RPG Board Games: Skies of Arcadia

And now we come to the final board game concept of November. So far, we have had two very different ideas for a game, and today will not be any different. With its vast world, and airship concept, I have pulled a game idea from Skies of Arcadia.

Without further ado, here we go!

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RPG Board Games: Skies of Arcadia

Board Game Concepts: Disgaea – The Netherworld Board Game

And here we go again with another crazy board game concept. This week, I’ve decided to use the Disgaea series as a concept for something spectacular. Now, this may feel like a cop out in some ways. Since Disgaea is a strategy RPG already, it feels like a board game without even trying. Even so, it would still be a lot of fun, and I think there are some great opportunities for an expandable board game.

Check it out!

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Board Game Concepts: Disgaea – The Netherworld Board Game

RPG Board Game Concepts – Atelier: The Board Game

Welcome to the first in my series of board game concepts inspired by RPG series. These are random ideas that I’ve come up with over the past little while, and thought they would be fun to share. While I am not actually designing any board games, I do enjoy them and tend to think of different ideas. It’s just an interesting way for me to pass the time.

For my first board game, I have decided to base it on Gust’s Atelier series. With all the flavor and characters that exist within its universe, it would not only offer a fun and engaging experience, but could open the door for expansions based on other trilogies in the series.

So let’s break it down, shall we?

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RPG Board Game Concepts – Atelier: The Board Game

The Great Debate – The Randomness of Random Encounters

One of the key mechanics of RPG gaming is gaining experience, levelling up and strengthening your hero or party members. In order to do that, you typically need to fight enemies.

In the early days, enemy encounters were randomized based on number of steps taken, with the likelihood of an encounter increasing gradually with each step you take. You could sometimes walk a good distance before a fight, and sometimes your next fight is within two or three steps. Many complaints I have seen from some older RPGs include the fact that the encounter rate is too high, or too much grinding is needed in order to be strong enough to progress. These complaints are both valid. There are gamers that think the grind is tedious and more work than it’s worth.

So what have developers done to change random encounter, in order to cater to this? Well, there have been quite a few things.

First, some games still have random encounters, but with a fixed amount. For example, Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica included a gauge that would deplete after each encounter. Once depleted fully, there would be no further encounters in that area without leaving and re-entering. This can prove useful since you know what to expect from each dungeon area, and you also know that once you’ve cleared the encounter gauge, you can explore worry-free.

A more common solution has been to show the encounters on the map, and have encounters happen only when you come into contact with them. That way, if you don’t want to fight, you can try to avoid them. This can require reflexes, but it does give you some more control over your situation. This system has been used in many of the Tales of games, Persona 3 and 4, and many others.

Another option made available in the Bravely Default games has been the ability to just turn off random encounters as you play. While this is not recommended to be used at all times, it helps when you’re frustrated in an area and just want out.

So, out of these options, which is the best method? There isn’t one. Each system has its merits and detriments. What is really needed in these systems is proper quality control in order to enjoy the RPG experience. To help with this, I have come up with some rules for developers to take in order to make encounters enjoyable. These rules will apply for all of the above mentioned encounter methods.

First and foremost, Make sure that your system promotes fair play. That’s not to say don’t make it challenging. This simply means to moderate the expectations for players. In a random encounter setting, at least allow for ten to twenty steps before starting the encounter clock. A depletion gauge should have a decent number of encounters based on the size of the dungeon. If your encounters are visible on the field, don’t make them too aggressive and fast that they can’t be avoided.

My second rule is to advertise your challenge. If your game is going to be more difficult and require heavy grinding, then make sure you mention it in advertising, or even on the back of the box, or online description. Gamers need to know what they’re getting themselves into before spending their money. While it may deter sales of the game by being honest about your game, you will entice the right people, and even intrigue some new gamers. For those that choose not to buy the game because of this, they may be thankful for how transparent your advertising is, and still recommend the game to those that will enjoy it.

My final rule is a simple one: Don’t be consistent. If you decide to make a challenging, grind-heavy game, that’s great! Just don’t think that’s all your future games ever have to be. Variety is the spice of life, and by offering different experiences in your mechanics, even a slightly different encounter system, you will appeal to more potential buyers. Look at Final Fantasy for example. These games started with the traditional random encounter system, and recent game releases have included on-screen encounters, and even an action-RPG style of encounter system. While I have not been a fan of every change they have made, the changes have at least added some semblance of variety to their products.

