HOW DO YOU MAKE RANDOM ENCOUNTERS FEEL WELCOME?

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Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12896
This has been bugging me for a bit. Despite my personal ambivalence to random encounters, there are plenty of people, both gamers and developers alike, that dislike random encounters with RPGs.

When asked why, they state that it feels like an interruption. Something that arbitrarily forces you out of what you are doing and puts you into a battle. It also works against exploration, because of its disruptive nature. At best, it is merely a minor annoyance, and at worse, it can lead to a game that horrifically overwhelms players.

I can't say that I don't agree with this notion. When you are trying to explore, nothing is more obnoxious than randomly going into a battle with every step. However, if you try to go another route, like using on-map encounters, you create a risk where the player won't bother to do any of the necessary work to level-up, or essentially progress through the game properly. It could just be me, but with a random encounter system, I am at least reminded of what I need to do in order to beat the game, as oppose to running from everything at my own leisure... But then, once you actually feel like you are strong enough to proceed in the game, the encounters become obnoxious!

I'm pretty much stumped on this matter. How can you make random encounters feel less like an annoyance and more like something fun for the player to experience? I'd love to hear your ideas.
My only answer is "by not using them". Perhaps other, less saucy members will think of something.

EDIT: It's not just the favct that they're annoying as fuck either. Touch Encounters or other systems allow you to better control the way that enemies, drops, experience, and loads of other stuff works.

Personally I thik that random encounters are nothing but a relic from when alternatives weren't as easy to implement.
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
By getting rid of them.

Random encounters are never welcome. The fundamental concept of them is annoying.
Yellow Magic
Could I BE any more Chandler Bing from Friends (TM)?
3154
Anti-random encounter post number three!
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12896
author=Sailerius
By getting rid of them.

Random encounters are never welcome. The fundamental concept of them is annoying.

Somehow I knew you would be all over this thread. :P

Anyway, to provide a counter-example, there are still plenty of people, especially children, that play the Pokémon games, which uses random encounters. The difference is, though, that not only are the random encounters better controlled (with the tall grass and being regulated to dungeon areas), I think the game gives you more incentive to seek out battles to begin with. The goal of that game isn't solely to defeat all monsters and win, but also to SEEK OUT and CATCH those monsters. Coupled with the fact that rare Pokémon exist, I think encounters are a lot more welcome in that franchise than others.

If Pokémon can pull them off, what are other RPGs missing that makes random encounters so dreadful?
That's a pretty specific example though. Ni-No-Kuni does the same thing with tpuch battles, and it's made better because you can see the enemies in question, and you can learn about the enemies that appear together and seek out certain groups.

Also having certain thingsbe rare and combining it with random chance is so just UUURGGHH. I can't fathom how much time I've wasted in Pokemon looking for something that really doesn't need to be at 5% appearance rate just so I can get on with my fucking life.
Random encounter are just that...

If you are grazing then you'll love being in them, as you are not being "interrupted", but if you are exploring, then they ARE an interruption. The thing is that they don't interrupt the game. They interrupt what the player (you, me, whoever) is doing in the game.

But for realistic purposes, as may be discussed before in other topics, as "Enemy encounters that make sense" or so... I would solve it having areas where enemies are meant to appear randomly. That may have sense in my game, but may not have any sense in others. Encounters make sense in Pokemon (even when I agree that developers should use encounter and other statistics more wisely), but are highly annoying in some other games with big maps and exploration missions (like Tales of the Abyss). So at the end, I think this also depends, and should be integrated in game mechanics and not just be a default characteristic.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12896
author=Pizza
Also having certain thingsbe rare and combining it with random chance is so just UUURGGHH. I can't fathom how much time I've wasted in Pokemon looking for something that really doesn't need to be at 5% appearance rate just so I can get on with my fucking life.

Yeah... Pokemon definitely doesn't do everything right. However, which feels more satisfyingly unexpected: Stumbling upon a rare monster out of the blue or knowing about that monster beforehand and seeking it out? I feel like the spontaneous nature of a random encounter system keeps the game from too predictable and repetitive, and random things, provided they are tamed, can have somewhat of a nice novelty value to it, like the invisible coin blocks in Super Mario Bros. I don't really know, though, considering how most RPGs don't utilize the random encounter system in a rewarding fashion.

From you Ni-No-Kuni example, I can infer that the annoyance of random encounters stems more from the fact that it takes control away from the player. With that, I have to ask why this bothers you as a player, or to anyone? I'm not trying to favor one side, necessarily, but I kind of want to learn why players dislike more restrictive games.

