TBJRPG musing


Tropes and gameplay idioms to avoid in a turn-based FF/CT/SoM/SD3-like rpg. This is mostly brainstorming about “things that suck, things that rock”, rather than explicit planning per se.

  • FF-style battles are brain-dead boring. Essentially, they’re a simple act of making sure the enemy DPS doesn’t outpace your heal rate. There’s a little elemental rock-paper-scissors stuff going on, but it’s pretty shallow. Instead, do a position-based battle mechanic, like in wesnoth.

  • potion spamming is evil. Potions themselves aren’t bad, it’s more when they upend the gameplay and become the primary strategy. In the above FF thing, bringing 50 potions to battle is what wins the fight, not what strategy you used (as long as you continue to attack).

  • random encounters aren’t fair. You should have some ability to foresee and manipulate when you’re going to fight.

  • “tomato surprises” also aren’t fair, and a walkthrough defuses them anyways. If you’re going to do tomato surprises, shoot for something with a high degree of randomness, so that it’s not a matter of reading the walkthrough and preparing accordingly.

  • ui spamming, such as having to repeatedly navigate menus over and over to do mundane tasks, should be eliminated - if there is only one logical action, then do it (RTS games are good about this these days). Wesnoth, likewise, is rather good about this; particlarly, though would be how wesnoth goes so far as to alter game rules to accomodate this; changing magic damage for mages from a selected spell, to being their basic ranged attack.

  • blocking terrain that doesn’t appropriately look blocking. As a game designer, I’m easily aware of why people do this, but being blocked by a foot-tall ledge or perhaps some low plant-cover is just retarded. Blocking terrain should be big stuff that doesn’t look passable with the player’s built-in moves. It’s tolerable to assume the player-characters don’t have the ability to rock-climb and, say, scrabble onto the roof of a house - it’s not tolerable to assume they can’t step over a 3-foot fence. The litmus test is whether the average player themselves (which in cynical fashion, we will assume to be an overweight/scrawny nerd) could overcome the obstacle themselves - if they could, trivially, it’s dumb, and is going to grate on the player.

Ideas here are reasonably straightforward; if you’re going to have an “inset pit” like that first screenshot, then make the damn walls at least 10 ft tall. Or make it bottomless/etc. For water, players ought to be able to travel to “waist<->neck deep” depth, past that it’s reasonable to block them if the body of water goes on a long way (river<->ocean). The most intractable mess is “stuff like forests where we want to confine the player”. A wall of trees often doesn’t feel right - one idea that could be done would be an solution similar to KQ5’s desert - if you walk off the designated path, travelling off the far edge of > 1 screen past the designated path keeps you in the same (randomly generated) level that’s always only 1 screen away from the designated path; as though you’re walking in circles. (Massive potential for secrets which avert this rule and have >1 screen past actually lead somewhere but only in one place, naturally abide.) Likewise, ravines are a very natural feature in forests, which ought to be used more often.


  • assemble NPCs from modular parts and use flocking to make large crowds that mill around towns.
  • have a lot of NPCs who feel awkward about talking to you (like IRL), and won’t.


in regard to random encounters, some games use a type of enemy sonar so you can see the enemy approaching on a grid and take proper steps to avoid them if necessary. 7th saga comes to mind as such a system that might be considered as a proper surrogate to random encounters.


[quote=“Jetrel, post:1, topic:166”]OPTIONAL FUN:

  • assemble NPCs from modular parts and use flocking to make large crowds that mill around towns.
  • have a lot of NPCs who feel awkward about talking to you (like IRL), and won’t.[/quote]
    Something of a twee idea I was thinking about those non-interactive NPCs, which I’m not sure really fits with the tone of the game, but here goes:
    Those NPCs would interact, talk among themselves using speech bubbles with icons (think “The Sims”, I guess)
    Quite some types of gossips, etc. could be conveyed by those, such as one woman with a speech bubble with two smileys, or something like that kissing, then her listener would “talk” with a smiley suggestively wielding a big knife. Thus the tale of the unfaithful husband is told ;D
    Y’know, if this does look off, maybe I’ll save the idea for a sillier rpg in the future. Who knows.


I should get to work on flocking. :-\