If you ask me, these rules are very reasonable. I’m not suggesting developers make any major changes. If these rules are followed, it will provide a better understanding for the consumer, and will create a more enjoyable experience overall. Like I said before, there is no right or wrong way to handle encounters in an RPG. Each method has its ups and downs. Don’t get me wrong, a vast majority of games out there do follow some of these principles, so there isn’t a lot of work to do. When I see a game that has been blasted online because of how encounters are handled, I think back to what could be done to improve, and this is what I think of each time

The Great Debate – The Randomness of Random Encounters

The Great Debate: The Decline of Final Fantasy

Before I begin, I just wanted to mention two things:

First, since I am discussing Final Fantasy games, I will not be mentioning Final Fantasy XI or XIV, since they are MMOs, and don’t easily conform to my general theme.

Second, as usual, this article is an opinion piece, and explains my own personal views. As always, I am open to debate and discussion of the subject matter, provided it is done in a civil manner.

When we think about the success that has come from the Final Fantasy series, it’s hard to argue that it is one of the most talked about RPG series of all time. When someone mentions the term “RPG”, the first thing that someone typically thinks about is “Final Fantasy”. While this case is true, I have found that over the last several years, the interest in the series has declined for a lot of gamers. Now, this isn’t everyone. Square Enix is still releasing new games, and there’s always a demand for the next installment when it comes out. Even the recent delay of Final Fantasy XV has cheesed off a lot of gamers. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that a lot of people are less and less excited when a new title comes out.

So when did this decline begin to happen, and what reasons have been in place for this decline? Since Square Enix would likely never admit to there being a decline in the first place, all we can do is speculate and share personal observations and opinions on the matter.

So let’s tackle the when of it all. After the release of Final Fantasy VI, the consistency of successful titles began to degrade. Even today, Final Fantasy VII is the receiver of many mixed reviews. People praise it as being the best RPG of all time, while other people feel that the game had a number of issues that deemed all the praise unworthy. (I’ll admit, I am of the latter opinion, but hope that the upcoming remake addresses my issues with the game). Final Fantasy VIII was deemed a weaker entry in the series due to a weak story, and a poorly stitched together love story between Squall and Rinoa. Personally I agreed with this fact, but also felt the gameplay was something to be desired.

Final Fantasy IX was the point where someone slapped some sense into the developers, and created a successful title that played up the connections to the first Final Fantasy game with Vivi and the Black Mages. It was built on solid gameplay, and was a fun and engaging story.

Sadly, this success was short lived with Final Fantasy X. At this point, the graphics engines were amped up for the PS2, so Square Enix decided to care more about visuals than story and gameplay. This decision went on up until the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and given the track record, I expect the same from Final Fantasy XV as well (I could easily be wrong though).

So with the when established, let’s move on to the why. What are some of the reasons that Final Fantasy started to decline? Well, if you ask me, the first thing that comes to mind is Square Enix’s drive for visual enhancement. From the first time they moved from 2D to 3D graphics with Final Fantasy VII, Square’s goal was to create a visual splendor. At the time, they did, and the enhancements to their 3D rendering improved with each new title. While making the best looking RPG is not a bad thing, it felt like there were some huge sacrifices being made to make these designs good. A weaker plot, character development and, to a lesser extent, gameplay all started happening in these 3D titles, and it felt like the developers cared more about the look of it all than anything else.

Another reason for this decline is something that has only been happening in recent years. Square Enix has taken a lot of time concentrating on ports of their older titles to be re-released to a new generation of gamers. They have also added new content so that older fans of the series have something new to experience. While this is inherently not a bad thing at all, sometimes it’s a bit overkill. For example, Final Fantasy VI has been released on multiple platforms at this point, starting with the Super NES, it has been ported to the PlayStation, GameBoy Advance, Android/IOS, and is available on Steam for PC. I have to say kudos for the accessibility, but could you not have allocated more resources to your other projects? I know there were delays with the release of Final Fantasy XIII and that XV has experienced delays as well. We don’t truly know why, but this is one speculation that I have about it.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Final Fantasy in a critical way. This does not mean that I think negatively of the series as a whole. It’s done a lot of fantastic things in its lifetime, and I believe it will continue to do more. I do think they should spend a bit less time thinking about the past and concentrating on new titles, but I understand their positioning for all the remakes at the same time. I think with a bit more forward thinking, and a bigger focus on story and character development, we could see something amazing in the future.

The Great Debate: The Decline of Final Fantasy

The Great Debate: Does The Legend of Zelda Qualify as an RPG?

