The most horrible filler I found was in FF2.
Forced progressive trackback.
You start in a city. The first quest was going to place A and go back.
The second mission going to B passing from A.
City > A > B > A > City
The third mission is to go from the city to place C, passing from B.
City > A > B > C > B > A > City.
Next mission. Go to place D. And guess what? Is after C. And then get back.
City > A > B > C > D > C > B > A > City.
Now what happen when you are about the 15th mission?
City > A > B > C > D > [...] > D > C > B > A > City. You did the same path City > A hundred of times. Creating the illusion of a way longer game, that in fact was miserable.
Thankfully that wasn't used often, but it was used sometime. It's an atrocious way to fill up void.
I hate lots of random battles... this was a issue specially in the older consoles because of the limited power to draw enemies on the screen, there was some games that showed you where the enemy was like in Lunar games, Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger... But games like in Final Fantasy with lots of random battles feels like a chore, it seems a way, too, to make the game longer than it is.
Boring quest design where you kill x amount of a certain monster or fetch item y to complete the quest. Most times they don't do anything to spice the quest up or make it diverge its course. A bad example of this is Xenoblade's quest system. Its story is fantastic but the quest are something to be desired. A contrary to this example is the quest design from the Trails series, they maybe the same quests but they are filled with more personality and you get input from party members on the quests they are doing.
- Walls of Text
- Dialogues that never end and go on and on and on..
- Cut-Scenes that serve no purpose other than making the game feel lengthy
Like seriously, I have seen so many RPG Maker games by now that do this, It really annoys me.. Its simple folks, only include those important details in the Game that adds to the Story, Gives the Player some Hints or serves as Tips for Combat / Gameplay / Side Quests.
I'm playing a Game, Not reading a Fictional Novel for God's sake, I don't have the Patience to learn everything about your Game's backstory, Its your job to condense it into a neat little package and present them, If you really have to tell me about your Game world, Make it creative like fit them up in Side quests or show them as Trivia on Screen Transfer...
I hate tutorials that are super long and boring, especially if the tutorial is weaved into the first few hours into the game or can't be skipped. The first impression you give the player matters so much, you can't afford to slow things down with explanation. Looking at you, recent pokemon games explaining basic game mechanics that I've known since 1998.
Fortunately this is an easy fix. Just make it completely optional. Even better if you have a dedicated area/menu option for helpful tips.
* Unskippable, blatant tutorials that don't really help or bother being part of the world you're in
* Fetch quests / grinding to get past a level gate
* Random encounters that you can't control without a repel function
* No fast travel function that lets you easily escape dungeons you've already done, made worse if combined with the above
With point #2 I get especially peeved because sidequests to get extra exp or loot can be way, way more than kill x amount of monsters or fetch X item for NPC you'll never meet again.
If you're going to make me undergo filler, make it fun filler to take my mind off the main plot at a time when it's appropriate.
Also re @Black Pagan: a lot of stories could benefit from being more concise.
Characters losing 50 IQ points to make the plot take longer than it would if anyone had a shred of common sense.
Gather Item Quests
Kill Monster Quests
Bosses with more than 1 form (yes, even the final boss, it is so much unnecessary padding. If you can't make ONE great final boss, why on earth do you think screwing it up twice or three times or fifty times is going to make it BETTER? If you can't get 1 form right, don't make more. I'm from the Gordon Ramsey school of thought, "How can you think about more when you can't even get ONE right?!")
Scaling XP to prevent me from steamrolling your easymode content.
Item/Content roadblocks that force backtracking.
Forcing grind for XP/Items.
Not letting me beat the boss when I had it dead to rights and having to fight it 2-5 more times during the course of the story before allowing me to finally kill it.
Stagger bars in combat that drag out combat longer than necessary. Pro tip, the gameplay these create is generally quite underwhelming unless done PERFECTLY. If you can't do it perfectly, don't bother. You're hurting your game and hurting me as a player.
"Find the item/pixel" segments.
Too many characters.
Too many game mechanics.
Mechanics that require a player "min/max" to remain effective.
Games with achievements that require multiple playthroughs.
