Your opinions on hard and mandatory bosses?

Wavelength

MSD Strong
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
6,114
Reaction score
5,859
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. It may be a mobile game, but it's actually a pretty good one, and even though resurrection skills are dirt cheap to cast (and auto-life is also pretty cheap and plentiful) death is still something you really want to avoid because of how important buffs are. Since a raised character comes back without any, it's very easy to get stuck in the KO/Raise/KO/Raise loop because of how important everybody's turn is. Tanks will have to reuse provoke and/or cover next turn and during that time, enemies can easily wipe out a few other characters.

Yep - as I mentioned a little while back, the emphasis on Buffs is a good way to create balance even in the face of cheap, reliable revives, and it was wrong for me to say it's nearly impossible to balance to easy revives - what's actually nearly impossible to balance is when KO's are pretty inconsequential.

That being said - while a KO/Raise/KO/Raise loop for unbuffed allies might be "fair" in the sense of balance and battle tactics, I'd submit that it's one of the least fun dynamics you'll ever find in RPG battles. I personally try to avoid it at (nearly) all costs.

Final Fantasy 4 also had Raise costing a mere 8 MP and the game (the proper version) still manages to be somewhat difficult in spite of that. And while dated, the battle system is still better than most of the RM games I've played.

I didn't play 4, but from my memory of early FF games such as 3, the KO/Raise loop is pretty much a given whenever battles present any difficulty, right? You kind of just Raised whoever fell, hoped that it didn't happen to multiple people at once, and hoped you wouldn't run out of Phoenix Downs for when your White Mage got targeted, as you slowly chipped away at the boss' HP with characters who weren't downed and weren't on heal duty. It wasn't particularly fun and it doesn't hold up by modern design standards.

On the other hand, what I see more often in RPGs (and actually kind of dislike) is the slow defeat you suffer when a party member dies and the way to get them back up is either difficult or nonexistent. So somebody dies and you're stuck enduring the rest of the fight (or maybe even dungeon) from that point on with 1 fewer member, then possibly another, then possibly another.

I personally tend to like this kind of design, at least in concept - but there is the issue of "Dead Game Walking" where once you've lost one or two members, it's very obvious you're not going to win, and you still have to play it out, and you feel like a spider trying in vain not to get flushed down the drain.

Something I recently added to my game, to reduce the Dead Game Walking syndrome, is what I call a "Fury" mechanic. My battle system has two characters, and no Revives. When one character is KO'ed, the other enters a Fury state, where for the rest of the battle, they deal a lot more damage, take a lot more damage, and restore MP/TP a lot quicker than normal. It's a slight net positive overall (though not nearly enough to offset the loss of a character). The point is that the player will fail faster (and in less of a helpless way) if they're not going to win the battle, while if they were already very close to victory, an unexpected character KO doesn't mean an immediate loss. (And if you manage to win, your characters both get a full heal afterwards.)

I don't know what I'll do for other games where Fury isn't appropriate, though. I might add Revives that incapacitate (but also protect) the revived ally for several turns, to avoid the KO/Revive cycle while enforcing a severe drawback to letting your characters get KO'ed (which is that the revived ally essentially loses several turns rather than just one).

That said, I'm not against bumping the cost or even adding a cooldown if the need presents itself. I noticed that while FF4 had Raise only cost 8 MP, it went up to about 30ish MP in the next 3 games before dropping down to 8 again in FF9, then up to 18 in FF10. I'll just have to see how it works out.

Bumping the cost can be effective when MP is a very precious resource (e.g. MP restoration items are very rare/expensive, or can't be used within battle). It's much less effective when it just means that every 10 Revives, you will need to have one character commit a single turn to giving the Reviver an Ether.

