What type of encounters do you prefer?

Which encounter type to you prefer playing?

  • Random Encounter

    Votes: 8 17.4%
  • On screen enemies

    Votes: 36 78.3%
  • Random Encounter with Enc 1/2 Enc none etc.

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Other

    Votes: 1 2.2%

  • Total voters
    46

Tai_MT

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I prefer random encounters because their issues that everyone cites are solved by coding in an item that takes 5 seconds to do... while the myriad amount of problems and issues associated with "On screen encounters" have never been fixed... and Earthbound is still the "gold standard" of how to do such a system well... where nobody has duplicated or even innovated it yet.

I look forward to the day that someone finally loves "on screen encounters" enough to actually make the system worthwhile, interesting, and a feature all on its own rather than just making it "room of forced encounters that are difficult for a player to grind if they want, and punishing for a player to avoid the encounters".

Basically, if you have a room with random encounters... you may get two encounters for the room as you cross it. But, if you have "on screen encounters", you may have 3 encounters in the room... that the player MUST fight in order to even be remotely the projected level the dev thought they'd be for the boss fight later, and woe to the player who sees the on screen encounters and skips them all and then has to fight the boss at the end... or woe to the dev who has to narrow their hallways in order to FORCE encounters on the player for purposes of balancing...

The main issue isn't really whether or not you've got on screen encounters or random ones. It's whether or not your combat system is fun. If it isn't fun, your players don't want to be interrupted by it. If it is, it doesn't really matter.

Look at any "on screen encounter" system that exists. Enemies can easily corner you and force you into combat... the dev has several locations where they force you into combat by narrowing hallways or heavily populating rooms with monsters...

Basically, the only downside to "random encounters" is "I took one step after battle and was immediately in another battle!", which is easily fixed by coding floors and ceilings for encounters or by implementing a single item to turn off encounters entirely... While "on screen encounters" have about two dozen flaws including "you are now forced to fight" and "map design now looks like garbage to accommodate enemy pathing" alongside "enemy AI is garbage" and "players can and usually will skip most of your encounters"...

If ever someone sets the new "Gold Standard" for how to do Visual Encounters, I'll be on board with that and change my opinion. Until that day... Random Encounters are still objectively superior in my eyes.
 

ScorchedGround

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I prefer random encounters because their issues that everyone cites are solved by coding in an item that takes 5 seconds to do... while the myriad amount of problems and issues associated with "On screen encounters" have never been fixed... and Earthbound is still the "gold standard" of how to do such a system well... where nobody has duplicated or even innovated it yet.

I look forward to the day that someone finally loves "on screen encounters" enough to actually make the system worthwhile, interesting, and a feature all on its own rather than just making it "room of forced encounters that are difficult for a player to grind if they want, and punishing for a player to avoid the encounters".

Basically, if you have a room with random encounters... you may get two encounters for the room as you cross it. But, if you have "on screen encounters", you may have 3 encounters in the room... that the player MUST fight in order to even be remotely the projected level the dev thought they'd be for the boss fight later, and woe to the player who sees the on screen encounters and skips them all and then has to fight the boss at the end... or woe to the dev who has to narrow their hallways in order to FORCE encounters on the player for purposes of balancing...

The main issue isn't really whether or not you've got on screen encounters or random ones. It's whether or not your combat system is fun. If it isn't fun, your players don't want to be interrupted by it. If it is, it doesn't really matter.

Look at any "on screen encounter" system that exists. Enemies can easily corner you and force you into combat... the dev has several locations where they force you into combat by narrowing hallways or heavily populating rooms with monsters...

Basically, the only downside to "random encounters" is "I took one step after battle and was immediately in another battle!", which is easily fixed by coding floors and ceilings for encounters or by implementing a single item to turn off encounters entirely... While "on screen encounters" have about two dozen flaws including "you are now forced to fight" and "map design now looks like garbage to accommodate enemy pathing" alongside "enemy AI is garbage" and "players can and usually will skip most of your encounters"...

If ever someone sets the new "Gold Standard" for how to do Visual Encounters, I'll be on board with that and change my opinion. Until that day... Random Encounters are still objectively superior in my eyes.
Well I do have on-screen encounters in my game. I tried to solve these issues wherever possible. Most enemies that actively chase you only chase you slowly and only for a few seconds upon spotting you. Often times they are bound to optional areas on the map meaning if you only want to cross a map they should not bother you.
For example, if there is a forest with a road going through it, the enemies will only chase you to the road but will never enter the road, making it a safe haven.
If there are narrow paths I put a different kind of on-screen enemy there that does not actively seek you out at all. You have to battle them yourself.
You are only forced to battle if there is a story-relevant battle ahead. Any enemy that blocks your path are rare and one time only encounter.
 

Tai_MT

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@ScorchedGround

So, you've got a different set of problems then.

How do you do your balancing? Do you balance bosses for the players who avoided as much of your combat as possible? Or are they balanced for players who fought every single encounter possible? What about players who went back to previous screens and grinded some of your monsters and are now over-leveled?

The problem you've got is "monsters are a finite resource to be managed" now. Which means, you need to treat them as such. What happens when a player never gets that resource? What happens when they get too much of that resource?

Depending on your balancing, you are forcing your player to fight your encounters no matter what other systems you implement that say you're not forcing them. If the boss is balanced for a party of level 10-14, I need to hit every possible encounter you have to ensure I'm at that range of levels in order to stand a chance. I now have to actively seek out your enemies to get to those levels. So, they "seem" optional, but aren't optional at all.

But, what happens if this one room here has a monster that gives a lot of XP? I can just transition back and forth off the screen to respawn that one monster worth a ton of XP and only fight that one... but the screen transitions for loading are going to get to be a pain. Especially if the good XP monster is pretty deep into the map.

Really, the only reason to do "Visual Encounters" is if you've got "backtracking" in your game. Players will want to avoid combat if the monsters aren't worth their drops. That's about it. At which point, a Visual Encounter system can be good. But, the Visual Encounter systems that currently exist... as everyone does them now... are lazy, uninspired, and not all that good. Very little playtesting is done with the systems, very little is even done to make them systems, and they tend to break a lot of regular gameplay and cause a lot of problems.

A visual encounter system isn't really executed well unless a dev is willing to put a LOT of work into them. Most devs aren't willing to put that kind of work into them. So, they aren't "Visual Encounters" so much as they're "Forced Encounters".
 

ScorchedGround

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@ScorchedGround

So, you've got a different set of problems then.

How do you do your balancing? Do you balance bosses for the players who avoided as much of your combat as possible? Or are they balanced for players who fought every single encounter possible? What about players who went back to previous screens and grinded some of your monsters and are now over-leveled?

The problem you've got is "monsters are a finite resource to be managed" now. Which means, you need to treat them as such. What happens when a player never gets that resource? What happens when they get too much of that resource?

Depending on your balancing, you are forcing your player to fight your encounters no matter what other systems you implement that say you're not forcing them. If the boss is balanced for a party of level 10-14, I need to hit every possible encounter you have to ensure I'm at that range of levels in order to stand a chance. I now have to actively seek out your enemies to get to those levels. So, they "seem" optional, but aren't optional at all.

But, what happens if this one room here has a monster that gives a lot of XP? I can just transition back and forth off the screen to respawn that one monster worth a ton of XP and only fight that one... but the screen transitions for loading are going to get to be a pain. Especially if the good XP monster is pretty deep into the map.

Really, the only reason to do "Visual Encounters" is if you've got "backtracking" in your game. Players will want to avoid combat if the monsters aren't worth their drops. That's about it. At which point, a Visual Encounter system can be good. But, the Visual Encounter systems that currently exist... as everyone does them now... are lazy, uninspired, and not all that good. Very little playtesting is done with the systems, very little is even done to make them systems, and they tend to break a lot of regular gameplay and cause a lot of problems.

A visual encounter system isn't really executed well unless a dev is willing to put a LOT of work into them. Most devs aren't willing to put that kind of work into them. So, they aren't "Visual Encounters" so much as they're "Forced Encounters".

Well sure it isn't all sunshine and butterflies, but this is all part of player freedom. You can always overlevel your party in RPGs but rest assured, the story-relevant battles have a base-strenght that scales upward with the player strenght.
Also there are no EXP-Pinatas in my game, atleast none that respawn. All enemies that respawn are generally low economy and can be mostly ignored without being too weak.
There are enemies that block paths or guard loot chests that are more difficult to beat than regular enemies. These do not move at all and they grant more EXP and rewards. However, they do not respawn.
My aim was that if you defeat atleast half of these "stationary" enemies you should be fine.

You can do extra grinding which WILL make battles easier of course, but it won't ever be a cakewalk.

So unless you avoid every single battle in the game, you should be fine.
 

Tai_MT

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Sounds interesting and exploitable :D

Sounds like it's more beneficial to avoid all combat as much as possible and just use the equipment to get the stats you need in order to keep fights nice and easy for the whole game.

Though, if you're designing a game in which combat is rendered meaningless and a largely pointless endeavor... then why do they exist? I guess I just don't get it.
 

Ninjakillzu

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I tend to prefer on screen encounters. I have two types of encounters. Those you are forced to fight in the story, and those that are kinda optional, but are not part of the story. Enemies do not respawn, so grinding is at a minimum. To progress you can do side quests in addition to the story.
 

TheoAllen

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One point I don't mind random encounters is when the exploration is minimal. For example, node-based map exploration. Or if you basically just have a straight line and have a little freedom to walk. You walk a few tiles, boom, encounter. That's fine. The exploration is already minimal.

