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i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
guys. help.

i've tried. i tried making kiddos. i couldn't handle making a game that was (kind of) traditional, with level-ups and tiers of equipment. it baffled me how many levers you have to tweak to get stuff to work the way you want when you have so many different methods of progression (xp, gold, chests, personal side quests...). gosh, it's just ridiculous! and yet there are so many traditional rpgs out there!

so... how do you... do it. like, how do you keep the game balanced and engaging? how you manage your many facets of progression? how do you plan out your equipment and stat gains and potion potency? how?? it doesn't make sense why you'd force yourself to do this, and yet you do it so often, as do professionals.

how do you make a traditional rpg, guys. let me in on your secrets.
"it sounded like a good idea at the time" game development! It's easy at first when it's Young Teenage Hero fighting the hoard of nefarious level 1 slimes but as the factors pour in and things get more complex you think "well potions are fine the player can just chug 40 between fights" then it's "well the player now has a ohko spell maybe I should nerf it so fire 5 is relevant in four levels" and finally "super ninja man fucking breaks the action economy" that it dawns on you that your game is fucked and there's no way to fix it so you can either drop it or go full speed ahead to the ending!

If you're a professional then it's a good thing because you're making a game that children are able to beat and children are bad at video games. Let me tell you of all the weird things I died to playing FF6 when I was a kid! (spoilers it was pretty much everything)
I.. uh... playtest a lot. And tweak a ton. As I go. But don't use my method. Apparently it's a terrible one.
The thing is that traditional RPGs are so long and cover so much, they're really really good at are building up a world, epic plots, general feelings of heroism and justice, and often interesting characters. They cover lots of beautiful and interesting areas because they can! For the same reasons, because they tend to be so long, balance becomes difficult and interesting moment-to-moment stuff like combat suffers. Instead, they add typically easy battles and the ability to grind your way past anything difficult. A few key boss encounters may require some fun strategy, but they're few and far between, and you can always grind past them anyway. Of course there are exceptions to this, but this is what I think of when I think "traditional RPG".

Because of what you like to focus on in games, I'd say any long-form RPG by you will have to be built from the ground up in a totally new way :P


I can't really give you any personal advice because I have never finished a long-form RPG. The closest I got was a attrition-based roguelike RPG where the story progressed every time you beat the game. The combat was skill-based and focused on using your resources as efficiently as possible because you had to survive and power up as much as possible in three days. After you beat the boss at the end of the three days, you'd go to the next story segment, which involved replaying the same three days but with new monsters / bosses / quests / etc. added to the world. Maybe... something like that?

Motivation-wise? No frickin' clue. Résumé took the longest time out of all my projects at 4 months, and I honestly don't know how I managed that.
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
You do it for the glory.

seriously though, this is an interesting question! I will have to get introspective to see if I can figure out my 2009 self and determine why I was mad enough to do this.
You can make exploits/etc. that make the game (or certain parts) very easy, but make sure it's a clever combination of multiple elements - the player will feel great for figuring out this combo.

You can have equipment get progressively better, just have a good range of unique effects and a wide enough selection for each portion in the game. Terraria, for instance, lets you try and delve into a high level area to grab collectibles and make a run with them. You can also go into hard mode filler territory to justify bringing back boosted versions of old equips (such as Monster Hunter's High/G Rank quests.

Don't bother trying to limit grinding - players rarely go out of their way to powerlevel really early to stomp the rest of the game (except when you provide a peninsula of powerleveling). If you really want players to get on with it, design the level curve and progression such that the player gets (near) max level by the end boss and provide an incentive to stay at a lower level. One thing I like after thinking about it is providing no experience for mandatory battles so you can play the game as low levelled as you like.
Well, Personally, as someone who makes RPGs that feel a bit "traditional", but also break tradition in a lot of ways...

1) Levels
Make level ups provide really small buffs, or only assist survivability. Gaining one single level shouldn't be enough to trivialize battles. It should take at LEAST 5-7 before battles in that area become easy.

My examples:
Mayhem maiden: Stats go up by 1 or rarely 2 (and HP by 10) when you level up. They're not that big bonuses, but they eventually do stack up.

Illusions of Loyalty: Through some bizzare insanity I don't even remember, most of my damage formulas for the heroes put more focus on taking less of the enemy's defense into account than they focus on gaining from attack power. This means that level ups help your ability to survive, but don't have a hugely noticeable impact on your damage. Which is fine, as most of the game is about effectively using your skills to intelligently "break" each combat encounter in some way rather than raw power.

2) Equipment, more focus on shop gear.
Equipment in shops are either straight up "Trade money for power" or they're "side-grades" that change your options without making you stronger.

The first case allows a player who is playing well to go "Well, I don't need to buy that many healing items, I have enough left over to get a small power spike". Depending on who needs it more, you can micromanage who you give these spikes in power to.