Playing with Cooldowns can be really interesting, as it essentially sets a limit for how many KO's the player can sustain over a medium length of time, but it does lead to weird situations where, for example, it's better to let a member get KO'ed (so you can use the Revive and start burning its cooldown) than to try to keep them standing for longer. That could be seen as counterintuitive and unfun, or it could be seen as an interesting tactical add to combat - I think it's very much Your Mileage Will Vary. :)
 
Last edited:

Seirein

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Nov 9, 2018
Messages
44
Reaction score
42
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Something I recently added to my game, to reduce the Dead Game Walking syndrome, is what I call a "Fury" mechanic. My battle system has two characters, and no Revives. When one character is KO'ed, the other enters a Fury state, where for the rest of the battle, they deal a lot more damage, take a lot more damage, and restore MP/TP a lot quicker than normal. It's a slight net positive overall (though not nearly enough to offset the loss of a character). The point is that the player will fail faster (and in less of a helpless way) if they're not going to win the battle, while if they were already very close to victory, an unexpected character KO doesn't mean an immediate loss.

I don't know what I'll do for other games where Fury isn't appropriate, though. I might add Revives that incapacitate (but also protect) the revived ally for several turns, to avoid the KO/Revive cycle while enforcing a severe drawback to letting your characters get KO'ed (which is that the revived ally essentially loses several turns rather than just one).
Both of those sound like terrible ideas.

By having your remaining character take more damage if the other falls, then you're arbitrarily hindering the player's ability to overcome a challenge if one character is KO'ed. You say that, if the player is on the verge of victory, it won't make a difference; if the player isn't on the verge of victory, they might as well give up in that situation -- just like your "Dead Game Walking" scenario.

Likewise, locking a revived character for several turns just makes reviving a character pointless, because you're still spending the turn to revive them in the first place. If you win or lose the battle before that character can act again, then reviving them was effectively a wasted turn.

Frankly, you seem to miss the major parts of why a KO'ed party member is a problem, even when revives are cheap/common:
  • You're losing out on that character's actions until they can be revived.
  • Even if a revive spell is cheap, a turn spent reviving is a turn that can be spent doing other things. Choosing to revive instead of doing something else can lead to disaster if the player isn't careful.
Also, I've never played a Final Fantasy where your party members would constantly get KO'ed and revived throughout any difficult battle. I imagine any such experience would be due to playing the game poorly.
 

Aesica

undefined
Veteran
Joined
May 12, 2018
Messages
1,852
Reaction score
1,798
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
That being said - while a KO/Raise/KO/Raise loop for unbuffed allies might be "fair" in the sense of balance and battle tactics, I'd submit that it's one of the least fun dynamics you'll ever find in RPG battles. I personally try to avoid it at (nearly) all costs.
I guess it's a case of different strokes, different folks in this case, as I never really minded the KO/Raise loop. I always just saw it as the developer's way of saying, "You were careless and let someone die, so I'm going to make you work to get them back up and running again."

I didn't play 4, but from my memory of early FF games such as 3, the KO/Raise loop is pretty much a given whenever battles present any difficulty, right? You kind of just Raised whoever fell, hoped that it didn't happen to multiple people at once, and hoped you wouldn't run out of Phoenix Downs for when your White Mage got targeted, as you slowly chipped away at the boss' HP with characters who weren't downed and weren't on heal duty. It wasn't particularly fun and it doesn't hold up by modern design standards.
Are you referring to NES FF3, or SNES FF3, which was actually FF6? My experience in FF3 is pretty limited (I found it kind of boring, but in 4, 5, and 6, the raise/KO loop was less of a problem thanks to the ATB system. Typically, you'd avoid falling into the loop by waiting a bit, so that everyone's turns lined up in a way that the dead guy was raised, healed, rebuffed, and ready to go right after the boss's attack.

Now Yanfly's ATB plugin is nice and I'm using it currently, but it's not true ATB in the sense that you can't just wait a few extra ticks to get everybody's turns lined up since the flow of time halts when an actor's turn becomes available. At some point, I'd like to find a way around this, but that's for another time I suppose.

As for FF6, well nothing in it was really very challenging since the game fell into the trap of "everyone does everything." With everyone in the party having access to all the best healing and revive spells, nearly every battle played out as, "guys, just nuke the boss. If an ally dies or everyone's HP gets low and your turn is next, heal everyone. kthx, we got this."

