[POLL] A POLL AND DISCUSSION ABOUT RANDOM BATTLE ENCOUNTERS: HOW THEY MAY BE IMPLEMENTED.

Poll

To you, which of the following is the best way to add random encounters to a game? Please read each option carefully. - Results

Old-school: Random battles are on. This means managing potions and mana as you explore dungeons.
15
39%
Encounter ring: The player has a ring or item that is worn or otherwise toggled on/off that can shut off random battles. Players warned beforehand that they may be inexperienced for a boss if used too frequently.
11
28%
Boss-kill disable: Random battles in a dungeon or area are disabled upon the player killing the boss. However, the player cannot level up further in that area after doing so.
7
18%
Level-cap disable: Random battles in a dungeon or area are disabled upon reaching a pre-determined level cap for that area. Prevents grinding for xp and gold.
5
13%

Posts

Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
It's kind of irritating how topics like this always go from "assuming a game where random encounters happen, what's the best way to handle them, in your opinion?" to "are random encounters the worst thing ever/outdated? Discuss."

Like do we really need to keep up the weird game mechanic evangelization where both sides are trying super hard to convince the other they're wrong?

Maybe... there is room in gaming for... BOTH kinds of gameplay???
kentona
That thing you want but never who I am
20863
But I am personally bored/frustrated with that gameplay design element therefore it is objectively wrong!
I went for boss kill disable. Mostly because it's the easiest to balance among the options while also not resorting to hard caps.

Whether or not that'll be fun for the player side, I can not be too sure.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
I liked Earthbound's method of still having fights, but you have to actually pursue them.

Granted, that wasn't invisible random encounters, but I expect something similar could be implemented. Like, have a "Lookin' for trouble" mode or something.
I'm surprised the Level-Cap Disable isn't a more popular option!

If you think of something like Paper Mario where battles are field battles, those RPGs inevitably make it so that when you are too high of a level you "avoid" the battle by having an auto-victory when they touch you. And when you're high enough above the enemy in level the EXP or money gain is basically negated, so running around popping enemies has no benefit.

That's the On-Field Encounter equivalent of the Level-Cap Disable for random encounters, and I think it's probably your best option among them.

What it comes down to is Time (it always does!). If the time spent in a fight doesn't earn you enough numbers (EXP/money), then the fight isn't worth your time and you should be able to avoid it. Rather than forcing the player to manage encounters with rings and switches--the player otherwise unaware of what enemies they may be avoiding and thus making this decision in frustration rather than strategy--you can make the decision for them in a way that makes sense.
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
If for some reason having random encounters in your game is part of your religion, then the best option at your disposal is what almost every major game with random encounters from the past few years has done: an option to turn them off and on at any time for free. Even the more recent FF ports have allowed you to do this.

If you're worried about players not being high enough level to beat your bosses, then consider making your random encounters fun so no one wants to skip them. If you believe your battle system is fun and players are still skipping them, then it's time to consider why you put them there in the first place.
The problems with Pokemon's random encounters isn't just Zubats and Geodudes (but Geodudes were bad) but frequency, no grace period between encounters, and the worst part: Simply turning could trigger an encounter. Thank fuck for repels in that game, I'd pound those back in any cave where encounters could appear anywhere.


Also hardware was never a limitation on encounters. Ultima 3 Exodus had randomly spawned touch encounters from the Apple II to the NES.
kentona
That thing you want but never who I am
20863
right because fanatical devotion is the only reason you can envision random encounters being a viable design choice, therefore it must just be some religion.
This didn't bring up some of the other ideas that have been used in JRPG history, a couple of which are pretty cool.

Red Light/Green Light: They used this in Legend of Dragoon for the first instance I can think of. This sort of mitigates the surprise of the random encounter: they still have a random chance of happening, but the player is informed through an indicator how soon they will happen.

This lends itself to some very basic field strategy. I can recall many times in dungeons where I'd try to rush to the exit with a handicapped party so I could save some potions or antidotes. In the Red Light/Green Light method, I'd get an idea of whether or not I can make it from Point A to Point B unmolested and use my items or plan my path differently.

