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Mad Lucas' First Treatise on RPGs

by Mad Lucas

Hello! I thought this would be an interesting time to compare features we feel are imperative to a good RPG; I am curious to see how my beliefs differ from others out there. Thanks for an informative and interesting site!

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Mad Lucas' Treatsie on the Imperative Qualifications for a Great "classic, traditional" RPG

Wow, now that I've started off with an irritatingly ego-centric title, lets analyze the components that I feel are imperative to a great CRPG (computer/console role playing game. cough.)

1) Story. Does this really need to be said? We (I) do not want four crystals that need to be found, we don't want keys scattered across the kingdom, we don't care for Dragon Lords spreading foul monsters across the land, we don't want evil demons and/or magicians doing their part to disrupt the status quo.. we want originality! Small things, eventually building to the grand picture.. ordinary flies ina blue light, green glass in a junkyard, a ripple in a quiet pond... we don't want a panorama of evil the first time we press the start button. Start with the innocuous, build to the vile.

2) Character Development. Make us care about the people we are puppeteering! I want to feel their angst, smell their rage, ache when they ache! No more of this "..." hog-wash.. I want moving, philosophical intrigue and dialogue.. characters with real problems, ideas, phobias.. not just a blank paper doll to put weapons and armor on.

3) Intelligent combat system. Please, please, by all that is holy in heaven and hell, ALWAYS implement a TRUE turn-based combat system into TRUE RPGS. None of this "active battle" BS... if I want "action", I'll get it frying gamerz with Mad PhAt SkiLz with my shock rifle in Unreal Tournament, not "realistically" clicking my way through a bunch of menus in a battle. Please! Turn-based, turn-based, turn-based combat! Give me a chance to appreciate the art, the design of the monsters, not a chance to click in a mad, wild frenzy on my "A" button because some designers thought a time gauge was a "keen" way to implement "excitement!".

4) Replayibility? Who gives a ____? To me, replayability is of near zero importance. Why? Well, there are too many things to do, too many games to play, for me to sit down and play a game 5 or 6 times just to catch that one hidden piece of armor or weapon I missed the first time around. Make it a long,full-bodied, more-filling, great-tasting quest the first time through, and I leave happy and contented, ready to enjoy something else. A good solid 40 hours to explore all of the nooks and crannies, and I'm a happy gamer.. I can then sigh contentedly, think "Good job, soldier, you've done well, saving the world", put the game on the shelf and smile at it knowingly from time to time, remembering good times, and move on to the next world/planet/town to be saved.

5) DEFEATABLE RESPAWN!!! This, to me, is the single most vitriolic permutation of putresence (how's that for an irritating phrase?) to festoon CRPGs. Why, why, why?? Instead of random respawn, why not make areas where, if you defeat a certain enemy, you can eliminate respawn in that area? (like the monster generators of Might and Magic 3 or Gauntlet!) It would make exploration so much more enjoyable, knowing that every 5 steps I did NOT have to worry about a meaningless encounter. If you must, to satisfy the action gamers, have an area with limitless, rapid respawn and tough, meaningless enemies that could be traveled to if desired (not required).. and let the rest of us pursue the character enhancement, world exploration, and plot development in peace, after defeating the "monster generator overlord" (or what have you) in the region.

6) Intuitive menu system!! Please, some of the menus we have to wade through are ridiculous! Look to the Phantasy Star series for a relatively clean ( though still in need of work ) interface. And, after battles, DON't make us press the "A" or "B" key 5 or 6 times just to let us know we "got 20 GP!" or "procured herb!" (for the thousandth time..) just present it all on one screen, so we can pass through it all with one press of a button. Or, better yet, make it an option in the configuration screen, where we can toggle experience splash screens.. i.e., I may not REALLY need to know that I received 7 xp after defeating my 142nd slime.. maybe I just care to know when I gain a level...? So put this as an option! Simple!

7) Situational dialogue effectors... As in, don't have ANY townsperson ask me to "defeat the evil dragonlord!!" after I've ALREADY popped a cap in the evil dragonlord's @$$!! These are basic things that would take mere minutes to implement, and establish a sense of well-being and accomplishment.

