HOW DO YOU MAKE RANDOM ENCOUNTERS FEEL WELCOME?

Posts

LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
49 possible enemy groups in one zone?

...I approve.

Honestly, it's not as many as you think. If the player gets in 10 battles there, they still have a 62% chance to fight the same enemy group twice.
Really it's worse than that. Out of the 49 here's the distribution:
9 are the two-man groups that appear on the first two floors
9 are the 3+ groups that appear on the next three floors
1 is a header
12 is the power enemy intro battles (and technically these are one-offs anyways!)
17 is the power enemy regular encounters
1 is the boss

Lots of pieces but not many puzzles~ the real bulk is propagating battle events. There's about 250 monster groups and I hating c/p'ing that many times in 2k3.
I have tried making encounters where the enemies would be randomized. However, I limited the randomization to enemies of comparable strength. That means, a certain spot may be occupied by either a fire elemental or an earth elemental, but the choice will never be between an imp or a demon lord. In retrospect, I realize that I could probably afford to make one spot able to spawn enemies of different strength as small variations in overall power is acceptable.

That amount of variation did work when I play tested it myself. It's on an abandoned project though, but I think Yanfly has a script for it on both VX and Ace.

Anyway, some of the annoyance with random encounters comes from the fact that RPGs usually move the battles to a separate battle screen, thereby interrupting whatever you were doing. I don't think on-screen encounters eliminates that problem, but at least you're forewarned when you're about to get into a fight. They can also be placed strategically, you can avoid placing them near a treasure chest since it's more annoying to get into a battle right before you're about to open a chest than in the middle of a hallway. Last but not least, if they are easy to avoid, the player can choose whether or not to fight. This however brings me to the big problem.

I think the big problem is that often, the encounters aren't fun. Whenever this topic comes up, there are always at least some who not only want to see them, but who also want to practically be able to choose when to fight. I don't see this type of desires in other games. Typically, when there are enemies in a game, you have to deal with them. In many games, you can run/jump past them, but even then you're still dealing with the threat, it's up to your skill to navigate past them without taking damage or accidentally fall into a bottomless pit.

Now, if the on screen enemies are somewhat effectively chasing you, then evading them isn't free and in a sense you're still dealing with them. However, if you make them move slowly in spacious locations or give the player an accessory that eliminates random encounters, you're eliminating them as a hazard. The monsters are supposed to be creatures that are trying to kill you. Now they are prey that the player hunts down when it needs exp and gold, but otherwise doesn't need to bother with.

Unless you make the encounters fun, making enemies appear on the map or other tricks are really just methods of damage control. I don't think this is the place to discuss how to accomplish that, but my advice is to at least be honest with yourself regarding how fun they are. If the battles aren't very fun, then don't have the player encounter that many of them per dungeon.
Rave
Even newspapers have those nowadays.
290
Random encounters were devised because first consoles and home computers were incapable of showing large amount of on-screen enemies without some nasty tricks. Using it as design decision was just an afterthought rooting from these limitations.
Actually, random encounters originated on a system that had no trouble at all with large numbers of enemies: Dungeons & Dragons. And frankly, 9 out of 10 justifications I see for touch encounters boil down to "Don't force me to deal with the core gameplay mechanics", while a discussion on how to make random encounters work has been going on for five pages now... Which of these was the afterthought, again?
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12896
author=Rave
Random encounters were devised because first consoles and home computers were incapable of showing large amount of on-screen enemies without some nasty tricks. Using it as design decision was just an afterthought rooting from these limitations.

"Nasty tricks" like what? The time Dragon Quest was around was also the time games like Hydlide drew all of its enemies on the map, despite being more of an action-rpg by comparison. Even games that came out not too long after those early RPGs, like the PC-engine version of E.V.O. had on-map encounters; EVO in particular actually utilized a battle screen. On-map encounters aren't new.

At least with Dragon Quest, I know that the system was devised because the original creator was a gambler, and he wanted to create a feeling of not knowing what to expect. Also, as an earlier post stated, this kind of encounter system is mainly derived from table-top RPGs, where dice rolls sort of determined whether you succeed or not. I doubt the system was implemented solely due to limitations, nor was it an after-thought, as the games would actually build themselves around it.

Keep in mind, I actually don't recommend building a game solely around RPG battles unless those said battles are REALLY well-developed. One of Dragon Quests problems was that it had little to no variety with its gameplay, which probably gave future developers the incentive to add things like puzzles, deeper storyline, etc. That is where the random encounter system started losing context and becoming "obsolete."
Strangely enough, Dragon Warrior III to V has a surprisingly high ratio of useful spells vs total number of spells. For example, in DW III, the healer can other than healing also cast a sleep spell and a blindness spell. When I cast sleep, enemies would usually fall asleep and when I cast the blindness spell, the enemies would start to miss with their attacks. Often I could, by using those spells, prevent an amount of damage that exceeded what I could have healed by spending the same amount of MP on healing spells.

Offensive casters could also for an affordable cost either deal over 150% the damage a fighter could deal to one enemy or deal the same amount of damage a fighter deal to one enemy to a whole group instead.