Timing Un-Encounter: Obviously I have no idea what these systems are called even if they have a name, but I recall my friend playing one of the Wild Arms games and, if memory serves me well, it had a system a lot like the indicator I just described. The key difference was that if you pressed the Confirm button at the exact moment of the encounter, your sprite would do a dodging action, slide a few feet away, and the timer would reset without a battle.

I really like this. The idea is to turn your encounters into another type of manageable game, one that isn't simply the use of switches or items. You can be satisfied when you dodge a battle. And if you want to get creative, you could also add a feature where the higher your Dodge Combo is, the harder the enemy is when you encounter them, which could be used for expert grinding or rare item farming.

Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20992
If I recall Wild Arms 2, it was the cancel button, and... I don't recall an animation if you succeed? There was definitely a "!" over the character's head for a limited time, though!

In 3, they added a system where it costed a certain resource (I forget it's name) to avoid encounters. There was a way to increase that resource, and how much encounters "cost" said resource, but, both were rather hard-to-find.
author=Marrend
If I recall Wild Arms 2, it was the cancel button, and... I don't recall an animation if you succeed? There was definitely a "!" over the character's head for a limited time, though!


Maybe I'm crossing my wires on this, but I thought there was something where it made the character dash in a certain direction? Maybe it was Alter Code: F, or maybe it was my imagination because this was over ten years ago. XD

I didn't know about the WA3 system. It's interesting how certain franchises consistently experiment with changing certain traditions. Maybe that whole franchise is worth looking into for the sake of this topic.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20992
author=Merlandese
Maybe I'm crossing my wires on this, but I thought there was something where it made the character dash in a certain direction? Maybe it was Alter Code: F, or maybe it was my imagination because this was over ten years ago. XD

Are you sure you're not thinking of Rudy's "Rad Boots"? Because that tool absolutely causes him to dash in one direction (without encounters?) until he hits something. I think Kanon gets that tool in 2, and Virgina gets something like it in 3, but, my memory's a tad fuzzy on this.

Though, I would also admit to never having played Alter Code F. So, maybe they did implement something like an encounter-skip (and dodging animation when successful) to that?
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
author=Merlandese
I'm surprised the Level-Cap Disable isn't a more popular option!


I kind of feel like just being able to turn off encounters includes this under its umbrella, really, which is why I went for that.

author=Merlandese
This didn't bring up some of the other ideas that have been used in JRPG history, a couple of which are pretty cool.


This is some cool shit right here!

author=GreatRedSpirit
The problems with Pokemon's random encounters isn't just Zubats and Geodudes (but Geodudes were bad) but frequency, no grace period between encounters, and the worst part: Simply turning could trigger an encounter. Thank fuck for repels in that game, I'd pound those back in any cave where encounters could appear anywhere.


Yeah while I kind of appreciate the turning thing when I'm trying to get rare shit in Safari Zone or something, it's bullshit on regular maps.

One thing I like about Pokemon is that you actually have a choice between invisible random encounters and the visible non-random ones, and both have their own pros and cons. Just trying to see things and get stronk? Go for trainer battles. Gotta catch 'em all? Go for the tall grass.

The caves and surfing are really kind of bullshit and poorly managed in comparison, because you don't have the option of avoiding a million random jellyfish, you still have to fight trainers, and they're often as long as the regular routes. WHAT A PAIN. Though of course, Repels make up for 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.
6138
Making enemies stop giving experience after you reach a certain amount of experience is fine by me, but in most games I don't really think it's a good idea to make enemies stop appearing altogether. I don't think it's fun for the player to make it impossible to gain one resource after reaching an arbitrary amount of a different resource (such as losing access to a source of gold after getting a certain amount of exp). Never mind the 99% of RPGs where the enemies also teach blue magic spells and drop rare items or crafting ingredients, so losing access to the enemies is even worse. The player has to make sure to get as little EXP as possible while gathering that stuff, lest he or she accidentally reach the cap too soon. It makes the player feel like leveling up is a punishment rather than a reward. That's not really what you want level ups to feel like, except under very rare circumstances.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
Also I want to be able to grind a lot even if I'm technically overleveled, because I am Bad At Games and prefer to put myself on a level where I feel enjoyably challenged and not frustrated, whether or not the dev thinks I am at that point already.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
author=LockeZ
Making enemies stop giving experience after you reach a certain amount of experience is fine by me, but in most games I don't really think it's a good idea to make enemies stop appearing altogether. I don't think it's fun for the player to make it impossible to gain one resource after reaching an arbitrary amount of a different resource (such as losing access to a source of gold after getting a certain amount of exp). Never mind the 99% of RPGs where the enemies also teach blue magic spells and drop rare items or crafting ingredients, so losing access to the enemies is even worse. The player has to make sure to get as little EXP as possible while gathering that stuff, lest he or she accidentally reach the cap too soon. It makes the player feel like leveling up is a punishment rather than a reward. That's not really what you want level ups to feel like, except under very rare circumstances.