The second case is less traditional, but allows the player to get more flexibility with more equipment, which is something they'll want to maximize on.

Illusions of Loyalty follows mostly the first formula. Most shop equipment is just a power spike. The most important of which is likely new armor to keep you alive longer. It's a way to reward players who are playing well (or grinding), by giving them the ability to spike their power a little bit.

Mayhem Maiden follows the second, as most "equipment" is there to tweak your skills and give you more options.

And while The End does not let you buy equipment in shops (at least, not yet, I have to figure out how to make it so equipment stays unique, even when bought), each piece of equipment you get gives you more options, or some tradoff, allowing you to mix and match some kind of strategy with them.

3) Money
I tend to not uptick the amount of money players get over the game too much, I find it wrecks the economy of the game. But there is some small uptick in what you get, so that players feel like they're "getting more rewards" for winning. It also allows them to have a goal to "Save up for", and makes the weaker healing items "cheaper" for them.

Illusions of loyalty has a slow curve up for money, as you need more and more to buy better equipment. Mayhem maiden has it stay mostly flat, since you can only carry small amounts of items (otherwise combat could be broken by carrying 99 potions and revive items >_>), and because of how equipment is handled.

4) Chests
Chests are there to a) reward players who eplore, and b) As "mercy" to players who are having trouble saving up money, so they too can get a power spike that they'll likely need.

Also, chest items should either have valuable supplies, or fun equipment, or a spike in gold comparable to several battles. Nothing is more disappointing than opening a chest you spent 10 minutes finding and getting less gold than a single battle, or getting a really weak equipment you'll just sell immediately, or a battleaxe that...Does 60 damage 1/4 of the time, 10 damage 1/4 of the time, and nothing 1/2 of the time. >_>

Also, you want to make them either require effort to get to, or have them a bit out of the way, or hidden. This promotes the exploration and makes them feel more like a reward.

4) Potion upgrades
When a potion starts healing a bit less than half of a person's HP, it's time to introduce an upgrade that almost fully heals the person. Then, it becomes a tradeoff of "It's more expensive, but better in a pinch when I REALLY need full HP now". At which point the weaker potions get used to "top yourself off" after battles.

Alternatively, you can go with % heals, but I find those work better for healing spells.

6) Skills and spells
No one likes worthless spells. No one.

Every ability should have a use at any point in the game. And no "does about the same damage as my normal attack now, but only costs 1% of my MP" does not count.

Personally, I prefer less skills that have more uses than tons of skills that all soon become obsolete trash that I have to scroll through.

7) Status effects

No one likes poison spells that have a 30% chance of hitting, last 2 turns and do 3% per turn, and have a 10% chance on bosses. At that point I might as well just slap the thing in the face with my walking stick.

And don't get me started on "You have a 10% chance to kill this enemy outright!!!! :D". That's lame. There should be ways to boost it (status effects make it better, or it's designed to be a "finisher move", etc), or it should be replaced with something more fun.

Every status effect and debuff needs to have a useful place that makes the player WANT to try them out and use them.

Virtually all of my games run on this. Status effects and debuffs are my friends *hugs a Poison skill and then dies, but it was worth it*

Most RPGs are just simple math problems.

Those purple octopi you're fighting on that beach? They're just number generators with pretty graphics that stop generating numbers when you generate enough numbers to reduce one of their numbers to zero.

But if you look at it purely like that, it's BORING. No one likes math!

So you have to make it fun. Make it feel more like a logic problem that happens to use numbers.

It's all about balancing it out so that it's fair, but then giving the player ways to tilt the balance in their favor, and making them feel like they're growing stronger and smarter with more effective options to choose from. And if a boss feels unfair (which they kinda should), there should ALWAYS be at least 2 options that can bring the mother!@#%er down to your level so it's a fair fight. :P

...That's basically all I got. Hope it was helpful.

Feel free to look at my stuff and note what works and what doesn't if you want.
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
I like worthless spells.
how do you make a traditional rpg, guys. let me in on your secrets.

Spend like 8 years working on it. :(

What I've learned:
(My "formula," if you will)

- Have a vision (even if it might be crap)
- Never compromise. If you can't technically do something yet, save it for a later date.
- Section the game out in chunks, with plot payoffs along the way. Don't save all of the great moments for the end, because people won't get that far
- Test/Bugfix a lot, as Liberty pointed out
- Create "rules" for how you want the game presented (dialog formatting, stats, ui, treasure chests, etc)
- Characters should have a variety of skills, and load them up with them earlier rather than later
- Don't be afraid to rewrite stuff, ever. If you cringe at something you wrote, your players will too! Although, sometimes something is probably fine and you're just being hard on yourself. Use your best judgement
- I know people love big stats, but start them out small. The player needs to see those numbers get progressively more epic! Exception being if your first scene has an epic hero you control briefly (like Castlevania or something)
- Have a vision (even if it might be crap)

imo this is the single most important thing. Before you start designing your game, have beginning, middle and end written down. Have your numbers for each point written down too, as well as the main bosses from each part of the story, basically don't build it progressively from beginning to end. build it all together. Have the whole game planned before even thinking about opening the editor (unless you're doing a test project to see if your ideas are feasible) and once you start, don't add or remove things, and preferrably don't change much either. If you do have to change stuff, then sit down and recalculate everything AWAY FROM THE EDITOR.

