'JUST THESE FOUR, AND LEAVE THE REST ALONE'. A DISCUSSION ON PLAYERS AND PARTIES.

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author=Desert
Star Ocean 2 was kind of similar. Gameplay-wise, there's not a lot of incentive to use your full team of characters


I'm not sure I agree with that. Yes, once you get to a certain level of play, you realize that some characters are just flat out more useful in battle than others (Opera and Ashton being top tier freaks, and Ernest and Noel warming the bench...forever), but all of the characters had plenty of outside battle diversity due to the Item Creation system, and different characters having different Talents and items that only certain characters could make and possess.
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.
6138
In general, I don't really see the point of offering the player different options if the choice doesn't matter and every option results in winning. This is especially true in RPGs, where the "different play-styles" tend to not really be that different, compared to different characters or weapons in an action game. You shouldn't make it so the player is forced to bring a specific set of characters to each dungeon, but you also shouldn't make it so every set of characters is totally fine. Give each character different strengths and weaknesses, and make the player build a team where the characters cover each-others' weaknesses and fill all the needed roles. So if the player really wants to use the catgirl thief because she's so kawaii and really wants to avoid the snobby nobility jerkwad, that's totally possible to do, but the rest of the player's team will have to be designed around that.

There are times when the story just calls for certain characters, of course. In general this is fine as long as it's not done in a weirdly obnoxious way. What counts as "weirdly obnoxious" mostly depends on the patterns you've communicated through the game so far. If you've you've let the player choose which characters to irreversably invest time and skill points into, and teach them to build their skill choices and team so that their party members complement each-other, and then you rip a character from the team for an extended period of time (or even permanently!), you are probably an asshole and a bad designer. If you do this and then design the challenges around the problems that the player is having, then okay, cool. You can get some really neat gameplay from ripping the player out of their comfort zone and then making them figure out how to adapt. But I've seen a lot of games do this and then the gameplay just keeps going as if nothing happened. Disgaea does this; one of your key party members is removed for the final dungeon, and if you were using a small party that included her, you have to spend 20 hours grinding to get back to where you were. Don't lie to your players like that.

In contrast, when one of the characters is removed from the team for the last couple dungeons of Xenogears, no one cares, because the player never invested anything in her. All her equipment can be swapped over to someone else, and then that other character is exactly as good as she was.

I've seen some games do the forced-character thing in an interesting way - when a story-relevant character is forced into the active party temporarily, add that person in as an extra character who fights alongside you but doesn't take up a party slot. Basically, imagine if in FF6 when you went to the Opera House, Locke and Celes were added as guests and you could still bring four other characters alongside them. I'm not sure if this is actually better than just forcing the character into your normal party, though. In one situation half the players are forced to remove someone (to make room for the character), and in the other situation half the players are forced to add someone (to fill the character's spot which is now free because he/she doesn't count towards your party total any more).
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
14510
okay i need to finish reading this but i saw

zeelo
On the other hand, giving a "fuel bar" or fatigue to each party member is a very good way of forcing the player to cycle party members.

i've thought about this a few times before and i've come to the idea that it sucks

you're being punished for using your favorites if this is a long-term thing (like some of GRS's ideas, kinda). much better to promote the others than push down a few.

Magi: your advice isn't bad but it feels like an essay on your personal taste in jrpgs. i mean i guess that's all this topic is (cough), although your advice just seems to be for a specific form of narrative and not really broadly useful. again, not disagreeing with you! but it most certainly doesn't really help out with every jrpg.

Kylaila
For example, in Radiant historia I never used Marco after I got new team members, as better damage dealer were a more useful asset rather than the defensive buffs and single heals.
For the last bosses I took him back in as I was underleveled and needed a second healer (I did not have the best area heal learned yet, and used single ones). The fight took long but it was fun.

spoilers about RH below

marco and raynie suck because heiss wanted stocke to die. he gave stocke shitty party members on purpose. eruca and aht outshine marco/rayne by miles, as do the other characters if you bother to level them up (whhhhy did they start so lowwww).


also, EO Mystery Dungeon spiced up the guild system by 1) letting characters gain passive exp by placing him in forts you build in the dungeons, and 2) letting you make teams out of reserve characters to rescue your loot if your main team dies in the dungeon. pretty nifty!

LockeZ: FF2/3 did just that. The characters never joined your party permanently but were integral to the story. FF2's were a bit more customizable though; you didn't control FF3's guests. DQ8 also has the best guest character ever.



