When/How Do You Gain Your 1st/2nd Party Member?

Ouro

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I think it's important to have a second party member basically from the start. Unless your game is based around having just one party member, single-person play is dismal. It's also a poor way to teach the game to new players, since it's not at all representative of how combat is going to be for the majority of your game!
In my current project, Unborn Daughter, you get your second party member immediately, right before the first battle. She's very simple and very strong, which is what you need most at the start of a game. Third and fourth party members are a longer way off and locked behind quests and exploration, since I feel like 2 can sustain a party for a while.
 
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Featherbrain

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I don't think there's anything wrong with taking some time to introduce each additional character, as long as encounters and challenges throughout are designed with the appropriate number of party members in mind. My pacing inspiration is Super Mario RPG, which starts you off with just Mario for a good 20 minutes, including introductory "dungeon" maps with mini-bosses (Bowser's Keep and Mushroom Way). This also serves the story and concept of the game as a "Mario" game, centering the main character's importance.

(Earthbound sort of does this, too, with its opening Onett sequence--temporary guest party members like Pokey, your dog, and teddy bears aside.)

For Raptor Revolt, it's about 15-20 minutes into the game before you meet your first packmate. There are some cutscenes, a tutorial battle, and exploratory maps with optional battles beforehand, but you don't do your first real "dungeon" with a lot of enemies and a mini-boss until a second party member joins. For a portion after that, the second party member comes and goes as the story requires, and occasionally swaps out with another party member, but usually you'll have two raptors in your pack for the significant battle/dungeon/challenge segments of the first half of the game. About halfway through you get the max of three party members at once, and the ability to pick and choose your own party.

At least, that's the plan at the moment; we'll see how it plays out.
 

kirbwarrior

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I don't think there's anything wrong with taking some time to introduce each additional character, as long as encounters and challenges throughout are designed with the appropriate number of party members in mind. My pacing inspiration is Super Mario RPG, which starts you off with just Mario for a good 20 minutes, including introductory "dungeon" maps with mini-bosses (Bowser's Keep and Mushroom Way). This also serves the story and concept of the game as a "Mario" game, centering the main character's importance.
Part of why that is set up that way is to get you used to Timed Hits. They want you to understand the main gimmick of the game and give you really easy encounters to test it out on (and feel good about succeeding on!). All Mario is doing is basically Attacking otherwise and without timed hits you get the problem of very static fights.

(Earthbound sort of does this, too, with its opening Onett sequence--temporary guest party members like Pokey, your dog, and teddy bears aside.)
Which, mechanically, is a similar thing as permanent ones. You have a party doing stuff.

It's also a poor way to teach the game to new players, since it's not at all representative of how combat is going to be me for the majority of your game!
Thanks for pointing this out. I sort of knew it, but it wasn't clear until said. And I can't believe I never fully realized it. If anything, starting off with a party, then solo, then gaining members would help new players out much more.
 

Featherbrain

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Yes, in addition to storyline and concept reasons, easing players into more complex or unusual game mechanics can definitely be among the good reasons to spend some opening time with a one-person party. "Static fights" seems like its own separate problem, though, as if battles boil down to just Attacking, it doesn't much matter whether it's one party member or four doing that--but I definitely agree the encounters and challenges need to be appropriate for the number of party members.

As for Earthbound, IIRC, you don't actually control the temporary/guest party members the same way you do the main characters, so it's not really mechanically the same--but I might be misremembering that. What I definitely remember is taking out the Sharks, the entire Onette police station and a Happy Happy Cult with Ness by his lonesome, and all of it was absolutely iconic.

Obviously there are lots of factors and I would never assert that one way or the other is always right or superior.
 

kirbwarrior

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"Static fights" seems like its own separate problem, though, as if battles boil down to just Attacking, it doesn't much matter whether it's one party member or four doing that--but I definitely agree the encounters and challenges need to be appropriate for the number of party members.
I do absolutely agree, but the issue I see often is how much harder it is to avoid with one member than even just two. If you aren't using a damaging skill, then you aren't moving the battle forward, which is easier with four people (three damage, one heal) than one person (do I damage or not?). And when battles are properly built around one person, it becomes quickly clear what the best course of action is each battle.

As for Earthbound, IIRC, you don't actually control the temporary/guest party members the same way you do the main characters, so it's not really mechanically the same--but I might be misremembering that.
I might be too, I last played that probably back when it came out. But even if you don't control them, at least the battle is still moving forward (I remember the dog being pretty buff) even if Ness has to do something other than damage. Then again, I also don't remember that game being that difficult...

Obviously there are lots of factors and I would never assert that one way or the other is always right or superior.
True. Whenever I say "don't do this" or "there's a better way", the best takeaway is actually "that's a red flag but not necessarily bad".
 

User636

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For my own project, the whole party is together more or less right at the start. Between the small party size, there are only three playable characters, and the presence of dual and triple techs, I figured it'd be prudent to have the entire party together at the get go. In general I think games should have party members available as early as possible. The longer you wait to introduce party members, the less time your players have to get invested in them and you'll have fewer opportunities to properly develop them.
 

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