I personally tend to like this kind of design, at least in concept - but there is the issue of "Dead Game Walking" where once you've lost one or two members, it's very obvious you're not going to win, and you still have to play it out, and you feel like a spider trying in vain not to get flushed down the drain.
Yeah, "dead game walking" is mainly what I was referring to. But also, there arises the issue of "squishy the mage just got splattered again and I can't revive him. He needs exp so this stops happening, so should I throw away all of my progress on this dungeon to exit and get him back up, or press on without him?" And if leaving him dead is a valid option, then what does he even bring to the party in the first place?

Long ago, I endured a grindy, agonizing SNES RPG called 7th Saga all the way to the end. My main character was the elf healer/mage lady and the second character was the robot because I thought he looked cool. At some point, he started being "that party member who always dies" due to bad magic defense or something like that, and by the halfway point, he was nearly halfway behind on levels. In spite of that, I was plugging on along just fine without him, so I just left him dead. I ended up beating the game without him, so while this game was actually a good example of one that avoided the "dead game walking" scenario when an party member dies, it did so by making that party member feel entirely optional and useless overall.

Something I recently added to my game, to reduce the Dead Game Walking syndrome, is what I call a "Fury" mechanic. My battle system has two characters, and no Revives. When one character is KO'ed, the other enters a Fury state, where for the rest of the battle, they deal a lot more damage, take a lot more damage, and restore MP/TP a lot quicker than normal. It's a slight net positive overall (though not nearly enough to offset the loss of a character). The point is that the player will fail faster (and in less of a helpless way) if they're not going to win the battle, while if they were already very close to victory, an unexpected character KO doesn't mean an immediate loss.
It's an interesting idea, but take care to avoid it falling into a trap similar to the 7th Saga example listed above. If it becomes more advantageous to proc fury by intentionally killing a few people off and leaving them dead, players are going to take advantage of it.

I don't know what I'll do for other games where Fury isn't appropriate, though. I might add Revives that incapacitate (but also protect) the revived ally for several turns, to avoid the KO/Revive cycle while enforcing a severe drawback to letting your characters get KO'ed (which is that the revived ally essentially loses several turns rather than just one).
So the raised character just kind of sits in a stupor for a few turns? That's actually an interesting idea and would even allow for really strong things like an aoe full raise. "Everybody dead but me? No problem!" *Summons Phoenix esper* "What? Resurrection sickness? Oh crap, I'm still in deep trouble for the next few turns!"

Playing with Cooldowns can be really interesting, as it essentially sets a limit for how many KO's the player can sustain over a medium length of time, but it does lead to weird situations where, for example, it's better to let a member get KO'ed (so you can use the Revive and start burning its cooldown) than to try to keep them standing for longer. That could be seen as counterintuitive and unfun, or it could be seen as an interesting tactical add to combat - I think it's very much Your Mileage Will Vary. :)
I think that actually sounds like an interesting tactical decision, but I'm also a bit wary about gameplay being entirely cooldown-driven. If I have 3 healing spells:
  • Cure: Weak single target heal, no cooldown
  • Miracle: Strong AoE heal, 5 turn cooldown
  • Full-Life: Full single target raise, 10 turn cooldown
And my warrior is at critical health, Healing Circle has 3 turns left, and Heal is only going to restore about 1/3 HP, letting him die and reviving him would get him to full health and would allow me to use Cure on someone else in the meantime. On the other hand, if I use Full-Life in that way and somebody dies 2 turns later, that's 8 turns until I can use it for its actually-intended purpose. That allows me, as a player, to make interesting tactical decisions. However it means that, as the developer, I have to be a bit more careful with how I balance things.

I'm currently playing Epic Battle Fantasy 5, a series I've always loved due to its extremely well-made, complex, tactically-minded, and challenging battle system (as well as its crass immature humor!) and the developer dumped MP management entirely in favor of "everything is free to use, but with cooldowns on several skills." Already, I've noticed that even the basic single target heal has a 1 turn cooldown. Several other abilities on various characters have even longer cooldowns than that. It'll be interesting, both as a player, and as a developer doing research, to see how this balances out since, in the past, this series has always emphasized heavy use of aoe party healing nearly every turn.

....whoa sorry, this ended up longer than expected. I do enjoy discussing battle mechanics, so I blame that.
 