Most of the time?
Maps are large. You run here and there hoping to find something. Then encounter triggered. Bummer. I believe that is what people hate about random encounters. So, if you use random encounter, do not make a map that promotes exploration, or at least make it region-based.
 

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This has been asked dozens of times at this forum, and the consensus is always that we prefer Visible ("Onscreen") Encounters. There are certainly some people that prefer Random Encounters, but they make up a minority (usually around 1/4 of respondents).

I prefer random encounters because their issues that everyone cites are solved by coding in an item that takes 5 seconds to do.
I do feel bad for jumping in on this after I didn't have the time to fully respond to our last (really good!) conversation about encounter systems, Tai. But I don't think that Repel Items - which are the item I assume you're referring to - are the panacea that you think they are!

Here are a few of the shortfalls that Repel Items fail to make up for, in comparison to an adequately-made Visible Encounter (VE) system:
  • Sense of Danger: Repel items (and especially nonconsumable options to control encounter rate) eliminate the player's sense of risk and danger, making adventuring/dungeon-crawling much less exciting. Using tactical maneuvers and hand-eye coordination to dodge onscreen encounters - and knowing you could be toast if you mess up - is much more exciting.
  • Waste: Many players feel they are "wasting" resources by using Repel items where they are most appropriate (avoiding boring lower-level encounters that pose no threat). Instead, they feel the need to be "efficient" and save the Repel item, and slog through battle after boring battle along the way. I know we fundamentally disagree about whether time-vs.-resource tradeoffs are OK, but I feel it's still a point worth making.
  • Economy: If the game's economy is tightly controlled, then buying and using Repels to improve the game experience can actually put the player in a huge hole as far as having enough money to buy the "power" that they need to take on tough enemies per the game's balance.
  • Hunting: Some players enjoy combat a lot, and want to keep fighting. You shouldn't make these players walk around in circles for 80 steps between encounters! (The opposite of a Repel item, something that greatly increases the encounter rate, can be helpful here - but it isn't a complete solution, and doesn't allow them to seek out certain types of monsters they enjoy fighting like a VE system can.)
  • Break of Concentration: Random Encounters tend to break the player's thought process (which might involve navigation or puzzles) because the player has no way to see it coming. VE's give the player's mind a moment to comfortably switch modes. Repel Items do prevent this, but they force the player to break their own concentration every X seconds to visit the menu and use the Repel.
  • Interface: The player needs stop the action, go to the menu, open their inventory, look through their inventory for a Repel, use the Repel, perhaps confirm the use of a Repel, click through a message (if the game displays a message for using the item), and then get back to the action... and repeat the cycle again 90 seconds later. Hotkey systems can improve this significantly, but that also requires a lot more code/effort on the part of the designer.
  • Immersion: Having enemies and other living things walking around your environments makes them feel a lot more vivid, interactive, and immersive. Repels do nothing to improve this. In fact, giving the player a lot of direct control over things like enemies can make your environments feel less immersive and alive - think how artificial nature would feel if you could bend it directly to your will with the press of a button!
There are so many things that Visual Encounters just do better by their very nature. So while it's certainly harder to construct a well-functioning VE system in comparison to a Random Encounter system, I think it's well worth your while.
 

Tai_MT

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I do feel bad for jumping in on this after I didn't have the time to fully respond to our last (really good!) conversation about encounter systems, Tai. But I don't think that Repel Items - which are the item I assume you're referring to - are the panacea that you think they are!
I'm not actually referring to Repels, though I guess they are a sort of "underwhelming" solution. I'm talking about the "stop every encounter while you have this equipped" type item. Takes 5 seconds to program it in, takes another 2 minutes to program in a downside to leaving it equipped all the time, and it does the job.

Anyway, I've never been a fan of Repels since they're... not that useful. 250 steps of no encounters? Well, that's pretty useless. 2500 would be a better starting point. Or... whatever the length of a dungeon is.

Heck, even just an option in the menu to "turn off encounters" in my opinion is better than Repels... But... my opinion on them is biased. I tend to sell them in Pokemon since I can just run away from anything I don't want to fight... and I fight everything in an RPG anyway 'cause all that XP adds up over time anyway and there's little sense in avoiding combat unless you're backtracking in Pokemon... which is rarely, if ever.

Sense of Danger: Repel items (and especially nonconsumable options to control encounter rate) eliminate the player's sense of risk and danger, making adventuring/dungeon-crawling much less exciting. Using tactical maneuvers and hand-eye coordination to dodge onscreen encounters - and knowing you could be toast if you mess up - is much more exciting.
I know what you mean, but I disagree. The way you write it, it's as if we're comparing watching paint dry to riding on a zipline. In actuality... both are watching paint dry... one is just blue and the other is orange.

There is little exciting about enemies that move the same speed as you, or faster than you do, and force an encounter anyway because of terrain. There's little exciting about using map geometry to exploit enemy pathing in order to keep them from encountering you. It's still just as tedious. It will just take you longer to cross the map trying to do this than running head first into them and then hitting "Escape" once you're in combat.

There is very little excitement to be had in a visual encounter system unless it does something truly unique. And... if we're honest... not many devs are doing anything unique with such systems. They're all pretty much "standard". What worked to exploit them 20 years ago on the NES and early PC games continues to work today, because they're all mostly still "stock standard".

I don't discount a Visual Encounter system could be exciting, engaging, and great. But... few devs are willing to put in the truly enormous workload that would require to pull off.

But, if we're going by just my preferences... The most exciting RPG combat systems I've ever had are "on map combat" systems. Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, even Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I find these types of encounters to be far more engaging and exciting (yes, even despite my complaints of how little fun I'd had with FF7 Remake combat) than random encounters or visual encounters. It probably helps that there's just a lot more player input required for such systems and positioning and reaction times actually matter.

Waste: Many players feel they are "wasting" resources by using Repel items where they are most appropriate (avoiding boring lower-level encounters that pose no threat). Instead, they feel the need to be "efficient" and save the Repel item, and slog through battle after boring battle along the way. I know we fundamentally disagree about whether time-vs.-resource tradeoffs are OK, but I feel it's still a point worth making.
It sort of depends. I'm the type of player to just sell useless junk I won't use. I don't use repels because the money investment for what little they offer isn't worth it. Likewise, in Pokemon, every bit of XP matters and helps, so there's no sense in avoiding any combat. Every easy and quick battle you fight is free XP towards another level which is another bit of exponential power you'll have over your opponent. But, repels make for good money. Especially with how many free ones the games tend to give you. Same with "temporary stat boosts" in combat. Those are a nice chunk of cash considering how many the games dole out to you. I can buy more Revives and Pokeballs that way.

But, if we're just talking some item that temporarily removes combat and is bought in a shop... It would largely depend on what kind of player we're talking about for whether that's useful or not. I would imagine some players would buy such items. Though, you do have to wonder is it worth spending money on something you can just hit "Escape" on and leave battle instantly anyway. Some might want to spend the 1200 currency to avoid the 30 seconds of time they'd lose in all the combat transitions. I'm not one of them, but hey some people might.

Economy: If the game's economy is tightly controlled, then buying and using Repels to improve the game experience can actually put the player in a huge hole as far as having enough money to buy the "power" that they need to take on tough enemies per the game's balance.
This is true... but fairly unrealistic. There aren't all that many RPG's that control wallets so tightly. In fact, it's so rare, that I seem to be the only person on these forums that ever reminds players to "balance your economy" and people act like I'm nuts for telling them to do so. Any free item you give a player is effectively giving them cash that they can spend on other things. Monster drops a potion at a 50% chance? That means you've got an extra 100 Currency (if you sell it) every other fight of that monster.

Put simply... most devs... not even the ones who make "hardcore" games really balance their economies all that well. You might see a "tightly controlled" economy in an MMO... but you aren't likely to see it outside of that. Heck, I've yet to play an RPG where I didn't end the game with at least 500,000 currency still in my pocket and unspendable. Dev's just don't balance their economies much, if at all. I think Pokemon itself has come closest to that for me, since Pokeballs are eternally useful until you've "caught them all". But, it still isn't too difficult to end the games with most of the cash you've earned (at least 200,000 in most of the games) and then use it to buy Full Restores and Revives in order to Brute Force the Elite Four (if you even have to).

In most RPG's, you're lucky if you have to manage money beyond the 3 hour mark. Truly difficult RPG's make you manage money up until the 6 or 7 hour mark... and then you never worry about it again. Because it's so plentiful and there's so little to spend it on.

Anyway, my point is at the point in the game where the player is likely to want to skip combat with lower leveled enemies... they've probably got money to burn to do so, as they've got nothing else to spend their cash on anyway.

Hunting: Some players enjoy combat a lot, and want to keep fighting. You shouldn't make these players walk around in circles for 80 steps between encounters! (The opposite of a Repel item, something that greatly increases the encounter rate, can be helpful here - but it isn't a complete solution, and doesn't allow them to seek out certain types of monsters they enjoy fighting like a VE system can.)
Why are we walking around for 80 steps between encounters? I think the most generous I've seen is 30 steps before an encounter with Random Encounters. Though, it can be made much quicker with a "dash" button. Or even a skill programmed in to instantly start combat without needing to walk at all.