Making enemies stop giving experience has its pros and cons with me. Games like Undertale did this well because it actually gave you the feeling that there was a finite population of monsters and ties into its whole theme on consequence and whatnot. On an in-depth level, it makes it easier for the developer to predict what state of power the player would be at any given point since there is always going to be a "dead end" where the player won't gain anymore power until a certain point, which also makes things like balancing bosses a bit more easier as well. On the player's end, it also prevents the game from potentially losing challenge, because allowing the player to gain any sort of power under no consequence means that once the player reaches his/her peak, there is literally nothing that can stop them and the game can get boring, especially in games dependent on level statistics.

Of course, for the reasons you mentioned it has its downsides. It's something that can work if the rest of your game mechanics flow along with it, but I don't see it as an end-all solution to a problem.
The best way to implement random encounters is not to implement them, ever. The solutions offered in the poll are not good excuses for two reasons:

Reason #1: The proposed solutions can apply equally well in a game without random encounters. Let's review the three solutions in the poll:
Encounter ring - just use a switch that checks if the item is equipped on all events that start battles.
Boss-kill disable - again, switch
Level cap - just fix the number of encounters. If there are any that are repeatable, just limit the number of times the player can initiate them using a global switch.

Reason #2 although this reason may not be immediately intuitive to some.. But to have random encounters in a game at all, even if it's to "do random encounters right" is to validate the games that do random encounters wrong. Many games have random encounters and don't offer any built in solutions such as the poll choices. The reason for that being those games evidently believe there is nothing to be fixed. In that sense, their "fix" is to do nothing, so to introduces your own "fixes" would be enter the same subjective sphere in which the design decision to have random encounters old school style becomes valid.

I believe NO GAME should use random encounters. Sure, I can probably come up with a myriad of "creative" solutions to make random encounters more reasonable, such as the solutions described in the poll, but any solution I go with betrays my belief that random encounters offer absolutely nothing and should in fact not exist.
What I would prefer is if random encounters could be shut of when the player either beats the dungeon boss or reaches a too high level. Basically, when the player is proven to be more than capable of handling the encounters, the option to disable them is granted.

I do not think that you should give the player the option to shut of encounters prior to that. It makes no sense to me, the monsters are supposed to be hostile creatures that makes adventuring dangerous. You should not be able to choose whether or not you should encounter them, no more than you can choose whether or not a mugger is going to try robbing you.

Now, there are some problems with random encounters, it's for example very annoying if you run into one right before you're going to open that treasure chest or talk to that wandering NPC. However, I think the main problem is often the battles themselves rather than the encounters.

A common problem is that fights are in general too easy and the encounters are not engaging. Since the fights aren't engaging, you don't want to fight them and since the battles are easy, you can get away with skipping a lot of them. This makes the most rational approach to fight far less than the author intended which in turns means the player will want a feature that in one or another way makes fighting random encounters optional. This makes the encounter ring or on screen encounters (who moves very slow) seem very appealing.

However, if the encounters are correctly tuned, then any option to simple skip random encounters makes far less sense. I do not see people who play first person shooters complain that it's too hard to skip fights. Ditto for the vast majority of other genres.

That said, if you do fail to make encounters engaging, then the encounter ring is probably the best option. The player can fight as many as needed and then skip them.
kentona
That thing you want but never who I am
20863
author=zeello
I believe NO GAME should use random encounters. Sure, I can probably come up with a myriad of "creative" solutions to make random encounters more reasonable, such as the solutions described in the poll, but any solution I go with betrays my belief that random encounters offer absolutely nothing and should in fact not exist.

I believe you are wrong. I have yet to encounter (lol) an encounter system more tense or thrilling than a random encounter system.