After Pokemon RMN, I'm going to possibly give Chaos Sword, one of my personal projects, an overall, so I like it when people go into detail as to why they like/dislike something, and I think it'll help everyone here as developers.
I will concede that really high random encounter rates are annoying.

However, I will also say that I've always thought that much of the aggravation with random counters is a bunch of manbaby whining. Usually when I hear people pulling their hair out over random encounters I be all like 'LOL'.

There are better systems, yes, and no, my project doesn't have random encounters, but I never minded them personally as a player.
I dislike it because it's intrusive at the core in the same way making running away a chance when it doesn't need to be- I can try to avoid a touch encounter, which is a bit of micro-gameplay in itself, and it's my fault if I get into the fight. Likewise, it's my fault if I avoid all the battles and wind up underleveled.

Basically I don't like being railroaded into something. If I get into a random battle it feels like the game is taking my personal control away, just like not being able to run away when being trapped isn't a game mechanic at all.

It's the annoyance of "Here's something you didn't want OR need to do, but now you HAVE TO ANYWAYS!" It feels unfair, honestly.
Isrieri
"My father told me this would happen."
6155
author=Feldschlacht IV
I will concede that really high random encounter rates are annoying.

However, I will also say that I've always thought that much of the aggravation with random counters is a bunch of manbaby whining. Usually when I hear people pulling their hair out over random encounters I be all like 'LOL'.

There are better systems, yes, and no, my project doesn't have random encounters, but I never minded them personally as a player.

I'm with this guy. If you can figure a neat way to create a game without random encounters you should do so. But as long as the encounter rate isn't too frequent (like once every 30 or 40 steps on average is usually pretty okay) then whatever.

The real question is are the enemies in your random encounters funny, interesting, engaging to fight, not-boring?
You could start by adjusting the encounter rate to eliminate one-step encounters; in fact, the first thing I do whenever I start a new RPG Maker project is go into the scripts and edit the calculation for the number of steps between each encounter.

Also, the Flash game MARDEK uses a system where a warning icon appears right before each random battle; if the enemy group was weaker than the player's party, the icon would be a different color and you could skip the battle with a button press. I personally really like this system, and there's a script floating around that recreates it.

author=Ratty524
When asked why, they state that it feels like an interruption. Something that arbitrarily forces you out of what you are doing and puts you into a battle.

I think the problem here is twofold: the game abruptly shifting to a new scene just for combat, and the notion that combat is inherently inferior to exploring the map. Both of these issues are present regardless of whether you use random or touch encounters (in fact, the abrupt scene shift bugs me more when using touch encounters!)

As for wanting to avoid combat entirely, I think that's based on a stereotype that RPG combat is boring, and monsters are a waste of time at worst or a source of experience/gold at best; it's as if combat encounters exist only to serve the player (that said, I think the combat itself is another topic entirely).

One of the goals for my own game is to create a setting where monster encounters are actually dangerous, and the player feels like they're at the mercy of the environment, not unlike, say, Dragon Quest. Maybe it's out of spite toward the mindset from the previous paragraph, but I really don't think that wandering monsters particularly care that they've annoyed their latest meal.
Yellow Magic
Could I BE any more Chandler Bing from Friends (TM)?
3154
author=Pizza
Basically I don't like being railroaded into something. If I get into a random battle it feels like the game is taking my personal control away, just like not being able to run away when being trapped isn't a game mechanic at all.
Exactly this. The optimal game should be fun at any given moment. Anytime you are doing something in a game you would rather not be doing impacts directly on the fun factor, so why would you proactively implement this?
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6133
I'm not a fan of random encounters. Like, at all. Still, I'll happily tolerate them as long as:
1. the encounter rate isn't ridiculously high. I want to be able to walk around for a bit without feeling like being "punished" for it.
2. there is a possibility to temporarily lower the encounter rate or block random encounters altogether. In case I revisit an older dungeon or have to backtrack, it's incredibly annoying to have to run from pointless fights every ten seconds.
3. most important of all, the battles and enemies are not all the same, require some actual thinking or effort and feel like an experience themselves, not just like filler or an easy way to make the player grind levels.
author=Isrieri
The real question is are the enemies in your random encounters funny, interesting, engaging to fight, not-boring?