Wavelength

MSD Strong
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
6,114
Reaction score
5,859
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
@Seirein
Both of those sound like terrible ideas.

By having your remaining character take more damage if the other falls, then you're arbitrarily hindering the player's ability to overcome a challenge if one character is KO'ed. You say that, if the player is on the verge of victory, it won't make a difference; if the player isn't on the verge of victory, they might as well give up in that situation -- just like your "Dead Game Walking" scenario.

You missed the point on this one, Seirein.

The primary objective of my battle system, like in many other battle systems, is keeping your characters alive. This is possible to do from start to finish if you play well. So yes, if the player plays a battle poorly and allows a character to be whittled down and then KO'ed, and they haven't already gotten the boss low, they're most likely going to lose the battle quickly. That's the point of Fury - "fail faster". Reduce the time the player spends with DGW's, without negatively affecting the player from a balance standpoint.

You might still end up with a turn or two of DGW, and that's inevitable in ANY turn-based battle system where the player has resources of any sort - but with Fury it's over quickly and you can try again with better tactics afterwards.

This isn't just theory - I've implemented it in my game and it works beautifully. I don't think it's a great fit for every game (notably, I use a "race-to-the-bottom" approach to combat where even the strongest bosses need several turns to KO a character), but it has definitely been a positive addition in mine.

Likewise, locking a revived character for several turns just makes reviving a character pointless, because you're still spending the turn to revive them in the first place. If you win or lose the battle before that character can act again, then reviving them was effectively a wasted turn.

This means it's actually an interesting decision the player has to make whether to sacrifice some immediate power now in order to have that character further down the road in the battle!! Not quite sure why you frame that as a bad thing.

Frankly, you seem to miss the major parts of why a KO'ed party member is a problem, even when revives are cheap/common:
  • You're losing out on that character's actions until they can be revived.
  • Even if a revive spell is cheap, a turn spent reviving is a turn that can be spent doing other things. Choosing to revive instead of doing something else can lead to disaster if the player isn't careful.
Trust me when I say I've thoroughly throught this through. I understand the value of a turn. I play games like Chess and Spectromancer, where the turn is the most valuable thing you have. But consider the alternative to reviving - actually keeping the characters alive.

The player will need to spend one or more - usually more - turns healing a character to keep them alive, not to mention MP or Consumables as well. Assuming that the boss can't straight-up one-shot a character, and also assuming that the boss' attacks are more powerful than a single heal (which it should be, or your balance is borked), then two hits from a boss will require three or more actions to 'repair'.

Meanwhile, letting the character die will consume two or more actions from the boss, and reviving them only takes one action, plus the (usually) one action that the character lost the turn they were KO'ed. Even if you throw in an additional turn to heal from what might be a Revive to, say, 50% HP, you're breaking even with successful healing in terms of Actions, and in terms of MP/Consumable cost you're generally coming out ahead by letting a character die and reviving them (because in most games, endgame heals are more expensive than revives).

The final piece of general cost/benefit analysis here would be losing all of the positive and negative statuses on the KO'ed character. Most games tend lean harder on the negative statuses, which again makes taking KO's preferable to healing, although there are certainly a decent number of games that make bigger use of buffs, as has been discussed above.

The fact that this is even a close comparison (and especially that in some designs it's preferable to let your characters die and then revive them) speaks to why it's a problem when "death is cheap".

=====

@Aesica
I guess it's a case of different strokes, different folks in this case, as I never really minded the KO/Raise loop. I always just saw it as the developer's way of saying, "You were careless and let someone die, so I'm going to make you work to get them back up and running again."

'Different strokes' is certainly fair! I do honestly feel that there are much better ways to achieve the 'you'll need to do some heavy lifting to come back from this deficit' dynamic than a KO/Raise loop. It feels a lot like a bad game of Whack-A-Mole to me, and it also tends to become very arbitrary if the boss uses random targeting.

Are you referring to NES FF3, or SNES FF3, which was actually FF6?

NES FF3. Combat against bosses could get pretty Whack-A-Molesque.