Anyway, what I want to do in the future is have a system where you have like 20-30 characters and they gain ranks by fighting alongside other people -- but only up to rank 3 or so. The more total ranks, the stronger they get, so you have to constantly mix up the party. you can have favorites, you can try new people and be rewarded... mmmm
author=Feldschlacht IV
author=zeelo
stuff
What are you even smoking, man. Sometimes I like switching it up just because, not because of any developer mind games or assuming the game wants me to.

"I like Blackwall! But I like Iron Bull too! Fuck it, Blackwall, you're in my party this time, but Iron Bull has dibs next."

Yes, it's possible to like more than the max allowable party slot characters to the point where you rotate them based on skillset, personalty, and contribution to the task at hand.
What does it mean that you rotate them based on their personality? You like character's a personality, then all of a sudden you like character b's personality? wat? If you like both of their personalities you would make both of them permanently in your party unless you were forced to choose one or the other.

If I'm supposed to just pick my favorites, that's one thing, but in that case the game should at least give the characters introductions first. (see FF6, every world of balance character is forced into your party at one point or another *before* they become optional) (another example is Dissidia 012 by giving each hero their own story and then letting you create a party comprised of your 5 favorites)
author=Craze
you're being punished for using your favorites if this is a long-term thing (like some of GRS's ideas, kinda). much better to promote the others than push down a few.
If you don't use your favorite character because the game encouraged you to switch, then eventually the same benefit must be applied to your favorite character so you end up back where you started.
In principle it's the same thing whether the other characters get promoted or existing characters weakened. If the other characters get promoted then your existing characters are punished by not getting the promotion!
Another way to look at it is an ammo supply. On paper it's a good for each gun in let's say Doom to have its own ammo since this way the player uses a variety of weapons. If they shared ammo (or had infinite ammo) then the player would just use the best weapon. Same with party members.
But if all weapons have infinite ammo and each one gets stronger the more you use it, then even if the player decides to use a variety of weapons, the game is punishing him for doing so.
Hence my qualm with too many party members. (combined with exp/leveling that is) Of course, it is always possible to come up with ways to circumvent these issues, and giving characters ammo/fuel/fatigue bars ("punishing" the player for using them) is merely one of those ways.
author=zeello
What does it mean that you rotate them based on their personality? You like character's a personality, then all of a sudden you like character b's personality? wat? If you like both of their personalities you would make both of them permanently in your party unless you were forced to choose one or the other.

Now you're just being obtuse.

-You can like more than one person's personality. So what do you mean 'wat'?

-There's finite character space. In the example I listed above, Dragon Age Inquisition allows 4 party members at once, one of which is the main character, so really three. But there's what like, 9 party members? If I like them all, or at least more than three, I cannot have all of them in my party at once and if I do, I have to elect to switch them up.

-The 'switching up' is based on party need and personal preference. Okay so sure, I like both Blackwall and Iron Bull, but they're both warriors, in addition to my main character, so I don't need that many warriors for my next mission. So I pick Blackwall, Solas (a mage), Sera (a rogue), and myself. Next time, I'll switch in Iron Bull, Vivienne, and Cole for shits and gigs.

-Just because I want to. You're making this way more complicated than it has to be, dude. Some people stick to a main crew. Some people like to switch it up. Both preferences are usually valid in most games.

author=zeello
If I'm supposed to just pick my favorites, that's one thing, but in that case the game should at least give the characters introductions first. (see FF6, every world of balance character is forced into your party at one point or another *before* they become optional) (another example is Dissidia 012 by giving each hero their own story and then letting you create a party comprised of your 5 favorites)

What does this have to do with anything. What story based RPGs don't do this to some degree? Isn't this a non-issue in relation to the topic?
-You can like more than one person's personality. So what do you mean 'wat'?

If you liked them both then you would put both of them in your party and keep it that way. In theory there shouldn't be any switching out shenanigans involved in this. It's one thing if you didn't have enough room to use both characters. But if I had room for four party members in an RPG I would logically pick my 1st favorite, 2nd favorite, 3rd favorite, and 4th favorite characters. The only dilemma would be deciding who my 4th favorite character is. (the order of the first three favorites doesn't particularly matter since they're going in the party anyway)
But there's what like, 9 party members? If I like them all, or at least more than three, I cannot have all of them in my party at once and if I do, I have to elect to switch them up.