For me, I find it more tedious to evade the monsters I don't want to fight to get to the ones I do want to fight... and then have to dodge back to the edge of the screen and transition TWICE to respawn the enemy I do want to fight. This just feels more tedious to me than "okay, walk in circles while watching Netflix and when I hear combat music, mash attack until I win... and check spoils when I hear victory music". Far more tedious to have to pay attention to boring stuff and engage in boring activity consciously than being able to "check out" while you do boring stuff.

But, hey, that's just me. If I'm just looking to grind encounters, it's better if I can turn my brain off to do it, rather than have the dev try to keep me engaged while I'm grinding. Being engaged while grinding makes it feel WORSE than if you were disengaged. Boring activities are much more difficult to tolerate when you have to put most or all of your attention on them at all times. Boring activities are far easier to tolerate when you can turn your brain off and entertain yourself while doing the tedious thing.

Break of Concentration: Random Encounters tend to break the player's thought process (which might involve navigation or puzzles) because the player has no way to see it coming. VE's give the player's mind a moment to comfortably switch modes. Repel Items do prevent this, but they force the player to break their own concentration every X seconds to visit the menu and use the Repel.
I don't know, seeing a monster on screen is just as jarring for a player to "switch modes" as it is to have the screen go black and take several seconds to transition to combat. You honestly get the same "rest time" between combat regardless of encounter system. The same amount of time to switch your brain towards dealing with combat (or avoiding combat).

The downside to the Visual Encounter system is that it disengages you for LONGER than the Random Encounter system. See a monster on the edge of your screen in Visual Encounters? Now you have to decide if you're going to fight it or not. If you're not, you're now disengaged the entire time you're trying to maneuver around it, which is likely far longer than it would've been to have the battle instantly pop up and have you select "Escape" and get back to what you were doing.

You are effectively trading "the encounter isn't instant" for "spend 3 or 4 times longer disengaged from the task I was doing before the enemy showed up".

Visual Encounters are effectively a distraction from the puzzle solving or level navigation. You switch gears from solving the puzzle to trying to solve the puzzle while avoiding combat. Or, you switch from trying to navigate the dungeon to trying to navigate around the encounter for 10-15 seconds. It gets worse if you fail to do so and have to engage in combat anyway... at which point you're even LONGER disengaged than if you'd just been given the encounter and either one-shot it or ran from it and got back to what you were doing 5-8 seconds later. That's not even getting into having to switch your brain to, "Well, I need to fight them in order to clear the path so I can think about it", which effectively switches your brain tasks entirely to "go kill the enemy" and puts what you were doing at the back of your mind. At least with a Random Encounter you are just given it, you switch to combat mode quickly, kill the enemy by mashing attack while thinking about what you were doing, and go immediately back to what you were doing without it being a distraction. With a Visual Encounter... it is far more distracting and disengages your mind far longer.

And yeah, menu visiting should be minimized when possible. Yet another reason I prefer to just equip something to turn encounters off while it's equipped... or a button in a menu to turn them off while you want them off, rather than using some sort of temporary removal.

Interface: The player needs stop the action, go to the menu, open their inventory, look through their inventory for a Repel, use the Repel, perhaps confirm the use of a Repel, click through a message (if the game displays a message for using the item), and then get back to the action... and repeat the cycle again 90 seconds later. Hotkey systems can improve this significantly, but that also requires a lot more code/effort on the part of the designer.
Yep, not a fan of Repels or any system that acts like Repels. I'm just not. They're terrible all around, no matter what game they're in.

Easier to just design an equippable in 3 seconds and have your players equip that, and unequip it when they're done going through the low level area and want to fight again.

Immersion: Having enemies and other living things walking around your environments makes them feel a lot more vivid, interactive, and immersive. Repels do nothing to improve this. In fact, giving the player a lot of direct control over things like enemies can make your environments feel less immersive and alive - think how artificial nature would feel if you could bend it directly to your will with the press of a button!
I dunno, doesn't feel any less artificial than abusing the AI Pathing to get them stuck on terrain, or force them to take specific routes... or what-have-you. Feels just as artificial as that. Is there a Visual Encounter system that DOESN'T feel that level of artificial?

We're not even getting into the sheer amount of random wildlife that shouldn't ever pick a fight with you... picking a fight with you because it thinks it can win. Bats in a cave? They want you dead! I mean, they wouldn't in real life... but... RPG! Everything is out to murder you in an RPG! If it weren't, you couldn't get strong enough to go from killing Rats to killing a Balrog at the end of the game.

It's also not getting into the sheer lack of interaction the enemies have with each other, even when they logically SHOULD be predators to each other and hunt each other rather than a heavily armed group of humans they have no chance of beating... and won't run away from even if you've killed most of their pack.

Visual Encounter systems have this weird habit of making the entire game world feel... video gamey. Like I'm interacting directly with programming and not a living world. It has a habit of pulling me out of any immersion I had. At least with Random Encounters, the world doesn't feel "video gamey" until the moment I'm ambushed by invisible enemies and battle music starts. With Visual Encounters... it's a constant reminder of how artificial it all is and how basic the programming is and how easy it is to abuse the pathing...

For me, personally, it's like when you walk into an NPC's house and know that a family of four lives there, but only a single bed exists in the house and it isn't even a big enough bed to fit two people. In the back of your mind, it's telling you, "this makes no sense. This defies reality. Do the parents share the bed and the kids sleep on the floor? Does everyone sleep in the same bed? Isn't that kind of squicky? Why does the bedroom have no door either?" It just... it screams "artificial".

I'd love Visual Encounter systems to be more immersive than they are... but... they're just not. Monsters don't hunt each other. Monsters aren't doing their own things before detecting you. Monsters have terrible and easily exploited AI. Monsters don't interact with the environment at all. The player can't interact with the environment to change encounters either... I mean, it'd be great if we had something immersive, but... we don't. But, maybe that's just a problem with me. If we have a Visual Encounter system for Immersion, I expect it to do everything possible to create and maintain immersion... not drop it the moment the monsters appear on screen.

There are so many things that Visual Encounters just do better by their very nature. So while it's certainly harder to construct a well-functioning VE system in comparison to a Random Encounter system, I think it's well worth your while.
I disagree. I think there is the Potential for Visual Encounters to just do so much better than Random Encounters by their very nature. However, the reality is far from that potential. Visual Encounters could be amazing... but they rarely, if ever, are. They aren't because nobody is willing to put in the work to make them do things far better. Because, frankly, you're designing an entire AI system as well as environmental System if you want it done well. That is, you'd spend as much time creating Visual Encounters as you would your entire game. And that's the bare minimum of "doing a Visual Encounter system well". That's not even getting into how much work would be required if you wanted to make a good one or the sheer volume of work involved in making one the new gold standard that everyone would emulate.

But, I mean, we're getting into "reinventing the wheel" in terms of why people like Visual Encounter systems. They're trying to invent entirely new ways to solve already solved problems... and doing so in far more complicated and time consuming ways.

Personally, I think it would be better if we just skipped "Visual Encounters" entirely and just jumped straight into "combat takes place on the map" type battle systems. Mostly because it's just... well... far more fun and does things a lot better with a lot less work.

There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. Especially when it's only done for aesthetic purposes.
 

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I actually like random encounters, and would love it more if you could escape 100% of the time. Imo there should be we be a game that doesn't allow this but that's not the point.

I find myself avoiding enemies eventually If they stay on screen. After a certain point it's just annoying and I Dodge them all anyways. While random encounters I almost never flee or Dodge them unless Im literally dead / dying and need to heal.
 

YoraeRasante

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As Tai_MT said, while there are many people that like On-Screen Encounters... they need to be made properly.
While it may be frustrating to have lots of encounters because you were unlucky or they were set on too short a time, it is even more frustrating, in my opinion, if you can see the encounters but is not able to avoid them, either because poorly spaced maps or enemy movement or range that just does not let you escape.

Which takes us to the points Tai made.
Earthbound's maps are most of the time wide, so you can run from the encounters and the encounters can run after you for a while. It also has a system that if you fight an enemy, you can try to do so in a way the others can't reach you on time to join the battle.

Another one I see just as good on this is Chrono Trigger. While unlike Earthbound the encounter don't follow you, they have a range, if you enter that range they fight you. Some are fixed, like some elevator ones. But if you know how you can avoid many encounters.
And it is very well balanced too. If you don't go the extra mile to avoid as much as you can, but also do not go too far to get extra experience, you will finish the game with a high enough level to be doable but not too much not to be challenging.

While random encounter is not as liked, and may be a bit limited, it is also less frustrating when done wrong.
 

somenick

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@Tai_MT Random encounters have similar problems as the ones you described for visual encounters too. I could very well be running away from all battles and whenever I run into a boss enemy I'm gonna get my rear served back to me.
 

Tai_MT

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@somenick

This is true, but also ignores reality. Players rarely "run from combat" if in a Random Encounter scenario. Meanwhile, if you have a Visual Encounter scenario, players spend more time actually avoiding and evading combat as that feature is BUILT INTO the system.

As in... Visual Encounters actually encourage avoiding combat as much as possible by their very existence. Earthbound gets around this by having all enemies move at you faster than you can evade them... so they're essentially slamming into you as frequently as you'd get random encounters anyway. Which... is a different kind of frustrating as a player (especially as leaving one encounter can lock you into the next with no recourse).

There is a fundamental difference in player mindset between, "now you're suddenly in battle" to "you can evade battle all you want". Players suddenly in battle tend to just win it because they're already here, and they have already switched their brain over to combat. Players who can spend time and skill to evade enemies... will spend a lot of time doing that instead. "Combat" for Visual Encounter systems effectively takes place before battle initiates. Especially in terms of the psychology of gameplay of the systems at odds. Meanwhile, combat for Random Encounters doesn't start until you're thrust into it at random intervals.

