PALETTE SWAPS: A DISCUSSION.

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Since like, forever, palette swaps for enemies and some bosses (or slightly differing designs of a similar base) in RPGs, (and other genres) have been a go-to for game development.

While the purpose of palette swaps originally was to save space and developer time, now they've evolved to have a gameplay purpose, player recognition in the form of "hey I've seen something that looks kinda like that before, this tactic worked last time/I know what to expect", and so on. The bad side to this is overuse of this tactics leads to hordes of sameish enemies and your game aesthetic has a cookie cutter feel. Final Fantasy X, in my opinion, has a lot of both of this.

I have a lot more to say about this, but you know how I roll; first, what do you think?
Palette swapping is ok, but what's really cool are minor graphical changes alongside the different colors. Extending/shrinking horns, chubby changes, pattern variations...
I don't mind palette swaps as long as they aren't every other enemy and there's a difference in battle style. That is, I don't mind if one area has a few different elemental varieties of the same kind of enemy as long as that's not through the whole game. If every enemy in the game has a palette swap then that's kinda ugh. It's one of the big things that bugged me with Dragon Quest games, to be honest. Sure, have a few doubles but not all (or even most).

And if you are going to use them, at least make them different to each other so that it's not just the same battle on harder difficulty.
Have you played any of the 3D Shin Megami Tensei games? They essentially employ palette swapping in some cases, but they edit enough things to keep it from getting boring (in my opinion, anyway).

For example, Ame no Uzume and Kikura Hime.

Binding of Isaac does what Accha suggests to keep things fresh:
LockeZ in another thread talked about how the game can punish you for using the same tactics on basically the same enemy:
In one of the earlier Final Fantasy games, I think FF5, there's a bomb-type enemy early on that is weak to ice magic. Later, there's another identical-looking palette swap with a very similar name, which counterattacks by self-destructing and killing you when it's hit with ice magic. WTF. Thanks for teaching me something and then killing me for remembering it later, assholes.


Unrelated to the above, unless you have a truly enormous amount of enemies (like in Earthbound), it does seem strange to not have a few palette swaps here and there. If we're assuming the monsters are actually part of the world then they should also have relative species with similar traits, appearances, and behaviors. Which is totally how you can rationalize using palette swaps (y)
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
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In the case of RM*, I'd try to recolor them outside of the program at the very least. The hue shift tends to look pretty fugly.

Otherwise, what other people said: they can mix things up, but in general every color of Angry Avian should have similar traits to teach the player over time how to deal with them. Grandia 3 was pretty good at this sort of thing!

I think doing it wisely can really help you make a big jump in stat-based difficulty later on, but keep things manageable for the player as long as they've been paying attention.
author=nurvuss
Have you played any of the 3D Shin Megami Tensei games? They essentially employ palette swapping in some cases, but they edit enough things to keep it from getting boring (in my opinion, anyway).

For example, Ame no Uzume and Kikura Hime.


Well, granted, they are two different mythological beings. Which makes them much much more interesting, although the "classes" certainly do remain.
I love the compendium with their background stories, though!

Generally, I don't mind palette swaps, and they are certainly better than having nothing, but it's far more interesting if they evolve or are different altogether.
Like, growing bigger, becoming some visual aspects according to their environment aside from color. (bigger fur and size for cold regions, for example)
Palette swaps work better if the "re-appearing" mobs are spaced well apart. There was a section in Rudra where I recall seeing 3x of a same palette-swapped monster within about 20 minutes of playtime. That's just lazy.

Otherwise, it felt neat that if you visited old dungeons later in the game, monsters inside would often be changed to palette swapped stronger variants of its old inhabitants. It saves some time designing entirely new mobs for those areas that the player isn't really required to revisit, but those that do will be treated with what can be a refreshing re-run of an interesting dungeon. The player would already have a sense of what to expect in terms of battle mechanics, and will be well adjusted to adapt to any new monster abilities that build upon what they had seen before in that dungeon.
Corfaisus
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
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author=accha
LockeZ in another thread talked about how the game can punish you for using the same tactics on basically the same enemy:
In one of the earlier Final Fantasy games, I think FF5, there's a bomb-type enemy early on that is weak to ice magic. Later, there's another identical-looking palette swap with a very similar name, which counterattacks by self-destructing and killing you when it's hit with ice magic. WTF. Thanks for teaching me something and then killing me for remembering it later, assholes.