This will ensure a predictable flow to the game and solidity and concreteness that rpgs definitely need. If you have any cool new idea, leave it for the next game.

I personally like writing gamefaqs-ish walkthroughs to my stuff, once you get them written down all you have to do is build a game that plays like that walktrhough xD
I.. uh... playtest a lot. And tweak a ton. As I go. But don't use my method. Apparently it's a terrible one.

This is what I did with Sore Losers. I get opinions ranging from "this is too hard, there's not enough money" to "the battles are too trivial". So I agree that it's a terrible method. I don't know a better one, probably why I haven't tried making a traditional JRPG since!
here are some random thoughts that I tried to recall the last time I tried to do something that could be construed to making a traditional rpg:

how do you plan out...

stat gains?
Mostly feelz. I decide on the number of digits the game will have for the most important, player facing stat: HP! Generally it's 2-3 or 3-4 digits, although when the player gets the extra digit for the first time it's generally planned to be maybe 70% through the game. It won't get much higher, maybe 2k for THE BEAR at max level. The general idea is breaking into a new digit makes my primitive monkey brain get The Feelz and focus around that.

The other stats are a much more 'whateva' story, generally an order of magnitude behind HP.

I don't have any real numbers insight here, sometimes I tweak them but there's no guideline. Generally I focus more on trying to make equipment do more than increase base stats so players might find a niche where they want to use older gear with a unique effect over newer gear with higher stats. There's also alternative uses for gear to look into too, like gear that casts magic. Break a Fire Shield in FF6 for a m.def piercing Fire 3!

potion potency?
healing sux

I used to look at the amount of HP characters have when they should be used this potion and applied a diminishing curve on how much a potion will heal the middle-hp kind of character. The general idea is to balance items against who is supposed to be doing the healing. Early in some games healing magic often has limited use due to cost vs MP or effectiveness so the main method of healing is via items. As the healer settles into their role potions should fall by the wayside so that the healer can do their thing. Save potions for emergencies.

healing sux
Potions I just recently make them heal most HP from the get-go. I've always been annoyed by people not making them heal enough, so I figured in my own games they heal at least half your HP. It really depends on how much HP your characters get. If you stay with low numbers, you can get away with hard numbers, but if you're dealing with large numbers, percentage is nice.

Ultimately it depends mostly on cost vs gold dropped vs damage taken. Do a bit of number crunching. You basically want them to be useful enough that you don't have to worry about the player being able to afford at least a few pieces of armour in the next pit stop, but still be able to live.

In my latest game items are only found via enemy drops, so I'm making them more effective - adding regen buffs and increased defences for some.
I just make potions heal a set % of maximum HP these days. Waaaaay easier to keep track of. Same with ethers or whatever.
Make potions free and refill instantly between dungeons, give the quantity you can hold of each potion set but something you can increase through treasures and completing side quests, kill the healer

e: I do have one game with % healing potions, but they only heal up to a set max. This gives potions progression, usability, but the cap means healers who don't have anything of the sort still have a place too kill the healer
"My father told me this would happen."
Traditional RPGs are more about concept and less about the actual gameplay bits.

They've got roots in old DnD stuff, and the draw of that is that "You are in a cave, what could be in that cave? Who the hell knows??! What do you do?"

And then you do whatever. Classic RPGs are all about exploration and feeling out the world. The more fleshed out it is, the better off you are as a dev.

Making it short is also a plus, because these days no one has the patience for long games anymore. (which is unfortunate)

The reason tradtional RPGs are laid out the way they are with the level ups and stuff is because for the non-nerdy-non-DnD playing masses, it was a lot easier to just have the game keep track of all your stats and shit rather than putting points in them yourself. You could just worry about the story and shit.

If you have a simple system that a 6 year old kid can understand, and a neat concept with a compelling story, then you have a traditional RPG vidya game.

The phrase of the day is "capturing the imagination."
kill the healer

This is why I tend to have multiple characters with healing options of some kind. One might be better at it than the others, but if your best one goes down, you still have access to someone who can still kinda do it without needing potions. :P Besides, you can do fun stuff like having a defensive aura skill that also heals a small amount, or a "I smack the enemy for minor damage, but also heal the party" skill. There's lots of possibilities.

I like worthless spells.


There's always that ONE, isn't there? XD
kill the healer

*makes a game with 6 classes*

White Mage
Witch Doctor
kill the healer
*makes a game with 6 classes*

White Mage
Witch Doctor

I don't know what is called traditional anymore
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