Which is best for your game?

  • Sgt M
  • 11/05/2015 12:17 AM
With the advent and release of RPG Maker MV, many of us are excited about the long-awaited return of sideview battles. The idea of seeing our characters on the screen again, fighting monsters with more animations than ever before is an exciting one.

Of course, RPG Maker MV also features the classic frontview battles that we know and love. Even if you have a personal preference of what you like to see in RPGs, ask yourself this: “Which style is best for my project?”

Evaluate Your Game’s Style

You might be wondering “It’s just a change of perspective. How does this even matter?”

It is no secret that different creators have different art styles that they put into a game project, and it’s also no secret that not every RPG Maker game these days features combat in the first place. But if you are planning to make a game that features a battle system, the style that you choose should coincide with the style of game that you are aiming to make. Your combat system’s perspective is one of many facets in conveying your game’s emotion. It is not an extension or a presentation of your art style; it is very much a part of it.

The Case For Frontview

Games with frontview battle systems are often quickly dismissed and written off as archaic and dated, because they do not show representation of your game’s characters and that we have since developed more advanced ways of depicting combat.

For games that depict your character as a representation of the player, frontview battles can work wonders for conveying the feeling of a personal experience. In frontview battles, monsters are not just looking at your characters and party; they are looking at you, the player. Games such as Dragon Quest pride themselves on player representation, depicting journeys where it’s you who is on a quest, rather than watching other characters act a play on a stage. The first-person perspective of frontview combat is therefore best used in games where your main character is expressed in the first-person.

If you’re unsure of when to use it, think of it this way: if your main character is nameless and/or silent, frontview may be the way you want to go.

Challenges of Frontview

What are some challenges you’ll encounter when using this system?
• Frontview benefits best from the Battle Log. Be sure to write your battle log and vocab properly.
• People are going to complain that you’re using Frontview. It just happens.
• Battles will likely be faster than sideview, so be sure to plan the number of encounters accordingly. Don’t be tempted to put too many!

Dragon Warrior III's frontview battles establish a personal connection between the combatants and the player.Image Source

The Case For Sideview

If frontview is best used as a first-person perspective for first-person protagonists, then the third-person sideview system is better for games where you are watching other characters act out a story. In plot-driven games where the player acts as an observer, the sideview system lets the player feel like they are in the audience, letting those actors tell the tale.

Monsters in the sideview combat system are facing your party, to the left or right. But unlike the frontview system, they are never looking at you, the person in front of the controller. Sideview works great for games where it is not required for the player to feel like they are a part of the story. Well-known series like Final Fantasy, which presents itself as more of an interactive story than a personal experience, excel at this.

A terrific example of this is Final Fantasy VI, a game that constantly shifts the story’s perspective by jumping among many different characters. But it never truly shifts the story to the player’s eyes. Sideview works fantastically for this, because different perspectives are still presented uniformly while never giving full control to the player. This, among other reasons, is why Final Fantasy VI works so well as a game.

The Challenges of Sideview

Sideview does not come without its troubles. And here are a few things to keep in mind.
• Your battle system may end up being slower. Because there is more animation involved, longer battles may be troublesome in games with lots of encounters.
• You may find sideview sprites more challenging to draw and create.
• Be sure to plan an interface that will properly compensate for how you want to portray combat. Because there is less need for a battle log, you may want to exclude the battle log entirely. If you do, players still need to be able to know what’s going on.

In Final Fantasy VI, sideview battles play out as the player watches from their own perspective. Image Source

Remember that your battle system’s perspective is very much a representation of your game’s story! Decide sooner rather than later, and you’ll be well on your way to a great project!


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Interesting points I've never thought about before. Good job on the article!
Food reading.
I really like the third kind. Frontview with characters on screen. As you stand behind them it gives them both their own personality (which is not as stronk as in case of side) and your presence as an invisible hand behind their actions.

Edit: Good not food.
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
Very good perspective (no pun intended) for the points made! Wanting to work on a game where the player makes their own silent party, I can understand using a front-view for the reasons listed. It's more than just nostalgic, as you pointed out.
I think Hylics probably has the best use of the front view battle system I have seen in a turn based RPG period. The way the players hands are actually animated acting things out makes such a huge difference.
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