No bombs in FF5 are weak to ice magic (or any magic according to the wiki) and the only ones that explode when faced with magic do so regardless of elemental properties and only appear in the final dungeon. Another big thing about this enemy is that it's one of the "shadow enemies" (I'll just use that phrase; you can use whatever you like) which, in the game world, typically means it's not only different but much more deadly, as first experienced by encountering Skull Eaters.

In the vein of this topic: I'm fine with palette swaps in old-school NES/SNES games, otherwise, get a more versatile artist.
Romancing Saga 1 did something interesting with this. Most monsters of the same type are a single graphic which is continually modified to look more and more fearsome as the type scales in strength with the player.
Romancing SaGa 3 and the remake of RS 1 did the same thing.

What about the balance between palette swaps and original monsters? I don't mind palette swaps, but I do think thers's a common sense application. Final Fantasy X is a good example; the battle system of that game is built off a more complex Rock-Paper-Scissors formula where the skills of each party member is custom suited to defeat a certain monster, and this encourages the player to use everyone to their fullest potential. The early game showcases this by introducing basic archetypes of monsters that are defeated in one hit by the party member with the right ability.

The problem with this is when the game keeps doing this all throughout the game; speedy wolves swap colors and sometimes features but can still be only dispatched with someone with high accuracy, like Tidus/Wakka, Elementals are only easily defeated by Lulu's magic, armored beasts are felled by Auron, but ad infinum with little variation until almost the end when different party members start diversifying themselves. More unique enemies start showing up too, but this is late into the game, however.

While not a crippling flaw (I still enjoy FFX quite a bit), I do think its an example when palette swapping and the gameplay rationale goes to an extreme conclusion; almost all monsters are palette swaps, and only require copy and paste strategies to defeat them, instead of diversified tactics with expected curveballs.
I say go for it! It saves time, and you can always go back and add more graphics later.

I mean, yeah, too many palette swaps gets kinda stale, but I'd still rather play a full game than have a project get cancelled because of the graphical load.

Basically cut corners wherever you can with graphics and do so with no shame. It is REALLY EASY to add more graphics later, and, again, finishing your game is what's important here.

*goes back to working on custom tilesets like a total hypocrite*
author=Kylaila
Well, granted, they are two different mythological beings. Which makes them much much more interesting, although the "classes" certainly do remain.
I love the compendium with their background stories, though!


Indeed; that's certainly a huge part of why I'm drawn to that series. but some of the earlier titles cut corners and simply used basic palette swaps for different mythological beings.
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.
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author=Feldschlacht IV
The problem with this is when the game keeps doing this all throughout the game; speedy wolves swap colors and sometimes features but can still be only dispatched with someone with high accuracy, like Tidus/Wakka, Elementals are only easily defeated by Lulu's magic, armored beasts are felled by Auron, but ad infinum with little variation until almost the end when different party members start diversifying themselves.
The first 90% of FF10 felt like kindergarten, but I don't think it was the palette swaps' fault. They managed to do this even when making new, different-looking enemies. They had no faith in the player, and so they effectively extended the tutorial to last for the first 40 hours of the game.

Meanwhile, plenty of games have almost every human using the same base graphic as almost every other human, yet still manage to give them all diverse behaviors.

Meanwhile, I'm so bad that I don't even swap the palettes. I just reuse the same enemy with the same color! Augh. What am I supposed to do when two dungeons are both in naval facilities? Every enemy soldier should be wearing the same naval uniform in both dungeons, right? Soldiers wear uniforms! Best I can do is give different weapons to different types of units.
slash
APATHY IS FOR COWARDS
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Palette swaps are a great way to save time and also to imply a relationship between two enemies. If you have the time, some small changes to the actual shape or size of the monster will be more memorable. Binding of Isaac did do a pretty good job of that. I would really try to avoid palette swaps for every enemy type though - save it for types that would have a family of enemies, or specifically for early game monsters that are re-used later.

The one palette swap I always liked from Dragon Quest III were the metallic versions of enemies, which gave them a distinct feeling and so were super exciting to find.
I've planned to use palette swaps for different instances of identical enemies within the same battle.
On the one hand, identical enemies should look the same; on the other, when I want to show some status information particular to just one, a visual cue to distinguish which is which is very helpful.
author=LockeZ
Meanwhile, I'm so bad that I don't even swap the palettes. I just reuse the same enemy with the same color! Augh. What am I supposed to do when two dungeons are both in naval facilities? Every enemy soldier should be wearing the same naval uniform in both dungeons, right? Soldiers wear uniforms! Best I can do is give different weapons to different types of units.


This isn't quite right; different members of the same branch can wear different uniforms depending on their duties.
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