SINGLE CHARACTER RPGS: HOW CAN THEY WORK?

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I found Morrowind to be aimless and unsatisfying. As a result, it has soured me on "free-roam RPGs" so that I can no longer really enjoy RPGs that aren't linear.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9159
I don't know, about half of the games I've made are more-or-less this, single character. I think Mage Duel and Iron Gaia: Virus are worth looking at as examples of this.

Is it really really difficult? Yes. Primarily from a balance perspective. But I don't think it's impossible.

Just be aware that you are specifically handicapping yourself on the balancing end. Multiple characters provides a much smoother survivability curve. This is something that I have learned over time.

I absolutely loved Morrowind and Oblivion. They are probably my two favorite RPGs overall.

What if you want a focused narrative? A linear game? A detailed PC backstory? Something you can fucking finish?

TBH, while it would be significantly diminished by the removal of all of the sidequests and content, I still think that a 'Main Quest Only' version of Morrowind or Oblivion would still be better than a lot of other games.

I am having trouble thinking of a commercial jRPG style example of a single-character RPG, however.

Edit:

-Very deep customization available
-A focus on dueling instead of taking on hordes of enemies

hmm
You just have to balance fights for one person. No sleep/paralize/whatever that lasts for more than one round or so. Make sure the main character has access to healing items/abilities. No one-hit kills either I suppose.

Unless you want to make that kind of game of course.

Other than that I don't really see much difference from party RPGs. Making a skill-based system where you pick skills as you level up will make for customization. Just like regular RPGs. Except that your party won't be a bunch of experts but only one. So you'll have to design the game to accomodate all sorts of players (which is where the difficult path comes in).

Usually it's divided into three categories. Fighting, sneaking and talking. So the game should accomodate all three approaches (and maybe some others too). Though for best effect make sure you close off some of the paths due to lacking skills occasionally.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9159
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9159
Removing paralysis, sleep, and instakills from the enemy arsenal means removing that many layers of tactical depth, Shinan (or having to be that much more creative to come up with replacements) and even things like blind and Confusion or one round of 'stun' (STARSEED) can be pretty damning in a single-character game. So you're removing even more options in the name of balance, and that, as I said, is a handicap.

One thing that I really really want to do the next time I make a single PC video game is to give the character access to MULTIPLE ACTIONS PER TURN. And access to stats/skills/abilities/equipment that modulate the number of actions. Of course, some powerful enemies or bosses may have the same thing. I really like the initiative system in Shadowrun and want to emulate it.

The approach I took with Iron Gaia: Virus was keeping all of the status effects but making the PC tremendously powerful, using the status effects sparingly, and making battles avoidable. The approach I took with Mage Duel was, keeping all the status effects but basing it on usually single-enemy battles where you could set up your strategy before hand by purchasing items and equipment that would plug up your status weaknesses. There were even occasional in-game hints as to what you'd be up against next.

The approach I took with most other projects (i.e. Everything Turns Gray, Wanderer) was to ADD MORE PARTY MEMBERS. Because that was easier.
Craze
why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
15240
Naw, that's fine, F-G. I meant "traditional" as in "anything that goes to a new screen for battles," really. (No, this is not the topic to discuss FFXII as traditional or action because nobody cares (meaning that I don't care; you might, but I don't care that you might care.))

And while messy, that's still an informative post. You should write stuff out more! Design documents, even if simple, can help get stuff stay organized and on-task. Visions & Voices has its many downfalls, but we documented a bunch of that game before we even opened the editor so that it had fewer downfalls. (Protip: don't make a game in two and a half weeks.)
... Eden Legacy 1 is exactly all of this.

- Single player through the whole game.

- Customize skills, choosing a new one each time you level up. In this way you can make the game as difficult as you want because you can skip over HEAL spells and the like in favor of different attacks.

- No real grinding involved, enemies don't paralyze you or anything.

- The energy system disallows players from using their most powerful skill each turn. Many people have been turned off of the game because this means at level 1, you can only use one skill and are forced to skip a turn to replenish your energy meter. That quickly changes, and you are soon able to use multiple skills without skipping any turns (unless you choose to perform your most exhausting skill).


Now, I can't whore out my games without words of warning. It is extremely oldschool in style and visuals, and therefore still won't appeal to everyone. The reviews vary from 1 to 5, so it should give a good idea of how varied the reactions have been. The story is the most generic it could be, dialogue is short, dungeons are straight forward with very little variety and few puzzles. If you love the NES final fantasy games then there's really not much reason for you to not like this, as it mimics the style quite a bit. Just don't expect the kind of ingenuity seen in later Dragon Warrior/Quest games on NES.

Anyways, for me, it works well as a single player RPG. I'll never do it again, as its kinda 'been there done that' territory, and I'm looking for new directions with the sequels. It made me feel like it can work though, even in a very minimalistic type of game.
I write down EVERYTHING.

Here is an example from Trials & Tribulations:
##################################################################################
# IDEAS
##################################################################################

Every RPG needs a town where the laws are decided by a slot machine
Deer Lord
Gray Ape
Miracle Whip
I think Trials & Tribulations needs a all powerful ancient weapon called the McGuffin Trigger that the bad guys are trying to activate
Ye Olde Guitar of the Blood God
Guitar Hero's Realm

Chaos Emerald Weapon

for member in $game_troop.existing_members; next unless member.level % 5 == 0; add_state(doooooooooom); end

Having a merchant in the party will grant a chance to have a random encounter with a travelling merchant

Guitaromancer, Beat Rider, Singstar, Bass Master

Cherry Ax, Wicked Ax
kentona, I love every single thing you wrote there. Especially the McGuffin Trigger. And Guitar Hero's Realm.
post=211473
Every RPG needs a town where the laws are decided by a slot machine


Amazing.
post=211437
Removing paralysis, sleep, and instakills from the enemy arsenal means removing that many layers of tactical depth, Shinan (or having to be that much more creative to come up with replacements) and even things like blind and Confusion or one round of 'stun' (STARSEED) can be pretty damning in a single-character game. So you're removing even more options in the name of balance, and that, as I said, is a handicap.