Compare that for a second.

The combat mindset starts in Visual Encounters the very moment you spot the enemy on the screen. Evading the enemy is part of that combat cycle.

In Random Encounters, the combat mindset doesn't start until the battle music starts and the screen fades.

It's a world of difference in the mindset of your players.

In fact, it is such a huge difference that proponents for Visual Encounters really only cite a single flaw with Random Encounters and that is.... "You can finish a battle, take one step, and you're back in combat again". Rarely, they say, "It interrupts the flow of exploration", but that's about it.

Random Encounters, despite not being as "well liked", only have two flaws according to detractors. That's the level of difference we're dealing with here in terms of player psychology.

Players who enjoy Visual Encounters just enjoy them for wanting to evade combat. That's it. Which means, they aren't having fun in your combat system to begin with. Or, they're not playing your game for combat. They want the Visual Encounters for the sole reason of being able to evade combat.

With a Random Encounter system... can't evade combat unless the dev programs in a way to do so. Like Repels or some equippable, or a menu option.

Personally, I just want to know why evading combat in a game is "fun" for players, when an RPG is half about the story and characters and decisions... and half about gaining currency, power, and uber weapons.
 

D.L. Yomegami

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As a player, I don't particularly care about the type of encounter. Implementation is everything; badly done visual encounters are frustrating, badly done random encounters are frustrating, and neither system makes up for badly done combat.

As a developer I prefer random encounters, for reasons I go into greater detail here. The short version is that it's just that random encounters are less of a workload (less art assets needed, less strain on mapping, and it's not super difficult to make up for the downsides).

It probably should depend on the game you're making, as well. There's some games that a random encounter system would work better for than a visual one, and other games where the opposite's true.
 

FleshToDust

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There's two I like. I like monsters in the tall grass and I like on map encounters(if done correctly).
The tall grass is great because I don't have to fear getting into a boss fight if I stay on the roads(by the nine divines!) and if I want to grind I can hang out in the tall grass for a while.

I also like on map encounters provided you can't just run past them all. I've played games where I don't have to fight any of the on map monsters. I just few a few to see what they're like then run past the rest to get to the treasure and off to the boss fight.

I don't like random encounters that use the entire map. If they are in specific areas(tall grass) then I do like them though. Random encounters that have a low encounter rate are manageable but still not enjoyable.

You also have to take into account are the battles themselves enjoyable? Are they long, tedious and use up a lot of the players resources or are they quick 1-2 turn encounters? That plays a big role as to whether I get annoyed by random encounters or not.
 

Wavelength

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@Tai_MT Thanks as always for such a thoughtful response! So, given that you were talking about a No-Encounter Equip (Let's call it a NEE!), rather than a consumable Repel item, some of the drawbacks (Economy) don't apply, whereas others (Danger Sense) are actually much bigger sore spots than with Repels - so my response to your post is going to be somewhat uneven in its weight. I'm going to wrap the Options "slider" approach (visit the menu any time to change Encounter Rates) into this analysis, since it's very similar in function to equipping/unequipping this NEE!.

First of all, I agree that a NEE! is a much easier, less clumsy approach for the player than having to keep visiting the menu to use Repels. (Repels do offer an interesting risk/price tradeoff in games that truly implement chronic challenge, where the resources used in each encounter will loom large later. This is a rare dynamic nowadays though, and would sidetrack my comparison of Random Encounters with NEEs! to Visual Encounters.)

Sense of Danger - This is my single biggest issue with NEEs!, and I honestly believe it's a gamebreaker. The most exciting gameplay moments of RPGs are when the wheels are starting to come off of your proverbial car, and you have to think hard and make maneuvers to keep that thing together until it crosses the finish line. This tends to happen in two forms: well-designed boss fights, and running low on resources in the later parts of a dungeon. And maybe it doesn't reach "zipline" levels of adrenaline, but I think it compares well to the excitement of a Mario Kart or a League of Legends.

Giving the player an unlimited way to opt out of encounters (a NEE! or a slider) completely shatters the "running low on resources" element - they can just turn encounters off as soon as they start to run low, walk to the Heal point at the end of the dungeon (or backtrack out of the dungeon if the dev is enough of an asshat to deny the Heal point before the obligatory boss) and heal up before taking on any more combat (now with full resources). The NEE! is very similar to, though more streamlined than, offering 100% reliable, cost-free escapes from Random Encounters. The excitement, the tension, and the genuine risk of defeat that naturally grow throughout a well-designed dungeon run - they're all gone. It makes me wonder why standard encounters even exist at all in the game, other than to waste my time by making me grind out X amount of experience points to have a fair shot against the boss.

To head off the counterargument that players can simply avoid all encounters while they're low in a VE system - that's not really true. It doesn't require a "gold standard" VE system for the player to occasionally wind up fighting encounters they weren't looking for - even a "bronze standard" is enough (as long as the designer doesn't go with the "tinfoil ball standard" of just throwing encounter events around a dungeon at random, tag them with "Follow Player", and call it a day!).

For example, I'm low on MP and I run into a large, mostly-empty room from the left side, and an Encounter starts chasing me (at the same speed I'm running) from the top-left. I don't know where the exit to this room is yet, so I keep running across, maybe slightly downward to buy more time, keeping my mind alert for a visual cue of the room's other exit(s) so I can immediately beeline for it. If I dawdle or take an inefficient route, I'm going to get caught. I also have to quickly adjust my path if a second encounter tries to chase me from the bottom right, and weave a path around both of them. When a couple more encounters probably mean Game Over (or even "dungeon failed"), I do find this map running dynamic very exciting!!

Can you present a situation that can match this level of excitement in a RE system where the player has a NEE! they can equip?

In response to your comment that on-map combat tends to be the most exciting - yes, without question. But I actually prefer a separate battle screen, because it allows for more staggered peaks and valleys of excitement (combat) and relaxation (adventure map content, except when low), and allows me to drop my guard for a bit to mentally reset. Definitely a personal preference here.

Waste: Right, waste becomes a non-issue when talking about a NEE! or a slider as opposed to a consumable Repel. The player can use it as often as they want without the psychological traps of waste.

Economy: My point was more related to the strategic decision of using Repels to avoid difficult encounters, rather than the convenience of using them to avoid ridiculously easy low-level and boring encounters. Regardless, with a NEE!, economy becomes a non-issue, even in the rare game that does tightly control the player's cash flow.

Hunting: OK, I hear you about how engaging 20% of your attention can actually be more tedious than being able to completely zone out. It is a good point - and despite being counterintuitive, it's actually very true. However, what you're describing only applies to trying to grind a specific encounter, rather than the more common situation of hunting any encounter because you're having a lot of fun with combat. That's not tedious or stressful - just walk up to the first thing you see!

The amount of time you need to spend is also a big factor here. It should only take five to ten seconds to dodge onto one screen, return to the previous screen, run across it, and hit the visual encounter you want to fight. It would take far longer to walk 80 steps or even 30 steps (which is way too high an encounter rate for me if I don't have a map of the dungeon's layout!), and since I have no agency over which encounter appears in a RE system, I likely have to multiply that by 4 or 5 times to fight the desired troop once.

Break of Concentration in RE's vs. VE's: The actual time spent transitioning to the battle screen and battling is the same, but the big difference is that in a Visual Encounter you can see it coming a few seconds in advance. My brain has a chance to commit what was in its short-term memory, and I can consciously think "I want to move southeast when I get back to the map". This isn't true in a Random Encounter system (unless there's an Encounter Indicator) - the encounter comes out of the wild blue, often with a jarring transition, and the surprise of it makes it hard to return my thoughts to something like navigation before the battle commences. Everyone's mind works a little differently, but I find that the ability to smoothly see the encounter coming is really helpful.

Anyhow, this is actually one of the big advantages of a NEE! in a RE system. If you're lost and need to focus your attention on navigation, you can turn off encounters for a while. It makes for a much smoother ride.

Interface: Agreed, it's a non-issue with a NEE!

Immersion: I think you're conflating unrealistic and non-immersive. Harry Potter is unrealistic - not just for its liberal use of purpose-made magic (say Alohamora to unlock anything? Really?), but for the fact that some schoolkids are tasked with taking down the biggest, deadliest threat to the entire (magical) world with very little help, and they defeat formidable foes using spells like Stupefy. But it's entirely immersive despite those artifices (and the same can be said about Star Wars) - when Harry and company find themselves in the Forbidden Forest or the suddenly-hostile Ministry, as the reader you feel like you're there. You feel a real sense of danger and threat, you feel the thick atmosphere, you worry when one of Harry's friends get injured, you get a vivid mental picture of this otherworldly place and wonder what you would do yourself.

Here's what you wouldn't do: you wouldn't get halfway through the Forbidden Forest, find yourself injured, and decide "Nah. Don't feel like getting attacked anymore" and open a menu to adjust a slider or put a NEE! on your body to just make all of the dangers go away.

RE systems are already pretty non-immersive to start with. It's easier to willfully suspend disbelief when you can see and hear monsters walking around you at every moment, when they're a living (albeit dumb) part of the world you're wandering through (even if a separate combat screen breaks that a little - yes, on-map combat is the most immersive). When the player is spelunking in a sunken ship that's supposedly crawling with all kinds of unseen terrors, and you give them a switch they can turn off to make the place completely safe and sterile, it becomes impossible to believe that world; to live in that dream (nightmare). That, to me, is the biggest weakness of NEEs!, alongside losing the exciting sense of gameplay risk.