That's what I was talking about before. The game has given you too many characters and you're left to sort it out yourself on behalf of the game.
author=zeello
If you liked them both then you would put both of them in your party and keep it that way. In theory there shouldn't be any switching out shenanigans involved in this. It's one thing if you didn't have enough room to use both characters. But if I had room for four party members in an RPG I would logically pick my 1st favorite, 2nd favorite, 3rd favorite, and 4th favorite characters. The only dilemma would be deciding who my 4th favorite character is. (the order of the first three favorites doesn't particularly matter since they're going in the party anyway)


It doesn't matter to me that much. I don't sit down with a spreadsheet and catagorically sort out who's my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc favorite or whatever. I just have characters I like and and roll with them from time to time according to my needs. Sometimes I like to switch up for no reason.

author=zeello
The game has given you too many characters and you're left to sort it out yourself on behalf of the game.


That's...fine? The game's narrative calls for the amount of characters that they have, and all of the characters more or less offer something different to the narrative and gameplay to justify their use, in addition to giving me options on how to play the game. All mages? I can do that! All warriors? I can do that! Some combination in between? I can do that too! I don't have some compulsive need to make everything fit in a perfectly counted out box with my best buds 100% of the time.

Like, I can sort things out myself in accordance to my preference because I'm a grown ass man?????? Like come on dude.
Yea but sometimes these decisions are things the game's creator could have (and arguably should have) sorted out himself. It's the creator's job to decide on these sort of things: This happens, then that happens, the the player has to go here, then x joins your party, etc.

When the creator decides to leave in your hands then it immediately raises the question of what exactly is at stake. I could have x join my party and later decides to switch him out for y, the fact remains I didn't have x for the latter portion of the game and I didn't have y for the former portion of the game. In effect, deciding on a party is a zero sum game, all it lets me do is ensure that I've used each party member at least for SOME time, but at that point I'm worrying about things other than beating the next dungeon/boss.
I don't sit down with a spreadsheet and catagorically sort out who's my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc favorite or whatever.

I might do that sort of thing if changing my mind later means sacrificing all the progress I made in leveling those characters. There's a lot of pressure to get the party right the first time. (Dissidia 012 pressures you to commit for five characters for basically your life.)

Sometimes I like to switch up for no reason.

You're being generous, since you're helping ensure that all the characters get used.

The game's narrative calls for the amount of characters that they have, and all of the characters more or less offer something different to the narrative

There are characters that can serve a narrative purpose but never join your party.
Also, I suspect that maybe some games just like to have a large cast (which is fine) without any particular character being essential to the plot. (FF6)

Anyway, maybe we're just thinking of different games.
If you have 4 active characters and 8 party members to choose from, you decide who you want to use. If you want to use the same four characters trough the whole game, then do so. If you want to switch them around, then do so. The creator does not have to decide how you should handle your party configuration. All the creator has to do is to ensure there aren't decisions available that will work for a large portion of the game, but then suddenly screw the player over. For example, investing heavily into a character and then the game suddenly removes that character for a long time or even permanently.
BizarreMonkey
I'll never change. "Me" is better than your opinion, dummy!
1625
author=Feldschlacht IV
What do you think?
As a developer, I always find myself having difficulty with large parties. Not because they are characters I can't write or anything, but purely because of the dynamic. In most any game you'll only need three characters for a dynamic well suited party, a meatshield, a healer and a dps.

Where I'm challenged even further is in games that are action based, and therefore, have a one member focus, what I usually do is have the other characters be very close side-leads. Who will even assist in some ways, but never be directly controllable, working on P:A has taught me some very valuable lessons in this respect.

Where I think it's done right is when you can switch characters at whim in battle and on map, Final fantasy X is the best example I can think of, and keeping all your characters competitive was a good idea in at least the early game.
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.
6138
I think I need to disagree with the people saying that the player should be able to use whoever they want and the developer shouldn't try to control that. The developer's job is to make the game more fun. Figuring out how to overcome challenges is more fun than being told "you win" no matter what choice you make. Characters are a way of customizing your abilities and statistics in battle, and figuring out which ones work better against which challenges is no different from doing the same thing with classes or equipment. Your job as a game designer (in single-player games) is to give the player tools and challenges that complement each-other cleverly, and make players figure out how to overcome those challenges with those tools. Learning is fun, and players enjoy figuring out how to win.