Giving up tactical depth is sort of a given when you're only dealing with one person. Tactics are per definition often team coordinated things. (though sometimes the team members are parts of your body as you try to coordinate them in... yeah whatever) Without a team there's not much tactics to be had really.

As an example people often talk about how awesome and tactical Fallout's battle system was. Well it wasn't. Not really. Since you only had one character to play with there wasn't really much to do there. Just hit people until they died. (sometimes there might have been some choosing of targets, weapons and all that other stuff). However in Fallout Tactics, which had essentially the same battle system, the battles were infinitely more tactical and only because you managed a whole team rather than that one guy.

A similar case can be found in Silent Storm vs Hammer & Sickle. S2 is a team based tactical game while H&S at least starts out as a one-man show. Where the battles in S2 are exciting tactical exercises the fights in H&S have nothing of that. In fact while relying on exactly the same engine the H&S battles just don't have any of the coordinating battle funness in S2.

This is probably why single-character RPGs are action RPGs because when you take out the tactics from a tactical battle system you're not left with much. And what you're left with is infinitely more boring than something action based.


I'd say with single player characters you should probably focus more on the roleplaying aspect. Since RPGs are so much more than the fights your character has. A single character game can focus on the things that make RPGs great. In a party based game if a door is locked you call up the lockpicking character. In a single character RPG you have to find an alternate route.

You can also have more micromanaging when you're not taking care of a whole group at once. Theoretically tracking a lot more meaningful stats. (So actually having a bunch of skills that include "lockpicking" is viable) And all that other customization. I know you can do this in party based games too. But that's when the micromanaging becomes too much. If you have four characters with four stats each instead you can have one character with 16 stats and it's technically the same burden.
post=211391
post=211388
Single Character RPGs
Vagrant Story
Which was a horribly balanced game where everything was harder than hard. Everything took hundreds of hits to kill, "exploiting" weaknesses didn't seem to do that much, and the bosses were just insane. Not the good fun kind of hard, it was the more annoying broken game kind of hard.

wah wah wah!! I can't play it well therefore the game sucks! wah!! Go eat a lollypop.
I'm making a game that is largely single character. One of the things I am implementing is no game over! Instead of game over, there are smaller penalties for dying that are just setbacks (think Breath of Fire 2, Azure Dreams, Demon's Souls etc).

Another part of making a single char RPG work would be some way to avoid many battles. Maybe the cyborg could sneak attack/one shot enemies under the right conditions?

-CM

lol, yeah Vagrant Story was ruthless hard!
post=211437
Removing paralysis, sleep, and instakills from the enemy arsenal means removing that many layers of tactical depth, Shinan (or having to be that much more creative to come up with replacements) and even things like blind and Confusion or one round of 'stun' (STARSEED) can be pretty damning in a single-character game. So you're removing even more options in the name of balance, and that, as I said, is a handicap.

I think the removal of tactical depth comes from merely having one character. Imagine we have four characters and each has 4 viable options for a certain round of combat. That gives the player 4*4*4*4=256 options. Give one character all 16 viable options and the player will now only have 16 options. The removal of a few status effects is a minor hit in comparison.

More importantly however, the tactical dept is almost always only there in theory. I have played RPGs for about 15 years now and I could probably count the number of turn based ones which does not encourage you to use the same tactic for over 90% of the battles on one hand. If you do manage to create an RPG which does not encourage the player to use more diverse tactics, you have given your game more tactical depth than most other RPGs. In this case I think you can afford to lose a few layers coming from status abnormalities.

Not to say that it wouldn't be great if you can modify the way the game handles status effects to work with a single character. Still, if you can't do that in a satisfying way, I recommend just losing the status effect.

Anyway, an idea I had for making instant death work for single player. Make it always hit if the player is below a certain amount of HP or certain percentage of Max HP. Otherwise it will always fail. Further, you can give the instant death move a cooldown, if you wish so. Whenever the monster with the instant death move uses it, the player has a few turns of breathing room.
post=211493
post=211391
post=211388
Single Character RPGs
Vagrant Story
Which was a horribly balanced game where everything was harder than hard. Everything took hundreds of hits to kill, "exploiting" weaknesses didn't seem to do that much, and the bosses were just insane. Not the good fun kind of hard, it was the more annoying broken game kind of hard.
wah wah wah!! I can't play it well therefore the game sucks! wah!! Go eat a lollypop.

Well if a game is unplayable then it should suck.
There's a difference from a game being legitimately hard and being hard because of poor development decisions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaeru_no_Tame_ni_Kane_wa_Naru
The second video game I've ever played, also one of my favorites. A very good single character RPG, at least how I interpret it.
post=211422
I found Morrowind to be aimless and unsatisfying. As a result, it has soured me on "free-roam RPGs" so that I can no longer really enjoy RPGs that aren't linear.
this so much

overworlds that aren't navigable by menu really are almost too much for me at this point

also bethesda in general has a godawful design philosophy but that's something different altogether

p.s. vagrant story rules, you just have to learn how to play it properly (god forbid games have learning curves)