Plotlines about nebulous philosophical/artsy crap which is a lot of navel-gazing. These stories are usually about 1 hour long, but are stretched to like 10+ hours while the dev jerks you around trying to "sound so smart" or "say something meaningful". Meanwhile, any player with any modicum of intelligence has figured out, "um, what you're saying isn't meaningful or interesting, and you're trying to sound smarter than you actually are". Dunno 'bout anyone else, but I ain't playing games to watch the devs stare at their own navels and smell their own farts and then ruminate about "how clever" their stories and symbolism are. Look, unless what you've made is a lot like FLCL (an anime), it isn't clever. It isn't deep. It isn't even interesting. FLCL works on half a dozen levels and you find something new with each viewing. Nobody has ever made a video game that works this way, so please stop trying to do so. It's grating and an annoying waste of time. It's pointless padding for your own ego.
Tai_MT: I agree with most of those, but personally I would put the word "bad" in front of mini-games. There are few things more annoying than a poorly designed or unfun mini-game, but I have played a few of them that are absolutely fantastic and I think, if done well, they can be a fun distraction.
Of course, I do respect your opinion on it, and I thank you for your input here!
In Crystallis, quests are very linear, but you will find yourself grinding for gold on the world map to get the necessary items for progression. If I already have the dungeon figured out, why I have to grind just to be able to kill the boss?? Yeah, you will gain xp as well, but unless you don't want to die in 3 hits to overworld enemies, you will have to spend 5~10 or more minutes just mindlessly killing enemies to get that new armor set and shield...
Aside that the game is interesting enough for a NES game, with zelda-like combat, weapon skills in the map, some dozens of items to use and a fine soundtrack (its no Zelda or FF though).
My personal opinion on mini-games is far more nuanced and practical than you might imagine. Namely, if the dev has gotten so bored with designing their main game that they have decided to put a second, third, or tenth game INSIDE their main game... how the heck am I, THE PLAYER, meant to be having fun with it?
Likewise, there aren't any minigames that could ever "stand on their own", which is why they're shoved into other games. They all suck. They're all terrible. Nobody would ever buy them as stand-alone games. But, they might waste 10 minutes playing one of these terrible games if it was inside a different game that they wanted to play.
Finally, I'd rather a dev spent their dev time making their actual game better rather than spending it to code a stupid minigame. Chocobo Racing? A roulette wheel? Imagine what could've been done if those 10-50 dev hours had been spent adding ACTUAL CONTENT to the game... or POLISHING EXISTING CONTENT.
In general, I use "minigames" as a "red flag" of "dev doesn't know what they're doing" and typically avoid games that have them in it.
Again, as Gordon Ramsey says, "How can you think about another when you can't even get ONE right!?"
There are good JRPG's. Some of them even have some of these issues. The difference is that the games are so good that these problems are outweighed by how good they are.
We're all amateur game devs here. Most of the people using the "cheap" game engines (RPG Maker, Unity, etcetera) aren't good enough to make a great game that outweighs all the bad game design choices. Namely, few of us are going to commit any two of these "wastes of time" issues and still have a game beyond "decent". We'd be lucky to get above "boring" (on a scale of "Not a game", "bad game", "boring game", "meh", "it's decent", "I kind of liked it", "it's good", "I had a lot of fun", "it's awesome!", "oh, I didn't realize I sunk 900 hours into this game", and "I will never play another game in my entire life as good as this one"). Whereas other game devs with a lot more experience and forethought involved could commit up to 3 of these "wastes of time" issues and still have a "great" game (I had a lot of fun!)or even a "good" game. But, that's being generous and assuming the game would be "a perfect 10/10" if those features weren't in it.
Chrono Trigger is my favorite RPG of all time. It has several of these issues. Namely, the minigame one and the puzzle one. It absolutely nails every single other aspect of game design to still be above "great" RPG. In my opinion, it's "the greatest RPG ever made" (I will never play another game in my entire life as good as this one)with only Earthbound in a short second (and it commits none of those issues) and Mass Effect 1 a close third place (a game that commits a few of those issues).
Game devs on these forums should not count on "I make a game that outweighs all the really stupid and poorly designed stuff I could put into the game". Especially when so few of them think beyond, "I'll include it as rule of cool!". If your minigame serves no purpose, it shouldn't exist. That is, if it doesn't add something to the overall gameplay or feel of the game, it is pointless waste of time and space. This goes for any feature you add into a game. Not many on these forums practice this. Remove anything that serves no purpose. Don't include something just because a game you enjoyed had it in it, and thus your game will be good with it by virtue of osmosis or some other nonsense.
Heck, most people on these forums don't even understand that "Crafting Systems" only work in an MMO setting (you know, where these things originated) because a Singleplayer Setting can't utilize them properly in order to make them useful or entertaining. A singleplayer setting only ever turns "Crafting Systems" into pointless grind and busywork.