Even first-person shooter games, which make up a genre that is IMO not at all about figuring out how to overcome different challenges, do this in single-player campaigns. They are instead about learning technique and performing better, I would say. And yet. One stage will give you a pistol and shotgun. The next stage will give you a rocket launcher and an assault rifle, and then two-thirds of the way through the stage you'll also get a sniper rifle. Each stage gives you challenges that are appropriate for the tools you have at the time, and you have to figure out how to use those tools. Many parts of the game will give you access to every weapon, opening up many play options and letting you choose your favorite, but certainly not always. The guns in an FPS are, for the sake of this discussion, basically the same as the characters or classes in an RPG.

Also keep in mind that the only difference between a character and a class is that you can have two of the same class in your party; otherwise they're completely identical game constructs. If you have some sort of weird psychological aversion to ever forcing the player to use certain characters, then disassociate them from the gameplay. Make the characters be mostly blank slates with maybe some minor stat differences or one unique skill each, and use classes instead for 99% of your gameplay options. People will be like "Why does this game even let you change characters if they're all the same?," as they ask about FF7 and FF12. But the difference is you can answer them. "Because I have crippling anxiety that players might get super attached to a certain character," you can say. And the naysayers will shake their heads, but whatever, at worst you've offered a choice that barely matters and doesn't affect the game much.

Unrelated: the more options of characters (or classes) you have, the clearer it is to the player that they're going to be expected to change a lot. The player expects to be able to use the same party through most of Super Mario RPG with its 5 characters, but expects to need to do a lot of party switching in Chrono Cross with its 40 characters. (Chrono Cross fails at delivering this, but that's another story.) That's sort of a weird psychological thing that doesn't make a lot of sense, but it totally works. If you want to communicate to the player that they'll need to be shifting around characters stratgetically a lot, then not only should you create very obvious situations early and often where they get a massive benefit from doing so, but you should consider giving them several extra semi-redundant options. On the other hand, if the player can switch mid-battle, that's probably enough of a cue on its own.
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
14510
LockeZ
Unrelated: the more options of characters (or classes) you have, the clearer it is to the player that they're going to be expected to change a lot. The player expects to be able to use the same party through most of Super Mario RPG with its 5 characters, but expects to need to do a lot of party switching in Chrono Cross with its 40 characters. (Chrono Cross fails at delivering this, but that's another story.) That's sort of a weird psychological thing that doesn't make a lot of sense, but it totally works. If you want to communicate to the player that they'll need to be shifting around characters stratgetically a lot, then not only should you create very obvious situations early and often where they get a massive benefit from doing so, but you should consider giving them several extra semi-redundant options. On the other hand, if the player can switch mid-battle, that's probably enough of a cue on its own.

^

I think the general rule for amount of characters/stances/classes/whatever in "game where you can choose who you want to use most of the time" is battle party size * (1.5 to 2). Tales of the Abyss: 4/6 at a time. Xenosaga 3: 3/7 at a time. FFXII: 3/6 at a time. Chrono Trigger: 3/(5-7).

Xenosaga 3 gets away with having a little extra because certain characters are better against certain enemies (fighting Gnosis? Take chaos or KOS-MOS) and certain characters are better at healing HP or Break. It also has a few FFIV moments but it's very clear who's temporary and who's part of the main cast (also, nobody's gone for more than 1-2 dungeons and the last few dungeons all use the full main cast). And, of course, you can swap mid-battle.

I don't have much to add to the second half of that paragraph other than "^ this".

THAT SAID!

I think there's a place for "you can use whoever you want" in games and "you need to build intelligent parties" in games. I think all linear RPGS should have difficulty options, one that's "use your favorites" and one that's "be smart."

I also think that large-party games should reward you for making good parties. There's some stuff that's as simple as "welp I should probably bring the pyro to the ice dungeon," but then you have games like FF: Record Keeper that give extra stats to using a character in their home realm (Rinoa in an FF8 dungeon gets +10 levels worth of stats, even at the level cap, for example). It's why I really like that partnership-based XP system I've mentioned in this and other topics. I'd love to see more games that reward you for switching it up besides just "lol spread the traditional xp/levels".
author=Feldschlacht IV
author=Desert
Star Ocean 2 was kind of similar. Gameplay-wise, there's not a lot of incentive to use your full team of characters
I'm not sure I agree with that. Yes, once you get to a certain level of play, you realize that some characters are just flat out more useful in battle than others (Opera and Ashton being top tier freaks, and Ernest and Noel warming the bench...forever), but all of the characters had plenty of outside battle diversity due to the Item Creation system, and different characters having different Talents and items that only certain characters could make and possess.