VE Behavior: This post is already long, so I'll be brief here, but I feel that you are overstating the "get simple AI stuck on terrain" dynamic. I don't believe that it's the frequent "avoid all battles" card that you think it is, nor do I believe it's a particularly boring dynamic:
  • Not that frequent: Getting enemies that you have not already outrun with simple AI stuck on terrain generally requires concave terrain or large mid-room obstacles - this is somewhat uncommon.
  • Not that boring: After all, skillful play in Pac-Man is entirely about forcing the pursuing ghosts into taking longer routes around terrain without getting collapsed on! VE systems tend to have a similar dynamic going on. Your mileage may vary on whether this is actually fun, but I think most people do find it enjoyable in short doses.
  • Not that easy: Most of the time, getting encounters badly stuck on terrain means outrunning them first, meaning that it's only helpful when you've already evaded an encounter but need a few seconds to decide which direction to go. There are also risks inherent in trying to do this - failing to see an alternate route for the encounters and having several stack up, or misjudging an angle and getting cornered. Finally, designers can design occasional rooms that, by their layout or initial enemy placement, force you to engage at least one encounter in order to reach the room's exit.

None of this is meant as proof that Visual Encounter systems are strictly better than Random Encounter systems, nor is it meant to suggest that including a NEE! in your game is a terrible design choice. Each has its benefits, drawbacks, and difficulties. But it's meant to present the biggest weaknesses of RE systems (and the problems that come with introducing NEEs! or Encounter sliders), and why I tend to prefer VE systems.
 

xDRAGOONx

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I actually prefer both.
For on-screen battles, I prefer for there to be more to the mechanic than simply walking up to and initiating combat, like stealth or first strike as well.
I think both have their place and there are many ways to address the issues with random battles that most previous posts have outlined. Lesser enc rate, items that repel enemies, accessories that null encounters, pokemon style "area-based" random encounters.

How about areas with both types but after you defeat all the onscreen enemies, the random battles stop as well, maybe forever, maybe until you exit the area, maybe until a set amount of time if using a time system. Maybe there's a mini boss the player needs to defeat to clear an area permanently...

You could ask the player if they want to turn off random encounters when they enter a new area. You could create a common event linked to a key to enable or disable random encounters at will.

While I do understand the draw backs of random encounters, I also believe there is much room for creativity.
 

KawaiiKid

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I think the reason I enjoy on screen more is not so much evading battles, but knowing WHEN I will battle. So when I'm exploring an area I don't feel the dread of randomly getting into a fight. I can see where the enemies are and fight when I know I'm going to.

I'm currently trying to figure out a system for my game to make on screen fights more optional if you'd like to skip them. The classes are predefined in this game such as you only have Paladin, Alchemist, Thief, Wizard, and Summoner. I'm thinking of ways to have the thief possibly be able to stealth the party, or at least when you encounter an enemy, the thief can use mana to "attempt" to flee or such and give you a 50% chance of fleeing. It's all kind of up in the air right now, but I'm definitely trying to itterate on just the classic type of on screen enemies.
 

Tai_MT

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@Tai_MT Thanks as always for such a thoughtful response! So, given that you were talking about a No-Encounter Equip (Let's call it a NEE!), rather than a consumable Repel item, some of the drawbacks (Economy) don't apply, whereas others (Danger Sense) are actually much bigger sore spots than with Repels - so my response to your post is going to be somewhat uneven in its weight. I'm going to wrap the Options "slider" approach (visit the menu any time to change Encounter Rates) into this analysis, since it's very similar in function to equipping/unequipping this NEE!.

First of all, I agree that a NEE! is a much easier, less clumsy approach for the player than having to keep visiting the menu to use Repels. (Repels do offer an interesting risk/price tradeoff in games that truly implement chronic challenge, where the resources used in each encounter will loom large later. This is a rare dynamic nowadays though, and would sidetrack my comparison of Random Encounters with NEEs! to Visual Encounters.)


No problem, I always enjoy debating with you, especially since we so rarely agree on anything. :D

Sense of Danger
- This is my single biggest issue with NEEs!, and I honestly believe it's a gamebreaker. The most exciting gameplay moments of RPGs are when the wheels are starting to come off of your proverbial car, and you have to think hard and make maneuvers to keep that thing together until it crosses the finish line. This tends to happen in two forms: well-designed boss fights, and running low on resources in the later parts of a dungeon. And maybe it doesn't reach "zipline" levels of adrenaline, but I think it compares well to the excitement of a Mario Kart or a League of Legends.
This is one of the reasons why I don't really like the ability for players to avoid combat at all. Ever. It is more exciting when your resources run low. It is more fun when you're trying desperately to find your way out of a dungeon or get to the save point just before the boss room. It is less fun when you can just dodge encounters (personally, dodging the encounters for me feels quite tedious, but I assume mileage may vary. I can dodge it... and if I end up in battle anyway, I can hit Escape... so two layers of evading combat, which means it can be fairly tedious, and for me, quite often is) or when you can turn off the encounters entirely. It is more fun to watch your Currency and stats go up as you win combat than it is to have it remain the same through combat evasion.

But, I think with this, we've probably circled back around to "it doesn't really matter what encounter system you use, it's the combat itself that matters". Which, this is something I've always believed.

While I prefer Random Encounters for their few flaws and easily dealt with issues, they are rather meaningless and pointless if the combat itself doesn't engage a player or it isn't fun. If the combat itself doesn't provide those exciting gameplay moments (for example, you use only boss fights providing this type of gameplay, whereas I think it should be throughout the game), then there is little reason for a player to want to engage with the combat system at all.

Without a good combat system, you run into "player fatigue" on your encounter system, which I think is what this sort of discussion largely boils down to. I've played a great many games (not just RPG's) where I've felt this sort of fatigue. It's usually, "Really? Another fight? When does this END?".

Anyway, to get back on point, the inclusion of a NEE isn't something I like to put into games, but it is a simple and semi-elegant solution to many of the common issues in Random Encounter systems. It doesn't take long to implement, you can give it to the player at the beginning of the game, maybe give it some flavor text for why it exists, and be on your way. It really only needs to exist for those players experiencing the "player fatigue" of combat or for those who have goofed up really bad and can't reasonably get back to safety.

Though, if we're honest, we could just have an "escape rope" type item for players stuck in dungeons. so, a NEE may not even be wholly necessary.

Giving the player an unlimited way to opt out of encounters (a NEE! or a slider) completely shatters the "running low on resources" element - they can just turn encounters off as soon as they start to run low, walk to the Heal point at the end of the dungeon (or backtrack out of the dungeon if the dev is enough of an asshat to deny the Heal point before the obligatory boss) and heal up before taking on any more combat (now with full resources).
Absolutely. BTW, I'm that dev that will deny you the heal point before the boss. I want my players to come prepared or not at all. The challenge of the dungeon is to manage your resources up to and including the boss. :D Bring enough stuff to get through the dungeon and bring enough stuff to beat the boss.

I find it more exciting that way. It also tends to promote players not pushing forward when low on resources in the hopes of getting a full heal. But, that's just the way I like to design games and like to play them.

Anyway, yeah, I'm not a fan of using a NEE either. I consider it a "necessary evil" for specific kinds of players. I've included it in my games specifically for players who manage to get themselves "stuck" or "lost" or just don't want to engage in combat against low level enemies.

The NEE! is very similar to, though more streamlined than, offering 100% reliable, cost-free escapes from Random Encounters. The excitement, the tension, and the genuine risk of defeat that naturally grow throughout a well-designed dungeon run - they're all gone. It makes me wonder why standard encounters even exist at all in the game, other than to waste my time by making me grind out X amount of experience points to have a fair shot against the boss.
Exactly my sentiments. Why does combat exist at all if it can be avoided? I hold this sentiment regardless of Encounter System we're talking about.

I don't agree with 100% Escapes from combat either. If the vast majority of the gameplay in an RPG is the combat, why am I allowing my players to avoid it and skip it at all?

Well, I guess just as an "anti frustration feature" to the players who aren't playing an RPG for the combat (someone like me, I suppose, who plays for story and characters and choices).

To head off the counterargument that players can simply avoid all encounters while they're low in a VE system - that's not really true. It doesn't require a "gold standard" VE system for the player to occasionally wind up fighting encounters they weren't looking for - even a "bronze standard" is enough (as long as the designer doesn't go with the "tinfoil ball standard" of just throwing encounter events around a dungeon at random, tag them with "Follow Player", and call it a day!).
While this is true... it means you have to have map clutter to stop the player. If it's just an empty room, it becomes even easier to evade the AI, even if it's at the same speed as you. One need only lure it to one side of the screen and then walk around it. Almost all Visual Encounter systems require their sprite touch yours in order to initiate combat. Very few of these Encounters require the enemy sprite hit you with a projectile of some sort in order to engage you in combat, though that would add some interesting gameplay at least (okay, I'll be honest, I've never seen a VE system use a projectile to start combat, every single one I've played requires their model to fuse with yours).