Yeah, "dead game walking" is mainly what I was referring to. But also, there arises the issue of "squishy the mage just got splattered again and I can't revive him. He needs exp so this stops happening, so should I throw away all of my progress on this dungeon to exit and get him back up, or press on without him?" And if leaving him dead is a valid option, then what does he even bring to the party in the first place?

I've mostly designed combat systems in the past that rely on acute challenge (where each troop can present a kill threat on its own), rather than chronic challenge (where the main threat comes from depletion of resources throughout the length of an entire dungeon). I never design systems where characters stay KO'ed after fights, and depending on the other game mechanics, sometimes I even include full heals after each battle.

I've definitely played games that go hard on the chronic side of the equation, though, and been in those kinds of "Squishy got whomped and I can't revive him!" sorts of situations. They feel like long, drawn-out, hopeless (even pointless) defeats, and I have to agree with you that they're not fun nor particularly engaging.

So my instinct is that acute challenge structures are probably the better place to design systems where KO's actually feel backbreaking.

Long ago, I endured a grindy, agonizing SNES RPG called 7th Saga all the way to the end. My main character was the elf healer/mage lady and the second character was the robot because I thought he looked cool. At some point, he started being "that party member who always dies" due to bad magic defense or something like that, and by the halfway point, he was nearly halfway behind on levels. In spite of that, I was plugging on along just fine without him, so I just left him dead. I ended up beating the game without him, so while this game was actually a good example of one that avoided the "dead game walking" scenario when an party member dies, it did so by making that party member feel entirely optional and useless overall.

Oh goodness, that sounds awful and hilarious at the same time! :guffaw: Did the robot still look cool as you dragged him across the floor?

[Fury is] an interesting idea, but take care to avoid it falling into a trap similar to the 7th Saga example listed above. If it becomes more advantageous to proc fury by intentionally killing a few people off and leaving them dead, players are going to take advantage of it.

I was careful when designing it to make sure that the overall-positive effects of Fury can't make up for the loss of one of your two characters. (Additionally, this is one of the games where I give a full heal after every battle, since most of the game's battles are Boss Battles - so there's no leaving characters dead.)

So the raised character just kind of sits in a stupor for a few turns? That's actually an interesting idea and would even allow for really strong things like an aoe full raise. "Everybody dead but me? No problem!" *Summons Phoenix esper* "What? Resurrection sickness? Oh crap, I'm still in deep trouble for the next few turns!"

Thanks! :) This particular "Stupor" idea is still totally theory in my head, but I think it would be a good fit for a game where it's still of clear and high importance to avoid being KO'ed, but you want to allow the player the option to revive members and try to claw their way back into the fight if things go wrong.

I think that actually sounds like an interesting tactical decision, but I'm also a bit wary about gameplay being entirely cooldown-driven. If I have 3 healing spells:
  • Cure: Weak single target heal, no cooldown
  • Miracle: Strong AoE heal, 5 turn cooldown
  • Full-Life: Full single target raise, 10 turn cooldown
And my warrior is at critical health, Healing Circle has 3 turns left, and Heal is only going to restore about 1/3 HP, letting him die and reviving him would get him to full health and would allow me to use Cure on someone else in the meantime. On the other hand, if I use Full-Life in that way and somebody dies 2 turns later, that's 8 turns until I can use it for its actually-intended purpose. That allows me, as a player, to make interesting tactical decisions. However it means that, as the developer, I have to be a bit more careful with how I balance things.

Good example of a setup, and yes, it would present an intriguing tactical situation. Cure might buy you a turn, but the Full-Life ends up being a lot more efficient, at the risk of not having it around when your mage gets bopped a couple turns later. And that's very cool in and of itself.

The other side of the coin is that it goes against Aspirational Design. When I fantasize about being a Healer, I dream of making the clutch saves, of pulling teammates back from the brink of death - not of letting them die and then reviving them afterwards. When I fantasize about taking on a boss monster with a party of friends, I think of being pushed to the brink (and feeling a real sense of danger) but triumphing over it, without casualties, landing a big blow to take it down. About the last thing I'd ever think of would be getting killed and revived ad nauseum until the boss finally died to a thousand paper-cuts! Obviously it's not going to be a one-to-one between fantasy and game rules, but I do think it's always a good thing to line them up as best you can (and creating systems where the player might sometimes be encouraged to let their characters die goes against that).