This month, the theme of my articles are going to revolve around some of the bigger questions of debate in RPG gaming. The topics I have chosen are actual conversations I’ve had with other people, and I know have been had by others in the gaming community.

For my first topic, I have decided to tackle the following question: Should The Legend of Zelda series be classified as an RPG? Now, before I get into it, I want to point out that this article is an opinion piece, and as this is a topic for debate and discussion, I am always open to CIVIL responses to the material. I know I’m going to be picking apart one of the most beloved video game series out there, but do take the time to consider my reasons, and if you disagree, please comment and offer your opinion on the matter.

Now then, let’s begin.

Before I give my stance, I want to define two things: My definitions of role-playing, and a Role-playing video game. I define role-playing as the act of taking on the persona of another character, and performing their lives, either scripted or of the player’s choosing. A Role-Playing video game (now shortened to RPG) takes this method of role-playing, allowing you to assume the role of one or more characters and includes a complex, developed mathematical system to allow for character growth on a technical or skill level.

Let’s look at these two definitions separately, starting with role-playing. Does The Legend of Zelda count as role-playing? Absolutely. As Link, you go on an epic quest to save Princess Zelda, and save Hyrule from the terrible evil that threatens it. You have taken the role of the hero, and have taken on said hero’s task. The same can be said about almost any video game out there. Whether you’re Mario out to save your beloved Peach, or Mega Man trying to stop the plots of Dr. Wily, You will always play the hero.

Looking at it from an RPG perspective, does The Legend of Zelda count as an RPG? That is where I cannot agree. There are many technical factors that affect this stance; the first being the lack of visible stats. This is not to say that statistics are not included in the games. Basic attack and defense modifiers are in play, as well as a health system. For example, let’s assume the first sword Link receives does standard damage to an enemy. Eventually, he will gain the Master Sword, which now does double the damage of the original sword, making his hacking and slashing all the easier. As for your health, it is gained by collecting heart pieces, or defeating plot bosses. With this method, Link’s means of growth are finite and predictable. Again, these mechanics are present in a game like Mega Man. The Mega Buster does normal damage, where an equipped weapon will deal more damage to the robot master with a weakness to that weapon.

An RPG includes stats which are typically more complex in their design. They include a physical and magical attack and/or defense stat, speed or movement stats, a numeric hit point system, and more. Weapons and armor have the effect of modifying these stats, offering a vast amount of customization. As for character growth, more often than not it is based on an experience point system, meaning growth is more related to the work you put in throughout your play time, instead of at any fixed point. These are the core elements that define an RPG, and these are the elements lacking in the Zelda games.

Now like other game series’, there are exceptions to the rule, and Zelda is no different. With the release of the Hyrule Warriors games, some RPG elements were included in the game, granting attack stats with weapons, and methods of character customization not included in games in the main series. An experience system is also included for additional character growth. There’s no denying that Hyrule Warriors took steps to being a real RPG game.

While this is one of the most common arguments made to determine the Zelda games position as an RPG, I feel it’s the most relevant. Stats and customization in RPGs date all the way back to the pen and paper days of Dungeons & Dragons, and it’s this main fact that truly defines an RPG as a game of its genre. Does that mean that Zelda games are bad? Absolutely not.

So what genre do we then classify this series? Well, it’s a lot of things. It’s an action-adventure game combined with a puzzle based dungeon-crawler. Dungeons require new tools that you acquire as you go, and there are plenty of creatures to get in your way.

The Legend of Zelda is still one of the most iconic games in Nintendo’s library, standing alongside heroes like Mario or Kirby, or Fox McCloud. Even if I can’t consider it an RPG, It’s still one of the most successful video game franchises to ever exist. The games have their own style, an engaging level of gameplay, and each story is unique, while still following a specific pattern. If a true Zelda RPG is ever developed, you bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be checking it out. Until then, the non-Hyrule Warriors installments of the series will have to sit out of my many RPG discussions in the future.

The Great Debate: Does The Legend of Zelda Qualify as an RPG?

Story Mechanics: NPCs That Go Above and Beyond

Some of the core mechanics of building an RPG world typically includes a system of shops, inns, and other ways for the player to stock up on items, upgrade your gear, and recover from a long day of travel or questing. To accommodate this, NPCs are developed that serve those functions. Sometimes, these NPCs go above and beyond their assigned role, and are given their own back story, adding depth to the NPC, as well as the world you are playing in itself. This storytelling mechanic can be used to add content to your gameplay, or just spice up the story. It’s something I would love to see in more RPGs in the future.

Find out what I mean below!

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Story Mechanics: NPCs That Go Above and Beyond