MV:
 

GuanyuMaker

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I like how RED-> Alkaiser do in Saga Frontier. Basically he has a special power and acts like a superhero when transformed. Due to that he can only transform when he is the only conscious living being in the battle scene( he needs to preserve his identity). Said that he can still transform if theres machine party members up. His transformation acts like a back up.

You can also use Ashley style from Wild Arms 2 who can only transform during condition green( limit break for wild arms) in that case as already said it acts like a final move.

For those 2 cases changing the music played a big role. You can still go DnD druid. Where transformations dont give power increase (compared to other classes) but a change in the combat style with various options.

I love transformations in any way presented( not so much on DBZ style).
 
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KoldBlood

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While I'm not using transformations in my current project I have fiddled with the idea here and there for use in future projects. In the past my main way of using it was kind of like an ultimate that you activate. With my experience now though I think I would go more with a side-grade style than a straight upgrade.

For example, transforming gives you a set of skills, protection, and/or utility that you don't get while not transformed but you lose your non-transformed skills, protection, and/or utility in trade and vice versa. That would make transforming a conscious and practical choice of the player in combat. Assuming your combat system is designed around this concept and allows for strategies using the character's different forms.
 

Kes

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The game I have just finished has one character who eventually gets a transformation skill, but it's fairly late game, so the skills acquired are comparatively narrowly focused. Like Koldblood, this character loses all non-transformed skills etc., so it's a straight either/or. I suppose you could see it as a variation on being able to switch a character in battle.
 

OnslaughtSupply

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I think it needs to have a good risk/reward thing going. I did it on an unfinished project. You would transform and have an entirely different set of skills available and regular skills would be inaccessible plus it would only last a few turns and then be put into a fatigued state that left you vulnerable a few turns. This way it wasn't a boss killer. TP had to at 100 to transform and you would be OP for 3 turns and then fatigued for 3 to 5 turns and mp consumption doubled as well as lowered defense and agility. Agility determined order. So the player would have to weigh the risks vs rewards.
 

Alastor01

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I like the concept of transformation in Anime and games.
Dark Souls would be too easy with transformations I think.
Devil May Cry does it well I think - it’s hard without Devil Trigger, which can restore your health, as restoring supplies are quite rare. You also get special abilities along with increased strength / speed / defense. But you need to get the gauge to a certain level, which requires you either to receive lots of damage or cause a lot of damage to enemies. Spamming doesn’t work. Getting gauge full takes a lot of time and effort. And using special attacks causes gauge to run out faster. What is your priority during transformation - regeneration of HP or using some OP attack which will dispel your transformation and leave you wide open? During boss fight it may be important decision.

Let me give you an example I made up: Demonic Mode
Only half-human half-demons have such ability. This race is weaker to white / holy / magic / effect etc. They can not use magic / miracles / whatever. So they do have a disadvantage compared to humans for example.
- Condition: Gauge filled to a threshold, filled while receiving damage or doing damage
- Positive effects: Increased attributes by 2x 3x, ability to use special attacls which are not available in human form, regeneration, most statuses immunity
- Negative effects and disadvantages: Much weaker to white / holy effects, transformation takes 1 turn and makes you vulnerable during that turn, exiting takes 1 turn and makes you vulnerable during that turn, leaves you weaker for a couple of turns and starts a certain permanent counter which increases with each transformation (it slowly decreases in human form)
- Bonuses: lower HP at the start makes transformation stronger
- Danger: if you transform again when the counter reaches certain level, you will lose control and may kill other members of your party
 

Wavelength

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I generally like them on the "overpowered" side. You can, and should, introduce at least one mechanic that prevents them from being used too often, such as:
  • Making the transformations happen automatically when something is achieved (dealing/taking X cumulative damage, being in a fight for X turns, killing an enemy, etc.), instead of allowing the player to manually trigger it
  • Allowing the player to use the Transformations only a limited number of times before resting at an Inn
  • Having a drawback for using the Transformation (cooldown that persists between battles, no EXP for the fight, become weaker afterwards, or even a permanent drawback like in Dragon Quarter)
 

Fernyfer775

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I have two characters who "transform" in my game, but instead of being over the top super buffing mechanics, they're slightly more subtle transformations that increase X, Y, or Z stat.

The 1st one being my healer, Damien, who upon using his "filler" damage/heal spell Smite, will gain 1 of 4 random buffs for a few turns. When the buff is active, he will "transform" and gain different colored angel wings depending on the buff he gets. The wings are there mostly to indicate that the buff is active to give players a visual cue on which buff he has at the time.

The second "transformation" is for my black mage character Minerva. Whenever she uses a self-buff "Metastasis" she will transform for a few turns.

For my game, it's just an extra visual representation of the buff that's active rather than some huge mechanic changing part of the game. I am personally a huge fan of transformation skills in games, but I also didn't want to design my combat around it, so I went with a more subtle way of doing it.
 

Failivrin

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A random thought I had: Remember those loyalty mechanics in tactics RPGs? Characters could leave your party if they don't agree with your decisions. And there was always some kind of Persuade skill to recruit characters from an enemy party.
If the nature of the transformation is something demonic or monstrous, it would be interesting if every transformation lowered a character's loyalty or increased their chance of being persuaded to join the enemy. I haven't seen a game that uses this mechanic.
 

Countyoungblood

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Legend of dragoon is a classic rpg that does transformation pretty well. Might be worth playing/researching.

The characters gained the ability to transform into winged dragon-armored knights and use other dragon related things.. its pretty good.
 

RespectWomen

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White Knight Chronicles did this the best imo. Every large enemy was not impossible to beat as a normal party but it did feel like you were clawing at their toes most of the time. The transformation would alter the battle system allowing you to target their body parts. And the transformation used AP which was the same pool you used your skills from. I may be remembering incorrectly but i think when you transformed with lower AP you would get a nerfed transformation so something like that could be used to discourage spam.
 

Aesica

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I like to approach the idea of transformations as a sort of desperate measure to be saved for sticky situations or boss fights, but not every battle. Drakengard 3 does it pretty well in terms of regulating use, even if the actual transformation was a bit on the OP side. Basically, You very slowly build up your gauge as you kill stuff and progress through a given area. When used, the gauge empties over time until you either run out or manually cancel it. This way, you can use it a few times throughout the level for very short bursts of power, or save it all up for the boss.

So in essence, this approach effectively gives the player a resource to manage besides the same old MP management.
 

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