Like you said, it also leaves you (as the designer) with a narrower balance window - if the boss is KO'ing characters every 2-3 turns, that boss is going to be impossible when the Raise has a 10 turn cooldown.

It will be interesting to see how you like EBF5 and its change to cooldowns!

I'm currently playing Epic Battle Fantasy 5, a series I've always loved due to its extremely well-made, complex, tactically-minded, and challenging battle system (as well as its crass immature humor!) and the developer dumped MP management entirely in favor of "everything is free to use, but with cooldowns on several skills." Already, I've noticed that even the basic single target heal has a 1 turn cooldown. Several other abilities on various characters have even longer cooldowns than that. It'll be interesting, both as a player, and as a developer doing research, to see how this balances out since, in the past, this series has always emphasized heavy use of aoe party healing nearly every turn.

....whoa sorry, this ended up longer than expected. I do enjoy discussing battle mechanics, so I blame that.

No worries at all! If I threw stones for too-long posts, my glass house would be a pile of glassy rubble. :D
 

Kupotepo

Fantasy realist/Advocatus Diaboli
Veteran
Joined
Jul 5, 2017
Messages
1,957
Reaction score
2,109
First Language
Thai
Primarily Uses
RMMV
@MushroomCake28, I will simplifies the overall thoughts. In order to create an fair boss, you need to put between put buffs for characters and low the boss states.

Another perspective is walking dead mechanic which allow immorality to happen to characters. The potential issue which occurs is that a player just keep click attack until a boss is dead. Add auto attack too, then a player just watch your game.
The story aspect's cognitive explanations: the world that main characters never dies or the characters consume a part of God or Godness.

I play a lot of Final Fantasy. The boss which I found problemtics when the boss cast one spell that whipe off the whole party and the members cannot penetrate boss shield. The other case which is annoyed a player is attack the boss and it is constantly missed.

I think little grinding is never kill many one. The game that I hate is when I have grind more than 15 minutes. It is a RPG game, not grinding game where all you do it is to kill low levels monster. It is getting boring quickly.
 

MushroomCake28

KAMO Studio
Global Mod
Joined
Nov 18, 2015
Messages
3,951
Reaction score
4,870
First Language
EN, FR
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
I will summarize all this thread (so far) in one sentence: Not too hard (frustration), but not too easy (boring).

So I suppose we have to aim inside that bracket, which is formed by those categories:
1) Hard, but fair: player will need to use strategies, plan ahead of time, exploit the boss' weaknesses. The player might lose once before figuring what works best against the boss.
2) Fair: a reasonable fight. The player can win the fight the first time without using too many complex strategies, but simply spamming attack will not do the trick.
3) Relatively easy: Isn't much more difficult than a (fair) regular battle, but a bit longer and a trickier.
 

Kupotepo

Fantasy realist/Advocatus Diaboli
Veteran
Joined
Jul 5, 2017
Messages
1,957
Reaction score
2,109
First Language
Thai
Primarily Uses
RMMV
@MushroomCake28, exactly whatever you people will criticize your game. So just listen to your judgement. If you do create a boss weakness, tell a player of its weakness before hand, not aftermath. Players have a knowledge in order to create a strategy. That is what I thought, but you need to do an experiment to prove it is an accurate prediction.
 

Latest Threads

Latest Posts

Latest Profile Posts

SF_People3_3 added!
index.php

ScreenShot_1_3_2022_1_32_12.png
I feel QSprite for MV is underrated. I basically am able to use my chibi sideview battlers I drew on the maps and have all the motions available. this'll help a lot with cutscenes.
I've figured out how to reasonably tall-ify chibi sprites on my editor. I like that making tall sprites gives me control on expressing how tall characters seem on the field relative to each other as well as better differentiate adult sprites from child sprites.
doing some wacky experimental stuff in MV right now :kaoluv: I cannot wait to drop what I've been working on
Doing RPG Maker News for this week. (January 14th - 20th, 2022)

Forum statistics

Threads
118,554
Messages
1,116,923
Members
155,594
Latest member
000dsdsc
Top