8) Less, more meaningful battles. Yes! Gamers have been asking for this for years. Halve the encounter rate, double the difficulty. Battles should not become a "yawn-press-button-A-repeatedly-feature" .. they should be a "youch.. what do I have to do to beat this chump??" If you want a place where you can hack and slash to your hearts desire, see point 5..........

9) CORPSES!!! Yes, this can add so much to a game! If you've never played the Fallout series, you owe it to yourself. I want to see bodily fluids flying, bloody chunks of twitching, hairy flesh spurting through the air at high velocity, howls of pain and anguish, the shrieks of the mutilated. In short, I want visceral satisfaction for my gun shot or sword swipe.. not just a quickly blinking enemy and a "swoosh" sound. Compose elaborate death scenes for the mosnters.. it adds so much to the experience to see them dramatically lurch and howl, toppling to the ground in a pool of their own blood! (See Fallout series.) If this offends the parents of all of the 8-year olds out there, then have a configurable gore setting with password protection!~ (and lord knows, NO KID is able to get past a password protection scheme! *cough* *cough*)

10) FMV/shorts/cut-scenes

Not "imperative", but very, very nice. If you can't squeeze a bunch of FMV into your game, then at least have the courtesy to have a bunch of in game shorts.. you know what I'm talking about. The little "episodes" that let you know that you accomplished something.. not just a "got 1000 GP!!" box that flashes and vanishes.

11) Monster / item information!

How many games have you played where all you know about a monster is a picture and a colored bar depicting hit points? I am curious about the denizens of the world around me, and want to know of them! I think it would be hard-core and high-speed, if, after each battle with a "new-monster", the game would pause for a description of the monster's origin, behavior, and ecology. Don't like that? Simple, turn it off in the options menu. Easy as pie! Imagine, a wire-scale model, spinning in space, while a narrative voice breaks down the creature into various components... Toughness, attacks, weaknesses, diet, hours of activity, words of caution... hmm? As well, give detailed information on the origins/specifications of items/weapons/armor (i.e. Might and Magic VI, VII, and VIII) Would that not add to the feeling that "Wow, I am really IN this world!?

12) MUSIC!!!

Sound & music are, of course, an integral part of gaming, particularly RPGs. Please, no techno, no fast, bass-heavy riffs.. give me sweeping, orchestral tracks, give me grandiose arrangements of strings and brass... give me the Windia town music in Breath of Fire 2, give me Final Fantasy III music, give me Phantasy Star's town music.. give me music that makes me aware of the whimsy and the moment of time that I reside. Above all, CHANGE THE MUSIC over time!! Have multiple battle themes, multiple town themes, multiple overland themes. Don't like the music? Then, in the all-mighty config menu, give the option to disable it. Simple.

13) Monster Difficulty:

The cardinal sin of many CRPGs.. never, NEVER NEVER!! adjust monster difficulty based on character level. It should always be area-based! Why? Sometimes I want to travel back to the home town at level 30, whippin' fannny on a bunch of slimes and dragonflies, and revel in my badness before I return to the front lines and get my butt slaughtered by some Stone Dragons. Plus, it SO devastates ANY implications of versimilitude to have the monsters change levels as you do.. it leads to a what the ____ is the point to me gaining levels, if the monsters increase incrementally as I do? This, for me, is one of the things that can ruin enjoyment for a game almost as quick as point 5).

14) The ENDING!!
I have a friend who is an author, who says of books: "Writing is 50% the beginning of the story, 20% the middle of the story, and 100% the ending of the story." Why this may not say much for her mathematical skills, the point is nevertheless valid; after charging through hours and hours of development, plot line, and combat, I want, no, I DESERVE a satisflying ending. I want a good, minimum 10 minute ending with FMV, massive dialogue, and a detailed summary of the repurcussions of my actions on the world, and what has changed by my hand. (... see Fallout's ending....)

There you have it friends, my treatsie on what RPGs should be about. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check on my township in Breath of Fire II.....

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