Button Mash - Forcing the player to use different skills

I'm trying to implement a rather simple idea to get people to use defensive skills. It works like this; if they only use offense and healing and don't use any damage mitigation skills, they get a game over. Enemies will kill them, either by overwhelming them or by eating trough all healing.

The way you're phrasing this sets off blaring alarms, because it sounds like it started at "man, I want my game to be tactical" and ended at "'tactical' means the player uses the right approach to solve a problem." That is distinctly the wrong approach to take as a designer.

Tactics is about making meaningful choices. If you're always going to be one-shot unless you use Buff X, then there's no choice. You use it or you die. It rapidly becomes a tedious chore. "Press X to not die" in turn-based RPG form.

Why should simply healing it away not be an option, for example? Sure, it might mandate that you pick tougher party members, or that you wear heavier armor. Sure, it might be harder. That's fine. You can offer secondary choices that are worse for the player. But why should you work to eliminate it entirely as an option? Does it offend you that players might not play the game "the right way"? Because if that's the case, then you need to think very, very carefully about what you're trying to do here. It's a game, not a movie.

Button Mash - Forcing the player to use different skills

There's nothing wrong with having a character just use the same skill over and over again. In fact, in some cases, I'd even call it the result of good game design.

Look at Etrian Odyssey, for instance. If I have a Gladiator, his role is physical damage. Most of his turns are going to be "Charge, *attack skill*" over and over, because that's what he's there for. Is this somehow detrimental to tactics? No, not really. Someone needs to be smashing faces; all of the other characters are doing the fancy things. If you're fancy, you might get a Ninja/Pirate who is using "Clone self, lower defense, then use Pincushion," where Pincushion=Face Smash, but that's really just a variant strategy.

If you made Face Smash have a cooldown, then I'd just have to use another, worse skill, or I'd just have to rotate X skills so that Face Smash's cooldown ended just before I wanted to use it again. Say it had a cooldown of two turns. Then I'd be doing Berserker Vow -> Charge -> Face Smash. Congratulations! Now, what does this actually *do*, other than making sure that I'm only actually doing damage every three rounds? Is this really what we want to accomplish here?

(There's something to be said for that, of course; there's lots of little ways to screw with any plan that requires set-up, and that's something a player has to consider in tactics. For instance, if the enemy also has Charge, and you need to block so he does not wreck you, which causes you to waste your own Charge, or if the enemy has figured out the Defend command and can see your use of Charge. Then you can even get fancy and have the player figure out how to fake out the AI so they don't ever stop blocking. But that has to be what the designer is going for and not just an unintended side effect.)

My feeling is the exact opposite. I don't want Bolt 1, Bolt 2, and Bolt 3 along with multi-target versions of the above. I want Bolt Dude and Bolt All of Those Dudes. Ideally, there will be some sort of skill tree situation such that I can decide just how much Bolt Dude I want at any point, and can make it stronger (to a point) if Dudes just aren't getting Bolted sufficiently any more. Or, if you must have Bolt 2, make sure that I can decide when I want Bolt 2. Then there's a point where you can let us have a bit of fun with something we probably aren't supposed to have yet.

Don't give us lots of choices. Give us a smaller number of choices with more meaning. You don't want me using Face Smash over and over? Then give me situations where I want to be using Smash Armored Face or Smash Hard-to-Hit Face, or put me in a situation where I have to carefully consider how much Face I want to Smash because of low HP tactics triggers, or environmental situations, or statuses, or the fact that I've been fighting through a dungeon and am therefore conserving my precious supply of Face Smash. Make buffs and debuffs easily accessible and necessary. Make statuses interesting. Make multiple enemies. Give simple tools and a multitude of situations in which they may be applied in interesting ways.

And, most importantly of all, consider whether added "depth" is actually changing the number of choices available, or if it's just obscuring the same choice behind a layer of illusionary complexity. The illusion of depth is almost as much of an evil as no depth; it causes serious problems when it comes to making your game intuitive, and "intuitive" is what makes, for example, Shigeru Miyamoto ridiculously rich. You are making RPGs, but there are still lessons to be learned from Mario.

My two cents as a player and an amateur designer. Hopefully this is half-way coherent. (Man, that's a lot longer than I originally intended...)

(To digress for a moment... Saga Frontier 2 is a terrible example to use, by the way. Y'see, here's a dark secret of the mechanics: Your JP - 'spell MP' - is set to the amount provided by your equipment if it's below that at the end of battle. So, if you're playing optimally, you should be using only Hybrid Arts and Spells for random battles, because this makes WP and JP no concern at all. Plus, spells are stronger at low JP anyway, so this even serves to "prime" your magic attackers for stronger enemies. Against said stronger enemies, you use the strongest sequence of Arts you have that works out in a combo. Love that game, but bad example.)

RMN Closing Down April 2nd

i vote we move from bad video game quotes to bad metaphors. perhaps they will convince wip, since argumentation and angry words seem to be failing

guys the unusually intelligent bees in my backyard are upset about me planning to destroy their hive because i'm sick of maintaining it
dialogue thus far has failed
they are stinging me
why are bees such assholes, guys :(

RMN Closing Down April 2nd

The thing is, why are you getting rid of the site because of the atmosphere on a separate part of it, one that isn't directly relevant to the *point* of the site?

This site exists for the game pages. You're deleting it because of the forums.

Admittedly, this makes more sense in light of your apparent attitude of "fuck it, I'm tired of doing this"; this thread seems to show that that's your real reason, and one you weren't willing to admit up-front. But if that's the case then you really should hand it off. This a community founded on user contributions. You own the web space, but the site itself is a communal thing.

This is just senseless.
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