Anyway, the other issue is that creating a VE system is often a lot of work. It's a lot more work than most devs (especially on these forums) are willing to put into their game. The actual standard is your "tinfoil ball standard" where they just tag enemies with "follow player" and call it a day. This is the most common form of the system and one of the reasons I often rail against it. You do sometimes get "Aluminum Medal" standards for the system in which there's some basic pathfinding for the enemies where they move around objects they "collide" with, but you don't get much more than that, and it's still pretty easily exploitable. Though, it at least doesn't look awful and immersion breaking. Most devs aren't willing to program actual AI into their games, so most of these systems don't even reach Bronze Tiers of competency. I realize that's probably hurtful to hear, but it is very often the case.

I believe in the potential for VE's to be very good, but I also know that making them very good means as many hours creating and crafting that system as you would spend designing all the maps and the Database for your game. If your game requires 800 hours to design every map and fill in your Database, your VE is likely going to require another 800 hours in order to be excellent. Few people are willing to put in that level of work. Even AAA developers.

For example, I'm low on MP and I run into a large, mostly-empty room from the left side, and an Encounter starts chasing me (at the same speed I'm running) from the top-left. I don't know where the exit to this room is yet, so I keep running across, maybe slightly downward to buy more time, keeping my mind alert for a visual cue of the room's other exit(s) so I can immediately beeline for it. If I dawdle or take an inefficient route, I'm going to get caught. I also have to quickly adjust my path if a second encounter tries to chase me from the bottom right, and weave a path around both of them. When a couple more encounters probably mean Game Over (or even "dungeon failed"), I do find this map running dynamic very exciting!!
It does sound quite exciting. Except... it only works if the player is "pushing forward". See, I know that if I leave the room, the encounters reset. If I make a mistake in pushing forward into the room, I need only turn around to hit the door I just came from and re-enter the room for another try at evading it all. It's not "exciting" it's "tedious" at that point. I just exploited a weakness in the system and it was tedious to do it. I'd have to force myself into a sub-optimal way of playing to get any excitement out of it... and then it's no longer as exciting since I'm forcing myself to play that way, which means the excitement is artificial and it loses its impact.

If I'm looking to avoid combat, it wouldn't take more than a couple "room resets" in order to see the most efficient method of doing so. Unless the dev is actively designing maps to "cut off" players with the Visual Encounters and force them forward. At which point, the excitement minimizes as well because it's a forgone conclusion that you're committed and it will be easier just to fight only the hardest to dodge... or hit the encounter and then hit "Escape!" and while the encounter is now blinking to give you a chance to step away... cross the room anyway by walking through them or around them or whatever.

That's not to say all players will do that. I'm not even sure most would do that. But, it falls flat for a player like me who is used to exploiting poorly planned out systems in games to gain massive advantages. I'm not even a "min/max" type player, nor do I use glitches to my advantage if I can help it (Item Dupe? No thanks!). I'm just an average "joe casual" who plays games for fun. But, I'll exploit the game to do something I want to do without remorse. If I want to fight and kill your Dragon 5 levels before I'm meant to... I'll find a way to do it and I will do it (Dragon Age Inquisition's first dragon worked like this for me... and it was immediately disappointing I could even use the loot it dropped). If I want to avoid your combat, I will find the ways to do so and will do it quite effectively. How many players are like me? I don't know. What I know is that it must be enough that a video like, "Your players will optimize the fun out of your game" needs to exist at all.

Can you present a situation that can match this level of excitement in a RE system where the player has a NEE! they can equip?
Um... I'm not sure. If we're talking about the level of excitement you seem to personally get out of it, probably not. If we're talking the level of excitement I get out of it, then yeah I could. But, it's going to be kind of inexact since we're talking personal preferences here and personal playstyles.

You seem to be the type of player who "pushes forward" when your back is against the wall. I'm the sort of player that "backs off" in such situations. If I can't win unequivocally, I back off and don't even try. Not until I'm confident I will do what I'm trying to do 100% of the attempts.

A NEE is designed for players that want to "push forward" in the game or the dungeon or what-have-you. A player like me who "backs off" would begin the backtracking once they realized they were blowing a lot of their resources early into a dungeon run and so likely wouldn't ever need the NEE or even use it if it were available (just like Nuzlocke runs in Pokemon are designed to only be challenging for the players who "push forward" and are "easy mode" for any player who has patience at all and "backs off" when things are tough in the game).

Anyway, what is exciting for me would be a point in which my "carefully laid plans" have been accounted for by the dev and they fall to pieces as a try to execute them. That's exciting for me personally. But, to get to that level of excitement requires that I don't run from any combat I encounter, I can't turn encounters off at all, and I'm sometimes forced to use my very well-guarded "trump card" items (like Elixirs that heal HP and MP to 100%) just to survive. It is rare for a game to push me into that situation because I play so carefully.

For something more akin to what you might find exciting, I could probably program in a suitable "downside" to a NEE. For example, it only prevents X amount of encounters and is based upon how many you fought in a row before turning it on (say for every 3 encounters you've fought, it prevents the appearance of 1 encounter) and once it's out of "charge" it would be completely useless to have equipped. Maybe even hitting "Escape" in combat uses up a "charge" on the item.

Or... maybe my planned "Disparity" system I created for another of my games would work for you? Basically, every combat you get into raises a "multiplier", which allows you to "power level". It goes from 25% up to 250% based on the amount of fights you've done without running or equipping the NEE. Even fighting weak little monsters that only give 10 XP could be useful to grind to get up to the 250% multiplier. Likewise, you couldn't avoid combat at all if you wanted to keep the multiplier up in a dungeon. The rest of "Disparity" also changes the map and monster encounters to drop more or better loot as you gain levels in order to give players incentive to continue to fight low level junk monsters as they grow in power (for example, a rabbit might drop a potion at a 1/10 chance and a potent potion at a 1/50 chance at the level you first encounter it... but if you come back later, that potion might be replaced with a potent potion at 1/10 chance and the second slot might now be an exceptional potion at a 1/50 chance).

Though, to be honest, this system is created for a game in which your "levels" aren't actual "power" in the game. So, even if you were Level 1 with 1,000,000 XP, you aren't necessarily any stronger. You spend your XP (renamed Influence) on things like Training, Weapons, Armor, Items, Favors, etcetera instead. So, it is useful to gain the XP, but it doesn't translate into "immediate power".

Mileage may vary on if it's "exciting" for a player to have to maintain this "combo multiplier" or not. But, it's specifically designed to get players to keep engaging in combat and pushing forward as much as possible.

Hunting: OK, I hear you about how engaging 20% of your attention can actually be more tedious than being able to completely zone out. It is a good point - and despite being counterintuitive, it's actually very true. However, what you're describing only applies to trying to grind a specific encounter, rather than the more common situation of hunting any encounter because you're having a lot of fun with combat. That's not tedious or stressful - just walk up to the first thing you see!
I think it translates well to even "grinding any encounter". The reality is, a dev is only putting so many encounters on each map. To grind them, the player needs to pay attention to the map and run to them. Then, run off screen, and back on screen, to reset them (or wait for the dev's timer to respawn them... and hope they aren't randomly respawned somewhere, because now you're looking even harder for them to grind on and engaging even more). It is less tedious to just hit four buttons in a row in a steady rhythm than it is to be engaged in a system that is forcing you to look at the map and actively "hunt" for your XP stream.

Such a system only gets more tedious if you're hunting a specific encounter rather than any encounter.

But, the amount of engagement is largely going to be determined by how the dev has set it up.
*Are monsters on a respawn timer? How long do you have to wait? Is it faster to leave the room to reset it?
*Are the monsters respawning randomly? How big is the room to have to hunt in?
*How far apart are the monsters and how much map clutter do we have to navigate to get to each encounter?
*How many encounters are in the room? Is this a good place to grind, or do I need to find a place with more encounters to make it more worth my while?
*Can I just stand here at the edge of the room and have the encounters run into me? How long does that take? What if I just run forward?

Lots of factors in here to contribute to just how tedious it is to "grind" in a VE system in comparison to RE system (which might explain why players don't grind all that much in a VE system at all). One of these systems allows me to "check out" and not be bored by the act of grinding... the other forces me to engage with the grinding and devote my attention to the boring behavior.

"Engaging with the Boring" is something I became intimately familiar with at my job (which is an 8 hour slog of monotonous tasks). I teach employees to not engage with the slog that is our job and to instead listen to music during the day and build muscle memory so that they're doing anything else and not thinking about the job they're doing (imagine going to work and thinking about all sorts of things you like and daydreaming all day... but you are still working and not paying attention to work and still making no mistakes while doing it. That's what I teach, and it is a wonderful way to spend your day. 8 hours of daydreaming? Who WOULDN'T love doing that? 8 hours of planning your game and running scenarios in your head while you earn a paycheck? That's awesome!). You don't face burn out as much doing that. If we didn't have ways for employees to tune out the tediousness of the job they're doing, few would ever want to come into work and I'd have a lot more "call outs" than a couple each month (on a staff of 16).

It's a matter of letting people disengage from boring tasks and behavior in order to keep them doing the boring task and boring behavior.

Few devs actually understand that or plan for it. They just plan for "the player must be constantly engaged or they're bored!". Well, yes and no. There are places where not engaging the player is a good thing and keeps them from being bored.

Let me tell you... Netflix has saved a great many games (as well as RPG's) from being "boring slogs" for me. Some of those games should come bundled with a 30 day Netflix subscription.