Then the newer games introduced skills that disrupted the balance. You could use Falcon Cut, which deals 150% the damage of a standard attack with no MP cost and therefore the fighters could for free stay on par with the damage mages have to pay for. A GBA remake of DW III was also made where they had an strange idea. The blindness spell would no longer cause enemies to miss with their attacks, instead the blindness spell itself would miss the enemies when you tried to cast it on them. This persisted to newer DW games. In DQ VIII, status spells don't hit even half as often as they did in DW III, IV and V.

Sometimes I wonder if the professional RPG designers even tried to make battles engaging.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
The first five dragon quest games were "too hard", so they made it easier by removing all the limitations that kept you from using your best skills every round.

Unfortunately, it turns out that's almost always a really stupid way to make a game easier, since it effectively deletes 80% of your skills out of your spellbook.

The answer is no, they are not trying to make battles engaging, they're simply trying to make them as painless as possible, because the marketing department told them people don't like them.
author=Feldschlacht IV
Besides, there's gameplay rationale for encountering the same enemy twice. What if there's something you want to steal?


I'm not a fan of the whole video game stealing trope in general. I mean, when it's implemented, I'll usually take advantage of it, especially when it gives me the opportunity to get equipment that's ahead of the curve for that point in the game or that I otherwise couldn't get. But I think having to either steal from every damn thing or read a guide to find out what drops what is an obnoxious way to keep ahead, and I think I'm happier not having to worry about it.

It's like hiding objects randomly in barrels and pots and stuff around the map. I'll check for treasure if that's a feature of the game, but I'm happier not clicking on every goddamn barrel, when there's nothing interesting about clicking on the barrels with nothing in them.

I think it's usually more fun when games don't incentivize behaviors which are mostly boring to engage in. Keeping an enemy alive to spam the same skill against it to get an item is generally not fun in my experience. Any game which features a steal skill which doesn't offer items which aren't otherwise accessible at that point in the game, I just ignore the ability entirely.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
I did Steal this way in one game:

- By default, Steal can only steal basic healing items.
- There are missions you can do to unlock "leads" on stealable equipment. Each completed mission gives you one lead.
- You can do one mission each day. You're given three random missions with different rewards, and it tells you up front what the rewards are, and you can choose which one to do. So you can kinda choose which reward to get, but you don't have full control.
- Getting a lead on a piece of equipment tells you exactly which monster you can steal it from. Without the lead, you can't steal it, even if you looked it up on GameFAQs.
- If you have a lead on a piece of equipment, the chance to steal it is 100%. However, you can only steal one piece of equipment per day.

I felt like this left in the "hunt down rare enemies to get steals from them" thing that people actually enjoy, but added in a way to actually figure out which ones to do instead of having to just try every enemy in the game. But then instead of just creating a simple list you can check at the pub, which would make it effortless, I tried to create a method of unlocking the steals that required about as much effort as going around stealing from a bunch of random enemies.

This left a reason for repeatable battles without forcing the player to spend a bunch of time doing them. You do need to be able to go back to an area and fight the enemy that gives the piece of equipment you learned about, and you might fight 2-3 other battles first if you're unlucky, but you're never sitting there trying to prolong the random battles until Steal succeeds, which is obnoxious.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5331
I like stealing the way it is in a lot of games because it's like hitting a piñata to see what comes out.

I tend to agree that hidden items in scenery should be a supplemental reward, with the main reward being the viewpoint character's observations about the scenery. (I tend to inspect everything several times just to see things like that.)

It may be that I'm an abnormal human who has fun the wrong way, though. :V
author=Desertopa
author=Feldschlacht IV
Besides, there's gameplay rationale for encountering the same enemy twice. What if there's something you want to steal?
I'm not a fan of the whole video game stealing trope in general. I mean, when it's implemented, I'll usually take advantage of it, especially when it gives me the opportunity to get equipment that's ahead of the curve for that point in the game or that I otherwise couldn't get. But I think having to either steal from every damn thing or read a guide to find out what drops what is an obnoxious way to keep ahead, and I think I'm happier not having to worry about it.

It's like hiding objects randomly in barrels and pots and stuff around the map. I'll check for treasure if that's a feature of the game, but I'm happier not clicking on every goddamn barrel, when there's nothing interesting about clicking on the barrels with nothing in them.

I think it's usually more fun when games don't incentivize behaviors which are mostly boring to engage in. Keeping an enemy alive to spam the same skill against it to get an item is generally not fun in my experience. Any game which features a steal skill which doesn't offer items which aren't otherwise accessible at that point in the game, I just ignore the ability entirely.


Ey yo that's why I got this!

In my game stealing is...

-Influenced by Agility, so there are never any static 1/265 chance screw you items. By a rule, as long as Agility can be increased or buffed, so does your chance to steal.

-Your chance to steal a given item is shown as a percentage on the enemy before you attempt to steal it, so you as a player can decide if it's worth it.

-There are usually more than one item to steal from an enemy, and you can select what item you want to go for.

-Items are a great way to find cool shit, but never hair pullingly the only way ever.
author=Sooz
I like stealing the way it is in a lot of games because it's like hitting a piñata to see what comes out.