See, I think this was the beginning of a good system of incentives to have a diverse party even if you don't use them much in combat. But in practice, since the crafting abilities and such are tied to level ups, everyone can learn all the skills (except for Alchemy, which requires the Gift of Mana talent, but about half the characters have that,) and characters' unique crafting items aren't often useful for anyone but themselves, it doesn't offer that much incentive to recruit characters you don't want for combat. On the other hand, the Private Actions system does offer plenty of incentive for mixing things up, if you care about the character relations at all.

I think it would be cool to sort of mix and match elements of the crafting system from the early Star Ocean games with a system of roles and talents like the one used in Suikoden 3.Some characters are just much better at certain crafts than others, and trying to train up the less talented one for that role would be a waste. Let's say that you also get either no money or a paltry sum from fighting regular battles, so you need characters with other skills to raise money. And eventually you get a base, as in the Suikoden games, but you need money for its upkeep. So you have some characters who you want for fighting, and others who you want to perform various roles around the base which are essential to its upkeep and operations. Maybe have some characters be mutually exclusive and make the characters choose between crafts they want available, or between a good base character or an A team fighting character.

I typically feel that my initial 4 party members will be the most balanced. I've used them the longest, grinded for them to appropriate levels, am familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, and they usually have the staples to getting through most battles (healer, fighter, mage, support).

Now on occasion, you will find a party member who is better than your initial 4 people party (maybe your initial 4 didn't have a good mage or healer, or one of the newer characters has better fighting skills or resistance). In those circumstances, I may swap out one of my initial 4 for one of the newer ones. However, I seldom ever swap back and forth without being forced to, even in games where the reserve is getting EXP at the same time as my active party. Once I decide who I want my 4 to be, I stay with them.

This is sort of why I liked the Lufia: The Legend Returns, because all your people joined in battle and you never had to swap them out, other than maybe to put your weakest people to the back so they got hit the least:



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.
6138
Amerk, what you just described is the reason why almost every JRPG forces you to use most new characters for the first dungeon after you first obtain them, even games using a model where your party members never leave and you almost always have a choice. It gives the newcomers a fighting chance against the player's inertia, and gets the player to experience more of the game even if they end up not using those characters in the long run.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
Phantasy Star IV did the FFIV thing but with 5 slots and better writing. Also combos. :V

Anyway, petty fandom sniping aside, I think a lot of it depends on what kind of game you've got (and how much it matters to the story who's in the party).

If the game is primarily about the importance of a core set of characters (Tales of Destiny, the various Final Fantasies, etc.) then keeping the party options somewhat limited is generally a good idea. If it's more about strategery and less about the people involved (Pokemans, Disgaeas, etc.) then having a wide variety of options is the best.

Most games fall somewhere in the middle of the options, which I think is for the better; just between Uni and myself, there's a WIDE gulf in our strategies, and therefore a big difference in what kind of party makeup we go for. Having a variety of doodz to pick from is great, because it makes a lot of different strategies possible.

I do personally tend to stick with a single party setup, just because I get attached to the characters; unless someone's particularly awesome, or I'm otherwise forced into other combos, I'm probably going to be using the same fourish people throughout the entire game. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, any more than it'd be wrong to prefer to rely on magic versus attack. It's just a play style; I approach the game narratively, rather than from a strict numbers game standpoint, so I make choices that work with that. I do a lot of grinding because I tend to favor characters who end up weaker. :(

The main point is to have an idea what style your own game is, and make sure to cater to that. (Though keeping different playstyles in mind is a pretty good plan.)
You know what's bad in this regard? The character creation aspect some tactical RPGs have. It's not that I dislike it (I love having custom units), it's that, for an efficient team, you should never, ever make use of it. You often get both enough generics to get by the early parts and are granted story characters across the game that heavily outclass them in whatever you want.
From what I remember of FFT, you get tons of tons of story characters so I have to wonder if there was barely reason to use generics. (considering the story characters can use any of the jobs)
author=zeello
From what I remember of FFT, you get tons of tons of story characters so I have to wonder if there was barely reason to use generics. (considering the story characters can use any of the jobs)


The only reason to use generics is if you like the class costumes. Also, they're used in the early chapters where the only story character you have is Ramza. (Argath&Delita don't count for your deployment limit)

Likewise, you only want to use generics in Tactics Ogre to be able to unlock Deneb. Though beasts exist, of which you can't get any non-generics, they're so bad that it's not worth going for them.
Calculators were pretty useful in FFT.
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