The amount of time you need to spend is also a big factor here. It should only take five to ten seconds to dodge onto one screen, return to the previous screen, run across it, and hit the visual encounter you want to fight. It would take far longer to walk 80 steps or even 30 steps (which is way too high an encounter rate for me if I don't have a map of the dungeon's layout!), and since I have no agency over which encounter appears in a RE system, I likely have to multiply that by 4 or 5 times to fight the desired troop once.
If we're being fair... 30 steps is quite a bit excessive as well. Most RPG's I've played with Random Encounters tend to settle around the 15 step mark as the average. 30 is just the most I've ever seen for length of time without an encounter. Walking the 15 steps takes roughly 5-8 seconds? Depending on sprite walking speed? Maybe less if you can "run"?

Though, yes, it is better to be able to use a VE system in order to hunt a specific monster or troop. No contest what-so-ever. RE systems would need to create an entirely new system to manage that. However, even in a VE system... hunting down just that one monster is... It's tedious.

Heck, it's tedious even in "on map battle" systems. I picked up "Secret of Mana" a while back on Steam because it had achievements. It has 3 achievements that display how tedious this is quite nicely. "Obtain all headgear", "Obtain all armor", "Obtain all pants". There are monsters late in the game that are the only way to obtain some of these armor items. They have fairly low drop rates. We're talking 1/120 or so at the most generous. Running into the dungeon to hunt just the specific monster you want the drop from and then having to hit a door to respawn them... Oh man is that TEDIOUS BEYOND MEASURE. In fact, the first of these monsters that appear in the game is where I stopped playing the remake of the game because of how tedious this actually is. I spent 5 hours grinding these monsters for a single drop. Once I got it, I realized I wanted a second one for the other member of my party who could equip it... and then went and saved and quit.

Super tedious. Five hours of wasted time, most of it travel time to and from the monsters I was grinding. I could not even disengage my brain while doing it, as I had to navigate to the part of the map where they spawned up.

Break of Concentration in RE's vs. VE's: The actual time spent transitioning to the battle screen and battling is the same, but the big difference is that in a Visual Encounter you can see it coming a few seconds in advance. My brain has a chance to commit what was in its short-term memory, and I can consciously think "I want to move southeast when I get back to the map". This isn't true in a Random Encounter system (unless there's an Encounter Indicator) - the encounter comes out of the wild blue, often with a jarring transition, and the surprise of it makes it hard to return my thoughts to something like navigation before the battle commences. Everyone's mind works a little differently, but I find that the ability to smoothly see the encounter coming is really helpful.
I'm not sure I agree. Most combat systems tend to allow players to "win instantly" or within the first round. Mash attack a bunch of times, you win, battle over, back to what you were doing. Little need to commit anything to short term memory. However, with a VE system, you're "disengaged" longer than a RE system because of the act of the monster being on the screen. You have to switch gears to either hunt the encounter or evade it, and will be disengaged the entire length of time you're doing either of those options. Your "task" needs to remain stored for far longer than in an RE system. Yes, it smooths the transition a little more to have the VE system, but it actively gives you longer to forget what you were doing before battle concludes.

It doesn't help that "battle" in a VE system starts the moment the enemy is on screen. Your brain switches over to "combat mode" the minute it appears. You store your task in short-term memory still need to do the encounter and the combat. That's not even counting what you'll likely clutter your brain with during that time either (navigate around these obstacles to avoid the enemy/get to the enemy... I can get a surprise attack if I hit them from behind... I have to keep them away from this other encounter so I don't have to fight two of them back to back... etcetera). Much more room to easily forget what you were doing and be hit with distractions.

In a RE system it is, "Okay, let's try this corrid-- crap, battle. Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack... wait for combat to end... Back to the end of this corridor."

There are magnitudes of difference in the time taken as well as need to store anything in short-term memory.

Now, the RE system does suffer if you're doing something like "solving a puzzle" when hit with an encounter, because that's just too much to easily process and disengage from. You'll run into a lot of "wait, did I hit that switch?" and going back to check on the state of the puzzle due to how "jarring" the RE system typically is.

But, with basic navigation (unless we're looking at a huge complicated maze type layout), you don't lose anything with the system and in fact it makes the Navigation much easier.

VE systems simply allow for more "complex" engagement. It's easier to navigate a massive maze with a VE system because combat doesn't interrupt it (nor as frequently interrupt it). It is also easier to remember what steps of the puzzle you were on with a VE system because combat itself might not get in a way... and even if it does, the dev might have encounters not respawn so it's even easier to check on the state of your puzzle without interruption.

It's a different set of strengths and weaknesses we're dealing with.

But, I'll just state my personal preferences here. I don't think RPG's should have puzzles in them to begin with, much less have combat able to take place in the same space you're meant to be solving a puzzle (so the disadvantage of RE's is negligible in this sort of design philosophy), nor do I think the dev should be forcing me to navigate large annoying mazes full of combat. Give me a puzzle to solve or give me combat. Do not give me both at the same time.

Anyway, if the dev who made the game has the same personal preferences I do about puzzles and mazes, then the RE system is superior. If they don't... then the VE system is going to unquestionably be superior.

I think in such a case, it just boils down to the dev's design philosophy and using the correct tools for the job.

Anyhow, this is actually one of the big advantages of a NEE! in a RE system. If you're lost and need to focus your attention on navigation, you can turn off encounters for a while. It makes for a much smoother ride.
One of the reasons I usually include a NEE. That, and normal Anti-Frustration reasons. Not everyone plays games like I do, so I try to cater to as many players as possible, no matter how much it annoys me to do have to do so.

Immersion: I think you're conflating unrealistic and non-immersive. Harry Potter is unrealistic - not just for its liberal use of purpose-made magic (say Alohamora to unlock anything? Really?), but for the fact that some schoolkids are tasked with taking down the biggest, deadliest threat to the entire (magical) world with very little help, and they defeat formidable foes using spells like Stupefy. But it's entirely immersive despite those artifices (and the same can be said about Star Wars) - when Harry and company find themselves in the Forbidden Forest or the suddenly-hostile Ministry, as the reader you feel like you're there. You feel a real sense of danger and threat, you feel the thick atmosphere, you worry when one of Harry's friends get injured, you get a vivid mental picture of this otherworldly place and wonder what you would do yourself.
I'm talking more about "willing suspension of disbelief". Can I believe in the Harry Potter universe full of magic and nonsensical stuff? Sure, up to a point. But, when you start asking just basic questions about the world, it tends to fall apart and ruins the immersion in such a world.

For example:

Fallout 4. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief in bottle caps being put into pre-war containers and locations because without it... We have no money to loot. Yes, even if the origin of the cap system wasn't created yet, or if it was, probably didn't reach Boston yet. Fallout uses Caps as currency, so whatever. Necessary for gameplay to work. But, then it's got all this canned and boxed food with a handwave of "oh, it lasts forever because of its preservatives" and I then ask a question, "how has this stuff not been already looted and already eaten out of existence yet? This would've been the first stuff any society would've eaten because reinventing farming in a nuclear post apocalypse would've been near impossible with the level of technology available to everyone". Then, it just falls apart. I was more willing to accept the food stuff in Fallout 3 because of how rare any of it was to ever find and how little any location had looked "picked over" by scavengers when you found such food there.

Some things you just can't wave as "willing suspension of disbelief". There are some things we accept for a setting to work and some things that make it far more difficult to accept for the setting to work. Much of it is just keeping the player from asking those questions that destroy the willing suspension of disbelief.

Nothing about the movie "The Fifth Element" makes any sort of sense. Nothing. Yet, audiences are willing to suspend their disbelief and ask zero questions about it because... it's a solid piece of entertainment in which the things that make no sense kind of just gel with the other things that make no sense and give the setting a very "alien" feel to it. Nobody asks why they don't bring everyone back from the dead with their "build a person" machine. Nobody asks why physics don't apply to the heroine when she bails off a high-rise ledge and crashes into a cab, but bullets can still penetrate her and possibly kill her. The audience doesn't ask because it just doesn't matter. You suspend your disbelief because the nonsense is part of the setting and its presented in a fairly consistent way throughout. The movie itself keeps the audience from asking those penetrative questions.

With a Visual Encounter system... it's harder to discount animals not interacting with the environment and not hunting each other. They're on screen. They're in the environment. Why are they only hunting my party? With a Random Encounter system, it's easier to have that willing suspension of disbelief as you can imagine the creatures hunting you are desperate for food... or you just happened to disturb them, or whatever. They represent a very small portion of the overall populace and you can imagine that most bats don't attack you at all. Only the ones that do attack you are the ones you see. But, with a Visual Encounter system... all bats you see attack you. You don't ever see bats that DON'T attack you. All wildlife attacks you. All of it.

Immersion is instantly and easily shattered as a result.

Here's what you wouldn't do: you wouldn't get halfway through the Forbidden Forest, find yourself injured, and decide "Nah. Don't feel like getting attacked anymore" and open a menu to adjust a slider or put a NEE! on your body to just make all of the dangers go away.

RE systems are already pretty non-immersive to start with. It's easier to willfully suspend disbelief when you can see and hear monsters walking around you at every moment, when they're a living (albeit dumb) part of the world you're wandering through (even if a separate combat screen breaks that a little - yes, on-map combat is the most immersive). When the player is spelunking in a sunken ship that's supposedly crawling with all kinds of unseen terrors, and you give them a switch they can turn off to make the place completely safe and sterile, it becomes impossible to believe that world; to live in that dream (nightmare). That, to me, is the biggest weakness of NEEs!, alongside losing the exciting sense of gameplay risk.
Depends. :D I have Lore attached to mine.