That is what really counts and decides if battles are a pain for the player or not, much more than just the way a fight is initiated. If you can design the enemies and battle events right, the worst case scenario is random battles will feel inoffensive to the player, and will actually be fun in the best case.
Fuck pokemon. Simply turning counts as a step as far as encounters go and the encounter rate is way too high and fighting anything besides another fucking zubat is way too low. You can't shit in the forest without eighty god damn zubats making sure you know the same shitty tinny sound they made since day one.

Fuck FF9 too. I timed it once, the time it takes to go from the start of a battle to control on the map again. This had Zidane act first with a nearly full ATB and immediately use flee before anybody else could act. It took 30 god damn seconds before the map came back between transition, camera swooping, finally loading the enemy model, showing the party, more camera swooping, and showing how you didn't get anything twice. What a slow game.

Protips: Don't do either of these. It's like the narrow corridor of too many enemies with touch encounters. Nobody likes them. e: esp. me
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4690
I feel like a game can have a place for both of them, which would mix it up a bit.
Having touch encounters for common things, that the developer might want to be easily avoided and then having the harder hitting stuff happen with random encounters.
For example, a dungeon that has demon possessed vampires in it can be in random encounters because of their predatory nature, you don't see them coming.
But for the bats and slimes they are touch encounters, easily avoided unless provoked.

I think trying to settle for one or the other isn't always the best idea, though probably preferred. Just trying to think outside the box. (and I've done something similar and it worked out fine)
It can really break up the monotony of how battles are handled, sometimes even keeping the player on their toes or making them think more about their options.
Mixing in random encounters with let's say a system that is mainly touch encounters could be a cool way of delivering a surprise to the player.

and side note, going by my example you can always know that the player WILL inevitably face the harder enemies that give the good EXP, unlike touch encounters where they could be ignored. Might give you a better sense on how to handle skills and stat power as you go.
I'm sorry man, but mixing them both into the same map at the same time sounds like some horrific nightmare. I think it would benefit more from separation, like a pitch black corridor with random encounters or something.
I generally prefer preexisting encounters for the sake of choosing my own pace or "difficulty". I only really hate random encounters when the rate is too high, though.

I can't say I really know what I'll be doing with my own project in terms of minor battles (if they even exist), but I did write some stuff down regarding the random encounters if I chose to use them:

  • When entering a room, either from another room or exiting from battle, there's a certain amount of time before the game starts rolling for encounters again.
  • The areas near where you enter/leave a room are no-encounter zones.
  • The encounters work on quotas, making sure that troops aren't overly repeated and that there aren't too many encounters per room.
  • That last one was to the point where I considered having the troop selection queue and step counts between battles determined upon entering a room.
  • Rooms have limited number of encounters to disable grinding and make back-tracking less tedious.
  • If the player defeats a troop with minimal effort, that troop is not repeated. Usually, there would be a more difficult version of that troop to fight instead. Or, basically, there's a sort of dynamic difficulty system.

That's all probably more work than its worth, but I figured I'd mention it.

author=GreatRedSpirit
Fuck pokemon. Simply turning counts as a step as far as encounters go
Hell, just hopping in place on your bike triggers encounters... (Great for Safari Zone!)
The best approach to this problem is to make the battles give the player something that is essential to the game. This means, that when a randomized encounter with the enemy does happen, the player switches from one game--exploring--to another game, which is... whatever the battle with the enemy entails.

Place more emphasis on battle. Join the two concepts of exploration and battle in some manner.
If the rest of the game is fun I could care less about the type of encounters. It doesn't typically impair my enjoyment.

But here are some ideas to make them more enjoyable:

-Set a hefty minimum number of steps before the next encounter, like, say, 15.

-Prefer short dungeons. Don't make lengthy, empty corridors or rooms. That's where random encounters really get on your nerves.

-Alternate between enemy-free puzzle rooms and enemy-filled areas.

-Prefer shorter battles. Enemies that can die in one hit and can kill one of your ally in 3 or 4 hits. Any other moment of gameplay that drags on makes random encounters seem worse.

-Give the player the option to easily alter the number of steps required. For instance, the Curse state halves it while an Invisibility spell triples it or disables all encounters. These states and abilities should be cheap and available early on.

-Consider implementing something similar to Wild Arms' Migrant Levels, where enemies that are weaker than your Lv can be skipped by spending a few Migrant points. Points are replenished through various means.

-Be generous on the Strike First event. If the enemies are weaker than your team, give the player a free first turn half the time.