As an amateur game dev, people should be avoiding anything that would be "a waste of time". That is, including things which can remove value from their game and has a high probability of adding nothing to their game. When you've "mastered" game design and can sell a $20 game pretty effectively with a lot of positive reviews... Sure, you've earned the right to "dabble" in bad design to see if you can figure out how to make it work and make it be amazing. But, it's safer to avoid shooting holes in your boat before you've built up the arm strength to bail the water out as fast as it comes in.
For me, it just ends up being unnecessary padding. A "Love Triangle" is rarely interesting as a concept in popular media. It's often included just as a means of adding "Will They or Won't They?" and pointless drama that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. I've much preferred RPG's and other games where the love interest is there and it's obvious who will get with who, but they need to get to the point where they can be together. I don't much enjoy the, "10 people love this one person, but this one person is non-committal or doing romantic things, sort of, with all 10 people" as it's just there to pad out the plot.
Likewise, it's just frustrating to watch.
Sort of like people who include "The Edgelord" character. It exists to add pointless drama and because the writers aren't terribly good at their job.
To me you're not listing filler elements, but what mostly risk to turn bad. And when turned to bad, you perceive them as "fillers" (something that shouldn't be there).
So, bad structure, bad combat, bad plot...
Those are not intentional fillers, those are just bad design issues.
(As an example, Cima the enemy - first scene in the train, you must talk to every traveler to proceed next scene, and that's a filler - is intentionally here to have you spend just time).
They are filler elements though. They exist to create more game than would otherwise exist without them.
Puzzles in an RPG exist for no other reason than to pad out the time it takes you to complete a dungeon or a segment. Minigames in an RPG exist for no other reason than an attempt to "add more content to the game so you play it longer". Crafting is literally a grinding system. So is XP Scaling. Romance Triangles exist to pad out the story with more drama in order to make the game longer.
All of what I mentioned is put into a game in order to "make the game have more content", but it is literally just padding. It exists primarily because a dev is "unfocused". They want to hit the coveted "20 hour RPG" mark, or "100 hour RPG Mark".
Imagine how much of my list wouldn't exist if devs weren't trying to make "Specific amount of hours in a game RPG". Imagine how streamlined and fun these games would be if they cut out all the extraneous nonsense and the devs were instead focused on, "I have a story to tell, this is how long it takes to tell that story, then it's over" or "I have mechanics I want the players to experience and explore, this is how long it takes to do everything I can with these mechanics, then the game is done".
If you have an RPG that can be finished in 5 hours, then I'd rather play the 5 hour RPG that is amazing rather than the 5 hour RPG with 15 hours of padding because you've added:
Too many characters.
Characters losing 50 IQ points so the plot isn't resolved as quickly as it would be otherwise.
Gather the item Quests.
Hunt the item/pixel segments.
Bosses with multiple forms.
Preventing me from grinding XP.
Too many game mechanics packed in to learn.
One of these things is a more focused experience, which means what is there is probably polished quite well.
@Tai_MT a very strong opinion on Minigames, and I will have to disagree. If they are merely optional, a 5 hour ROG with a blackjack minigame and a fishing minigame will still be a 5 hour RPG regardless (see Mare, an RPG Maker game). This can make the player stay if they want more, extending the length in some cases.
Also, making the player able to participate in the activities in this world helps it's worldbuilding, as it feels more like a place with its own culture instead of a generic RPG town (FF series chocobo races and FFX's football thing, never played).
Now now, when those are REQUIRED for progression, it is really a bother, forcing the player to play in a way they might find boring or difficult, a sin Zelda games make a lot (OoT's horse race, MM's photo boat). Kingdom Hearts had you get the first Coliseum Cup to see Cloud and continue the story, but the rest is totally up to the player (I did all the cups right before the Final Boss to get some materials, and enjoyed it quite a bit).
Finally, the "go back to work on your game" thing is not helpful at all! Minor mechanics and worldbuilding bits are a nice way to keep working on game stuff without burning out from the main story (not from boredom, but as someone who was prescribed meds for mental burnout, taking breaks from your work projects is OK). Though it is important to keep track of your progress in a sheet or Trello.
Working on a new menu for my game. I'm not sure if I should get the Lune Engine to make it more unique. I think I'll be making the text color more white to match the "Menu" color. I may add some little stamps or markings to make it look more like it's paper.