"Fear Totem". "All creatures flee in fear of this powerful Relic. The cost? It saps your strength as fuel.". There are likewise enemies that don't fear it. Boss Monsters don't fear it. So, you try to fight a boss with it equipped, your stats are halved during the fight.

Sort of brings up a good point though. Incorporating strange systems into your game as "Lore" in order to ensure "willing suspension of disbelief" is a good thing.

Anyway, I find it far more difficult to suspend my disbelief when every creature in existence wants me dead... rather than only the ones I encounter randomly. Invisible monsters means you could have 50000 of a creature in this place... but only 10 of them wanted to kill you. With a VE system... You could have 50,000 of a creature in that place... and they ALL want you dead.

Being able to see the encounters implies that there aren't any "invisible ones" you wouldn't see. It implies that every creature you see exists in the world in the amounts that you see. No room for abstraction by the player. No player is going to see them and say, "Yep, these are just the ones that want to kill me". Instead, the automatic assumption is "These are all the monsters who live here, no monster is invisible or not present."

VE Behavior
: This post is already long, so I'll be brief here, but I feel that you are overstating the "get simple AI stuck on terrain" dynamic. I don't believe that it's the frequent "avoid all battles" card that you think it is, nor do I believe it's a particularly boring dynamic:
I don't know about "overstating". Maybe it seems that way from an outside perspective. Yes, there are some battles the dev won't allow you to evade (one of my pet peeves about such systems, in fact... if you're going to force me into combat anyway, why are these visual encounters at all? Design choice that works contrary to its very nature because... the system itself actively works against the intent of most devs!), but I've spent many a game getting AI stuck or forcing them to take sub-optimal paths. It's... not all that infrequent when I play games. I don't imagine I'm the "exception" to the rule either.

Not that frequent
: Getting enemies that you have not already outrun with simple AI stuck on terrain generally requires concave terrain or large mid-room obstacles - this is somewhat uncommon.
No need to outrun anything. You mess up, just go back off the screen from the entrance you got in. It instantly resets all encounters back to their original positions and you can try again. Most VE systems are actually easier to backtrack out of than they are to go forward in as an anti-frustration feature. As a result, you can exploit this to reset encounters quite easily and quickly should you make a mistake. You need to outrun nothing, just lure something to a location that is beneficial to you. That is, if the enemy moves at your speed, but needs to take more steps in order to reach you than you need to get across the room. It's just as easy to do this in an empty room as it is in one full of clutter. After all, if the priority for "move toward player" is horizontal instead of vertical, you just dodge on vertical axis. If their priority is vertical instead of horizontal, you just doge on a horizontal axis. It only takes a dozen or so battles to see how the program prioritizes their movement before you can exploit it. It's even easier if the priority is "move for furthest distance". That is to say, if it's more steps for them to get to you in a straight line by moving horizontally, they'll move vertically to be "even" with you. You can effectively "serpentine" the pathing at that point and then "juke" the enemy as you get closer, depending on if they prefer horizontal or vertical movement to closing the gap at the end.

It's less easy to do this if the monsters move faster than you. But, at that point, the player needs to use map geometry to get around them or just accept each battle as "it's going to happen". At which point... why is this a Visual Encounter system at all and not just the battle system used in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest?

Not that boring: After all, skillful play in Pac-Man is entirely about forcing the pursuing ghosts into taking longer routes around terrain without getting collapsed on! VE systems tend to have a similar dynamic going on. Your mileage may vary on whether this is actually fun, but I think most people do find it enjoyable in short doses.
For its time, Pac-Man was pretty fun. But, those games don't sell all that well now. I'd wager that the gameplay type isn't as popular as Visual Encounter systems might lead a person to believe.

Even in this very topic, you find that most of the proponents for VE systems hinge on how it makes them feel, and not because of any advantage they think it gives them. And, the ones saying it has advantages are only comparing them to RE systems for why they're an advantage. If RE systems didn't exist at all, the "advantage" of the VE Systems for these players doesn't exist at all.

I don't think I've ever seen a post on these forums of people saying something close to "I love VE systems because dodging enemies is fun!" or "Forcing enemies on the screen to take certain paths is fun!"

Most of the arguments seem to be, "I don't get attacked randomly out of nowhere" as the reason they enjoy it.

So... it exists for purely aesthetic purposes and not because it's a fun gameplay mechanic (at least according to what I've read for people saying they prefer it).

Not that easy: Most of the time, getting encounters badly stuck on terrain means outrunning them first, meaning that it's only helpful when you've already evaded an encounter but need a few seconds to decide which direction to go. There are also risks inherent in trying to do this - failing to see an alternate route for the encounters and having several stack up, or misjudging an angle and getting cornered. Finally, designers can design occasional rooms that, by their layout or initial enemy placement, force you to engage at least one encounter in order to reach the room's exit.
I sort of already covered many of the points of this. But, you seem to be discounting many options available. This might be a product of the way you prefer to play games in comparison to the way I prefer to play games.

The argument itself hinges on "the player will always move forward" when this isn't true. There's also the option of moving backward. Exiting the room from the way in you just came from. Resetting the encounters to try again. Using the inherent programming in the pathing (which is almost universally simplistic and follows very simple and easily observed rules) to force enemies into terrain they'd get stuck on or have to maneuver around. Even in empty rooms with no terrain, there are many options available to exploit the pathing.

Short of making an encounter impossible to dodge (at which point, why are we using a VE system at all?), you can exploit their movement, usually very easily, and to great effect.

There is a very simple thing you can do to test pathing in an VE system. That is... make it a game to avoid every encounter there is. Your final score is how many you managed to avoid. Do anything and everything possible to keep from being touched by the enemies. Go backwards. Exploit pathing. Use knowledge of the pathing behavior to evade future encounters.

The goal isn't to "get to the end of the game". The goal is to "avoid as many encounters as possible before the end of the game". Maybe design a scoring system in a test game for that. When the goal becomes "avoid combat", players are very adept at it. Often without trying all that hard.

None of this is meant as proof that Visual Encounter systems are strictly better than Random Encounter systems, nor is it meant to suggest that including a NEE! in your game is a terrible design choice. Each has its benefits, drawbacks, and difficulties. But it's meant to present the biggest weaknesses of RE systems (and the problems that come with introducing NEEs! or Encounter sliders), and why I tend to prefer VE systems.
For me, VE's just aren't all that good unless the dev is willing to put in a lot of work for them. RE's are better because they cause fewer issues and their issues are easily and quickly mitigated or removed entirely.

It's a philosophy of "KISS" for me (Keep It Simple, Stupid). The more complicated, complex, and more moving parts you have in a system of any kind... The easier it is to break, exploit, and render pointless. The fewer moving parts, fewer complications... the more difficult it is to render it pointless, the more difficult it is to break it, and the more difficult it is to exploit it.

A VE system is fairly complicated. So, it tends to have a lot of problems in it. It tends to be difficult to fix or to mitigate issues.

Yes, a VE system feels better. It feels flashier. It feels like a lot more effort went in... But, the reality is far from that in most cases.

It's sort of the difference between a Land Line phone and the newest iPhone. I've never broken my Land-Line phone once. Never had it crap out on me. I've had the same one for about 15 years. Granted, I can't text with it. I can't take pictures with it. I can't set a ringtone. I can't do a lot of flashy "feel good" things. But, it didn't cost me several hundred dollars. It didn't cost me a subscription fee of $60 minimum a month. It didn't short-change me by breaking a year or two. Or getting lost. Or stolen. Or ending up in a toilet or dumped into a pool or river. I don't have to worry about reception when I use it...

Yes, the iPhone is flashy and has a lot of features that make you feel good... But, you've spent a lot of money for that "feel good" thing that doesn't even work all the time and has a myriad of problems and issues...

Meanwhile, my Land Line works perfectly and has never needed replaced. I replace a battery every 5 years and they cost like $10. That's it.

People pay a lot of money for vanity and aesthetics.
 

YoraeRasante

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You know, Tai's mention of running from battles reminded me of the system used in the recent first person megaten games, like Strange Journey and Persona Q, where you have a counter that grows from blue to red as you walk, I think it goes faster if you run, and on red you get an encounter and it resets to blue.
That also shows her (I think of you as female because of avatar, sorry if wrong) point about battles being predictables makes you more prone to trying to escape them. When I get to low health, instead of using an item or skill to exit the dungeon, I try to guess if I am close enough I can get to an exit so I don't need to waste a Goho-M.

But I also just remembered that to me the appeal of an On-Map Encounter is not on escaping so much as in trying to hit them from behind or avoid being hit, a way to control surprise attacks so they are more on the player's skill and attention than just luck.
Thus why most of my complaints about them are about proper planning of spacing and reach/line of sight. If the main appeal of them is broken...

About that repel equip... I think it would be good if done so it really is like Repels in pokémon but as an equip.
As a reminder, in Pokémon the repels only change in length, not in strength. They only repel battles against pokémons weaker than the first alive member in the party, meaning if the battle would be higher level than the pokémon you would send automatically it will still happen. Thus why a good strategy to catch the Legendary Dogs, since the original gold/silver, is your first pokémon being level 39 and using repel as soon as they are on the same route as you on the map.
As an equipment, you can put in any party member and would have no limit... so it would be a good idea to make it vary in stats so it is stronger when on the weaker party member and actually detrimental on the higher level one. That would mean the weaker encounters would still be skipped, but the better the party member with the equipment the harder will be the encounters you will meet, both for actual danger and that you made your party worse to avoid more.
 

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