I tend to agree that hidden items in scenery should be a supplemental reward, with the main reward being the viewpoint character's observations about the scenery. (I tend to inspect everything several times just to see things like that.)

It may be that I'm an abnormal human who has fun the wrong way, though. :V

I like examining the environment when this leads to interesting character observations or interactions with scenery, but in my experience this is less common than games which hide items around the environment without interesting interactions for objects that don't contain items (although in commercial games I think this has become less prevalent over time, for good reason.) After all, there's a big difference between rewarding behaviors that are generally fun anyway, and rewarding behaviors that are generally boring.
Thiamor
I assure you I'm no where NEAR as STUPID as one might think.
63
author=Ratty524
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.


Personally my way of making battles feel not so out of place and random, is giving the player the controls when it comes to the enemies. An equitable item set which when you put it on, determines the enemy set you'll be facing off of, when you encounter them.

Secondly and thirdly, a counter to tell when you're going to get into a fight (so it's not random but obviously based on steps taken) and then an opt out function that allows you to give up something in return to skip the battle altogether.
Nothing kills my desire to explore an area faster than the constant invisible threat of fighting the same group of monsters for the fifteenth time. Or being ambushed by dangerous monsters at low health with no say in the matter other than to hope I can escape or win without dying. I'm fantastic at getting that difficult fight on the exit tile to a map. This is especially compounded by no save anywhere function or infrequent save points.

I prefer using the common "see enemies" on the map with an aggro radius. I tend to give tougher monsters a shorter aggro radius so people have more choice what they want to fight. That way I can have large explorable areas filled with hidden items/character interaction with minimal player annoyance.
I feel like on-touch encounters don't really solve the issue...a good battle is a good battle either way. A bad battle is no less bad because the player had the chance to avoid it. Also, when there are touch encounters that I can't possibly avoid, they feel exactly like random encounters.

What matters to me is that the number of battles is kept at some respectable amount, no matter how they're delivered.

And, perhaps, the distinction between random/touch is better solved in terms of story rather than gameplay. I prefer touch when I want the player to place some importance on who they're fighting and random when the battle itself is the only thing of consequence.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12896
author=Sviel
I feel like on-touch encounters don't really solve the issue...a good battle is a good battle either way. A bad battle is no less bad because the player had the chance to avoid it. Also, when there are touch encounters that I can't possibly avoid, they feel exactly like random encounters.

What matters to me is that the number of battles is kept at some respectable amount, no matter how they're delivered.

And, perhaps, the distinction between random/touch is better solved in terms of story rather than gameplay. I prefer touch when I want the player to place some importance on who they're fighting and random when the battle itself is the only thing of consequence.

I kind of share the same opinion. I mean, if the point of replacing random encounters with touch encounters is only so that the player doesn't have to play the actual game, then why even have those RPG battles to begin with? I think we, as designers, should pick the system that works the best with the concept of the game, rather than slapping in a battle system as an afterthought. If battling isn't really the point of someone's game, then touch encounters would be optimal, but if it isn't, than other options should be considered.

Also, yes, the battles themselves should really be as engaging as everything else in the game in order for them to work. Nothing bores me to death faster than going through battle after battle where I mash a single button to clear it.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
With touch encounters, you can ensure that every enemy group is at least slightly different.

Of course, you could probably do the same thing with random battles, by creating a "playlist" of enemy groups in a randomized order, instead of having a chance to fight the same battle twice in a row. Dunno why people don't do this!
author=Sviel
I feel like on-touch encounters don't really solve the issue...a good battle is a good battle either way. A bad battle is no less bad because the player had the chance to avoid it. Also, when there are touch encounters that I can't possibly avoid, they feel exactly like random encounters.

That's an issue with poorly implemented touch encounters rather than the system itself.

An overlooked feature of touch encounters is that it limits the number of encounters on a map. If I want to safely explore every inch of it I can dispose of everything on the map and see the sights. If there's an infinite number of random battles I'm far less inclined to wander. It doesn't matter how good those battles are if I have to fight 20 of them on a map just to discover a dead-end or a treasure chest with 2 potions (I used 6 on the way.). If I want to fight more enemies I can reset the zone or visit a nearby area. If the game requires me to grind on the same spot that's a balance issue and if the game and battles are fun I'll want to progress not repeatedly experience the same fight.

Touch encounters help avoid unfun or redundant fights but they've also useful for picking what and when you want to fight rather than avoiding everything together. No one likes having their exploration and control slapped out of their hands because a random number generator has decided my experience could be improved by 2 slimes and a wolf. That could be the best encounter ever devised by man but I'm still going to be annoyed it didn't let me loot the chest 2 tiles away first.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12896
author=LockeZ
With touch encounters, you can ensure that every enemy group is at least slightly different.

Of course, you could probably do the same thing with random battles, by creating a "playlist" of enemy groups in a randomized order, instead of having a chance to fight the same battle twice in a row. Dunno why people don't do this!

That's not a bad idea in the slightest.

Maybe, through script editing, you could possibly call each troop by their ID number to start the battle, but when that battle is finished in any way, a condition would ensure that the troop ID will NOT be called on for the next fight. That's something to look into.